Tag Archives: Lord Jesus Christ

The Testimony Of Jesus Christ (Part 1)

I have been held in thrall for a long time by the phrase, “the testimony of Jesus Christ.” (You know the meaning of enthral. It means “to hold in or reduce to slavery, to hold spellbound.” A thrall is a servant slave, a bondman.)

And so—the testimony of Jesus Christ. It’s an absolutely captivating phrase. To live a life of liberty outside the thraldom of this Testimony is a life that has been sadly wasted.

The phrase, or a similar one, appears in the New Testament a number of times. But first we need to find out what “the testimony” was in Old Covenant days.

Stephen while giving the testimony for which he was stoned—it was the testimony of Jesus Christ—said this:

Our fathers had the tabernacle of witness in the wilderness, as He had appointed, speaking unto Moses, that he should make it according to the fashion that he had seen (Acts 7.44).

“The tabernacle of witness.” My interlinear shows the article in the Greek: “the tabernacle of the testimony.”

The tabernacle of the testimony was among our fathers in the wilderness, as commanded He who spoke to Moses, to make it according to the model which he had seen.

And so the tabernacle in the wilderness was called “the tabernacle of the testimony.” Why so? We find our answer in Exodus.

And thou shalt put the mercy seat above upon the ark; and in the ark thou shalt put the testimony that I shall give thee.
And there I will meet with thee, and I will commune with thee from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubims which are upon the ark of the testimony, of all things which I will give thee in commandment unto the children of Israel (Ex. 25.22).

The tabernacle was called the tabernacle of the testimony because in it was “the testimony” that God commanded was to be placed in the ark—the ten commandments.  This “testimony” was placed in the ark, and therefore the ark itself was called “the ark of the testimony.” And because the ark of the testimony was in the Holy of holies of the tabernacle, the tabernacle itself was called “the tabernacle of the testimony.”

And so the “ten words” in the ark covered by the mercy seat—this was the testimony of God. They summed up the whole of the Torah, the Law. This was God’s testimony revealing who He was, what He was like, the kind of God He was. If Israel would keep this Law, this would be God’s testimony among men. By keeping His commandments, by keeping this Law, they would “bear witness” to God, to the kind of God He was. In this way men would come to see the kind of God He was.  “Thou shalt have no other gods before Me… Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy… Thou shalt not kill… Thou shalt not commit adultery…” and so on. Keeping these commandments—not just reciting them—would result in a true portrayal of God among men, a true testimony of God.

The tragic thing is that Israel never did come to realize that this “testimony” in the ark was actually a testimony against them, as Moses later told them. For they never could keep this testimony, as much as they gloried in having it.

Take this book of the law, and put it in the side of the ark of the covenant of the LORD your God, that it may be there for a witness against thee (Dt. 31.26).

That was the Old Covenant testimony—a testimony that forever left Israel a guilty people with no means to relieve that guilt but by the blood of bulls and goats. How dismal if God had left things there. But He didn’t. When we come into the New Covenant we see the testimony of God linked up with a wonderful Name—our Lord Jesus Christ.

More next time. And you will see why I am enthralled.

Jesus And Idols?

It’s not likely that we modern-day Christians in the western world would be tempted to worship an idol of wood or stone the way they did back in Old Testament days, or still do in certain societies.  We like to assure ourselves we are not that primitive.  Even so, idolatry is a serious problem among many Christians.

Here from the New Testament are two verses revealing areas of idolatry that are very common.

“Neither be ye idolaters, as were some of them, as it is written, The people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play” (1 Cor. 10.7).

In other words, when we view life as something that is our own to enjoy unto ourselves, this is idolatry—the idolatry of self.  It is perhaps the greatest form of idolatry in the world.  People who would not be caught dead worshipping a wooden idol bow down with ready abandon to the worship of themselves.  It is they themselves who sit on the throne of their lives ordering all things.  They believe their lives are their own to do with as they see fit.  If they are sitting down they are eating and drinking.  When they rise up it is to play.  The idol temples of eating and drinking and play are filled day and night—particularly in our secular western world.

Here is another one.

“…Covetousness, which is idolatry” (Col. 3.5).

“…No covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God” (Eph. 5.5).

How is covetousness idolatry?  Covetousness is idolatry because the heart is filled with a lust for something other than God.  It is a heart issue—the idols of the heart.  Do we not trust God to give us whatever is necessary to glorify Him in our lives—whether material or spiritual?  (Yes, it’s also idolatry to covet our brother’s spiritual blessing for ourselves.)

These two areas of idolatry are rampant out there in “the world.”  But because we Christians live in the world we are vulnerable.  Perhaps we are not abandoning Christ wholesale and turning to the idols of the world, although that does happen, I know.  The more serious problem is that we want Christ and our idols.  We want Christ and what the world has to offer as well—its pursuits and joys and toys.  So we have this phenomenon so common in our day.  I am fixated on prosperity—so I make a Christian doctrine out of it.  If I was a biker, now I become a Christian biker.  If I was into the rock scene, now I become a Christian rocker.  If I am into football in a serious way, now I become a Christian football player.  I love the glory of entertaining.  Now I will give Christian concerts.  I will be a Christian movie star.  We want to pursue the best the world has to offer, and be a Christian too, so we don’t miss out on God.  Of course we want God—but just to bless us in the pursuit of our own endeavours.

