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Monday, February 11, 2013

Men Without Anything Left

The Great Transition From One Humanity to Another

Now I take just one other instance after He, Jesus, is crucified, after that part of the drama is completed. Two of them, two of his disciples, went on that day to Emmaus, a village. You know the story in Luke 24. As they talked sadly, this stranger drew near to them (their eyes were holden that they should not recognize Him) and He said: "What manner of conversation is this that you have as you walk, sad?" They replied: "Are you only a visitor to our city, have you  only just arrived, have you not known what has been happening in the last few days?" Then the Lord inquired: "What things?" He is drawing them out - "What things?" They said: "The things Jesus of Nazareth. He was a Prophet mighty in Word and in deed. We hoped that it had been He that should redeem Israel, but our rulers crucified Him." In other words, they said, "Our hope is all gone, all our expectation is destroyed. We are men without anything left."

Then this stranger took the Old Testament and He started at the beginning and worked His way all through the Scriptures. And as He opened to them the Scriptures, their mouths opened, their eyes opened, and when they arrived ... you know the end, they sat down to a meal, He took the bread, the loaf, and blessed it. Eyes were opened; they knew Him, and then He disappeared from their sight.

What has been disclosed? What has been exposed? This - you can have your head absolutely full of the Scriptures and know them up there, and they will never save you in the day of crisis. The very thing that is written by God for our salvation does not save us when the Cross is planted right at the heart of our lives; it is a crisis in which we collapse. That is a terrible thing. You can know all the Scriptures, and yet when it comes to the test of some tremendous experience, some devastating experience, all that we have read and heard and thought we knew is no good to us.

Of course, there is a lot more in this story than that, but this is my point - what a disclosure of the human heart. What an exposure of this other man, how he can be a disciple, how he can go about with the Lord for years, how he can know all that the Lord said, and seen what the Lord has done and how he can have the teaching in his head and then when it comes to the real test of the man, he cannot stand up to it, he collapses. We had hoped (with the Bible in our hands) we had hoped, and they are in despair.

Another Humanity Altogether

The devastation of that one humanity under every kind of test is essential to the Other Humanity which Christ is. How different He is - Another humanity altogether. Another kind of Man in Whom their is nothing of this at all, nothing of this. The apostle once said to the believers: "You have not so learned Christ"; in other words, "If you had learned Christ, you would not be doing that, you would not be like that."

Now let us get hold of the issue before we go further. What is it? Oh, it may not all come at once - it could not, it has a beginning, mark you, a beginning; and this is the course of a truly spiritual life. You will mark spiritual progress and spiritual growth and spiritual maturity by this one thing: how little the individual thinks of themselves,  how little they are in the picture, their own picture and other people's picture as themselves. Or shall I put it the other way: how much of Christ do you meet in them and not themselves. That is the test - how much the Cross has devastated them in their own natural life. It is the essential and inevitable way to spiritual fullness, to Christ, and the fullness of Christ, which is something altogether different from what we are.

The Tragedy of the Carry-Over of the Other Humanity

Well, now having said that, we are going further with this this morning. I want to take you over to that part of the New Testament which focuses this whole issue more than any other part: which brings into view on the one side, the exposure of the one kind of humanity and on the other side, the Other Humanity which the Christ IS. I have often been asked the question, for example in Romans 7: "Is that the history of a 'born again' man or an unborn again man?" I have had the question asked me since I have been here, and I have proposed to postpone the answer until now.

"The first man is of the earth, earthy ..." and so on. Is that an unconverted man, a man before he is born again, or is that a born again man? That is a born again man, make no mistake about it. Paul is writing to born again people in Corinth. He opens his letter with an address to the saints which are in Christ Jesus - saints by standing through faith in Jesus Christ, and all that is in those letters is addressed to Christians; but it is a horrible exposure of something  about Christians. I confess to you I have more than once in my life in reading that First Letter to the Corinthians asked myself: "Were these men, these people, really born again? Can we classify them as Christians?" Yes, the address if "to the saints by standing through faith that are in Corinth."

The tragedy in Corinth was the tragedy of the carry-over of relics and remnants of the other humanity. There is something here of the New Humanity, but there has been a carry-over of relics and remnants of the other humanity. There is something here of the New Humanity, but there has been a carry-over of the old in the Christian life; the result: confusion- confusion in judgment, confusion in behavior, confusion in relationships. And if you think that word is not justified, I want to remind you that they wrote to the Apostle Paul on one one occasion asking him ten elementary questions about the Christian life, about what Christianity is. They were in confusion about the elementary things of Christianity.

I am not going to stay this week with all those questions, but there they are. There is confusion, terrible complications in Corinth. There is weakness - weakness in life, in a living testimony. There is shame, reproach. The apostle has to say some very strong and some very hard things to Christians because of a carry-over of the old humanity into a relationship with the New without the clean cut. Is that why the apostle, after his introduction in the First Letter says: "I made up my mind, I determined, I resolved, to know nothing among you save Jesus Christ, and Him crucified." Oh, we are going to meet "Christ crucified" repeatedly through these two letters, at critical points in their spiritual life. "Christ crucified," Paul says, "that is the foundation on which we are going to build, you Corinthians, you who have carried over some of the old humanity into the realm of the New and find that the two things will not go together.

Well, here we are in these letters to the Corinthians, and these more than any other letters in the New Testament represent the battleground of the two humanities. Right there at the beginning of the First Letter as a heading, this  is carried right through. The battleground of the two humanities - that is with the Corinthians.

May I mark one thing before I go further. Paul came to this situation to deal with it, in Corinth, and said in doing so: "In coming to you, I made a definite, positive, conclusive resolve 'to know nothing among you save Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.'" What did he do when he said that? What does that mean? "I am not coming to you people who are philosophically minded and are so interested in philosophy, I am not coming to you with a new philosophy, I am not coming to you with a new religion. I am not coming to you with a new system of teaching. I am not coming to you with a new order and form and technique. I am coming with everything gathered up and focused in a Person, in a Man."

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 2)

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