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Chapter 9 BARBS, ARROWS AND BALMS CHAPTER 14
INTRODUCTION TO CHAPTER NINE
Barbs, Arrows and Balms Ch.14 provides an existential approach in which the glory of the triune deity is seen in an impelling context for a would-be mutant, post-modern man, all but irresistibly clad in complacency. It is a a dialogue leading to faith. It is not philosophically existential, but rather allows the desires and movements, the lusts or disdains, the hopes and driving spiritual appetites of man to find their home, meaningful, rational, revelatory, the Word who is truth providing both love and mercy, reason and knowledge from His divine glory, mixed with a love that goes, and does not merely suppose or consider or meditate or wonder or wander. With Him, it is command and when it is to Himself (as in Psalm 40), He heeds, going about His Father's business on earth for which He was sent (cf. John 12:48-50, John 8:29).
TRINITY CHAPTER NINE
FROM DOUBT TO DELIGHT
There is a record of invitation which has a flash of glory in it, and a thrust of splendour.
Let us now return to
what may seem the vague, distant world of yesteryear - since with computers as
with much else, the world is moving like a child on a mudslide, rapidly to new
territories. It is doing it continually so much better in so many things, that
the fact that the human direction in morals, spirit and constancy, reliability,
truth, mercy and restraint, understanding, wisdom and peace is DOWN, always
overall down, seems almost lost. Yes, September 1997 seems almost a world away!
Yet it is back there that we will look.
The world continues to educate its kids as if they were indeed the offspring of goats in so many things: be yourself, cultivate your self-esteem BECAUSE it is good for you, gives you more drive to drive where you WANT to go, and get what you WANT to get. Don't be too moral, for that way can inhibit the life-thrust which must carry you to somewhere interesting. Otherwise you could become a society-drag, needing mental and other help, and that helps no-one. So be yourself, hold up a school or shoot a teacher, hold up a bank or use the pokies, drain your resources for self-fulfilment, abort and murder kids by the million - why worry, are they not the children of goats? Have new 'enlightened' attitudes showing RESPECT for human dignity, while you are murdering unborn kids for no better reason than this: that it gives a sense of self-direction, self-fulfilment and ceases putting mothers in a more dependent and less autonomous position than fathers seem to have.
No wonder the 'kids' tend to act the goat. They may or may not be the children of 'goats' Biblically; for in the Bible, Matthew 25, that is the designation for what are no sheep of the Governor and Creator of the universe, and the metaphorical point is simple. It means that some WILL not conform to GOD, but rather conform to their own antics and ways, so neither desiring nor being able to find place next to their Maker: they are too busy making themselves, without the power to do the job, so that instead of what their actual Maker made them for, is a mere distorted dishevelment, an anguished or perhaps anon complacent COMPOSITION by an incompetent 'artist' or 'artiste'.
We will look back on the article on the
uprooted young in Time Magazine, September 1, 1997, then, and take up
some the material from my Questions and Answers, No.7, with adaptations,
and looking back, look on. Barbs enough, there is balm.
We considered a poor, deluded 'kid' who was getting so used to braying to the moon like a donkey, that the imaginary conversation was recorded. We shall adapt it a little and extend it a lot, in the dialogue.
Q. How can I know God?
A: First by believing in Him.
Q: Oh I have no trouble about that - the trouble is this: I tend to make my own. I find it cheaper in cigarettes too.
A: Any 'god' you make is a word, or possibly a psychic fragment, a mental spawn, dependent on you; except that it may be of interest to the fraud friends who love to invade human kind, not only in wars on earth but in wars for the life of man. The sheer, fermented LUST which man often finds within him, not sexual, that is small by comparison in some ways, but spiritual - to be, to find, to know, to direct, to have the vision, to implement it at the cost of a few tens of millions of lives if necessary, as with Hitler and Mao. He KNOWS all except this, that his knowledge, being self-derivative, is self-confined, and what is needed is knowledge unconfined to the culture, history, genetics and prejudice of the latest artisan of mankind.
Q: All right. I am not as blind as all that. I KNOW there is someone out there, but I do not know how to find and identify that being.
