True Progress in the Christian life

Can the life of being RightWithGod, be portrayed in a picture? Certainly no picture  could display all aspects of the christian life at  the one time. However there is one picture of the christian life in the bible that, to my mind,  portrays most accurately the basic relationship of the christian life, i.e., the relationship beteen the believer and Christ. I speak about the Song of Solomon, chapter 8, verse 5, the first part: “Who is this that cometh up from the wilderness, leaning upon her beloved?” A simple question that portrays so much. Clearly the picture is of the believer, leaning  on Christ. Let us take a closer look.

The first thing we notice is that there is forward movement on the part of the pair. They are not static, but constantly going forward. We are on a journey. We are just passing through this life, heading towards our final true home in heaven. We walk, not alone, but with Christ constantly beside us. Stasis and stagnation are alien to the christian life. God will not allow it in His children

The second thing we notice is that the emphasis of progress is not so much on the destination as to what is being left behind: “coming out of the wilderness”.  What is this wilderness that is being left behind? The bible often speaks of this world as a wilderness, and certain it is that God makes this world a wilderness for the christian: a place which was once home,  but is now increasingly a strange place. This speaks of the fundamental of a holy life: progressive separation from the world. That is the first thing in holiness. Purification of character comes later, and follows naturally, if the first is right. This is not isolation, we are  not allowed that; we are still God’s witnesses in the world. We can be  making progress in holiness, and still be engaging the world with the gospel. We can have friends and contacts in the world, but we must not love the world itself (1 John2:15).

The third thing is the postural relationship: “leaning on her beloved”. The believer here is a picture of weakness. How true what God  says  to Paul in 2 Corinthians 12: “My strength is made perfect in weakness”. How different from much that is preached and practised today! Christ loves dependant children. He is not looking for heroes doing great exploits, although He may be pleased to use us in that way. He is looking  for ‘leaners’, who are happiest when they are leaning on Christ. He alone is strong, and He is very strong, and able to take the weight of all His children, yet making  us feel as if He was our own personal and intimate support.

The picture is incredibly simple and accurate, it supremely, effectively portrays the life of being RightWithGod  moment by precious moment. This is happiness full and running over, even if we have many trials, as we must have.

 

 

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The Only Cure for the Dissatisfaction of this Life.

The fall has made the world a sad place. There is much striving for satisfaction. The world dangles its idols, promising satisfaction,  but never delivers. Yet the striving continues, no matter how many disappointments and frustrations are experienced. However much is gathered, or however many thrills are experienced, the cycle continues, because the heart of man longs for something the world will never supply, that is satisfaction. These things are only symptoms of a deeper malaise: that man, as he comes into the  world is not RightWithGod. His sinful instincts pull Him away from his greatest good, which is to be one with God,  and finding his satisfaction in God. All else will disappoint: “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul” (Mark 8:36).

Left to himself man will just continue on this sad road until his life comes to an end,  unprepared to meet his God, to whom every man must give an account: “So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God (Romans 14:12)”. Happily, God did not leave man to himself, although He would have been perfectly just in doing so. In His infinite goodness and mercy He provided a total and complete answer. He sent His Son into this world to solve man’s greatest problem, his guilt, which separated him from God: but this was not a simple salvage operation. God is not a God of minimums, but of maximums. His salvation provided for forgiveness of sins, but also a great list of added blessings. It provided justification, so that the sinner was by the death of Christ, put into a situation where God’s justice was totally satisfied for the believer. No charges are now possible against him, even from God Himself. The believer is totally and irreversibly RightWithGod. He is not afraid to meet God. Rather, he looks forward to it.

Then there is the preparation for heaven, which we call sanctification, being made holy, which goes on in the believer’s life until death, and gets its  ‘final push’ when the believer passes inte the presence of Christ. The preparation will be so complete that the believer  will immediately feel ‘at home’. The believer should instinctively have this desire for holiness, as we read in 1 John 3:3: “And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as He (Christ) is pure”.

Then there  is  glorification. The moment the believer looks  on Christ in  heaven, he is changed to being like Christ, not in His humiliation in His earthly life, but in His glorified state in heaven. This, even for the chief of sinners, if they look to Christ alone for salvation.  For them there will be no further striving, no more being fooled by the world’s promises, no more lack of satisfaction, but total, actual, and complete satifaction of  all the  desires and longings of their heart, which will never come to  an end. “In thy presence is fullness of joy; at thy right hand there are  pleasures for evermore” (Psalm 16:11).

 

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The Comfort of the Holy Spirit

When Jesus told His disciples plainly that He was to depart this world, their hearts were troubled at the thought. Jesus sensed this and comforts them with the well-known opening  words of John 14, “Let not your heart be troubled”, and verse 3: “And if I go to prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.” What comfort this would have been for them: that He would return, and take them to Himself, never more to be separated from them forever; but till then there would have to be a time of ‘fasting’ for them.  This was not what we would normally think of as fasting, but we learn from Mark 2:18 to 20: when Jesus was asked why His disciples did not fast like the disciples of John the Baptist and the Pharisees, Jesus’ reply was  very important to the disciples, and to us at this present time: “Can the children of the bridechamber fast, while the Bridegroom is with them? As long as they have the Bridegroom,  they cannot fast. But the days will come, when the Bridegroom shall be taken away from them, and then shall they fast in those days”.

Yes, we are now fasting, being deprived of the bodily presence of our Lord; but it is only a temporary fast. He will come again and receive  us unto  Himself.  So we are fasting, waiting and longing to be with the Lord Jesus, in perfect, mutual delight, satisfaction and blessedness forever We do not enjoy the fasting, but if we are RightWithGod, then we will be glad that we actually are fasting, because that longing to be with Christ is a token of the fact that we are His. We are not what we would like to be, but we are not what we once were.

