大结局

又到了年终。世人也知道感恩。基督徒当然更感恩。

能在好事上感恩的,是明智;能在遭遇上也感恩的,是大智慧;

但对认识主、爱主、在主里看到大结局(完全,成了)的人,凡事感恩却不仅仅是一个好的心态、好的处世哲学、或一种更优越的心理。

这是因为这些人知道为什么要凡事感恩;因为过去的这一年,把他们的生命带到又更加靠近了那在基督里的大结局。

昨天参加一对年轻弟兄姊妹的婚礼。这是一对各自都生长在敬虔爱主的家庭的年轻人。

他们邀请了主耶稣自己来主持他们的婚礼。

于是,主不仅到场,不仅祝福了这一对年轻人,也藉着婚礼祝福了全部参加婚礼的人。

婚礼上用了一首诗歌: “主,你即将显现” (Lord, Thou wilt soon appear)。诗歌的最后一句,深深地抓住了我的心:

’Tis this we long for,
And Thou too wilt be satisfied.”
这正是我们所盼望的,并且你(主)自己也将心满意足。

这是指着最后那日,宇宙的大结局,新天新地,以一个婚礼为结局。

基督的婚礼。

祂必定要心满意足。一切都以一个字表征:“telos” – the end, 结局, 终。

圣经中 “telos” (the end, 结局, 终)这个词,最后一次出现,是在启示录最后一章 (22:13): 「…我是阿拉法,我是俄梅戛;我是首先的,我是末後的;我是初,我是。」

“我是。”   终(原文telos)就是宇宙的大结局。而这个结局就是基督。

创造天地万物的 神,是一位有目的的 神。祂岂能不为祂所造的万物安排一个结局!

感谢 神,这个结局在基督里。

但为了这个结局,主自己付上了何等样的大代价。

你是否知道,主在十字架上最后说的一个字,就是这个字? “Teleo” (Telos 的动词完成时)。

成了!」主说,便低下头,将灵魂交付 神了。

这就是十字架上的结局。在那里不是婚礼,而是救世主和罪人相遇。主亲自在那里背负我们所有人的罪,好使 神一次地对付罪,彻底对付罪,无需再有第二次。

你如果不在十字架上的那个结局里,又如何能在宇宙最后的大结局里呢?

成了!」。这个词在圣经新约中其它地方以形容词(teleios)多次出现,常常被翻译为 “完全”,或 “成人”。

“等那完全的来到,这有限的必归於无有了。”    林前 13:10.

“直等到我们众人在真道上同归於一,认识神的儿子,得以长大成人,满有基督长成的身量,” 弗4:13。

“所以我们中间,凡是完全人总要存这样的心;若在什么事上存别样的心,神也必以此指示你们。腓 3:15。

谁是“完全人”,“长大成人” 的呢? 岂不是那些明白 神的旨意,并且将自己的生命主动情愿归属于在基督里的大结局的人吗?

为了我们得以完全,主亲自来走过这条完全的道路。他自己先在肉身走完了这条道路,然后又藉着圣灵带祂的教会(祂的新妇)来走这个。

“主自己原来那为万物所属为万物所本的,要领许多的儿子进荣耀里去,使救他们的元帅,因受苦难得以完全,本是合宜的。” 希伯来书 2:10。

今天,与主的苦难有份的人,有福了,因为他们正是要成为完全人,与基督匹配。

“…在耶稣的患难、国度、忍耐里一同有份,”  启示录 1:9。

时常我们提到 “完全人”, 就以为此人一定得是无论如何看都完美无缺的人,但又知道这个不可能,所以大家只好同意这世上除了主耶稣自己外,并没有完全人。从某种意义上,这是真的;但在 神的心意里,祂却把主耶稣基督给了我们。凡是爱祂,明白祂心意,看得清在基督里的大结局,并真心把自己的一生前途交托给主的人,都是 “完全人”。

这就是大卫和扫罗的区别。大卫成为 “和神心意的人”,不是因为他完美,而是因为他有一颗向着主完全的心。

我们的心,就是我们的真信心, 信(faith),是由主自己创始成终的。这个是何等宝贵! 主回来时,祂将在地上寻找一样东西,就只一样东西,这就是圣徒的信。正因为我们的信是如此宝贵,神才要反复藉着各样试炼来炼净我们,验证我们的信,好使宝贝显出真实价值。

过去的一年,若有任何在基督里的苦难和试炼,我们感谢主,因为祂把我们的生命又带到更加靠近了那在基督里的大结局。

下面是那首诗歌全文:

Lord, Thou wilt soon appear
1
Lord, Thou wilt soon appear,
Thy day is almost here.
Oh, how we love Thy coming soon!
We have no other
Lord, life, or lover
Than Thou, Lord Jesus, our Bridegroom!
2
The hour is drawing nigh,
Soon we shall hear Thy cry
And with Thee on the clouds descend.
Oh what an hour sweet
When Bride and Bridegroom meet
And love surpassing comprehend.
3
The moments fly apace,
Soon we shall see Thy face!
Amen, Lord Jesus! Quickly come!
We long Thyself to see
And with Thee ever be,
Thou who our inmost heart hath won.
4
’Tis but a moment now;
Thou, our Lord Bridegroom, Thou
Soon wilt return to claim Thy Bride.
O Hallelujah!
’Tis this we long for,
And Thou too wilt be satisfied.

