Tuesday, 10 May 2011

LUKE (Chapter 18) - The purification of the holy place in order to come to “the end of all flesh” (Part 7)


In and by Christ, we must be willing to be cleansed of the sin of prayerlessness.

In the chapters 12 up to and including 17 we have seen how the sin lodges in the deepest and finest fibers of our be-ing; and this goes for every Christian! But we also know that our Lord Jesus Christ, by the offering of His body on the cross at Calvary, once and for all brought deliverance from all sins and powers of sin (Hebrews 10:10b; 1 Peter 2:24). By this sacrifice He gave us the way unto life, that we might escape all sin and darkness and might have communion with God, because the veil – which indicated the separation between God and man in the Tabernacle, and was (and is) point-ing to our sinful flesh – was torn because of the offering of His atoning death (Hebrews 10:19-20; Matthew 27:51a); whereby the (direct) contact with God became possible again for each person who believes in Jesus and His sacrifice for us.
In the light of the Israeli Tabernacle we must see these chapters in the sign of this veil, torn for us (which points to Jesus Who gave His life for us). We, too, must, willingly and thankfully, undergo this "way of the cross", namely the breaking down of our old, sinful life – by the inner, powerful workings of His Spirit and blood – that Romans 6:5 become a living reality in our life: "For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection".
We will now have a closer look at the last one of all sins a Christian must be delivered from. This sin, to un-anointed eyes, may seem small, but for God it is a very great obstacle, for because of this He cannot grant us the fullness of the glory of His nature; namely union with His holy, true and merciful Being. For sins, however small in our eyes, sepa-rate us from our God! "But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear" (Isaiah 59:2). The indicated last sin is the sin of prayerlessness. For it is a matter of the highest urgency to put all of this sinful being of ours completely in the hands of our faithful Redeemer and Savior. With David we must pray: "Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting" (Psalm 139:23-24). If we sincerely desire this He will investigate our entire being and show us our sins and shortcomings, that we feel them as a burden, because of which we all too eagerly would lay them down at His feet; that He wash us clean in His precious and dear blood! Then we will experience His deliverance in our heart and life and will shout for joy before His countenance, because we will know by then that we are freed from the pressure and demonic compulsion of sin. For, "if the Son shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed (of [the power of] sin)" (John 8:36).
Let us now see how we must come to God in prayer, and which obstacles there are (may be); because of which our prayers shrink to quick prayers. Yes, because of which we even go through life prayerless, (thus without God)... Despite the fact that this subject was already discussed at length in Chapter 11, it appears that the Holy Spirit finds it necessary after all to touch on it again here.

We must pray with perseverance until we receive an answer.

Luke 18 verse 1-8: "And he spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint (spiritually); Saying, There was in a city a judge, which feared not God, neither regarded man: And there was a widow in that city; and she came unto him, saying, Avenge me of mine adversary. And he would not (help her) for a (long) while: but afterward he said within himself, Though I fear not God, nor regard man; Yet because this widow troubleth me, I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me. And the Lord said, Hear what the unjust judge saith. And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long (is patient) with them? I tell you that he will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find (true) faith on the earth?"In this parable we are confronted with a widow who goes to the judge to seek justice, because her opponent did her wrong. But the judge was unjust and would not hear her. But, this widow clung to this judge like a bulldog. And, being wearied by this persevering woman, he finally administered justice. By this parable the Lord wants to teach us to display the same kind of perseverance in our prayers, until, in answer to our prayers, we are granted grace by our God.
We must put the sins the Lord showed up in our conscience at the foot of His cross; confronting God with the promises of His own Word. Let us thus, filled with a sincere desire for God's justice, pray unto God with perseverance, pleading with Him to, after His own holy promise, answer us because we are willing to be completely cleansed, and want to become as pure as He is. And we are to continue praying until He fills us with jubilant faith by the assurance that He heard our continual prayer. If we remain faithful to Him, we shall find that He leads us in the full answer to our sincere prayer. For, He wants to make us pure, as white as snow, as white as white wool (Isaiah 1:18)!
(Very soon) there will be a time when Christians with such persevering prayer life will be persecuted. The "wise ones" among them will be led away (and kept in) the wilderness (see Revelation 12:6 and 14), but the "foolish ones" among them (the remnant of her seed – see Revelation 12:17) will have to go through the Great Tribulation, because they have not reached the fullness of Christ. And during this Great Tribulation they will be killed by the antichrist (see Revelation 11:1-2; 20:4). When Jesus thought of this, He sighed: "But when the Son of man cometh, shall he find (true) faith on the earth?"
We often still sin by showing the opposite of persevering prayer; maybe because we are (too) soon disappointed if our prayer is not immediately answered. This might also be the reason why our prayers often shrink to quick prayers. Let us pray the Lord for just such a persevering heart as the widow's in above parable. Does not nature teach us that no new life will come without patient pregnancy and labor pains? Likewise that NEW LIFE of God shall not be given us without this patient waiting (expecting) and the labor pains, whereby the wrestling prayer is meant, as Jacob did (see Gen-esis 32:24-26)!

