Monthly Archives: December 2011

In Due Season We Shall Reap

I was thinking about that verse in Galatians again earlier today.  “And let us not be weary (or, lose heart) in well doing, for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not” (Gal. 6.9).  I looked it up, and apparently the Greek here is something like, “in its own season.”  In other words, there is a specific season for the harvest.  Let us remember this—those of us who have sown to the Spirit and wonder where the harvest is.

We are seeing all around us in our world that things are pretty ripe as far as evil is concerned.  There’s been a lot of sowing “to the flesh.”  So there is going to be a harvest of corruption.  The season of that harvest is obviously nigh.

Now, the doers of evil never seem to need encouragement to persist in doing evil and not grow weary.  It just comes naturally.  At the same time, it’s kind of dull of them to not grasp that their evil doing will bring them a bountiful harvest of evil.

But aren’t our own senses just as dull if we have grown weary of sowing to the Spirit?  We rejoiced when the seed was sown.  But then come the difficult times—like the one we are in right now—and we faint.  The promise of the Word of God is that we shall reap… if we faint not.  I know it can be very trying when we embrace the seed of the Word in our heart and faithfully seek to keep out the weeds—and yet still do not see the fruit we long to see.  Our Lord knows this, and inspired Paul to write those words.  He urges us to not be weary in well doing—in sowing to the Spirit.  We are going to see the harvest—in the season God has ordained for the harvest!  God is not mocked.  We shall reap what we have sown… in the season God has ordained for the harvest.

As I was thinking of this earlier today, and about God’s provision for us in the Day of Evil, Psalm 27 came to mind, and I turned to it.  And as I read the familiar words once again, the light bulb suddenly went on.  (The Bible is such an awesome book!)  David knew an Evil Day was coming—something many Christians today are aware of, and talk much about.  When Christians get together this will often be the topic of conversation.  Trouble is nigh.  Great shakings are ahead.  It seems we understand this quite well.

But how was David preparing for this evil day he understood was coming?  Well, in a sense he wasn’t preparing for the evil day at all.  He was preoccupied with One Thing today.

“One thing have I desired of the LORD, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to enquire in His temple.  For in the day of evil He shall hide me in His pavilion…” (Ps. 27.4,5).

See how beautifully the one follows the other?  David had a certain preoccupation day after day… all the days of his life.  Seeking to dwell in the house of the LORD today.  And so where will that put him when the evil day dawns?

“For in the Day of Evil…” (That’s how we must translate the original Hebrew for the phrase the King James translates as “the time of trouble.”) “For in the Day of Evil He shall hide me in His pavilion (His covert, His booth): in the secret (place) of His tabernacle He shall hide me; he shall set me up upon a rock” (Ps. 27.5).

Day after ordinary day, David was sowing to something.  He was seeking to dwell in the house of the LORD.  Where, then, will this find him when the Day of Evil arrives?  In the same Place he was in yesterday—in the house of the LORD—and discovering that this House is a Secret Place of refuge from all evil.  It is the “secret Place of His tabernacle.”  How simple, yet how wonderful, the ways of God!

“He shall hide me in his pavilion; in the secret (place) of His tabernacle He shall hide me…”  This is God’s provision for the Day of Evil?  A tabernacle, a flimsy tent?  But I am sure David has in mind the tabernacle he set up on Mount Zion for the ark of God, for the Presence of God Himself.  The secret (place) of His tabernacle is the secret of the Presence of God.  Once we see this it suddenly becomes very understandable why a flimsy little tent becomes the place of perfect security.  God is there!  In a day when it seems that evil has been let off the leash there is a Place evil cannot penetrate.  “In the secret (place) of His tabernacle He shall hide me…”

And who is this Tabernacle, but our Lord Jesus Christ.  He is the House of God, He Himself is this Tabernacle of God—this Place of the Presence of God—the one and only refuge in the universe when all evil is unleashed around us, the immoveable Rock we can confidently stand on when all else around us is sinking sand.

