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FAITH IN UNITY AND IN ACTION
work-out with acronyms
losing spiritual weight
for athletic purposes
which we add
to stir the imagination and oil the spirit -
both to aid memory and activate faith
WE saw in Jotting 19 something of the love and unity in the Lord.
This is something which, as in our physical body, needs attention. You are to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to do, as Paul tells the church at Philippi (Ch.2).
Now the RESULT is not here the question (for Philippians 3:20-21 makes that quite clear). It is not matter, at this point in proceedings, either, of the ENTRY. That is already amply dealt with in terms of the Redeemer and the receipt of His redemption. Today it is question NOT of how you ENTER the freeway, but of how you PROCEED.
One recalls a freeway - or rather toll way - in the US where a rather modest entry point came to a toll bar. One had to put in something small - maybe a quarter. Since this did not appear in my pockets, there was a delay. Behind me, a truck driver provided gratis the required funds and in I went. So with Christ. Like the truck driver, He provides gratis the way in, for we are "justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus" ( Romans 3:24). Then, one has to drive, and drive, on and on, maybe as with me so often, from Cleveland to Chicago.
For hours and hours one proceeds until the early morning light strikes upon the dulled highway in Chicago.
So the way is narrow, there is a middle white line to indicate what is sound doctrine for driving - and doctrine is teaching and teaching means practice and practice means avoidance of accidents. So it is in the spiritual life. To rush moreover is dangerous, and to dally saps the strength in reaching the goal in workmanlike fashion.
Today then it is a matter of the drive. If you do not keep the rules you may end up in the ditch, requiring first aid and upsetting others. It is good to keep the rules. There is room for plenty of artistry within that. Look for example at Barnabus, since our underlying theme is still and love and unity in Christ. In Acts 9:27 you see experienced Barnabus introduce the former church-persecutor Paul, to the Church. He acted in oil in a door, as graphite in a lock. He smoothed the way, helping action with confidence. Doubtless the question arose, Was this Paul doing some stunt, some smooth trick in which MORE yet of the Christians would be imprisoned and beaten ? But no. In the love of the brethren, Barnabus understood, acted and secured the beautiful result of mutual trust and action.
Again, in Acts 11:25 you see him do something similar. After much persecution, there was a spreading of disciples to other centres, and churches needed help. SO Barnabus finds Paul in his native city and brings him back. After danger in Jerusalem, Paul had been sent to another place, and now was the time for his 'rescue for service' by this farseeing saint. THAT is brotherly love and unity in Christ. Soon the Lord called Paul and Barnabus for missionary work (Acts 13).
MARK also was something of a missionary failure at first (Acts 13:13 with 12:25). We see that Mark's early return from the missionary program to Jerusalem was not to Paul's taste at all. Indeed he declined at that time again to rely on Mark, differing on this point with Barnabus (Acts 15:36ff.). Hence Barnabus took his young relative, Mark and Paul proceeded with a different partner. PAUL was making DISCIPLINE clear, that life requires working out your salvation with fear and trembling. BARNABUS made GRACE clear, that we restore one who falls in a spirit of meekness. Thus both elements were focussed, the work went on and as we shall see, it grew and prospered. The beauty here is double.
First, Mark made good. In the end, not only does Peter refer to him as a son (presumably as in the faith, the case similarly with Timothy, who became like a son to Paul), but Paul specifically asks for the help of young Mark (by now not so young), who he has found to be profitable in the ministry, when he, Paul is older and in danger of his life! ( I Peter 5:13, II Timothy 4:11).
too is brotherly love and Christian unity in the community which is scripturally
called, "the household of faith" - Galatians 6:10. How the devil would
have been inclined to gloat, if mere dissension had led to pride and pomp,
division and distaste. Here however it led to specialisation and improvisation,
with activation of roles and maturing of men who were men indeed.
THE LOT FOR HOLD - WASH!
THE 'THE' in each case IS MERELY INTRODUCTORY.
- is for love
O - is for obey
T - is for trust*1.
- is for focus
O - is for on
R - is for Redeemer, short of course for the Redeemer, the Lord Jesus Christ.
HOLD is for hold on to the Lord's deity, a reminder always to realise that Christ is God in action on earth in human form, sent for that purpose, the Son from the everlasting Father, whose He is and for whom He acted, each in each, the Son also specially anointed for the purpose with the Holy Spirit.
W - is for wait, wait on the Lord, for thus you renew your strength, avoid immature precipitancy and seeking His face, find the realities you need, as a dog from his master, a servant from his employer, but THIS employer is the worker who worked out our very body plans, and adorned it with the plan of our salvation.
