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Monday, November 30, 2015

The Cross and the Eternal Glory # 6

Glory: An All-Governing Object and End of God (continued)

"The Lord of Glory" (continued)

But I think this has another meaning too. As Lord of Glory, He is over everything, and going to make it work out to Glory. The Book of Acts is just written on that principle. Is it not? All sorts of things, from early in the book, right to the end, which seems to be, well, the work of the devil, the work of evil men: apostles in prison; the work of God being hindered; things seeming to go wrong; Christians suffering. But look again at each case. Is Peter in prison? All right, what is the outcome, what is the end of it? "Glory" is it not? Are Paul and Silas in prison? Well, Glory is the issue.

And so, again and again and again things which seemed to be all wrong at first, contradictory, were made to work out to good. Paul said, "I would have you know, that things which befell me have fallen out for the furtherance of the gospel" (Phil. 1:12). Why? Because the Lord of Glory has got the situation in hand and not the devil. It looks otherwise, and it looks as though the end is going to be calamity. But no! The Lord of Glory has got hold of this thing and He will make it work out for Glory in the End. If only we believed that! If only we believed that the darkness and most difficult situation is going to work out for Glory, because the Lord of Glory is over it.

"The Spirit of Glory"

And finally: "The Spirit of Glory." You need to read Peter's context to see what that means. Look at his first letter, and you will see that he has a lot to say about the sufferings of the Lord's people. "Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial among you ... though now for a season ... you are in heaviness through manifold trials" (1 Peter 4:12; 1:6). And he refers to their being persecuted for the sake of Christ, and then he heads it right up to here: "If you are reproached for the name of Christ, happy are you; for the Spirit of Glory ... rests upon you" (1 Peter 4:14).

You see the Spirit of Glory links with the fellowship of Christ's sufferings. Now Christ's sufferings led to His Glory. "The suffering of Christ, and the Glory that should follow" (1 Peter 1:11). Suffering together with Christ, and the Glory that will follow, are both in the custodianship of the Holy Spirit. Our sufferings, as were His, are under the Holy Spirit's hand. And the Holy Spirit will see to it that just as Christ was glorified after suffering, so by the same energies of the Holy Spirit, Glory will come to us if our sufferings are in fellowship with Christ.

The Holy Spirit has got this matter in hand. He is the Spirit of Glory. That is His End, the Object to which He is working. The Holy Spirit has got this matter really in hand, to turn the sufferings of the saints to Glory, to bring them to Glory through suffering. So Peter says, "If you are reproached, if you suffer, for the name of Christ, happy are ye; blessed are ye; for the Spirit of Glory rests upon you." That is, the Holy Spirit is present to turn your sufferings to Glory, not to shame, not to disaster, not to despair, but in the End to Glory.

Now that surely, dear friends, is the basis of our confidence. All I have sought to do this afternoon is to lay a foundation. A foundation for faith, for hope, for confidence, in dark times, in difficult times, in times of adversity and suffering. The God, Whom we worship, is the God of Glory. The Christ, Who is our Lord, is the Lord of Glory. The Holy Spirit, Whom He has given, is the Spirit of Glory. The Triune God are bound together in this one thing, to see that the End for the Church is the End to which Christ has come - Glory! The End is Glory.

The Lord will probably have more to say to about it, but we want to just put that word over this time, and seek to get into line with it. For God intends Glory, dear friends, whatever the devil intends and works to, God intends Glory. Just believe that, believe it now. Sometimes it is most difficult to believe that things are going to have a Glorious issue and End. Let us believe that, because God: The Father! The Son! The Holy Spirit! are bound by this one Glory, we shall come, not ultimately only, but again and again through difficult, through dark experiences, into Glory.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 7 - (It Is An Understanding of What We Have Come Into When We Have Come Into Christ)

In the Everlasting Arms

In the Everlasting Arms

J. R. Miller

"The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms!" Deuteronomy 33:27
There are two sides to a Christian life.
One is the active side. We are urged to faithfulness in all duty, to activity in all service, to victory in all struggle, to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling.
But there is another side. We are to trust, to have quietness and confidence, to repose on God. It is well that we sometimes think of the latter aspect of our Christian faith. This is well presented to us in a Bible verse which says, "Underneath are the everlasting arms."
The picture suggested is that of a little child, lying in the strong arms of a father who is able to withstand all storms and dangers. We think of John lying upon Christ's bosom. At the two extremes of life, childhood and old age—the promise comes with special assurance. "He shall gather the lambs in His arms, and carry them in His bosom" (Isaiah 40:11), is a word for the children. "Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustainyou and I will rescue you!" (Isaiah 46:4), brings its blessed comfort to the aged. God comes to us first in our infancy, through our mothers, who carried us in their arms. Yet they are only dim revelations of God for a time. They leave us after teaching us a little of God's tenderness—but God Himself remains when they are gone, and His arms never unclasp!
The thought of God's embracing arms is very suggestive. What does an arm represent? What is the thought suggested by the arm of God enfolded around His child? The language is human. The Scriptures speak continually of God in this way. They tell us of His eyes looking down to behold His people—that He never slumbers nor sleeps; meaning that His watchful care never intermits. They tell us that He listens to earth's cries, and hears the sighing of the oppressed, and the groaning of the prisoner in his dungeon; meaning that He hears our cries of distress. They speak of His wiping away tears, as a mother would dry a child's tears; meaning that He comforts His people in their sorrow. They represent Him as holding us by the right hand, as a father holds his child's hand in his own, when it walks over dangerous places; meaning that His guidance is personal and strong.
All these, and like statements in human language of what God does for His people—are efforts to explain to us by means of human acts with which we are familiar, His wonderful care and kindness. Thus the figure of the arm as applied to God—is to be interpreted by what it would mean in human friendship.
One meaning is protection. A father puts his arm about his child when it is in danger. God protects His children, "With your mighty arm You redeemed Your people" (Psalm 77:15). "Be our strength every morning, and our salvation in time of trouble" (Isaiah 33:2). "His arm brought salvation" (Isaiah 59:16).
Life is full of peril. There are temptations on every hand! Enemies lurk in every shadow—enemies strong and swift! Many people think of death with fear, dreading to meet it. But life has far more perils—than death! It is easy and safe to die—when one has lived a holy life. But it is hard to live. Yet we are assured that "life" cannot separate us from the love of God. "Underneath are the everlasting arms!"
Another meaning is affection. The father's arm drawn around a child—is a token of love. The child is held in the father's bosom, near his heart. The shepherd carries the lambs in his bosom. John lay on Jesus' bosom. The mother holds the child in her bosom, because she loves it. This picture of God embracing His children in His arms—tells of His love for them. His love is tender, close, intimate. He holds them in the place of affection.
It is especially in the time of danger or suffering—that the mother thus embraces her child. She takes him up when he has fallen and has hurt himself—and comforts him by holding him in her arms, and pressing him to her bosom. "As one whom his mother comforts—so will I comfort you" (Isaiah 66:13), is a divine word. A mother said that her little sick one, had scarcely been out of her arms for three days and nights. Holding in the arms—is a peculiar privilege of love—for times of pain and suffering. It tells therefore of our heavenly Father's tenderness towards His own when they are in distress.
Another thought suggested by an arm is strength. The arm is a symbol of strength. A mother's arm may be frail physically—but love makes it strong. When it is folded about a feeble child, all the power of the universe cannot tear the child away. We know what it is in human friendship, to have one upon whose arm we can lean with confidence. There are some people whose mere presence seems to give us a sense of security. We believe in them. In their quiet peace, there is a strength which imparts itself to all who lean upon them. Every true human friend, is more or less a strength to us. Yet the surest, strongest human strength—is but a fragment of the divine strength. His arm is omnipotence. "In the Lord Jehovah is everlasting strength" (Isaiah 26:4). His is an arm that can never be broken. Out of this clasp—we never can be taken. "I give them eternal life, and they will never perish—ever! No one will snatch them out of My hand!" John 10:28
Another suggestion is endurance. The arms of God are "everlasting." Human arms grow weary even in love's embrace; they cannot forever press the child to the bosom. Soon they lie folded in death. A husband stood by the coffin of his beloved wife after only one short year of wedded happiness. The clasp of that love was very sweet—but how brief a time it lasted, and how desolate was the life that had lost the precious companionship! A little baby two weeks old, was left motherless. The mother clasped the child to her bosom and drew her feeble arms about it in one loving embrace; the little one never more will have a mother's arm around it. So pathetic is human life with its broken affections, its little moments of love, its embraces that are torn away in one hour. But these are everlasting arms—these arms of God. They shall never unclasp!
There is another important suggestion in the word "underneath." Not only do the arms of God embrace His child—but they are underneath — always underneath. That means that we can never sink—for these arms will ever be beneath us, wherever we may be found. Sometimes we say the waters of trouble are very deep; like great floods they roll over us. But still and forever, underneath the deepest floods—are these everlasting arms. We cannot sink below them—or out of their clasp!
And when death comes, and every earthly thing is gone from beneath us, and we sink away into what seems darkness—out of all human love, out of warmth and gladness and life—into the gloom and strange mystery of death—still it will only be—into the everlasting arms!
When Jesus was dying, He said, "Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit" (Luke 23:46). He found the everlasting arms underneath Him when His spirit left the torn body. Stephen died, praying, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit" (Acts 7:59). To a believer, dying is simply breathing the life—into the embrace of God. We shall find the divine arms underneath us. Death cannot separate us from the love of God.
This view of the divine care is full of inspiration and comfort. We are not saving ourselves. A strong One, the mighty God—holds us in His omnipotent clasp! We are not tossed like a leaf on life's wild sea—driven at the mercy of wind and wave. We are in divine keeping. Our security does not depend upon our own feeble, wavering faith—but upon the omnipotence, the love, and the faithfulness of the unchanging, the eternal God! We can never sink away in any flood. No power in the universe can snatch us out of His hands. Neither death nor life, nor things present, nor things to come, can separate us from His love!

