Tag Archives: The Gospel

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

Look And Live (Part 2)

Last time I published an excerpt from The Better Covenant, by Ron Bailey.  A few of my own thoughts now.

The famous John 3:16 quote must be read in context, as Ron Bailey emphasizes.  Christ has just drawn attention to Moses lifting up the serpent in the wilderness, adding that “even so must the Son of man be lifted up, that whosever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (Jn. 3:14,15).

That is the context of John 3:16.  “For God so loved the world…”  That is, it is thus, in this manner (referring back to the previous two verses), that God loved the world.  Just as He gave the people in the wilderness the serpent on the pole, “He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

The people in the wilderness bitten by the fiery serpents were dying, and they knew it.  Looking upon the brazen serpent on the pole was a matter of life and death.  It wasn’t optional; there was no other remedy.

How desperately we need the kind of Gospel that in its going forth causes men to know the sting of death is at work in them.  They have been bitten by a Serpent; the sting of his venom—sin—is coursing through their system.  Eve, deceived by the Serpent, bit into the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil; Adam subsequently bit into it as well—an act of deliberate disobedience—and ever since, all born in Adam have been “bitten” by the Serpent; they are infected with his own nature; the poison of sin and disobedience courses through our systems.  We are dying; others we love are dying.

But there is a remedy.

The same Gospel that reveals the desperate state of all men also reveals there is a remedy—and no other remedy—looking upon, believing on, the Crucified One.  To look upon the serpent on the pole is the antidote for the poisonous sting.  We may not comprehend why this works any more than the people back there in the wilderness understood why looking at the brazen serpent on the pole suddenly caused the poison in their systems to stop its deadly working.  But it is God’s directive; to believe is enough.  In due course He will give the understanding—that when the Lord Jesus Christ was lifted up on the cross of Calvary He judged, condemned, the Serpent, and bore in Himself the judgment of the man bitten by that Serpent, and thus became his salvation.  Those bitten ought to have died; He died instead.

“As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness even so must the Son of man be lifted up…”  It’s hard for us to comprehend, and we don’t try to press beyond the boundaries of reverence and holiness.  Christ likens Himself lifted up, crucified, to the serpent of brass on the pole. We find that likeness revolting; it doesn’t seem right; it’s horrible imagery—our beautiful Lord Jesus Christ being likened to a serpent.  But it just shows you how far the love of God was prepared to go to save the creature He had ordained for His own image and likeness—and who had become contaminated with the serpent’s nature.  If it’s imagery that we find repugnant, should we feel any less revulsion for sin?

In fact Paul tells us the Lord Jesus Christ became sin for us, He who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him (2 Cor. 5:21).

Rotherham in his Emphasized Bible points out that in Hebrew the words for sin offering (he prefers sin bearer) and sin are the same (chattath); the words for guilt offering and guilt are also the same (asham)—“the victim being called by the name of the offence which it bears and for which it dies.”  Here is the scenario.  Someone brings his sin offering to the priest and puts his hands on the head of that offering, thus identifying himself with the sin offering, and transferring his sin to the sin bearer.  The priest then leads it away to be slaughtered and sacrificed to God.  “The ancient usage was intensely dramatic,” says Rotherham. “It led the offerer, as he viewed his substitute, to exclaim, ‘There goes—there dies—my sin.’”

Just as the Hebrew text uses chattah for both sin and sin offering, the Greek translation of the Old Testament (the Septuagint) uses hamartias for both.  The apostle Paul was very familiar with the Septuagint as well as the Hebrew text, so it is not surprising to see the same usage in his writings, which were originally in Greek.  For, we read in Romans that God sent His Son “in the likeness of sinful (hamartias) flesh, and for sin (hamartias, that is, for a sin offering), condemned sin (hamartias) in the flesh” (Rom. 8:3).  Jesus Christ fulfilled that old-covenant type, becoming the sin offering who became our sin… and died.  We too may well say—that is, we who look on Him—“There goes—there dies—my sin.  Good-bye forever.”

This is the significance of believing in Him—on looking upon the serpent on the pole.  This is what believing implies.  Believing is not just mental assent to certain points of doctrine; it is looking upon Him and seeing Him, once for all, as the one and only remedy for a Serpent’s bite that means we are dying, are perishing.

Now, think of that ancient scenario in the wilderness as Ron Bailey described the Harold Copping print in his old Bible.  The poisonous snakes are making their way through the camp of Israel biting everyone in their path.  Some are dying; some are already dead.  Everybody is in panic mode; all they can think about is the deadly snakes.  They are not just listening to a nice sermon about accepting Jesus; they know they are dead if they don’t get help.  How we need this kind of evangelism, this kind of preaching—the sharp sword of the Spirit that pierces all defence and confronts people with their true state!  They have been bitten by a Serpent and they are dying!

