The Wedding Feast, and the Aftermath Pt 3
The Last Shall Be First Series
So then we find His Cross is not just His alone. He has told us we also must it take up. This is not just about spiritual self-revelation, i.e., "Who is God, and who am I?" It is not just coming to freedom so we can live strictly to our own pleasure. The Life in us lives to give itself out to reproduce itself. It is a constraint, an inner drive from the Spirit, that we can't help because it drives us to give life to others, whatever the cost.
That sounds very spiritual and sort of romantic, to "live for others," but it isn't something that glamorous at all. It takes everything you have. It costs you. It involves pain and sadness and sometimes deep sorrow. Oh there are great and wonderful joys, too numerous to count. But it is joy AND sorrow, for we have joined with the "man of sorrows." Like He, it is walking and believing when it is impossible. It is being willing to wait until God does it and not moving an inch until He moves you. It is being willing to cast all into God to uphold you or nothing -- being willing to look like an idiot or to suffer embarrassment even while we say God upholds us and does His will by us, though it looks to everybody around and to us, too, that the opposite of what we have said is true. It's not fun to build and ark and have everybody laugh at you. "What a stupid idea, Noah, there is not even any water here. Why are you building a boat? You stupid man, hahahahahahahaha!"
These are just figurative deaths for most of us, but for many in the world they are not, even at this very moment. Norman Grubb once shocked the new WEC missionary trainees when they came in for their orientation speech, when he told them, "Some of you are going to be beaten, raped, and killed." That really put a different light on their conviction. That's hard to want to be a part of. Unless we're crazy or masochistic!
Right after Peter had his great revelation that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the Living God, Jesus said He was going to Jerusalem to be actually killed by the chief priest and the Gentiles. "Not so, Lord," cried Peter, "this cannot be," but Jesus says "Get thee behind me, Satan, you are an offense unto me, because you love the things that be of men, and not the things that be of God."
And later He says, "Except you eat my flesh and drink my blood, you shall have no part in me!" We think we're going on vacation and the spiritual conference of a lifetime, but He offers death along the way. He mentions resurrection, too, but we're still too thick to hear it. We cannot imagine resurrection. Death is too big a thing to comprehend. If we do not know resurrection, then death trumps everything.
But if we know that if we die, we rise, then death has no more power over us. And then we know nothing can hurt us. Some perhaps can restrict our movements, curtail our activities, make us illegal, beat our bodies and even kill them, but they cannot separate us from Him. "I will never leave you nor forsake you." "If they called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more they of his household?" We know Whose hand has us. When we really know nothing can separate us, then we know we can give ourselves to the point of being completely spent and used up, even to the point of death if necessary. We know we do not have to reserve anything for ourselves, to hold back from others, but can give freely as we have freely received, and more will be given to continue the flow.
But wait, is that what this is about? I just want to bask in His love, feel His streams of grace flow over me. What is this "Cross?" We have just come into a totally reorienting and completely new vitality from the Fountain of Waters, Life as we had never imagined there could be, the grace of God coming to die for and love us which was the most wonderful news ever announced and experienced. We have married our Rachel and want to have her for ourselves and love her forever -- that's what we thought we were getting -- but now we're being told there is a Cross involved, and a death required? Is God One Who gives and then takes back? It makes us shudder to think of it. Still, though we have no idea where this is leading, we cannot help but keep going on, for we have no choice about staying or going. We're stuck; we burned all the bridges; it is this or ruin, so we say to Him what is becoming increasingly obvious to us, "Lord, where else could we go? You have the words of eternal life!"
Some will say, "This is silly, because Jesus finished the work of the Cross, and He already walked that way, so we don't have to." Certainly I would agree the work of the Cross is finished, but how do we come to know it, so that we live from that finished work? What really is that finished work? How is it we answer another call at a different banquet that lovingly says, "Friend, come up higher!"?
We have yet to realize that when we are translated from darkness into His light, we become partakers in that which He is -- an "other-lover Who gives Himself as a ransom for all. This is all leading to a realization of the already accomplished union with Him and His very Person and Name, so that His life flows and works through us and as us, and we know it. His life is of a Lamb slain before the foundations of the earth, that sits in the midst of the Throne of God. This is where we are sitting, too, and we progressively also the reality out of which our lives flow. His life is not a, "The Father did it all so I don't have to" life, but a life of "doing what the Father does," i.e., doing the Father's works, because, "the Father that dwells in me, He does the works," and "My Father worketh hitherto, and I work." We don't watch Jesus do what He does. He is doing it in us by us, through us AND as us! We are fully part of it, not just sitting on the side watching a show! This is the true "presenting our bodies a reasonable sacrifice," which is not a sacrifice for ourselves to gain points with God, but an acceptance of Spirit-led and Spirit-borne personal "deaths," to bring particular resurrection life to others. It is sowing in tears, (not knowing for certain if we'll ever reap), but one day reaping in joy, we know not how. "It is the Lord's doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes!"