Sunday, November 29, 2015

The Cross and the Eternal Glory # 5

Glory: An All-Governing Object and End of God (continued)

"The Father of Glory"

So each title has its own significance - "The Father of Glory." Well, fatherhood means that there must be children, or else it does not have any meaning at all. And true fatherhood means that the children take the character of the parents. This is the Letter to the Ephesians, as you see, "The Father of our Lord Jesus Christ ... the Father of Glory ... the Father in Whom every family is called" (Ephesians 3:14-15). You see, the idea is a family now, God's family taking the character of God, deriving the very Life and Nature of God, and expressing it. I need not dwell upon that in the natural realm. So often it is so easy to see the family likeness, as we say, the family likeness and to say of a son, 'Well, we know whose son you are,' not always, but often. And in this case there is no question about it, or there ought to be no question about it of whose children we are. It ought to be possible for it to be said, 'We know who you belong to,' meaning: 'We know who your Father is, there is a family likeness.'

Now if there is a real partaking of the Divine Nature, if there is here the expression of His Fatherhood, in the measure in which that is true, it will be Glory. He is the Father of Glory. That is, the children partake of His Nature, and the Nature of God in expression is Glory. Well, that is capable of being submitted and subjected to tests, is it not? Again, in the way in which I said just now, if there is something not like the Father about us, something ugly; something that is a contradiction to the likeness of our Heavenly Father, well there is no Glory. But get that cleared up, some bit of un-love, something about us that is really not the Lord; get it cleared up and out of the way and what happens? Well, the only word is "Glory" sensed inwardly, and enjoyed with others. Glory comes in. Take it between two Christians: get that ugly thing dealt with and removed and what Glory comes between them. That is so simple, but that is the Father of Glory, the Divine Nature displayed in children.

"The Lord of Glory"

Then coming to First Corinthians, chapter two, and verse eight: "The Lord of Glory," I think this has a double meaning. First of all, it clearly indicates Christ's place, Christ's rightful place: "The Lord of Glory." It is a title given to Him, that He is the Lord of Glory. Meaning in this sense, the Lord from Glory, the Lord whose place is in Glory, the Lord whose rightful inheritance is Glory, He is the Lord of Glory in the utter and absolute sense.

And, again, it is only when Jesus is really Lord that we know the Glory. Oh, this long-drawn-out battle of His Lordship, what a miserable thing it is! What a miserable thing it is! You know the most miserable people on this earth, who are they? Who are the most miserable people in this world? They are not the worldly. They have a good time in the world. And they are not the-out-and-out Christians. They are the people who are half-way between the two, who are trying to mix up the two; they have the two, something of the Lord, and they are just trying to, somehow or other, reconcile the irreconcilable, and they are miserable people. Oh, be one thing or the other! That is not the Lord of Glory you see. Now, if He is really Lord, then there will be Glory.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 6)

Holy Fear (and other devotionals)

Holy Fear 

"He that feareth the Commandment shall be rewarded"   (Proverbs13:13).

Holy awe of God's Word is at a great discount. Men think themselves wiser than the Word of the LORD and sit in judgment upon it. "So did not I, because of the fear of God." We accept the inspired Book as infallible and prove our esteem by our obedience. We have no terror of the Word, but we have a filial awe of it. We are not in fear of its penalties because we have a fear of its commands. This holy fear of the commandment produces the restfulness of humility, which is far sweeter than the recklessness of pride. It becomes a guide to us in our movements: a drag when we are going downhill and a stimulus when we are climbing it. Preserved from evil and led into righteousness by our reverence of the command, we gain a quiet conscience, which is a well of wine; a sense of freedom from responsibility, which is as life from the dead; and a confidence of pleasing God, which is heaven below. The ungodly may ridicule our deep reverence for the Word of the LORD; but what of that?. The prize of our high calling is a sufficient consolation for us. The rewards of obedience make us scorn the scorning of the scorner.

~Charles Spurgeon~

Tears, Then Joyful Harvest 

"They that sow in tears shall reap in joy"   (Psalm 126:5).

Weeping times are suitable for sowing: we do not want the ground to be too dry. Seed steeped in the tears of earnest anxiety will come up all the sooner. The salt of prayerful tears will give the good seed a flavor which will preserve it from the worm: truth spoken in awful earnestness has a double life about it. Instead of stopping our sowing because of our weeping, let us redouble our efforts because the season is so propitious. Our heavenly seed could not fitly be sown laughing. Deep sorrow and concern for the souls of others are a far more fit accompaniment of godly teaching than anything like levity. We have heard of men who went to war with a light heart, but they were beaten; and it is mostly so with those who sow in the same style. Come, then, my heart, sow on in thy weeping, for thou has the promise of a joyful harvest. Thou shalt reap. Thou, thyself, shalt see some results of thy labor. This shall come to thee in so large a measure as to give thee joy, which a poor, withered, and scanty harvest would not do. When thine eyes are dim with silver tears, think of the golden corn. Bear cheerfully the present toil and disappointment; for the harvest day will fully recompense thee.

