Precious Jesus

"Afresh, precious, precious Jesus, I resign this body to You, for doing or suffering, for living or dying. Will You accept it? Will You use me for Your glory more than heretofore, that You may have some little return for all the benefits You have done to me? Oh, do grant this request; my heart longs for it, my spirit pleads for it; and "if You will, You can." You know the hot temptation of which I am the subject. Bring Your glory out of it, and keep me from the evil, and it shall be well." - Ruth Bryan

Friday, August 16, 2013

Christ, Lord and Savior

"My Thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, Saith the LORD" (Isa. 55:8). Solemnly these words manifest the terrible havoc sin has wrought in fallen mankind. They are out of touch with their Maker; nay more, they are "alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart" (Eph. 4:18). As a consequence, the soul has lost its anchorage, everything has been thrown out of gear, and human depravity has turned all things upside down. Instead of subordinating the concerns of this life to the interests of the life to come, man devotes himself principally to the present and gives little or no thought to the eternal. Instead of putting the good of his soul ahead of the needs of the body, man is occupied chiefly about food and raiment. Instead of man’s great aim being to please God, ministering to self has become his prime business.

Man’s thoughts ought to be governed by God’s Word, and his ways regulated by God’s revealed will. But the converse is true. So the things which are of great price in the sight of God (1 Pet. 3:4) are despised by the fallen creature, and "that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God" (Luke 16:15). Man has turned things topsy turvy, sadly in evidence when he attempts to handle divine matters. The perversity which sin has caused appears in our reversing God’s order. The Scripture speaks of man’s "spirit and soul and body" (1 Thess. 5:23), but when the world refers to it, it says "body, soul, and spirit." Scripture declares that Christians are "strangers and pilgrims" in this scene; but nine times out of ten, even good men talk and write of "pilgrims and strangers."

This tendency to reverse God’s order is part of fallen man’s nature. Unless the Holy Spirit interposes and works a miracle of grace, its effects are fatal to the soul. Nowhere do we have a more tragic example of this than in the evangelistic message now being given, though scarcely anyone seems aware of it. That something is radically wrong with the world is widely recognised. That Christendom is in a sad state many are painfully conscious—that error abounds on every side, that practical godliness is at a low ebb, that worldliness has devitalised many churches, is apparent to increasing numbers. But few see how bad things are, few perceive that things are rotten to the very foundation; yet such is the case.

God’s true way of salvation is little known today. The Gospel which is being preached, even in orthodox circles, is often an erroneous gospel. Even there man has reversed God’s order. For many years it has been taught that nothing more is required for a sinner’s salvation than to "accept Christ as his personal Saviour." Later, he ought to bow to Him as Lord, consecrate his life to Him, and serve Him fully. But even if he fails to do so, heaven is sure for him. He will lack peace and joy now, and probably miss some millennial crown; but having received Christ as his personal Saviour, he has been delivered from wrath to come. This is a reversal of God’s order. It is the devil’s lie, and only the day to come will show how many have been fatally deceived by it.

We are aware this is strong language, and it may come as a shock; but test it by this light: Every passage of the New Testament where these two titles occur together say "Lord and Saviour," and never "Saviour" (Luke 1:46-47). Unless Jehovah had first become her "Lord," most certainly He would not have been her "Saviour." No one who seriously ponders the matter has any difficulty perceiving this. How could a thrice-holy God save one who scorned His authority, despised His honour, and flouted His revealed will. It is infinite grace that God is ready to be reconciled to us when we throw the weapons of our rebellion against Him; but it would be an act of unrighteousness, putting a premium upon lawlessness, were He to pardon the sinner before he was first reconciled to His Maker.

The saints of God are bidden to make their "calling and election sure" (2 Pet. 1:10) (and this, by adding to their faith the other graces enumerated in vv. 5-7). They are assured that if they do so they shall never fall, for so an entrance shall be ministered to them abundantly "into the everlasting kingdom of our [1] Lord and [2] Saviour Jesus Christ" (2 Pet. 1:11). But particularly note the order in which Christ’s titles are mentioned: it is not "our Saviour and Lord," but "Lord and Saviour." He becomes the Saviour of none until the heart and will unreservedly receive Him as Lord.

"For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning" (2 Pet. 2:20). Here the apostle refers to those who had a head knowledge of the Truth, and then apostatised. There had been a reformation outwardly in their lives, but no regeneration of the heart. For a while they were delivered from the pollution of the world, but with no supernatural work of grace having been wrought in their souls, the lustings of the flesh proved too strong. They were again overcome and returned to their former manner of life like the "dog to its vomit" or the "sow to its wallowing in the mire." The apostasy is described as, "to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them," which referred to the terms of discipleship made known in the Gospel. But what we are particularly concerned about is the Holy Spirit’s order: these apostates had been favoured with the "knowledge of (1) the Lord and (2) Saviour Jesus Christ."

God’s people are exhorted to "grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ" (2 Pet. 3:18). Here again God’s order is the opposite of man’s. Nor is this merely a technical detail, concerning which a mistake is of little moment. No, the subject is basic, vital and fundamental, and error at this point is fatal. Those who have not submitted to Christ as Lord, but who trust in Him as Saviour are deceived.