Psalm 27 is no doubt prophetic of the Evil Day that is before us.  God says that this is our provision for what is ahead of us tomorrow—what we are doing today.  Let us believe Him, then.  Let us sow to the same thing David was sowing to.  Let us not be weary in doing this, even though it’s a very difficult hour, and finding this Place of His Presence is often very difficult.   There is a weariness.  But let us persevere.  Let us continue sowing to this.  Let us seek to dwell in the House of the Lord—in this Place of His Presence—all the days of our life.  We will not be caught off guard tomorrow if we are sowing to this abiding relationship with Jesus Christ today.  In the Day of Evil when our need is desperate we will find ourselves hidden away in a certain Tabernacle.  In fact it’s just as necessary today, isn’t it—this Secret Hiding Place.  I sow to this even now in the evil days that often come my way, and every day.  As difficult as it is I am not giving up.  I have tasted the preciousness of this Presence many times… in measure.  I have seen the beauty of the Lord… a little.  And I am hooked.  I am going to continue sowing to this.  I shall yet see the fullness of His beauty in His House, and go no more out from His Presence.

How can I be so sure?  Simply because… I sow to this!  And God is not mocked.  I fully anticipate a harvest.  God has designated a season for this harvest.  I am going to reap what I have sown.

That is the Word of God.

 

How’s Your Sowing Coming Along?

As we head into 2012 we are hearing once again the beat of war drums.  Iran is threatening that if the United States embargos Iran’s oil, Iran will blockade the Strait of Hormuz so that the commerce of other nations cannot get through the Persian Gulf either.  In return, the United States is threatening that any such action by Iran will be swiftly met with military reprisal.

I don’t know where all this will go, but it would not surprise me to see the situation grow into full-scale war that many nations get drawn into.  We live in an extremely unstable world—a world that is headed into what Scripture calls the Evil Day.

Of course there has been evil in the world from the day the Serpent beguiled Eve, and following suit, Adam deliberately disobeyed God.  But there comes a time when evil comes to fruition, and there is a harvest of evil.  Surely we are already very close to that time.  Things are moving so quickly.  It’s frightening the way we have seen evil increase in just one generation.

I know this makes us fearful, anxious.  But in a sense this is very encouraging.  For, when the crop is ripe, what happens next?

“When the wicked spring as the grass, and when all the workers of iniquity do flourish; it is that they shall be destroyed forever” (Ps. 92.7).

What happens when the harvest is ripe?  It gets cut down.  Is evil flourishing in our day?  We know what is next, then.  God is going to get his sickle out and cut it all down.  He is going to totally eradicate wickedness from His world.

His way of doing this is to first let evil come to fruition.  And we are there.  Everywhere you look there is a sense of ripeness about things.  We certainly see this in the churches.  Deception abounds in many churches.  How can it be otherwise?  The red carpet has been long since rolled out for the ways and works of man.  Why the surprise, then, when it all comes to a head, and the man of iniquity walks down the aisle and sets himself up as god in the temple of God, and is worshipped by multitudes?  For, when God’s people do not receive the love of the truth, He gives them over to believe the lie.

And out there in the world?  What is growing out there in the field of the world?  Simply put, it is everything men are doing to build a world that leaves God out.  And this also comes to a head.  When the God of order and the Prince of peace is left out, what will be the harvest?  War… worldwide upheaval… anarchy… chaos.

But never mind what’s growing out there in the field of the nations.  Remember the riots this year in the streets of orderly societies?  Not only in the Arab countries, but right in our orderly societies—Canada, England.  People are appalled, but think this through.  How can there be order in any society when the people who live in that society want nothing to do with the God of order?  God lifts His restraint then, and… what a shock!  Where did that come from?

One thing we must have absolute confidence in is this.  What a man sows he shall reap.  Man has been sowing evil with both hands—and he is going to see the harvest of evil.

“Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth that shall he also reap.”  You can’t mock God—you can’t have a secret love affair with evil and expect good in return.  “For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption…” Frightening thought, isn’t it.

But let’s continue reading.   “…But he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting” (Gal. 6.7,8).  Now, that’s encouraging!

And so, fellow Christian, how is your sowing coming along?  Do you feel at times that it hasn’t amounted to much so far?  Not much fruit yet?  You are beginning to think that it’s no use, what God has promised is not going to materialize?  You mean you believe God will be mocked after all?  He will not be mocked.  What you sow you shall reap.  Keep sowing, then!  Keep watering!  Don’t give up!

“And let us not be weary in well doing, for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not” (Gal. 6.9).

We shall reap!  Let us not be afraid of what we see happening in our world.  In the same Evil Day that yields to man his harvest of evil, another harvest is about to be reaped—the harvest of the word of God you and I have planted and watered in our lives and the lives of others.