A - is for ASK, which is put in capitals here, for it is so easy to be perplexed or troubled instead of presenting your case carefully to the Lord, your grounds and the word of God which authorises what you want, and seeking, almost like requisitioning, but there is a different spirit to it, and getting what is NEEDED to get the current job done, whether it be personal or principial.
S - is for sacrifice, for there may well be sacrifice as you die daily to what you might have preferred in the interest of the Lord and His word, which is - after all HIS who spoke it and hence represents HIM - and hence, with those of like mind, find in the mind of Christ, the will of God, the path of service that is pleasing to Him as HEAD of the BODY of which all who are His are parts.
H - is for hope, for it is no mere dismal duty to suffer, if need be, but a part of the process of securing the triumphs of His grace and the joy of the Lord, making ends meet in the form of a good rope that binds. It is a holy joy to look beyond the problem to the solution maker, past the chaffing to the oil, and past the toil to the wonder of it, which He who rules, is to secure.
we can adapt the WHOLE ACRONYM SERIES, as a MESSAGE:
So all encumbrance left in the hold (cf. Acts 4:36-37 is one kind of sacrifice), the pilgrim, fleet of foot, finishes his/her task. In another sense, the LOT is for the hold - all of it, all that one has (cf. Luke 14:27-33). While the Lord may elect to use one's possessions and turn potential burden into blessing for many, the LOT is in His hand, as are talents and opportunities, for His service in His heavenly kingdom. In THAT sense, it is the LOT for the hold.
that, the message adds this: "Wash!" So "washed"
and this "in the blood of the Lamb" (Revelation
1:5, 5:12, 7:14, I Corinthians 6:11), the outer form of the Christian is
covered by the penal, vicarious death of Christ.
But it is time to turn to a different, a purely pictorial imagery in our excursion into the mnemonics and athletics of pilgrimage.
Now can you imagine a BEE on a LEAF. One day I may find one to insert here, but for the moment spend a few seconds constructing one on this page, with the eye of the mind. It sits there, in the sun, resting.
First of course, this is a picture of BE LIEVE, the 'be' sitting next to the 'lieve', the bee to the leaf.
Secondly, this literally figurative (if you like to make things clear by mix-up!) procedure allows a further nexus of thought about brotherly unity and love, and proceeding along the highway of salvation. While we rest on THAT figure, let us add to it, before reverting to our bee on the leaf.
Thus, if you look for that in Isaiah 35, you find a HIGHWAY of SALVATION. Prepared of the Lord, it is THERE, like any other highway, and USABLE in like manner! THIS highway however, being called HIGHWAY OF HOLINESS, is thus not so readily available if holiness is not to your taste, as it most certainly will not be if you are not wholly devoted to the Lord whose wholeness makes holiness meaningful. It is a wholesomeness too, a complete correlation with Christ as leader and master and saviour and friend. It is a living experience with an inward witness, an objective reality with the word of God as constant instrumental test (permit me to change the figure yet again), as in an aircraft in a storm where you just HAVE to trust the instruments.
Returning to our highway however, let us consider. If non-holiness is your option, then do you not see that this is NOT relevant to the highway which is CALLED the highway of holiness. It is not that a Christian can lose salvation (John 10:9,27-28, I Thessalonians 5:10, I John 5:12-13), but that he/she may dally in the ditch for a time.
THEN, EVEN IF you are a fool - and it is hard to imagine one becoming any worse, even temporarily - YET YOU WILL GO ASTRAY WHEN ON THIS HIGHWAY. THAT is specifically the promise found in Isaiah 35. I find it delicious, so ironic in one way, so strengthening in another. If this is not to your taste, examine your mouth! If it is, rejoice in your heart. THAT is a promise. USE IT!
Now it is time to revert from roadworks to insect activities.
WORDS TO THE PICTURE
A Question of a Bee on a Leaf
A leaf suggests growth. This reminds us of Peter's word (II Peter 3:18): "But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To Him be glory both now and forever, Amen."
The veins of the leaf suggest integration of parts, which they tend to outline, in the unity of the whole, which again brings to mind the unity of the brethren, the household of faith (as in Romans 12, Ephesians 2:21-22, 4:14-16, I Cor. 12).
