Monthly Archives: June 2012

Help For Doubters

I remember George Warnock frequently pointing out (in the little home gatherings I once was part of) that he’d never seen a painting of Peter walking on the water.  It’s always of Peter going under.  “Why is it that artists never paint Peter walking on the water to go to Jesus?” George would ask.  “Peter as long as he kept his eyes on Jesus actually walked on the water.”

George also liked to remind us that “doubting Thomas,” as history remembers him, was actually the one who said to the other disciples, “Let us go and die with Him” (Jn. 11.16).

There’s something about the sin-stained human heart that likes to remember the fault or the failure, whether in others—or in ourselves.  We can be very merciless on others, even more so on ourselves when we have failed… even attributing that lack of mercy to God.

But God does not have the same evil propensity.  Our Lord Jesus Christ is the mediator of a New Covenant in which God says:

I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities I will remember no more (Heb. 8.12).

This must be why the New Covenant apostles who wrote our New Testament are themselves very forgetful when it comes to recording the sins and failures of others.  Peter called Lot “that righteous man” (2 Pt. 2.8).  But when I read the story of Lot I come away with a different opinion. Paul says Abraham “staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strong in faith, giving glory to God…” (Rom. 4.20).  No mention whatever of his going down to Egypt, or that episode with Hagar.  No mention of Sarah’s doubting either.

Moses too.  The writer of Hebrews says, “By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king…” (Heb. 11.27). But Moses telling his own story said, “Moses fled from the face of Pharaoh” (Ex. 2.15).

Yes, I realize that Peter’s failures are recorded in the New Testament.  But even this is to show us the wonderful love and mercy of the Lord in forgiving and restoring him.

“Love only waits to forgive and forget,” the hymn writer said.

Also this from the prophet Isaiah:

I, even I, am He that blotteth out thy transgressions for Mine own sake, and will not remember thy sins (Isa. 43.25).

It doesn’t say, “I cannot remember thy sins,” but, “I will not remember thy sins.”  God refuses to remember the sins and transgressions and failures of those who believe in Jesus, whom God made sin (or, a sin offering) for us.

That’s how God sees things.  He sees the sin offering of Christ, and therefore forgets our sins.  That’s the wonder and the grace of the New Covenant that causes God to put all our sins behind Him—behind His back (Isa. 38.17).

So, when our conscience insists on remembering things we wish we could forget, let’s continue to look to the mediator of the New Covenant.  It is the work of the Holy Spirit to vanquish all doubt, to purify the conscience by faith, and bring it to agree with what God accomplished in Christ at Calvary—the forgiveness of our sins, the putting away of sin by the sacrifice of Himself.  It is the work of the Holy Spirit to make this as real to us and in us as it was at Calvary.  It is the work of the Holy Spirit to cause the water and the blood that flowed mingled down Jesus’ side at Calvary to flow down over our conscience as well—convincing it of the truth!

Peter doubted, and began to sink.  Jesus straightway reached out his hand and lifted him up.  He failed badly at the cross as well—three times.  Jesus again reached down and lifted him up—three times (Jn. 21.15-17).  No wonder Peter became the kind of man who was always ready to reach out his own hand to strengthen his brethren (Lk. 22.32).

Thomas doubted… but this was one who did not go forgotten in a time of doubt.  This was one whose will was true, one who had boldly set himself to die with Jesus.  And so in a time of doubt the Lord Jesus gave him an opportunity to put his fingers into the nail prints in His hands and the hole in His side where the spear had pierced Him.  The Holy Spirit can do the same for you and me, can make that just as real to us—that He who was delivered up to be crucified for our offences is living proof of our forgiveness and justification (Rom. 4.25).

How oft, O Lord, Thy face hath shone
On doubting souls whose wills were true!
Thou Christ of Cephas and of John,
Thou art the Christ of Thomas, too.

He loved Thee well, and calmly said,
“Come, let us go, and die with Him.”
Yet when Thine Easter news was spread,
‘Mid all its light his eyes were dim.

His brethren’s word he would not take
But craved to touch those hands of Thine:
The bruised reed Thou didst not break:
He saw, and hailed his Lord divine.

He saw Thee ris’n; at once he rose
To full belief’s unclouded height;
And still through his confession flows
To Christian souls Thy life and light.

O Saviour, make Thy presence known
To all who doubt Thy Word and Thee;
And teach them in that Word alone
To find the truth that sets them free.

And we who know how true Thou art,
And Thee as God and Lord adore,
Give us, we pray, a loyal heart,
To trust and love Thee more and more.