A: Suppose you thought a little more efficiently. If YOU were the greatest, endued with magnificent and certain truth, there might be some point in seeing what YOU could do. As you are not, but esteem yourself a sort of contrivance of cultural, psychic, historical and so forth elements, why not look for action by the BEING HIMSELF. After all, YOU are one of the results of it!
Q: That seems sensible. Is there any evidence of such action by THE BEING?
Q: Yes I know. All right, so there is one almighty being who has spoken. Fine. If I had a sort of spiritual geographical yen or lust, I might investigate. But what is all that to me?
A: I do not know if you have any autistic tendencies?
Q: Me? Man of the moment, inhabitant of the world, interested in what happens, lover of what is, to nut it out...
A: So far, not so bad! Well, let us have some applied yen, and see whether the BEING has expressed what you want; and if so, you may find the answer to all your questions in the MAKER of the questioner.
Q: That seems good. What then is the set-up?
A: There is an
arrangement by which man may come to accept what God is presenting in His
covenant offered to the race. It is very deep in its innermost heart, since it
is a gift of God; but in your relationship to it, while it will do intense
sonar sounding in your depths, the actual result is not difficult to
Q: What then is a covenant?
A: It is a solemn and
binding agreement between two parties, and when one is divine, the covenant has
His sovereign imprint, is not a subject to bargaining, but may be rejected on earth
with assigned consequences.
Q: Why should I deal with the Almighty at all?
a) He made you.
b) you would have no meaning at all to play with, no will to utilise, no bodily powers to display your will - if He did not sustain you and keep you in a world given meaning only by Him.
c) His is the most marvellous mercy ever to be, the most excellent care and concern imaginable, and then more; He has provided even for your evils, errors yes, and even your pride, if you prefer to imagine yourself something great (though, goodness knows, HE made you - so what is that!).
Q: I don't find these reasons irresistible. Why then should I bother?
A: Because, in addition, the world as you see, is going to blazes fast, the races are becoming mad in their independence of ANYTHING and ANYONE who is found to be there, and their DEPENDENCE on what is not there, so that the independence fever is grasping the human race, which has never been further from being the humane race.
Individual, racial, national autonomy is close to becoming a ritual. However, as we see reported in Time magazine (September 1, 1997, p. 57), there is coming to some a realisation of the obverse side of liberty. In fact, many of the generation that tried to enjoy its flush of bloom in the 1960s, to step out and on to whatever, with indifference to the cost and the precise character of the quest, to diverge into existential innovation, often find now, a 'strange' development. With more mature attainment or experience and freedom grasped, to quote from one of them in the Time article, there ...
Experimenting with many liberties, the world is in irons, ready to be cut at any time, and minds are failing as more seek drugs, authorised and other, to control themselves; wars are like a thick blanket of smog, while atrocities are becoming the work of grown men, with serious faces, pulverising opposition because of - well, as to its formulation, you name it, they'll think of it! It may take them a little while.
Q: That is a significant reason to think. But it does not motivate me. Show me why I should be motivated to relate to the Almighty at all! Why!
A: Because, 5thly - isn't that abbreviation ghastly, but so is sin, which is an abbreviation of our functions, like a Jaguar car being used to draw a plough, possible but absurd! Fifthly, then, because sin against the Maker's specifications is degraded, debasing, ruinous and irrational.
Q: That has weight. But what if He does not stir me?
A: Do you want that written with a capital 'M'? and God with a small 'g'?
Q: No thank you. I do see the relationship, believe me. However, I ask you this: WHY should I feel it right to regard Him - not just what is convenient, or appropriate, or fitting or functional or something else - more than all!
A: That is quite a good point. It is for this reason: THAT if He makes you and you ruin it, you should have a good reason ... or else quite simply be a ruinous, a degraded and degrading person whose fit end - to represent the nature of your life's work, and activities - would really quite justly be hell.
Q: This is shameful, I grant. Maybe I have existential inertia, maybe its reaction against an earlier generation's existential frenzies. I have no good reason. But then shame just does not drive me - not enough anyway. What else?
