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There is Nothing Cryptic
About the Script for Current Christian Life
In Chapter 3, we were considering the paths of spirituality, peace and probity, reality and structured beauty. Now it is appropriate to look further at the quiet streams of loveliness of the life in the Lord, to see something of the height and depth and breadth of the love of God, in the passage of the brooks of beauty, in His peace.
Then, we finished on a note like this:
To this man will the Lord look, to him who is poor, and of a contrite spirit (Isaiah 66:1-2, Psalm 51:17); and the sacrifices of God in those who would come to Him ? They are that one should be poor, and of a contrite spirit. So do Isaiah and the Psalm, in kindred manner, indicate the way which David shows, as if an X-ray of his heart were provided for medical students of the heart, allowing and stirring them the better to appreciate the realism of it all, and to relish the nature of such dealings.
It is when the heart to heart affairs are made right, and the receipt of His pardon is not presumed but obtained by faith through His all-sufficient grace, that in its time, the grand day of His power, when the people of the Lord past, rise first, and those who are left join them at His coming (I Thessalonians 4), it is then that the people of the Lord together in one paean of praise and spiritual consummation, clothed with the garments of immortality, see His face, that glory comes like the Spring of magnificence, after the Winter of trials (Revelation 7:14ff., 21-22).
Now we turn to the present as the prelude to such things for the children of God. After all, the consummation has a prelude, the completion has a beginning and the beauty has a tang and savour as the Rocky Mountains do, when seen from afar, as one approaches towards Colorado Springs.
It is all harmonious, and in verification of its completion, let us then consider the earlier phases.
ALOFT BUT NOT ALOOF
When the Spirit of the living God becomes resident in a man, at the time of his conversion, there are vast changes. First however let us look at the symposium of spirituality (Romans 8:9), the work of the Spirit as He acts towards this great result, which in turn sits like a child before the consequences into eternity.
1) There is the DRAWING as
Christ is lifted up, and the sinner is attracted.
2) There is CONVICTION as sin is
sundered from its inbuilt premises with much rending.
3) There is the REPENTANCE as
the Spirit of grace and supplications (Zech. 12:10)
4) There is the REGENERATION as
the past building being demolished,
5) There is the MOUNTAIN
FASTNESS OF CHRIST in which the soul,
6) There is the BOLDNESS OF
FAITH by which, like Jonathan with his armour bearer,
7) There is the PERSPECTIVE OF
SPIRITUALITY in which the spirit of the converted man works,
8) Next there is the
ILLUMINATION OF GRACE (Ephesians 1:17) by which light is cast
9) There is the testimony of
DIVINE ADOPTION by which one becomes a child of God
10) There is the LEADING OF THE
SPIRIT, not a matter of pseudo-autonomous arrogance
11) There comes the ARTICULATION
OF GRACE, by which love opens the mouth,
12) There is the EXPECTATION OF FAITH through which prayer is made in confidence and works impossible to man, are wrought in patience.
Let us take for the moment,
7), the perspective of spirituality. In Ephesians 1:3, 2:6,
we find that the converted person is
'blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ',
while later we see that 'even when we were dead in trespasses and sins,'
He has 'made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved!),'
and that He has 'raised us up together and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ.'
THAT is a vast source of perspective. It is from this 'altitude' that one can find sight that gives knowledge and discern distant things as if near. In Ephesians 1, we find that already, as a finished thing,
"He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world" (1:4),
"having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ" (1:5), so that He
"has made us accepted in the Beloved" (literally 'engraced'). He proceeds to declare that
"we have redemption through His blood" (1:7), by which
"He made us to abound in all knowledge and wisdom and prudence" (1:8),
"having made known to us the mystery of His will" (1:9). In 1:11 Paul adds that
"in Him we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose
of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will".
As if this were not enough, Paul's list of things ALREADY DONE, continues. The Christians were
"sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise" (1:13), the guarantee that we will receive in time, the new body in eternity, the "purchased possession"
(as in II Corinthians 5:1-4, I John 3:1ff., Romans 8:23).
That is all in the first chapter of Ephesians. Now in Chapter 2, we find that despite the demerits of living beforehand, outside of Christ, through grace God, we find, for the Christian, that He has
"made us alive," "raised us up together" and
"made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus."
This then is all part of the current condition of Christians. They may, like Daniel and his three friends, be isolated in some alien culture, or they may be swarming like thrusting bees, in some vast aggregation or congregation, but the result is the same. This is what God has achieved for them; this is their current situation, and it is something that is ALREADY DONE.
