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“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.

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Preface to Hebrews chapter twelve

Many are despairing because they have not been good enough. A few years ago I met an old friend I knew from the early 1980’s, who is 20 years my senior, and at that time the administrator of the small Christian school I attended for 9 months. He was the model for success with obedience to God’s laws. His young, but sizable family also exemplified that same success, his upright children appearing to have jumped out of Uncle Arthur’s bedtime story books. Since leaving that school once in a while I would remember them, and all I could imagine was continued success for each grown child and for the parents. By now, in my imagination, he would be enjoying a work of tremendous responsibility and privilege, surrounded by loving children, grands, and greats. Not surprising, he was hosting the weekend retreat I had come to, and he was making a fair show of it with measured speech and calm demeanor.

We got alone at the dining hall, his wife by his side, and after we reintroduced ourselves after so many years, to my surprise, he turned sullen and ashen, and abruptly took over and unburdened himself. “David, I have made many mistakes.” There was absolutely no boasting in his words—his voice betokening only impending doom. The look of his silent bride showed her total agreement with his statement.

Over the years since I left that educational institution I had learned of some apostasies and divorces that had plagued the school’s graduates-in-shining-armor. They had been trained up to go out and show the world what a Christian should look like, sound like, dress like, eat like, to show the world examples of health and happiness and victory over sin.

But the school never reached the heart; they never taught Jesus; they didn’t know “the third angel’s message, in verity” (Selected Messages, bk. 1 p. 372). Therefore, all of the graduates’ righteous braggadocio was a façade and a bluff that didn’t scare Satan in the least. Rather he used it as ammunition back on them to destroy their souls. This they would not discover until under pressure. In the sterile atmosphere of the school compound their external temptations had been few, but out in a world separated from God they found they had no protection from its subtle atheistic influences.

Through heathenism, Satan had for ages turned men away from God; but he won his great triumph in perverting the faith of Israel. By contemplating and worshiping their own conceptions, the heathen had lost a knowledge of God, and had become more and more corrupt. So it was with Israel. The principle that man can save himself by his own works lay at the foundation of every heathen religion; it had now become the principle of the Jewish religion. Satan had implanted this principle. Wherever it is held, men have no barrier against sin. The Desire of Ages, p. 35.

They felt it encumbent upon them to display a superior righteousness to the Gentiles. It was their God-given duty. All of their good-living couldn’t save Israel, but only made things worse for them. Eventually, almost everyone was angry or devil-possessed, and ready to crucify even their Messiah, in accordance with the prophecy, “They shall look unto the earth; and behold trouble and darkness, dimness of anguish; and they shall be driven to darkness.” (Isa. 8:22). Nevertheless, God had compassion on them and sent them His Son just as He had always planned. Nothing changed from His plan of salvation because they accepted righteousness by works, since their whole history had been plagued by the lack of “righteousness by faith.” (Gal. 5:5).

“What shall we say then? That the Gentiles, which followed not after righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness which is of faith.
But Israel, which followed after the law of righteousness, hath not attained to the law of righteousness.
Wherefore? Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumblingstone; as it is written, Behold, I lay in Sion a stumblingstone and Rock of offence: and whosoever believeth on Him shall not be ashamed.” (Rom. 9:30-33).

Sin is not a problem only for most of the world; it is a humanity-wide condition. Sin is disconnection from the Spirit of God. Israel is God’s example for the world of how He deals with humanity’s sin problem. We can say that God set up the long 600 year, 4 empire captivity of Babylon to do for Israel what they could not do for themselves. They could not repent; they could not humble themselves and be sorry for sin. So, for their sake, God baptized them in trouble and failure.

He caused egg to be put on every victorious mask and façade, egg that could not be removed. Shame must be worn by every Israelite to facilitate the only worthwhile introduction to every conversation, “I have made a lot of mistakes in my life.” All their apparent success with compliance to heaven must be swept away. Appearances mean something only to the great deceiver. With God, pretense must vanish. All the pretended “joy in the Holy Ghost” must cease.

