AUSTRALIAN BIBLE CHURCH October 13, 2013
Presbyterian Church following the Bible without Qualification
and the Lord Jesus Christ without Compromise by Faith
THERE IS NO LICENCE FOR LOVE
In this theme, we move from the divine strategy to express His love, the challenge to mankind and the place of law in love.
We find this in Colossians 1:19ff.. The Father was pleased to bring to a race at war with Himself - through the sin which misuses His design of mind, body and spirit, the gift of peace. Now faith is certainly a gift, like administrative capacity; but this is in its special and distinctive feature, such as appeared in say, Elijah, a special field of special work. Ordinary faith however, while a grant from the Lord, is not just a gift. It is a giving also, of trust in the Lord. In the end, as made in God's image, we must resolve what to do, and though sin corrupts our minds, yet it does not remove them. God knows the desire of the heart, and knew it before time was (Jeremiah 1:5), like a long line of inspectable mountains, stretched out before Him, before it was finally made and put into operation. If we do not believe, it is the responsibility therefore of the heart. It is not as if God did not WANT all to come to Him, reconciled by Christ's cover for sin; but coming by the flick of a switch, electrical or physical, this is not His desire. Hence many do not come. There is nothing automatic about the relationship with God.
What else does Colossians 1 say here ? The direct action was in Jesus Christ. It pleased the Father that in Him all His own fulness should dwell, and that He should fully express Him. So immense and intense is the love of the Father (for example in giving up His only begotten Son), that once peace was made through His death, His blood the expression for sacrifice, BY THIS SAME CHRIST JESUS to reconcile all things, heavenly, earthly, to Himself, that was NOT ALL!
The desire is that Christ first NOT ONLY SHOULD HAVE all His own fulness (which was from everlasting, but was to be placed in a human format in humiliation for sacrifice), but THEN, with the price for peace paid, that there should ALSO be the open access to a sort of needle gate to this reconciliation of all things to Himself. The entry is not shut, but you have to enter thought it.
It is in one sense rather like a University education. A father might want all his children to have it, but would not force them, since they are people not programs. He would pay ALL their expenses and do ALL necessary in education; but stop where willingness stopped. In His oversight, God knows all this, even foreknows it, and so acts to take or to leave. What is left is left because it prefers to leave it, EVEN WHEN the light has come! (John 3:19, Proverbs 1).
That is the strategy of love. It goes from heart to
plan to performance to redeeming, to completion, to stopping what is finished,
commanding (as in Acts 17:30), but not controlling in this most personal
instance. Commanding what ? Why, all men, everywhere to do something. And what
is that ? To repent.
There then is the strategy. What then of the life as lived by mankind ?
Repent! You see this personal side very clearly in Luke 7:29-30. It is a very challenging thing, for of some who were living in the days of John the Baptist, this is said:
"But the Pharisees and lawyers rejected the will of God for themselves."
What a perilous and ultimate fault: there IS a will of God for them, and there is a POWER to reject it given to men. These are CITED as rejecting it. How many choose careers for money or fame or notoriety or custom or convenience or convention, or marry in some such way, rejecting the will of God for themselves. To be lukewarm is just the same, since God condemns vigorously a noted church as luke-warm, neither hot nor cold (Rev. 3:14-21), and even invites those so afflicted, as one knocking at the door, to receive Him in for a visitation! What teacher wants in the end, a luke-warm student! You like one who wants to learn, is eager, self-disciplined, active, and neither sleepy nor derelict, just drifting.
Famous for this fault of rejecting the will of God for themselves, but on this occasion, only ONCE! is Jonah. Quietly he simply rejected the revealed will of the Lord for him. It is certainly unusual, a great privilege and a tender mercy from the Lord for THOSE TO WHOM he was sent, to bring final warning to many in a large place! Sent to Nineveh Jonah could have rejoiced at the confidence of the Lord in him, to do that job. He could have wondered at what wonderful exhibition of divine power he would stand witness, as he spoke to the great capital city of a mighty empire, and told it to repent!
But he didn't! He rushed fearfully away instead. Actually, it is a wonder and a favour to be SHOWN the will of God for yourself. NOT to do it! when it is revealed and not longer concealed, that is a great horror. Do not be vague but know what the will of the Lord is! says the apostle Paul (Ephesians 5:17). The sense of the Greek word used is this. Do not be reckless, thoughtless undirected, drifting or vague. KNOW the mind of Christ (I Cor. 2:16). Jonah had to learn not to be selfish, wilful, arbitrary, but to LISTEN and think and be reasonable and prudent, a good servant, not given to making exceptions in his own favour!
Again in the day of Jeremiah, the King Zedekiah, following no little folly, on begging for the Lord's ear, was given an opportunity (Jeremiah 44:16-17). He was told that IF he surrendered to the enemy, not only would the city be saved, but he himself would be delivered. This was a magnificent offer, in view of his evils; it was a test provided by mercy, rich in wonder; but he refused it, even the will of the Lord. It is a fearful thing to REFUSE the Lord something you know He wants of you. Instead of vast mercies, this King then had his sons slain before his eyes, and then his eyes put out by the conquering king, against whom he had rebelled, as now also against the Lord!