But there must come a moment when we are no longer crying out because of the serpents that have bitten us.  There is no profit in continually pointing to this person or that—my father’s temperament or my great-grandfather’s addiction, or something my co-worker said the other day or the sin that dwelleth in me… or whatever.  That gets me nowhere.  And further, there is no use continually dwelling on the poison that’s at work in my system as a result of the bite.  Forever labouring under sin and guilt is futile.  We must look away from all that!  God has provided a remedy!  And it works!

We must look to the Serpent upon the pole.

And we must lead others to look to the Serpent upon the pole.  We must take them to Calvary where their sin (offering) died.

There’s often an emphasis on our need to see Jesus.  It’s important; it’s true—we need so deeply to see Him.  But what about our need to see Him as that Serpent lifted up on the pole?  The gospel the Galatian churches received was so graphic that they saw Christ crucified before their very eyes (Gal. 3:1).  Only the Holy Spirit can present this kind of gospel.  Only ministry in the power of the Holy Spirit can reveal before the eyes of sinners the Saviour lifted up on the pole.

Only ministry in the power of the Holy Spirit can open blind eyes to see that He who died for their sins also rose from the dead that we might live.

I recall George Warnock telling a story of a woman blind in one eye who suddenly one day saw the Lord on the cross, and He was blind in one eye.  Instantly she was healed.  How we need to see Him… as our sin—your sin, my sin—judged and sentenced and condemned… and dead.  What, do you suppose, would be the fruit of such seeing?

Spurgeon as a young man saw this lifted-up One.  He was on his way to church when suddenly a rainstorm came up.  He rushed into a little church nearby for shelter.  The service was in progress, and Spurgeon sat down at the back to listen.  The minister was preaching from Isaiah, “Look unto Me and be saved all ye ends of the earth, for I am God and none else” (Isa. 45:22).  Suddenly the preacher looked steadfastly at the young man who had just come in and said to him (and it was a living word), “Young man, look… and live.” Spurgeon would tell the story often, and say, “I looked, and I lived.”

How deeply we need this kind of Gospel—the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth.  Not the wishy-washy Gospel so common in our day, a gospel in word only, and often contaminated with gimmicks with no power to save.  But the Gospel that, because it is infused with the power of the grace of Christ… men see Him lifted up on their behalf!

Look… And Live

The following is an excerpt from The Better Covenant, by Ron Bailey (available on Amazon).  I found this very moving and wanted to share it with A Mending Feast readers.

Here’s the passage (which will take up this complete blog entry):

For God so loved the world that he gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life (Jn. 3.16 NKJV).

This is probably the best loved text in the Bible but even the best texts can become dangerous if detached from their context.  For example, this single verse speaks of “believing,” but the kind of believing that it has in mind can only be discovered by reading the preceding verses. “Believing” here does not mean agreeing with facts as is usually the case in contemporary counselling patterns.  The kind of believing that John has in mind is the kind experienced by people in a unique situation.

And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life (Jn. 3.14,15 NKJV).

In other words, the kind of believing John has in mind is the kind found in Numbers 21.

The nation of Israel had sinned and the consequence of their sin was a plague of fiery venomous snakes.   The context is so important that I will give the whole section here.

And Jehovah sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and much people of Israel died.   And the people came to Moses, and said, We have sinned, because we have spoken against Jehovah, and against thee; pray unto Jehovah that he take away the serpents from us.  And Moses prayed for the people.  And Jehovah said unto Moses, Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a standard: and it shall come to pass that every one that is bitten, when he seeth it, shall live.  And Moses made a serpent of brass, and set in upon the standard.  And it came to pass, that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he looked unto the serpent of brass, he lived (Num. 21.6-9 ASV).

These people are not just sick or inconvenienced, they are dying and they know it.  They also know why they are dying.  “We have sinned.”  Conviction of sin is a work of God’s Spirit.  They had not been persuaded of the facts of the case by an evangelist; they knew it.  In fact, they took the initiative, they came to Moses.  This is much more like New Testament evangelism where the appeal comes from the congregation rather than the preacher.   They are desperate in their plea; this sounds much more like those old “after meetings” too.

They are also narrowed down to a single solution.  “Pray unto Jehovah that he take away the serpents from us.”  They know that there are not various options but only one possible solution: God must intervene.  This is also much more like those old “after meetings.”  They are seeking a salvation that only God can provide.  If God does not move on  their behalf they are dead men.  Currently their focus is on the snakes: “Take away the serpents from us.”  That must change.