The greenness of the leaf stirs thought of vitality, of life abundant which Christ came to give (John 10:10): not some stringency of stinging, gratuitous restriction, but an opening from the paths of dark betrayal of His own glory in His creation, to the ones fitting and fine, noble and enduring (II Cor. 4:16-18, Philippians 4:8).
sap in the veins of the leaf on which the bee rests: this suggests the
Holy Spirit ministering to each part, bringing a refreshing, encouragement
and strength wholly beyond the individual part's ability. "Be
filled with the Spirit" (Ephesians 5, cf.
Zechariah 4, esp. v.12 ) is the word here, and it is a word, being from
God, which in the pursuit, blesses. For that matter, turning further to
Zechariah, the leaf suggests a branch and it is a Biblical figure in turn
for the Messiah, the Christ who has come (Zechariah 3:9-10, 6:12, who bears
and removes the sin in ONE DAY, for those related).
But back to the bee.
Its wings suggests action, doing work with self-discipline, DOING THE WILL OF GOD FROM THE HEART (Ephesians 6:5). It directs thought to doing the WILL OF GOD DAILY BY FAITH. Why have faith if you do not use it ? Did Paul suggest, did the church as presented in the Bible waste its time on gambles, punts, or did it SEEK and FIND and then DO the will of God. By faith, then, do it.
The bee likewise, with its little leg-cups for pollen, suggests bringing home results from service in the field, and hence winning souls, comforting the saints, bringing blessing to the weak and bringing more to the household of faith, while enriching it with teaching, instructing it with wisdom, helping it with understanding, and building in the structure of the Lord (of which again, the hexagonal bee chambers reminds us, stressing the order and effectiveness available as we walk in the children, walk with the Lord, as children of the light).
The dance of the bees, which now appears to be a mode of transferring information from bee scouts to the others, so that they might go to a food source, knowing the distance and the direction by which to find it, reminds one of the congregation in its unity, meeting and conversing, communicating together, sharing and imparting, and acting with plan and due counsel. Congregation ? yes, this suggests that it actually MEETS and works TOGETHER in the same place at the same time, without the dubious and dangerous features of mere isolationism.
Wings however also suggest WINDS, reminding us to beware of being misdirected through sudden impulses and innovations of doctrine, which test the heart, the life and the spirit together (Ephesians 4:14). Fighting the winds can lose spiritual weight, preventing complacency and self-assurance!
is our little pictorial substitute for verbal acronym, a condensation by
PICTURE, as the other is by WORD.
IN WORKING ORDER
You can trust someone, so far. Yet in the Lord, you should have faith without limit. Your heart may stop, your brain may be damaged, your legs may be arthritic; but your Lord is not subject to diminution of power, loss of life or default in reliability. That is the nature of Jesus Christ the righteous, the Just One.
Not merely can you NOT please God without faith, how could you doubt Him if you loved Him! Would you love a sporting figure, but doubt if he had strength, facility, skill and self-discipline ? Perhaps, but if you so regarded the Lord, you would not know who He is.
Thus when Peter was asked WHO Christ was, the point was critical (Matthew 16). He had found the rock on which the church would be built, God Himself (Psalm 62:1-3), the only rock that is not insufferable and presumptuous, not to say unrealistic and forbidden. Himself a mere stone (the play on words petros and petra is vast and the Lord Himself immovable petra, received and operative through faith as with Peter), Peter was at once corrected for presumption in this very instance, imagining like the pope, he could add to the plan of God or His words or His way (Matthew 16:22-23). Christ rebuked Him sharply. But he took it, because, you see, he TRUSTED in Him.
Peter ALREADY knew who Jesus was, in terms of His actions, His spirit and His power. Did he however know His everlasting source in whom He forever had moved (Micah 5:1-3, John 17) ? Did he know His strength as the rock of ages and His agelessness as the living Son of God ? Yes, he came to see this as the Father revealed it to him by His Spirit. "You," he said, "are the Christ, the Son of the living God." Definitive, unique, dynamic, holy, just and pure, humble, wise and gracious, this was the Lord, and Peter now knew who He was.
Could he then doubt later ? He COULD deny Christ over a few hours, and then on the same night bitterly repent (Luke 23:54-62). Yes he could do that. But he COULD NOT live that way. Repentance followed like day after night. Faith simply doesn't live that way, when it is faith in God, for God is NOT subject to alteration or equivocation or intimidation. He simply IS, as He indicated at the first to Moses (Exodus 3:14).
A little weakness for a time is compatible with faith, but profound weakness for ever, this is not.
