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Sunday, August 13, 2017

His Great Love # 15

His Great Love # 15

Love The Key To The Vision In Revelation One

You take, then, the first chapter, and what is the key? The key to the first chapter and also to the whole book is to be found in the words, "Unto Him that loveth us, and loosed us from our sins by His blood; and He made us a kingdom, priests unto His God and Father." You can see love in almost every word of that great sentence.

But alongside of, or following on, that statement, you have the presentation of the risen and glorified Lord, and He is presented at once in that marvelous designation "Son of Man," the title of kinship, the redeeming kinsman. "Unto Him that loveth us, and loosed us from our sins" - the title, you see, belongs to One Who has come right into our estate, and eventually into our state. That is the theme of love. Oh, how great, how comprehensive, is that Son of man, flesh of our flesh, bone of our bone, to redeem us unto His Father! He is described in that matchless presentation, verse by verse, step by step, and when you have read it all and noted everything that is said about Him, every detail of His person and of His adornment, you find it is the sum total of love.

He is "girt about at the breasts with a golden girdle." Every word speaks of Divine love, the breasts, the gold, the girdle. The girdle is the symbol of strength, of energy, of intention, of purpose. You mean business when you gird yourself. The robes are no longer flowing for leisure, loose for reclining. The girdle is golden, symbolic of the very nature of God Who is love. Above the rest that girdle seems to me to include all the other features, give meaning to everything else.

I am not going to mention in detail all the features of this Son of man as given to us here. What I am trying to convey to you is that this inclusive presentation of the risen and glorified Christ is the comprehensive presentation of love. "But," you say, "is that true? - because some of the terms used are terrible, awful. John fell at His feet as one dead when he saw Him. Is that the effect of love? Would it not be truer to say that this is the Lord All terrible, rather than the Lord All loving?" But think again. It is love, but not our idea of love. We have to reconstitute our conception of Divine love. This One here is described as "the faithful and true." Have you never been in the hands of the Lord in discipline, in breaking, yes, in shattering, being poured out like water on the ground, and afterward have had to say, "Thou wast right, Lord, it was the only way. It was a terrible experience, but Thou wast faithful with me, faithful to all the highest and deepest principles of heaven. It was not in anger and judgment, but in faithfulness and mercy to my soul that Thou didst do it." We have to reconstitute our idea of love. Here John says, "When I saw Him I fell at His feet as one dead. And He laid His right hand upon me, saying, 'Fear not.' "  This is not judgment, this is not destruction, this is not death and condemnation. The right hand is the token of honor, of favor, "Fear not; I am the first and the last." "Everything is in My hands and in the end it will be all right; I took it up and I am going to finish it; fear not."

I was saying that John fell at His feet as one dead. There was another man who, traveling on a road with the positive intention of blotting out from this earth, as far as it lay in his power, every remembrance of Jesus of Nazareth, was met by this same Lord of glory. All-terrible? Well, certainly Saul of Tarsus went down, he was broken, the encounter overpowered him and left its mark upon his very physical body to the end of his life. Fro three days he had no sight, and they had to help him into the city. But do you tell me that was God All-terrible? Oh, listen to the conversation! "Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou Me?" What is the tone of that? It is not, I am sure, the tone of anger. It is a pleading tone of entreaty, of sorrow, of solicitude. "Who art Thou, Lord?" "I am God the All-terrible, and now I have brought you to book?" No - "I am Jesus Whom thou persecutest...What shall I do, Lord? ... Rise, and enter into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do." The Lord went ahead of him, prepared the way for him (Acts 9:1-9; 22:4-11). Do you tell me that terrible revelation was not love? Well, ask Paul himself what he thought about it, and see in after years what he had to say about it. He did not say, "He met me, He smote me, He destroyed me, He brought me into such awful judgment that I lost all hope." He said, "He loved me and gave Himself up for me" (Gal. 2:20). That meeting, terrible and devastating as it might be in one sense, was a meeting with the Lover of his soul.

