Friday, July 25, 2014

Glorious Liberty of the Children of God.

Recently I was watching CNN’s morning newscast when I heard co-anchor Michaela Pereira say, “When I was three months old my parents chose me to be their daughter.”  That just went all over me. She went on to remark that her adoption was obvious for she is biracial while her parents are decidedly Caucasians. I would add that she was chosen not because she looked like her parents, but simply because their love was directed toward her. (Church, seekers do not have to become like us before they can be one of us.)

This gives such wonderful expression to this verse from John’s Gospel concerning the children of God: “who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” 1:13 The decision is not the warrant of the adopted child. It is the prerogative of the parent alone. “God also decided ahead of time to choose us through Christ according to his plan, which makes everything work the way he intends.” Ephesians 1:21 GOD’S WORD

Chosen - not Choice

The children of God are chosen not a result of being choice, but become choice as a result of having been chosen. Indeed the Word says, “but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong,...” 1 Corinthians 1:27. And Paul goes on to say, “But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption,...” 1:30.

“Because the creation itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.” Romans 8:21 What could be more compelling?  It is a debt that could never be repaid, yet one infinitely motivating.  One who has had such a revelation does not “go out and do whatever he/she wants to” nor is such a one “a puppet on a string.”  This one has truly been set free from bondage with a desire to be like the One who alone is the author and perfecter of such freedom. The desire is such that it is irrepressible for it springs forth from the well of Divine love that has no beginning or end. 

In His Grip

These know that they have been “taken hold of” (Hebrews 2:16) by God and they have no fear of Him losing His grip - thus they are free to be His obedient children. As with Paul they are motivated to lay hold of the one that has taken hold of them–thus they are compelled to press onward and upward.

Just returned from a worship service where we shared in the words of this great hymn:

Jesus sought me when a stranger
Wandering from the fold of God
He to rescue me from danger
Interposed His precious blood
Robert Robinson - 1757

Made Alive!

We are dead in our trespasses and sins until God intervenes: “And you hath he quickened (made alive), who were dead in trespasses and sins;” Ephesians 2:1  Dead is dead! It is not until we have been made alive that we are able to respond - a dead man has no capability of response. We have been made alive by the faithfulness of the Son of God–it is He who has echoed to the Father: “Of Those whom you have given me, I have not lost one.” John 18:9 

Long my imprisoned spirit lay,
Fast bound in sin and nature’s night;
Thine eye diffused a quickening ray—
I woke, the dungeon flamed with light;
My chains fell off, my heart was free,
I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.
Charles Wesley - 1738

Quickening Gaze

Can the quickening gaze of our Sovereign God fail?  Decidedly not! Once He begins His work, He continues inexorably, immutably, unabatedly until His full singular purpose is accomplished in us as individuals and collectively as His Church–conformity into the image of His Son. “He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son,” Colossians 1:13 

Christ in His earthly ministry could only do what He saw His Father doing. Our rebirth is on the same basis - alone. ‘Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, "Abba! Father!"’ Galatians 4:6 The Father knows those whom He has chosen in His Son before the foundation of the earth and He sends His Holy Spirit into them. Here it is the Spirit that cries out “Abba! Father!” In the parallel Romans account of this verse it is we that cry out “Abba! Father!” and here the Spirit is referred to as “the Spirit of adoption” or “the Spirit of sonship.” The divine initiative does not create slaves, robots, automatons or puppets - but children: “For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again,...” Romans 8:15 

Set Free

It is only by the Holy Spirt that we are able to confess Jesus as Lord: ‘and no one can say, "Jesus is Lord," except by the Holy Spirit.’ And there is no salvation outside of this confession: “if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”  There is no freedom to make this confession - and it is in freedom that we make it - until we are set free in the Son: “Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” John 8:35-36 

Glorious Liberty

It is the Father who has decided to set us free into the glorious liberty of His Children. It is the revelation of these for which all of creation is longing that this might be fulfilled: "For the earth will be filled With the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, As the waters cover the sea.” Habbakuk 2:14 

This is what the Sovereign Lord says that He will do:

“Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances.” Ezekiel 36:26-27

New Heart

In other words, in the new covenant God promises that he will take the initiative and will create a new heart, so that people are made members of the new covenant by his initiative, not their own. It promises to create faith and love and obedience where before there was only hardness.1

"As true as God's own word is true;
Nor earth, nor hell, with all their crew,
Against us shall prevail.
A jest, and by-word, are they grown;
God is with us, we are his own,
Our victory cannot fail."

Why does He do this?  Here is the reason.

Soli Deo Gloria! For the Glory of God Alone!

1Piper, John (2013-11-10). Five Points (Kindle Locations 501-502). Christian Focus Publications. Kindle Edition.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Sewn Back Up!

“And the veil of the temple - was sewn back up!”