William Bright, 1824-1901

God Is Honest

The other day in a time of prayer the Spirit of the Lord led me into a precious awareness of God.  Generally these days I find prayer very difficult, so I greatly appreciate times such as this. As I was making my petitions to God, reminding Him of prayers that have yet to be answered, I suddenly became aware of God—that is, of a certain quality of God.  I became aware of a God who is sincere.  Is faithful.  Is true.  He is honest.  There is no falseness in God.  None whatever.

You ask, didn’t I know this already?  Well… not like this.  Of course I could affirm that God is like this; I am familiar with many Bible verses about it.  But this experience was beyond that.  This was an awareness, a consciousness of God Himself.  I became aware of a God who is true.  He is honest.  It’s no use trying to embellish the word.  He is honest beyond words to describe.  So honest that it seems a sacrilege to even say He is honest.  As if there could be even a nano-possibility of His being otherwise.  The conscience recoils at having the suggestion brought up.

However, the writer of Hebrews does bring it up, saying that by two immutable things—God’s promise and His oath—it is “impossible for God to lie” (Heb. 6.18).  The apostle Paul also brings this up, writing to Titus that the promise of eternal life is given by a God “who cannot lie” (Titus 1.2).

Why would the Holy Spirit who inspired the Scriptures find it necessary to say such a thing?  It’s because God knows our nature, that we have a deep-down problem in this area.  By nature we don’t trust God.  So, He who cannot lie comes out and assures us He will not lie.  He even condescends to confirm His promise with an oath.  “I not only promise I will do this; I swear by Myself that I’ll do it!”  He does so because He knows we have trouble believing the God who cannot lie.  It is perhaps the deepest and most revealing root of the nature of the human heart—that we humans doubt, mistrust… God.  Oh, what kind of creatures did we become when Adam disobeyed in the Garden?

It’s been a few days since this revelation in my time of prayer, and I am left considering what change has taken place in my heart as a result of it.  For, once again, just as that revelation of the God of peace a few weeks ago didn’t last very long, neither did this one.  What was the value of it then?  And why is God dealing with me this way?  Little glimpses of His glory.  But as with that revelation in the park I am aware that this too did something in me.  Well, three things, actually.

One, these experiences are creating in me a great cry to see Him.  Oh, to see Him!  And His beauty beyond compare!  We may know many things about God, but there is a seeing of God that is beholding the glory of the Lord—a glory that has a certain Divine Ingredient in it that changes us into the same image… as we present ourselves before Him with open (unveiled) face.

Secondly, and perhaps this is the same thing… it has created in me a cry for the kind of character that correlates to the revelation of God.  Do you know what I’m trying to say? It would be wonderful to have so powerful a revelation of God that we are totally and completely transformed all in an instant.  I long for that… and I anticipate we will yet come to experiences like that.  But meanwhile when we are granted only glimpses of His glory, let us cherish even this.  Let us submit to this.  For, is not this how character is formed?  Character—it’s the fruit of the Spirit, actually.  And fruit doesn’t appear instantly on a tree.  It grows.

And so in giving us glimpses of His glory, it is character God has in mind.  His intent is to try us, to prove us by the glimpses.  How will we respond?  Will we dismiss it as being too small for us?  Or will we sow to this revelation?  Nourish it, cherish it, water it, lift up our faces to the Sunshine continually… and grow?  Will we obey the heavenly vision, like Paul did?  On the Damascus road he in fact received a very powerful heavenly vision of the Christ.  But even with so powerful a revelation he realized he had to respond in obedience to that vision (Acts 26.19).  How much more you and I, then, in the little glimpses we are granted.  Let us not be disobedient to the heavenly vision; let us respond.

Thirdly, I am to take this revelation very personally.  It wasn’t just a generic revelation. (I wonder if any revelation ever is.)  God revealed Himself to me like this so that I can lay it to heart in my own life and circumstances.  He is honest, purely honest, He will not fail me, He will be faithful to me in things He has promised and which at times I have agonized over, as Habakkuk did.

O LORD, how long shall I cry, and Thou wilt not hear?  Even cry out unto Thee of violence and Thou wilt not save! (Hab. 1.2).

What, Habakkuk accusing God of not hearing?  It was God Himself who had put this burden upon Habakkuk.  And so He provisioned him to carry it.  He granted Habakkuk a living word, a revelation.  “The just shall live by faith.”  It was a revelation that sustained Habakkuk, that provisioned him to carry his burden aright.