Jesus’ words still stand.  On one occasion when He saw the multitudes following Him He turned and said to them, “…And whosoever doth not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple” (Lk. 14.25-27).  (How’s that for an evangelistic technique, by the way—telling the multitudes to go home unless they are prepared to take up their cross?)

We Christians are to walk a holy walk—in the world yet not of the world.  Nevertheless, it is not a stiff legalistic holiness that will draw the idolaters of the world into the worship of the true God.  It’s seeing the holiness of love—the love of the holy Jesus burning in the heart—that turns the idolaters to Him.  Jesus, who though He was “separate from sinners,” loved them deeply.  And they knew it.

Here’s a poem I’ve loved for a long time.  I’ve seen it quoted in part, but I found it in full one day.  It’s based on a passage in Hosea who back in his day decried with broken heart this chronic problem of God’s people wanting their idols along with their God.  It’s such a beautiful book—Hosea.  You touch over and over God’s love for His people—it’s He who is broken hearted—even as He pronounces judgments upon them for their waywardness.  And in the final analysis what is it that turns them back to Him?  (I confess I am far short of this myself—but am pursuing.)

“Ephraim shall say, what have I to do any more with idols?  I have heard Him, and (beheld) Him…” (Hos. 14.8).  That’s what does it!  Hearing Him!  Seeing the unmatchable Jesus!

Hast thou heard Him, seen Him, known Him?
Is not thine a captured heart?
Chief among ten thousand, own Him?
Joyful choose the better part?

Idols, once they won thee, charmed thee,
Lovely things of time and sense;
Gilded, thus does sin disarm thee,
Honeyed, lest thou turn thee thence.

What has stripped the seeming beauty
From the idols of the earth?
Not a sense of right or duty
But the sight of peerless worth.

Not the crushing of those idols
With its bitter pain and smart,
But the beaming of His beauty,
The unveiling of His heart.

Who extinguishes their taper
Till they hail the rising sun?
Who discards the garb of winter
Till the summer has begun?

‘Tis the look that melted Peter,
‘Tis the face that Stephen saw,
‘Tis the heart that wept with Mary
Can alone from idols draw:

Draw and win and fill completely
Till the cup o’erflow the brim;
What have we to do with idols
Who have companied with Him?

Miss Ora Rowan
(1834-1879)

Professional Sports–Idolatry

I’ll probably be in trouble for this one, but I commend it to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God.

Tim Tebow is the U.S. football star who recently made quite a stir for having John 3:16 in the—what do you call it—the blacking below his eyes.  It was his way of openly declaring to all the world that he is a Christian.  Tebow also bows on the field and openly prays to Jesus for help throughout the game.  He thanks Him when he makes a great play.

Tebow is not the first in a major professional sport with a reputation for being a Christian, but the media have sensationalized him now, drawing worldwide attention to the man who bows on one knee and prays right there on the field.  Tebowing, as it has been dubbed, is the latest fad for thousands, many of whom are not even into sports.

Tebow’s fame recently went viral when he made a “miraculous” pass that won a game that landed his team in some kind of playoffs.  Suddenly the sports world exploded.  Did this man really have Jesus on his side?  Detractors howled against him; for others, expectations were high that his team was destined for victory.

But according to the news they were soundly trounced in the first game.  I didn’t hear if Tebow bowed and thanked the Lord for this as well.

Now, I don’t doubt that Tim Tebow is an upstanding Christian who is walking in the light he has.  He has the reputation for being a clean young Christian man in a day when clean is a dirty word.  That’s very commendable.

But I want to ask a question.  What is the difference between the kind of Christianity in which you can be involved in one of the world’s greatest forms of idolatry and still be a Christian—and the kind of Christianity that totally parts ways with all that?

Here is an account of what happened during the powerful revival that swept Wales in 1905.  It’s from a book called, “The Invasion of Wales by the Spirit” by James A. Stewart.

A sense of the Lord’s Presence was everywhere.  His Presence was felt in the homes, on the streets, in the mines, factories and schools and even in the drinking saloons.  So great was His Presence felt that even the places of amusement and carousal became places of holy awe.  Many were the instances of men entering taverns, ordering drinks and then turning on their heels and leaving them untouched.

Wales up to this time was in the grip of football fever when tens of thousands of working-class men thought and talked only of one thing.  They gambled also on the result of the games.  Now the famous football players themselves got converted and joined the open-air meetings to testify what glorious things the Lord had done for them.  Many of the teams were disbanded as the players got converted and the stadiums were empty….

The gambling and alcohol businesses lost their trade and the theatres closed down from lack of patronage.  Football during this time was forgotten by both players and fans, though nothing was mentioned from the pulpits about the evils of football.  In this country which had a general reputation of being ‘football mad’ the train for taking the crowds to the international trial match was found to be almost empty!  The people had a new life and new interests.

One of football’s sisters in entertainment—the theatre—was also abandoned at that time.

Theatrical companies made sure that they did not come to Wales as they knew that there they would go bankrupt.

