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Friday, January 4, 2013

Man's Pride Emptied By the Cross

The fact is that, when we come to the Cross, even our rightful glories, as this world regards them, are going to be emptied out - just poured down the drain. Look at Saul of Tarsus - had he something to glory in? He tells us of all his advantages by ancestry, by birth, by upbringing and by training, by acquisition and by success. He had climbed to the top of the ladder. What did he think of it when he came into the presence of the Cross of the Lord Jesus? He called it just 'refuse!' For him, life was not based upon that at all. He knew quite well that that was out of the Divine court as the bass of any standing with God. And if you or I are coming into the 'fellowship of God's Son' - God's Servant - in heart, in spirit, in truth, that is the way all our natural values will go. We are destined to come to the place where everything that we have, whether from before birth, or at birth, or since birth, as something that we might glory in, will become nothing to us. We shall see that that thing always contains a threat to our spiritual life, f we are not very careful.

I am speaking, of course, about basing our life before God upon that sort of thing. I am not saying that there are no values in those things; but if we should begin to bring them into the presence of God,  and to calculate with them, and make something of them, it is clear, is it not, in whose company we find ourselves? We do not come into account with God; God has discredited all human pride. In the Cross of the Lord Jesus, He has utterly undercut all man's glory. The picture that is painted here of the Suffering Servant of Jehovah, with all the agony, all the distortion, all that is so terrible, is a portrait of what sin does - what pride does - in the eyes of God. That is how God views man. These people who would not receive the report, because of pride, are here depicted as they are in the sight of God, in the Person of that Man hanging on the Cross. He bore our sins, our iniquities, our transgressions; all that we are was put upon Him. That is how we are in God's sight. He was not brought into that position because it was true of Him, but because it was true of us; that is the whole argument of the chapter.

But it is not only life based upon things that in their own realm are legitimate and true, upon merits and values either inherited or acquired, that has no standing with God, but life based upon assumed importance. This may be more subtle, and it is certainly more terrible: when a person, who has no natural rights to be anything, begins to assume that he is something, to display self-importance, to take position and strut about in the very house of God. How contrary to the spirit of this Servant of the Lord! "He shall not cry, nor lift up, nor cause His voice to be heard" (Isaiah 42:2). There is nothing about Him that is assertive, loud, noisy. Yet people can assume positions, even in the very house of God, making themselves noisy and assertive, drawing attention to themselves. This is something that is very horrible to God.

The Psalmist says: "Thou desires truth in the inward parts" (Psalm 51:6). What is true of us, after all? What is true of you, what is true of me, before God? For it is before God that things are weighed rightly (1 Samuel 2:3). The Apostle said: "Love... is not puffed up" (1 Corinthians 13:4). What a phrase, 'puffed up' - full of air and nothing else! Love is not 'puffed up'; there can be no inflation of man in the presence of God. When we come into the presence of God, we become completely deflated. It always was so - "When I saw Him, I fell on my face" (Ezek. 1:28; Dan. 8:17; Rev. 1:17).

So we see man's standard of values, and God's in contrast. What a difference! This disfigured, marred Servant is God's way of showing us what we are in His sight. There is something very deep in the ways of God. Man has ever, since the day of the Fall, sought to draw attention to himself; and at the heart of the whole thing was pride. It brought satan from his high estate, and it brought man from his. And God has repudiated the whole thing in the Cross of the Lord Jesus. "To whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?" Not to anybody who has anything of that about him. Here  are your principles of Divine committal. "To this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit" (Isaiah 66:2). "The haughty He knoweth from afar" (Psalm 138:6). "Every one that is proud in heart is an abomination unto the Lord" (Proverbs 16:5).

On the one side, therefore, the Cross of the Lord Jesus is the undercutting of all our pride, all our self-importance, of life based upon a false standard of values. But on the other side, the Cross is the uncovering of that which is God's standard of values. What is His standard?

God's Standard of Values

Paul's Letter to the Philippians is the great letter of the Cross, is it not? The second chapter of that letter is the most perfect complement to Isaiah 53. Listen to how this part of the letter begins:

"If there is therefore any encouragement in Christ, if any consolation of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any tender mercies and compassions, make full my joy, that ye be of the same mind, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind; doing nothing through faction or through vainglory, but in lowliness of mind each counting other better than himself."

What a challenge! Would that not undercut all our criticism, even of those in whom we feel we have something to criticize? That brother, that sister, may have some very glaring faults - but, God only knows, I may have very much worse!

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 2)

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