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Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Cross: The Basis of the Church # 3

How does God have His rights in righteousness secured? Well, by dealing with the unrighteousness in man, the unrighteousness in this world, the unrighteousness which from the beginning has been standing in God's way. Now, in this representative One, all that unrighteousness is taken up and brought under judgment and death, the final judgment of unrighteousness in the death of Christ. Jordan, of course, is a very passive figure of it. The active positive view of the meaning of that can only be seen and understood if in any way the Holy Spirit shows us the meaning of that great and terrible cry, "My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?" (Matthew 27:46). If ever a soul were to be fully alive to the eternal meaning of being God-forsaken, then such a one would understand the meaning of unrighteousness, the awfulness of eternal abandonment by God because of unrighteousness. To deal with that the Son of God came and went to the Cross.

God has something which He demands as His rights and that something is righteousness, perfect righteousness, righteousness filled full, fulfilled, and that must obtain before anything else can be realized. God must have His rights secured in utter righteousness.

But that means, of course, an utterness of abandonment to the will of God. Abandonment to the will of God - that is righteousness. God having His rights means that He has undivided allegiance, devotion, abandonment. That is the note from Genesis to Revelation. Whenever God gets anything which resembles that, you will notice there is something very, very wonderful that comes out from God. You think of it. We only dare take one instance, that of Abraham in the offering of Isaac. Here, you see, is an abandonment to God, an utterness, unquestioning devotion to the will of God. That is the only thing that governs; no arguments: and he might have argued. God said, "Take now thy son," and Abraham neither argued, reasoned, nor held back, but made his way to the appointed spot and virtually enacted the Divine requirement and offered Isaac. What was God's reaction? "Because thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son, in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed ..." (Genesis 22:6-17). But, more than that, Abraham became the friend of God. The friend of God! I do not think there is any other title in the Bible which approximates to that in its meaning. "Abraham my friend" (Isaiah 41:8). Think of Almighty God saying that of a man. Here is an utterness of devotion to the will of God. But that is the Cross, that is always connected with the Cross. With Abraham, it was, in type, bound up with the Cross, the offering of his only son whom he loved. It was the Cross!

But it is a figure, after all, of something greater in the Lord Jesus and His Cross. He was an abandonment even unto death, unquestioning devotion to the will of God.l "I come to do Thy will" (Hebrews 10:7). "I delight to do Thy will" (Psalm 40:8). "Not My will, but Thine" (Luke 22:42). The will of God, that is the Cross, God getting His rights. Oh, beloved, you see what the Church is founded upon. Had the Church truly seen and taken its character from that, there would have been none of this situation which we find on the earth today among Christians.

Yes, the Cross God-ward means that God comes into His place. If you and I are going to say anything about the Cross, if we are going to preach and teach the Cross, let us understand that, from God's standpoint, this is what the Cross means, not merely a question of the benefits we derive, but what God Himself gets in us and through us by His Cross. That is the other aspect. God has His eye on that all the time, and that to which God has a right is this abandonment to His will without question. Upon that rock the Church is built.

The Man-ward Aspect of the Cross

Then there is the man-ward aspect of the Cross, that is, that not only does the Cross clear the ground for the Eternal Purpose of God in Christ by its answering to God's requirement of absolute righteousness, but it clear the ground of man, man's nature, man's being; for the Church can never be composed of man as he is by nature. That is just where things have gone all wrong, and that is why we have such a situation. The "old man" has come into the Church, and he has no right and no place there. Yes, Jacob is there; whereas he ought to have been smitten, to have become a prince with God. You and I by nature have no place whatever in the Church, and will forever keep a clear line of demarcation registered between what we are by nature and what Christ is in us by grace. Do not forget that. The Holy Spirit by the Cross draws that line, and if and I are really going on into God's fullest thought and purpose, that line will be constantly kept in view by the Holy Spirit, and we shall be made aware of it all the time - Yes, that is you, that is not Christ, that has no place here at all and you must leave it out! In this place, the House of God, the Church, it is Christ and only Christ, and you can only abide in this House as you abide in Christ; which in turn means that you must keep out of what you are by nature, and keep what you are by nature out. The Cross has for ever put those two asunder, cleared the ground for God's purpose.

You know that, you know it all. I have not told you anything fresh. Ah, but it is very necessary for everyone of us to be continually reminded of this lest we are found to be in God's way, lest we are found, after all, to be fighting against God; lest we are found to be bringing stuff into God's house which has no right there. Oh, that is a terrible thing. You know what happened in the days of Nehemiah over that, how Nehemiah had to turn the furniture of an enemy from the very house of God; how place had been given to that which was inimical to God's thought by the very people of God themselves. Oh no, God will not have anything of that!

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 4)

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