A: This then: this GOD whose name is great, whose works speak (as in your own case, literally, just now!) for themselves, has acted. HE for HIS part did something. He made a choice if you like. He decided constructively to satisfy His justice by enduring the shame sinners deserve, but to do so selectively, for just those sinners who would receive this gift: it is called eternal life. The offer is to all, the cost-coverage is for those relevant, and relevance is NOT for the wounded who refuse hospital!
Q: What is so wonderful about that? Oh, I grant you it is generous, loving too, and marvellously perceptive. But then, HE did make me! Is it not just about the ticket for me, then, that He would do that - a sort of customer service situation?
A: No! Customers do not expect service when they use a carving knife to shape cement on bricks, do they? That would be extortion.
Q: Good point! Well, it still just does not reach me. What can I do?
A: Listen then to this. He, as Christ Jesus the Lord, became a man - that is the advantage of being a Trinity with
and its death for all to be His;
That person, Jesus Christ, God-as-man, SHOWED what it is to be poor in spirit. HE COULD have called legions, armies of angels; but He CHOSE to meet the case as man would have (and should have) met it, by becoming 'vulnerable' without falling. Indeed He chose this fragility of form as a man, while remaining holy with a heavenliness both immovable and intangible, impenetrable and alert with unimpugnable purity.
It was just
as atrocious, despite the fact that it had long been prophesied that THIS was
to be the very substitutionary death, in the place of repentant sinners - He even
prayed for the evil-doers while they did it -
that would be the expression of His love, care, concern and ...
Q: You interest me, now. Of His what?
A: Of His satisfaction of
justice (Romans 3:23ff., Galatians 3:10ff.).
God is just, and thank goodness for that, for if He were not, it would be an arbitrary and scatty universe. As it is, sin makes it rough enough; but the grace of God brings peace, blessing and godly power to those who accept this offering of the Father's Son, Jesus Christ as sin-bearer, to remove that barrier between them and their God.
Q: I hate to say this. You are making me feel embarrassed. The fact, however is this: I still do not find it in my heart to repent - least of all of being myself. I just want to me myself. Why not? What's wrong with me?
A: You just said you were becoming embarrassed. Small wonder. You seriously ask me what is wrong with you when the offer of infinite power for your puny sinful and sick soul is not enough to stir you! You ask me what is wrong with being yourself, merely. What if HE had been satisfied with that ? YOU would JUSTLY be in hell.
Q: I think the missing word is love. WHY did HE do this? To get more workers for heaven, or something like that, or because of some personal attraction to us?
A: You are inventing a dilemma. NEITHER. HE has enough power to work anything; HE is self-sufficient and can have no necessity, personal need for us. HE WILLS to give us delight in His presence, because HE IS delightful, IS loving (I John 4:7-10, John ). And you are not stirred by that; even when the cost to Him was infinite in this, that an infinite Being cast His resources to such a pittance, a pitiable and pitiful pittance as we are as sinners, to redeem us from the power and penalty and scope and destiny and folly and narrowness of sin!
Q: I am beginning to be stirred. But DOES He love? If it is not pragmatic, and it is not a matter of our being irresistibly lovely (and I confess to more than a little doubt about that) - is it REALLY love! I respond to love, it is a fine thing, nothing finer, especially when it is inextricably bound to truth; I loathe pretence.
A: We are, realistically, NOT irresistibly lovely; and ONLY in the immovable God is there any loveliness, where our harbour and marina is. HIS waters make loveliness in the sheer peace and joy of it (read Isaiah 32-33). It is quite simply, love.
Q: Then can I love Him back ? I would like to do that.
A: You CANNOT, but you MAY. Let me explain. In sin, and without God, you cannot love. You can be fine, impressive, but without the basis of love, you are a spiritual bonzai, at best, and your outlook is fluted with sin, self and admirations of various lesser kinds. In ignoring God to start with, you show hate, not love. And if you do not FEEL hate to Him, then you SHOW it by so treating Him and yourself without His care, , who made you and did so much for your deliverance from trashy stuntedness and flashy sin.
Q: I INSIST on loving Him! Why not ?
