True Remnant Exalts Christ, Not Self
MAX GORDON PHILLIPS
True believers do not parade their unselfish love, their agape. They don't tend to say, "Notice us, world! Watch us loving one another! Look at us loving even our enemies! Aren't we the remnant, though!"
That's not what the kingdom of heaven is about. It's about obedience to God. It's about obediently loving people -- friends, neighbors, enemies -- beyond human limits.
You've sung Peter Scholte's 1966 song "We Are One in The Spirit," haven't you?
"We are One in the Spirit, we are One in the Lord. And we pray that all unity may one day be restored. And they'll know we are Christians by our love...."
Lest you think -- mistakenly! -- that our love is the Way, hear this: The miracle of being obediently "One in the Spirit, One in the Lord" comes not by our love.
It comes not by anything we've ever done, or are doing, or can ever do. It comes only in the wak°e of the love Christ alone has already bestowed on us. Outside of us. Alien to us. On the cross. No, our love is not the Way. Christ's love is.
This is the "miracle beyond our power." It is the only Way that we people can possibly unite. The only Way that we can obey God. That we can possibly reveal the genuine agape love that falls on us continuously from above. Like a niagara. And to which we respond by faith alone.
And the only genuine faith-response we can make to this "miracle beyond our power" is obedience.
When Christ calls, the elect are impelled -- compelled -- to come to Him. These "steps to Christ" are not directed and powered by our own ingenuity and strength. They're powered and directed by the pure grace of the Holy Spirit already within us. ("Pure grace" meaning "unchanged grace," Jude 4.)
This is the "not I, but Christ" principle. And it is seen in the lives of all true believers. Even the crimin¥al on the cross. For though he was fettered in the lower, secular dimensions of spacetime by his coming death on the cross next to Christ's, Christ unfettered him and set him free to fly in the higher dimensions of eternal spiritual reality.
While still fettered in spacetime he was able to show his faith by the only thing he could do, by speaking. Under the impulse of the Holy Spirit, he rebuked his unrepentant fellow criminal on the cross.
By faith alone he spoke. "Don't you fear God," he said, "since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man [Jesus] has done nothing wrong."
Then he said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom."
Jesus answered him, "I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise" (Luke 23:40- 43 NIV).
For, away into these higher dimensions he was about to go. It was as Albert E. Brumley's 1932 song says, "Like a bird¬ from prison bars has flown, I'll fly away. I'll fly away, O glory, I'll fly away; When I die, Hallelujah, by and by, I'll fly away."
He flew away. With Jesus. Praise God.
How, then, did he obey? What were his good works? As I count, they were three in number: He (1) rebuked (or witnessed to) his fellow criminal on his cross, (2) prayed to Jesus, and (3) flew away with Him.
Or do you suppose Jesus yanked him away against his will? I think he was rather glad to have the freedom to choose to fly away with his new Lord.
His fellow criminal had no such freedom of choice. His soul took him in a direction he hated to go. For only when the Son God sets us free are we "free indeed."
The nut of what I'm saying here is this: People who, under grace, are being transformed (2 Corinthians 3:16-18) don't flaunt their improvements, but they don't hide them either.
The difference is more than just subtle. It's all the difference between Christ and Satan, betíween heaven now and hell now, between Bonhoeffer's "costly grace" versus "cheap grace."
Kind people don't flaunt their kindness, but their kind actions often betray them to prying eyes and inquiring minds.
Faithful folks may be unable to show their faith without deeds, but they are able to show their faith by the deeds they do (James 2:18).
Hopeful souls don't trumpet forth their hope, but someday they just might get caught hoping by despairing souls who will then be inspired by the Holy Spirit.
You, as a child of the light, may not advertise your candle on TV, but neither do you hide it under an overturned bowl. No way. You "let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise [not you! but] your Father[!] in heaven" (Matthew 5:16).
Peaceful people will probably not wave a banner saying, "LOOK AT ME! I'M A PEACEMAKER!" but if they "turn the other cheek," som:ebody else just might notice.
Nor will the truly humble person tell the world:
"I don't have much, but I have my humility, and I'm proud of it!"
Not likely. Rather, it is his humble character that will proclaim louder than any words his total dependence on the alien act accom- plished for him by Christ on the cross.
Okay, so you're going to blow it sometimes. That's inevitable. Peter did (NIV Matthew 14:23-32):
^^[Jesus] went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it.
During the fourth watch of the night Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. "It's a ghost," they said, and cried out in fear.
But Jesus immediately said to them: "Take courage! It is I. Don't be afraid."
"Lord, if it's you," Peter replied, "tell me to come to you on the water."
"Come," he said.
Then PETER got down out of the boat, WALKED ON THE WATER and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink, cried out, "Lord, save me!"
Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. "You of little faith," he said, "why did you doubt?"
And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, "Truly you are the Son of God."^^
Some people think there's something wrong with walking on water. How vain! Strutting right in front of God and making all the disciples still in the boat jealous!
We forget that Christ told him, "Come."
Hey, there's nothing wrong with walking on water. Not as long as your Lord has bidden you to do exactly that. But there is something wrong with doubting while you're doing it. The text says so.
It says, when the wind terrified him and he doubted, Peter began to sink.
But here's the real point: Notice what Peter did as a doubting, sinking man. That's right, he prayed. Prayed to the Son God out there walking on the waves. And his prayer was, "Lord, save me!"
And his Lord did!
Lesson for us (in a whispered clue): Have faith.
"For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: 'The righteous will live by faith'" (NIV Romans 1:17 NIV).
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