The only way to know something, in this case God, (because knowing HIM is the whole thing), is to come into its truth or reality. We become it. We walk it. We "be" it. The teacher may write on the blackboard the question from Psalm 78:19, "Can God furnish a table in the wilderness?", and everybody in the class agrees, "Of course, God can do anything!" That part is necessary and we all start there. But we don't KNOW God can do it until we find Him doing it in us. We say, "God provides," and we all believe that He will, but we don't KNOW that He does until there is a necessity for God to provide, and there is no other recourse, no other rescue available. That is why we have started to walk this road with Jesus. All these lessons are learned in the classroom of the Spirit, which is our daily lives.
We have started in the school of the Spirit, the school of the Cross. It is first the school of faith, and we move on to the fullness when the school of faith is finished and we begin the life of faith, which is the operation of the life of the Cross, not for ourselves, but for others. God by the Holy Spirit is our Counselor and Teacher in this school. He teaches in the most inward and intimate way, though it may take some time for us to realize what we have gotten ourselves into.
These are lessons which lead us steadily on to the inner Spirit-spirit knowledge of Who we really are, as perfect expression of Him in the world, simply because He in us is the expresser and we merely the transmitters of what He has expressed. And the mystery of it is that it is Him, and it is us, all at the same time, which makes no sense to reason, but works beyond sense in the Spirit. "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God." "If thine eye be single, then thy whole body shall be full of light."
But that's another thing we don't know yet and it is a toughie to boot. Because we start as babes and begin to learn as babes. Babes only know the outer and their own needs - help me, feed me, fix me, elevate me, make me. We cannot eat meat yet, and we eat the food prepared for us by others. Like human babies, we are unable to digest strong food for ourselves, because we are not yet ready for it. We know the forgiveness of sins, and the love of the Father, but it is still self-focused love that outwardly drives us. (The Holy Spirit is inwardly driving us, too, over and above whatever the outer is preoccupied with, but again, we don't know that yet. We think we take what He gives and act ourselves on it, helped by Him, but the reality is He gives and we receive, and the activity or "works" that springs from that is all His Spirit activity. And every bit of it is perfect for us. We being to rest in the fact that a Great Hand is guiding all, keeping the stars in their orbits and every subatomic particle of each and every one of us vibrating and creating and sustaining what is created. And even with all that, He knows the number of hairs on each of our heads, and also knows when a sparrow falls. Who can explain or reason of such a Person as this? Who can categorize Him, or give Him attributes? Who is there that stands outside Him to observe Him? On what platform would he stand?)
The Spirit begins building on all that we experience, and shapes our experiences of frustrations and failures, lacks and seeming missteps, into the broken bread for others only we can particularly be. We are bread broken for the world, even as Jesus' body was (since we are His body), and as such we are life in and for the world.
Mostly in the beginning we are learning faith, which often is in direct contradiction to the way we used to live. And the one continuous exhortation from our Teacher in that time is, "O ye of little faith, why did you doubt? Why did you fear? Don't you remember the loaves ....?"
Little by little we see we live this life only by faith, not ever by sight. It is a faith which eventually must come up to obstacles greater than our consciousness can allow, so that whatever "measure" of faith we are given when we start becomes exhausted. We have run out of it. But we MUST have it. We know we cannot go on without it! Where do we get it?
Then it begins to dawn on us He is the giver of faith, and later on we realize we cannot even believe, we cannot ultimately even have faith, but the Seed which is coming to fruition in us is the faith OF God within us. We begin to see it is God ONLY Who leads and guides, directs, exhorts, comforts, loves and provides. Stretched faith, exercised like muscles in body-building, is exercised faith, stretched beyond the bounds of possibilities, and we begin to realize it comes from God Himself, nothing of ourselves, and IS GOD HIMSELF exercising His own faith in and as our lives. We begin to operate faith as we know He operates it in us.
But that is not all. We may start out the fair-haired boy because we have such a flashy testimony, but we run out of that steam pretty fast. Having a great testimony doesn't seem to help when there's a wife and three kids, mouths to feed, shelter to provide, transportation, clothing, and all the stuff of modern life. Being able to lead songs in church or make a deep comment at a Bible study is contradicted by tantrums at home, continual and grinding emotional distress, and the pressures of church life and life in general.
And then before we know it, we realize everything has become now about us. We've been distracted from a love-fixation on Jesus to a very conscious and overwhelming obsession on "me." How do "I" -- fix my marriage, fix my kids, pay the bills, be more loving, seek God more, be more concerned for others, build a ministry, witness for Christ, take the world for God, be more spiritual, get rid of my bad thoughts, have good thoughts, get pride out of my life, be kinder to others, obey authorities above me, listen to God, defeat lust, resist the devil, put on the armor of God, praise enough, pray enough, study enough, know the mark of the beast, keep myself from being deceived? how do I? how do I? how do I? how do I? how do I? how do I? how do I? I-I-I-I-I-I-I-I-I-I ad nauseum, ad infinitum!
We're stuck here in this marriage with Leah. Leah is not the favored one; she is the one no one chose, so her father had to get her a husband by stealth. Everybody looks at Rachel and remarks on her beauty and grace as a woman, but Leah is in a corner where no one looks at her. There is "no beauty, that we should desire [her]." (Is 53:2)
End Pt. 3. Continue in Pt. 4