Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Faith or Folly?

 "'Among those who approach me I will be proved holy; in the sight of all the people I will be honored.'" Leviticus 10:3 NIV

Unlocking the Mysteries or Handling Strange Fire?

“And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”  Matthew 16:19 KJV In the tradition that we have been a part the last 40 years this passage of scripture is often quoted.  The idea being connoted is that if we speak forth something on the earth them it will be accomplished in heaven. I believe there is an issue of sequence here that most translations miss giving rise to all sorts of folly and fiction–coming very close to conjuring. On this basis we march recklessly into battle and end up thoroughly defeated much as Israel in its first attempt to take the city of Ai - for presumption is a sin in the camp.  “Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me!” Psalm 19:13a ESV Yet it is not about solitary battles only - it is about a war of influence that we are losing. However, the Lord God has something else in mind that will occur before the consummation of this present age: "For the earth will be filled With the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, As the waters cover the sea.” Habakkuk 2:14 

The Lord’s Side

“My concern is not whether God is on our side; my greatest concern is to be on God’s side,” Abraham Lincoln.  I believe we often get this severely confused. I was watching Jim Wallis of Sojourners being interviewed on TV and he continued after quoting President Lincoln, “This takes true humility.”  Humility is the chief characteristic that the Father is seeking, for it is the main attribute of His Son. Through humility He accomplished all that His Father had given Him to do and was then exalted to the Right Hand: “I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do.” John 17:4 NIV  For He did nothing but in response to what He saw His Father doing: “Jesus gave them this answer: ‘Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.’” John 5:19 NIV Humility may be the one accolade of humanity that one can never apply to oneself for in so doing whatever essence of verity that may have existed would be gone as a vapor.

“Are You for us or for our enemies??” “Neither,” He replied. “I have now come as commander of the LORD’s army.” Then Joshua bowed with his face to the ground in worship and asked Him, “What does my Lord want to say to His servant??” Joshua 5:13b-14 NIV Let us not miss Joshua’s change in attitude - from whose side have you come to serve - to true worship.  True worship does not presume to have the word of the Lord, it bows in humility to receive the Word of the Lord - then and only then do the true worshipers venture forth. On the Day of the Lord, the wheat heavy laden with fruitfulness bows its head in submission all the while reflecting the amber glory of the Lord to be gathered unto everlasting life while the tares remain upright in barren defiance only to be swept up into eternal destruction.

The Sound of a going...

With the great Philistine army spread out before him King David was warned not to go forward until he heard the Word of the Lord: “And let it be, when thou hearest the sound of a going in the tops of the mulberry trees, that then thou shalt bestir thyself: for then shall the LORD go out before thee, to smite the host of the Philistines.” 2 Samuel 5:24 KJV And this is the last instance in which the Philistines threatened the integrity of Israel–for the King did not go forth into battle until he was aware of the initiative of the Lord.

Someone once said, “God has not come to take sides, but to take over.”  I just heard this at a leadership seminar conducted by Pastor Ron Crum, “We want Your will, nothing more - nothing less!”

Teach us to pray...

Indeed this is the way that we have been taught to pray by our Lord Himself.  When He was asked by His disciples how they should pray He first exhorted them “use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.”  There is nothing about this form of “prayer” that requires revelation by way of relationship.  I like the way the NIV puts it: “do not keep on babbling like pagans,...”  

In His person Christ came to restore relationship - the Fatherhood of God.  Who else but the Son could accomplish such a thing?  And that is where He told them he was going to take them, not to some ethereal abode somewhere out in time - but to a living dynamic relationship in this present age for they had a commission to fulfill. As this discourse continues that is where He takes His disciples: "So do not be like them; for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.” Matthew 6:8 The Father already knows - the activating factor is simply for His children to ask in agreement. As it has been said, “Effective prayer is telling God what He has told us to tell Him.”

That brings us to His next words of instruction acknowledging first of all His all-knowing  sovereignty and His willingness to make this wisdom known: "Pray, then, in this way: 'Our Father who is in heaven, Hallowed be Your name.”  His next words carry with them a weight that was unanticipated for He had told them not to pray as the “religious hypocrites” nor as the pagans for their prayers were self-centered and self-absorbed.  The prayers of His disciples were first toward the Father and then toward the thrust of His designs being accomplished on the earth through them–this being true worship.  This is the desire and purpose of the Father. True worship is God-ward first and then us-ward to our fellow man.  “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in heaven, so on earth.” Matthew 6:10 ERV  The Message says it like this: “Set the world right;
Do what’s best—as above, so below.”  I like to say it this way, “Thy will be done on earth as it is being done this very moment in heaven.”  True worshipful prayer is the intersection of heaven and earth. For the angelic messenger spoke to Cornelius thus opening the Gospel to the whole world: “Your prayers and your alms have ascended as a memorial before God.” Acts 10:4 

Call into being...

We are commissioned to call into being that which is not as though it were - not presently on earth, but already in heaven. “By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God's command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.”  Hebrews 11:3 NIV If the Father has not spoken, faith is impossible.  If we try to call into being that which is not as though it were and God has not spoken then it is not faith at all - but presumption.  Attempts at positive confession can be nothing more than the vain babblings that we noted above.