Moses does as they ask and God commands him to make a fiery snake of brass and to erect it on a standard/pole.  There is to be only one brass snake and it must be “lifted up” on a standard so that it was in sight of everyone who had been bitten.  What a vivid picture this represents.  I have a beautiful colour print by Harold Copping in an old Bible.  I can’t look at it without weeping but let me see if I can describe it to you.

The tents of Israel spread out into the hazy distance.  The scene is chaotic, people rushing out of their tents, some running, some standing.  As in any panic it is difficult to make out quite what is happening.  Or it would be if it were not for a tent in the foreground that is much closer and has its own tragedy unfolding.  In the doorway of the tent there is a young man face down in the sand; a snake is wriggling over his arm and on its way to the next victim.  There is an old man in the doorway with white hair and beard, his attention is not on any of the chaos around him but is fixed on the horizon where a man holds a wooden stake with a single crosspiece; it has a brass snake coiled around it.

There are others in the doorway of the tent; a man and his wife are frantically trying to rouse a young man who looks to be the brother of the snake’s earlier victim.  The mother is cradling her teenage son in her arms, his eyes are closed; her face is pale with grief.  The father is fear crazed; his eyes show white as he tries desperately to rouse his young son from his coma.  His face strains to see any signs of life in his son, and his left hand points backwards to the horizon where the brass snake coils around the stake.  There are no words, but I know what he is saying:  “Look and live… look and live.”

Young’s Literal Translation does well to catch the sense of the verbs.  “And Moses maketh a serpent of brass, and setteth it on the ensign, and it hath been, if the serpent hath bitten any man, and he hath looked expectingly unto the serpent of brass—he hath lived” (Num. 21.9 YLT).  A paraphrase might say, “Any man looking away from everything else and putting his whole trust in the snake on the pole lived.”  This is not just a wonderful story, this is a definition of believing as used by John in John 3.16.  God so loved the world that He gave His only Son so that any man, looking away from everything else and putting his trust in a Man upon a cross should not perish but have everlasting life.  This is John’s desperate cry to all who have been bitten, and that is the whole race: “Look and live… look and live.”

It is delivered to men and women who know that we have sinned and that there is no other remedy unless God takes away the snakes.  I said earlier that men’s focus must not remain upon their own condition or even its cause: not the bite and not the poison eating its way through their lives, but upon the one “lifted up.”

That’s the passage from The Better Covenant by Ron Bailey.  Isn’t that rich?  I’ll just leave it there.  Next time, hopefully, I’ll give a few of my own thoughts on it.

This Ark Can Go Through Fire

We’ve been talking about the great flood of Noah’s day and the ark he built, and how that is a figure of the atonement of Christ on Calvary.  We saw that Peter likened the flood to a great baptism, and the ark to God’s salvation in that baptism.  Peter said that the Christian’s baptism in water is “a like figure” (1 Pt. 4.21).  Water baptism is itself a figure that cannot accomplish what the real baptism can—the cleansing of the conscience.

This does not mean we should not be baptized in water, as some have taught (the early Quakers and the Salvation Army, for instance).  The early Quakers taught that as a mere outward ordinance water baptism wasn’t necessary.  I can understand their stand on this; the church of their day had become totally seized up with the formalism of outward ordinances.  But Paul, after that experience on the Damascus Road, was baptized in water.  And in other places in The Acts we find that the apostles who baptized people in the Holy Spirit also baptized them in water.  And so we do this also. It’s a step of obedience that shows our commitment to submit to the true baptism—baptism into Christ—all our days.

And we are yet going to discover that baptism into Christ, the baptism of the cross, the baptism of the Holy Spirit and fire—all this along with water baptism is really only “one baptism”—is going to make us invulnerable to the fires of the Day of the Lord.  This is our “ark.”

Peter has much to say about Noah and the flood as something that foreshadows the present dispensation and what is before us now—the fires of the Day of the Lord.  And he says that in the last days there would be scoffers walking after their own lusts and saying:

Where is the promise of His coming?  For since the fathers fell asleep all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation (2 Pt. 3.4).

George Warnock points out in one of his writings (Chain Reaction in Realms of the Spirit) that we are well past that time now.  Men are no longer saying that all things continue the same.  How could they?  Things have accelerated dramatically the last few decades.  What with the AIDS epidemic, and 9/11, and devastating earthquakes and tsunamis, and peace and order disintegrating on every hand… no one says any more that things continue the same.  More and more the words of the scoffers are hollow in their mouths when they ridicule the words of the Lord.