粗略意译(未考虑音律)

主啊,你即将显现

1
主啊,你很快就会显现,
你的日子快来。
哦,我们盼你快来!
我们没有别的
神,生命或爱人
主耶稣,我们的新郎!
2
时刻正在临近,
我们很快就会听到你的呼声
随着你在云端下降。
哦,甜蜜时刻
新娘和新郎相见,
爱情超越人所理解。
3
时间正在飞逝,
不久,我们将看到你的面!
阿们,主耶稣! 快来!
我们一直盼望看到你面
和你永在一起,
你已赢得我们全心。
4
只要一点时候;
我们的主,我们新郎
不久就会回来迎娶你的新娘。
哈利路亚!
这是我们渴望的,
你自己也将心满意足。

追求见证的危险

过去这个主日的擘饼聚会,对我很特别。我觉得主实在是借着擘饼聚会服事了我。我几乎感到主是专门给我说话。从一位亲爱姊妹点了“愿你为大” 那首诗歌起,连续几位弟兄姊妹的祷告和几首诗歌,顺序和内容都和往常有极大不同。我很长时间没有在这里的聚会中这么强烈感到我们擘饼聚会与主同坐席的实际了。弟兄姊妹真的在爱主!并且知道他们为什么爱祂。这是在地上最宝贵的时刻!

同时,在随后的聚会中,主也让我再一次看到了一点是什么在抵挡圣灵在这里聚会的工作。

我们常年来慢慢地形成了一个无形的体系,在阻挡圣灵的能量 (the energy of the Holy Spirit)。我们形成了某种规范,并借此先入性地把圣灵在众弟兄姊妹心里的感动都戴上一个 “肉体”、“不属灵”、“不成熟不老练” 的帽子,为著维护一种我们想象的 “属灵的秩序“。 结果,圣灵的能量被人的体系排挤在外。 或者更准确,圣灵选择不停留在人的体系上。

何等具有讽刺意味,因为这种状态正是我们常年来最努力要避免的,不惜频繁尖刻批评其他聚会而努力想避免的。 Continue reading “追求见证的危险”

算数的服事

一个姊妹对服事算不算数有些疑问。她的疑问,是因为她过去常听到这样的教导,“若不明白神永远的旨意,服事不算数。”  

一个人的服事算不算数,是主自己说了算,不是我们说了算。有些看起来很属灵的说法,给我们自己作为励志箴言也许是很好的,但如果当成律法加在别人身上,可就有祸了。

但“若不明白神永远的旨意,服事不算数”这个说法本身也很可疑,把“服事 神永远的旨意” 和“明白 神永远的旨意” 混为一谈,就像把 “看见头” 和 “明白头全部意思(获得教会蓝图)” 混为一谈一样。

一个重生得救的人不可能完全不明白一点神的旨意;但反过来,也不会有一个人可以说他完全明白 神的旨意。明白 神的旨意,尤其是 神永远的旨意,是可追求的。至于主让我到底明白多少,是主的事;而至于主让别人明白多少,就更不是我可以管的了 (可以在爱心中关心,但不可以管)。 Continue reading “算数的服事”

耶穌坐席,使徒也和他同坐

“他們就預備了逾越節的筵席。 時候到了,耶穌坐席,使徒也和他同坐。  耶穌對他們說:”我很願意在受害以先和你們吃這逾越節的筵席。。。”路加福音 22:13b-15.

在主的桌子前与弟兄姊妹纪念主,心再一次被主的爱所夺。主要我们如此行,为的是纪念他。在主的桌子前,我们众人与他同坐。我们坐下来时,圣灵就告诉我们主不仅与我们在一般的意义上同在,他是与我们同坐。

主已经得胜并大得胜,今天已经坐在天上 神的右边。那里是基督的位子,永远的位子。他也在天上为我们准备地方,等日子满足的时候就接我们去到那里居住。那日,所有战争都结束了,得胜者就是我们的主,他是和平的君王。他要在那里设宴席,让众人与他一同入席,来喝新的。

有一首诗歌,名叫 “God and Man at Table Are Sat Down” (神和人在一起坐下了),其中唱到:是哪一位在铺设胜利的筵席;是哪一位使得战事平息?是耶稣,那位复活的救主,和平之君王。”这就是那天的情景。

但今天,主却在灵里来到我们中间,铺设这个简单的筵席,这个被世人藐视,甚至连许多蒙基督救赎的人也都轻视的筵席。现今这筵席,设在这即将过去的地上,在这战火纷飞的土地上,我们这些处在战事中的人,常常疲惫甚至怯懦的人,每当我们与主坐下来,看到和平之王亲自来,设宴与我们同坐,我们的心就被化了。

主啊,我们感谢你!

我们真的是要感谢主。他这样爱我们。主设这个谦卑的筵席,不是为了要我们来向他认错 (虽然我们有许多的错要认),而是为了表达他对我们的爱。这爱就是那既然爱了我们就要爱到底的爱;同时也为让我们表达对他的爱。

那晚,主知道他要离开门徒了,就设了筵席,是为了表达他对门徒们的感激。门徒们做了什么,以至于我们的主要感激呢?主亲口表达说,”我在患难之中,常与我同在的就是你们,”路加福音 22:28。主是在门徒们争吵他们之中谁为大的声音中讲的这句话。

噢,我们的主,他就是这样,真心地感激那些愿意与他在一起伴随他的人。尽管这些人没有、也实在不能为他做什么,况且在随后的那个夜晚,当主进入真正的试炼之中时,众人都四散逃走了,但主却真心的感激他们,为着他们愿意与他在一起。

我们时常感觉主并不需要我们,他对门徒的感激一定只是出自他的大度而已,绝非因为主感到他真的需要门徒的同在。不是的,主真的感激门徒们的同在,因为他需要他所爱的人的相随。这个需要不是由于主自己的缺乏,而是由于爱的缘故。是他爱我们到如此地步,以至于他要感激我们对他爱的一点点回报。

在 “雅歌”中,是新娘(不是新郎)这样说:“求你將我放在你心上如印記,帶在你臂上如戳記。因為愛情如死之堅強,嫉恨如陰間之殘忍。。。” 雅歌 8:6。

这是新娘应当的位置。亚当和他妻子堕落之后, 神对女人说:“你必戀慕你丈夫;你丈夫必管轄你。” 那女人需要她的丈夫,恋慕并依赖他,离不开他,这是女人所当取的位置。这也正是今天教会作为新娘所当取的位置。但这只是理所当然的。我们离不开主,恳求他把我们记在心上,是理所当然的 (若我们不求,不觉得离开主有什么了不起,是逆性的)。