~Charles Spurgeon~

1 Corinthians 3:1
Babes in Christ.
Are you mourning, believer, because you are so weak in the divine life: because your faith is so little, your love so feeble? Cheer up, for you have cause for gratitude. Remember that in some things you are equal to the greatest and most full-grown Christian. You are as much bought with blood as he is. You are as much an adopted child of God as any other believer. An infant is as truly a child of its parents as is the full-grown man. You are as completely justified, for your justification is not a thing of degrees: your little faith has made you clean every whit. You have as much right to the precious things of the covenant as the most advanced believers, for your right to covenant mercies lies not in your growth, but in the covenant itself; and your faith in Jesus is not the measure, but the token of your inheritance in Him. You are as rich as the richest, if not in enjoyment, yet in real possession. The smallest star that gleams is set in heaven; the faintest ray of light has affinity with the great orb of day. In the family register of glory the small and the great are written with the same pen. You are as dear to your Father's heart as the greatest in the family. Jesus is very tender over you. You are like the smoking flax; a rougher spirit would say, "put out that smoking flax, it fills the room with an offensive odour!" but the smoking flax He will not quench. You are like a bruised reed; and any less tender hand than that of the Chief Musician would tread upon you or throw you away, but He will never break the bruised reed. Instead of being downcast by reason of what you are, you should triumph in Christ. Am I but little in Israel? Yet in Christ I am made to sit in heavenly places. Am I poor in faith? Still in Jesus I am heir of all things. Though "less than nothing I can boast, and vanity confess." yet, if the root of the matter be in me I will rejoice in the Lord, and glory in the God of my salvation.

~Charles Spurgeon~

Job 35:10
God, my Maker, who giveth songs in the night.
Any man can sing in the day. When the cup is full, man draws inspiration from it. When wealth rolls in abundance around him, any man can praise the God who gives a plenteous harvest or sends home a loaded argosy. It is easy enough for an Aeolian harp to whisper music when the winds blow-the difficulty is for music to swell forth when no wind is stirring. It is easy to sing when we can read the notes by daylight; but he is skilful who sings when there is not a ray of light to read by-who sings from his heart. No man can make a song in the night of himself; he may attempt it, but he will find that a song in the night must be divinely inspired. Let all things go well, I can weave songs, fashioning them wherever I go out of the flowers that grow upon my path; but put me in a desert, where no green thing grows, and wherewith shall I frame a hymn of praise to God? How shall a mortal man make a crown for the Lord where no jewels are? Let but this voice be clear, and this body full of health, and I can sing God's praise: silence my tongue, lay me upon the bed of languishing, and how shall I then chant God's high praises, unless He Himself give me the song? No, it is not in man's power to sing when all is adverse, unless an altar-coal shall touch his lip. It was a divine song, which Habakkuk sang, when in the night he said, "Although the fig-tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls: yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation." Then, since our Maker gives songs in the night, let us wait upon Him for the music. O Thou chief musician, let us not remain songless because affliction is upon us, but tune Thou our lips to the melody of thanksgiving.

~Charles Spurgeon~

Regulated Chastisement

"I will correct thee in measure" (Jeremiah 30:11).

To be left uncorrected would be a fatal sign: it would prove that the LORD had said, "He is given unto idols, let him alone." God grant that such may never be our portion! Uninterrupted prosperity is a thing to cause fear and trembling. As many as God tenderly loves He rebukes and chastens: those for whom He has no esteem He allows to fatten themselves without fear, like bullocks for the slaughter. It is in love that our heavenly Father uses the rod upon His children. Yet see, the correction is in measure": He gives us love without measure but chastisement "in measure." As under the old law no Israelite could receive more than the "forty stripes save one," which ensured careful counting and limited suffering; so is it with each afflicted member of the household of faith-every stroke is counted. It is the measure of wisdom, the measure of sympathy, the measure of love, by which our chastisement is regulated. Far be it from us to rebel against appointments so divine. LORD, if Thou standest by to measure the bitter drops into my cup, it is for me cheerfully to take that cup from Thy hand and drink according to Thy directions, saying, "Thy will be done."

~Charles Spurgeon~

Zechariah 3:1
Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the Lord.
In Joshua the high priest we see a picture of each and every child of God, who has been made nigh by the blood of Christ, and has been taught to minister in holy things, and enter into that which is within the veil. Jesus has made us priests and kings unto God, and even here upon earth we exercise the priesthood of consecrated living and hallowed service. But this high priest is said to be "standing before the angel of the Lord," that is, standing to minister. This should be the perpetual position of every true believer. Every place is now God's temple, and His people can as truly serve Him in their daily employments as in His house. They are to be always "ministering," offering the spiritual sacrifice of prayer and praise, and presenting themselves a "living sacrifice." But notice where it is that Joshua stands to minister, it is before the angel of Jehovah. It is only through a mediator that we poor defiled ones can ever become priests unto God. I present what I have before the messenger, the angel of the covenant, the Lord Jesus; and through Him my prayers find acceptance wrapped up in His prayers; my praises become sweet as they are bound up with bundles of myrrh, and aloes, and cassia from Christ's own garden. If I can bring Him nothing but my tears, He will put them with His own tears in His own bottle for He once wept; if I can bring Him nothing but my groans and sighs, He will accept these as an acceptable sacrifice, for He once was broken in heart, and sighed heavily in spirit. I myself, standing in Him, am accepted in the Beloved; and all my polluted works, though in themselves only objects of divine abhorrence, are so received, that God smelleth a sweet savour. He is content and I am blessed. See, then, the position of the Christian-"a priest-standing-before the angel of the Lord."

~Charles Spurgeon~

Saturday, November 28, 2015

The Cross and The Eternal Glory # 4

Glory: An All-Governing Object and End of God (continued)

The Four Relationships of Glory In the New Testament

We have them in this way: Stephen, in Acts 7 verse 2, opens his address to the Jewish rulers and elders, with these words, "The God of Glory appeared unto our father Abraham, when he was in Ur of the Chaldees" (Genesis 11:31): the God of Glory. Paul, in his letter to the Ephesians, chapter 1 verse 17 uses this phrase, "The God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of Glory"; the Father of Glory. Again, Paul, in his first letter to the Corinthians, chapter 2 verse 8 speaks like this: "They crucified the Lord of Glory"; the Lord of Glory. And then Peter, in his first letter, chapter 4 verse 14 says this: "The Spirit of Glory resteth upon you." There are four relationships of Glory:

The God of Glory;
The Father of Glory;
The Lord of Glory;
The Spirit of Glory.

The Triune God: Father! Son! Holy Spirit! All Glory, the Father of Glory, the Lord of Glory, the Spirit of Glory, all designated by the Word, "Glory".

"The God of Glory"

We will look at each one of these briefly. "The God of Glory." Whenever the word or idea "God" comes into view, or into mind, there is only one thing that is the right meaning of that. If it is God, then the idea is worship. It is worship. The God of Glory then, the End of all God's Ways, will be worshiped. The Glory will be in terms of worship.

You see, this is Abraham. "The God of Glory appeared unto our father, Abraham, when he was in Ur of the Chaldees" (Genesis 11:31). And you remember in our last conference, we point out that in Ur of the Chaldees worship was given to two thousand different forms of deities. And God said, "This is not good enough. Two thousand deities getting worship? There is only One God Who ought to have the worship, Come out of that Abraham, come out of that." And you notice that the whole history of God's dealings with Abraham, indeed, His choosing of Abraham, was to constitute a people who gave all worship to One God only. "Thou shalt have no other gods besides Me". A people who give God His sole place and rights: unreservedly, undividedly, all the worship to Him alone. That was the meaning of the calling of Abraham, out from all other worships, to worship the One, the Only True and Living God. A people, a seed, in whom God got His rights: and got them thoroughly without any reservation. That was the object. And God says, "When that happens, when I have My place, and sole place, and there is no dividedness about this matter of Who has the worship, and Who gets the rights, then there will be a state of Glory." We can look right through to the End. The End will be: there will be no other gods, no other objects of worship, no dividing of allegiance with God. He will be God alone.