What kind of Christianity is this?  Teams shutting down because the players turned to Jesus?  My.  The stadiums empty?  How awesome.  And how strange!  Hence my question.  What is the difference between that kind of Christianity, and our brand?  This.  The revival in Wales brought people so face to face with spiritual reality that these other things simply could not compete.  Professional sports and entertainment became exposed for what they actually are—the idolatrous and empty vanities of this world.  It wasn’t a matter of people being told they shouldn’t be involved in such evils.  Suddenly they were caught up in a current of “love, vast as an ocean, lovingkindness as a flood…”  That’s the first line of the hymn that became what was called the love song of the revival.  People were broken by an awareness of the love of God as revealed in Calvary’s Cross.  They abandoned their former pursuits.  Why go to the games?  Or the theatre?  What is entertainment when you have the love of God now, and the joy of the Lord?

Yet in our kind of Christianity you can apparently take Jesus to the games or the theatre with you.  Apparently He is glad to go along.  Our Jesus apparently hasn’t got what it takes to beat them.  So, you know how it is.  If you can’t beat them you join them.  If you are a movie star who becomes a Christian, now you become a Christian movie star.  If you are a terrific professional football player, now you become a terrific Christian professional football player.  The love of God that compelled Jesus to lay down His life on the altar of Calvary’s Cross is an embarrassment to this kind of Christianity, and entirely out of place.

I don’t think anyone who loves Jesus could knowingly get involved in idolatry.  And I have no doubt in my mind that professional sports is abominable idolatry.  Yet countless Christians are involved in it either as spectators or players.  So it’s a matter of light—seeing that the entertainment industry—I include professional sports in the entertainment industry—has become horrible idolatry.  It is enmity against the holy God, who created man to love and worship and glorify Him alone.

There’s nothing at all wrong with a friendly game of hockey or basketball, or teaching children skills in sports.  But look what has happened to professional sports of every kind.  Surely we see this.  The money involved makes you nauseous.  It’s what God did when he gave Israel the quail in the desert.  They cried for flesh and he gave it to them till it came out their nostrils.  It was a judgment on them.  The same now.  The salaries they get now are decadent, to say nothing of the multiplied billions spent advertising a lifestyle that is brazen enmity against God.  My advice?  Run from it!  It is the judgment of a grieved and angry God.  And I believe we will yet see very severe judgments in the areas of professional sports and entertainment—these idols of Egypt.

Yes, it is idolatry.  When young men and women sacrifice their lives on the idol altars of money and fame, it is idolatry.  Lives that Jesus bled and died for on the altar of Calvary’s Cross go up in smoke on the idol altars—sacrificed to the enjoyment of millions still in darkness.  There they are by the millions—out in the stands watching the games, or in front of the TV.

The incredulous thing is, even the Christians have sold out to this.  It doesn’t seem to enter our minds to consider why it is that these millions in darkness are sitting together in the idol’s temple—the stadium or the arena or the living room in front of the TV—and to ask why it is that we Christians are sitting there beside them—or playing for them.

“And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols?  For ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be My People.
Wherefore, come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you…” (2 Cor.6.16,17).

You mean, like the Lord Jesus Christ, I too am a temple of the living God?  But can you envision Jesus Christ Himself sitting in the stadium cheering for His team… or playing for those in the stands?

What’s In Your Scope? (Pt. 2)

Paul’s exhortation is that we “scope in” on the things that are unseen—eternal things—not on the things that are seen, which are temporal.

The same Greek verb skopeo is used a few other times in Scripture, though not often.  Here is one more instance that really speaks to me from Paul’s letter to the Philippians.

Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others” (Phil. 2.4).

There’s our word again.  Look—consider, heed carefully… scope.  This is what is to be in our scope, fellow Christian—not always our own things, but the things of others also.  The problems, the concerns, the needs, the hopes—of others.  I mentioned last time that when you are looking into a scope you are pretty much oblivious to all else.  That’s all you see.  That’s certainly the way it is when it’s our own problems and concerns that fill our scope.  We are more or less oblivious to all else.  In fact it becomes a kind of captivity, as I recall David Wilkerson once saying, when our Enemy has succeeded in causing us to be always preoccupied with our own problems, and the needs of our brother and our sister are scarcely on our radar.  That is great defeat to the body of Christ, Wilkerson said.

How wonderful and liberating, and victorious, then—when we are scoped in on the concerns of others.  Oh, to see this in operation in the body of Christ—the love that makes us as focused on the things of our brother and sister as we were on our own things—and they showing the same care for you and me.  It’s the liberty of love—release from the shackles of self, being freed up to serve others and their interests.

I also recall reading wheelchair-bound quadriplegic Joni Eareckson Tada saying that the thing she found most difficult about her affliction was the temptation to be always turned inward on herself.  She said she had to discipline herself strictly to keep from doing so.

Let us do the same.  We need to be earnestly seeking the Lord for the grace to “look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.”

It appears Paul’s friend Timothy was such a man.  Paul spoke highly of Timothy, telling the Philippians a little further on in his letter to them, “I have no man likeminded, who will naturally (that is, genuinely) care for your state.  For all seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ’s” (Phil. 2.21).

What is the evidence that Timothy is seeking the things of Jesus Christ?  He genuinely cares for the state of the saints.

So—these two, which really are one and the same, I think.

1) Keeping in our scope that which is unseen, the Lord Jesus Christ and His kingdom that ruleth over all; and,

2) Being preoccupied with His interests—the things of others.

Let’s get these two in our sights with binocular vision—and keep them there!