然而,那晚,当主设立这筵席时,是何等样非同寻常的爱!主求我们纪念他!主可以命令我们做任何的事,他的要求都是正当合理的。然而主所有的命令,都是要我们跟随他,走义路,走天路。 唯独那晚的那一次,主要我们纪念他。 并且要如此行,直到他回来。虽然主自己肉身在地上的患难在他复活时就结束了,但是他的身体(就是他的教会)在地上的患难才要开始,并要一直持续到他再回来。主,就是教会的头,却把这个患难当成他自己的患难 (启示录 1:9),并且也实在是他自己的患难,因为教会是他的身体,是个实际,不是比方;并且主是何等地愿望(几乎是需要!)他的同伴与他在一起,共同度过这个患难。

主来到地上,不是要来得人的称赞的。他来就是要受苦难。最后受死在十字架上。他在地上时,听到的多是罪人的埋怨,甚至顶撞,到最后就是那 “钉他十字架!钉他十字架!“ 的声音。就连今天,主也照样受我们常常的顶撞。但他天天赦免我们,从不与我们计较。

然而,当爱主的人围绕着主的桌子,在圣灵的带领下,众人一同感激我们的主,爱我们的主,我们所发出的感激和赞美的声音,在主的耳朵里是一个甜美的声音。

爱他的人所发出的感谢和赞美! 这是主在地上所能听到的、也是愿意听到的甜美声音。这声音如音乐,在地上稀有。等到那日子来到的时候,即主回来时,那天上盛大的筵席被展开后,被赎的天地万物都发出极大的赞美,那时我们只是众声音中的一个声音。但今日,地上这个甜美的声音是主听得见的、在黑夜中伴随主的一个独特稀罕的声音。这个声音现今微小,几乎听不见,几乎没有人会发出。

那明白并加入这个微小声音的人有福了。 只有一个人亲身经历这个,他才明白主和他所爱教会是何等样的关系;他才能明白一点主为什么要吩咐我们来纪念他的死,直到他再回来。

你上次和爱主的人一起真心纪念主的死,与主在一起度过基督的患难,是什么时候?

基督在我们里面、我们在基督里面

“基督在我们里面”和 “我们在基督里面”这两个表达常常被交替使用。就着最终的真理来讲,这两者在永世里的确是同归于一个结局;但就着我们该有的认识和经历而言,这却是两个很不同的事实和状态。

如果从圣经出发来概括地来讲,歌罗西书是“基督在我们里面”,而以弗所书则是“我们在基督里面”。

前者是我们在地上的盼望和我们将得的产业,后者则是主在天上的盼望和他(主自己)要得的产业。主是我们的盼望和产业,而我们(教会)则是主的盼望和产业。两者相互依赖,因为一方面如果不是基督定意要得着我们,我们就谈不上可以得着基督 (“我乃是竭力追求,以得著基督耶穌所得著我的。”腓立比书3:12)。但另一方面,如果我们要是得不着主,主也无法得着我们,并携我们进入他完全的满足和最后的荣耀。

保罗在罗马的监狱里在同时期内写了歌罗西书和以弗所书这两份信给教会,并且由同一位信使带了这两份信分别给在歌罗西的教会和在以弗所的教会。保罗是照着当时这两个教会的的属灵光景来写的这两份信。

在以弗所的教会在属灵的认识上已经有了长成的身量,并且在主眼里无可指摘。在属灵的位置上,他们不仅已经于基督同复活,而且在灵里已经直穿云霄,在天上与基督联合。这个美好的属灵光景使得主能够向他们讲“他们在基督里,在天上正是基督的荣耀和满足”这个启示。

相比之下,歌罗西教会正处在里外的矛盾和冲突、甚至困惑之中。这个教会在地上!虽然歌罗西人已经和主一同复活,但却在一定程度上失去了和头(基督)联合、一同坐在天上的那个完全的见证。当然,教会作为主的身体和头联合的客观的属灵实际是绝不会因着地上教会的主观经历而失去的 (感谢 神,这是在基督里的确据),但是教会所彰显的真理(不是所讲的道理,而是所彰显的真理)和真理在每个肢体(即个人)身上的体现 (realization) 却的确有丢失的危险。歌罗西的教会正处在这个危险之中。

歌罗西人听到许多不该听到的话,都是这世上之小学,以及人在情欲和私欲中制造的蛊惑人心的道理。撒旦尤其利用诺斯底主义(Gnosticism)来迷惑歌罗西的基督徒。有些人开始怀疑原来所信的那位耶稣的身位:他真的是那么样地居首位吗?他是我们的恩人是不错,但或许他并不是 神的完全,而只是 神要人得着的一部分? 等等。那些接受诺斯底主义的人,施行一些神秘而又显得比别人更加圣洁的做法 (守戒律、守节气、禁欲、苦待自己身体等),更是让许多基督徒疑惑,感到或许仅仅要耶稣还不够,还要追求一些更高深的。

这就是歌罗西的情景。然而,教会在这种的情景下,圣灵藉着保罗带来的话,不是责怪,甚至也没有像在启示录里主亲口发出的警告(那是圣灵对着教会说的最后的话),而是亲口把基督(教会的头)的丰盛和居首位的事实一并恳切地向歌罗西人说明、展显。

“愛子是那不能看見之神的像,是首生的,在一切被造的以先。 因為萬有都是靠他造的,無論是天上的,地上的;能看見的,不能看見的;或是有位的,主治的,執政的,掌權的;一概都是藉著他造的,又是為他造的。 他在萬有之先;萬有也靠他而立。 他也是教會全體之首。他是元始,是從死裡首先復生的,使他可以在凡事上居首位。 因為父喜歡叫一切的豐盛在他裡面居住。“  歌罗西书 1:15-19.