However, Jesus promised more comfort for this present time of fasting. In John 14:16, He says, “And I will pray the father, and He shall give another Comforter, that He may abide with you forever. Notice the very important word, ‘another’. Their present Comforter who was Himself was going away, and another ‘Comforter’ was to come in His place. This new Comforter was to be in amazingly close relation to them: verse 17, “Ye know Him; for He dwelleth with you, and shall be in you”. The identity of this new Comforter is given to us in verse 26: “The Comforter which is the Holy Ghost”. Yes He is the Holy Spirit, the third person in the glorious trinity of the One God; Father, Son  and Holy Spirit. During  this time of fasting the Holy Spirit is our Comforter.

When we are oppressed, tried, persecuted, marginalised and vilified, as we increasingly are in the present world situation, we need the comfort of the Holy Spirit, Christ’s Deputy. He works mainly through the Holy Scriptures. If we truly want Him working in our lives, then we must give time to exploring the sctiptures, looking for Him to bless some passage, verse, phrase or word, applying it to us personally, especially looking for Christ in Old and New Testaments. He will guide you and lead you, always leading you and pointing you to Christ. He will keep you from day to day RightwithGod, which is the ultimate joy. In John 16: 13,14, we read of how He works: “When He, the Spirit of truth, is come, He will guide you into all truth: for He shall not speak of Himself; but whatsoever He shall hear, that shall he speak: and He will show you things to come. He shall glorify me: for He shall receive of mine, and shall show it unto you”.

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Comfort from Heaven

The true believer living on in this world is a changed person. His whole character has been changed. He is no longer the strong self-sufficient person that he was before. He is softer in nature. His heart has been softened. We read in Ezekiel 36:26, “A new heart also I will give you, and a new spirit will I put within you; and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh”. Does this leave the christian exposed to hurts in this world more than others? Yes. Can he fight back against these hurts as he did before? No. He must seek to be like his Master, the Lord Jesus Christ of whom we read, “Who, when He was reviled, reviled not again”.

The Lord Jesus is very well aware of this problem. In fact He Himself experienced it ‘from the inside’, as it were, because He took to Himself our nature, and still bears that nature as He sits at the right hand on high, and will bear it forever. We read in Hebrews 4:15 that our Great High Priest was “touched with the feeling of our infirmities;” and was “in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin”. The result of this is that the Lord has made special provision for our need in this very matter. When His work of suffering the penalty for our sins was finished, He did not just go back to heaven and forget about us. He continues to make provision for our special needs. That provision is, in one word, Comfort. It comes to us in two principle ways.

The first of these is in words He has spoken from heaven. There is no greater comfort for the christian in this life than getting word from the risen, ascended, and enthroned Lord Jesus Christ. I cannot think of more comforting words than we have from Him in Revelation 1:18, “I am He that liveth and was dead”. Yes, He was indeed dead: in the grave for three days, having suffered and died for His people. He endured the cross until the punishment was paid in full, so that there was no wrath left for those who receive Him. God’s justice was fully and completely satisfied. There can be no more charges against those who are in Christ, even from God Himself. They are irreversibly and invincibly RightWithGod.

Yes, He was truly dead, but now He lives: He is seated at the right hand of God, alive forever more. He waits with joyous anticipation till the day when all His people will be with Him where He is, when their day of final rest has arrived. He looks forward to the unspeakable joy He will see on their faces as they behold Him. In the midst of the assaults and oppresssions of this world, the words, “I am He that liveth and was dead” will undoubtedly comfort the longing soul.

Secondly, He has sent the Holy Spirit into this world as his Deputy, until He comes back for us. God-willing we will look at that next week.

Comfort from Heaven.

The true believer living on in this world is a changed person. His whole character has been changed. He is no longer the strong self-sufficient person that he was before. He is softer in nature. His heart has been softened. We read in Ezekiel 36:26, “A new heart also I will give you, and a new spirit will I put within you; and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh”. Does this leave the christian exposed to hurts in this world more than others? Yes. Can he fight back against these hurts as he did before? No. He must seek to be like his Master, the Lord Jesus Christ of whom we read, “Who, when He was reviled, reviled not again”.

The Lord Jesus is very well aware of this problem. In fact He Himself experienced it ‘from the inside’, as it were, because He took to Himself our nature, and still bears that nature as He sits at the right hand on high, and will bear it forever. We read in Hebrews 4:15 the our Great High Priest was “touched with the feeling of our infirmities;” and was “in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin”. The result of this is that the Lord has made special provision for our need in this very matter. When His work of suffering the penalty for our sins was finished, He did not just go back to heaven and forget about us. He continues to make provision for our special needs. That provision is, in one word, Comfort. It comes to us in two principle ways.

The first of these is in words He has spoken from heaven. There is no greater comfort for the christian in this life than getting word from the risen, ascended, and enthroned Lord Jesus Christ. I cannot think of more comforting words than we have from Him in Revelation 1:18, “I am He that liveth and was dead”. Yes, He was indeed dead: in the grave for three days, having suffered and died for His people. He endured the cross until the punishment was paid in full, so that there was no wrath left for those who receive Him. God’s justice was fully and completely satisfied. There can be no more charges against those who are in Christ, even from God Himself. They are irreversibly and invincibly RightWithGod.

Yes, He was truly dead, but now He lives: He is seated at the right hand of God, alive forever more. He waits with joyous anticipation till the day when all His people will be with Him where He is, when their day of final rest has arrived. He looks forward to the unspeakable joy He will see on their faces as they behold Him. In the midst of the assaults and oppresssions of this world, the words, “I am He that liveth and was dead” will undoubtedly comfort the longing soul.

Secondly, He has sent the Holy Spirit into this world as his Deputy, until He comes back for us. God-willing we will look at that next week.

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