A: Because you must be clean.
Q: I acknowledge that. It is better to be prepared for love; and I am certainly no angel. But how to love my Maker, tell me - how ?
A: THANK Him for His grace, His love, His gift, for His Son, His sacrifice, His concern, His planning it all, His DOING it all, His dying that you might have redemption from sin and death, His resurrection from the dead, for His concern to demonstrate His power in so many ways, and so personally: and then COME.
Just COME to Him with your sins, unload, and tell Him, with those gone on the Cross garbage collection unit, that this is why you love Him (II Corinthians -21). HE DID IT; YOU NEEDED IT: and for this above all, He has granted you to join HIM, who IS love, with sins pardoned, power granted and life abundant like a mountain stream, WITHIN YOU (John 14:6, I John 4:7,10), as well as beyond you.
Q: Good! But weren't we going to talk about covenants?
A: We were. We draw nearer. There are two points we need just now.
1st: THIS IS A COVENANT. Christ said that the blood He shed in covering the sin which deserves death and claims life (His life - because of its purity, adequacy and wise love for those who receive it - John -14, Romans , Isaiah 53:1-6, II Corinthians -21) - is what?
Q: I seem to remember that from a church I once attended - is it THE BLOOD OF THE NEW COVENANT or testament ? Didn't He show that in the Last Supper - isn't that where He broke the bread, but simultaneously stayed intact till much later, on the Cross - providing in this preliminary ceremony, a symbol of reality to come ?
A: It is. There is a signature if you like. It is in blood. It is by blood. What it signifies IS blood, blood and life shed, granted in abundant pain and yet more abundant desire to rescue you. There is the solemn agreement you most need: Christ has given HIMSELF and signed it with His blood, which is pictured in the grape juice in the Lord's Supper, which is a sacrament like baptism - that juice does not save, nor does baptism; but it shows you in no uncertain terms, WHAT DOES: and HIM WHO DOES SAVE (Isaiah 63:1, Titus 2:14)...
Q: But what was the other thing you had in mind ?
A: The 2nd ? It is this. Being poor in spirit. Do you realise that it says: BLESSED ARE THE POOR IN SPIRIT! HE said THAT!
No: BLESSED ARE THE POOR IN SPIRIT. NOT, blessed are the self-esteeming, the libido experts, the self-confident, the self-assured! BLESSED ARE THE POOR IN SPIRIT. Do you realise that this is one of the beatitudes, or statements of the way of intense divine blessing ?
Q: No. Should I ? I never
hear about it. They told me in school to look after number one, to be nice
because it helps others to be nice, and to make sure I got what I wanted. Is
that being rich
in spirit ?
A: Millionaire class, hot air class, no CLASS! HE, though He was rich, became poor for our sakes, so that "we through His poverty, should be rich." That is in II Corinthians 8:9. That is poverty of spirit. HE made HIMSELF poor (lowly in form, acting as a servant to perform what it took to do what love proclaimed necessary). HE DID NOT CARE what He looked like, in the end, even on the Cross. He did not mind (though it HURT! Hebrews 5:7), what it felt like: He wanted to serve, and if it meant being a servant instead of appearing as a King, so be it! THAT is being poor in spirit.
Q: It surely is. How can I be poor in spirit ?
A: By likewise not CARING
what you look like, not minding what you feel like, provided you PLEASE GOD and
satisfy His loving heart. Then it is no more a matter of your rich self doing
what it will for its own purposes, but lovingly doing what it may, for HIS
loving purposes. You are subordinated willingly and voluntarily to HIM, but as
a friend; and He, being so friendly, He raises you to His face, blessing and
dealing with you as His own poverty of Spirit shows.
What then if you become His ?
This too means that you accept your place in His team, voluntarily, assured that such a Captain will show you how best to serve, with whom, when and how. You seek earnestly to find the best in your associates, help them develop it without fuss or intrusion, and hope for the utmost, considering others better than yourself, as an attitude, without personal vying for place and face (Philippians 2:3, II Corinthians 12:20, James 3:16). After all, HE is the judge. Let HIM do it! You wait upon Him for the best use of your talents to His glory, since He MADE them and REDEEMED you, that is your pleasure.