这是圣灵在宣告,但也在劝说。这是基督的爱。 如果我们的心是愚昧无知,我们有时会感到这些仅仅是一个客观真理的宣告,心甚至会冷漠到一个地步,感觉圣灵像是在自言自语。

但这里是圣灵何等深切的劝说。犹如一个恋人,他所爱的人今天耳朵听到许多无知人的闲言碎语、甚至仇人的恶语中伤,告诉她说,爱她的那位其实并没有她原来想的那么好;他给她承诺的,未必是最好的,况且他也不一定能够兑现。因此她觉得或许她需要为自己的前途有些另外的打算。

就是在这样的情景下,圣灵来代表我们的主,就是爱我们的那位,爱他的教会并为她死的那位,恳切告诉我们,主是那不能看见的 神的真像,是万有的主人,在一切被造的之先,万有是靠他而立的。并且 神所有的丰富,更何况人所能得到的,都藏在基督里面。所以我们既然得了基督,我们就得了一切。为什么还要在基督之外捕捉别的呢?为什么还会对主有怀疑呢?

噢,我们听了这个,心里才明白过来我们差点上了那恶者的当!才知道爱我们的那位,真的是在万人之上,在万有之上,他尽善尽美、全足全丰。他是父神一切计划的终点,而他因爱我们的缘故把他自己给了我们。他就在我们里面。他是我们唯一也是最终的荣耀的盼望。

“這道理就是歷世歷代所隱藏的奧秘;但如今向他的聖徒顯明了。神願意叫他們知道,這奧秘在外邦人中有何等豐盛的榮耀,就是基督在你們裡面是你們榮耀的盼望“ 歌罗西书1:27。(或直译为“在你們裡面的基督是你們榮耀的盼望”。中文和合本最后一句的译文为 “基督在你們心裡成了有榮耀的盼望”,有可能被我们读成 “我们在心里感到基督是有荣耀的盼望” 这个有些主观愿望的意思,而不容易看出原文的客观意思)。

我们里面的基督,的确是我们荣耀的盼望。这是我们从歌罗西书那里听见圣灵告诉我们的。 之后,我们因听了圣灵的宣告和劝告,就弃绝了一切仇敌的恶语以及无知人的闲话,在生命里见证了圣灵这句话。

Our God is a positive God

One day, as we were chatting over the latest depressing news, a sister in the Lord sighed and said: “as one gets older, you start to see that life on earth is nothing but corruption and sadness.”

The sister who said that wasn’t casually nagging about something negative.  I can sense the kind of pain she suffers seeing the sins of this world, just like the kind of pain Lot suffered while he lived in Sodom.  “For that righteous one living among them, in seeing and hearing, his righteous soul was tormented from day to day with their unlawful deeds.” (2 Peter 2:8)

However, the Holy Spirit will not be pleased by our pessimistic and negative attitude like this, no matter how righteous it may seem.

Feeling the pain of corruption of the world is one thing, but seeing corruption and sadness to the end in a fundamental sense is another. Sometimes our attitude can be so negative that we are effectively (usually unconsciously) pronouncing that it would have been better that God did not create man at all.  But this attitude displeases God, because we are essentially saying to His face that He had made a mistake from the very beginning.  Thus it does not glorify our God who is not only a God of purpose, but is also a God of glory who never makes a mistake and will always bring to a glorious end to what he has started.

Let’s look at the very beginning of God’s work. 

“[1] In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. [2] And the earth was without form and empty. And darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved on the face of the waters.” Genesis 1:1-2.

We know that there is a mystery that is hidden in between verse 1 and verse 2 of Genesis, the very first two verses of the Bible. But that is not the focus of the Spirit.  The dominating condition after verse 1 is emptiness and darkness. And that was before the man was created, and certainly before sin corrupted man and the earth.

If we imagine ourselves being brought to that scene in Genesis 1:2, are we to counsel God that he should not do what he was about to do, because it would be a mistake? After all, seeing all the corruption and the pollution of sin, we might wish to advise God that even emptiness would have been better that all this corruption we see today.

But how foolish we would be if we were to do that. We let our self-righteousness overtake our understanding and acceptance of God’s purpose, God’s power, and God’s wisdom.  Sometimes we may even think that we know sin better than God because we are the ones that actually suffer from sin, both our own sin and the consequence of other people’s sin.

But we are in darkness if we think that way. We forget that our Lord Jesus is the only one who truly suffered the consequence of human sin. He was the only one who had to bear the real and ultimate consequence of our sin, like the scapegoat in the Leviticus, all the way to the cross to take the terrible judgment of God the Father in His righteous wrath toward sin.

And also consider the suffering of God as the Father because of what His beloved Son had to suffer. 

Do we understand in the slightest sense of what Genesis 6:6 refers to? “And Jehovah regretted that he had made man on the earth, and he was angry to his heart” ( Genesis 6:6).  We sometimes think that God was angry because he was like a rule maker who hated to see the rules he made being broken. But that’s not what the heart of God is.

We simply could not appreciate the effect of sin on God’s heart unless we start to understand what Jesus has to suffer on the cross.

That the Son of God shall suffer because of the sin of man was agreed upon in the Counsel of Godhead before the creation of the world.  The Lamb was slain before the foundation of the world. But in Genesis 6:6, we have a glimpse of God’s heart toward sin. The Father hated sin, not only because He was righteous and sin is unrighteous, but also because God the Father knows that His beloved Son will one day bear all the unrighteousness of sin. 

But thank God for His faithfulness and steadfastness, the salvation was carried on through Noah.

God did not and will not make a mistake. God had full understanding of what was going to happen when He started His work on earth and created man.  For as much as he hated sin, he hated lifelessness and emptiness even more.  This is because sin is a problem that can be solved (although at a terrible price paid by God’s beloved Son), while lifelessness and emptiness is Satan’s way to attempt to say God’s purpose has been defeated and God is frustrated.