And so step by step at every step I must sow to this revelation of God till trusting Him, believing Him, becomes something so interwoven into the fabric of my own nature that it becomes my very character.  It is character God has in mind—and He has it in mind for me.  Since He revealed Himself to me like this, His intent is to cause me to become completely trusting, believing.  That is the character that corresponds to this revelation of God.  If I know Him to be faithful, true, honest, it causes me cease from all my doubts and anxious care.  It causes me to cease from my own efforts to answer my prayers myself… the way Jacob did.  It becomes my character that I rest in the Lord and wait patiently for Him.  I cease from my own works and enter His Rest.  “For they which have believed do enter into rest…”  It becomes my very character that I believe Him, trust Him implicitly.  He is honest, He will do what He has said He will do.

How deeply we need these encounters in which the Spirit of God discloses God Himself to you and me in the things we are going through.  And we actually become conscious of God.  Seeing Him… it just undoes you.  And you discover that the truths we love, really, they have no existence apart from Himself.  They are only alive and vital in His Presence.  And so it creates such a longing.  Oh, how we need to and long to abide in You, Lord.

At the same time, oh, how deeply we also need to sow to these revelations in the tests of life.  God’s objective is not just revelation.  God’s objective is to create in us a character that corresponds to His own.

…I mentioned Jacob and his elaborate scheme to answer his own prayer (Gen. 32.10-21).  But then He saw the face of God.  Somehow he found himself in a wrestling match in a night season, and by the time the sun arose upon him he had been deeply changed.  He had seen God face to face; it meant the end of all his striving, all his conniving, all his scheming, all his Jacobing.  That had been his name, his nature, his character, the way he had lived and walked for years.  Now he saw God, and was crippled.  And changed.  It meant a ceasing from all his own works and schemings—symptoms of a deep mistrust, something hard wired in him—and entering into Rest.  It meant receiving a new name now, a new character—Israel, prince of God.  He had won a wrestling match in the night—won by being smitten and defeated, that is.  He walked differently now, leaning on God… trusting… depending… believing that the God who had promised him an inheritance would fulfill the promise he himself had been labouring so long and so hard to try to fulfill.

…Lord, touch us this same way.  Cause us to see Your Face… and so doing, bring us into the knowledge of God that passes knowledge, the knowing of God that carries us beyond the place where we are familiar with spiritual things yet somehow still unable to walk any differently, the old nature still very strong in us.  Cause us to see with the seeing that changes us, Lord Jesus Christ, the seeing of God that produces in us the character that corresponds to that revelation…

…Your very own beautiful character, Son of God.  You simply believed God Your Father.  You believed, without doubting.  You put Your trust in Him.  You rested in God without toiling anxiously or fabricating the salvation He purposed to reveal.  You were secure in Your Father’s love in which there could be no fear.  This… it was Your character.

Because You knew Your Father to be genuine.  True.  Faithful.  Honest.

We may not be there yet.  But Lord, we continue to look to you, and ask that you continue to reveal Yourself to us, and in us, till the character you are looking for is fully formed in us.

…Here’s a poem by an unknown author that echoes my heart in this.  I confess that I changed two words.  In the first verse I changed transient to glorious, and in the last verse I changed Till to Since.  A glimpse of the glory of God is surely not transient.  And it’s not necessary to wait till we die to lay our burden down and enter into rest.  It’s necessary only to believe.  It’s those who enter into the believing character of Christ who enter into rest.

Show me Thy face—one glorious gleam
Of loveliness divine,
And I shall never think or dream
Of other love save Thine.
All lesser light will darken quite,
All lower glories wane,
The beautiful of earth will scarce
Seem beautiful again.

Show me Thy face—my faith and love
Shall henceforth fixèd be,
And nothing here have power to move
My soul’s serenity.
My life shall seem a trance, a dream,
And all I feel and see,
Illusive, visionary—Thou
The one reality!

Show me Thy face, I shall forget
The weary days of yore,
The fretting ghosts of vain regret
Shall haunt my soul no more.
All doubts and fears for future years
In quiet trust subside,
And naught but blest content and calm
Within my breast abide.

Show me Thy face—the heaviest cross
Will then seem light to bear;
There will be gain in every loss,
And peace with every care.
With such light feet the years will fleet,
Life seem as brief as blest,
Since I have laid my burden down,
And entered into rest.

The Peace Of The Righteous

Posted on

Just about everybody, I suppose, wants peace, so they can do the things they want to do and live a happy untroubled life.

But how many want righteousness?  It’s interesting to note in the Bible how consistently peace and righteousness are linked together.  In fact they are inseparable.  According to the Bible there is no peace without righteousness.