Paul touches on that when he says, "That even the Son Himself shall be subject ... that God may be All in All" (1 Corinthians 15:28). And that will be Glory! It is Glory in terms of worship. "The God of Glory, the God of Glory." If you and I, and this is saying a very elementary thing, if you and I believe in God, the God of our Lord Jesus Christ as our God, claim Him to be our God, believe Him to be our God, see what it means, it is something which would lead to Glory. But it is a challenge all the way along as to whether He is, after all, God, our only God, altogether God.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 5 - ("The Father of Glory")

Tears of Grief

Tears of Grief

Tears of Grief  
So David and his men wept aloud until they had no strength left to weep. 1 Samuel 30:4

Tears of grief transcend our normal emotions, for they come from deep within our heart and can erupt in uncontrollable sobbing. Tears of grief are given to us by God to express our larger-than-life losses. In the Lord’s mercy, He allows us to weep. Tears of grief can flush out our fears and foster our faith, as they represent a cleansing process. Tears stream down our face and cloud our eyes, but we see Christ when they subside. We see Him as our comfort and caregiver. We may have been caregivers, but now we need a caregiver.

In our loss, we need the Lord. We need the comfort of Christ to wipe away our tears and replace them with His hope. God shows up in our tears of grief through sympathy and soul care. Our tears of grief elicit our Savior’s tender touch. What you have lost you may not get back soon. It is gone, and its destiny is in God’s hands, but do not lose hope; heaven wants to help. God is not passively dispassionate about your despair; He cares.
Your loss may be that of a loved one who voluntarily disassociated herself from your family. She grew tired of your influence and authority and wanted to see the world for herself. Her departure may have been sudden and unexpected. You weep because you wonder if she will ever come back the same. Pray that Christ will change her on that journey to find herself. Pray she finds Him and embraces the good values you have instilled in her character. God will use your tears to keep her heart tender for Him. Present your tears of grief as a humble offering to Him.
Your loss may be material. The perceived value of these personal treasures is contingent on your capacity to remember. Your photos may still be framed in your mind’s eye, though now absent from their frames. Thank God you still have the ability to remember, as memories are His gifts to be cherished and celebrated. Do not allow the physical loss to rob you of their emotional significance. Moreover, do not focus on fleeting financial losses. Money-motivated living makes for a roller coaster ride of uncertainty. Your grief will never subside if it depends on dollars.

Lastly, let the Lord and others love you through your tears of grief. God grieves with you. He gave His Son; He understands loss. Jesus weeps when you weep; so you are not alone in your pain and suffering. Tears are a liquid bridge to the Lord; they are a float of faith down the river of God’s will. Grief is meant to lead you to the Lord. Therefore, receive the warm embrace of your heavenly Father and invite His children to pray and care for you. When your tears subside, stay at the side of your Savior, Jesus. Your weeping has washed your soul for service, and now you can tenderly engage with others in their tears.
Use grief to leverage your life for the Lord.  The Bible says, “…we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God” (2 Corinthians 1:4b).

Prayer: Heavenly Father, I receive Your comfort as my heart weeps over a great loss. Fill the hole in my heart with Your grace and love.

Application: Who needs my comfort and concern as they suffer in grief?

~Wisdom Hunters Devotional~

Friday, November 27, 2015

The Cross and The Eternal Glory # 4

Glory: An All-Governing Object and End of God (continued)

Glory is Essential (continued)

Peter, who again was not one of the least of the apostles, he in looking back upon what Christ had come to be to them, and referring to what evidently had made the greatest impression upon him, he said, "We were eyewitnesses of His Majesty, when there came from the Excellent Glory this Voice" (2 Peter 1:16-18). Now, that is rather remarkable in this way: that Peter, who was on the Mount of Transfiguration with the Lord, and as he put it afterward, years afterward said, "We were eyewitnesses of His Majesty, when there came from the Excellent Glory this Voice." It was not very long, only a little while after that, that Peter is found in complete darkness: Doubting who the Lord was: Doubting almost everything that the Lord had said: Raising questions about the Cross because the Cross to him seemed to be the greatest disaster that could happen: Doubting the very Resurrection. And because he had not really laid hold of the significance of this: Denying his Lord thrice with vehemence. But then this, as it were, came right up from the dead, this all came back, this Mount of Transfiguration experience all came right back in this mighty way. And years afterward he wrote: "We were eyewitnesses of His Majesty."

You see, Peter's life and ministry subsequently rested upon the Glory of Christ - Upon Glory! It came out of Glory. I believe that the subsequent recollection, remembrance, recovery, of what happened on the Transfiguration Mount, was the inspiration and strength of Peter's life and ministry for us. For us in this whole dispensation, these men were saved by Glory. That is the point. These men were confirmed and established by Glory. These men had their life and their ministry from the Glory that they had seen in Christ.

And Paul, by no means the least of the apostles, beheld the Glory of Christ on his way to Damascus; he beheld the Glory (Acts 9:1-5). Christ appeared to him in Glory. And we have good reason to believe that was not only the conversion of Paul, but everything that we know about Paul dates to that, and sprang out of that. And the wonderful thing about it is that the Glory was attached to Jesus of Nazareth. Paul asked, "Who art Thou Lord?" "I am Jesus of Nazareth" (Acts 22:8-11). The significance of that, because that is the title of Christ in humiliation, of Christ as Man, and the Glory, the effulgent Glory of God and heaven attached to the Man, Jesus of Nazareth, to get the implications of that is tremendous. Man! Attached to man! And that became the very foundation of Paul's life and ministry.

You see, dear friends, Glory was the foundation of the apostles and prophets, and this whole dispensation for Christians rests upon that Glory. These men knew something about the Glory, and that Glory made them what they were, and gave them to us. And what we owe to them, what we owe to those men!

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 5)

The Key of Death!

The Key of Death!

James Buchanan

"Do not be afraid! I am the First and the Last, the Ever-living One! I died — but see, I am alive forevermore! And I hold the keys of death and Hades (the realm of the dead)." Revelation 1:17-18

The Bible affords a solid ground of comfort, by the cheering light which it throws over the valley of death, and, across that dark valley, on the fields of immortality beyond it.

To every thoughtful mind, death and the grave will suggest many serious reflections — reflections which must ever be of a pensive nature, and which, but for the cheering information conveyed by the Gospel — might even induce a feeling of despair. Look to the deathbed of man — and what do you behold? An intelligent creature, in the spring of life, when hope is brightest — or in the prime of manhood, when activity is greatest — or in the maturity of old age, when the fruit of a long experience was ripening for usefulness — laid prostrate by the derangement of some organ or function of his material frame. He is deprived at once, and forever, of all that hope had anticipated, or activity pursued, or experience gathered — and given over as a captive to death, and a prisoner to the grave!

Look to the grave — and what do you behold? Multitudes which no man can number, of human bodies, once as vigorous and active as our own — now buried in deep forgetfulness, and a prey to corruption and the worm — nothing remaining to attest their previous existence save a few bones beneath, and, perhaps, some fading epitaph above!

Go into every land, the same scene appears — however different in climate and scenery, however dissimilar in their institutions and customs, in this, all regions are the same — every land is the sepulcher of the dead. When musing on the earth as the vast repository of the dead, who does not feel that the grave is a melancholy scene — and yet a scene in which more than in any other he is personally interested, since it contains a large portion of his dearest kindred, and will soon receive into its bosom his own mortal remains! Dark, indeed, would be the end of man, were the grave his final resting-place! And over the wreck of the human family, we might have wept with unavailing anguish, had we not known and heard the Savior's voice, "I am the resurrection and the life! If any man believes in me, though he were dead — yet shall he live again!"

The Bible gives us some consoling views of this melancholy theme, in connection with that grand and universal scheme of grace, which gilds with the rays of peace and hope even the gloomiest prospects of man. It represents death and the grave as being under the jurisdiction and superintendence of the same divine person, who, as the Redeemer of his people, exercises a sovereign dominion over all the events of the present world. Time, with its solemn events — eternity, with its awful issues — and death, the passage which leads from the one into the other — are all equally under his control! So that, into whatever state of untried existence any of his people may be brought — they cannot, by any change in their circumstances, be placed beyond the bounds of his jurisdiction, or the reach of his guardian care.

