Friday, October 23, 2015

Establishing Evidence

“And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world for a testimony unto all the nations; and then shall the end come” (Matthew 24:14).
The word “testimony” in the above Scripture verse means “setting the evidence,” or as I put it, ESTABLISHING EVIDENCE.  Perhaps a onetime presentation of the evidence is sufficient to convince an individual, but for a nation, a more substantial and sustained presentation is required.  In fact, it takes “the pillar and support of the truth” (1 Timothy 3:15) reality of an established corporate church presence to influence nations.

In the middle of WWII, T Austin-Sparks observed that most Christians throughout history thought their time was the most portentous, and certainly his time was especially portentous, but then he received a revelation that made him rethink his eschatology.  Rex G. Beck, in his biography of Sparks, recorded Sparks’ reaction to new light shed upon our text verse: “Sparks asked, ‘Is the church as it is “setting the evidence”?’  In order for the end to come we cannot merely look at the outward situation, no matter how drastic it may be.  God must have a testimony, a vessel to ‘set the evidence’ before the end will come.”  Beck went on to say that Sparks considered the churches of his time to be inadequate concerning setting the evidence and that “the Lord must therefore call out overcomers to meet His need.”

Notwithstanding this unfortunate reality, that “If the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?” (Psalm 11:3), there has to be a solution.  Our time, like the time during the dark days of WWII, is portentous.  But I agree with Sparks, the black backdrop, “no matter how drastic it may be,” is not enough to warrant the end.  The end cannot come, nor can He return, until the church establishes justice in the earth.  And the gospel alone is that justice.  Our dilemma today is that (the foundations of society are destroyed); the foundations (plural) of society are used here (Psalm 11:3), not Christ the permanent foundation (singular).  Thus the backdrop of establishing Christ are these upheaved and toppled foundational support columns of human nature.  May the dilemma, however, give way to opportunity.  Indeed, the evidence is clear to every genuine child of God, but bouts with doubt and unbelief still plague too many of us.  We must make our calling sure if we are to be those overcomers Sparks spoke of.  Moreover, it will take a corporate body of overcomers—a corporate making of our callings sure—to convince nations concerning the truth—to establish justice—and to ultimately usher in the end.

Setting the evidence is establishing the evidence as absolute and unerring truth; “the church of the living God (not the dead church) is the pillar and support of the truth” (again see 1 Timothy 3:15).  One cannot, let alone many, hold out the weightiness of His Presence without an established and unified holiness of walk and talk; unification of diversity is a miracle only achieved by those who allow God to give them the same mind and character as Christ.  And the way into this established divine character is the way of suffering, and specifically, the suffering caused by the application of the cross.  For those who allow this, a promise: “After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you” (1 Peter 5:10).  And it is in these established ones, the overcomers, that truth permeates every atom of being; these, a corporate body of these, is what is needed in this hour.  Because a presentation of the living God is inherently permanent or timeless, the end can come when that fully matured presentation of the gospel is made.  Let us therefore, I pray, be those overcomers that make that presentation, and may our presentation destroy the works of the enemy by so largely and thoroughly presenting Christ that the promised destruction of the wicked by the brightness of His coming happens concurrently as we speak and act in accordance with the pure unadulterated gospel of Jesus Christ.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Ornan the Jebusite

“And God sent an angel to Jerusalem to destroy it; but as he was about to destroy it, the Lord saw and was sorry over the calamity, and said to the destroying angel, ‘It is enough; now relax your hand.’ And the angel of the Lord was standing by the threshing floor of ORNAN THE JEBUSITE” (1 Chronicles 21:15).

Ornan, which means “strong, tree tough, stridulous,” and Jebusite, which means “trodden, threshing place, to trample down under foot, to pollute,” suggests man in his full but fallen powers walking about in the filthiness of sin.  The fact that he is the last Canaanite of his tribe represents the last vestige of indigenous strength; the fact that the Jebusites once taunted David (who represents Christ) that even “the blind and the lame” could defend their supposedly impregnable city from invasion and capture, David (Christ) nonetheless captured the stronghold of Zion, the city of David, by coming into it through the water tunnel (see 2 Samuel 5:6-9).  Christ, via the tear ducts (of repentance) captures the seemingly impregnable heart of man, that stout and foolish heart that fights to the end of its strength, all the way out to its full extent, even to the blind and lame extent of that strength.

Indeed, “it is with difficulty that the righteous is saved” (1 Peter 4:18); likewise, it is with difficulty that God “establishes and makes Jerusalem a praise in the earth” (Isaiah 62:7).  The length to which God goes, however, to establish righteousness in man is in direct correlation to how deeply He explores the abyss of the human heart.  In Ornan the Jebusite, we see that abyss fully explored and completely redeemed.  The ultimate significance of “Jebus, which is Jerusalem” (Judges 19:10), or its inhabitant, the Jebusite, is that God chose Jerusalem to be His habitation forever.  “Then the angel of the Lord commanded...that David should go up and build an altar to the Lord on the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite” (1 Chronicles 21:18).  “Then Solomon began to build the house of the Lord in Jerusalem on Mount Moriah, where the Lord had appeared to his father David, at the place that David had prepared on the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite” (2 Chronicles 3:1).

Continuing to refine the meaning derived from the idea of Ornan the Jebusite, we see the purification process removing chaff from wheat, and by analogous inference, flesh from spirit.  Upon Mount Moriah, where Abraham was first instructed to sacrifice Isaac (but was eventually allowed to sacrifice a ram instead), “it is said to this day, ‘On the mount of the Lord it [the final offering for sin] will be provided’” (Genesis 22:14).  And indeed, the Lord provided Himself there many years later when Mount Moriah was renamed Golgotha.  Mount Moriah/Golgatha is therefore a spiritual peak or destination achieved only by the true circumcision that kills flesh and livens spirit; it is historically known to be Mount Zion which represents the new covenant and those that worship only in spirit and in truth.  “But you have come to Mount Zion…and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant” (Hebrews 12:22 & 24). Proceeding this place is Mount Sinai and thundered law that produces only doom and gloom; the fear of God, however, must always be transcended—never eliminated or flippantly laid aside—and only through a perfecting or maturing love can this be accomplished.  David, a type of Christ, stops Ornan the Jebusite’s incessant threshing by purchasing his threshing floor; he subsequently builds an altar for holy purposes on the same ground that Ornan used to beat his common meal.  In other words, as Isaac was replaced by a ram, we are replaced by Christ upon our most common ground; our only duty henceforth is to follow Him—to arrive back to the very ground upon which we were previously and unmercifully threshed—and there allow Him to remove our shame by replacing us with Himself.

After Jesus spoke of losing life to gain it, the disciples asked Him not about how or why, but WHERE?  The Lord's reply, “Wheresoever the body is, thither will the eagles be gathered together” (Luke 17:37). The temple is come down out of heaven onto the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite.  This is WHERE the eagles gather together, a place where the common meal is separated from the Holy Communion; the holy ground of God established on the common ground of man.  Finally, we are dead, and Jacob (whom God loves) has supplanted Esau (whom He hates); as a consequence, the true Israel of God emerges from this wrestling match limping but spiritual.