May we never be lured into a conclusion that even emptiness is better than sin.  Let us bear with sin but never agree with it.  Suffer along with our Lord Jesus until the day he returns. Although the suffering is real, it is nothing compared to the glory at the end, because our God will accomplish what He has set to accomplish.

What do we have to do with God’s kingdom, power and glory?

God’s elect, His Church, is part of God’s eternal purpose. We are directly related to God’s kingdom, power, and glory.

Ephesians 3:9-11 “…and to bring to light what is the fellowship of the mystery which from eternity has been hidden in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ; so that now to the rulers and powers in the heavenlies might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God, according to the eternal purpose which He purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord…”

The glory of God has three aspects: His nature, His work, and His satisfaction.

If God’s glory were only related to his nature, there would be no part for us in his glory. God is self-sustaining, lacks nothing and needs no one’s help for his well-being.

But our God is a God of purpose, so his glory radiates beyond his nature itself and comes to also rest upon his work. And our God is also infallible. Whatever he chooses to do, he will be able to do, he will be able to accomplish, and he will be able to finish to his final satisfaction. Therefore his glory also rests upon his total satisfaction.

But once God starts to work, he is executing his will, and his will includes the church. We can only thank God for that, because it is on that basis that we become partakers of God’s glory. In fact the church did not just get picked up on the way by God out of mercy, but rather plays a positively critical role in God’s eternal purpose.

Let’s take heed of what happened in the heavenly even before the creation of man. The arch angel Lucifer was corrupted by his own vainglory and eventually became the enemy of God.

If it were just a matter of who wins and who is stronger, the outcome of the battle between God and Lucifer would have been determined instantly with little for us to talk about, and much less for us to actually participate.

But God chose not to defeat His enemy directly using his sheer power. He chose to defeat his enemy with his wisdom, and his wisdom is to defeat, convict and condemn the enemy, and put his enemy under shame through a creature called man who is not only weaker than the arch angel , but is smaller than any angels.

Defeating Satan this way, God would not only be victorious, and would further not only have gained a new universe which includes a new heaven and earth, but he would have also gained a Kingdom with his beloved people as the object of his love in His Son Jesus Christ.

This is a mystery of God’s eternal purpose.

To fulfill this purpose, salvation must come to man in the way it did, which is through Jesus Christ; and Jesus had to overcome Satan by destroying his power over man.

And what power does Satan have over men? It is sin and nothing else.

And to do that, Jesus must do it on behalf of man, that is, as the son of man, not as the son of God (which he is), so that his victory can be counted as man’s.

This includes not only his personal victory of perfection as the Man as manifested on the Mount of Transfiguration, but more importantly his sacrificial victory of submission on the Mount Calvary.

Thank God for his plan. As a result of his wisdom and love, in the eternity, our story will be forever a sweet story of salvation, in which the legitimate Heir of the Kingdom sacrificed himself for our sake and came down, down, and down, to the point of death, and was subsequently elevated by God up, up and up, followed by those who are saved.

If this does not mean much to us, then just imagine the opposite: We live in an eternity in which the only story there will be is so dishonorable that it cannot be told openly but can only be kept in secret as a scandal, which is that the dis-honored leader was not a legitimate heir of the kingdom, and he grasped what did not belong to him by trying all his might to go up, up, and up to elevate himself, but was eventually thrown down, down and down by God as a result of his unrighteousness.

Let’s not even think about our fate in the hands of someone of such character and history (shouldn’t it be clear how someone who tried to steal from God is likely to treat his companion?). Isn’t the contrast of these two stories alone enough for us to thank God for his salvation, which comes not only with his power, but with his wisdom, character and glory?

That is our salvation accomplished in Jesus Christ according to the eternal love of God.

But God’s plan does not stop here. God wants not only the redeemed to be an object of his mercy, but also an object of his rich grace which leads to glory. That is, God not only saved us from the suffering in sin, he wants us to be partakers of his glory, partakers of his life, partakers of the good character of his Son Jesus Christ, to an extent that he will not be ashamed as a Father to call us his children, and our Lord Jesus will not be ashamed to call us his brothers.

In that, God worked in history, patiently did he, in man’s lives, so that he will gain a people who become partakers of God’s divine life through Jesus Christ the Savior, and partakers of God’s glory.

This work of God was illustrated vividly in the Old Testament. Abraham and Moses are two great examples.

Through the life of Abraham, God obtained an individual who saw, knew and testified that God is the true and only God of this universe.

The principle of Abraham’s life is a very simple and clear one: leave the world and enter into God’s glory

Through the life of Moses, God obtained a people to demonstrate his power.

The principle of Israelites’ life is still the same, that is, to leave the world and enter into God’s glory. Only difference is that Abraham was called as an individual, but Israelites were called as a people.

Let’s consider the lives of Abraham and Moses.

 

Abraham:

When God made the first explicit manifestation of His glorious eternal purpose to an individual, God chose Abraham to do so.

(1) The relationship between Abraham and God is represented by the alters he built.

The altar is a proclamation of God’s sovereignty and God’s right as the only master of heavens and earth. Altar is a confession that only God is and man is not.

(Here, note that Abraham is representing himself and confessing that he himself is not. He isn’t speaking on behalf of others as a leader, nor was he speaking on behalf of God as a prophet to call judgment upon the sinful world. This is the only right position for an individual, unless the person was called to be a prophet or leader. As individuals, everyone must have his own altar to proclaim such truth at a personal level.)

But most personally, the altar is consecration. Consecration does not suggest a status of perfection, it is in fact a progression, but nevertheless a wholehearted dedication. There is great meaning in when and where Abraham built his four alters, but that is another topic.

(2) The life of Abraham on earth is epitomized by his tent-living.

It would be a foolish mistake for us to belittle or slight this by assuming that Abraham was just a country bumpkin who had a backward lifestyle and didn’t know better.