Death, which severs them from every other connection, and the grave, which shuts them up from all other help — cannot separate them from his tender love, nor exclude them from his watchful eye — for he presides over death not less than over life. To him the sepulchers of the dead are as accessible as the abodes of the living; and go where they may, after death he meets with them, and cares for them in the state of disembodied spirits, and will ultimately bring them into the general assembly of the just in Heaven.

Both worlds are equally subject to his authority, and the dark pathway between the one and the other is also under his special care. So that, whether we live in the body — it is because he sustains us; or whether we die — it is because he summons us; or whether we enter into the invisible world — it is because he admits us. And everywhere, and at all times, on earth, or in the grave, or in the separate state — we are equally under the protection of One who, possessed of infinite power, unerring wisdom, and unquenchable love — will order all things that concern us, so as to fulfill his own gracious purpose in dying for our redemption, and to promote our present progress and our eternal perfection in holiness and bliss. "And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose!" Romans 8:28

These views are strikingly presented in the sublime prologue to the book of the Apocalypse, where, appearing to the beloved disciple in the magnificent, yet amiable character of God-man, the Redeemer declares, "I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hell!" Every clause of this sublime declaration, coming as it does from our glorified Redeemer, is pregnant with assurance and consolation to his believing people, and is specially fitted to banish those fearful and anxious forebodings which oppress their minds in the prospect of death and the grave.

"I am the Living One," the first and the last; without beginning of days or end of years; self-existent, and therefore, independent of every outward condition; and incapable of change. He asserts his supreme divinity as a reason why his disciples should "not fear." And, surely, to every Christian mind, the fact that the Son of Man, in whom they have trusted as their Savior, is "the Living One," may well furnish a ground of unshaken confidence, since it assures us, that, happen what may — our trust is reposed on one, whose existence, and whose power to affect our welfare, cannot be destroyed by any event whatever, and that our interests for eternity are absolutely safe, being placed in his omnipotent hands!

But how much greater ought to be our confidence in him, and how much sweeter the consolation which his words impart, when he adds, "I was dead." He appears to the apostle not simply as "the Living One," the self-existent Son of God — but as God manifested in the flesh, the Son of God in human nature, and even in his glorified state, "like unto the Son of Man," whom the beloved disciple had often seen and followed as the "man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief."

Let us attempt to conceive of the feelings with which the beloved disciple must have looked on his glorified Master; let us remember that he had accompanied him on earth, that he had leaned upon his bosom, and that he knew the sad history of his crucifixion — and we cannot fail to perceive how the mere fact, that the same divine Redeemer now stood before him, and spoke with him of the death which he had accomplished at Jerusalem, must have served to annihilate in the mind of the apostle the fear of death, and to open up to his view such a glorious prospect into the invisible world, as would strip death, the pathway that led to Heaven, of its terrors, however dark and dismal it might otherwise be.

And to every Christian, the words of our Lord, "I was dead," will suggest reflections that should serve to fortify the mind against the fear of death; or, at all events, to rebuke and mitigate the aversion with which it is usually contemplated.

Did the Redeemer die — a Being who claims to himself the dignity of "the Living One" — a Being not only of infinite dignity — but of spotless purity, and who, from the beginning until the end of his existence on earth, was the object of God's supreme delight and approbation? And shall we complain that death is allotted as our portion also? We, who, as created beings, are insignificant by our mortality; and by actual guilt — polluted and debased? To us, death comes as wages earned by guilt; but even were it otherwise — did death come to us as an accident of our being — how could we complain of the hardness of our lot, when Christ himself declares, "I was dead?"

Did the Redeemer die — he in whose sympathy and care we are commanded to confide, and to whom we are taught to look, in every hour of danger or distress, for needful support and consolation? And is it no encouragement to reflect, that he, into whose hands we commit our care, when in the extremity of mortal agony, and when vain is the help of man, has himself drank the cruel cup before us and felt its bitterness — that every inch of that dark valley was trod by him, and that, from his own experience, he knows what strength and support we need in that dreadful hour?

Did the Redeemer die — as the surety and representative of sinners — was his death a solemn expiation of our guilt, and an adequate satisfaction to God for the penalty which we had incurred? Is there no reason, then, to suppose, that dying, as he did, in the place, and on behalf of the guilty — death met him in a more formidable shape, and put into his hands a bitterer cup than can now fall to the lot of any of his people; and that their death will be greatly less terrible than it would have been by reason of his enduring in their place, the heaviest part of it?

For what is it that mainly embitters death, and surrounds it, even when viewed at a distance, with innumerable terrors? Not surely the mere pain with which it is accompanied — for equal or greater pain we have often endured — not the mere dissolution of the tie between soul and body — for if that were all, however our sensitive nature might shrink from the shock — our rational nature might enable us to regard it with composure. Not the mere separation from the society and business of the present world — for that, however it may awaken a feeling of melancholy regret, can hardly account for the forebodings and terrors of which every mind is more or less conscious when it contemplates death. No; it is something more than the mere pain of dying, or the mere dissolving of the elements of our being, or the mere separation from this world — that embitters the cup of death.

"The sting of death is sin" — the same sin which gave us over as a prey to death, makes us also slaves to the fear of death. For, by the unvarying law of conscience, sin and fear are bound up together. And it is a conscience burdened with guilt, and apprehensive of punishment, which, in our case, arrows death with terrors unknown to the inferior and irresponsible creation.

But Christ died to expiate and cancel the guilt of his people; he has already endured, and by enduring, has taken away the penalty of their transgression. Death remains — but its sting is taken away; so that we may "thank God, who has given us the victory through Jesus Christ our Lord," and may exclaim with the apostle, "Oh! death where is now your sting — Oh! grave, where is your victory?"

Did the Redeemer die — that he might show us an example of suffering affliction with patience, and be to us a pattern of faith and hope in our last extremity? And is there no consolation in the thought, that when we reach the shore of that dark water which divides time and eternity — we can fix our eye on one who, for our sakes, crossed it in triumph before us; and think of the love of our Redeemer, who, in compassion to our fears, became "bone of our bone, and flesh of our flesh," that, by his own example, he might teach us how to die? Had he returned from earth to Heaven in triumph — had he avoided the dark valleyhimself, and, summoning his legions of angels, left the world by a direct ascension to glory — then, whatever lessons he might have taught, and whatever commands and encouragements he might have addressed to his followers, respecting their conduct in that last hour of darkness and distress — his instructions would have had little effect in comparison with the charm of his example, when, placing himself in their circumstances, and submitting to their fate, he "bowed his head and gave up the spirit;" and met death, as he commands his people to meet it, in the exercise of an unshaken confidence in God, and humble submission to his will. Where shall we find such another example of holy fortitude for our imitation? Where shall we find such another instance of success for our encouragement?

Did the Redeemer die — that he might not only deprive death of its sting — but overcome him that had the power of death, and take it into his own hands? Let us, then, rejoice in his success; for once Satan had the power of death — but Christ has "carried captivity captive," and "Satan has fallen before him as lightning from Heaven." In that hour, which he himself emphatically called "the hour and the power of darkness," when he was in more than mortal agony, travailing in the greatness of his strength, he vanquished death and Hell, and he wrested from the hands of our greatest enemy, and took into his own possession — the keys of death and of the invisible world. Death still reigns — but Christ has now the dominion over death!

In token of his victory, the Redeemer adds, "I am alive for evermore!" The grave received — but it could not retain him. And while the fact of his interment may well serve to reconcile us to the peaceful grave, with all its loneliness and darkness, since it was embalmed by the presence of our Lord himself — the fact of his resurrection from the grave should enkindle the bright hope of a glorious morning, after that dark night has passed away.