Expectations For 2012

About this time of year the prophets take advantage of the opportunity to once again favour us with their annual forecasts.  If you think you might be detecting a flavour of cynicism here, I commend you on your discernment.  Over the years I have become very skeptical about much of this, especially the offerings that the popular Charismatic prophets put forth as they compete with one another in wooing the people.  I have observed that, a) most of the things they tell us will happen in the coming year do not happen; and, b) they rarely if ever prophesy the things that actually do happen.

We are not to despise prophesyings; my heart is open to hear a truly prophetic word.  But all too often we neglect to read the next verse in Paul’s exhortation.  Yes, he said, “Despise not prophesyings.”  But immediately following this he adds, “Prove all things; hold fast that which is good” (1 Thes. 5.20,21).  So, we are not to swallow whole all that the prophets set before us; we are to test what they say, prove what they say—and hold fast only that which is good.  How can we do this?  How can we discern the true from the false?  Only by drawing very close to the Lord ourselves and seeking to cultivate a hearing heart—the kind of hearing that comes only to the one who has offered his whole life to God on the altar of burnt sacrifice.

I don’t have a prophetic gifting myself.  But as one who seeks to steep his life in the word of God and stay awake on his watch, I believe I can say confidently that the coming year will continue to see great shakings—both in the world and in the church.  This is both a warning and a promise.  A warning, because those whose lives are not right with God dread the prospect of shakings.  A promise, because those who love Him anticipate the shakings.  They may not feel very capable in themselves to go through hard things.  But even so, they trust their God to bring them through, so they anticipate what is ahead.  For, the shakings mean that the faithful God is at work.  He has promised to shake all that can be shaken, and remove all that can be shaken, and bring in a Kingdom that cannot be shaken (Heb. 12.27-29).  God is a God of judgment, and His judgments are being released, as we have seen over the last few years.  To the haters of God this is deeply resented.  But, “Zion heard and was glad; and the daughters of Judah rejoiced because of Thy judgments, O LORD” (Ps. 97.8).

God needs no one to defend Him from His accusers—those who charge that the Christians’ God is a vindictive God, that His judgments are not just.  But let me remind you that the God of love is a God of righteousness.  He hates evil.  He is deeply pained with what evil has done in His world.  Yes, He is patient and longsuffering beyond our capacity to comprehend—so much so, that those whose rule of life is to do as they please assure themselves that God (if He even exists) obviously never interferes with this world of theirs.  But God is not going to endure evil forever.  He is going to roll up His sleeves, and when He is finished no evil will be found in this world of His.  None whatsoever.  He is going to deal with all evil—once and for all.  In fact at the Cross He already did that.  And He intends to bring the judgment of the Cross fully to bear upon the whole world.  For some this is bad news.

But for others, this is good news; it means our salvation.  What did the days of the flood mean to Noah and the ark?  It was the time of salvation for those in the ark.  And when judgments were being meted out on Egypt, it was because a great salvation was in the works.  There was darkness over Egypt so thick it could be felt.  But the children of Israel had light in their dwellings.

So is the Day of the Lord.  Some dread the sunup of this Day.  It means the end of their night of pleasure—the pleasure of self-will and sin, I mean.  “Behold, the day cometh that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble: and the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith the LORD of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch” (Mal. 4.1).  But for others—those who fear the Name of the Lord—the same Sun of righteousness arises with healing in His wings.  And they go forth leaping as calves let out of the stall.

And so, come what may, good things are before us.  Let us seek to nourish this sense of anticipation in one another.  Personally I look forward to the coming year.  Our world is shrouded in night—in thick darkness.  And I, little child that I am… I am afraid of the dark.  I don’t know how much longer I can endure any darkness.  But I have hope.  The night is far spent, the Day is at hand!  There is a beautiful passage in Job, in which God describes the coming of the morning as the dayspring taking hold of the ends of the earth and shaking the wicked out of it—like someone shaking the dust out of a carpet (Job 38.12,13).  That’s what I anticipate—the Sun of righteousness arising and shaking the darkness and wickedness out of the earth.  I am weary of wickedness, and of the darkness that has provided the wicked with a cloak.

And so when the shakings come—and they will surely come—let us remember Who it is that is housecleaning, and has hold of the end of the carpet.

When I Consider Thy Heavens

I have been thinking about those ancient stargazers who saw the sign in the heavens announcing the birth of the Great King.  It’s intriguing to me that they were able to look upward and understand so much.  What is written in the heavens was like a second language to them.  This should not surprise us.  God said right from the beginning that the lights He created in the firmament of the heavens were “for signs, and for seasons…” (Gen. 1.14).  These men knew how to read those signs.

