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Saturday, May 6, 2017

What It Means To Be A Christian # 11

What It Means To Be A Christian # 11

Christ Filling All Things, continued

Christ filling all things - and all things filled into Christ. Perhaps one of the best illustrations of this is provided by Solomon; indeed, he is in the Old Testament for that very purpose. Everybody knows about king Solomon and his great wisdom. "The wisdom of Solomon" is the very synonym for wisdom. If anybody shows particular wisdom or acumen, we often dub them 'a little Solomon.'

I saw recently in the paper the following story. A class of boys was being told about the incident of the execution of John the Baptist. You remember that Salome danced before Herod, and he was so pleased that he said, 'What would you like? What is your request?' I will give it to you, even to the half of my kingdom.' She went away, and consulted her evil mother, who hated John the Baptist because of what he had said about her evil ways; and the mother counseled the daughters to ask for the head of John the Baptist. When she did so, Herod was very, very distressed, and looked for a way out; but he found none, and because of the oath that he had made, he commanded that the head of John the Baptist should be brought. Here the teacher turned to the class, and said, 'Now, what would you have done if you had been Herod?' And one bright boy chirped up. 'I would have said to the woman, "That belongs to the half of the kingdom that I did not promise!" ' And so in the paper the story was headed: "A Young Solomon."

That is just by the way. But Solomon is the synonym for vast wisdom. Also of vast wealth: we know of the riches of Solomon. Vast power: for his kingdom reached beyond all the kingdoms that had ever been in Israel. And vast glory: even the Lord Jesus referred to that - it was proverbial. He said: "Even Solomon in all his glory ..." And we read that, when the queen of Sheba came to prove for herself all this, her verdict was: 'The half was never told!' And Solomon's people were in it - they were in the good of that; and in certain senses it was in them too. Solomon would not have arrogated all this to himself, but it would be seen in the lives and homes of the people. They were in the greatness of Solomon, but the greatness of Solomon was in them also.

Now here, in the New Testament, Jesus says: "... a greater than Solomon is here" (Matt. 12:42). Christ infinitely transcends Solomon, and therefore the people of Christ are in the same measure greater than Solomon's people. His fullness is to be their inheritance: they are to be in it - it is to be in them. The purpose of God is that. What God has purposed is to have a people eventually in great prosperity, great wealth, great spiritual riches, great spiritual glory. We are called, says the Word of God, unto His eternal glory (1 Peter 5:10). That, briefly and very simple, is the purpose.

The Principles Governing The Christian Life

Now, there are principles governing the Christian life. It is exceedingly important that we should recognize this: for, apart from the principles, there can be no realizing of the purpose. The principles are basic and governmental to the purpose. We shall never move on in the purpose, progressively, or attain to it finally, except by way of the Divine principles. So, if the purpose lays hold of our hearts, and we respond and say, 'Yes, it is a wonderful thing to be called according to that purpose, and I want to attain to that,' then it is necessary to know some of the principles which govern it - principles which are indispensable to the development and realization of the purpose.

(a) The Cross

The first basic principle of the purpose is the Cross - the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. The Cross has two sides, or operates in two ways. First, outwardly, as to what it means "for" us, and then inwardly, as what it means "in" us. These two sides of the Cross occupy a vast amount of the teaching of the New Testament.

The Cross is a work which, on one side, is finished. It is a work fully and finally done: that is, as to our being allowed to come to God, having access - that is the New Testament word - access to God, having union with God and having fellowship with God. All the work for that has been fully finished. We are 'made nigh through the Blood of His Cross.' We have been made one with Him by the Cross. The Cross on that side, for our approach to God, our access to God, our union with God, is fully accomplished work, and there is nothing more to be done apart from our accepting of it by faith. But there is also the other side to the Cross - what it is to mean "in" us. The Cross is to be an abiding power in our lives. It is a principle to be continually at work in us. On the one side, then, there is what the Cross meant in itself, then and there. On the other side, there is what the Cross requires of us. 

What did it mean? Well, all-inclusively and comprehensively, the Cross meant the removal from God's sight of one kind of man. Jesus Christ at one point assumed the capacity of representative of all men, as in God's sight: that is, in sin, under judgment. "Him," says the Scripture, "Who knew no sin He made to be sin on our behalf" (2 Cor. 5:21). Again, He was made a curse in our place (Gal. 3:13). That is where we were, where all men were - sin. We were not only doing sins - we were sin-full in God's sight, under judgment, under condemnation, in rejection. And Jesus at that given point took that place - your place, my place, the place of every man as in God's sight under that rejection - and entered into an experience of all the conscious meaning of that rejection such as you and I have never known, and need never know. To have the slightest taste, the slightest sense, of having been rejected of God is enough to disintegrate the very soul. If you and I should have any consciousness of being forsaken by God, it would be devastating to our moral being, utterly unbearable. Jesus took the sum of that in full consciousness. It disintegrated Him - His very heart ruptured under it and broke - because He knew and endured in that one awful eternal moment the reality of being forsaken of God, on our behalf. "My God, Thou hast forsaken Me!" That was done for you and for me. We never need awake in eternity to that, if we will accept what He has done for us.

You see, what He had voluntarily accepted was the setting aside of a particular kind of man. In that awful hour He had voluntarily allowed Himself to take the place of that kind of man. It was God saying, 'I close the door forever to that kind of being.' The Cross means that in Christ's death you and I, as to what we are naturally - men and women by nature - have been set aside. God has in Christ disposed of and removed a kind of being, a degenerate species of creation. He has put it out of the way. In the resurrection of the Lord Jesus that is all done: that man has gone. It is not that man that is raised from the dead: it is a new man - another. Christ has put off the "old" man, and now assumes the place of a 'new creation' man.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 12)

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