The same principle is illustrated in passages where other titles of Christ occur. Take the opening verse of the New Testament (Matthew 1:1) where He is presented as "Jesus Christ, [1] the son of David, [2] the son of Abraham." Waiving the dispensational signification of these titles, view them from the doctrinal and practical viewpoint, which should be our first consideration. "Son of David" brings in the throne, emphasises His authority, and demands allegiance to His scepter. And "son of David" comes before "son of Abraham!" Again, we are told that God had exalted Jesus to his own right hand "to be [1] a Prince and [2] a Saviour" (Acts 5:31). The concept embodied in the title "Prince" is that of supreme dominion and authority, "The prince of the kings of the earth" (Rev. 1:5).

In the Book of Acts we quickly discover that the message of the apostles was altogether different—not only in emphasis, but also in substance—from the preaching of our times. On the day of Pentecost Peter declared, "Whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved" (Acts 2:21), and reminded his hearers that God had made Jesus "both Lord and Christ" (Acts 2:36), not Christ and Lord. To Cornelius and his household Peter presented Christ as "Lord of all" (Acts 10:36). When Barnabas came to Antioch, he "exhorted them all, that with purpose of heart they should cleave unto the Lord" (Acts 11:23); also Paul and Barnabas "commended them to the Lord, on whom they believed" (Acts 14:23). At the great synod in Jerusalem, Peter reminded his fellows that the Gentiles would "seek after [not only a Saviour, but] the Lord" (Acts 15:17). To the Philippian jailor and his household Paul and Silas preached "the word of the Lord" (Acts 16:32).

The apostles not only emphasised the Lordship of Christ, but also they made surrender to it essential to salvation. This is clear from many other passages: "And believers were the more added to [not Christ, but] the Lord" (Acts 5:14); "And all that dwelt at Lydda and Saron saw him, and turned to the Lord" (Acts 9:35); "And many believed in the Lord" (Acts 9:42); "And much people was added unto the Lord" (Acts 11:24). "Then the deputy, when he saw what was done, believed, being astonished at the doctrine of the Lord" (Acts 13:12); "And Crispus, the chief ruler of the synagogue, believed on the Lord with all his house" (Acts 18:8).

Few today have a right conception of what a scriptural and saving conversion is. The call to it is set forth in Isaiah 55:7, "Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return [having in Adam departed] unto the LORD, and He will have mercy upon him." The character of conversion is described in 1 Thessalonians 1:9, "Ye turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God." Conversion, then, is a turning from sin unto holiness, from self unto God, from Satan unto Christ. It is the voluntary surrender of ourselves to the Lord Jesus, not only by a consent of dependence upon His merits, but also by a willing readiness to obey Him, giving up the keys of our hearts and laying them at His feet. It is the soul declaring, "O LORD our God, other lords beside thee have had dominion over us [namely, the world, the flesh, and the devil]: but by thee only will we make mention of thy name" (Isa. 26:13).

Conversion consists in our being recovered from our present sinfulness to the moral image of God, or, which is the same thing, to a real conformity to the moral law. But a conformity to the moral law consists in a disposition to love God supremely, live to Him ultimately, and delight in Him superlatively, and to love our neighbour as ourselves: and a practice agreeing thereto. And therefore conversion consists in our being recovered from what we are by nature to such a disposition and practice (James Bellamy, 1770).

Note the searching words in Acts 3:26, "Unto you first God having raised up his Son Jesus, sent him to bless you in turning away every one of you from his iniquities." This is Christ’s way of blessing men—converting them. However the Gospel may instruct and enlighten men, so long as they remain the slaves of sin, it has conferred upon them no eternal advantage. "Know ye not that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?" (Rom. 6:16).

There is a very real difference between believing in the deity of Christ and surrendering to His lordship. Many are firmly persuaded that Jesus is the Son of God; they have no doubt He is the Maker of heaven and earth. But that is no proof of conversion. The demons owned Him as the "Son of God" (Matthew 8:29). What we press here is not the mind’s assent to the Godhood of Christ, but the will’s yielding to His authority, so that the life is regulated by His commandments. There must be a subjecting of ourselves to Him. The one is useless without the other. "He became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him" (Heb. 5:9).

Yet in the face of the clear teaching of Holy Writ, when unsaved people are concerned about their future destiny, and inquire, "What must we do to be saved?" the answer they are usually given is, "Accept Christ as your personal Saviour." Little effort is made to press upon them (as Paul did the Philippian jailor) the Lordship of Christ. Many a blind leader of the blind glibly quotes, "But as many as received him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God" (John 1:12). Perhaps the leader objects, "But nothing is said there about receiving Christ as Lord." Directly, no; nor is anything said there about receiving Christ "as a personal Saviour"! It is a whole Christ which must be received, or none at all.