We have largely lost the ability to do that now, and I am not suggesting we turn to modern astrology, and horoscopes, and the like, to try to get that ability back.  It is a heavenly language that the stars speak, and only God Himself can give the interpretation.

God Himself has testified as much, as our Bible records.  He challenged Job, “Canst thou bind the sweet influences of the Pleiades (the seven stars), or loose the bands of Orion?  Canst thou bring forth Mazzaroth (the twelve signs, each) in its season?  Or canst thou guide Arcturus with his sons?  Knowest thou the ordinances of heaven?  Canst thou set the dominion thereof in the earth? (Job 38.31,32).

This challenge left Job feeling pretty ignorant, as it leaves me also.  But one thing is clear. Completely apart from the deception of modern astrology, the heavens display wondrous messages from God for us.

The shepherd David realized this back in the days when our Bible was still being built.  While watching his sheep at night he would look up into the starry sky and write down his thoughts.

“The heavens declare the glory of the LORD,” he wrote, “and the firmament sheweth His handiwork.  Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowlege” (Ps. 19.1).

That’s very interesting.  Not, “day after day,” not “night after night,” but “day unto day,” “night unto night.”  The night sky corresponds to the time of night we now live in, the moon being the church, the bride of Christ; and the stars her children—the “children of the Day,” shining forth in the night the glory of the Lord in differing degrees of glory.  And the sun in the daytime?  I marvel at what David said about the sun.  This had to be purely by revelation from God.  For he said that the sky was “a tabernacle for the sun, which is as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, and rejoiceth as a strong man to run a race” (Ps. 19.5).

The Bridegroom comes out of His chamber of night rejoicing for the contest before Him.  It’s the day of Christ, the great Day of the Lord over which He rules, and He shines forth in powerful Light– and heat. “And there is nothing hid from the heat thereof.”  It is going to be a very hot day.  We are well advised to be prepared for it– and seek a Shady Place.

Back to that other skywatcher David, out watching his sheep at night again, always totally awed by what he is seeing.

“When I consider Thy heavens, the work of Thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which Thou hast ordained, what is man that Thou art mindful of him, and the son of man that Thou visitest him?”

David was so humbled by what he was seeing—and so am I when I look upward.  I can barely read that heavenly language, but when I look up into the heavens on a starry night, I am held in awe, and humbled.  It’s so humbling to look up.

Let us do that often, then!

“What is man that Thou art mindful of him, and the son of man that Thou visitest him?”

How wondrous.  This majestic God who created the sun and the stars and set them in the vast expanse of a universe past finding out is not only mindful of us.  He has visited us.

And He is going to do so again.

The Right Place, The Right Time

Here is a young man walking along a dusty road with sure but urgent step.  He is leading a donkey upon which a very pregnant young woman is riding.

This young woman so obvious with child could give birth at any moment: why then are they travelling in the first place?

It’s because a prophet seven hundred and fifty years earlier had written, “But thou, Bethlehem Ephrata, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall He come forth unto Me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting (from the days of eternity)” (Micah 5.2).

That is why this young couple have undertaken a journey of a hundred kilometres—it will take them three or four days—from Nazareth to a little town in Judea called Bethlehem.  Something very wondrous is unfolding, and this young couple are part of its unfolding.

Now, the young man and his wife did know that the little one she was carrying was this promised Messiah king—the Son of God.  An angel had revealed this to them.  However, it does not appear that they remembered Micah’s prophecy at the last minute, and were rushing from Nazareth to Bethlehem so the prophecy could be properly fulfilled. The immediate reason they were on the road to Bethlehem was because Caesar Augustus, ruler of the Roman Empire—at that time the whole known world—had issued a decree that a census was to be taken, and all the inhabitants of the world were to  register forthwith in their places of birth.

Since the young man leading the donkey was “of the house and lineage of David,” he was returning to Bethlehem, “the city of David,” to comply with Caesar’s decree.

Why was Caesar Augustus calling for the census?  Whatever his own reason was, as high above that as the heavens are above the earth a Sovereign God was working an eternal purpose, and He needed a young woman about to have a baby in the right place at the right time, thus to fulfill an ancient prophecy.