The Primal Motive—Love

The words “born again” get tossed around pretty carelessly these days. What is the evidence one is born again, and therefore involved in the reversal of the primal fault?

Love.

We have this from the apostle Peter:

Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently:
Being born again not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth forever (1 Pt 1.22,23).

Peter says the evidence we are born again is that we love one another with a pure heart—and fervently.  This is the identifying characteristic of those who are born again, and moving in an eternal realm now.  Much is made of “eternal life” being the portion of the born again.  Rightly so—they are born again not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, of the word of God that liveth and abideth forever.  But see how eternal life and love are inseparably linked together?  The law of eternal life is love.

This from the apostle John:

We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren.  He that loveth not his brother abideth in death.
Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer, and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in Him (1 Jn. 3.14,15).

The evidence of eternal life, that we are living and moving no longer in the corruptible realm of the lusts of the flesh, but in the incorruptible realm of the Word of God, is that we walk in love…

…Being born again not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth forever.

“For all flesh is as grass,” Peter continues…

…and all the glory of man is as the flower of grass.  The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away;
But the word of the Lord endureth forever.  And this is the word which by the Gospel is preached unto you (1 Pt. 1.24,25).

This is quite something.  How short-sighted we humans are when it comes to taking the measure of our days.  All flesh—all mankind—is grass.  How enduring is the blade of grass?  And what of all the great works we boast ourselves in?  All the greatest achievements of man, all his great works, all his finest art and music—all his glory—Beethoven, Shakespeare, Leonardo da Vinci—it is all the flower of the grass that today is, and tomorrow is gone.

For the wind passeth over it, and it is gone…

But the word of the Lord endures forever.

And so while they are in this world, the wise, motivated by love, sow the eternal word of God.  They sow to the Spirit.  This creation is in bondage to a law of corruption, but in those who sow to the Spirit a very different principle is at work, a very different law.  Life everlasting is resurrection life—life that renews itself, rejuvenates itself, like the eagle’s.  It is indestructible, indissoluble.  Whatever comes against this life only causes it to flourish.  It is life that increases, that grows, that gets better… whatever comes against it.    For, “though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day” (2 Cor. 2.16).

Yes it’s true—we do not yet see the full outworking of what Christ accomplished at Calvary when He dealt with the primal fault right there and then.  But the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus continues to work in those who are in Christ Jesus, though even yet we have scarcely tapped the potential of this powerful law.  But it is at work—at least in a measure—in the spirit, in the soul.  It will yet come to full expression in us.  Ultimately it will change even our mortal bodies (Rom. 8.23, 1 Cor. 15.51-55)…

…And the whole creation around us.  There is a law of increasing entropy at work in our world.  Not only in nature, but in the world of man, where moral decay is rampant now.  But there is also another law at work in this world of ours—a law that means a feast that mends in length, a kingdom that grows in strength, till ultimately… let’s go to the prophet Habakkuk to discover the ultimate outcome of it all:

Behold, is it not of the LORD of hosts that the people shall labour in the very fire, and the peoples shall weary themselves for very vanity (futility)? (Hab. 2.13).

That’s the insight of the ancient prophet Habakkuk, who saw the primal fault at work in God’s creation about 600 years before Paul the apostle wrote about it in Romans 8. In fact I wonder if Paul wasn’t thinking of Habakkuk’s words when he wrote in Romans 8 about the creation being subjected to futility.  All the labour of man to build himself a life without God… it’s complete futility.  It’s like labouring to build a house that’s already going up in flames.

But Habakkuk also saw the wondrous intent of God in subjecting His creation to futility like this.  God had a primal motive behind it all. God subjected the same “in hope,” as the apostle Paul wrote:

For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God (Rom. 8.20,21 New KJV).

And so eagle-eyed Habakkuk continued his prophecy:

For the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD as the waters cover the sea (Hab. 2.14).

As the waters cover the sea? This sin-ravaged world of ours being covered with the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea? Oh, what hope, what great and glorious hope! What compelling words! I incubate them within me, I keep them warm within me, as they keep me, in a world of dismal prospect. God subjected the creation to futility “in hope.”

How wondrous wise—the ways of God only wise!  Man, the creature God made to be the shining forth of His own glory… he sins against Him—the primal fault—and as a result the whole creation is brought into bondage to futility.  But behind it all a God of eternal purpose—and great love—is at work.  Behind it all there is a primal motive—love—the love of God as revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord at Calvary, and which continues to work in the children of His love, and which will yet fill all creation “far as the curse is found.”

I know… Christmas is over.  But I love this old and timeless hymn.  I sing it all year round whenever the Spirit inspires me. Joy to the world, the Lord is come…

Let’s sing a couple of the verses now.

No more let sin and sorrow reign,
Nor thorns infest the ground:
He comes to make His blessing flow
Far as the curse is found.
Far as the curse is found.
Far as, far as, the curse is found.

He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness
And wonders of His love,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders, and wonders, of His love.

Hallelujah!  There is more before us than there is behind us, beloved!

Love—The Primal Fault Remedied

Last time we talked of God’s eternal purpose in delivering His creation from the bondage of corruption—the primal fault.

For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but by reason of Him who subjected it in hope:
Because the creation itself shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glory of the liberty of the children of God (Rom. 8.20,21, New KJV).