First of all, we all know Abraham was a rich man, and second, we also know that even back the time, the rich and powerful already knew how to enjoy the luxuries of living in a big city. Pharaoh did. Abraham’s nephew Lot did. You may suspect that Abraham simply was being nomadic and enjoyed nomadism. And sometimes we might feel Abraham did that because that is a natural living style that must have pleased God. But none of these is relevant to the most significant side of the story.

Abraham, while living in a tent, saw a city, the eternal city of God, a city that represented the true nobility of a people and their living, far beyond anything on earth. No one before him ever saw that. And he didn’t take what he saw in the vision as being just one of many things in his life, but instead he knew it was the vision God gave him to tell him about God’s eternal purpose.

Abraham was rich and had abundant on earth, but he chose to live a heavenly life. He saw what was being built by God and what was promised by God in eternity, and he was willing to forsake all luxuries on earth.

What does the Holy Spirit say about Abraham thousands of years later:

Hebrews 11:8-10: “By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he dwelt in the land of promise as in a foreign country, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise; for he waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God.“

Abraham saw a city which lasts until eternity. In contrast, his nephew (and companion) Lot lived in a city which led to destruction.

If there had been the greatest story of Tales of Two Cities, that would be it.

Some of the most heart-touching words in the Bible are those words that described how God appeared to Abraham at his tent while God was on the way to Sodom to destroy that city, especially when it is put in contrast with how God subsequently appeared to Lot at the city gates of Sodom.

Underneath the seemingly similar greetings to God by Abraham and Lot, what contrast it was with regard to the actual relationship between the two men and God, their spiritual condition, their family condition, and the result that came to the city on which they each set the hope, and the final result to themselves.

Abraham knew God, and took God to be the only God he may worship, and trusted him and was willing to do whatever his God asked of him. The test that Abraham’ heart went through was the ultimate test of a human being could sustain, namely willing to sacrifice his own son when tested by God.

 

Moses:

God used Moses to call His people out of Egypt. God never intended to give salvation to just some individuals. He wants a people to himself because he has a kingdom to establish. God’s work starts with choosing and training a leader in Moses.

(1) Recognizing God’s authority is the necessary beginning and the foundation of heavenly living.

One must first come to a correct understanding of who is the true authority in this universe.

In the days of Moses, at a place where Moses lived, there was only one authority, which was Pharaoh. Humanly speaking, it was the most difficult environment for God to manifest his power, because people’s will were already subdued to the singular power, and their minds were conditioned to understand and accept no other power but Pharaoh’s.

Yet Moses was to learn about God’s authority in this very situation which God chose by design, not encountered by accident.

In today’s world, we no longer have a singular worldly power that’s being exerted on us. We live in the so-called “free society”, yet our hearts are so easily turned to worldly powers. Virtually anything that demonstrates some power attracts our attention, our affection or even idol worship.

How do I know my heart is blessed and inclined heavenward? It first starts at what authority I would recognize and submit myself to.

Dear brothers and sisters, what true authority do you recognize and submit yourself to? It should hurt us to see Christians contemplating certain matters concerning God as if these matters were theoretical and philosophical questions subject to our personal opinion with no actual regard to God’s authority.

God’s authority is a legal matter (I’m not talking about the laws of this world). It is also a basis for God’s judgment of the world. God judges his own people with his holiness, but God judges the world with his authority. God’s authority not only has to do with God’s reputation, it also has to do with God’s government over the heavens and earth.

We are in the midst of a great conflict between God and his enemy, and the conflict will quickly come to a climax and then an end. If we can’t do great things for God, we at least should be the faithful ones who stand on the right side of God’s authority.

May we be as little controversy as possible to God’s authority.

(2) Learning how to live a heavenly life is the biggest part of our faithful living on earth.

After Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt, they immediately entered into the wilderness to start a different kind of life, which turned out to last 40 years. The life in the wilderness was to train God’s people to start to live a heavenly life. It taught them what source they could rely on in their life.

How do I know my living is blessed and inclined heavenward? It starts at what source I turn to and rely on for my daily living. This is the case for everyone.

And this takes time. It took less than two weeks for God to demonstrate his power in Egypt and convince Pharaoh and the people of his power, but it took 40 years for God to train his people to be used to a different kind of life.

 

Becoming Christlike by growing His life and character

Outcome of following God’s calling and living heavenward is always connected back to God’s character. God’s glory starts with his nature, goes on to his work, but the work always remains true to God’s character, or else it would not bring him total satisfaction.

There is a heavenly task which requires not power nor might but a nobility in the heart to accomplish. We seem to have only fictions to illustrate this element, because in our earthly reality, it seems that nobility in character is always but an ideal only, not the reality.

But this is the reality in a spiritual war. In the spiritual war, the physical strength that draws from ourselves never carries us to a victory. Only the noble character of one’s spiritual life that draws from the Lord’s life does. We cannot be blind to this truth.

Forgive me to use a secular fiction as an illustration, because I think it gives a great metaphor in this matter. The movie “The Lord of the Rings” is based on a novel written by Tolkien who was from a Christian background. I don’t believe any serious Christian can see it as Christian literature because it has at best a very inaccurate representation of salvation, but the story had several elements that are outstanding depictions of certain spiritual truth.

The first is the depiction of sin and its treacherous effect on a person through corruption. I am not aware of a more vivid and striking illustration of that truth in any other literature. But I will not go on elaborating that point here. What is relevant to today’s subject is another point that is also masterfully depicted in The Lord of the Rings, which is character and nobility being the strongest strength one can possess.

The story tells a fictional final war to determine the fate of the Middle Earth and the mankind. Everything is hinged upon good people’s attempt to destroy a master ring which is an embodiment of evil force. The ring can only be destroyed at the original place where it was made, and someone has to carry the ring to that place. But not a strong man can do. Only one who has a noble heart can do, because the ring exerts on its carrier an evil temptation, which effects as a terribly heavy burden that only the noblest could bear. It is hard to imagine a better illustration of this point than what Mr. Tolkien did.

Come back to our real life.

