The Cross and the Will of God continued

I am reading another Lamplighter book entitled The Shepherd of Bethlehem by A.L.O.E. (hey Micah, that’s the author who wrote The Giant Killer).  The story thus far is one of a preacher who comes to a small town in England to minister in a church.  In front of the house in which he is to lodge, a trouble-making boy has slid back and forth in the snow making a patch of ice right on the walkway.  The minister promptly falls down, breaking his leg.  He cannot go to the church to fulfill his duties, but instead takes up residency in his new home as an invalid.  There are hardships he encounters which I won’t go into, but the reason for the title of the book is a series of lectures he decides to give in his upstairs apartment.  He invites anyone to come to hear a series of messages on the life of David, the shepherd of Bethlehem.
At the point in the story where he is just able to walk on crutches, the same trouble-making boy gets bit by an apparently rabid dog.  The doctor comes to give him treatment insisting that the boy’s arm must be cut.  The boy protests against this stating, "It’s not very bad – ’twill get well by itself."  The doctor explains, "It is enough to cost you your life, my boy, if not attended to in time."  And now I quote one paragraph from the book as we focus on the thoughts of the minister, Mr. Eardley.  The end quote is what prompted me to write this post.

Mr. Eardley thought, though he did not express the thought aloud, of the poison of sin – far more deadly than that of any mad dog – and of the too common blindness of sinners to their own danger, their willingness to believe, even when convinced of transgression, that it is but a little hurt. He remembered also the Saviour’s warning of the necessity of parting with all sin, even though to do so should be painful as cutting off a hand, or plucking out and eye. He looked with compassion on the unhappy Barnes, exposed to a double danger, and silently prayed that a merciful God would bless the means taken to save him from both. Feeling also for the lad’s present fear and distress, the clergyman laid his hand gently on the shoulder of Barnes, and said in accents of almost fatherly kindness, "Take courage, my boy, take courage; you shall be put to no needless pain; you are in the hands of one skilful and wise, and had better submit quietly at once."

This comment of not experiencing any needless pain is at a pivotal point in the story.  Here the clergyman has experienced extreme pain, but cannot consider it needless.  His broken leg, his incapacity to walk and do his job, and financial troubles he knows well to be pain, but not needless pain as he has found himself to be in the hands of one skilful and wise.  To Tom Barnes, the meaning of the skilful one was the doctor; but to the clergy, the meaning was to a loving heavenly Father who had allowed and even designed this pain for him.
To think that all my pain, emotional, physical, spiritual, is not needless, means that it is needful.  My pain has to happen.  This cuts me deep.  And this is why I found it necessary to meditate on the next chapter in Maxwell’s book, Born Crucified.  Here are some exerpts from the chapter titled The Cross and the Will of God continued.  Remember Mimosa?  She is mentioned here as well.

SUBMISSION AND SUFFERING art utterly contrary to the flesh. The thing man loves more than anything else in the world is himself. The thing man wants is to have his own way and to enjoy himself. Suffering, therefore, always crosses man where self is alive. There, self refuses and rebels. Suffering is so unwelcome to the flesh that it demands the total surrender of our wills. This therefore explains how that Christ, although sinless and innocent, learned "obedience by the things which he suffered." In order to be a perfect Redeemer from sin and self-will, Christ learned under the severest denial and testing to make the will of God supreme, and to keep it supreme, in the face of shame, in the face of suffering, in the face of death. In His deepest suffering He learned His highest obedience. When Mimosa, who had never learned to read, finally met her sister, Star, at the mission school she reverently gazed upon her Bible and books and said, "You know Him by learning; but I know Him by suffering. 

The whole evil and wretchedness and ruin of sin is that man turned from God’s will to do his own.  "The redemption of Christ has no reason, no object, and no possibility of success," says Andrew Murray, "except in restoring man to do God’s will. It was for this Jesus died. He gave up His own will; He gave His life rather than do His own will." When He finally dropped His head in death, there was one thing that the pain and suffering and death had been unable to take away from Him, and that was His love for the will of God. He died in that will. Mind you, only that remained.  But, thank God, it remained. And "He that doeth the will of God abideth for ever." As man Jesus won the reward of eternal life. Praise His eternal Name! The world passeth away. Let it pass.  "Thou remainest."

