Sunday, November 8, 2015

Without Excuse

“For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are WITHOUT EXCUSE” (Romans 1:20).

“Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God” (Hebrews 3:12).

There was a period of time in my life some years back wherein I found myself seeking a new or more profound experience with God.  I found myself unwittingly calling my search “a need for an epiphany.”  Then one day I decided to look up the definition of “epiphany,” and discovered that it meant (amongst other things), “an appearance or manifestation, especially of a deity.” But as I pursued epiphany, I discovered insidious error on my part.  As our text verse says, “God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen.” To ask for more evidence in light of evidence already manifested is, at the least, a waste of time, and at most, evidence of “an evil heart of unbelief.”  Since I already knew God, worshipped God, and needed no further proof of His existence, to “crave” an epiphany was to potentially open myself up to the devil disguised as an angel of light.
“Then some of the scribes and Pharisees said to him, ‘Teacher, we want to see a sign (attesting miracle) from You [proving that You are what You claim to be].’  But He replied and said to them, ‘An evil and adulterous generation [that is morally unfaithful to God] craves and demands a [miraculous] sign; but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah; for just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the sea monster, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth’” (Matthew 12:38-40).

Jesus indicted the scribes and the Pharisees because they did not know the time of their visitation.  He was standing in front of them in full manifested form (He was their epiphany), yet they did not discern it.  Likewise, the deity of Christ is a manifested reality to anyone who might discern Him as such.  For the Christian, the revelation of who He is grows until the morning star rises within their hearts until they see Him as He is; their initial epiphany is the final and only epiphany needed except to grow into its fullest measure.  We place our faith in Jesus Christ because we already have enough evidence to do so; our faith is therefore complete and settled upon the fact of His “eternal power and divine nature.”  Increasing enlightenment is now only for our enrichment and fellowship, not to provide further proof of what we already know concerning His deity.  When the disciples asked Jesus, “Increase our faith,” He simply replied, “If you had faith as a grain of mustard seed” you could do such and such.  No increased faith or further evidence is needed to convince a convinced mind; in fact, and as a matter of precedence, Jesus might indict someone who asks for more evidence by calling them “evil and adulterous.”

Note, in the following verse, how faith (the evidence of things not seen) is established before even the revelation of Jesus Christ is manifest.  “In this you greatly rejoice…that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ; and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory” (1 Peter 1:6-8).  In other words, enough evidence has been supplied for Christ to demand obedience and perseverance with or without further enlightenment.

The one sign the Lord conceded to the scribes and Pharisees was that of Jonah the prophet.  The obvious reference was to how, in type, Jonah prefigured our Lord in his death, burial, and resurrection.  Both were three days and nights in the belly of hell, Jonah in the sea monster, Jesus in the earth.  “Out of the belly of hell cried I, and thou heardest my voice” (Jonah 2:2) was Jonah’s specific cry, and the type cry of Jesus Christ in the grave in our stead.  The signature realization of Jonah is the signature realization of all of mankind: “They that observe lying vanities forsake their own mercy” (Jonah 2:8).  The only question then becomes “will I realize that I observed lying vanities in heaven or hell?”  Will I forsake my own mercy until it is too late, or will I come to my senses and cease looking to lying vanities (to myself, others or stuff), and instead look to truthful reality (Jesus)?

Oh, we are so without excuse!  In fact, “Do men fall and not get up again?  Does one turn away and not repent?  Why then has [my] people...turned away in continual apostasy?  They hold fast to deceit, they refuse to return.  I have listened and heard, they have spoken what is not right; no man repented of his wickedness, saying, ‘What have I done?’ Everyone turned to his course, like a horse charging into the battle.  How can you say, ‘We are wise, and the law of the LORD is with us’?  The wise men are put to shame, they are dismayed and caught; behold, they have rejected the word of the LORD, and what kind of wisdom do they have?  From the least even to the greatest everyone is greedy for gain; from the prophet even to the priest everyone practices deceit.  They heal the brokenness of the daughter of my people superficially, saying, ‘Peace, peace,’ but there is no peace.  Is the Lord not in Zion? Is her King not within her?  Harvest is past, summer is ended, and we are not saved.  Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there?  Why then has not the health of the daughter of my people been restored? (Jeremiah 8:4-6, 8-11, 19-22, 22).