Six times in the Bible God is called “the God of peace.”  This God of peace dwelt in a Man, our Lord Jesus Christ, who is therefore called the Prince of peace (Isa. 9.6), the Lord of peace (2 Thes. 3.16), and the king of peace (Heb. 7.2).  This last title is combined with another—king of righteousness.  It’s here that many lose interest in being this king’s subjects.  Sure, they would like His rule of peace, who wouldn’t.  But they don’t want to sit under His rule of righteousness.  So they forfeit His rule of peace, and choose rather a way that means contention, discord, turmoil, strife… and ultimately war.

The way they choose is called—sorry, I know it’s kind of a dirty word these days but I am going to use it anyway—it’s called wickedness.  And what is the portion the wicked cut out for themselves?

But the wicked are like the troubled sea when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt.
There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked (Isa. 57.20,21).

As our great high priest after the model of Melchizedek, Christ is king of peace only because He is king of righteousness.  First and foremost it is righteousness that is His domain.  He has the power to minister His righteousness to those who dwell in His kingdom.  The result of this righteousness is His peace.  He is king of righteousness and king of peace.  His kingdom is “righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 14.17).

This king, ministering the blessing upon His subjects, would therefore raise His hand and pronounce, “Righteousness and peace be unto you.”

However, His New Covenant emissaries often used the salutation (or some form of it), “Grace and peace be unto you” ( Rom. 1.7, 1 Cor. 1.3, 2 Cor. 1.2, Gal. 1.3, Eph. 1.2, 1 Pt. 1.2, 2 Pt. 1.2, etc.).

It can only be because the gift of the grace of God is the gift of righteousness.

…Much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ (Rom. 5.17).

It’s wrong thinking to think of God’s grace as something that makes allowances for unrighteousness, and we can sin because God is gracious.  No.  What His grace does is enable us to walk in His righteousness.  The righteousness of God is a gift infused with His grace, thus enabling those who receive it to walk in it.

And this is the key to the peace of God.  When we are right with God, listening to Him, seeking to please Him, to obey Him, to follow through with what He is saying to us, the result will be His presiding peace in our lives.  It will be automatic.

And how are we made right with God?  First, and primarily, by receiving the peace offering He proffered us at Calvary.

Therefore being justified (made righteous) by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ… (Rom. 5.1).

It was there at Calvary that God made peace with you and me and all those who were at enmity with Him.  For in the Cross He dealt with the source of all enmity—our sin—and offered us freely the gift of righteousness.  So if we haven’t already done so, let us humble ourselves and receive this gracious offering and gift.  And when we have done so let us stand our ground here, regardless of the whisperings and reminders of the Accuser about past sins.  He is a deceiver; we are accepted in the Beloved, and have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Secondly, God has provision for you and me—His grace—to continue to walk in His righteousness.  And as long as I do this, and keep in right relationship with Him, I can expect and enjoy His peace.  If I disobey or happen to stumble into sin– though it is not necessary to do so, He has provision for a walk of righteousness– He has provision for me to get right with Him again (1 Jn. 2.1), and continue on in righteousness.  And enjoy His peace again.

Only where there is righteousness is there peace.

And the work of righteousness shall be peace; and the effect of righteousness quietness and assurance (confidence) forever (Isa. 32.17).

George Fox sought to encourage Friends who in his day were being troubled and harassed and persecuted and jailed in stinking jails.  He wrote to them:

Yet all this cannot disturb the peace of the righteous.

I love that phrase—the peace of the righteous.  That is the secret of peace—righteousness—and not our own righteousness, but the righteousness of God.  I may not have happy circumstances.  I may be afflicted.   I may be deluged with problems and troubles.  Sorrows like sea billows may roll. But do I have God’s righteousness?  Then, regardless of all else, whatever my state, I have peace with God.  Where righteousness (or grace) reigns so does peace reign, though troubles may be all about me.

Just as Jesus encouraged His disciples as He was about to leave them:

Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth give I unto you.  Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid (Jn. 14.27).

These things have I spoken unto you that in Me ye might have peace.  In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world (Jn. 16.33).

Let me conclude with this promise.  Peter talks of a day when this whole world will be in the midst of the flames of judgment.  It sounds very frightening, very fearsome.  And Peter realized this.  For he goes on, “Nevertheless we according to His promise look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness” (2 Pt. 3.13).  Nevertheless, Peter says. In other words, as frightening as it is, there’s a promise in the midst of the coming judgments.  Though judgments are at hand, God’s purpose being to deal with all wickedness and sin and unrighteousness, the end result will be a world in which righteousness is at home.