For, did the Redeemer arise from the tomb? Then here, at least, is one example of restoration to life, after the agony of death was past — one case in which the spell of death was broken, and the cerements of the tomb burst, and the power of Satan vanquished — one living monument of the immortality of man — one incontestible proof, that the same body which died, and the same spirit which departed, may meet again after that fearful separation. Christ has risen, and in his resurrection we find the ground of an eternal hope!

Did the Redeemer arise from the grave in the same character in which he died — as the head and representative of his people? Then is his resurrection not only the proof — but the pledge; not only the evidence — but the assurance of our own. For if thehead is risen — shall not the members of his body rise also? If, as our representative, he has passed into the heavens — then shall not we, in whose name, and for whose behalf, he undertook and accomplished his mediatorial work — follow him in our order and time? Did we die with him, and shall we not rise with him? "If we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection." "If we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him." "Because I live, you shall live also."

Did the Redeemer not only rise from the grave — but does he live for evermore? Is he the same yesterday, today, and forever? Not only eternal in his being — but unchangeable in his character, as our Redeemer? What, then, should cause us to despond, or make us afraid? "What shall separate us from the love of Christ?" Since Christ has died, yes, also, and has risen again, and is now and forever at the right hand of God, "I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing — will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord!"

True, we know not what may yet befall us, nor into what untried circumstances, or state of being, that we may hereafter be brought. But we are sure that one day we must die and enter the invisible world; and we may well be concerned for an event which will have an everlasting outcome for good or for evil; but placing our trust in the efficacy of the Redeemer's death. And believing in the fact of his resurrection, we may take his own word as the rock of our confidence and hope, "I am alive for evermore, Amen;" and "because I live — you shall live also!"

If these views of the death and resurrection of our blessed Lord are fitted to banish, or mitigate, the fear of death and the grave, and to inspire the hope of a glorious immortality — how much should their impression be aided by the sublime statement in the last clause of the passage, "I have the keys of death and of Hell!"

The power of the keys is an absolute power — a royal prerogative. Christ's authority is not confined to the visible Church on earth; it extends to the invisible world, and embraces under its jurisdiction all the disembodied spirits, of whatever character. Although they have left this world, they are still under the dominion of him, of whom it is said, that "at his name every knee shall bow, of things in Heaven, of things on earth, and of things under the earth; and every tongue confess that he is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."

It is as the Redeemer, that he asserts his claim to the keys; that claim is founded on the fact, that "he overcame death and him that had the power of death, in order to deliver those who, through fear of death, were all their lifetime subject to bondage." And it is expressly declared by the apostle, that, "For this very reason, Christ died and returned to life so that he might be the Lord of both the dead and the living!" Romans 14:9

That he is the Lord of the dead, is here asserted, "I have the keys of HELL." In the original there are two terms, each of which is rendered by the word "Hell" in the English version. The one, however, literally imports the invisible world at large; while the other denotes that department of the invisible world which is specially appropriated to the punishment of the wicked. In the passage before us, the more comprehensive term is used; and here, as elsewhere, it is to be regarded as signifying not merely the place of future punishment, although that is unquestionably included in it, but, more generally, the world of spirits — the entire state of retribution, whether of reward or punishment.

We learn from Scripture, that the whole of that vast world is divided into two departments, and only two — Heaven and Hell; and that between the two, a great gulf is fixed — an impassable gulf of separation. But separated as they are, Christ reigns over both; and when he says, "I have the keys of the invisible world," he asserts his dominion over all the spirits that have ever passed from this world, either into Heaven or Hell; and his absolute control over them in their final destination of happiness or woe.

When it is affirmed, that he has also "the key of DEATH," it is plainly implied that no spirit can pass out of this present world without his appointment; and, more generally, that he is lord of the living not less than of the dead, and has a thorough control over everything that can in any way affect the lives of men. An absolute power over death necessarily presupposes a corresponding power over life and its affairs. And it is by the exercise of his providence in sustaining life — that he fulfills his purpose as to the time and mode of their departure hence.

So that, combining these several views, we arrive at this grand and comprehensive result: that the Redeemer is possessed of absolute power over the course of our lives on earth; over the time and manner of our departure out of the world; and over that invisible state, in each of its great departments, on which our spirits enter when they quit their mortal tabernacles.

And this noble testimony to the universal power and everlasting presence of Christ with his disciples, is fitted to suggest several reflections, which may be useful in dissipating their anxieties, and in fortifying their courage, when they contemplate either the future course of their pilgrimage here, or the solemn prospect of its termination, or the still more solemn, because untried and eternal, state on which they shall enter hereafter.

Has the Redeemer the keys of death? Then this consideration ought to relieve our minds both of the anxieties and the regrets which we are too apt to feel, in reference to the changes of the present life.

It should mitigate the anxiety which often preys upon the mind when we look forward into futurity, and contemplate the prospect of our own death. We should remember, that as the Redeemer alone has the keys of death — nothing can happen to send us forth from the world before the time which he has appointed for our departure. Neither man nor devils can abridge the term of probation assigned to us by our gracious Master. Nor, until he is pleased to call us away, shall any power on earth or in Hell prevail against us. No accident, no hostile violence, no insidious snare, no dark conspiracy, can touch our life — but by his command. And surely, when we reflect on the numerous dangers to which human life is, in its greatest security, exposed — the frailty of our frame — the diseases to which it is subject — our constant exposure to fatal accidents — the malice of open or concealed enemies — it must be consolatory to know, that the key of death is in the Savior's hands, and that, come what may, we cannot be forced out of the world, until he opens the door and bids us to come to Him.

More especially, when we are visited with disease, and threatened with a speedy termination of life, the Savior's power over the keys of death should repress or assuage those violent anxieties as to the probahility of death or of recovery, and those disquieting speculations as to the outcome of disease, and the mode of its treatment, in which we are too apt to indulge to an extent which unfits the mind for the serious exercises of religion, appropriate to a season of personal affliction. Who has not felt in the hours of languishing and sickness — that these painful and perplexing thoughts were even more harassing to his mind, than the pressure of disease itself, and that they diverted his attention, in a great measure, from the profitable contemplation of divine things?

Now, besides that they are injurious, as tending to divert the mind from what is certain — to what must necessarily be uncertain until the event shall disclose it — and useless, as being incapable of either ascertaining or altering the future outcome — it is our privilege, as Christians, to know that such anxieties are altogether groundless. For disease cannot kill, nor can medicine cure — without the appointment of Him who holds in his own hands the keys of life and of death! And if he has fixed the outcome of this disease, why should we be anxious?

If death is in our cup — that cup has been put into our hands at the time fixed by unerring wisdom and infinite love! And if the door of death is opening for our departure — it is because the tender Savior, whom we love and trust, is summoning us to be forever with Him!

Shall we, then, rebel against His appointment? Shall we doubt the love and wisdom of His determination? Or, as ignorant as we are of what is before us in this world, and of what really concerns our best interests — can we entertain the wish, that the power of determining the time of our death were wrested out of His hands and placed in our own?

True, we may have many ties that attach us to this world. We may be young, and, with the optimistic hope of youth, may cleave to life. We may be prosperous, and surrounded with many comforts. We may have a young and engaging family, whom we are loath to leave behind us to the cold charities of the world. We may have many dependents on our industry or bounty, who will bitterly lament our loss. But do we imagine that these considerations are not known to the Redeemer, or that He has not weighed them all? And if, notwithstanding, it is His will to summon us home — are we not prepared to yield up our faulty judgment to his unerring wisdom?

The same consideration should prevent or repress the anxiety which is too often felt respecting the mode and circumstances of our death — not less than respecting the time of its occurrence. A pensive mind is apt to be oppressed with melancholy forebodings as to the situation in which death may overtake it — and to muse on the thousand possibilities which imagination may conjure up in the darkness of the future — until it is overwhelmed with anxieties of its own creation!