Peter reminds them (and us) that it was the word of the Lord that sustained the old world (the world before the flood, 2 Pt. 3.5).  It was the word of the Lord that had created the heavens of old, and the earth.  It was the word of the Lord that on the third day had caused the dry land to appear out of the water (Gen. 1.9).  Even during the time when the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah while the ark was being prepared, the word of the Lord continued to sustain that world.

But then the day… and the hour… and the minute came… and by the same word of the Lord the windows of heaven were opened and all the fountains of the great deep were broken up, and the world was deluged with water, and perished (2 Pt. 3.6).

It is only the word of God that continues to sustain our present world (Heb. 1.3, 11.3).  Only the word of the Lord.  Not yet, He says.  Not yet.  Not yet.  The longsuffering God who waited in the days of Noah is waiting again in our day.  He is longsuffering toward us not willing that any should perish but that all come to repentance (2 Pt. 3.9).  And so we account that His longsuffering is with a view to salvation (2 Pt. 3.15).  It’s not because He is slack on the job and doesn’t care about this sin-torn world.  He hates iniquity far deeper than we.  But the work of the Holy Spirit in God’s people is not finished yet.  The Ark is not quite ready yet.

But when it is finally ready?  He will speak.  There will be fire.

But the heavens and the earth which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition (destruction) of ungodly men” (2 Pt. 3.7).

What the ark was in prophetic type back in the days of Noah it is in reality now.  Back then those in the ark became the beginnings of a new creation.  All else was destroyed.  Noah was the “eighth person” (2 Pt. 2.5).  “Eight souls were saved by water” (1 Pt. 3.20).  Eight in Scripture is the number that signifies a new beginning.  It is the same now.  God has a new beginning in mind—a new creation.  Its beginnings are already in the Ark.  For “if any man be in Christ he is a new creature…” (2 Cor. 5.17).

And only what is in the Ark Christ Jesus is going to survive the fires of the day of the Lord.

All else will not make it through.  “The earth and all the works that are therein shall be burned up” (2 Pt. 3.10).  Wickedness shall not rise up the second time.  We will all be glad.  For out of it will come a new creation, a new heaven and a new earth in which dwelleth righteousness—that is, in which righteousness is not an unwelcome unwanted stranger, but is at home (2 Pt. 3.13).

I long for that Day.  Surely we understand that this is not about some kind of vengeful God wreaking wrath on innocent victims.  It’s about a God of love who is pained more deeply than we can comprehend with the evil that has engulfed His world.  That’s what motivated Him back in Noah’s day.  He hated the iniquity.  He hated the violence.  He put a stop to it.

What He has in mind as a result of the fires of the day of the Lord is a world in which righteousness is at home.  He is a God who loves righteousness, and hates iniquity.  Do you and I also love righteousness and hate iniquity?  Are we like Him ourselves?  Just as Noah built the ark and in doing so condemned the world, we can hasten the coming of the Day of Fire by our own “ark building”—our holy and godly lives—as we mentioned last time.

Therefore, since all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness,
Looking for and hastening the coming of the Day of God… (2 Pt. 3.11, 12, NKJV).

We can hasten that day!

And we can be found in Christ in that day—in the Ark, that is, when everything around us is going up in smoke.

Wherefore, beloved, seeing ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of Him in peace, without spot, and blameless (2 Pt. 3.14).

There is only one Place in this universe where anyone can be found of Him in peace, without spot, and blameless.  That is in Christ.  In the Ark.

Beloved, there are many who mock these Bible stories, and scoff at them– at the word of the Lord.  Let us see to it that we ourselves are not mockers and scoffers.  Let us take these things seriously.  Let us get out of Sodom.  Let us get into the Ark.  I remember as a young man how I myself used to heap scorn upon such fairy tales, and the naive people who believed them.  But I remember the night I was converted.  It still stands out in my memory how I suddenly saw that the story of Noah and the ark was actually true.  It was not a fairy tale.  It was true!  It actually happened!  What a change had taken place in this I-know-better mind of mine!

And so I say… let us take God seriously, just as Noah did, who being “warned of God of things not seen as yet,” by faith built that ark and entered it.  Let us give diligence to do the same.  God means business.  Judgment is at the door.  This has been so impressed upon my spirit of late.  How little we understand God—that He is a God who exercises not only lovingkindness, but also “justice and righteousness in the earth” (Jer. 9.24).  How terribly people have presumed upon His goodness and lovingkindness and longsuffering and patience and grace.  But when His hour comes He is going to show His undiluted hatred for unrighteousness and iniquity.  It has caused Him such deep pain to see what iniquity has caused in His earth.