What then is the nature of this being seated in the heavenly places, this wonder to which Christians are not merely called, but come. First, as in 1:3, it is correlative to being blessed with every spiritual blessing. Secondly, it is a placement enabling us in the ages to come, so that we might show "the exceeding riches of His grace towards us in Christ Jesus", we being saved by grace through faith, and His workmanship, created in Christ for good works.
It means too that we are no longer aliens, but "fellow citizens with the saints, and members of the household of God."
These then are things that God has already done, and here are more of the present consequences. Paul thus prays that they be "strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man", so that Christ dwelling in their hearts by faith, they might be able to COMPREHEND, as those rooted and grounded in love, what is the length and depth and height, what are the dimensions of the love of Christ which is like His riches, infinite, unsearchable. It is this same Lord who is able to do "exceedingly abundantly above all we ask or think" and this is "according to the power what works in us". That too, it is present.
Thus there is a scope for the PRESENT which depends on actions taken by God both in the ETERNAL TIMES (Ephesians 1:4-5) and more recently. It involves a whole host of provisions and presentations, enablements and graces, blessings both current and proceeding to all time. One of these is being raised up to sit together with Him in heavenly places, a thing DONE.
Obviously, then, this is partly structural, as is the context, in terms of redemption, partly functional, in terms of power and performance criteria, partly testimonial, in terms of enablement, partly a matter of spiritual perspective, enlarging the understanding, partly of prudence, enabling practicalities, partly intimacy of communication, imbuing with spiritual fellowship and grace (as in John 14:21-23, where Christ will manifest Himself, He and the Father make their home within the spirit of the abiding Christian).
There is neither limit to the love nor to the power to answer prayer, to the grace nor to the blessings; it is not one or another thing, but spiritual fellowship, spiritual inheritance for ever, spiritual power and spiritual resource (Hebrews 9:12, Philippians 4:13, Ephesians 3:20, John 10:27-28); and it is dynamically operative, a site for refreshing and a scope for service.
These are some of the PRESENT realities associated in the SCRIPT DIVINE with the seeing of the FACE OF GOD when that time comes. It is not without its preliminaries, and presents a completion such as Spring does to Winter, vacation to work, the hanging of a portrait to its composition.
Aloft in such a celestial platform, the Christian is not aloof however, since the testimony of truth is both inheritance and export, while the power of God is that of that Spirit who in Christ, incarnate by predestinative counsel, humbled Himself. In humbling, He had deity to give; and we who are His, in moving from such "heavenly places" to work for Him, move with the awareness of grace from His face, and the expectation of suffering for His service, for the servant is not above his master, and if the Master has suffered, what then the servant!
Yet HIS suffering is redemptive, and ours is declarative, that in our own persons, the Lord might have ambassadors of grace, fearless in courage, intense in commitment and comradely to the fallen (Colossians 1:24).
THE MAGNIFICENT PROVISIONS OF SPIRITUAL ACTION
Having specialised somewhat on number 7 amid the spiritual actions associated with the bringing of people into the kingdom of God, let us now be more general, and indeed attempt to see something of the sequence of the whole.
NO ONE can come to me unless the Father DRAW him, Christ declared (John 6:44).
Nor can anyone come except the Son WILLS it Matthew 11:27, Luke 9:22). As we have so often seen, as from Colossians 1 and numerous other parts of the words of God, there is no question of reluctance to WIN ANY, but of the final knowledge of God as to who are His own (Romans 8:30), for not all are, and human freedom, though annulled through sin in power to SELECT GOD, is not beyond God to know.
So there is a WILLING and a DRAWING. However ALL will be drawn if Christ be lifted up (John 12:32-33), and this, we are told, refers to the death which He would accomplish.
This however is one phase, not all parts. In addition, there is a CONVICTION of three things, a scalding or scolding. By this, man is made aware firstly of his sin, because of their withholding belief in Christ, secondly of righteousness, an input of illuminative kind concerning Christ and the integrity of God, since in their follies they murdered Him, as many in spirit still do, dismissing Him for their follies by preference. This is because, then, He proceeded from this earth to His Father, leaving it to fill out its own forms of unbelief in the storms of tragedy and misrule.