We know as little of the mode of our death, as we do of the time of our departure hence; it may be that we shall leave the world with ease — or with difficulty; by a sudden stroke — or by protracted suffering. We may be, at the time, vividly conscious, or in a state of partial aberration, or totally insensible. We may die alone, or in the midst of friends. We may die by sea — or by land; at home — or abroad; on the highway — or in the solitary desert — or on our own pillow. These possibilities are apt to be converted, by a melancholy temperament, into the food of anxious disquietude and fretting care.

It is a very obvious consideration, that such anxieties, springing, as they do, from all possible forms of death, must, for the greater part, be groundless, as death can only meet us in one form at last. And that, even in reference to that form, in respect of which they may be well-founded, they are totally useless, as being of no avail to avert or alter it. That such people harass themselves respecting a matter which must be totally unknown, and which, were it known — is, nevertheless, beyond their control. That their present fears respecting it occasion a greater and more protracted suffering than the event itself could occasion, did it really occur in its most formidable shape. That fear is, in its very nature, an anticipation, and, in some measure, a foretaste of all possible evils — whereas in death, one form of that evil only is endured. And that such anxieties have the effect of spreading death, as it were, over the whole extent of life, according to the beautiful language of the apostle, when he speaks of some "who through the fear of death, are all their lifetime subject to bondage."

But, without dwelling on these obvious considerations, what does it matter, after all, where, or in what circumstances we die? Die where we may — we cannot be beyond the reach of the Redeemer's protection! Nay, the fact that he has in his own hand the key of death, is a proof that he is present with us, and that he is thinking of us, in whatever place, and at whatever time death may overtake us; for there, where we die, he summons us; and it is ours to be ready and willing to depart at his call.

This consideration should repress, not only the anxieties which we feel in regard to the future — but also the regrets which we are too apt to cherish respecting the bereavements with which we have already been visited. It is not less instructive and consoling, when viewed, in reference to the death of relatives and friends, than when it is considered in respect to our own prospect of death. For it teaches us, that the duration of each man's existence here is determined by the Redeemer; that it belongs to him to appoint a longer or shorter period to each, as he will; and in doing so, we have reason to be satisfied, that he determines according to the dictates of infallible wisdom, although the reasons of his procedure must necessarily be to us, for the present, inscrutable.

We cannot tell why one dies in infancy, another in boyhood, a third in the prime of manly vigor, and a fourth reserved to the period of old age; and above all, why the most promising in talent and character, and the most useful in their several stations, are taken away — while others of inferior worth are often left behind. But suffice it for us, that this happens not by chance, neither is it the result of caprice or carelessness — but flows from that unerring wisdom, whose counsels are formed on a view of all possible relations and consequences, whether as to the visible or invisible, the present or the future states of being.

The power of death being in the hands of the Redeemer, the duration of human life is, in every instance, determined by him. And none, therefore, ought to entertain the thought, either that death is, in one case, unduly premature — or, in another, unduly delayed. None live, either for a longer or for a shorter period than infinite wisdom has assigned to them. Reason teaches, that to his appointment we must submit, however unwilling — it being irresistible, and far beyond our control. So, as Christians, we should learn to acquiesce in it cheerfully, as the appointment of one who cannot err. That the determined hour had arrived, is a reflection that should serve to banish every useless regret — but that this hour was fixed by one in whose wisdom we confide, and of whose interest in our welfare we have the strongest assurance — is a thought which should not only induce resignation — but inspire comfort and peace.

For, when death does seize any of our friends, whether in the ordinary course of disease and decay, or by violence or accident — how consolatory to the mourning relatives is the thought, that it came at the bidding of the Savior, and that it has not arrived without his sanction and appointment! Otherwise, we might be apt to reflect, with unavailing regret — on certain remedies whose virtues might have been tried; certain physicians high in professional reputation, who might have been consulted; or to dwell, with painful self-reproach, on certain accidents that might have been prevented, and injuries which timely care might have cured. The mind will often busy itself with such reflections after the loss of a near and dear friend; but the very intensity of feeling which is thus called forth, is a sufficient proof that any carelessness or negligence that may have been manifested, was far, very far, from being designed or willful.

And although, where criminal negligence has been shown, no doctrine, however consolatory, can prevent regret, or should repress feelings of penitential sorrow. Yet, in other cases, where the heart bears witness to its own interest in the beloved object, the doctrine of Christ's absolute command over the keys of death, and the consideration that our friend was summoned away by a deliberate act of his sovereign wisdom — may well assuage the grief which such reflections on the commencement, progress, and treatment of the disease, are accustomed to awaken in the most sensitive and affectionate minds.

While this sublime statement should banish, or at least mitigate, the anxieties and regrets which we sometimes experience, in reference to the events of the present life — inasmuch as Christ's power over death implies a corresponding power over life and its affairs — it is equally fitted to fortify our minds for the last struggle, since it assures us that Christ will then be present with us. In the very article of death, it gives us comfort — for the Redeemer has the keys of death! Then he presides over that dark passage which leads from this world to the next; his power does not terminate with our present life — it extends from the world which is smiling in the cheerful light of day, to that mysterious passage which lies amidst the sepulchers of the dead, and which, to our imperfect vision, is shrouded in impenetrable darkness. We know not the secrets of that passage. We cannot know what it is to die. The mind may then have views and feelings of which it is impossible for us at present to form any conception — for who shall attempt to describe what may be passing in the soul when the tie that binds it to the body is breaking, and nature is undergoing death?

And what renders that scene still more solemn is, that we die alone — alone we enter on the dark valley. Friends and family may stand around our couch, and watch the progress of death — but they cannot accompany us, neither are they sensible of what we feel, nor able in any way to help or deliver us. The spirit departs alone; and in that solemn hour of separation from human fellowship — in that solitude of death, when, placed on the verge of the invisible world, we know that all behind must be forsaken, and are ignorant of what may meet us as we advance — Oh! how consolatory to reflect, that death itself is subject to the Redeemer's power — that he watches over the death of his people, and keeps his eye, not only on the busy scenes of life — but also on the secret mysteries of death.

Yes, "precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints." There he is, where most we need a friend and comforter, standing at the gate of death, with absolute power over every enemy that can assail us, and with unquenchable zeal for our welfare. Dark, then, as the passage is, and unknown as are its dangers and pains — surely we may venture to commit ourselves into his hands, and to say with the Psalmist, "Yes, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil — for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me!" for, says the Apostle, "all things are yours, whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or life — or death."

But Christ has also the keys of the invisible world at large — all, without exception, are under his control. His kingdom on earth is but a small dependency, compared with his universal dominion in the invisible state, where already are congregated, of the human race, ten thousand times ten thousand more than are any where to be found on the earth's surface, besides the hosts of spiritual beings of whom we read in Scripture, as angels, elect or fallen, archangels, principalities, dominions and powers. Not one human spirit that ever lived on the earth's surface has been extinguished — they are all at this moment alive in one or other department of the invisible world — and, holy or unholy, happy or wretched, they are under the dominion of our Savior. And under the same dominion are placed all higher intelligences, fallen or unfallen, of whatever rank and in whatever station they may be.

Could we form an estimate of the multitude of human spirits which must have passed into that vast region from our own world since the period of its creation — of the countless millions which every province of the earth, and every island of the sea, have yielded to swell the host of departed spirits — and could we, moreover, form any conception of the different orders of beings, purely spiritual, and the multitudes belonging to every order, together with their respective rank, and dignity, and power — could we conceive of the extent of that world, which is at once described as Heaven, the third heavens, and yet as stretching far above all heavens — then might we have some materials for forming an estimate of the grandeur and extent of the Redeemer's kingdom. But, unable as we are to comprehend a theme so vast in itself, and of which only a few glimpses are revealed in Scripture — surely it is consolatory to reflect, that whatever may be the extent of the invisible world — whatever the number, the rank, and the character of the various orders of its inhabitants — the whole of that vast region, and all these innumerable hosts, are under the dominion of him who was "bone of our bone, and flesh of our flesh," and who, as our Redeemer, has identified our interests with his own, by "dying for our sins, and rising again for our justification," and who is even now "at the right hand of God, making intercession for us."