He is going to deal with it all.  The Day of Fire is dawning.  And just as the ark was the only way through “the stormy waters,” the Cross of Calvary is the only way through the fire—the fires of judgment of the Great Day of the Lord.  It is the mystery of the Cross.  What to some is certain destruction becomes for others their salvation—because of the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ.

The Ark Convicts Of Righteousness

The writer of Hebrews says it was Noah’s building the ark that justified God in bringing the flood on the world of the ungodly.

By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith (Heb. 11.7).

Now, when God destroyed the old world with that devastating flood He was not being mean to a bunch of nice people.  We are told that “the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Gen. 6.5).  In other words the sin of Adam had come to a fullness.  And we are told that Noah was “a preacher of righteousness” (2 Pt. 2.5), and that it was those who “were disobedient” who suffered the consequences of their own disobedience (1 Pt. 4.20).  God is just in all His ways.  He had called for repentance.  He had made provision for salvation.  It was rejected.

And it was Noah’s building the ark that condemned the world.  Every board he fitted, every nail he pounded, passed sentence upon a guilty world.  Noah in building the ark was working out his own salvation, you might say.  But at the same time he was passing sentence on the world.  For, his building the ark demonstrated that God had provision for salvation in a wicked world.  It demonstrated that a man could be righteous in God’s sight—with the righteousness of faith.  Noah had heard from God.  He responded to what He was hearing.  God gave him clear instructions on how he was to build the ark.  He built it by faith.  Thus he became heir of the righteousness that is by faith.  The ark became a testimony, then, that condemned the world.  It provided God with just cause to bring in the flood.  Noah’s building the ark demonstrated that God had provided a way for sinners to be saved.

Just as the Atonement does—the cross and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ.  As we saw last time, the flood of Noah’s day, and the ark of his salvation through it all, speaks of the cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

We usually view what happened at Calvary from the salvation side of it, and rightly so.  But Christ’s life and death also became God’s condemnation of an evil world.  Notice what Jesus said as a result of His perfectly pure walk on earth:

If I had not come and spoken unto them, they had not had sin: but now they have no cloak for their sin.
He that hateth Me hateth My Father also.
If I had not done among them the works which none other man did, they had not had sin: but now have they both seen and hated both Me and My Father (Jn. 15.22-24).

The thing that was unique about Jesus’ words and works was that it was actually the Father who was being revealed in all He said and did.  No one could pretend they loved Jehovah when at the same time they hated Jehovah’s Son.  And so the way people reacted toward Jesus stripped them of their cloak.  His righteousness was the revelation of the righteousness of the Father, and therefore became the thing that condemned those who hated the Son.

Just as Noah’s preaching convicted the unbelieving world, so Christ’s testimony convicted those who hated Him.  He too, like Noah, was a Preacher of righteousness.  It was not He they hated, but His righteous Father.  He convicted them of the sin that had been hidden in their hearts.  This is what He accomplished in His life and walk.

Further, He “prepared an ark” of salvation through His death and resurrection.  Christ on Calvary was preparing an Ark to the saving of His house—the household of faith.  The cross of Christ provided salvation for the world.  All who enter this Ark enjoy this salvation.  At the same time the cross condemned the world.  For God has provided a Way now for man to escape from the clutches of sin and the wrath of God that is reserved for the disobedient.  He has dealt with the sin of man and provided a way for us all to be righteous.

And so just as Noah’s building the ark condemned the world, when Christ was crucified at Calvary God was pronouncing judgment upon the whole world.  It was the end of the world as far as God was concerned, the end of the world of sinful man and all he has built up—all his works, all his institutions, everything he has brought forth in order to build a world that centres upon himself and leaves God out.  For, Christ became an “ark” of salvation, a way of salvation, a way of escape from sin and its consequent judgment, to all who receive Him.

Nevertheless—and this is important—it is not till the Gospel of this salvation goes forth that God is just in bringing judgment.  God calls men to enter His Ark of salvation.  This is what hearing the Gospel is all about.  You wonder, then, to what extent this is presently taking place.  To what extent does the world around us hear the clear Gospel of Jesus Christ these days?