We are all so familiar with the resounding exclamation of Christ on the cross as He fully and completely satisfied the demands of the Law -“It is finished!” This loud cry was so efficacious that the barrier wall between the elect and the Father - symbolized by the veil of the temple - was torn asunder ushering in the new age of sonship.

sewn back up...

What we don’t realize is that the temple observations continued unabated until the final destruction - as all manmade institutions must - of the structure by the Romans in 70AD.  That was approximately 40 years - a generation. For this to proceed the veil would have had to have been repaired - sewn back up!  And to make this vain religious activity even more egregious–there was nothing behind the veil.  The Ark of the Presence was no longer in its chamber since the destruction of Solomon’s Temple by the Babylonians centuries before. 

needle and thread in our own hands...

This seems so utterly preposterous - but do we often have the needle and thread in our own hands? This is essentially what Paul confronted in the Church of the Galatians: “Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?” 3:3 Before we employ the distance of disdain as a tool to separate us from this admonition, let us consider...or should we say reconsider our own state.

A word of testimony might suffice here to aid in delivering us from the realms of shadow into concrete reality.  I was in the midst of a glorious awakening of faith in the early 1970's.  A group that I was a part - and for which I am very appreciative - used a small publication as a tool to spread our faith.  In its concluding pages it addressed those that had begun a new life in Christ with a list of things that were necessary to grow in faith: prayer, fellowship, Bible study and witnessing. All of these are noble and beneficial exercises - yet when they entered into my psyche they were interpreted in this way: If I did not do these things then God would not be pleased with me.  

Having come into a fresh and vital relationship with the Father through the Son, my subsequent attitude was to attempt to close off this new life by the abject futility of works righteousness. If I found myself behind the closed doors of an elevator with another person and did not witness to them - and I never did - I heaped condemnation upon myself for having failed to please God.

a seamster sewing back up the rent veil...

I could so identify with the words of Paul: “Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death?” Romans 7:24  Having truly been set free by the unmerited favor of God  I was now - through delusion - busy at the occupation of a seamster sewing back up the rent veil. This is not unlike the profession of our original parents in fashioning clothing for themselves to hide their shame from the searching gaze of their Creator.  Guilt - unaddressed by grace - always seeks to cover itself with the garments of self-righteousness. Yet the Word of God will always prevail (pre-veil?) for there is nothing that can be hidden from it: “And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.” Hebrews 4:13

God - in His Faithful Fatherhood - sent a British Pentecostal into our community with the Son-honoring message of the Blood Covenant.  It was as if I was born-again again!  There was nothing I could do to add to the all-consuming veracity of the Son. The encroaching cataractal cloud was removed from my heart’s eye with laser-like precision and I once again beheld Him with an unveiled conscience.  The Divine ophthalmologist had done His work!  I was renewed to the company of those who “with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another.” 

the thief - sewing basket is in his hand...

There is no other way - He is the only door - to enter into the ultimate purpose of His adopted children. That is conformity into the image of His Son that the Son would be the Foremost of the Company of the First-born (Romans 8:29). The thief will try to come in by another door to steal your liberty–the sewing basket is in his hand, but he is defeated every time by the immutable Word of God: “for you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word of God.” 1 Peter 1:23 

Here is a brief account from the life of Augustine of Hippo when the veil over his heart was sovereignly rent. “Whether it was the voice of a boy or a girl I cannot say, but again and again it repeated the refrain ‘Take it and read, take it and read.’ So I hurried back to the place where Alypius was sitting…seized [the book of Paul’s epistles] and opened it, and in silence I read the first passage on which my eyes fell: ‘Not in reveling in drunkenness, not in lust and wantonness, not in quarrels and rivalries. Rather, arm yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ; spend no more thought on nature and nature’s appetites’ (Rom. 13:13-14). I had no wish to read more and no need to do so. For in an instant, as I came to the end of the sentence, it was as though the light of confidence flooded into my heart and all the darkness of doubt was dispelled.”

the slightest stitch of blinding...

Christian, may we be those of the fixed gaze - that is, those who have been transfixed by His gaze. Our enamor of Him will be so awesome that even the slightest stitch of blinding encroachment will be readily revealed for what it is - a bewitchment. With Paul we shall concur: “I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!" Galatians 2:21 

legalism’s needle and thread far from us...

May the following word from Charles Spurgeon serve to put legalism’s needle and thread far from us–that the unveiled grace of repentance may draw us inexorably into times of refreshing from the Presence of the Lord.

Keep thine eye simply on Him; let His death, His sufferings, His merits, His glories, His intercession, be fresh upon thy mind; when thou wakest in the morning look to Him; when thou liest down at night look to Him. Oh! let not thy hopes or fears come between thee and Jesus; follow hard after Him, and He will never fail thee.

"My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness:
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesus’ name."

ultimate rending...

Returning to the ultimate authority which is more than capable of rending the veil - and keeping it rent: For God, who said, "Light shall shine out of darkness," is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. 2 Corinthians 4:6  And we rejoice: Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, Romans 8:1