“Then will I cause to cease from the cities of Judah, and from the streets of Jerusalem, the voice of mirth, and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom, and the voice of the bride: for the land shall be desolate.” (Jer. 7:34).

“Because ye have said, We have made a covenant with death, and with hell are we at agreement; when the overflowing scourge shall pass through, it shall not come unto us: for we have made lies our refuge, and under falsehood have we hid ourselves:
Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD, Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation: he that believeth shall not make haste.
Judgment also will I lay to the line, and righteousness to the plummet: and the hail shall sweep away the refuge of lies, and the waters shall overflow the hiding place.” (Isa. 28:15-17).

“And therefore will the LORD wait, that He may be gracious unto you, and therefore will He be exalted, that He may have mercy upon you: for the LORD is a God of judgment: blessed are all they that wait for Him.” (Isa. 30:18).

Jesus, the righteous Judge and Mediator, must facilitate repentance for the unrepentant. He must help the self-righteous be helpless. He must assist their removing the façade from their own face, though it be glued on ever so tightly. Only in perfect despair will some connect with heaven, because only in abject fear of God’s rejection will their disobedience to God’s will be called to mind. Then, in the fear of God, His displeasure can be realized, the guilt and culpability of their forefathers’ evil self-sufficiency conceptualized in their own life. But, once God’s work is done and they are made repentant, then they are happy, very relieved and full of “joy in the Holy Ghost”. “Therefore will He be exalted, that He may have mercy upon you.” No more trying to satisfy an unloving world; only one requirement remains—satisfying the one true God of love, their new Friend and Master.

They must see themselves as fools and miscreants and rebels. They must admit to their failures to please man and God. They must submit to need the humbling of God and not point to someone else of that need. “Wash me throughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me.” (Psa. 51:2,3).

“Behold, the Lord, the LORD of hosts, shall lop the bough with terror: and the high ones of stature shall be hewn down, and the haughty shall be humbled. And He shall cut down the thickets of the forest with iron, and Lebanon shall fall by a mighty one.” (Isa. 10:33,34).

“Therefore hell hath enlarged herself, and opened her mouth without measure: and their glory, and their multitude, and their pomp, and he that rejoiceth, shall descend into it.
And the mean man shall be brought down, and the mighty man shall be humbled, and the eyes of the lofty shall be humbled: but the LORD of hosts shall be exalted in judgment, and God that is holy shall be sanctified in righteousness.” (Isa. 5:14-16).

“Rise up, ye women that are at ease; hear My voice, ye careless daughters; give ear unto My speech.
Many days and years shall ye be troubled, ye careless women: for the vintage shall fail, the gathering shall not come.
Tremble, ye women that are at ease; be troubled, ye careless ones: strip you, and make you bare, and gird sackcloth upon your loins…. Upon the land of My people shall come up thorns and briers; yea, upon all the houses of joy in the joyous city.” (Isa. 32:9-13).

“And flocks shall lie down in the midst of her, all the beasts of the nations: both the cormorant and the bittern shall lodge in the upper lintels of it; their voice shall sing in the windows; desolation shall be in the thresholds: for [the Lord] shall uncover the cedar work.
This is the rejoicing city that dwelt carelessly, that said in her heart, I am, and there is none beside me: how is she become a desolation, a place for beasts to lie down in! every one that passeth by her shall hiss, and wag his hand.” (Zeph. 2:14-15).

“Because the palaces shall be forsaken; the multitude of the city shall be left; the forts and towers shall be for dens for ever, a joy of wild asses, a pasture of flocks…. When it shall hail, coming down on the forest...the city shall be low in a low place.” (Isa. 32:14,19).

And, when the dust settles, our God has a quiet, happy, and teachable people.
 
“Until the Spirit be poured upon us from on high, and the wilderness be a fruitful field, and the fruitful field be counted for a forest.
Then judgment shall dwell in the wilderness, and righteousness remain in the fruitful field.
And the work of righteousness shall be peace; and the effect of righteousness quietness and assurance for ever.
And My people shall dwell in a peaceable habitation, and in sure dwellings, and in quiet resting places.” (Isa. 32:15-18).