I say again, we have to make over anew our conception of Divine love. It is not that sickly, sentimental thing we call love. It is something tremendous. We have so to reconstruct our conception of Divine love as to see that our highest interests for all eternity demand very faithful dealings with us by God, and the more we really know the heart of God, the more we come to be ready to say, "Thou art right, Lord; even in what I would call Thy hard handling of me, Thou art right." God in His love has the end in view, not just the pacifying of some fretful child with a sop. We are called unto His eternal glory and "our light affliction, which is for the moment, worketh for us more and more exceedingly an eternal weight of glory" (2 Cor. 4:17). But we do not always believe it while the affliction is on us. We do not even call it "light"; but He knows how transcendently and infinitely the glory outweighs the suffering. He has decided, with the greatness of the end in view, it is worth His while to be faithful with us and let nothing pass that would take from that glorious prize of His glory or work against it. He knows quite well that, when we are with Him afterward, were we to see something that was not taken up by Him and dealt with because of the suffering and the pain it would have caused us, and because we would have murmured and complained, that we would say to Him then, "Lord, why didst Thou not do that in spite of me?" And so, knowing the end and dealing with us in the light of it, the faithful and the true love is other than our poor sickly conception of love. Love in our thinking so often means just giving way all the time, just having everything we want or giving everything that others want. God deals with us, not as infants, but as sons (Heb. 12:7). The presentation, you see, is all a comprehensive and detailed consummation of love.

The Churches Challenge As To Love

Now you pass to the next two chapters, and you have the churches; and the Lord is here dealing with the churches on the basis of the presentation. That can be seen by noting that every one of the seven messages to the churches takes up some feature of the presentation of Christ in the first chapter. You can look at that and note it. Actual phrases in the presentation of chapter one are used in relation to the churches respectively. So He is dealing with the churches on the basis of Himself as fully presented, and therefore if the presentation is the comprehensive embodiment of love, He is dealing with all the churches on that basis.

Now you note that the messages and the churches are bounded by Ephesus and Laodicea, and not as unrelated but as embracing and covering all the seven. In Ephesus and Laodicea the trouble is defective love. Ephesus, "thou didst leave thy first love"; Laodicea, "thou are neither hot nor cold." The whole question with these churches is love. Let us hurriedly look at them separately, as far as we can.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 16 - First Love As Covering All)

Friday, August 4, 2017

His Great Love # 14

His Great Love # 14

Love Persisting Though Spurned

But Israel went into a great deal of suffering and distress because they did not respond to that love of God thus expressed, and it looked very much as though the everlasting love was lasting no longer. But not so, it has never changed. You see, love has sometimes to change its form of expression, although in itself it does not change, and so we have another side to the revelation of God's ways with wayward and wilful man. Suffering affliction and adversity to individuals and to nations and to the world is not because of a contradiction of the statement that God so loved the world. It is the only way in which that love stands any chance of getting a response of the kind God wants. God does not want that kind of love that is not love at all because it gets everything that it wants to satiate its own lusts. That is not love. This love of God must make us like itself, it must be after its own kind.

And so, strangely enough, many have come to find the love of God through the dark way of suffering - to discover that God was not their enemy but their friend, when they thought that He was pursuing with the object of destroying them. But I am not going to follow that out just now.