Q: I seem to remember another statement like that now!
It also says, "Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth." What is that ?
A: Some want to GRAB the earth, and fight, killing millions. Or they want to INHABIT the earth with people who ALWAYS MUST believe what they do, as the Roman Catholics did in the Inquisition, seeking to break or bend the will that resisted, and the Moslems set about doing likewise for some hundreds of years, and as Hitler sought to do, and as Stalin and as Napoleon - and so on. THEY did not inherit the earth. (Cf, SMR pp. 809, 904ff., 924-929, 949-954, 968-972, 986-991, 1033-1041, 1077-1082.) Earth they inherited, but 6 feet under. This was not their inheritance to give; and as for Christ, He declared,
Christ's kingdom does not crucify, but follows One who was voluntarily crucified, electing not to flee, or even not to stay in heaven, but respecting the need of man, made in His image, resolved to take that image so that it might be restored to original condition, yes and enhanced with assured eternity which, placed in our hearts, is always a desire, direct or indirect, diverted, perverted, contorted, disported, abased, insanely elevated to the elevators of the UN or some worldly pseudo-church, whose servants DO fight for their 'faith' and whose kingdom IS of this world, and who let the world know all about that, in no uncertain terms!
What pride and arrogance for this-world 'churches' so to deal with the people God has made, and of whom Jesus Christ said: DO NOT BE CALLED RABBI, FOR ONE IS YOUR MASTER, EVEN CHRIST, AND YOU ARE ALL BROTHERS. AND He added: CALL NO MAN YOUR FATHER ON EARTH, FOR ONE IS YOUR FATHER, WHO IS IN HEAVEN (Matthew 23:8-10).
Incidentally, that relates to God's people; for as to those who follow the adversary, Satan, Christ said to them: "YOU are of your father, the devil" (John ). Their world-dominating blind leaders with some philosophy buzzing like a saw in their heads, go berserk in the jewel of a world God made, seeking to eradicate the curse on sin with power and impenitence mixed in a froth of pride. However, that can wait. (See Questions and Answers 5, SMR pp. 750Bff.)
Q: As far as I am concerned, it can wait a long, long time.
But tell me more HOW can I be poor in spirit? I want to be. It seems eminently reasonable and decidedly attractive. It has a sense of reality which when it is merely a lost and forlorn thing, seems weak; but if related to THE BEING, it would seem great, somehow grand, because He is ... in an utter way true of no one else ... uniquely worth-while.
A: Do you remember what we said about ABIDING? THAT is poor in spirit because this is practical living in which CHRIST is your beloved LORD, and His desire is your delight. His grace, you wish not only to have, but to give; and His service, you not only appreciate now, but wish to apply in moving mountains if need be, so that your own life may be godly, and His mercies may reach others. Remember here also these five delightful parts of the word of God - Colossians , , Philippians 1:20-21, 3:9-10 and -13. They are poverty-in-spirit tonic par excellence! The first says -
THAT IN ALL THINGS, HE SHOULD HAVE THE PRE-EMINENCE!
The second -
WHATEVER YOU DO IN WORD OR DEED, DO ALL IN THE NAME OF THE LORD JESUS, GIVING THANKS TO GOD THE FATHER THROUGH HIM.
ACCORDING TO MY EARNEST EXPECTATION AND MY HOPE THAT IN NOTHING I SHALL BE ASHAMED, BUT WITH ALL BOLDNESS, AS ALWAYS, SO NOW ALSO, CHRIST WILL BE MAGNIFIED IN MY BODY, WHETHER BY LIFE OR BY DEATH. FOR TO ME TO LIVE IS CHRIST, AND TO DIE IS GAIN.
Q: Is that good solid practice?
A: As to that, listen! Then? When you have done all, count yourself an unworthy servant (Luke ). What does this imply? That the time to become complacent and self-congratulatory is when? It is NEVER!