He would have a people who will never again pass over a single admonition or warning as though only pertaining to others. They will gladly apply it all to themselves. Their pride demolished, their willpower scattered, sin can go away and communion with God be restored.

“For the people shall dwell in Zion at Jerusalem: thou shalt weep no more: He will be very gracious unto thee at the voice of thy cry; when He shall hear it, He will answer thee.
And though the Lord give you the bread of adversity, and the water of affliction, yet shall not thy teachers be removed into a corner any more, but thine eyes shall see thy teachers:
And thine ears shall hear a word behind thee, saying, This is the way, walk ye in it, when ye turn to the right hand, and when ye turn to the left.” (Isa. 30:19-21).

The confused and deluded world no longer is looked to as the standard to heed or the example to model. Jesus has the full attention. His children look to Him and Him only. They cannot forget their former execrable existence; their bankrupt soul grimaces at the failures of their past with a visible pain that cannot be hidden. “Their feet [have] run to evil, and they [have made] haste to shed innocent blood: their thoughts [have been] thoughts of iniquity; wasting and destruction [have been] in their paths.” (Isa. 59:7). Their life has been one long abortion. Their horrific history would drive them to insanity or suicide, if the unmerciful world remains their support. Their only consolation is in the God who promises mercy, and they fling their helpless souls on Him.

In purest honesty they can sing of Jesus,
            Other refuge have I none,
            hangs my helpless soul on Thee;
            leave, ah! leave me not alone,
            still support and comfort me.
            All my trust on Thee is stayed,
            all my help from Thee I bring;
            cover my defenseless head
            with the shadow of Thy wing.

            Plenteous grace with Thee is found,
            grace to cover all my sin;
            let the healing streams abound,
            make and keep me pure within.
            Thou of life the fountain art,
            freely let me take of Thee;
            spring Thou up within my heart;
            rise to all eternity.
                                       Jesus lover of my soul, Charles Wesley

Bungling, oopsing, trembling Mary Magdalene was just such a soul; yet, because she saw herself as such, her failures drove in her the need of a friend like no other. She found in Jesus just such a trustworthy friend, and love for Him drove her to honor Him. Thus, Jesus greatly honored her.

“Jesus said, Let her alone; why trouble ye her? she hath wrought a good work on Me.
For ye have the poor with you always, and whensoever ye will ye may do them good: but Me ye have not always.
She hath done what she could: she is come aforehand to anoint My body to the burying.
Verily I say unto you, Wheresoever this gospel shall be preached throughout the whole world, this also that she hath done shall be spoken of for a memorial of her.” (Mk. 14:6-9).

And bungling, hopeless good for nothings will compose the multitudes that surround the eternal throne. Lepers, prostitutes, thieves, deceivers, perfect failures, “shall walk with Me in white: for they are worthy” (Rev. 3:4); all of whom have been humbled and restored to God’s image. They have admitted to their great need of “God our Saviour” (1Tim. 2:3) and have obtained true obedience from gratitude for God’s grace, “the righteousness of faith.” (Rom. 4:13). Their heart is softened by Jesus, and their will empowered by His. Jesus is all they can see. He is their model and standard. “My heart is fixed, O God, my heart is fixed: I will sing and give praise.” (Psa. 57:7). They are sealed, fixed on Jesus, witnessing His gentleness and strength, enthralled by Him and possessed by His goodness.

“This is the will of Him that sent Me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on Him, may have everlasting life.” (Jn. 6:40). As Jesus was everything to young Mary of Magdala and to the disciples, Jesus is all in all to His modern disciples. They have the seed of truth and it has lodged deep in their hearts. “Bind up the testimony, seal the law among My disciples.” (Isa. 8:16).

“Christ Jesus...is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: that, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.” (1Cor. 1:30,31).

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