Has the reader noticed that, when the Saviour was here upon earth, He was continually bringing man face to face with the impossible? He laid upon men commands which were utterly contrary to the flesh and to human understanding. They were often most unreasonable to the mind, as well as ungrateful to the flesh. How impossible and unreasonable to demand that human nature love its enemies, turn the other check, rejoice in suffering, in reproach, in persecution, and on through the whole list of impossibles! And what was all this for but to bring men face to face with themselves, with Deity, and with their need of His grace to do these very impossibles? The Saviour was striking for the citadel of the will. He would therefore cross that human will, contradict it, and bring the individual to conviction and submission. This was the supreme reason why Christ was continually teaching His own about the Cross. By principle, and by precept, and by parable, Christ taught the Cross. Somebody has said, "God often touches our best comforts that we may live loose to them. It was the doctrine of Jesus, that if thy right hand offend that thou must cut it off; and if thy right eye offend thee, thou must pluck it out; that is, if the most dear, the most useful and tender comforts thou enjoyest, stand in thy soul’s way, and interrupt thy obedience to the voice of God, and thy conformity to His holy will revealed in thy soul, thou art engaged, under the penalty of damnation, to part with them." This quotation may sound harsh–"a hard saying"–but Christ did not utter smooth sayings. Since "God is only our God by a birth of His own divine nature within us;’ the Lord Jesus sought to contradict "the natural" at every point. The Cross symbolized to a perfection that contradiction. Just as His own Cross was the supreme expression of His own perfect obedience, tried to the utmost, so must Jesus bring each disciple, through an awful process of inner crucifixion, to the end of His own self-will, and bring him to do the will of God. As we have said before, Christ did not come to straighten out the natural but to "cross" it out.

Take the instance of the man with the withered hand. That hand was useless, limp, helpless. He could grasp nothing. The man could not put that hand to the plow. Yet before the gaze of a critical crowd the Saviour commands the man, "Stretch forth thy hand." It was an utterly impossible thing and therefore unreasonable. In order to obey such an impossible and unreasonable command, the man must come to an end of himself through happy subjection to the will of God in Christ. 

That subjection to the Lord Jesus, as the object of his obedient faith, brought life and power into that withered hand. He did what he couldn’t do.

I like Maxwell’s little rant here about certain forms of dispensationalism.

In the face of these vital principles of the Cross, it seems rather pathetic and painful that a leading voice in orthodoxy should relegate the sublime Beatitudes of Jesus to the millennial age in order to avoid that which is so ungrateful to the fleshly self-life: "Will not the exalted demands of the Sermon on the Mount be more easily obeyed when earthly conditions are changed, as they will be?" Such a question is painful, to say the least. Should the early Christians, then, have denied the faith, until the demand of confessing Christ before men could "be more easily obeyed"? Should they have endured the lion’s gory mane? Perhaps they should have waited until the millennial age when "the lion shall cat straw like the ox!"

"Wherefore let them that suffer according to the will of God commit the keeping of their souls to him in well doing, as unto a faithful Creator" (I Peter 4:19). Paul says, "Unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake" (Phil. 1:29).  How sweet is such a word when it comes right from Christ to the one who suffers for His sake, for righteousness’ sake, for the sake of others!

We all know that suffering involves pain.  What if we were to substitute the phrase "be in pain" for suffering?  It is given to us, not to simply believe on Christ, but to also be in pain for His sake.  The next time I am in pain, whether emotional, mental, or physical, I should remember that it is given to me to be in pain for Christ, and to submit quietly at once.

Have fun and stay crucified – Galatians 2:20

-The Orange Mailman

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1 Response to The Cross and the Will of God continued

  1. Pingback: Exiles in Babylon | The Orange Mailman

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