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Sunday, October 21, 2012

What It Means to Be a Christian # 3

Oneness in Life

It was God's thought, moreover, that man should become an inheritor of the very uncreated life of God. He was put on test, on probation, and missed it. It was there in the symbolic form of the tree of life, to be had on condition, but he missed it: and so man by nature - all the children of Adam right up to our own time and ourselves - has never possessed that Divine life outside of Jesus Christ. But that is the gift. As we shall see later, that is one of the great things that happen when we become Christian: we become partakers of God's own, Divine, eternal, uncreated life.

Fellowship in Purpose

Then again, God's idea for man was not only likeness and oneness, but fellowship in purpose: that man should be brought into a working relationship with God in His great, His vast, purposes in this universe. The statement of Scripture is: "Thou madest Him to have dominion over the works of Thy hands" (Psalm 8:6) - fellowship with God. Here again we have a vast amount in the New Testament. I think we could probably say that ninety percent of the New Testament is occupied with this cooperation with God in His great purposes on the part of Christians. The Apostle Paul is so fond of using that phrase, 'according to His purpose.' Fellowship in the purpose of God - that was in God's mind in creating man.

But note, that all this likeness in nature, oneness in life, and fellowship in purpose, is related inseparably to God's Son, Jesus Christ: there can be none of it apart from the appointed Heir. We are said to be "joint-heirs"; that is, we come into things by union with Christ. So the Apostle Paul has as his abundant phrase, found everywhere (two hundred times) in his writings - "in Christ", "in Christ": nothing apart from Christ, nothing outside of Christ. It is all in Christ, inseparably bound up with God's eternally appointed Heir of all things.

The Failure of Man 

Before we can follow that through into the Christian life, we have to look at that tragic interlude, as we may call it - the failure of man. We know the story, how  it is written and how it is put. If you have difficulty in accepting the form in which the story is given, that is, either the actual way in which the test was set before Adam, as to the tree, the fruit, etc., or all this as symbolism, you should be helped in such difficulty by remembering that behind any form of presentation there are spiritual principles, and these are the essential and vital things. It is the meaning that matters, not so much the form of conveyance.

We want to get behind that man's failure. The Bible tells us what the source of that failure was. Here again, marvelously, we are taken right back before the creation. The veil is drawn aside and we are shown something happening outside of this world, somewhere where those counsels of God have become known, His counsels concerning His Son and the appointment of His Son as Lord of creation, as Heir of all things. It has become known among the angels, the hierarchy of Heaven, and there is one there, the greatest created being of all, lucifer, son of the morning, who becomes acquainted with this Divine intention. How - this is the mystery - how into that realm iniquity could enter we do not know: we cannot fathom the origin of sin; but what we are told is that "unrighteousness was found" in him (Ezekiel 28:15). Pride was found in his heart.

Pride immediately works out in jealousy, does it not? Think of pride again. It always immediately shows itself in jealousy, rivalry. Pride cannot endure even an equal. Pride will always lead to a trying to 'go one better' in whatever realm it is. And so all the jealousy and all the rivalry sprang into that heart. We are told in the Scriptures that that one said: "I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; ... I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the Most High" (Isaiah 14:13-14). He was jealous of God's heir, and a rival to His appointment; Heaven was rent. But that one was cast out (Ezekiel 28:16-18). We are told that he was cast out of his estate together with all those who entered into that conspiracy with him against God's Son. Those "angels which kept not their own principality, but left their proper habitation" (Jude 6), were cast out.

The next thing we see is the appearance of this one in beautiful guise - not with horns and tail and pitchfork! - but in beautiful guise to deceive; we see him coming into the realm of God's creation, to man and his partner. Now, what was his method? We shall never understand the meaning of the Christian life until we grasp these things. What was the method, what was the focal point, of the great arch-enemy's attack upon the man - this man whom God had created to come into fellowship with His Son in the great purpose of the ages?

The focal point was man's self-hood.  I doubt whether the man had any consciousness of selfhood until satan touched him on that point and said, "Hath God said?" The insinuation was - 'God is keeping something from you that you might have; He is limiting you. God knows that, if you do this thing which He has forbidden, you yourself will have the root of the matter in yourself, you will have the capacity and faculty in yourself for knowing, knowing, knowing. At present, under this embargo of God, you have to depend entirely upon Him: you have to consult Him, refer to Him, defer to Him; you have got to get everything from Him. And all the time you can have it in yourself, and God knows that. You see, God is withholding something from you that you might have, and you are less of a being than you might be - so God is not really favorable to you and your interests.'

It was a maligning of God. But the focal point was this: "You, you - you can be something, you can do something, you can be "in the know" about things' - self-centeredness, self-interest, self-realization, and all the other host of "self" aspects. The "I" awoke, that "I" which had brought the enemy out of his first estate. "I will be exalted above the stars, I will be equal with the Most High."  To awaken the "I" in man - so that, instead of man having his center in God, deriving everything from God, he aspired to have the center in himself; instead of being God-centered, he was self-centered - that was the focal point. And man was enticed into the same pride as had brought about satan's downfall, leading to the same act of independence - nothing less than a bid for personal freedom from God.

As to the results, well, we know them. The older this world becomes, and the greater the development of this race, the more and more terrible is the manifestation of this original thing. We see a picture of man trying to get on without God, man saying that he can get on without God; man seeking to realize himself, fulfill himself, and to draw everything to himself; seeking to be himself the center of everything, not only individually but collectively. That is the story, that is the history. The results? Look at the world - all the terrible, terrible suffering, all the misery, all the horror. We should never have believed, had it not become an actuality in recent years, what man is capable of doing - all because of his break with God. We will not dwell upon it; it is too awful. If we ask, Why, why should all this suffering and misery and wretchedness go on in the world? - surely the answer is this. God can never remove from man the consequences of this act of pride and disobedience, independence and complicity with His arch-enemy, without letting man go on in his independence. All this is God's way of saying - the way in which He is compelled to say - It is an awful, awful thing, to be without God, to be in a state of breach with God.

Now suppose you come into the Christian life. That does not remove all the misery and suffering in the creation, and it does not remove the suffering from yourself, but there is a difference. The mighty difference between one who is outside o Christ and one who is in Christ is this? both suffer, but whereas the one suffers unto despair and hopelessness, in the sufferings of the other there is the grace of God turning it all to account to make him or her Godlike again. The others suffer without hope, die without hope, but the sufferings of a Christian are to make that one like their Lord. It is a marvelous thing to see the likeness of Christ coming out in His own through their sufferings.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 4 - "The Incarnation of the Lord Jesus")

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