Thirdly, the convicting force from the Spirit of God, as in John 16:6ff., is of judgment. This is because the prince of this world is judged. In other words, the spiritual forces back of the political blindness, the diplomatic deviousness and deceit, the robust deceptions and the cunning prowlings of the nations, of many of the commercial enterprises, indulging in self-aggrandisement, outsets of wounded spirits not made whole, the individual maladies of mind and spirit that tolerate such dysfunction and permit it: all of these are shown up for what the case is. And that ? it is a sick society in a doomed world, unable to go right.
There is thus a SPIRITUAL DRAWING and a CONVICTION BY THE HOLY SPIRIT in THREE MODES.
Next as we move to see a soul translated, conveyed from the kingdom of such dark things and devices, to the sheer goodness of the kingdom of God (Colossians 1:13), we find 3), repentance, itself wrought by the Spirit of God, as people realise that without this, they are mere outsiders, without grace, covenant or place in God (Ephesians 2:12). Repentance is NECESSARY as in Luke 13, and as we saw in Ch. 3 above, not merely legally necessary, but substantially so in terms of the spiritual nature of things, as well; for God IS spirit, and there is no way in which what is spiritually high-minded, self-serving or provided with self-given accolades or unrealistic self-fantasy will be acceptable.
Gifts are given, not created by man. In his rescue, grace is given, not created by man.
These things done, there is now scope for the completion of REGENERATION, 4), as in John 3, and Titus 3:3-7, and the testimony of the SPIRIT OF ADOPTION as in Romans 8:16.
The spirit of man is then HIDDEN in Christ, 5), that is covered, kept and in abiding and felicitous relationship with Him, so that this world cannot judge such persons, for their place is celestial, their guide is God and their depths, motivation and activation are not from visible sources, for they are like Moses, who proceeded as seeing Him who is invisible (Hebrews 11, I Corinthians 2:15-16, Ephesians 3:16ff., Colossians 3:3). The last verse noted, let us regard:
"For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God."
You see a similar aspect in Psalm 91:
"He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High
Shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty."
BOLDNESS, 6), results as sought in Acts 4 and shown in Acts 4 and 5, taken in order. We start with 4:23-31:
"And being let go, they went to their own companions and reported all that the chief priests and elders had said to them. So when they heard that, they raised their voice to God with one accord and said:
'Lord, You are God, who made heaven and earth and the sea, and all that is in them, who by the mouth of Your servant David have said:
Why did the nations rage,
And the people plot vain things?
The kings of the earth took their stand,
And the rulers were gathered together
Against the Lord and against His Christ.
" 'For truly against Your holy Servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, were gathered together to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose determined before to be done.
" 'Now, Lord, look on their threats, and grant to Your servants that with all boldness they may speak Your word, by stretching out Your hand to heal, and that signs and wonders may be done through the name of Your holy Servant Jesus.'
"And when they had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness."
The Spirit of God fills them after this prayer. Their words in Acts 4 and 5 abundantly attest this spiritual grace:
"And they called them and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John answered and said to them,
'Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you judge.
For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.' "
In Acts 5, despite physical duress, and in the face of intimidatory tacatics, they declared:
"We ought to obey God rather than men."
Then they proceeded.
" 'The God of our fathers raised up Jesus whom you murdered by hanging on a tree.
" 'Him God has exalted to His right hand to be Prince and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. And we are His witnesses to these things, and so also is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey Him.'
The result desired is not comfort of man, but glory to God, hence we are anything but surprised to read the sequel:
"When they heard this, they were furious and plotted to kill them."
The PERSPECTIVE OF SPIRITUALITY, 7), which we have already considered, and the ILLUMINATION OF GRACE, 8) as in Ephesians 1:17ff., are coherently cohesive with these things. SIGHT and COURAGE are twins, though only God can show their integrity together with consistency.
Thus we read from Paul in this place, his prayer that:
"the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory,
may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him,
the eyes of your understanding being enlightened;
"that you may know what is the hope of His calling,
what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints,
and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe,
according to the working of His mighty power
"which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead
and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places,
far above all principality and power and might and dominion,
and every name that is named,
not only in this age but also in that which is to come.
"And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church,
which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all."
The threefold compartments focussed in this prayer, at the outset, and resulting from the work of the SPIRIT OF WISDOM AND REVELATION in the knowledge of God, are:
1) an enlightenment to understanding that one might SEE,
2) an awareness of the nature of being divinely CALLED, that one may KNOW, and
3) a knowledge of the WONDERS OF HIS PROVISIONS FOR EVER,
HIS POWER IN HISTORY and beyond, in Christ, for ever, that one may realise.