We now come back around to our opening passage of scripture and the true key that is held therein.  But for a moment lets look at the preceding events.  Jesus has asked His disciples: "Who do people say that the Son of Man is?" Matthew 16:13 They make replies that are appropriate to the question and suggest secondhand information - maybe from the Jerusalem Daily Post: “Some say...”  Then he moves quickly to the point: "But what about you?" he asked. "Who do you say I am?" Matthew 16:15NIV (His question borders closely on a reference to the Tetragrammaton [YHWH], but no translation makes this connection.)

Peter responds correctly: "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." This is a word of faith for it came forth not as secondhand information–nor was it a product of educated guessing.  The Son was quick to acknowledge: “because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.”  Let us note that up to this point and immediately thereafter the disciple is referred to as Peter - but in this instance the Son calls him Simon Barjona or Simon son of Jona.  He is reminding Peter of his earthly son-ship that He might point Him toward that which is much greater - His heavenly son-ship.  This is the blessing: "Blessed are you,...” For he was now “born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” John 1:13

John Gill comments: "the workmanship of the blessed God, and not the workmanship of flesh and blood.''  It was the heavenly Father’s choice to bring revelation to Peter. If there is any attribute here that could be ascribed to Peter it would be his impulsiveness - yet this characteristic was more often a detriment to him.  

Moving to commission...

Yet, less the tendency take root to remain right there, Jesus quickly moves to commission - or for the reason for the blessing.  What ensues brings the past into the present while looking toward the future - the great Abrahamic Covenant: “and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing.”  Genesis 12:2 In other words - Abraham and those of his seed - are blessed to be a blessing.  Let us be kept from the recurring error of seeing ourselves as those to whom the blessing would come - but rather through whom the blessing would come to others. This is nothing other than the product of Sovereign Choice–which if comprehended in any measure always glorifies the One who has done the choosing, not the one who has been chosen.

Christ tells Peter and all those within hearing - and now those that read - that which has just transpired is the foundational stone on which He will build His church - the rock of revelation. Peter - in his flesh - cannot be the rock for he was being drawn into the very priesthood of the Son Himself of whom it says using Melchizedek as a type: “who has become such not on the basis of a law of physical requirement, but according to the power of an indestructible life.” Hebrews 7:16   And that church with such a foundation cannot be overpowered by Hades’ seat of authority - the reference being to the gate of a walled city. It is worth noting that this is an analogy of offense not one of defense.

The initiative...

There is only one in all of eternity who is creative and capable of initiative - These are the generations of the heavens and of the earth when they were created, in the day that the LORD God made the earth and the heavens,...” Genesis 2:4KJV We, as true worshipers, are called to join in the activity of our Father God.  Let us not succumb to the mistaken notion that worship is confined to certain places, at certain times and with certain modes - it is a lifestyle.

True worship makes a difference...if a difference is not being made then it is not true worship. There is nothing that catches the Father unawares (omniscience), nor anything the Son has not experienced (omnipresent), nor anything the Holy Spirit is powerless to advocate (omnipotent) - it is into that divine activity that true worshipers are called.  The Father is seeking them out and they will be found in Him: “and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the Law, but one that comes through the faithfulness of the Messiah,...” Philippians 3:9a ISV

Once again to the keys...

With this in mind, let us go once again to the keys: "I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven." NASB (1995)  Let us take notice of the sequence here - first in heaven, then on earth.  That is, God is calling us to His side - we are not calling Him to our side. It is only in this sense that this declaration can fit into the narrative.

The keys are the abilities to see into the Father’s heavenly activity.  It is plural for revelation can come in many different ways - the written Word of God, the community of believers, the Holy Spirit’s gifts of grace (charisma), etc. Henry Blackaby has taught us to, “Look and see what God is doing and join Him there.”  It is all the initiative of the Godhead for the Son says, “I will give you...”  To give is to present voluntarily and without expecting compensation in return.  Therefore the giver cannot see in the recipient the ability to reciprocate, nor is the recipient encumbered with such a burden. 

The only acceptable merit...

There is no indication of warranted merit here - it is all of the unmerited favor of the Lord. As a matter of fact, it is often that which seems to be merit in the mind of man that could cause disqualification. May we say that the Son chooses those to whom He will give - "You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain, so that whatever you ask of the Father in My name He may give to you.” John 15:16 NASB Ah, the wonder of divine election the depth of which the mind of man is unable to comprehend. “so that God’s purpose according to His choice would stand, not because of works but because of Him who calls,...”  Romans 9:11 NASB

Just in case we would still want to attribute any vestige of merit to Peter and then vicariously to ourselves as well only a few verses later Jesus has this rejoinder for Peter when his natural mind fails to grasp the fullness of the Son’s mission: But He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s.”  Matthew 16:23 

The only acceptable merit before our Eternal Father is the imputed merit of the Son. ‘and a voice came out of heaven, "You are My beloved Son, in You I am well-pleased."’ Luke 3:22b This was the sole factor that motivated the Son to accomplish all that the Father had given Him to do.


I have just heard on the radio of the passing of George Beverly Shea and these words come to mind as a fitting benediction:

Then sings my soul, my Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, how great Thou art!
Then sings my soul, my Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, how great Thou art!

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