It is like a daphne bush. Do you know daphne ? If not, an early acquaintance is desirable. If so, you will understand this. It is a small bush, and inconspicuous, and indeed some of its branch joints might almost suggest the slightly arthritic. It is not ugly, but certainly not prepossessing in its structure. It has no form or comeliness that we should desire it, if you see the point, which is made in Isaiah 53, concerning Christ. Expressly God the Father did not present His face in a polished paragon of fleshly appeal. Christ did not come like that. That would cloud the issue.
So daphne. Yet if you once savour its fragrance, it is unforgettable, appealing, it draws like the sea on a hot day, a fresh wind in a sultry overcast time. It lifts and it charms, it touches the feelings, refreshes the heart with a savour which is sweeter than eau de cologne, not quite as sharp but with a prepossessing almost violet-like aroma which hints of eau de cologne and of a forest of flowers.
Faith is rather like this. It is such a little thing. After all, it is not in yourself: it is not a strength of yours, for it is a contact point, an access mode to what does the works. Yet once let it operate and you are in a different universe: WHEN AND IF IT IS FAITH IN GOD ON THE ACCESS ROUTE PROVIDED. Why this qualification ?
If you have faith in your serve in tennis, it can yet abandon you, for you are psychically, physically and mentally involved in many dimensions. If however you have faith in God the access is to what is, and what is God is great and grand and glorious and has unlimited power: what is God ? Say rather: the ONE WHO is God, and as to power, He has with it compassion and understanding. As to that, it is coincident with love that is neither domineering nor possessive, but which possesses as all love does, with a grace and goodness which needs no interpretation, for it speaks ... like daphne, past all expectation.
With this, He has instructions,
found in the Bible. WHEN THESE ARE FOLLOWED, then the fruits of faith come
like grapes on the vine (which like daphne is not good to look at, though
its leaves, when they come are fine, and like daphne, has a great gift
to make when it grows).
Hence our acronym has both TRUST and OBEDIENCE in the "LOT". Yet without love, the rest is mere exercise of power. It is like a sharp knife for salad, marvellous to do the job, but hopeless if you cut yourself. Better eat with less instrumentation than that! Hence LOT starts with L for LOVE.
Faith in more than trust. It involves a dimension of intercourse and interchange. Because God is alive, when you have faith in Him by the chosen access route (His choice, not yours), Jesus Christ the way and the life, then it is an introduction to LIFE, the life of and in God. It is rather like having an automobile. It has gas. It has wheels and tyres and maybe a powerful engine. However, you MUST start it, or it will never go, unless down into some ditch or useless resting place, which is life without Christ.
By faith it is started. Then
it goes. WHEN it goes, you cannot help noticing it, for the scenery changes
and the power to achieve things worthy of a motorist is now with you. However
if the engine stalls in traffic (as Peter's did when he denied Christ over
a space of several hours, it seems), it can be exceedingly dangerous. If
your faith is in the Lord, however, He then becomes the resident mechanic
and rescues you, yet perhaps not without a ticket. Look at David and Bath-Sheba:
David flourished after that, but so did the rebuke which reminded him of
his colossal folly. He did not repeat it.
If you are therefore ever in this mode, you are KEPT in it, kept by the power of God through faith to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled, and which does not fade away (I Peter 1:4).
THIS IS FAITH. It is impossible to hide it. You cannot amend the motion of a car under power. It declares itself, not least by its motion. Hence you GROW in GRACE and in the knowledge of Jesus Christ (II Peter 3:18). You cannot well do other, since the thing is alive: your life is activated in faith in a cordial inter-relationship with God. It is the vitality and practicality and enduement which comes, which speaks for itself: except to the deaf.
Deaf as a post, the dead without Christ, cannot hear (Ephesians 2:1). But the works are self-evident, despite spite and gloom, perverted spirituality on the part of impostors without Christ but not without the use of His name. Like a rose, these works are deep with many layers of spirit and personality and self-control and self-restraint and forgiveness and grace and helpfulness and courage and character and compassion and concern.
Without these things, and the purposes which give to man meaning and message, and the truth which puts it past the idle dreams of philosophers to the cordial entente available in the universe with God who made it: man is writhing in folly, contorted in pride, bound in contempt, saturated with strife, a whirlpool of contesting currents and ascending torments of tornadoes of competition, resentment and presumption. Look around you. There are two ways. One is the way of hope, trust and obedience, faith and washing. The other is a nonentity.
Look to the Lord and He will
hear you, repent and receive Him and He will carry you - where you are
to go, in the kingdom of heaven, whose Lord is heavenly.