When we come to enter on that spiritual world over which he presides, what reflection could so well support the mind in the prospect of such a destination as this — that, go where we may, we are still under the watchful eye of one who has given us the strongest assurances of his love? And may we not well believe, that, if we have trusted in him without being disappointed, while we sojourned in this remote province of his empire — then much more may we trust in his care, when we enter that invisible world where he is, and over which he reigns in the full manifestation of his mediatorial power and glory?

As Christ has the key of the invisible world at large, so has he the key of each ward or department — the keys of both Heaven and of Hell.

Has he the key of Hell? Then, knowing as we do, that there are rebellious spirits of great subtlety, and power, and malice, and that they are sometimes permitted to go about as roaring lions, seeking whom they may devour — we might have many an anxious fear, lest, in the dark hour of death, some such should be watching for our spirit, when it ventures alone into the invisible world. But "precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints" — to that death-bed the watchful eye of the Savior is directed; he can and will restrain the malice of our enemies; and his promise is, that "whoever believes on him shall never come into condemnation," and that "none shall pluck them out of his hand!"

And has the Redeemer the keys of Heaven — that blessed asylum of purity and peace, where, in the midst of his redeemed, the Savior himself dwells? Then, in the hands of our best friend, one who is pledged to us by the sacredness of his Word, and by the shedding of his own blood — in his hands is the power of admitting us — and will he shut the door against us? — he who, for the opening of that door, descended from Heaven to earth, and whose prayer was and is, "Father, I will that those who you have given me, be with me where I am, that they may behold my glory?" No, the door of Heaven is thrown open for the reception of his penitent and believing people. Even now is he "preparing a place for them in his Father's house, where there are many mansions." And thus will he receive and welcome them, on their departure hence, "Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world!" "Well done, good and faithful servants, enter into the joy of your Lord!"

Thursday, November 26, 2015

The Cross and The Eternal Glory # 3

Glory: An All-Governing Object and End of God (continued)

Glory is Progressive. Progressive in this sense, that it is an increasing matter. The Christian finds that from time to time he or she is taken into a deeper, deeper experience of trial, affliction, sorrow, something deeper and more difficult than anything before. And it is a time when there does not seem to be very much Glory. The Glory seems to be veiled. There is nothing necessarily wrong about that, dear friends. We will come to that again in a minute. That is the common experience, and that is recognized as being true to Christian experience. But, you see, God is the God of Glory. And we are called into His Eternal Glory. The deeper the trial, the greater the suffering, the greater the Glory presently. It is only to bring about the Glory in fuller measure. It is progressive like that. And, so, there seems to be no end to these going-down experiences, but equally there is no end to the coming-up experiences. If there seems to be no end to the dark experiences, be assured that there is no end to the light ones.

Sometimes I have been in the lift or elevator and tried to make a contact with the operator, and I have said like this, "Well, you know a great deal about the ups and downs in life don't you?" "Oh yes," he said. Of course, he said it with a grumble. But I say, "Make sure the last one is up and not down, won't you? And a questioning look comes onto his face. "What do you mean by that?" Well, you see, that is just what we do mean. And with the Lord's people, the last one is going to be up, and not down, simply because this is An All-Governing Object and End of God. Do you believe it, that the End is not going to be down, it is going to be up? The Lord is intending Glory: "Who called you unto His Eternal Glory" (1 Peter 5:10). And so what is initial, occasional, progressive, is final. The Bible reveals that to be so for the people of God. That is a statement of general truth, of truth in general.

Glory is Essential

Now if you look at your New Testament, you will find that Glory is a central and a governing factor in the foundation of this particular dispensation in a particular way. This dispensation, as you know, in a special way is built upon, as the Word says, "The foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the Chief Corner Stone" (Ephesians 2:20). The faith of believers for this dispensation is thereby declared to rest upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets. Of course, they are the New Testament apostles and prophets. The apostles, the prophets, and Jesus Himself being the Chief Corner Stone: that is the full foundation.

Now when you look to the foundation of the apostles and prophets upon which all faith in this dispensation rests, you find that it is the foundation of Glory. John, who was one of them, and not one of the lest of them said: "We beheld His Glory" (John 1:14). And you look at his Gospel, and you find that the word "Glory" has a very large place in the Gospel by John. It is Glory. And so John, long years afterward said, summing it all up, their apprehension of Christ, what Christ had meant to them, and it is in the plural "we", the apostles: "We beheld His Glory." And everything rests upon that.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 4)

The Great Means of Sanctification!

The great means of sanctification!

(Jared Waterbury, "Advice to a Young Christian on the Importance of Aiming at an Elevated Standard of Piety")

"Sanctify them by Your truth. Your Word is truth." John 17:17

The Scriptures are the great means of sanctification. This is the charm which so much attracts the pious heart. That heart is not insensible to the elegance of scriptural style, nor indifferent to its bold and beautiful imagery--but these are not the principal attractions. The Bible is the Word of God!

It convinces of sin.
It stimulates to duty.
It rouses from sluggishness.
It warns against danger.
It unfolds the character of God.
It reveals the way of salvation.
It delineates the providence of God.
It presents the Lamb of God slain for our transgressions.
It communicates sweet strains of spiritual devotion.
It brings into view a bright and eternal reward.
It discloses the wounds of our nature, and offers the healing balm.

In short, it embodies all that a Christian in his pilgrimage can need.

It is his only chart through this tempestuous life.
In trouble--it is his consolation.
In prosperity--it is his monitor.
In difficulty--it is his guide.
Amid the darkness of death, and while descending into the shadowy valley--it is the day-star that . . .
   illuminates his path,
   makes his dying eye bright with hope, and
   cheers his soul with the prospect of immortal glory!

The oftener and the more diligently you peruse the Scriptures--the more beautiful will they appear, and the less relish will you have for light and superficial reading. There is, in an intimate acquaintance, and in a daily meditation on the Scriptures--something sanctifying, something ennobling! A satisfaction is felt in perusing them, which no human composition can excite.
You feel as if you were conversing with God.
You breathe a heavenly atmosphere.
The soul is bathed in celestial waters.
It imbibes a sweetness and a composure which shed over it unearthly attractions.

To this fountain of light and life--let us then daily resort.
Here is the healing influence.
Here is the pool of Bethesda.
Here abounds consolation for the afflicted.
Here hope dwells to cheer and to guide.
Bind this precious volume about your neck--write it on the tablets of your heart!
It will prove to be . . .
   your shield in conflict,
   your guide in perplexity,
   your solace in adversity.
If it has been faithfully studied in this life--it will afford themes for heavenly contemplation through eternity.

We should ever approach that Sacred Book with reverence. When we open the Sacred Volume--we listen to the voice of God. Should we not, therefore, give a reverential attention when Jehovah speaks? Should not our posture be that of the deepest humility and awe?

In the written Word, we have God speaking to us as to His children. Go, then, my friend, and diligently listen to the holy oracles. Search the Scriptures. Peruse them systematically. Make them your daily and nightly companions. And may their celestial influence be so infused into your soul--that you shall progressively lose the image of the earthly, and assume the image of the heavenly inhabitants.

Depend upon it, the closer attention you give to the Word--the more precious and interesting will it become, and the more rapidly will you grow in grace and holiness.

The Word of God should grow constantly in your estimation, until you exclaim with David, "O how I love Your law; it is sweeter to my taste than honey and the honey-comb!"