December 16, 2012

Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed....

A post while pondering the insanity of the shooting in Newtown, Connecticut.

I considered writing a post on the ungodly shooting in Connecticut but the Spirit within me steered me away from it. I have no heart to speak of such a horrid effect of the Fall and the evil of men. Even I get sick of the depravity of mankind and seek refuge in the Lord to make sense of it all. The times are evil and a prudent man remains silent. I pondered over this for three days since the shooting and this post is the best I could muster in response to the evil and despicable nature of the acts committed against elementary school children. I refused to discuss the guns. I refused to discuss the mental illness. I couldn't bring myself to get sucked into the emotional political ideologies that drive the foolish arguments. none are the outcroppings of the Fall of man. Just like giving airtime to the killer of those children by talking too much about him...neither will I dwell on that scumbag the Devil and his dirty work.   All I could do to make sense of this atrocity was to look backward and to look forward. I fixed my gaze on the One.

So instead of belaboring the unspeakable horror of the last few days event, I offer what I hope is the destiny of all those little children and hopefully their guardians. I offer the destination of all good Christians. Instead I offer just the opposite of the bleak dismal barbarism. I offer you a post on a time/place where there will be no more tears nor will there be any more sorrow. A place in Foreverwhen that is referred to as the Kingdom of Heaven or the Kingdom of God in the Bible. It is not a fairy tale, it is quite real. It is a place where words do little justice as it is often beyond our finite words to full describe it. So much so that it is often referred to in Scripture through parables, even by Jesus. Hyperbole and cleverly painted words do not fully do it justice. It is a place that exists forever in the presence of God because it will be where God dwells forevermore with us. A place where it will indeed be Christmas every day as Christ will be present with all whom repent and seek His face.

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I'm really not sure how I missed it before, but I have begun to realize the reason for God ushering in the Kingdom of God through Jesus at least partially early on but not in-full. It has always puzzled me why the whole “Now But Not Yet” of the Kingdom of God/Kingdom of Heaven unfolded the way it did. Why would God allow the hell of this world to continue at least in part. Why does he allow 6 year old children to be shot in the head by a mentally deranged man-child? The victory was assured in Christ but evil and sin are still allowed to wreak havoc.

The truth becomes more evident when I looked at the Parable of the Sower in Matthew 13 and Mark 4.

Matthew 13:3-13 “A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. Whoever has ears, let them hear.” The disciples came to him and asked, “Why do you speak to the people in parables?” He replied, “Because the knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them. Whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them. This is why I speak to them in parables: “Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand...

The key to me seeing the relevance of this passage comes near the end.

Matthew 13:18-23 “Listen then to what the parable of the sower means: When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in their heart. This is the seed sown along the path. The seed falling on rocky ground refers to someone who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful. But the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.”

Seeds take time to grow or die. This is not a series of events that happen immediately. God is giving time for flawed humans to come to their senses. Even the ones that don’t take root take time to fail. They will only last a short time…but a time none-the-less. Unfortunately, some that do stay faithful and take root are going to be exposed to the mental and physical anxieties as they are exposed also to the thorns. Thorns that are destined to fail. In the process they will choke others off. Those that do stay faithful to the end will produce seed in their fruits that will propagate and perpetuate further growth. Truth and true faith produces fruit(s). Fruit being and over-abundance of life has within it the source of further regeneration. Seeds (a la 1 John 3:9). Those seeds being the Holy Spirit.

The “Already But Not Yet” of the Kingdom of God is to allow God to get a jump start on His plans while simultaneously allowing mankind to follow its own way and not be damned by their own stupidity. God in His patience and mercy is giving mankind time to make the right decision first before swooping in and bringing final judgment and the Day of The Lord. We know this for sure when we read the Parable of the Weeds immediately following the Parable of the Sower. We see again that immanent nature of the Kingdom and the Now-But-Not-Yet of the Kingdom of Heaven. We see a postponement of judgment until the “harvest”. The servants in the parable want the landlord to separate the tares from the wheat immediately. This would amount to an extermination of the tares with no warning and possibly the extermination of some wheat mixed in with the tares (believers in mixed company with non-believers). The Landlord determines that harvest time is more apropos so to not uproot a good piece of germinating or growing wheat in the act of exterminating the weeds. It is a deliberate postponement in mercy and grace to allow those on the fence all the time possible before judgment which is final and absolute.

The Kingdom comes like a seed. Jesus Christ is the Sower. Jesus Christ will also be the reaper. Therefore the judgment is postponed in mercy to those slow of heart to come to the Cross / Kingdom. There is a deliberate planned delay built into this scenario. One comes sequentially after the other. He that sows cannot reap immediately. In this picture we can see then why the judgment would need to come after the arrival of the Kingdom in Jesus Christ. The literal “Now But Not Yet”.

Within this parable we see the work of reaping or judgment is the sole responsibility of Christ. It is a place where men should not interfere. We are not to pass judgment on others in terms of who does or does not gain access to the Kingdom. This is God’s domain alone. We can help sow the seed through the preaching of the Gospel but we are not to judge the results with certainty. Discerning the fruit on someone’s life on the other hand to see if they are in need of the Truth and the Gospel is one thing, to judge someone as condemned and cease evangelizing them due to your judgment is a dangerous proposition for them and you.

