“Oh, the unspeakable greatness of that exchange,—the Sinless One is condemned, and he who is guilty goes free; the Blessing bears the curse, and the cursed is brought into blessing; the Life dies, and the dead live; the Glory is whelmed in darkness, and he who knew nothing but confusion of face is clothed with glory.” Trailady

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A person God turned around many times.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Wise as Serpents, Harmless as Doves

Last night someone said, “I’ve noticed something different about you for the last couple of years, and one of these days I’m going to ask you about it.” Then I got nervous. I have come to view life differently, but how could I communicate it? How did the change happen? How could I explain it to my atheist friend without becoming exclusive and condemning and offensive? Then in the early morning hours it all came very clear.

The change of mind happened as the result of many years, even decades, of hearing and reading of God’s judgments and rebukes and discipline, and not seeing Him as a loving person. I had also read and heard that He was love—but a love that will kill and destroy I could do without. I could live without that kind of love; I wanted to know, with certainty, that God is love. Everyone wants to be loved, and I’m no exception. Yet, despite all my Bible reading and hymn singing and church-going, I couldn’t escape the rebellion that rose up in my heart against such a pretense of mercy and kindness as I saw it in God, and even in Christ. I believe many billions are trapped in this same dilemma. Like the child attached to an abusive parent, even so Satan has abused us in the name of God, and God has had to wait for the right moment for us to be able to listen to His side of the story.

Finally the light broke upon me. After what seemed would be an eternally hopeless life with this God from whom I somehow couldn’t detach, it came to dawn on me that God had really been working for us all along. His open and subtle rebukes to the Pharisees, and religious leaders and people, were His method to get their attention so that He could then demonstrate grace toward them. Without startling them with truth and jarring them into the reality of their true condition, without showing them their guilt and condemnation, speaking grace would have no good effect, and would have only played into Satan’s assistance in their presumptions.

Christ must speak harshly to them. There was no time to dally. They must be reached before He finished His ministry and before His 70 week prophecy to Daniel was finalized. It was a desperation borne of divine love and omniscience that drove Jesus to be so blunt to those hard-hearted Jews, even sometimes to His own disciples. They must be shaken.

He followed this same principle in all His dealings with man since our creation. He pounded the Israelites from the top of Sinai, to deeply impress in them His requirements; not to hurt them, but to protect them from the dangers of foolishness in the presence of His holiness. “Fear not: for God is come to prove you, that His fear may be before your faces, that ye sin not.” Ex. 20:20. He sent prophet after prophet with stern messages in order to lay His axe deeply into the root of the leadership’s iniquity, if by any means He might save some.

Christ knows the perversity of the fallen nature of man. He knows what He is working with. He made us and we are in His image. And He has confidence that He can bring us all the way through and restore us to obedience to His Father’s Law.

As I learned of Christ’s character I saw that His stern justice was always perfumed with His mercy. It dawned on me that He never gave needless pain to a sensitive soul. True, there is some very strong language in His word, enough to make our faith tremble. But He is more than able to bring each trembling soul from the darkness surrounding him.

Mercy and truth meet in Jesus. By beholding this quality of His we become transformed to have the same quality. We begin to trust in His method. Love begins to dawn in us and a new force takes the ascendancy. We are no longer afraid to speak the truth, no matter if it hurts feelings, because the whole purpose for speaking the truth is to follow through with a look of compassion, or strong and confident words of mercy to bind up any wounds. “Faithful are the wounds of a friend.” Prov. 27:6. We discover a new freedom in this new capacity for kindness and comfort, encouragement and discernment of repentance. The stronger love grows, the more forceful we become; faithful with the truth, and equally faithful and forceful with the words of hope and peace. That forcefulness, depending on our natural personality, may take the hurricane force of Paul, who was an in-your-face kind of person but who still attracted honest folks who “clave unto him,” or of Barnabas, “Son of consolation,” who may have flooded people with comfort, but always declared God’s character and ultimately made his point known. Acts 17:34; 4:36.

But no one was the master of conviction like Jesus. So closely connected was Christ with His Father that every word, every expression, every move brought conviction and repentance on a continuous, non-stop basis. Love, love, and more love was His only motivation. In hard words or in blessing, the royal Son of God made the devil run everywhere He went. What a humiliation to the haughty prince of darkness!

Thus in preparing His disciples for their first of many missionary trips through Galilee and Judea, He taught them, “Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.” Matt. 10:16. They had already seen the grace and truth in the daily life of Christ. His grace had had its sanctifying effect on their hearts and His truth has molded their characters. They were to go out to speak His precepts without fear of repercussion. Their duty was to speak with conviction, let the consequences fall as they might. They were to preach the word and leave results with God. And as they spoke and taught they kept their eye open for signs of a pained conscience; and then a good word of the gentlest encouragement would find its way into the ear of the contrite one.

Today, we have the authority to stand the ground for the truth we know. We can be wise and confident in the perpetuity of righteousness and be settled and calm in pronouncing the precepts of eternal truth. But we must also be prepared for the reaction against it or any positive response of submission to it, and in all be harmless and unoffending, enduring repercussions and troubles as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. The truth always wins in the end.

It’s the kneading together of truth and mercy in the message to sinners that produces the “power of God unto salvation.” (Rom. 1:16) It’s the “kissing of each other” (Ps. 85:10) of these two apparent opposites that provides us “the weapons of our warfare” that are so “mighty to the pulling down of strong holds,” “bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience to Christ.” 2 Cor. 10:4,5. When the heart has been warmed by the love of Jesus we will never be afraid to speak the truth and tell it like it is because we are ever ready to chase those strong words down with grace and peace which we have learned from Him, when the signs of conviction have become evident.

“Thou hast given me the shield of Thy salvation: and Thy right hand hath holden me up, and Thy gentleness hath made me great.” Ps. 18:35.


Blogger said...

dear Dave,

maybe you want to check out my blog and a new post which tells why I've been out of it for a while.

9/02/2006 1:21 PM  

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