Consider further Jeremiah, that staggeringly compassionate but utterly valiant servant of the Lord (indeed he had breaking moments, but he DID persevere in a very lonely and exceedingly costly task). He actually said PLEASE to the King: what a thing to resist when it was ALSO the will of the Lord for him. It happened when Zedekiah, unlike any hero, was afraid to surrender to the conquering king because he felt he would be treated badly by others who had earlier surrendered! Learn from this, do not play the delicate with the Lord, but face things. Be treated badly! what was that in contrast - and it was only then a fear - with what happened when he deliberately REFUSED to do the will of the Lord, and surrender, the thing which fitted into the divine plan of national mercy, in the long run (Jeremiah 38:20).
"Please," said Jeremiah, "obey the voice of the LORD, which I speak to you.
So it will be well with you and your soul will live."
But the King would not, and even settled on ways and means, forgetting DIRECTION! What a lesson is there ... And consider another case in the book of Jeremiah the prophet. How hard is the life of a prophet, but integrity is in part its own reward! Thus when the remnant after the thorough destruction of Jerusalem, as announced, had duly happened, were as if naked in the desolation, at that calamitous moment they asked Jeremiah for a word from God. He gave it. STAY here; and if you go to Egypt, you will surge into deserved trouble.
Their reply ? We WILL DO WHATEVER COMES OUT OF OUR MOUTHS, they asserted in arrogant self-righteousness, as if making themselves into gods, even after ALL they had so justly suffered already. What a message is here, to avoid acting like minor Don Quixote's, charging about in puffed up pride while cast to the ground! Is it impossible to learn, to admit error, to repent! So they moved to the next phase of the invasive forces, to Egypt, as if bent on inheriting more affliction.
By contrast, Paul, when in chains, sent an empowered letter to the Philippians, as the one through whom "it has become evident to the whole palace guard, and to all the rest, that my chains are in Christ ..." He suffered in this way FOR the testimony made, and IN so suffering he used even this to make further testimony on all sides, even in the palace: an astute way to find this target! What enterprise, what faithfulness, what contrast to those NOT willing to do the will of God for themselves.
Again, you have Paul as in Acts 18:5, Paul was "compelled by the Spirit" to testify, to speak out, like a fresh wind through a window, gusting to the last places in the room. Further in Acts 20:22-24, we read that He is going "bound in spirit to Jerusalem not knowing the things that will happen to me there, except that the Holy Spirit testifies in every city, saying that chains and tribulations await. But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race ..." What then ? When at last in Tyre they seek to move him away from this coming bondage, he asks them why they are breaking his heart; for he is willing both to suffer and to die for the testimony of Christ, who sent him. He has inwardly had it made known to him what he is to do, AND the cost of it, and is willing to pay, not just instead to 'escape' trouble. Does a soldier escape mud on his boots, by diverting an attack!
So you have the positive with the negative, as you watch the way through life, obedience and suffering on the one hand, and rebellion and suffering on the other, the one to escape God, the other to delight Him, since He IS so delightful! The one is suffering in purity for truth, the other in pollution, like a smog-filled coal town.
Law's Place in Grace
Where however in all this are the commands, is the law ? The CEREMONIAL law had been swallowed up, since in its heart is the Lamb of God to come, who replaced its holy of holies annual sacrificial blood. Christ died but ONCE on behalf of ALL, of all races, and to ANY who received Him, He eternally gave the vitality of life with Himself. He provided enough for one as for all: discerning enough to receive those whom He foreknow as His own, before He came, and whom the Father gave to Him (John 6:65, 17:9). Of these, He missed not one, faioled to hear no cry (Psalm 145:18-19).
Does this mean that morals are now relative ? Of course not! Does God change, or are His principles of right and wrong to be influenced like human manipulee, by what happens in time, all of which He has foreknown and foreseen! That is impossible. It is a comprehensively known creation that He made, with all circumstances and situations in view (Isaiah 46:8-10, Acts 15:18). Thus love God with ALL your heart and your neighbour as yourself remain front-line commands; and many are the directives (as in I Thessalonians 5, Romans 13, Ephesians 5 and so forth), and much is the input concerning all things to come and how to treat them.
Nothing in principle goes, not to the jot and tittle; ALL is to be FULFILLED.
For all that, there is a further emphasis on the supreme sacrifice of Christ in this, that "Christ is the end of the law for righteousness, to everyone who believes" (Roman 10:4). Law abiding is great; but WHEN it comes to salvation and the GIFT of eternal life (Romans 10:9, 6:23, 3:23-27), Christ is the open cheque conferring the righteousness of God to the account of the sinner (II Cor. 5:21, Romans 5:17-19). Nothing is even competitive, or can even be placed in the same ledger with this.
The essence is the love, sacrifice, power, resurrection, grace and gift; and this love, it is not licensed. It is the mighty outflow from the heart of God. To say otherwise is to mock the magnificence of the mercy of God (I John 4:7-10, John 3:16-19, Micah 7:18-19, Ezekiel 33:11, Col. 1:19ff.), its impassioned dispersal (Jeremiah 48), its elicitive energy and its unfathomable depth.
There is no licence for love.