Here is even more wonder to add to all this wonder.  In a land far from the land this couple lived in, and at the same time the young woman was about to give birth, those who watched the stars and knew their language observed a new phenomenon in the night sky.  A certain star of singular note appeared in the sky.  There’s been a lot of speculation as to what this star was, but God, it seems, has not felt the need to give us an explanation, leaving this among the Bible’s other mysteries.  So I am content to leave it there as well.  Whatever the star was, its appearance was something very momentous, something speaking loud and clear to these men of old.  All the stars had been set in the heavens—who knows when.  From the beginning.  But at a certain point in history this star appeared in the sky at a very specific place among the constellations.  It’s intriguing, isn’t it, that the star watchers understood that the heavenly sign spoke of the birth of a very great king.  They also determined, somehow, that the king was a king of the Jews.

In fact they also understood—how, I know not—that the kingdom of this king about to be born included themselves.  For after seeing His star they set out on a quest to find him and worship him.

And where else would a new king of the Jews be born but in the palace at Jerusalem? But no, after inquiring in Jerusalem, the men were directed to a little town about ten kilometres distance.  Perhaps they felt uneasy now.  Were they being put off?  But when they finally drew near the little town, there it was again—the star they had earlier seen in the east!   This filled them with great joy.  What assurance!  God, it seems, knew these men, and loved them.  For, “the star which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came and stood over where the young Child was” (Matt. 2.10, NKJV).

The child was no longer in the manger, but in a house now.  “And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary His mother, and fell down, and worshipped Him.”

I find all this completely mesmerizing.  With infinite power and unmatchable wisdom, a sovereign God creates the stars in the heavens, arranging them with such precision that they shall be at a certain place in the sky at a certain predetermined point in time according to a great eternal purpose He has in mind.  The millennia pass, the time arrives, and a certain ancient star appears among the constellations—at the right place, and at the right time—coinciding with and announcing the birth of a very Great King.  This same sovereign God is no less sovereign in His workings when a man who has named himself Augustus Caesar—the great, the majestic, the august Caesar—in his own estimation the ruler of the whole world, arranges for a census of his world, which means that a certain young man and a woman with child must make their way down to a little town in Judea where an ancient prophecy is about to be fulfilled.

As one who lives a very unnotable life I find this all very inspiring.  For I know that the same God who wrought so majestically and so sovereignly back then, both in the height of heaven and on earth among the lowly… He is not yet finished His wondrous sovereign workings.  For, He has not yet fully unfolded His great eternal plan.  He is not finished yet.  There is more that He intends to unfold, to the praise of His glory.  Much more.  And so as one who loves His glory, and greatly desires to figure in the eternal purposes of God—yet at the same time feels small and very insignificant in the grand scheme of things—what hope I have!  I look back to that day of Bethlehem, and oh, how greatly He was magnified in the small… back then.

But I remember that He is the same God yesterday, today, and forever. The same God who wrought so sovereignly in days of old is still at work.  He continues to unfold His great eternal purpose. There are things yet unfulfilled in this wondrous purpose of God which He purposed away back in the days of eternity.  He will be no less sovereign in fulfilling them than He was in the ancient day when He set the stars in the heavens, no less sovereign than in the day when a decree went forth, and, nine months pregnant or not, a young couple had to go down to Bethlehem… and the Christ was born. The Great King.

It is He whom I too worship, and acknowledge in all my ways. In the midst of all the troubles of our troubled world, I have great hope. I am filled with expectancy. I am part of a great eternal purpose that is unfolding. My life may be ordinary, but I go about my life just as that young couple back then went about their lives—trusting in their God… expectantly.  Though ordinary people, and lowly, they knew they had been included in something very wondrous, and very high.  The same sovereign God is still at work.  As I, too, acknowledge Him in all my ways I have the assurance, if not always the awareness, that in the everyday things of ordinary life He is leading me in a wondrous sovereign plan.

I too shall be in the right place at the right time.

 

The Conflict Of Two Ages

We Christians in this present age are to live the life of another age.  We now have that life of the age to come—eternal life—in seed form, and the more we fall into the ground and die as the original Seed Himself fell into the ground and died, the more do we sow unto eternal life, the more do we release that eternal life to break forth.  Christ and His apostles demonstrated that we are to be totally sold out to this, totally given over to this, and ever wary of the traps and snares that would rob us of it.  When we end up living a merely natural earthly life and are captivated by what John calls “the pride of life,” just living a worldly life enjoying earthly and worldly pleasures, we end up the greatest of all losers.  Jesus time and again warned that those who love their lives in this age would end up losing it.