By all means soar, but soar without affectation, like a glider, which without noise rises on the rising air currents, and moves aloft, where the view is superb, the air fresh, the outlook wonderful. The Bible refers to this as SITTING IN HEAVENLY PLACES (Ephesians 2:6). It is not only PLACE but GRACE, and in this we live and move and have our being. Consider fifthly, Ephesians 2:8:
1) yourself as a derivative
divorced from the point of origin, when the
origin is infinitely more important than a point, and
2) your errors, of insight, understanding, perspective - you are like a glass car driving on jagged edges which you neither understand to avoid, nor appreciate to interpret.
3) your world, which has a series of inputs which come from anything varying from the straight-faced insane pomposities of power, to the inane, crooked spirited verbosities of delusion, to the rat-like survival antics of the spiritually uprooted, the ultimate dispossessed to ...
4) your due judgment, not the least part of which is to "eat the fruit of your own doings" - that can really be an incandescent anti-feast, and
Q: Yes and so on. However, while it would be good to be saved from this, why should I embark on a ship which might carry me anywhere?
A: God will carry you to God, the utterly self-sufficient God (cf. Questions and Answers, Section VII, SMR Ch.1) . It is His good pleasure is to give ... beyond creation, to the redeemed - Himself, in friendship. Abraham was called the friend of God, and such a friend there never was, as the Lord is. He abundantly surpasses all. THAT is in the very depths of the meaning of the covenant, of the Cross, of the Bible, of the entire revelation.
Q: But what if I should grow sick of Him?
A: The point rather is, that it is covenantal that HE will not grow sick of you.
Q: Answer please my question. Even granted that He is rather wonderful and splendid and sacrificial and non-surviving as His aim, and so forth, but continues with His almighty power because it is His, showing love in His willingness to use it as He did, not like some crazy dictator, or distant bureaucrat ...
A: Now it is my turn to interrupt. Granted He is fine, why worry about dissatisfaction with what is fine! If you WERE able to become this, dissatisfied with that! it would be a sign that it was time you were restored from such pseudo-autonomous self-indulgence. When you are dealing with the truth, and the truth is personal in this way, it is the TRUTH which is thus healingly dealing with you, and what could be better than that. In the end, you are either going to "hate" your own life...
Q: Hate it? Come on!
A: Yes, it is in a sense a figure, but what you can figure from Christ's words in Luke 14, to this effect is this. You have to be willing to distance yourself from autonomy, where YOU are the centre of the universe, YOUR word is the distillate of wisdom, YOUR will is the most important thing in the world. Now there are many force-philosophies which, duly engaged to politics and married to inglorious grandeur, will do this for you, with prison as the option. Here you are in the presence of your Maker, the Redeemer who knows how BOTH to distance you from delusion and to enable you to be the person you were made to be IN HIS IMAGE.
Q: All right! I'll surrender to Him. How ?
A: You have to go deeper. I am sorry. Do you see the superficial character of your self-bounded living?
Q: Yes, but it is rather short-circuiting for my vision.
A: Precisely. Repent of that. Repent of having indulged in it. Seek the Lord, place your past before Him as a matter for decisive regret, yourself before Him as one for decisive acceptance, and claim the blood of Christ as the ground of acceptance, since it was offered for precisely that.
Q: Done! What more?
A: Place your evils, errors, sins ON Jesus Christ the Saviour, whose death, the just for the unjust, was to bring us to God.
Q: Done! What else?
A: Place yourself in His hands without reservation, because you trust in your Maker-Redeemer, and leave nothing out of the transaction, your future, present, past, talents, gifts, dreams, life.
Q: Done! What else?
A: Since you are trusting in Him, accept His covenant, His word and His life as the basis for your own, the authority in heaven for your life on earth, the declaration on earth for your life to come in heaven.
Q: Done! What next?
A: Realise then that the power of God was quite sufficient to raise the dead body of Christ, because the plan for His sacrifice was not complete in mere penalty bearing, but included the concept of power to dispense with death and to create eternal life for His own people.
Done? Yes done! I see God did not make a mess of things, we did! How handsomely
simple to have it all like that, the bridge built on earth, with specifications
from heaven, so that I might tread it on - what do you call it ? - my