THE REST OF OUR TIME
"Christ, then, having suffered for us in the flesh, do ye also arm yourselves with the same mind; for he that has suffered in the flesh has done with sin, no longer to live the rest of his time in the flesh to men's lusts, but to God's will. For the time past is sufficient for us to have wrought the will of the Gentiles, walking in lasciviousness, lusts, wine-drinking, revels, drinkings, and unhallowed idolatries. Wherein they think it strange that ye run not with them to the same sink of corruption, speaking injuriously of you;" - 1 Peter 4:1-4.
"Brethren, I do not count to have got possession myself; but one
thing - forgetting the things behind, and stretching out to the
things before, I pursue, looking towards the goal, for the prize of
the calling on high of God in Christ Jesus." Philippians 3:13, 14
I particularly had in mind the expression in verse 2 of chapter 4 of 1 Peter, 'the rest of his time'. We have spoken already tonight of the matter of death. Some here have lost loved ones very recently and there is nothing like death to bring the reality of matters before us. None of us know how long we have left here, but we all have the rest of our time and the consideration for all of us would be, 'How are we going to spend the rest of our time?' Is it going to be living in self pleasing, doing our own will, and pursuing our own aims in life, or is it going to be doing God's will as spoken of here in 1 Peter?
What a challenge this is to us. When death comes in, whatever we have pursued materially in this life is at an end; it is all finished at death. On the other hand whatever we have pursued in the way of spiritual things and whatever we have learned of our Lord Jesus and of the place that He fills - that is what goes through and that is what will be our eternal portion.
What a need there is for us to study and be occupied with God's word. It is vital that we apply our minds to the Scriptures and to do so when we are young. Reading the Scriptures increases our knowledge of God Himself and our understanding of the truth. There are of course parts of Scripture that we may find very difficult to understand but the more we read and pray about them, the more we call upon the Holy Spirit to help us, then the more understanding and light we get as to them and that leads to growth in our souls. The Holy Spirit, who is the earnest of our inheritance, will help us to reach into the great things of God. Nothing can be understood in the things of God apart from the Holy Spirit's service to us.
I would seek to give a word of encouragement and exhortation as to
the rest of our time, recognising that I need such a word as much as
anybody. It may not be very long, we do not know. Of course, we are
to be looking for the Lord's return - what a hope we have - but if
we are called home to be with the Lord by way of death, we know that
we enter into His presence. What a comfort it is to know that those
who love the Lord Jesus pass immediately into the presence of the
Lord. Think of what the Lord Jesus has entered into for us that He
might deliver us from this present evil world to give us a real
living hope, a hope which lies beyond this world. This world is
going on to destruction; it is full of confusion and evil.
So the apostle Peter here is encouraging believers, exhorting them to be of the same attitude of mind as the Lord Jesus Christ. 'Christ, then, having suffered for us in the flesh'. The Lord Jesus came here to do the will of God which He did to perfection, but that will involved the greatest suffering possible, for it meant His going into death that He might deliver God's people for Himself.
So it is a challenge to us. How are we going to live the rest of
our time? Peter speaks about the time past. That was sufficient 'to
have wrought the will of the Gentiles'. What is the will of the
Gentiles? - the things that Peter goes over in the verses we read.
How distasteful they are to the Christian, but that is what the
natural man, the flesh in us, lusts after. So we have to deal with
these things, and overcome the flesh with the help of the Holy
People in the world do not understand the Christian; they cannot understand how Christians find their life outside of 'the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life'. They do not understand the life of the Christian, because it is a life hidden with the Christ in God. We have something far more precious than the world and its pursuits could ever give us, so let us have done with the worldly things that occupied us in the past.
The passage in Philippians would be an encouragement to us. Paul says that he does not, 'count to have got possession myself'. Think of all that Paul had given up, things that he could count filth, because of his knowledge of Christ as his Lord and Saviour. He lost everything here and he counted it as dung: it meant nothing to him, 'on account of the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord'.
So he says here, 'I do not count to have got possession myself; but one thing - forgetting the things behind'. One of the things that marked Israel in the wilderness journey from Egypt to the land of promise was that they continually hankered after the things they had left in Egypt. They remembered all the delicacies of Egypt but they forgot the hard labour and the oppression that they went through, all the suffering they endured. Their minds wandered back to Egypt and we very easily, even as believers, let our minds wander back to the former days, but the apostle Paul says here 'forgetting the things behind, and stretching out to the things before'.
What lies before us? I have spoken about the rest of our time, and if it is only in relation to this scene, how feeble it is, but in stretching out to the things before we think of eternity, when we shall be in the presence of the Lord. What an occupation for our hearts and minds!
I believe the Lord's supper and the service of praise and worship which flows from it is a real encouragement to lift our souls above things here, as it connects us with our eternal portion to have our part and place in the service of God.
So Paul says, 'I pursue, looking towards the goal'. There is an
object in view, which the believer has, and for the apostle it was
'looking towards the goal, for the prize of the calling on high of
God in Christ Jesus'. What a place that is: 'in Christ Jesus'. What
a blessed portion it is for us.
So let us think about the rest of our time. Is it going to be spent here for ourselves, self pleasing? That is a miserable occupation. May it be that the rest of our time is spent walking in relation to God's will. What a reward there will be. There may be suffering now, we might suffer loss and Peter speaks about suffering and loss, but the eternal gain is such a reward. May we be encouraged to pursue these things at the present time.
ADORNING THE TEACHING OF GOD OUR SAVIOUR - PART 4
Paul writing to Titus, exhorts believers to 'adorn the teaching... of our Saviour God in all things' (Titus 2:10). God is looking for the expression of divine teaching in the lives and conduct of men and women just like ourselves. Paul, writing to the Corinthian believers, says, 'Ye are our letter, written in our hearts, known and read of all men' (2 Corinthians 3:2). That is, there was something about the work of God in those saints that was an adornment.
ADORNMENT SEEN IN THE CHRISTIAN COMPANY IN
'Then they who had been scattered abroad through the tribulation that took place on the occasion of Stephen, passed through the country... speaking the word to no one but to Jews alone. But there were certain of them, Cyprians and Cyrenians, who entering into Antioch spoke to the Greeks also, announcing the glad tidings of the Lord Jesus. And the Lord's hand was with them, and a great number believed and turned to the Lord. And the report concerning them reached the assembly which was in Jerusalem and they sent out Barnabas to go through as far as Antioch: who having arrived and seeing the grace of God, rejoiced, and exhorted all with purpose of heart to abide with the Lord... And he went away to Tarsus to seek out Saul. And having found him, he brought him to Antioch. And...for a whole year they were gathered together in the assembly and taught a large crowd: and the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch' (Acts 11:19-26).
In Acts 11 we read of some believers in Antioch, who had just come to faith in Christ. Luke's account in Acts is quite detailed; there were believers scattered after the martyrdom of Stephen but this was the means whereby the gospel spread out and reached Antioch. Then we are told of those that preached in Antioch: 'And the Lord's hand was with them, and a great number believed and turned to the Lord.' Barnabas comes from Jerusalem and seeing the work of God that is going on goes to Tarsus to get Saul and for a whole year this company of believers is taught. What a scope of teaching would have been covered in that year but at the end of it, what does it say? Not that they were exceptionally well-taught persons but that they 'were first called Christians in Antioch'. Christ was expressed. What greater adornment could there be than that in a person's life and it is only expressed because the teaching has been taken on practically.
Teaching brought them practically under the authority of the Lord, so that they would order their lives and testimony in a way that pleased Him. The outcome is that they expressed Christ. You cannot adorn the doctrine unless you learn from Christ what that adornment is. We read in Matthew that Jesus said, 'It is sufficient for the disciple that he should become as his teacher, and the bondman as his lord' (Matthew 10:25). These disciples in Antioch had learned something in Christ and were formed by it so that they were called Christians. They must have seen it, too, expressed in Barnabas and Saul of Tarsus. This would have been a public testimony. They did not call themselves Christians, but were given the name by others.
There was something of Christ with them initially (see verse 23). When Barnabas arrives he sees that the grace of God is active in them. There is something very precious in a soul that has just come to Christ, with an appreciation of what He has done and a longing to learn more of Him. But this shows that God wants formation to take place with us all so that there is a real expression of Christ in our lives. Barnabas discerns how they are and encourages them; he 'exhorted all with purpose of heart to abide with the Lord'. Therefore they are ideal ground, you might say, to take on divine teaching and as taking it on to bring it into expression in their lives.
The Spirit of God is shortly going to move in Antioch. In Acts 13 we read, "Separate me now Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them". The Spirit of God is in this work that is developing in the hearts and lives of these persons. Growth would take place. For a whole year, in all the different circumstances of the year, all would be used by God through Barnabas and Saul to bring about, not only knowledge of the teaching but the expression of it, and that is more important. The apostle Peter expresses it: 'that ye might set forth the excellencies of him who has called you out of darkness to his wonderful light' (1 Peter 2:9). That is what "called Christians" means.
Based on a Bible reading at Chester, 24th March 2012.
Extracted from LW116
"WHERE THERE IS NO VISION THE PEOPLE CAST OFF RESTRAINT"(Proverbs 29:18)Isaiah 6:1-7
The chapter we read in the prophet Isaiah begins with the year that King Uzziah died. Uzziah was a good king who reigned for fifty-two years. During the early part of his reign God helped him immensely, but later on Uzziah presumed to enter into the house of God to burn incense, doing something that he was not qualified to do. This was the service of the priests not of the king.
The historical account in 2 Chronicles 26 says that whilst he was in the temple eighty priests joined together and told him to go out. Uzziah was very angry at this, but whilst he was in there beside the altar, God smote him with leprosy and he hasted, the scripture says, to go out. From this time, until his death, he remained in a 'separate house'. The people did not have reliable kingship from this time until Uzziah actually died. At this point Isaiah saw this amazing vision in the temple. The people had been without moral leadership and moral authority; there had been a time of laxity and prosperity.
Isaiah had a distinctive vision of the glory of God and of the holiness of God. I think at the present time in the history of the testimony it is absolutely essential that we get a fresh impression of the glory of God and of the holiness of God. He saw the 'Lord sitting upon a throne high and lifted up'. What Isaiah saw was something that every one of us should know, that God's glory and authority is to be established amongst His people to the end of the dispensation. Maybe, the throne of King Uzziah had been weak and vacillatory and he had been unable to rule the people, but what Isaiah saw was that God had the authority, the power and the glory to reign in the midst of His people. We need an impression, a vision, at the present time of the exaltation, the glory and greatness of God and His authority and power to reign supreme amongst His people until Christ comes.
The whole scene is filled with a sense of holiness. Scripture says, 'holiness becometh thy house' (Psalm 93:5). There is another scripture that speaks about worshipping God in the beauty of holiness. How do we approach the meetings and the presence of God? What about holiness? Paul speaks in Romans 6:19 of yielding our members in bondage to righteousness unto holiness. There is need at the present time for holiness. I am not exactly talking about separation from things; I am talking about separation to God - what is suitable to the presence of God. Is our behaviour through the week and are our words and our language and how we live suitable to the presence of God? The conclusion that Isaiah comes to, himself a man who had already been commissioned to speak to the people, is that he was unclean and he dwelt in the midst of a people of unclean lips. There is not a brother or sister in this room who is not aware of dwelling amongst people of unclean lips. I do not suppose that one of us has gone through this week without hearing the name of our God and Father blasphemed. We dwell among a people of unclean lips.
In years that have gone by, we often used to hear about self-judgment, repentance and the exercises spoken of at the end of Romans 7. To some extent this seems to have slipped a little with us and a more casual approach to our christianity has come in. My impression is 'where there is no vision the people cast off restraint' (Proverbs 29:18). If we have not a view of the holiness of God, the power of God and the might of His throne, we shall begin to cast off restraint. Isaiah saw the glory of God, 'Mine eyes have seen the King, Jehovah of hosts'; 'the whole earth is full of his glory'. You might say, taking account of things as they appear outwardly, that it does not look like that. But the vision sees beyond what is outward; it is a vision that sees beyond the present, that looks ahead. Isaiah's book is filled with glory. You get a sense of the glory touching the peaks of the mountains as Isaiah unfolds the greatness of the Messiah, the greatness of the day when Jehovah's house will be a blessing and when Zion will be an eternal excellency down here, her walls salvation and her gates praise. What a vision he had of the way the glory of God was going to touch this scene in which we are. We need a fresh view, a fresh vision, a fresh impression of the glory and power and greatness of the throne of God. There it was in the midst of the people, maybe rejected, maybe the holiness of God not observed, but that vision was in the soul of Isaiah and as a result of it he was commissioned to speak to the people.
We read in the prophet Jeremiah. He was an amazing prophet, often called the weeping prophet. Jeremiah's name means Jah is exalted. Mr. Darby's note for the name Jeremiah states that the name of Jehovah occurs about seven hundred times in this book. The name Jehovah in its usage and in its meaning always relates to others - God in relationship to others. Jah is His name in the infinite glory and greatness of the eternal God, in His own existence, in light unapproachable, whom no man has seen or can see, but the name of Jehovah is in relation to others, to His people, to His own. I think it is a touch of beautiful grace that in this book where the prophet sees the inevitability of destruction, God would emphasise the fact that He is in relationship with His people through it all. God has never cast off His relationship with His people. It is a wonderful thing that in this day and age we can know God as our Father. Christianity has brought believers into the knowledge of God as Father, our Father and our God.
Jeremiah's prophesy was going to be ineffective from the very start. A striking thing that! He prophesied probably for forty years, and God told him, from the very outset, that the people would not listen to what he was going to say and that they would inevitably go over the precipice and into the abyss of destruction. Yet, he was still to prophesy to His people in Judah. He was to warn them and he was to tell them what was coming. He was given authority by God in the verse that we read, over nations and kingdoms and 'to pluck up, and to break down, and to destroy, and to overthrow, to build and to plant'. What a tremendous vocation for a man, what a man of vision Jeremiah was! That is why I read those verses 11-16.
God asked Jeremiah what he could see. I would like to ask every one of us tonight, what do we see? When we look to what lies ahead, what do we see? Are we men and women of vision or do we not see anything? Where no vision is the people cast off restraint. They refused to accept righteousness; they refused to accept moral teaching and their behaviour morally is questionable. I believe we are at a very serious point in the testimony at the present time. Perhaps you are minded to go away; perhaps you are minded to cast away any restraint that you feel is laid upon you but perhaps you have no vision. Sometimes in the prayer meeting we pray about the nations. God's house is a house of prayer for all the nations, but Jeremiah was set over nations and kingdoms by authority from God. By the word of God, he could pluck them up and destroy them! God's first question to him was, 'What do you see?' He said, 'I see a rod of an almond-tree'. What a lovely vision. You will know that Aaron's rod was an almond rod, the rod that blossomed, in Numbers 17. That rod together with eleven others was placed in the presence of God overnight. On the following day all the twelve staves that had been laid up in the presence of God were brought out. The only one that had blossomed was the rod of Aaron. Aaron's rod had budded and bloomed blossoms and ripened almonds. It speaks of the Lord Jesus Christ as the One who in the darkest night of this world's history, at Calvary, brought forth fruit unto God. Wonderful Saviour! How precious He is, the One who brought fruit out of death!
Think of that Man coming up out of death! The glory of Christ as He came out of death! The almond in scripture speaks of God's faithful love. Paul says in 2 Timothy 2:13 that 'If we are unfaithful, He abides faithful'. God is always faithful and that is what the almond rod speaks of. God says, 'I am watchful over my word to perform it.' He says that He is going to watch every single word and is going to carry it through. You can rest on God's promises. What He said He will do and what He has promised He will carry out. 'I am watchful over my word to perform it.' Let us hold on to that vision. Every believer would know something of the assurance of the word of God and the promises of God. Think of the Lord's words, 'I will not leave thee, neither will I forsake thee.' (Hebrews 13:5). How many souls here, all of us probably, have at some stage or another had to fall back on the unchanging love and faithfulness of our Saviour. In the darkest hours of your life, you have proved, I have proved, that the Lord Jesus has not left us. 'I am watchful over my word to perform it.' What a Saviour, what a Lord! Not one word of His is going to fall to the ground, not one of them! 'I am with you all the days, until the completion of the age.' (Matthew 28:20). God is going to perform what He promised.
You can think of the days ahead; not one day will we not be able
to count on the Saviour's promise, 'I am with you all the days'.
What a vision that is, whether it is dark or light, whether it is
sunshine or showers - with you every day. What a promise! Later
in the history of Jeremiah he is put in prison. He had been seven
years imprisoned. The city had been besieged by the Chaldeans for a
year. The battering rams were up against the walls; the enemies were
on the gate. God had said, in chapter 1:15, 'They are going to come
and put their thrones at the gates of Jerusalem, I am going to call
them, I am going to bring them.' This was the seething pot from the
north! God did bring them. And in this incident, there were the
Chaldeans outside the city and Jeremiah was imprisoned inside, eating the bread of affliction every day. The city was full of violence, strife, hunger, fear, being besieged for twelve months, and knowing, from what Jeremiah had said, that the gates were going to be broken down and the enemy was coming in and that they were going to be carried captive and were going to die by the sword or the famine or the pestilence.
Jeremiah says, 'Jehovah hath appeared from afar unto me,' (Jeremiah 31:3). In the midst of all this anguish, in that seventh year of Jeremiah's imprisonment, God in grace draws near to Jeremiah 'from afar' and says, 'Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love'. How long is that? How long is the everlasting love of God? As far back as you can go it is there everlasting. As far forward as you cango, it is still everlasting. 'I have loved thee with an everlasting love; therefore with loving-kindness have I drawn thee.' You think of God appealing to His people through His prophet saying 'I have loved you and I love you still and I will love you forever. You may have to go through discipline because of your ways, because you have cast off restraint, but I still love you and I love you despite it.' That word 'have I drawn thee' means 'the way I have bent towards you. I have stooped towards you and I have wrapped my love around you'; 'Therefore with loving kindness have I drawn thee.' God's heart has not changed. Jeremiah saw the day when the whole nation would be carried away and the land laid waste for seventy years, Jeremiah 25, and it happened. Daniel 'understood by the books,' by the book of Jeremiah, that the seventy years were accomplished and he remembered God's word when He said 'I will bring you again and you will dwell in your own land and you will dwell in safety.' It is wonderful, 'I am watchful over my word to perform it.'
God is watchful over His word; He who is coming will come and will not tarry. The Saviour is coming; we are going to be in the Father's house; we are going to enjoy the unchanged love of God in His presence for ever. God is watchful over His word to perform it. 'I have loved thee with an everlasting love'. Nothing is going to change the love of God; nothing is going to change His loving kindness to His people and that is what Jeremiah saw. I want our hearts to be impressed tonight. These men had vision, they saw something, they looked ahead and they could see something and if we have not got vision we will cast off restraint, and if you have not got a vision of the glory of Christ, if you have not got a vision of the love of God, if you have not got a vision of the authority and power of God you will cast off restraint. Moses also had a vision. 'By faith Moses, when he had become great' (Hebrews 11:24). It was not when he was just newly into Egypt; it was when he had become great. Egypt was at the feet of Moses; you might have said he was in direct line for the throne, for Pharaoh's throne. When he became great he refused to be called son of Pharaoh's daughter. There came a point in his life when he said, 'Egypt is not for me, the throne of Egypt is not for me, there is something better.' Perhaps we need a vision like this. There is something far better than Egypt's pleasures and Egypt's treasures. Mr. Darby says in his hymn, 'Art thou weaned from Egypt's pleasures? God in secret thee shall keep'. Moses came to the point when the whole of the land of Egypt was at his feet and he said no! Probably there is nobody here who has reached a pinnacle as high as Moses reached or Paul reached. Paul had the legal world at his feet. He obtained authority from the chief priests and went outside the land of Israel to persecute the believers of Christ. He seems to have had immense authority and influence. Then he met the Saviour!
What a moment when the sinner meets the Saviour! It changes your view about everything when you see Christ and His glory. That is the way that it came about with Paul. Moses became great and made a choice, 'I will suffer along with these maligned people in the land of Egypt.' That was his decision; he refused Egypt and chose his lot with the people of God. It takes manhood to do that. It takes a vision of the glory of the recompense, a vision of the glory of Christ. Moses knew that those people were going to have a deliverer from Egypt. He knew the promise to Abraham and to Isaac and to Jacob, that there should be a seed and he believed what God said, he believed the promises, he believed the word of God. He anticipated the coming of One whose glory was going to transcend the greatest glories and riches of Egypt. It says that he esteemed the reproach of the Christ. I always feel very tested when I read that. Do I esteem the reproach of the Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt? Identification with God's people in a time of reproach will bring a reward that nothing of the treasures of Egypt will ever give. The scripture tells us that Moses had respect to the recompense. He had in his soul a vision of the glory of Christ, the Redeemer, the Deliverer, the Saviour. He said, 'A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up to you out of your brethren like me' (Acts 3:22). What a day when he saw Him on the mount of transfiguration! For the first time Moses had his eyes fixed on Christ. He had seen the glory of God from behind but then he saw the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. He had respect to the recompense. Egypt will soon be finished, will soon be over; it is heading off to judgment but the glory of Christ is going to shine for ever throughout the eternal day. The surpassing riches of His grace, the glory of His grace, the greatness of Christ - how wonderful! What can compare with this eternal weight of glory?
Where no vision is the people cast off restraint! Have we an impression of the glory of Christ, of the day when He is coming? Have we any impression, any vision of the judgment seat of Christ? We shall stand before it individually; it is not a question of penalty and we shall go over with Him every deed in every day. Our history will be reviewed if only to magnify the grace of the Saviour who died for us, the grace of the Saviour who has led us every step of the way. The hymn says, 'Clearer than ever shall we see The grace which God our Saviour showed, The love that led so faithfully, Along the pathless desert road.' Then we shall understand, then we shall know as Paul says, 'even as also I am known.' If we lived in the light of the judgment seat of Christ, we would not cast off restraint. We would be subjects of the kingdom, we would be subject to Christ, we would be men and women that do not cast off restraint.
May we be helped to be morally upright, to be righteous, to be holy and be in God's presence about it. God says in the prophet Zephaniah 3:12 'I will leave in the midst of thee an afflicted and poor people, and they shall trust in the name of Jehovah.' 'Jehovah thy God ... will rest in his love; he will exult over thee with singing.' (Zephaniah 3:17). How wonderful, at the end of the day, to be men and women of vision who see the light of the Saviour coming, who understand the light of the judgment seat, and who see now the glory of what we are going into! The light of this on the pathway now will keep us from casting off restraint.
May it be so for His name's sake.Philip Robinson
10th July 1993
Extracted from LW4