But at the same time He promised that those who in this age lose their life for His sake and the Gospel’s… will find it.

This is clear.  The lot of those who in this age take up their cross and follow Jesus—our lot will be suffering and persecution in this age.  We Christians in western lands very deeply need an awakening in this area.  This is what the Christian life and walk is all about.  “Yea, and all they who will live godly in this present age shall suffer persecution” (Tit. 2.12).  Even so.  But in the midst of it we have the assurance that the eternal life we now have in seed form will burst into fruit… later.

“…Verily I say unto you, there is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake land the gospel’s, but he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the age to come life eternal” (Mk. 10.29,30).

What is Jesus talking about here?  I believe it can be summed up by saying that whatever losses we suffer from an earthly perspective are more than made up by the family of God we are now born into, and the house of God we now become a part of—even though we are also granted a portion of their sufferings.  But while that is our lot here, we have the wondrous promise: “…and in the age to come life eternal.”

What is life, then?  All that this present world has to offer?  That is not real life.  “A man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth” (Luke 12.15).  In fact Jesus said, “Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink His blood ye have no life in you.”

That is quite the statement.  According to Jesus, it is only eternal life that is real life.  Jesus said, “Whoso eateth My flesh and drinketh My blood hath eternal life…”  That is real life—partaking of Christ, eating His flesh, drinking His blood.

But what are the implications of eating His flesh and drinking His blood?  This is surely to partake of His sufferings, as He showed the disciples when He broke the bread and passed around the cup during the Last Supper.  To eat His flesh and drink His blood—this is the “fellowship of His sufferings.”

But what is the ultimate lot then, or the one who eats His flesh and drinks His blood? He that eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood hath eternal life, and I will raise him up in the last day” (Jn. 6.53,54).

How deeply we in our land, and in our day, need an awakening to this realization.  This is what the Christian life and walk is all about in this age—the fellowship of the sufferings of Jesus Christ.  It is our calling to live in this age according to the order of an age to come, to live the Life of the ages here in this present life.  And this is going to mean trouble for us in this world, for it means conflict with this world.  For these two ages are diametrically opposed to one another.  While living in this age, we are to be nourished by the passions of the life of the ages—not by those of the flesh.  We are to be feeding on eternal things, heavenly things—even Christ Himself—and not earthly sensual things.  We don’t underestimate the power of temptation.  But let us know that God has the grace we need to overcome it all.  “In the world ye shall have tribulation,” Jesus said.  “But be of good cheer: I have overcome the world.”  He overcame the world so that by His Spirit we too could overcome the world.  And so when the pull of the world is strong and we are tempted to give ourselves to the pursuit of diverse lusts and pleasures and fill our lives with earthly things of one sort or another, let us earnestly seek to lift up our eyes to eternal realities, and to Him that dwelleth in the Heavens—and take up our cross!

Think of the beauty of the Life that the Son of God manifested when He walked right here on the ground in sandals—the Life of the ages, manifested in this present evil age.  He was a totally different kind of Man.  He was a spiritual, a heavenly Man.  He dwelt in a heavenly realm even while He was here on earth.  By His Spirit we can do the same.  The Son of God manifested in this age the Life of the ages.

He was crucified for it.

But if this was the lot of my Master, what shall my lot then be?  Let me weigh this soberly.  My beloved Master was crucified by a world absolutely at enmity against God.  Can I then live as its friend?

Two ages met in the Cross of Christ.  Two spirits—the spirit of this age, and the Spirit that is of God—met at the battle line, and the one destroyed the other.  Apparently it was the spirit of this age who triumphed.  But no.  In the Cross of Christ, two princes strove for control.  Two gods contended for worship.  And when the Son of God on the Cross with arms outstretched and head bowed worshipped His Father to the end, that other god was utterly vanquished.   That other prince was deposed.

“Now is the judgment of this world: now is the prince of this world cast out.”  Let us be assured that what God accomplished in the Cross of Christ we shall yet see completely fulfilled in this troubled little planet of ours—through you and me.  You and I have a part in that.  Jesus said that in His going away, He would send the Comforter to us. “And when He is come He will convict the world concerning sin, and concerning righteousness, and concerning judgment. Concerning sin, because they believe not on Me, concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and ye see me no more, and concerning judgment, because the Prince of this world is (has been) judged” (Jn. 16. 8-11).  So, we have a part in this.  This is our calling in this present evil world.  Not to live here seeking to gain all it has to offer—whether in goods or in honours.  But rather to be those in whom the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, can make manifest that ancient conviction of the Cross, and cause that ancient judgment to be completely meted out.