What is this—the bondage of corruption?  A meaning springs to mind when we read the word corruption.  We think of the mafia getting into government or something like that.  But our present definitions of words will often mislead us when we take them into the Bible.  We must let the Bible itself define its words for us.  And the way the Bible uses the word corruption is very comprehensive.  This is the primal fault at work, both in the physical universe, and in the world of man.

Peter writes of the exceeding great and precious promises whereby we become “partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust” (2 Pt. 1.4).  What is the divine nature?  Love.

And what is lust?  That’s another word whose meaning has changed over the centuries.  Peter is not talking specifically of sexual lust, which is the meaning of the word today, but of the whole range of self-centred desire.  (We will not take space here to talk of the difference between sexual lust and sexual desire between a man and a woman in the marriage relationship, which is honourable and undefiled, Heb. 13.4.)

Paul used the same word when he wrote in Romans 7:

I had not known lust except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet (same word: lust).   But sin taking occasion by the commandment wrought in me all manner of concupiscence (again same word: lust) (Rom. 7.7,8).

And so… “all manner of lust,” Paul says.  Not just sexual lust—but the whole range of sinful, selfish desire.  Where did this evil desire come from?  I believe it began in a heavenly realm when Lucifer began to covet the glory of God for himself.  But as far as the human family goes, it had its beginnings in the “lust” that the Serpent in his subtlety succeeded in awakening in Eve—a desire to be “as God, knowing good and evil” (Gen. 3.5).  The Serpent suggested to Eve that this was greatly to be desired, maliciously implying that God was keeping something good to Himself.  It was an attractive idea to Eve—being her own god, becoming the master of her own destiny, being independent of God, deciding for herself what is good and what is evil instead of having to depend on God for this.  It was—and still is—a fatal error.  For when Adam saw what Eve his bride had done he deliberately ate of the fruit of that tree himself, and, as federal head of the race, brought in death upon the whole family of man.

It all began with a “lust,” a desire that was not of God—the God of love.  Here, in one word is the remedy for the primal fault—love.

It was the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord at Calvary that dealt with the primal fault.  It does not surprise us, then, to find Peter urging us (in order to escape the corruption that is in the world through lust) to become partakers of this divine nature—to add to our faith virtue, and to virtue knowledge, and to knowledge temperance, and to temperance patience, and to patience godliness, and to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness… love.  For herein we discover ourselves in an everlasting kingdom, not a corruptible one—“the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.” I won’t quote the passage fully here, but I encourage you to go to your Bible and read it—prayerfully (2 Pt. 1.4-11).

Lust is self-centred desire.  It’s a very insidious thing.  It can be our motivation even in the pursuit of spiritual things—what I get out of it.  Its direction is ever inward and self-serving.  It’s about me and my advantage, my own interests—the opposite of love, the love of God, the Father’s love.

Love is motivation in an entirely different direction—Godward, outward, away from one’s self, to the benefit of others.  And this whatever the cost– even at the willing cost of our own lives, as our forerunner the Lord Jesus Christ showed us at Calvary.  It was love of God—and of His fellow man—that brought Jesus to His cross.  That same love working in our lives and motivating all we say and do will ultimately deliver the whole creation from its bondage to corruption—the corruption that is in the world through lust.

And so the apostle John exhorts us:

Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world.  If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.
For all that is in the world: the lust of the flesh, and the lust 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).

Keep this passage in mind while we look again at that verse from Galatians we talked about in an earlier post.

He that soweth to the flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption, but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.

Paul is contrasting two things—corruption, and life everlasting.  And it’s very interesting to note the context in which Paul says this.  He is speaking of doing good, of giving—God-centred, other-centred actions, not self-centred actions.  You sow to the flesh and it’s inevitable—you reap corruption, decay.  You sow your whole life to the flesh, to yourself—the fallen Adam nature ruled by the primal fault—and what do you have for your whole life’s labour?  Great or small it all comes to nothing.  For, “the world passeth away, and the lust thereof…”

…But he that doeth the will of God abideth forever.

Why is this?  Why is it that doing the will of God involves you in an eternal realm?  It’s because the word of the Lord by which we do the will of God, and by which we are born again, abideth forever.

And what is the evidence of this in our lives?  (Hint: it’s a one-word answer.)

…More next time. https://amendingfeast.org/2012/01/08/the-primal-motive-love/

The Primal Fault—A Law

Do you ever wonder why your vehicle keeps breaking down? Yes I understand—it’s a Ford.  But is there something more to this?  Why does your house continually need to be maintained?  The paint fades, the faucet leaks.  It would be wonderful—and very nice on the wallet—if you took your car in for an oil change and were told the oil was better now than it was 5,000 kilometres ago.  How wonderful if the shingles on the house just got better and better over the years.  But no, the car doesn’t get newer, and the oil in the engine deteriorates.  The shingles on the house wear out and need to be replaced.

Why is this?  Scientists tell us this is the result of a law—the Second Law of Thermodynamics, or the law of increasing entropy, in layman’s terms the process of deterioration or running down, or a trend to disorder, which is taking place all throughout the universe.  (We mention just in passing that this law shoots the theory of evolution completely full of holes.  Things are not evolving in this universe—it’s the other way around.)

I am a dunce when it comes to science, but this law arrested me in something I read years ago, and I wrote down a quote about it.  I am sorry I neglected to note the author.