To what extent do they see it?  This is the thing that has gripped me for many years.  Hearing the Gospel is one thing.  What about seeing the Gospel?  “And all flesh shall see the salvation of God” (Lk. 3.6).  This, I believe, is what God is preparing in this hour.  I believe God is preparing to reveal the Ark of His salvation in this hour.  How?  By building that Ark of salvation into the lives of His people!  Only then is God finally justified in bringing His judgments forth.  God would not be just in judging the world if there were not clear proof before their very eyes of His provision to escape sin and judgment.  He must bring upon people the conviction of sin that Jesus spoke of—and the conviction of righteousness He spoke of, and the conviction of judgment.  Before God can judge, people are going to have to look at Christians and be convicted that God has wrought righteousness– the very righteousness of Christ– in those who were former sinners.

This is the work of the Comforter—the Paraclete, the Holy Spirit.  Jesus said that “when He is come He will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment” (Jn. 16.8).  Not only concerning sin, but concerning righteousness.  The Paraclete—that One whose Presence means Christ Himself has been called alongside you and I—will convict the world of righteousness!  He will demonstrate before the eyes of the world that these ones in whom He dwells are righteous with the Righteous One who has gone to the Father—and is yet still with us.  They will see our Righteousness before their very eyes, and be convicted.

And they will realize they are totally without excuse.  Now they will have no cloak for their sin.  For right before their eyes God has revealed that there is provision to walk before Him in perfect righteousness totally free of sin.  Those who see this will either repent… or be filled with a fearful forboding of judgment.  This is what Paul told the Philippians.  He said their adversaries, when they saw the Gospel peace and security the Philippians enjoyed—they had no fear in the midst of their persecutions—this was an evident token of their own perdition.

And in nothing terrified by your adversaries: which is to them an evident token of perdition, but to you of salvation, and that of God (Phil. 1.28).

Yes, it was all accomplished at Calvary.  But it is when the work of Calvary is fulfilled in the saints by the Holy Spirit that God is justified in releasing His judgments.

Even now every believer in Jesus is a testimony of a condemned world.  For, Christ at Calvary in saving sinners out of the world condemned the world.   Every believer who believes in Jesus is making a statement—that the Cross of Jesus Christ condemned this world—that this is a world under a sentence that was written at Calvary… but has not yet been fully carried out.

This “statement” is going to get louder and louder as the work of the Holy Spirit grows more pronounced in the lives of believers, and the holiness and righteousness of Christ is revealed in us.  Noah’s building the ark condemned the world and brought in the flood.   Our own walk can hasten the coming of the day of God.  And the sentence of Calvary will be carried out.

Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation (conduct) and godliness,
Looking for and hasting unto (that is, expecting and hastening) the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat? (2 Pt. 3.12,13).

God has prepared a Day in which He will deal with all evil, all wickedness and sin and iniquity and rebellion.  We can hasten that Day, beloved.  The implication is that we can cause its delay.  Let us not be the cause of its delay.  Have we not seen enough of the pain and suffering that wickedness has caused in this troubled little planet we live in?

The Eagle Comes To Church

Martin Collison who sometimes comments on A Mending Feast emailed me something recently which he quietly calls “a picture.”  He says it was “an impression stamped upon (his) mind,” which is akin to a vision, I would say.  (It’s an experience he has from time to time.)  In any case it strongly impacted my spirit, and I thought I would pass it along.

I had a picture come to me this week. I saw the lectern on the stage of a church; one of those stands that preachers rest their notes on. Then an eagle came down; swooped down and landed on the lectern. The presence of the eagle cut the atmosphere and it carried such spiritual authority. It brought certainty and definitiveness where there had been vacillation. Its authority could not be denied. Many in the congregation ran at its mere appearance on the scene even before it opened its mouth. I knew that the eagle was a symbol of the true prophet and it would tear down falsehoods within the church. Many would not want to hear the words he would speak so they ran for the exits.

I recognize this to be one of our greatest needs—if not our greatest need—the true authority of Christ in the churches.  There’s an old song that’s right in line with Martin’s “picture.”

Touch your people once again
With your precious holy hand, we pray;
Let your kingdom shine upon this earth
Through a living glorious church;
Not for temporary deeds,
But to restore authority and power:
Let a mighty rushing wind come in;
Touch your people once again.

How deeply we need this—the restoration of spiritual authority and power—this mighty rushing wind of the Holy Spirit that returns to us the authority of Christ.  Martin says the presence of this eagle “cut the atmosphere.”  It “carried such spiritual authority.”  In fact the eagle is one of the faces of Christ as portrayed in the cherubim (Ezek. 1.10).  And so when this “eagle” speaks all doubt disintegrates.  The Lord Jesus Christ Himself has spoken… and all the place is pregnant with His authority.