Two spirits.  Two gods.  Two kingdoms.  Two ages.  We in this age are not to be conformed to this age, but to be transformed by the renewing of our minds.  As we do this, and live now according to the age to come, it will certainly cost us our lives in this world.  But great shall be our reward in the age which is to come—a reward that is not just for our own benefit, if you understand what I am saying.

Oh that our eyes might be opened, then, to see that it is the age to come that is the important one!  How earthbound we are at times!  Our belly cleaveth to the dust, as the psalmist mourned.  Yet the writer of Hebrews tells us, “For not to angels did he subject the world to come, of which we speak” (Heb. 1.5).  Here, for world he uses yet another word, oikoumenen, meaning habitable world, the home of mankind.  And so we have a little glimpse here.  There is more before us, far more, than there is behind us.  There is much more to come in the purposes to God.  The age to come will involve a world inhabited by men.  And God is preparing some in this age to whom the world to come shall be subjected; and they shall rule over it in light as the powers of darkness have done in this present age of darkness.  It is a very great honour, this, a very high calling… though it means a very deep cross.  Let us take up that cross, beloved!  How long shall our fellow man be held in bondage of darkness? Do we love our Lord enough—and our fellow man—to take up our cross?  Oh, how blinded we are at times, and live on such a low plain, a merely temporal and earthly plain.  Eternal and heavenly verities are dim and distant things to us.  Instead we covet our neighbour’s beautiful property… or our brother’s blessing.

Beloved, these things ought not so to be.

Dear Lord, anoint our eyes with eyesalve that we might see!  You paid for us a debt we could not pay ourselves, and because of this, our salvation is not merely our own.  We are debtors to all men.  Keep us focused, then, on eternal realities, lest our lives, which are but a vapour, which are but for a moment, be lived in vain.  Keep us centred on your will… which we know will always result in footsteps on an eternal pathway, regardless what earthly circumstances we find ourselves in.  Keep us mindful of the coming age, dear Lord, and wary of this present one in which we live, as it is written, “Love not the world, nor the things in the world. If anyone should love the world, the love of the Father is not in him, because all that is in the world, the desire of the flesh, the desire of the eyes, and the pride of life is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof, but he that doeth the will of God abideth forever” (1 Jn. 2. 15-17).

And so help us nurture the faith, dear Lord Jesus Christ, that sees Him who is invisible, that looks not upon the things that are seen, the things that are temporal, but on the things that are unseen—eternal things.  Help us, Lord—we need your grace in this—to not be deceived by a world that is fleeting, transient, temporary.  Help us to take you seriously, and in this world take up our Cross, and follow you.  For we believe Your words, dear Lord, when you say, “He that loves his life shall lose it, but he that hates his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal” (Jn. 12.25).  Amen.

 

 

How Much is a Trinket Worth?

Carrying on with what we were talking about last time, we are so used to thinking that the way our world is… this is the way it will always be.  But that is not so.  Do we believe this?  This world as we know it is just an age… “this present evil age” (Gal. 1.4).  And it is an age that is drawing to a close.  Another age is coming.  Those with vision can already see its glow on the horizon.

And so we read of the children of this age” (which is darkness) and then of “the children of light” (Lk. 16.8).  These are the children of the age to come.  Paul called them “the children of the day.”  What a fascinating thought!  The children of the day!  The Day has not yet come, that age has not yet come… but its children are here already!  For God is impatient for the Day!  “Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness” (1 Thes. 5.5).  In other words, right here in this age, right here in the darkness of this present age, God scatters like seed the children of Light, the children of the Day, like the stars strewn across the heavens.  “Do all things without murmurings and disputings: that ye may be blameless and harmless, the children of God, without blame, in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world” (Phil. 2.15).  That is what we are supposed to be all about, fellow Christian—lights in the world!  Do you know, there is absolutely no light in this world, none at all, none whatever; this world is completely pitch black… apart from the Light of the world—Jesus Christ Himself—shining forth in you and me.

We know that the Day is at hand, inexorably the Sun of Righteousness shall arise; that Day is no more stoppable than the rising of the sun.  And so what do we do?  We just sleep through the night, we just sleep till morning?  No! says Paul.  For “we are not of the night, nor of the darkness.  Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober.  For they that sleep sleep in the night; and they that be drunken are drunken in the night.”