There is a natural tendency, then, for all observed natural systems to go from order to disorder, towards increasing randomness.  This is true throughout the entire known universe both at the micro and macro levels.  The tendency is so invariant that it has never been known to fail.  It is a natural law—the Second Law of Thermodynamics.

Here is another quote I wrote down by science writer Isaac Asimov.

We can see the Second Law all about us.  We have to work hard to straighten a room, but left to itself it becomes a mess again very quickly and very easily.  Even if we never enter it, it becomes dusty and musty.  How difficult to maintain houses, and machinery, and our own bodies in perfect working order; how easy to let them deteriorate.

“In fact all we have to do is nothing,” Asimov continued, “and everything deteriorates, collapses, breaks down, wears out, all by itself—and that is what the Second Law is all about.”

I am not aware what scientist first formulated the Second Law of Thermodynamics.  But I know an apostle who nailed it down a long time ago, calling it “the law of sin and death.”  This is “the primal fault” I mentioned last time.

Question.  If Jesus Christ dealt with the primal fault at Calvary, why is the primal fault still very much at work in our world—and in fact is obviously getting worse?  The earth is waxing old as a garment before our very eyes.  And (same question continued) if Paul called Christ “the last Adam” (1 Cor. 15.45), how is it that many millions of Adams have walked the earth since His death on Calvary’s cross?

Short Answer:  It’s because God has an eternal purpose that is still unfolding—a mystery that is still in the process of being unveiled.  It was by man that the primal fault was introduced into the world, and it is by a Man that its reversal is to be fully effected.

For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead (1 Cor. 15.21).

That Man by whom resurrection came has a Head… and feet.  And though now we see not yet all things put under His feet, God will yet put all things under this Man’s feet till the last enemy, even death, is put under His feet (Heb. 2.8,9, 1 Cor. 15.25-27).  And so we are awakened as to our part in all this, the wondrous mystery of Christ—a many-membered Man—through whom God will yet deliver a groaning creation.

The Bible tells us that “the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but by reason of Him who subjected it in hope…” (Rom. 8.20 New KJV).  In two or three places the Bible hints that disorder entered God’s universe in a spiritual dimension prior to the creation story that is given to us in the first three chapters of Genesis.  But it was when Adam sinned in the Garden that God—reluctantly—placed a curse on the whole creation—this law of entropy that we see all around us.  There is a primal fault.  All things deteriorate over time.  They decay.  They atrophy.  They go into corruption.  They die.  Not only in the physical universe, but also in the world of man—especially in the world of man—in all the ways and works of man.  And nothing man has ever done or can do is able to change this law.  It rains into the sea, and still the sea is salt.

This has caused wise men to despair, and rightly so.  If only we too had such wisdom, and despaired, and then cried out in our despair, as this same apostle I mentioned did.

“Oh wretched man that I am,” he cried out.  “Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?”

Who?  God, through Jesus Christ our Lord!  Paul discovered (by revelation) that the God who had subjected His creation to futility had later introduced another law into His universe, the result of the Cross of Calvary.  Oh, how Paul thanked God for this!  Let us too thank God—and let the words we are reading arrest us.  It is a law that liberates from the law of sin and death.

For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death (Rom. 8.2).

Can mortal eyes actually be reading such words?  Can this actually be true?  You meant there is a law that to obey, to walk in, triumphs over the working of the primal fault?

Yes!  When Jesus Christ died on Calvary’s cross He there and then dealt with the primal fault—sin in the heart of man.

It was by His death that the primal fault was dealt with.

But it is by His life that the fix is manifested.  This is where you and I come in.

For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more being reconciled we shall be saved by His life (Rom. 5.10).

How are we saved by His life?  Paul is speaking here of the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus.  This liberating law of life is working right now in those who are in Christ Jesus—in measure.  In its full working, those walking in this law will ultimately deliver a whole creation that was made subject to futility because of the sin of Adam.

Because the creation itself shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glory of the liberty of the children of God (Rom. 8.21).

…More next time. https://amendingfeast.org/2012/01/06/love-the-primal-fault-remedied/

The Primal Fault

When I was in university back in the dark ages I used to read the poetry of A.E. Housman a lot. His poems fed a kind of melancholy in my heart, something I found I could further nourish by exercising my right elbow.  I would often dwell on one of Housman’s lines: “I a stranger and afraid in a world I never made.” I had a friend back then who knew I liked Housman, and one day he gave me a book of Housman’s poetry. I still have that book, which contains a poem I’ve long since known by heart.

Stars, I have seen them fall,
But when they drop and die
No star is lost at all
From all the star-sown sky.
The toil of all that be
Helps not the primal fault;
It rains into the sea,
And still the sea is salt.

This sad but perceptive theme runs through all of Housman’s poetry—the meaninglessness of life, the futility of it all.  I think Housman and King Solomon of old, along with myself back then… the three of us would have enjoyed each other’s company, nodding sadly together and consoling ourselves with mournful reflections. “Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, all is vanity,” mourned Solomon. That is to say, all is futile, meaningless, a striving after wind. There is a primal fault in this world, and the toil of all that be never deals with that primal fault. All that man has ever done, all he is still doing, all his achievements in all the fields of human endeavour—it is all just rain into an unchanged sea of salt.