Martin adds this:

I have been wondering recently whether we who are the Lord’s and seek to carry the fullness of the Kingdom are not yet fully aware of the contention of the enemy against us.

I wonder that myself.  I think we are largely unaware of the extent to which the Enemy resists us.  For certain, he has always resisted the coming forth of this kind of authoritative word—and will do so vehemently when it begins to break forth again.  I have seen it happen in the past, and I know we are going to see it again.  God’s adversary (and ours) is dead set against His authority.  In fact this is what he challenged from his beginning; it’s what garnered him the name change from Lucifer to Satan.

For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north:
I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most high (Isa. 14.13,14).

This is a glimpse into the rebellion among the angels that the Bible hints at in two or three places, and which the Serpent succeeded in contaminating the family of man with.  As a result we see this same Satanic resistance to the true authority of God all through history—as when Pharaoh decreed the destruction of the newborn Hebrews… as when Herod the Great did the same thing at Bethlehem of Judaea, seeking to wipe out any chance of the true king of Israel coming to the throne of David… as when Ahab’s daughter Athaliah sought to destroy all the seed royal out of Judah (2 Chr. 22.10).

We see it also in Satan’s resistance to the true prophetic word—as in Jezebel’s campaign to exterminate the prophets of the Lord (1 Kings 18.4).  Ultimately she zeroed in on the prophet Elijah (1 Kings 19.2).  Her husband Ahab went along with her in all this—reluctantly no doubt, but too weak willed to resist her.  We see the same spirit at work when Herodias sought the head of John the Baptist.  Her husband Herod, again reluctantly, went along with her too.  And we see this same “Jezebel” in The Revelation riding upon a scarlet-coloured beast “drunk with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus” (Rev. 17.6).  “And in her was found the blood of prophets and of saints…” (Rev. 18.24).  She who calls herself a prophetess—and Christ reproved the church of Thyatira for going along with her—is thirsty for the blood of the prophets.  For she stands against the true word of God—the testimony of Jesus Christ.  It is the Spirit of prophesy that is hated—the testimony of Jesus Christ.

And for this very reason the church must be this “lectern” Martin saw with the eagle upon it.  The church must have this prophetic Testimony, this authoritative word, with the presence of the eagle permeating all.  I believe it is a corporate thing, this eagle, and not just one man.  Paul called for the earnest prayers of the saints at Ephesus that he might have liberty to declare the word of God boldly—and make known the “mystery of the Gospel” (Eph. 6.18).  He, the mighty apostle, could not function independently.  He’d been given the revelation of the body of Christ on the Damascus Road, and ever after he recognized his need for the other members of that Body.  He was continually calling for the prayers of the saints.  He needed their support as Moses needed Aaron and Hur to stay up his arms.  Yes, it was Paul’s mouth the word went forth from, but it was a joint operation of the body of Christ that enabled it.  Paul sought the same thing from the Colossians, “that God would open unto us a door of utterance to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in bonds…” (Col. 4.3).

I believe we are going to see this eagle in church again—this kind of authoritative word, this kind of anointing.  But let us be ready for the consequences.  The Enemy does not take kindly to this kind of Gospel going forth—the kind in which the eyes of sinful men are opened to see what the mystery of Christ is all about.  The true Gospel of Christ is a very powerful Gospel, a high and far-reaching Gospel.  It’s a Gospel that must go forth in the power and authority of the eagle.  And when it does there is going to be prey for her young ones.

Doth the eagle mount up at thy command, and make her nest on high?
She dwelleth and abideth on the rock, upon the crag of the rock, and the strong place.
From thence she seeketh the prey, and her eyes behold afar off.
Her young ones also suck up blood: and where the slain are, there is she (Job. 39.27-30).

Lord, open our eyes!  How near-sighted we have become, and blind!  No wonder our young people are in the condition they are in—worldly minded, with little or no interest in spiritual things.  Can they be blamed?  What kind of Gospel do we have for them?  We must have more for them than games and pizza on Friday nights at the church—along with a little side of MacWord, as a friend calls it.  Oh, you protest, but how else can we get them in?  We’ve got to give them games and pizza… and the heavy metal rock music they’re into, or their reggae, or even magicians if necessary, and clowns to entertain them.  Anything to get them to come!  So we can slip in that little gospel MacWord on the side.

Here’s another way to get them to come.  Shut all that down, and cry out like this: Jesus, call your eagles to church—those who dwell and abide upon the Rock, and whose eyes see into the distances of the Spirit… and bring nigh what they see afar off!  Then there will be prey for our young ones—the mystery of Christ—the revelation of God in once-fallen man.  Then there will be young eagles growing up in our midst—a whole new kind of young people!

