Friday, November 21, 2014

Beyond the Jordan

“It was winter...and He went away again BEYOND THE JORDAN to the place where John was first baptizing, and He was staying there.  Many came to Him and were saying, ‘While John performed no sign, yet everything John said about this man was true.’  Many believed in Him there” (John 10:23, 40-42 NASB).

Many came and believed in Jesus Christ beyond the Jordan experience performed by John the Baptist even though that baptism performed by John is herein declared to be “no sign.”  IT WAS WINTER and Jesus now stood in John’s stead; the summer days of wading in ignorance and basking in much optimistic promise is now both cold and frightening.  The gentle Lamb is now a ferocious Lion.  The full revelation of Christ is as ferocious as winter and as gentle as summer; He spans the seasons and all the climes, and we must “follow on to know the Lord” (see Hosea 6:3) in everyday day and night of every year and circumstance that exists if we are to know Him as He really is.  

And so often the context in which the Lord is marveled at by His saints is winter and beyond the initial glad day we first heard of Him and experienced the rudimentary aspects of our faith.  Indeed, “Let us stop going over the same old ground again and again, always teaching those first lessons about Christ. Let us go on instead to other things and become mature in our understanding, as strong Christians ought to be. Surely we don’t need to speak further about the foolishness of trying to be saved by being good, or about the necessity of faith in God; you don’t need further instruction about baptism and spiritual gifts and the resurrection of the dead and eternal judgment” (Hebrews 6:1-2 TLB).

“And this we will do, if God permits” (Hebrews 6:3 NASB).

INSERT: as I was writing the above article a thought of a past article came to mind because of its pertinence to the subject matter.  When I found it I was amazed!

Nine months ago (to the very day!)—ironically the gestation period of a human child—I wrote the article below.  Amazingly, it ties in perfectly with my thoughts this morning (11/21/2014), and therefore, rather than rewrite more today...

2/21/2014, by Edward V. Beck

You Have Not Come to a Telletubby Mountain

When my grandkids were very young they were enamored with a television show called “Telletubbies.”  In it there were these colorful and chubby creatures in soft teddy-bear-like costumes with baby sounding names like: “Tinky Winky,” “Dipsy,” “Laa-Laa,” and “Po.”  They lived in a bright and symmetrical world with no barbs.  They lived like hobbits in underground dens that they accessed through molehill-like mounds; these mounds were shaped like upside-down cereal bowls covered with perfectly cropped (but artificial) green grass.

The Telletubby mounds, low, and unthreatening, are appropriate for infants and very young children, but ridiculous for even children of kindergarten age, let alone teens and adults.  But what astounds me, is how so many Christians today fear not only Mt. Sinai, that mountain “ablaze with fire, and…gloom and darkness and a raging storm,” but also Mt. Zion, that mountain which is “the city of the living God” (Hebrews 12:18, 22).  It reminds me of those type of people who never grow up, those who move into the molehill homes of their childhood imaginations and never leave.

I see too often today those who descale God’s majestic peaks and marginalize—not only the height of those peaks—but the range of the bases of their grandeur.  At least it is manly to come to the wrong mountain, but these pitiful creatures don’t even come out through the doors of their molehills onto an artificial stage under a manmade light.  Their idea of God is as small and unthreatening as is the size of their spiritual ambition outlined by a starved imagination fed by a malnourished intellect.

Hills may indeed be alive with the sound of music, but music is too often the sound of fools, those ignorant, not because of innocence and infancy, but because of WILLFUL ignorance and STUBBORN immaturity.  Additionally, the hills are alive with clamor, whereas the mountains are still with God’s silence (not a silence born of repression, but of expression beyond words).  In the low and heavy-aired valley dirges reign; in the high and thin-aired mountain God reigns.

But mercifully, our God is the God of both the valleys and of the mountains (as the Arameans learned many years ago; see 1 Kings 20:27-29); and even more mercifully, He is also the God of the molehills (and of all the cowering creatures who live in them).  But as is already mentioned, babies need to grow up, and fear needs to be surmounted.  It is time to make mountains out of molehills without fear, to enlarge the base of our platform to support the full range of life, inclusive of all the hills and valleys and mountains experiences we are destined to overcome and obtain.

Fear of the unknown is a groundless fear for those who know God in more than infantile terms intimated to them by an internal dialogue of baby-talk.  Fear is the BEGINNING of knowledge, but mature love, its adult END.  “The remarkable thing about God is that when you fear God, you fear nothing else, whereas if you do not fear God, you fear everything else” (Oswald Chambers).  God disciplines every son He receives, not to meanly make infants cry, or to harshly force little children to stop crying, but to evoke a directed sentiment, to establish hearts in righteousness, and consequently to drive out genuine tears of repentance from the depths of our soul into bottles of remembrance to secure a matured end. “Therefore leaving the elementary teaching about the Christ, let us press on to maturity. … And this we will do, if God permits” (Hebrews 6:1, 3 NASB).  He permits!

Though we have come to a sunnier and more optimistic mountain than where law brought us, law is not done away, just absorbed and reconfigured along the range of a different line of thought.  The peak from where Jesus speaks is higher and more majestic and even scarier in some aspects than even the dark outline of a dying Mt. Sinai we no longer come to (and which is fading away).  Just as light shines out of darkness, so the shadow of the law frames the art of grace.  Love is only beautiful in the context of terror, and mountains only majestic in high and sharp relief.  Though the mountain is free like salvation, and its peak costly like sanctification, its craggy outline rends the heavens in priceless expression.

In the end, “People will flee to caves in the rocks and to holes in the ground from the fearful presence of the Lord and the SPLENDOR OF HIS MAJESTY, when he rises to shake the earth” (Isaiah 2:19 NIV); but let it rather be said of us, “Look!...The Hebrews are crawling out of the holes they were hiding in” (1 Samuel 14:7).  Yes, come out!  You have not come to a Telletubby mountain, but you have come to Mount Zion and the Splendor of His Majesty.