There is wisdom in this understanding, important wisdom, and I wish more people realized this—though it will leave those who probe it very troubled about life, as it did Housman, and Solomon—and myself. There was an inward emptiness in me that could not be filled with the things I sought to fill it with. Though I tried hard enough. Was it I that Housman had in mind when he wrote the following poem?

Could man be drunk for ever
With liquor, love, or fights,
Lief should I rouse at morning
And lief lie down of nights.
But men at whiles are sober
And think by fits and starts,
And if they think, they fasten
Their hands upon their hearts.

Lief: it’s an archaic word meaning willing, glad. If you could live this kind of dissolute life forever—eating and drinking and making merry—you’d be glad to get up in the morning to pursue it all again, and glad to lie down at night. But you can’t be drunk forever. There are times when you are sober. That was my problem—those thinking times. And my hand would go to my heart. You mean you live your little moment of life and then you die? And that’s all there is? You are here but for a fleeting moment and then “man goeth to his long home,” as Solomon called the grave? How is there any meaning in a world like this?

It’s very sad that Solomon, perceptive as he was as to the real state of things “under the sun” apparently never saw the hope for which God had made Israel the custodians of His oracles. Perhaps there is a reason for this; the story of Solomon is one of the most tragic in the Bible. He has the reputation for being the man God endowed with profound wisdom. He himself in later life thought otherwise. It was no doubt himself he had in mind when he spoke of “an old and foolish king who will no more be admonished” (Eccles. 4.13).

A.E. Housman blamed God bitterly all his life for the world He had made. And he too went to his grave apparently never discovering that the God who subjected His universe to futility when Adam sinned back there in the Garden also did something else in His universe.

And I? Lord Jesus Christ… how is it that a very lost young man finally got down on his knees and came to benefit from that eternal moment at Calvary when the God who had subjected His universe to futility rectified the primal fault?

This year—2012—marks the fortieth year since that lost young man became a Christian, and a different kind of stranger in a world he never made. And as the years go by… in fact in the last five years or so the realization of this truth has hit home to me like never before… and I am not going to be able to adequately express the way I feel about this… but I am often… I am struggling for words here… I am transfixed by this… as I dwell on this and its ultimate implications… I am so thankful, but thankful is not a large enough word… I am more and more… utterly undone with gratitude… with the realization, the awareness, that the Lord Jesus Christ at Calvary DEALT WITH THE PRIMAL FAULT.

My fellow Christian, whatever your problems and troubles, do not despair. Know this and REJOICE… and my fellow man as well, whoever you are, wherever you may be in this troubled world of ours—do not despair. Believe, and REJOICE. When the Lord Jesus Christ hung bleeding on that Cross at Calvary and died, He dealt with the primal fault—sin in the heart of man—in your heart, and mine. He dealt with the primal fault. Sin. And sin’s consequence. Death.

It will yet be made manifest in our troubled broken world that this is so, and that what God accomplished in Christ at Calvary is the greatest thing that has ever happened in this universe.  Oh, there is so much more to enlarge upon about this. What an adventure of discovery I am now on!

And I am so grateful to You, dear Lord Jesus Christ. Whatever my troubles and problems and afflictions… Lord, I believe. It is well with my soul: You took the stripe at Calvary that healed the deep wound of sin in the heart of man… and in my own heart.

O happy day! O happy day! When Jesus washed my sins away…!

Next:  The Primal Fault– A Law  https://amendingfeast.org/2012/01/04/the-primal-fault-a-law

Come And See

“Rabbi, where dwellest Thou?” John’s two disciples had asked.

Jesus did not respond by giving them His house address and directions on how to get there.

His invitation was, “Come and see” (John 1.39).

We are living in days when the amount of Christian knowledge available to us—very good Christian knowledge—is absolutely immense.  The Internet has Bible study resources like nothing the world has ever seen before.  There are also countless messages by a host of good ministries, and books and audios and videos without number.  Most of this is in the English language, I know, but I think there are translation tools available for a lot of it.

Add to that the multitude of messages over our pulpits on any given Sunday, and the weekly home Bible studies…

This is all very wonderful, is it not?  Yes… but at the same time it is, to me, somewhat frightening that we have all this available to us.

For, I remind you that alongside all this Bible knowledge, the darkness of our world has also grown to immense proportion.

How can this be?  So much light, but so much darkness, also?  Why, with all our Internet resources and Sunday sermons and Bible studies are we not making the impact on this world that we need to be making—and which the beloved Bible we are studying so much says we should be making?

Could it be possible that we are being led astray by the very abundance of the knowledge we have at our fingertips?  Is it possible that the light we have is actually blinding us?  I think that it might be.  At least the potential for that is there.  I think it is, at least, a very great test we are being subjected to.

If the abundance of the Bible knowledge available to us in this day is not creating in us a cry… “Lord Jesus Christ… it is YOU YOURSELF we want… and need; we want YOU in our midst, we want to see and need to see YOU…”  then we have miserably failed a very important test… with dangerous implications.

We have all this available to us… the sermons, the Bible studies, the Internet resources… yet our need in this hour for the Presence of the Lord Himself in our midst is beyond words to describe.

This is what I meant when I said last time that John the Baptist gave his disciples a very good spiritual education—something beyond the things I’ve mentioned.  The diploma these disciples had received in the School of John the Baptist certified—and their own hearts bore witness to it—that it was Something more than knowledge their eye was searching for.