And our Adversary the Devil will have to cope with the consequences.

Jesus Prays For Thee

Does it not fill you with awe, and humble you—to realize that the Lord Jesus Christ prays for you?

He prays for you.  And prays for me.

I know how you feel—this seems backward; isn’t it you and I who do the praying to Him?

But remember, Jesus told Peter He had prayed for him, that his faith fail not.  We are not told just when this happened, but it appears Jesus often prayed for His disciples while He was here on earth.  I think of the time when His disciples were struggling to cross the sea of Galilee against contrary winds in the darkness of night.  Jesus, we are told, had had gone “into a mountain apart to pray” (Mt. 14.23).  No doubt it was His disciples He was praying for.  “He saw them toiling in rowing” (Mk. 6.48).  That’s pretty good vision Jesus had, isn’t it, to be able to see His disciples in the darkness of the night across the stormy waters.  And in the fourth watch of the night He came to them “walking on the sea” (Mt. 14.25).

He still has the same good sight.  He sees us even now in our toils and struggles.  Even now He continues praying for us from the heavenly Mountain He has ascended into.  He makes intercession for us, as He did those disciples of old.   He tells us as much in John 17, which is the record of a prayer Jesus prayed during the Last Supper, praying as though He were already ascended to the right hand of His Father in Heaven.

I pray for them (Jn. 17.9).

He is speaking of His disciples back then.  But He adds:

Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on Me through their word… (Jn. 17.20).

And the writer of Hebrews tells us:

Wherefore He is able to save to the uttermost them that come unto God by Him seeing He ever liveth to make intercession for them (Heb. 7.25).

And in Romans we read:

Who is he that condemneth?  (Since) it is Christ that died, yea rather, is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us (Rom. 8.34).

And so it’s very encouraging—that the main ministry of our Lord Jesus Christ at the right hand of the throne of the Father in Heaven is as our great and powerful Intercessor.

It could be said that there are two main ministries in this universe.  One is the ministry of the Accuser of the brethren.  The other is the ministry of the Intercessor of the brethren.

Beloved, one of these two ministries we want no part of—either on the giving or the receiving end.  But when we do find ourselves on the receiving end of the Accuser of the brethren, oh, how wonderful to know that we have One who ever liveth to make intercession for us.

It’s very encouraging the way Paul brings in the fact that Christ’s intercession for us is as One who is seated at the right hand of God—the place of the greatest power in the universe.  In other words, He is not making intercession for us as One who pleads with great love and desire, but has no power.  He intercedes as One whose intercession is filled with the power of the Throne of God, and is therefore effectual.

It is a wonderful thing to know that Our Lord Jesus Christ at the right hand of power is there as our great high priest and intercessor.  He is my great High Priest—who laid down His life for me on the Altar of the Cross of Calvary.  But my great High Priest is also the great King.  He is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.  He has all power in Heaven and earth.  He is able to “save to the uttermost them that come unto God by Him.”  How so?  His intercession on our behalf—on your behalf, and mine—has the power of the throne of God in it.

Now… maybe you already see where this truth is going to take us… which I will get into next time.

…But wait a minute.  How can I resist closing here with the wonderful words of one of my favourite hymns?  I’m singing it right now as I listen to it on Cyberhymnal.


And I’m rejoicing!  How can we not rejoice, brother, sister, to have so great a Salvation, and so loving a Saviour and Intercessor before the Throne of Grace!  Let us rejoice!

Here is the hymn, one of Charles Wesley’s finest:

Arise, my soul, arise,
Shake off thy guilty fears;
The bleeding sacrifice
In my behalf appears;
Before the throne my Surety stands,
Before the throne my Surety stands,
My name is written on His hands.

He ever lives above,
For me to intercede;
His all redeeming love,
His precious blood, to plead;
His blood atoned for all our race,
His blood atoned for all our race,
And sprinkles now the throne of grace.

Five bleeding wounds He bears;
Received on Calvary;
They pour effectual prayers;
they strongly plead for me:
“Forgive him, O forgive,” they cry,
“Forgive him, O forgive,” they cry,
“Nor let that ransomed sinner die!”

The Father hears Him pray,
His dear anointed One;
He cannot turn away
the presence of His Son;
The Spirit answers to the blood,
The Spirit answers to the blood
And tells me I am born of God.

My God is reconciled;
His pardoning voice I hear;
He owns me for His child;
I can no longer fear.
With confidence I now draw nigh,
With confidence I now draw nigh,
And “Father, Abba, Father,” cry.

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?

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