We are not of the night.  We are children of Light, of the Day!  And so what do we do?  We put on the armour of light for a battle!  The outcome of the battle is certain, yes—as absolutely certain as the victory of our Lord Jesus Christ at Calvary.  But the battle must be engaged!  And it appears that the Prince of darkness and his hosts of darkness are not meeting with much resistance in this present hour.  Many of the soldiers of Light are fast asleep on their watch, their armour forgotten on the ground.  Let us awaken and take up our armour!  We who are children of the day—let us engage the battle!  The night is far spent, the Day is at hand! Let us put on the armour of Light and engage the battle!

Let us not be deceived!  Let us guard against the temptation to lay down the armour and live for this present evil age—its attractions, its pleasures, its comforts.  That is deception.  Or, on the other hand—and this too is deception—to end up choked by its cares.  Yes, the seed of the word is planted in our lives in this age.  But what about the weeds that are growing as well?  We are told of two kinds of weeds that choke out the word of truth so that these lives produce only sickly, spindly plants.  “And he who among the thorns was sown, this is he who hears the word, and the care of this age and the deceit of riches choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful” (Mt. 13.22).  The care of this age—that’s how the original Greek reads, gathering together all the cares of this age into one beguiling care.

And so the two classes of weeds: care—the burden and care of life in this world, and then the deceitfulness of riches, both of which can prevent the fruitful harvest of the word God has planted in our lives.  We can be beguiled by both.

Paul warns those that are rich in this present age to be mindful not to be deceived by their riches.  “Charge them that are rich in this present age that they be not high minded, nor trust in the uncertainty of riches…” (1 Tim. 6.17).  This can be a great snare, so much so that Jesus warned that those who are rich enter the kingdom only with great difficulty.  They have it easy in this present age, and it becomes a snare to them.  It beguiles them. They’re inclined to sink their whole lives into what is but fleeting and transitory—as multitudes in our affluent western world are doing.  And so Paul goes on, warning them to put their trust not in the uncertainty of riches, but “in the living God, who gives us richly all things for enjoyment…” (so it’s not wrong to enjoy in moderation these things from the hand of God; only let them not be a snare to us, and our destruction) “…to do good, to be rich in good works, liberal in distributing, ready to communicate (to share) treasuring up for themselves a good foundation for the future, that they may lay hold of eternal life.”

Here again we see the contrast.  Rich in this world… or rich in good works, and in giving, in sharing, and in this way laying a foundation in this life that shall rise a beautiful edifice in the life to come.

And so that’s what this present life and age is for.  Let us not be deceived.  All that this present age has to offer is but temporal, transitory, and will one day be gone forever—and our lives with it… if that is all we have lived for.  “The world passeth away, and the lust (the desire) thereof…” says the apostle John, adding—and let it be this that we sink our whole lives into—“he that doeth the will of God abideth forever” (1 Jn. 2.17).

Let us be wise, then.  Do we believe these things?  Only if we are acting on them.  If we believe these things, we are sowing the seeds of eternal life while we are in this present world, this present evil age.  We are laying the foundation of eternal life in this present life instead of building a magnificent edifice for ourselves in what is but, for us, a camping spot.  If we recognize that we are not at home here, we are not putting our roots down too deeply.  We live as strangers and sojourners here, pilgrims with no continuing city, who “seek one to come” (Heb. 13.14).

Beloved, let us lay this to heart.  “Only one life: ’twill soon be passed…”  It is heart rending that so many out there in the world spend their precious lives on the fleeting pleasures and interests of this present world.  But how much more tragic when you and I do the same.  For where, then, is the Light of the world?  How many of us Christians have been blinded by the trinkets of this present life—its pleasures and comforts, its honours and glory.  Paul mourned for Demas whom he said had forsaken him, “having loved this present age” (2 Tim. 4.10).  What a tragic, tragic loss—not only to himself but to others—when a Christian sells the eternal for the temporary.

I heard of a vision someone had of a vending machine—the kind you put a coin in and turn the handle… and out comes some little item—a trinket, or some peanuts.  In the vision, a man was putting his whole life into the slot in the vending machine.  And out came a little trinket.

Beloved, whatever this world has to offer—all that it has to offer—let us not be beguiled.  It is all but a trinket compared with the true, eternal riches.  Let us not pay with our lives for a trinket.