“Rabbi, where dwellest Thou?”

“Rabbi, where dwellest Thou?”

Is that the cry on our hearts as well?

And if not…  why not?  In spite of all we are learning, are we in the right school?

That is the question we need to face up to.  Where is our hunger for God—for God Himself?  I wonder if hunger for God Himself is not the greatest spiritual blessing a person can have.

Notice.  John’s two disciples address Jesus as Rabbi—Master, Teacher… Rabbi—the very title by which they had previously addressed John.

“Rabbi, where dwellest Thou?”

In other words, they were expectantly looking to Jesus now to be their new teacher.

Their new Rabbi inducted them into the School of Christ immediately.

Come and see.”

Lesson Number One in the School of Jesus Christ:  It was not information He gave them, but an invitation to participate in a walk with Him.

It is only by walking with this Teacher and dwelling with Him, and taking His yoke upon us, and in this way learning of Him, that we become true disciples in the school of Christ.

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Are You Receiving A Spiritual Education?

Let me ask a probing question.  Are you and I receiving a spiritual education?  Are you and I, spiritually speaking, becoming educated persons?  Here’s how we can tell.

When John the Baptist came on the scene, many came to him to be baptized in Jordan.   Some of these became his close disciples.  For we read that John had disciples.  Now, what is the single-most thing John taught his disciples?  I should rather say, what was it about himself that John the Baptist passed along to those who were his disciples?

It is this.  John the Baptist lived, breathed, ate, slept, walked, talked… One Thing alone—to see the Christ of God, and join others to Him.

And there came a day when John looked up from his baptizing in Jordan, and saw Him coming to him.

The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world. This is He of whom I said, After me cometh a Man which is preferred before me, for He was before me (John 1.29,30).

John sums up his whole ministry now.

And I knew Him not: but that He should be made manifest to Israel, therefore am I come baptizing in water.

This was the whole purpose of his baptism—to prepare the hearts of the people for a Manifestation that was at the door, a shining forth of this One who was to come.  It was a manifestation so radical, so “outside the box,” that, apart from John’s baptism, they would miss it!

John, as we read the passages of Scripture that speak of him… we touch a man with a deep, deep love in his heart.  It is this, really, that he passed on to his disciples–his love for the Bridegroom.  His one great desire was to see all those he was baptizing joined to the Bridegroom.  In fact he called himself “the friend of the Bridegroom,” that is, one of the Bridegroom’s attendants.

But the friend of the Bridegroom, which standeth and heareth Him, rejoiceth greatly because of the Bridegroom’s Voice: this my joy therefore is fulfilled. He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3.29-30).

What self-effacing humility in this great man—whom Jesus later proclaimed to be the greatest “among them that are born of women” (Mt. 11.11).  John had no interest in joining the people to himself.  Yes, he was a rabbi in Israel—a guide, a leader, a teacher—his disciples called him, “Rabbi” (John 3.26).  But his one concern was to see the people joined to the One who was coming after him.

And so, what a day it was for John when this One came to him to baptized in Jordan by him!  He had accomplished his ministry.

This my joy is therefore fulfilled.

Again the next day as John was standing by the Jordan with two of his disciples, he lifted up his eyes and again saw Jesus walking along.  As John watched Jesus, his eyes riveted on Him as he walked along, he said, “Behold the Lamb of God.”

The two disciples, whatever they were doing, heard their teacher speaking.

And they followed Jesus.

They left their beloved teacher, and began to follow this One.  For this is what their beloved teacher had taught them—and he rejoiced when it began to happen.

Now comes the verse by which you and I can gauge the state of our spiritual education.

Then Jesus turned, and saw them following, and saith unto them, What seek ye? (Jn. 1.37).

Notice that—and I wonder if it wasn’t a test question.  Jesus was asking, more or less, “What do you want?  What is it you are after?  What do you want from me?”

No doubt there were many things they could have asked for.  But it was not some thing they wanted from this One… and I love this verse:

They said unto Him, Rabbi (which is to say, being interpreted, Master), where dwellest Thou?

What an answer.  It shows us the kind of education these men had received from John.  It shows us just how well educated, spiritually speaking, these men were.

Rabbi, where dwellest Thou?

What a letdown for John, right? His disciples are moving on to a new rabbi. But no, this is the very thing he had taught his disciples to anticipate.

Master is an old English word meaning Teacher.

Teacher… where dwellest Thou?

…You are our Rabbi, our Teacher now… and we just want to be with You… wherever that happens to be. How precious to discover that it is this very thing the new Teacher Himself wanted.

He saith unto them, Come and see.

It is His gracious invitation to those who are asking this question.  “Come and see!  Come and see where I dwell, come and dwell with Me.  Do you want to be with Me?  I want you to be with Me!”

Do you and I have this same passion burning in us?  Is it, at least, being kindled in us, and growing?  I know… the needs in this hour are many, oh, so many, and very great… and some of our longings so deep.  But we come to a certain place, and… all we want, all we really are interested in is…

Teacher, where dwellest Thou?

For, dwelling with Him, is not this The Answer to all our need and all our longings?

Teacher, where dwellest Thou?

In my estimation, those with this question growing in their hearts—this pursuit—are receiving a top-notch spiritual education.

Oh, for teachers like John the Baptist in our day!

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