Who is the true Noble One but Jesus Christ? And what life has true nobility but the life of Jesus? And who will be the victor through the end but those who have the life of Jesus?

Very often, we have a wrong idea that God is like a police trying to enforce a good legal rule to ensure that we people make fewer troubles. But if that were all in God’s purpose, he wouldn’t have bothered to create us in the first place.

God has a glorious purpose. If put in our human language, God is so proud of his only begotten Son that he wants many to be just like his Son, that is to share his Son’s character.

Our God is always positive. Far more positive than just saving us from sin. If God only wanted to save us from the misery of sin, his work would have ended 2000 years ago after our Lord Jesus overcame Satan and his agent sin on the cross.

But God is building a Kingdom, to apply his goodness, exert his authority and manifest his glory. And he has appointed his only begotten Son Jesus Christ to be the King of Kings, and he has made sure that the Kingdom will be consisted of a noble people who run noble blood in their veins because they have inherited the noble life from the King.

We are part of that work. Regardless of how difficult and how everything may seem so indifferent to the physical eyes, there is something big and dramatic going on behind the scene in the spiritual reality. We are called to serve the King, not merely as bystanders to receive a few pities bestowed by the King who happens to be passing by our place.

I’m never afraid of losing my salvation, but I’m afraid every day that I may disappoint the King and let him down. And I admit that I still don’t have the full courage to utter those words of an elderly sister who went to the Lord a long time ago. She said these words when she was in her late 80s, when she was widely known by God’s people not only for her rare gifts but more for a sacrificial life lived before the Lord:

“If He would ask of me even today, I will not let him be disappointed.”

But I remember those words, and let us all remember them to encourage each other.

The complete salvation

If we blindly emphasize a “simple Gospel” without giving heed to the whole counsel of God on the matter of salvation, we may fail to look beyond the basic truth to attain a deeper and more complete one.

First of all, we must take it as an unshakable foundation that salvation is all grace and all by faith, not our own deeds and own righteousness, even when it comes to sanctification.  It is the first step of the salvation to realize that it is all based on God’s grace that we are saved.

Then a Christian must come to the second step to realize that God has work to do in us after we are saved.

And soon, a Christian realizes that when it comes to growth, God doesn’t do anything until the Christian takes action first.

The Christian decides to obey, starts to grow and enjoys peace.  But soon the Christian finds that the thrill of growth disappears.  Not only can’t he do anything in order to make himself grow, but also he is often the very obstacle to God’s plan in his growth. That is when the Christian starts to experience the Cross deeper and starts to recognize that like his rebirth, growth too is all by faith according to God’s grace.

The above is how we grow.  But being curious as we are, we secretly ask the next question:  if it’s all by faith, why do I need to struggle to grow at all?

We tend to think that when we ask a question like that, we mostly ask as a matter of intellectual curiosity, rather than out of spiritual disobedience.  But by the grace of God we will see that the reality is the opposite at a deeper level.

On one hand, the above “why?” is of such a nature that a serious Christian tends to consider it improper to even ask.  In fact, under a religious veil, few Christians explicitly ask such a question.

On the other hand, many of us harbor that question in our heart.  The confusion over Bible verses that teach “salvation by grace” in contrast with other verses that teach, or indeed command, righteous deeds, is evidence.

I’ve even read theological writings on this subject that simply demonstrate the writer’s confusion.  In fact I believe that the modern Christian language itself reflects that deep confusion.  The term “salvation” in nearly all modern contexts is used to refer to the initial acceptance of Christ, in contrast to “sanctification” and “glorification.”  Such a differentiation has helped God’s people to escape from legalism such as that in the dark ages, but didn’t help God’s children grasp the more complete truth.

From God’s own Word, a Christian life is better described by “justification”, “sanctification”, and “glorification”, and all these three together constitute our complete “salvation,” instead of first “salvation” and then followed by “sanctification” and “glorification.”

If you allow me to use a formula, we should have: salvation = justification + sanctification + glorification; rather than: salvation = justification, but optionally decorated by sanctification, even glorification.

In numerous places in God’s Word, Christians (by definition those who have already been justified and born again into a new life) are called to work out our salvation.  If one is supposed to have obtained the compete salvation when justified and born again, how is that he is still asked to reach to his salvation?

There is of course no contradiction in Bible.  When the Holy Spirit speaks to us who are already reborn (that is, already received justification), He naturally speaks  about a deeper part of our salvation.  The plain truth is, because Christ finished the complete and objective salvation for the mankind on the Cross, the salvation He prepared for a Christian to subjectively experience is also a compete one, which is much richer than a mere rebirth, but rather to attain a mature Christ-like life.

You may say, doesn’t everyone agree with that point?  Thank Lord if everyone does.  But I am trying to expose here a hidden “religion” on this point which prevents God’s children from meeting the Lord’s eyes directly.  Many of us, despite acknowledging the above truth in principle,  secretly believe that as far as salvation itself is concerned, God’s work is completely done when a person is justified.  The rest (growth) is our gratuitous response to God. Many even base a Christian’s freedom on that notion.

But the above understanding is a false religion built on false “freedom”.  It misguides us, and make us forget that a Christian must subjectively experience all that Christ has objectively accomplished for him on the Cross in order to attain his complete salvation, which includes not just justification, but more importantly attaining a mature Christ-like life.

In other words, a Christian’s sanctification and glorification is necessary, rather than optional, for his complete salvation.  God showed this principle clearly in His dealings with His people at the Old Testament time. Israelites were justified on the Passover night by the blood of Lamb spread on the door, but can you even imagine that the next morning an Israelite decides that he’d rather stay in Egypt (that is, remain unseparated from the world)?

We must not stumble on this.  I know that some brothers and sisters resist the above fundamental truth in various ways.  But I found that in every case the reason behind the resistance is not because we cannot agree with each other upon the truth but always because there is a misunderstanding of what is actually meant by the truth.