Just as the unsaved are without excuse, so are the saved that do not allow God to heal them sufficiently so as to inherit their full salvation.  When God asks, “Is there no balm in Gilead?”—He means—“Is there no medicinal value in that heap of evidence I have shown you concerning who I AM and what I AM capable of?”  Where do I get this interpretation from?  Gilead is a city within Israel known for its medicinal balm, and it is a Hebrew word that means “perpetual fountain” or “heap of testimony” or “witness; a mass of testimony.”  So, in other words, “Is there no healing virtue (balm) in a perpetual flow of evidence (Gilead)?”—or, as I have already stated—“Is there no medicinal value in that heap of evidence I have shown you concerning who I AM and what I AM capable of?”  Do you recall how the Lord chided with his disciples about their unbelief?  Indeed, if the Lord was ever to lose his cool, it would have been over the disciples’ unbelief.  Nothing angers our Lord quite like unbelief, and especially in the presence of HEAPS OF EVIDENCE!  Without faith it is impossible to please Him; He is not pleased (He is angry) with those of His children who refuse to BELIEVE Him.  Like Jonah, who heard God but did not obey Him (superficial faith at best), those who obey their own inclination (lying vanities) rather than God—those who foolishly look to themselves (lying vanity)—are those who ultimately forsake their own mercy.  There is no doubt that God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked, nor can there be any less doubt that He takes no pleasure in those of His children who wickedly depart from the living God by allowing “an evil heart of unbelief” to take up residence inside their temple.

My searching for an epiphany was grievously wrongheaded, even pharisaical-like; it is asking God in unbelief, not even fleecing Him in faith.  Signs and wonders are meant to follow them that believe, and are there not for the believer, but for the unbeliever that walks in the believer’s wake.  When a believer continues to seek them for himself, his heart is not right with God.  One who wishes to be further enlightened before he obeys even initial enlightenment cannot possibly be seeking truth because truth is inherently a verb—it implicitly requires obedient action.  Rationalization is the only possible motive one can have for pretending to be a seeker of truth when he already knows the truth but is unwilling to obey the truth.  We are without excuse, all of us who know the truth but do not live it.

It took being in the sea monster’s belly and a trip to the roots of the mountains at the depths of the sea to make Jonah realize that paying attention to LYING VANITIES (human nature) results in forgetting God and His mercy.  Dear God, “May I realize this truth before needing such drastic measures!”  God reveals Himself to infants in Christ, not to those raised up into the matured stature of their own natural man.  “We are just a vapor (a vanity, and a lying vanity at that!) that appears for a little while and then vanishes away” (James 4:14).  It’s as if we’ve already given up the ghost!  “Men of low degree are only vanity and men of rank are a lie; in the balances they go up; they are together lighter than breath” (Psalm 62:9).  “The Lord knows the thoughts of man, that they are a mere breath” (Psalm 94:11).  “Stop regarding man whose breath of life is in his nostrils; for why should he be esteemed?” (Isaiah 2:22).  This is the root problem, and Jonah personified it.  Yes, he prefigured the Lord’s death, burial, and resurrection from the dead, but it was only there in the sea monster’s belly (representing the bowels of hell) that he realized he had placed his trust in LYING VANITIES, his OWN HUMAN BREATH or NATURE.

Unfortunately, many will only come to the realization of their need for a redeemer in the bowels of hell.  Those who are healed superficially are those who do not understand the utter gravity of their situation.  They have no revelation of the poverty of their person, how vaporous or vain they really are.  But I finally had my epiphany: my epiphany was that I didn’t need an epiphany.  I already had the revelation, THE epiphany.  Now all I needed to do was wait on God to perform His word to me.  No miracle, however great it might be, can convince me any further.  I KNOW God’s word is not only true, but true for me, and WILL come to pass.  I am without excuse!