The testimony of spiritual adoption, 9), as in Romans 8:16, like the bloom on peaches, intimately related to regeneration, 9), wrought by the Holy Spirit likewise, brings the individual and personal beauty of this relationship to light, while the personal LEADING BY THE SPIRIT, 10), is similarly associated. Its modes are many, and unwise is the person who would limit the Almighty in His ways (Psalm 78:41).
It may be a vision (Acts 10), or a constraint (Acts 8:29), or a dream (Acts 2), or a direct impact of the word of God in the Bible (Colossians 3:16), a combination or other. God does it as He pleases. Yet always, one is bound to TEST the spirit (I John 4), since Satan is a great deceiver, ensuring the testimony of the incarnate God as Christ is there, to check with the word of God as permanent standing orders, and to humble oneself before Him. Hudson Taylor's call to be a missionary in China had a vast CONSTRAINT which admitted of no doubt, so that when he as a medical student, was in danger of death by plague, he had an answer. God had called him to China and he was not there yet!
Thus self-verifying guidance from God evidently led him.
Certainly, in Pentecostalism, where this is great emphasis on such features, there is a vast gulf in many cases, since in them the clear word of God is rejected in rebellion at the outset. Thus in many phases, there is common emphasis on tongues which, while scriptural, are certainly not allowed in anything like the manner, scope or mannerisms, far less some of the devious and unscriptural doctrines often found. Paul made it clear that his words for Corinth were for ALL churches (I Cor. 1:1ff.), and that he was a master builder (I Cor. 3:10), so that the rule of one or two only, never without interpreter, always singly (I Cor. 14), being normally breached, there is nothing to be sought in such disobedience. Rebellion is not a good prelude to divine guidance!
Remember Saul, mighty indeed, but mightily misled. See A Question of Gifts.
That having been said, one must avoid equally the reaction which intemperately seeks to avoid all the power of God in gifts given, as if the abuse forbad the use.
The ARTICULATION OF GRACE, 11), we have already pondered at COURAGE as seen in the apostles and their words under duress and in trial. Of course it is not only in confrontation, though this is no small or unimportant part of it, as you see in Luke 21:11-16 (bold added):
"And there will be great earthquakes in various places, and famines and pestilences; and there will be fearful sights and great signs from heaven.
"But before all these things, they will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons. You will be brought before kings and rulers for My name’s sake.
"But it will turn out for you as an occasion for testimony. Therefore settle it in your hearts not to meditate beforehand on what you will answer; for I will give you a mouth and wisdom which all your adversaries will not be able to contradict or resist."
One has personally found the truth of this! It is only part of the blessedness of abiding in Christ. As spiritual things become real beyond this earth, it becomes true that one can more readily speak of them, just as one can speak to a friend more readily than of a photograph. The personal presence makes the communication more practical, the arena more obvious, the action most natural! When the supernatural has become natural to you, through His Spirit and in the name of Jesus the only Mediator of God to man, then it becomes less an alien thing to converse concerning Him. To be sure, one should not cast pearls before swine, but then that is for the intense pathology of the contriver, not for those who seek.
Finally, we come to the EXPECTATION OF FAITH, 12), as in Ephesians 3:20-21, Mark 11:22-24, John 16:22-23, Hebrews 11, so that one is moved with due prayer and Biblical search, awareness of the circumstances and seeking for the will of God in love through His merciful comradeship, to seek what is required for His glory and kingdom. Where faith moves, then mountains move. They are not moved for convenience, for the Cross itself was inconvenient, but necessary. They are moved to enable one to fulfil the good pleasure of God, the God of all comfort, and it is this which, more than the power of any Empire, brings about progress so aptly and amply in the kingdom of heaven and its furthest reaches.
The hour is coming, like the setting sun, when darkness comes (John 9:4), and when it will be too late to act. Now is the time, and these are the spiritual premisses, abundantly attested in life, which are the divine and elect prelude to glory, to seeing the face of Him for whom one has suffered, been sent, striven and worked.
Consider then the series of spiritual thrusts back of salvation, as God draws near to man, and applies the redemption wrought on the Cross, their sequence, their texture and their wonder. Not small is the divine provision so lavishly displayed NOW, and vast are its consequences to eternity.