And oh… that can only mean one thing.  Peace. And oh, what peace.  Oh, the peace of a world in which righteousness—our Lord Jesus Christ Himself—is not an unwanted alien, but is now at home and welcome!

My response is… Lord Jesus, I can’t wait for that!  I want your righteousness to be at home even now.  Let righteousness—You Yourself—be at home in me.  In my heart.  That way I can enjoy the peace of God that passeth understanding though all is turmoil about me.  Amen.

The Look On His Face

Posted on

This blog entry is something I emailed to a few friends a number of years ago.  My brother Robert suggested I put it on A Mending Feast.  May it serve as a reminder to all of us that the Cross is God’s secret weapon.  We see this readily enough in what our Lord Jesus went through at Calvary; there it was that He defeated the Devil with his own weapon—death.  But what about the cross in our own lives?  It often looks like defeat, as we see on a growing scale in our day when Christians in many lands are being severely persecuted, with many nations intent on eradicating Christians from the face of the earth.  Even closer to home the proud and lofty talk in terms Christianity going the way of the dodo.  We’re in the “post-Christian era,” they tell us confidently.  They are reckoning without the God of our Lord Jesus Christ and His secret weapon when they talk that way.  “He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh…”

Here’s The Look On His Face (revised a little).

Earlier today I was listening to a song on Youtube which was accompanied by a video clip from the movie The Passion of Christ.  I don’t have a very high regard for that movie, filled with Roman Catholic influence as it is, and in some places not faithful to the Scriptures.  But I think the part on the crucifixion itself gives realistic insight into the brutality Christ suffered.  And this is the video clip I watched.  It showed a whipped and tortured Christ, his flesh shredded by the scorpion lash.  He is in agony, wracked with pain, bruised and bleeding, the blood trickling down His face, and down His body.  He is having a hard time seeing because the blood from the crown of thorns is in His eyes.  The angry cuts of the whipping scar His bloody back.  He is weak, He can hardly walk.  He is stumbling under His cross, and at one point along the way actually falls, unable to bear it any further.  And then at Golgotha—the place of a skull—as they drive the nails into His hands He grimaces with unbearable pain.  As the soldiers raise the Cross, His face over and over again is the face of One in the deepest of torment and pain and suffering…

…All true, for that’s certainly how it was.

But as I watched this, I had a sudden sense that there was something missing.  In their painstaking effort to portray the passion of Christ with the utmost realism, they had nevertheless entirely missed something!  And suddenly it seemed as if I saw His face… and I saw Him—it was but in a moment—with such a look of secret TRIUMPH on His face!  His teeth were set, and there was… I have to say it… a smile of such CONQUEST on His face… a look of such utter and ultimate and irresistible CONQUEST! And the Spirit of God just flooded into my heart.

Oh, what a look!  I tell you, it struck fear in me.  Oh, the power of that look!  Yes, they had done to Him what they wanted to do… and He was suffering, bleeding, dying…  but—Lord, grant us the Eye that sees: right there You were as a Lion roaring on His prey!

I tell you… this brought me to my knees.  I raise my arms in praise to this One… and I worship Him.  …I worship You, Lord Jesus Christ, Lamb of God victorious!  There is none like You!  None like You!  Thank you for Your Conquest, cause us to know it, Lord Jesus Christ!

“And having spoiled principalities and powers, He made a show of them openly, triumphing over them IN IT (in His Cross)” (Col. 2.15).

June 1, 2009

…So let us remember in the midst of great trials–I’ve been needing the reminder myself of late– that we fight our spiritual battles from the perspective of a victory already won.  Our old friend Gene used to enjoy telling us of a little conversation he imagined taking place at Calvary.  When Satan finally succeeded in getting the Lord Jesus on the cross, he said, “Jesus, I’ve finally got you where I want you.”

And Jesus, crowned with thorns and arms outstretched, said in return, “Satan, I’ve finally got you just where I want you.”

…I thought to conclude with a little poem Robert passed on to me, which he found on Spurgeon’s Evening and Morning devotional.  Thanks for this, Robert; it fits right in.

Proclaim aloud the Saviour’s fame,
Who bears the Breaker’s wond’rous name;
Sweet name; and it becomes him well,
Who breaks down earth, sin, death, and hell.

Let us do that beloved, proclaim the Saviour’s fame, in all we are going through now and shall yet go through.  One has gone before us—the Breaker (Micah 2.12,13).  He was broken on the cross of Calvary, and thus broke the power and bonds of earth and sin and death and the grave.  Hallelujah!

%d bloggers like this: