49. Restatement

PART SEVEN: In Defense of the Faith

Reaching into Redemption Meditations: 49. Restatement

Ex 15:13 In your unfailing love you will lead the people you have redeemed. In your strength you will guide them to your holy dwelling.

Questions: Forty-eight studies so far on ‘redemption’.  Is it that important? Is it that significant? Have I wasted the last month and a half writing about something that is just a mere spiritual principle confined to the pages of an outdated book of myths, only believed by a bunch of people living in the dark ages of superstition? Is it just something for theologians living in their ivory towers of irrelevant academia that is high and lofty and divorced from the reality of us ordinary people living out our real lives in this ultra-sophisticated, this hyper-technological world of wonder and provision? Really, what is redemption all about?

The Fundamental Answer: The verse above comes from a song sung by Israel after they have been delivered out of Egypt and out of Pharaoh’s hands. It had been an amazing time and so now they write and sing this song of triumph, summed up in the verse above – God has redeemed us, God has delivered us, and God has got a place for us to get to. And that is what the heart of ‘redemption’ is all about; it is about the reality of having been in a bad place and God intervening to bring us out of that bad place and take us to a new good place.  And that new good place is here and now, AND it is also about tomorrow, an eternal future with Him.

The Significance of the Answer: Hopefully as we have worked our way through this long series, you will have seen the reality of this, how God works in our individual lives to keep us on track for eternity with Him.  In the ‘big picture’ nothing is more important than this. Without it we have no present purpose (than to survive) and no hope for the future (death equals a meaningless end, so why bother to do meaningful things, caring things, heroic things even?) This is the reality here, that all you and I as Christians are experiencing is part of the ongoing process of God to put a real meaning into the present and generate a hope for the eternal future. That hope for the eternal future helps bolster up and support the meaning of the present; we are working towards a very real something.

Our Part in it: Now everything in that immediate paragraph above, is really all about God, His working to deliver us, His working to keep us, and His working into eternity. But the other very significant side of the coin, is that His outcomes in us do depend on our responses. Yes, the person who is indifferent, the person who rejects God’s will, the person who is just self-focused, will not be experiencing the present as a wonder from God, it will not hold gems of glory as heaven breaks in to the mundane, it will not come alive with purpose, meaning and power from above.

The whole deliverance out of the past is dependent on our responding to the convicting work of the Holy Spirit, so that we bow in repentance and submission to the Lord for Him to completely redirect and empower our lives. And once that initial deliverance has taken place, our progress, our growth, will be determined in measure by how we respond to His ongoing leading and guidance. How many are born again and then almost come to a standstill or crawl at snail’s pace through life, knowing little of the wonder of His presence, His power, His purposes being revealed and entered into? It is only as we sense this, or learn this, that we can fully enter into it – and even then, it will never be a perfect involvement on our part – and experience the wonder of the ongoing work of God in our lives. That is what this has been all about.

The mechanics of redemption: The nuts and bolts of this thing start, we said, with our recognition and acceptance of our guilt and failure; that is not to make us feel bad but to enable us to open our hearts to Him for Him to do His work of cleansing and forgiveness in us, and then impart His Holy Spirit into our lives. That, we have seen again and again in the earlier studies. But that was only the start. Then there is the process of getting the old world out of us and releasing faith in us to live in the wonder of the kingdom of God, here and now, even before we enter into the wonder of life with Him in eternity.

The process involves God intervening in our lives to bring correction and fresh direction and fresh enabling – we call that discipline.  The process also involves facing the new challenges that come along as life changes, as societies and cultures change, and as we learn to face the truth of the word of God and measure these life changes against it. We have sought to do that in small measure with limited considerations of the transgender issues that are rising in the world today, in the changes in modern family structures and the breakdown of traditional relationships and the ensuing frailty, weaknesses and pains of the modern alternatives that twenty-first century western man is struggling with.

The Challenges to Belief: Whenever there have been major cultural changes, they always bring a challenge to the Church, a challenge to understand our faith in the light of such changes. ‘Future Shock’ was a book written in 1970, I believe it was, by futurologist Alvin Toffler, possibly the first of a genre that has become common today, that seek to identify the changes going on around us and then seek to predict where they will take us. Essentially, ‘future shock’ was the struggle to cope with the future arriving now. Since that time, now approaching fifty years ago (!!!), changes in technology and outlook and lifestyles, in the West at least, have continued to multiply exponentially.

The result is that, not only has the world changed dramatically in the past fifty years, struggling to cope with the ongoing changes all the time, actually undermine our sense of reality. In some quarters ‘truth’ and ‘reality’ are said to be illusions. With this sort of thinking, my questions at the beginning are truly pertinent – are we talking about ‘a mere spiritual principle confined to the pages of an outdated book of myths, only believed by a bunch of people living in the dark ages of superstition? Is it just something for theologians living in their ivory towers of irrelevant academia that is high and lofty and divorced from the reality of us ordinary people living out our real lives in this ultra-sophisticated, this hyper-technological world of wonder and provision?’

Drowning: As I have prayed and thought about this, I believe modern man – including Christians – are drowning in these changes. That is the picture I want to hold on to in the next few studies. These changes challenge you and me and threaten to undermine our faith, our well-established and well-founded beliefs, not on any logical grounds but more like a fog that comes down and envelops us and makes us lose sight of reality. So, I realise I have just used two analogies, but I believe they do convey a little of what is going on in this fast-changing world in which we all live.

But the thing about this drowning analogy, is that it pictures a person floundering in an environment – water – and not coping. The thing about water is that you can learn to swim in it, surf on it or sail on it, and all are pleasurable things.  I believe that many of these changes (not all as we will go on to see) are potentially good, but we have to learn to use them wisely, and see them in the light of the reality that this series has been emphasizing. There is no conflict between this series or these changes – except where we allow confusion to overwhelm and drown us.

Drowning means death and death in this context means the loss of reality, the loss of meaning, and the loss of a spiritual dimension which is essential to understand and fully experience reality. That is what is at stake here. So, I thought this present study was drawing near to the end, but we have some more to go, as we seek to put all this in the context, even more than we have been doing, of this modern constantly changing world. Stay with me. Keep the words of the song before you: “In your unfailing love you will lead the people you have redeemed. In your strength you will guide them to your holy dwelling.”  That ‘holy dwelling’ is not a physical building, but a life with the living God, both now and in eternity.

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25. The Lord

Lessons from Israel: No.25 : It was the Lord

Ex 15:1 Then Moses and the Israelites sang this song to the LORD: “I will sing to the LORD, for he is highly exalted. The horse and its rider he has hurled into the sea.

There are mysteries about the acts of God. Sometimes His activities are very clear and other times not so clear. In Britain in this first decade of the twenty first century, Christians are rather coy or low key about speaking of the Lord’s acts for fear of being derided by the unbelieving majority, but it isn’t like that everywhere in the world. In fact it wasn’t like that at this point of history with Israel, for Moses and Israel knew without a doubt what had happened to them and so they made it into a song: God had delivered them and God had destroyed Pharaoh and his army. Of that they were quite sure.

It is a funny thing but the unbelief of sinful self-centredness always seems to be looking for explanations that rule God out and try to find a ‘natural’ reason. In today’s age atheistic scientists torture themselves mentally and do mental gymnastics to deny God. They have scientific laws that simply say for there to be movement there has to be an originating force. Then they try to explain the origin of the world by a ‘big bang’ but cannot climb over the intellectual impossibility of such a thing without an originating force because logically you cannot create a bang (of any size) that creates matter when there is absolutely nothing beforehand. The only logical answer is to acknowledge God made everything.

I used to have a friend who tried to explain away the fall of the walls of Jericho by pointing out that an army has to break step when crossing a bridge because of the vibrations set up by co-ordinated marching. The only problem is that Israel weren’t a trained or disciplined army, they weren’t marching over a rigid structure and Joshua wasn’t a trained army leader.

Then we have the people who maintain that the story we have recently read couldn’t have happened because, they maintain, the Red Sea or Reed Sea was only inches deep at that point. Well that just makes it an even bigger miracle that a whole army perished in a few inches of water! Why do we have to constantly try to deny these things, why do we have to constantly try to deny the Lord’s involvement. Merely because we understand a little of thermal movements causing changes in weather, do we have to try and explain away storms that the Bible say God brings to thwart the enemies of His people.

Sometimes the word of God is very specific about God’s activity, for example, the LORD had closed up every womb in Abimelech’s household because of Abraham’s wife Sarah.” (Gen 20:18) As a means of discipline to draw the king’s attention to something wrong, the Lord did this. How? I haven’t a clue. Sometimes the judgment or discipline of the Lord is stated without explanation, for example, “fire came out from the LORD and consumed the 250 men who were offering the incense.” (Num 16:35). Again, how that happened I don’t know, but some catastrophic fire or lightning killed these men and it was clearly attributed to the Lord. Perhaps we don’t like attributing it to the Lord because we don’t like talking about punishment or justice or thinking through the bigger picture, or simply we don’t like talking about people’s guilt or of being held accountable by the Lord. In a day when every man does what is right in his own eyes, such language is uncomfortable.

Sometimes in Scripture we have references to the Lord having closed the womb of a particular woman. We’ve already seen it as a form of judgment or discipline but sometimes it just is stated without any moral judgment – e.g. Hannah (1 Sam 1:5,6). At other times women were just barren and it is not attributed to the Lord – e.g. Sarai (Gen 11:30), Rachel (Gen 25:21), and Elizabeth (Lk 1:7), i.e. they are just things that happen in a Fallen World. Now there is the truth: sometimes God acts to bring discipline or judgment; sometimes He seems to act for much wider purposes that only become clear in the fullness of time, and sometimes things just go wrong in this world that has to cope with the presence of Sin and Satan.

Possibly, therefore, when things appear to go wrong we would do well to seek the Lord and ask, “Lord, why is this happening? Are you trying to teach me something? Have I brought this on myself, or is this just one of those things that happens in a world that goes wrong?”  And even more, “Lord, please grant me your grace and wisdom to cope with this as you would want me to.”

There are often cynical comments made by atheists about Christians who seem to have an open communication with God and who attribute a lot of ordinary things to God. Well, we are called to be childlike and I would much rather people attribute good things to God and praise and thank Him for them, even if He didn’t specifically move to bring them. James said that every good and perfect gift comes from God (Jas 1:17) and I would rather give thanks to God for everything that comes along that is good, rather than keep quiet. God has made this world and made us in such a way that we can enjoy it, so let’s thank Him for every time we have enjoyment – in whatever way it comes. I like the comment of a friend of mine many years ago: “I feel sorry for atheists who, when something really good happens, have no one to thank.” We are made to be thankful and we are frustrated when we cannot give thanks. We harmonise with heaven when we realise the goodness of God and praise and thank Him for being recipients of it. Let’s be a people of praise and thanks!