I want to be content now with making that great declaration with which we started, doing the little I can to try to bring it home to you - who it is that says it, what it is that He says, the people to whom He says it, with the assurance that, so far as He is concerned, He will never take another attitude but love, even if it is disappointed love and we ourselves should lose all that that love meant for us. To lose that and to know it would be our hell of hells. There could be no deeper hell than to discover all that was meant for you by infinite love, and to realize that by your own folly and your own stubbornness it has gone beyond your reach forever. What more of a hell can you imagine than that? I think that is the only kind of hell we need contemplate, whatever may be the full truth about it. For any one to wake up and have to say, "Oh, what might have been, if only, if only I had done so and so! If only I had taken the opportunity! It is too late now!" - that is agony of soul, that is misery, that is despair. You see, it is the effect of love, Divine love's immense purposes,and we discover that it is now all impossible because we have foolishly rejected, refused, repudiated, gone our own way, stubbornly said No! to the Divine love. That is the dark side of this,but I am not going on to the dark side now. Listen again, whoever you may be. If you know yourself only a little you must be amazed at this statement, but if it does not come to you as the most wonderful thing that ever was or could be, there is something grievously the matter with you; that such a One should say to such as we, "I have loved THEE, with an everlasting love." May God Himself bring that home to us with something of its implication, something of its meaning and value, its glory, its wonder. If He should graciously do that, we shall be worshipers for the rest of our lives; there will be something about us that is in the nature of awe and wonder and we shall go softly. The realization of it will smite all our pride to the dust. There is no room for pride here. This will remove all those horrible things - pride, avarice, covetousness, self-interest, worldly ambition - and we shall be be very humble, very grateful people, full of a great longing somehow to requite that love, somehow to win for that One His rights. This has been the motive and passion of many who have given themselves in the far places of the earth in a daily suffering for their Lord's sake. Love - a little return for this so great love wherewith He loved us.

Love: The Supreme Test of the Church

"His great love wherewith He loved us" (Ephesians 2:4).

We come now to the close of the New Testament, the consummation in the Book of the Revelation. A great deal of reading ought to take place at this point for which we have not the time. Will you open the Word at the beginning of the Book of the Revelation and glance down through the first, second and third chapters as the first main part of this book, hurriedly recalling what is there, and helping as best you can as we go on by noting details also?

We have said that we are here in the consummation, and I think I shall have no difficulty in having your agreement that,when we come to the Book of Revelation, we do come to the consummation of all that is in the Word of God; that is, it is a gathering up of all at the end to a final settlement. That at least we can say about the Book of Revelation. Whatever may be our idea of interpretation of the many things here, we are all agreed that here we are at the end and everything is being gathered up to a final settlement. At this point we must ask a further question. Have we not much to go upon that we are now nearing that final settlement of all things, that we are in the days of the consummation of the ages? Is it necessary for me to gather up all the proofs and evidences and signs to prove that? But I think there again I have your agreement. We certainly are in the end times.

If that is true, there it is a matter of supreme importance that we should recognize what are the primary and ultimate factors with God; and if those factors are at all at issue in our considering them together at this time, then our meditation must take on a significance which is altogether  beyond our own. It must be a very solemn and consequential time, and it must demand and receive from us a definite act of putting away every other kind of thought and consideration. There should be an open-hearted seeking of the Lord, with no prejudices, no suspicions, no curiosity, nor anything that is casual or indefinite. We must come, and, with all our hearts, take the attitude that if God is going to say to us that which with Him is of primary and ultimate consequence, we must note that and we must be in it.

I tarry to lay emphasis on one further matter. I am intensely concerned that we should not be just occupied with a lot of Bible matter. This is not just a theme that is being taken up, a subject, with all the subject matter about it being brought out. No, a thousand times no! If this is not God's message to us, well, we had better cut it short and go and do something else.

Well then, let us come to this book of the Revelation. We take chapters 1 to 3. I have many times made great efforts to resolve these three chapters into one clear meaning, but I have always finished with a sense of defeat. There has been something true and right, but in the thing that I was after I have had a sense of defeat and frustration; and when we come to certain details in these messages to the churches, such as Jezebel, Balaam, the Nicolaitans, somehow we seem to have got into a realm of the technical. The thing has not become a concrete, definite, positive message, it has escaped me. I knew what those things meant in principle, but what I so much wanted to do was to find one resolving thing which gathers them all up and makes of them as a whole a single message for the Lord's people. Until now, as I say, I have felt defeated every time, all through the long years. I am wondering if I have got it now; we shall see.

Love the Master-Key to the Whole Bible

It seems to me at length that the master-key to the whole Bible is in our hands when we come to this. The master key to everything is love; and if you will look, I do not think there is any doubt but that you will come to see that all is here is gathered into that one matter of Divine love. We are in the consummation of love in this book, and it begins and ends with the Church.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 15 - Love the Key To The Vision In Revelation One