Out of our defensive human nature, many often have an automatic response upon hearing “complete salvation by not only accepting Christ but also by being Christ-like.”  Specifically, some automatically assume that the above statement means a forfeiture of what a Christian is commonly believed to have already received from God by the initial believing.

But the truth is the opposite.  The revelation of the “complete salvation” is not a denial of our common belief in new life upon receiving Christ, but only an enrichment added to our former narrow understanding. It is to reveal that God has prepared much more beyond what we think we have obtained.

“I have come that they may have life, and they may have it more abundantly.” John 10:10.  We all have life because of our receiving the Lord, but are we receiving the “more abundant” life and becoming Christ-like?

Note that the “more abundant” life is Christ-like life, rather than a result of “trying to be Christ-like in order to receive the more abundant life.”

Since sanctification is part of our salvation, when Bible calls a child of God to be sanctified (i.e., separated, holy and righteous), it is not calling him to “try to be holy and righteous in order to exchange for salvation,” but rather simply calling him to “be saved.”

That is, the command to live a Christian life is not a method or means by which we are saved, but rather a mere description of the status of having been saved.

We must not forget our real condition even as Christians.  Before rebirth we were dead, but even after rebirth we are still in the water (drowning) if we do not live a sanctified holy life.  When a drowning person is asked to reach out to a rescuing boat and be separated from the water, his being aboard is his salvation itself, rather than a “price” he has to pay to the boat owner in exchange for salvation.

How perverted our hearts are that we think our becoming separated from the ways of the world, becoming holy and more like the Lord is a “price” to pay in order to exchange for a salvation!   The Lord Himself is our salvation.  The moment we see that truth, we ought to pray: “Lord, change my life to be like you, or I will surely perish.”  It has nothing to do with legalism relying on human effort to attain salvation but everything do with seeing God’s glorious complete salvation for each of His children.

At this point, one may, in fact should, ask,”if a Christ-like life is our salvation, what then is the way to attain that?”  One would have already answered the question once he asks the question, because he should be brought back to Romans 1:17 now, where our question regarding the complete salvation may have started.  Once you see that truth, you will shout halleluiah when you read Romans 1:17, because it clearly stands for living by faith, the only thing that God has commanded us to do.  The living is manifested in our abiding in Christ, and further manifested in our both inwardly and outwardly living a Christ-like life.

Furthermore,  we will also come to realize that even our faith itself is by God’s grace.  Such faith is indeed faith of Christ, not merely faith in Christ. Galatians 2:20, Darby (a more truthful translation of this verse.)

Only when the Spirit reveals to us that our “being Christ-like” is our salvation, and we cannot afford losing that, will we start to truly understand that the “Christian life” is what we are, not what we do.  This is a proposition far deeper than merely contrasting “sincere” to “insincere”.

And it is the faith in (and of) Christ that changes what we are.  As Brother Steven Kaung once said: “Only one person can live a Christian life, and that person is Christ Himself.”  You see, our faith in Him is not merely to believe that He is, but also believe that He is in us.

This is so important that I wish to say it in yet another way.

Although we know in principle that we are supposed to grow in life as Christians, many treat growth as a supplemental or ornamental aspect of Christian life. It’s our human tendency to think that “be Christ-like” is “work by us,” that is, something we do in order to exchange for something extra God has promised.

As a result, because many also know that, as a doctrinally correct answer, our salvation is supposed to be by faith only and not by works, we naturally but incorrectly conclude that “being Christ-like” could not be part of our salvation, for otherwise it would contradict the doctrine.

The tendency is so strong among God’s children that if one ever says “my salvation is my being Christ-like,” that person is immediately labeled as “legalism” and “lacking the understanding of grace.”  The above fallacy is not in its logic but in its premise in assuming that “be Christ-like” is “work by us.”

Such is the poor belief of many God’s children. No wonder many never grow, and no wonder many who wish to grow do not understand the true meaning and true reason of growth.

Oh, we lift an empty banner of “living by faith” so high that we no longer see what we are called for and why.  How sad and dangerously foolish it is that God’s children think we are supposed to have already attained everything God wants us to be when we first believed, and therefore treat “being Christ-like” as a mere afterthought, a hubby, a self-motivator, a respectable gesture of the do-gooders, a special gift possessed by the more diligent believers, and our “grace” to God, as it certainly seems almost like it were!

May the Lord reveal Himself to us.  God’s words do not need human wisdom to be knitted together.  It just takes revelation by the Spirit Himself for us to see that they are together as the Word.

Our Father will not be ashamed on that day

In ultimate sense, who takes the responsibility of your life? If you are a child of God, your Father does.  It may surprise you, but being able to take care of you in Christ to the end without shame is a part of God’s eternal will in Christ.

Years ago, I saw a scene in TV news that I can never forget.  It was a cold winter day with heavy snow falling.  A war broke out in a city and people started to flee for their lives.

All that was happening in real life, not in the movie.

A news camera showed a father who was carrying a small child.  Not only did he not know where he would run to, he was also at the end of his means trying to protect his child from the cold.  He couldn’t even protect himself.  He had taken off all his outer clothes to put on his child but it wasn’t enough.  On the father’s face I saw desperation, but most of all, shame, for he could not take care of his own child.  He was obviously a strong and able man. But at that moment, his life was defined by the shame due to his inability.

Whose child are you? One day a War will break out everywhere and no man can escape on his own.  But Christ will come to take His own to the eternal home for everlasting safety.  If you have not been born again into God’s family, I pray that you ask Jesus into your heart today to receive His life as yours.

On that day, God will not be ashamed of having called us His children, for He has prepared an eternal city for His children.  He is such a Father.  No one can call shame on His face that day by saying that He could not take care of His own children.

Whenever I think of this, I am filled with both ultimate security and a fundamental fear at the same time – security because our Father will not be ashamed of me, and His infallibility is not merely a great “willingness”, but an eternal reality based on His divine nature and power;  fear because I am not sure whether on that day I will be able to proclaim: “I have not brought shame to my Father.”