Yet again in the Parable of the Fishing Net (Matthew 13:47-49) we see the same. We see the use of not just any net here like the ones fishermen used for shallow fishing but we see a σαγήνῃ / sagene or literally a dragnet that would drag the entire waters top to bottom. This net is the preaching of God’s Word or the preaching of the Gospel. It is only after the fishermen drag the waters and take the entire catch, net and all to shore that the catch is sorted out. This is an image of how the Kingdom of God comes. The fisherman or “fishers of men” are in the employ of Jesus as preachers and teachers of God’s word and principles. It is not until the catch is on shore and sorted that the final judgment of what is worthy is determined and that determination is made by the ultimate Fisherman/Fisher-God and judge: Christ.

The same principle applies to other parables. We see the mustard seed being planted and needs time to come to fruition. The mustard seed’s growth is not spontaneous, it takes time. We even see it in the leaven. The leavening does not happen magically **poof**. It takes time. It is an almost (dare I say it) organic process of growth. It is a process that seems as if it is purposely designed with an organic being in mind…a human. It is the idea of a growing influence or maturity. It is a maturity that takes time and grace to accomplish it. A growing process like a seed that germinate, pushes outward and displaces whatever is in its way to reach the light. 

So what we see in the interim, because of the extraordinary patience and grace of God is what appears to be an extremely long period of time. Millennia have unfolded since Christ’s birth and death. Even more time since the promises made to Abraham. From a human vantage point it seems like forever. Especially in light of all the killings, suffering and wars. It seems as if God has turned His back on humanity and abandon them. In some cases He may very well have done so (Romans 1) and given some over to their sin. In many cases He has not. He has waited patiently by giving every chance possible for people to seek repentance and find Him.

This interim period also allows for a time of resistance as we all know that trials and tribulations build character. As Paul says clearly in Romans, “...but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” Hope pushes us towards the Kingdom to when and where we will need hope no more as we will have arrived at our intended destination.

In the interim period it appears nothing might be happening but in reality it is just happening more slowly and less dramatically than the events that occurred 2000 years ago in Jesus' birth (Christmas), ministry, and death and resurrection (Easter). God does not delay because He hates us and wants to watch us suffer. He delays because of just the opposite. He love us and is extremely long-suffering. On the whole, shootings and death are extremely tragic but on the eternal scale of things and in the context of salvation, it is passing away quickly and giving way to paradise like a puff of steam from a kettle. There one second, gone the next. Ironically, the real truth is that the interim period that we're in temporally and temporarily is not even a delay as Jesus has already ushered in the last days with His ministry here on Earth, His death and His resurrection. Perhaps this is why it drives me so batty when I hear people say, “If God cared, he would come and help us with our problems now! He must not care!” Ugh, what a myopic view of God and the Bible. He has already helped us. This interim period is not wasted time. It is borrowed time. God in His patience, mercy and grace has bought man time.

Additionally, there is, “nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known." Whatever is hidden from us is hidden, not by God, but by the limitations of our own faculty, and will be disclosed as we train our faculty of perception on God an Truth of Scripture. So far as we can see, we may see more of later. Therefore the measure or meter of a man in the Kingdom of Heaven is based on what one hears, understands and accepts now.

The passage then goes on…

For “…he that has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them.” (Matthew 13:12, Mark 4:25). What man has here on earth in this life in relation to the Gospel comes by hearing and an ability to discern it through the Holy Spirit. In other words, only those that understand the mystery at least partially now will share in the Kingdom’s full revelation later. For the seed of the Kingdom is Jesus and the Word (John 1:1, 1 John 3:9). Salvation and the Kingdom of God are one and the same. It is the Word which came into the world as Jesus Christ...and the Kingdom is most clearly seen through He, Jesus Christ because not only did the Kingdom come with Him, it came through Him and in Him. Where the King is...therein is the Kingdom.

In short…the Gospel.

In the end I return to the idea of borrowed time. The title of this post is a play on an old marriage rhyme. It is ironic that when Jesus comes back to get His church and ushers in the Kingdom in full, it has been likened to a marriage of the Bridegroom and the Bride. The Bible essentially ends on this note.

Revelation 22:17 ~“The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let the one who hears say, “Come!” Let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life.”

The "Something old" of our old marriage rhyme symbolizes continuity with the bride's family and the past. In this statement we see the security of a covenant God with a plan to save humanity from themselves which He has outworked through people and will eventually culminate in the Kingdom. "Something new" means optimism and hope for the bride's (Church's) new life ahead. We as believers are ever moving forward to that end. We are moving God’s plan forward from time-out-of-mind in the past to the forever future. The reality is that the Kingdom where we are going is actually old and new or “now but not yet”. "Something borrowed" in our rhyme is usually an item from a happily married friend or family member. In a Christian’s case it seems it is the borrowed time we were given to find our way towards repentance. The thing borrowed is also found in the gift bequeathed to the believer upon faith and trust in God’ promise. A promise from the past that stays in effect until the judgment day when all will be sorted out like tares from wheat. We cannot enter salvation or the presence of God in His Kingdom until we repent and seek His forgiveness. In this way we borrow (or more properly) take hold of the work that He has done for us at Calvary. We take hold of Jesus Christ's righteousness.

As for the rest of the verse…I’ll let you use your imagination. Perhaps the blue of the sky as we gaze expectantly waiting for the return of the Bridegroom. All Hail! The return of the King as He ushers in the Kingdom in full. Amen.

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