But if the objector will carefully ponder the context of John 1:12, he will quickly discover that it is as Lord Christ is presented, and as such must be received by us. In the previous verse, "He came unto his own, and his own received him not." In what character does that view Him? Clearly, as the Owner and Master of Israel; and it was as such they "received him not." Consider what He does for those who do receive Him: "to them gave he power [the right or prerogative] to become the sons of God." Who but the Lord of lords is vested with authority to give others the title to be sons of God!

In an unregenerate state, no sinner is subject to Christ as Lord, though he may be fully convinced of His deity, and employ "Lord Jesus" when referring to Him. When we say that no unregenerate person "is subject to Christ as Lord," we mean that His will is not the rule of life; to please, obey, honour, and glorify Christ is not the dominant aim, disposition, and striving of the heart. Far from this being the case, his real sentiment is, "Who is the LORD, that I should obey His voice?" (Ex. 5:2). The whole trend of his life is saying, "I will not have this man to reign over me" (see Luke 19:14). Despite all religious pretensions, the real attitude of the unregenerate toward God is, "Depart from us; for we desire not the knowledge of thy ways. What is the Almighty, that we should serve [be in subjection to] him?" (Job 21:14-15). Their conduct intimates, "our lips are our own: who is lord over us?" (Ps. 12:4). Instead of surrendering to God in Christ, every sinner turns "to his own way" (Isa. 53:6), living only to please self.

When the Holy Spirit convicts of sin, He causes that person to see what sin really is. He makes the convicted one understand that sin is rebellion against God, a refusal to submit to the Lord. The Spirit causes him to realise that he has been an insurrectionist against Him who is exalted above all. He is now convicted not only of this sin, or that idol, but also is brought to realise his whole life has been a fighting against God; that he has knowingly, willfully, and constantly ignored and defied Him, deliberately choosing to go his own way. The work of the Spirit in God’s elect is not so much to convince each of them they are lost sinners (the conscience of the natural man knows that, without any supernatural operation of the Spirit!); it is to reveal the exceeding "sinfulness of sin" (Rom. 7:13), by making us see and feel that all sin is a species of spiritual anarchy, a defiance of the Lordship of God.

When a man has really been convicted by the supernatural operation of the Holy Spirit, the first effect on him is complete and abject despair. His case appears to be utterly hopeless. He now sees he has sinned so grievously that it appears impossible for a righteous God to do anything but damn him for eternity. He sees what a fool he has been in heeding the voice of temptation, fighting against the Most High, and in losing his own soul. He recalls how often God has spoken to him in the past—as a child, as a youth, as an adult, upon a bed of sickness, in the death of a loved one, in adversities—and how he refused to listen and deliberately turned a deaf ear. He now feels he has sinned away his day of grace.

But the ground must be plowed and harrowed before it is receptive to seed. So the heart must be prepared by these harrowing experiences, the stubborn will broken, before it is ready for the healing of the Gospel. But how very few ever are savingly convicted by the Spirit! The Spirit continues His work in the soul, plowing still deeper, revealing the hideousness of sin, producing a horror of and hatred for it. The sinner next receives the beginning of hope, which results in an earnest inquiry, "What must I do to be saved?" Then the Spirit, who has come to earth to glorify Christ, presses upon that awakened soul the claims of His Lordship (i.e. Luke 14:26-33) and makes us realise that Christ demands our hearts, lives, and all. Then He grants grace to the quickened soul to renounce all other lords, to turn away from all idols and to receive Christ as Prophet, Priest, and King.

Nothing but the sovereign and supernatural work of the Spirit can bring this to pass. A preacher may induce a man to believe what Scripture says about his lost condition, persuade him to bow to the divine verdict, and then accept Christ as his personal Saviour. No man wants to go to hell, and fire is assured intellectually that Christ stands ready as a fire escape, on the sole condition that he jump into His arms ("rest on His finished work"), thousands will do so. But a hundred preachers are unable to make an unregenerate person realise the dreadful nature of sin, or show him that he has been a lifelong rebel against God, or change his heart so that he now hates himself and longs to please God and serve Christ. Only the Spirit can bring man to the place where he is willing to forsake every idol, cut off a hindering right hand or pluck out an offending right eye.

Probably some will say, "But the exhortations addressed to saints in the epistles show that it is Christians, and not the unsaved, who are to surrender to Christ’s Lordship (Rom. 12:1). Such a mistake only serves to demonstrate the gross spiritual darkness which has enveloped even orthodox Christendom. The exhortations of the epistles simply signify that Christians are to continue as they began, "As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him" (Col. 2:6). All the exhortations may be summed up in two words: "Come to Christ," "Abide in Him"; and what is abiding but coming to Christ constantly (1 Pet. 2:4)? The saints (Rom. 12:1) had already been bidden to "yield" themselves "unto God" (Rom. 6:13). While we are on earth we will always need such admonitions. The backslidden church at Ephesus was told, "Repent, and do the first works" (Rev. 2:5).

And now a pointed question: Is Christ your Lord? Does He in fact occupy the throne of your heart? Does He actually rule your life? If not, then most certainly He is not your Saviour. Unless your heart has been renewed, unless grace has changed you from a lawless rebel to a loving subject, then you are yet in your sins, on the broad road to destruction.

AW PINK - 1886-1952

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