We must pray with a penitent heart.

Luke 18 verse 9-14: "And he spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess. And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner. I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather (more) than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted."
Both prayers remind us of the offerings of Cain and Abel (Genesis 4:3-5). Like Cain offered the (best) fruits of his harvest to God, so this Pharisee pleaded on the ("good") works of his righteousness. And like Abel, especially because of his awareness of sin, only pleaded on the blood of the substitute offering of the sacrificial animal, so this publican only prayed to God for grace because he was aware of his sinful state.
Because of the added word "rather" (in our bible translation) by the translator (verse 14) the impression is created that the Pharisee who prayed so haughtily, was also justified by God. But this is impossible, for such a haughty prayer will never receive God's approval and blessing, just as Cain did not receive it! We, too, should never appear before God's face with a "holier-than-thou attitude" with regard to our fellow brothers and sisters. Were we not all pulled out of the mire of sin? Not for nothing it is written that the one who thinks to be standing (strong, spiritually), must watch out that he does not fall himself. Is not everything, that is really good, really righteous, really noble and really loving, from Him? Would it be right that we exalt ourselves regarding the things which are not of ourselves, but which were given to us by God's grace? It is Jesus Christ, and Him alone, Who should receive all honor and glory. For, when we spread the fragrance of (divine) righteousness, then this is not of ourselves (otherwise it would be selfrighteousness), but it is the fragrance of the Rose of Saron (see Song of Solomon 2:1), whereby is indicated Jesus, our heavenly Bridegroom, Who by His grace will flower (and grow) in us.
Let us always be willing to stand before our God in a "Lazarus condition" – namely "begging" for spiritual food, that we grow spiritually, whereby He will be able to let us walk in and by His grace – but never with (spiritual) pride, such as that rich fool in the parable of the "rich man and poor Lazarus in Luke 16:19-25, who, because of this, opened his eyes in hell!

We must pray like a child.

Luke 18 verse 15-17: "And they brought unto him also infants, that he would touch them, but when his disciples saw it, they rebuked them. But Jesus called them unto him and said, Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God. Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child shall in no wise enter therein."
Just like a child we must believe everything concerning the Kingdom of God. We must have the faith and trust a child has in its parents. How happily and trusting a child can be when someone promises it something. Our relationship with God, too, must be one of childlike dependence and affection. For, a child blindly trusts that which its father says or promises. "My father said it and therefore it is so!" When we have such a heart's condition with regard to our heavenly Father, we will receive all the promises from God!

We must watch that our possession and all other matters which relate to this earthly life, do not form an obstacle in our prayer life.

Luke 18 verse 18-30: "And a certain ruler asked him saying, Good Master, what shall I do to inherit ETERNAL LIFE? And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? none is good, save one, that is, God. Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honor thy father and thy mother. And he said, All these have I kept from my youth up. Now when Jesus heard these things, he said unto him, Yet lackest thou one thing: sell all that thou hast, and distribute unto the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, follow me. And when he heard this, he was very sorrowful: for he was very rich. And when Jesus saw that he was very sorrowful, he said, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God! For it is easier for a camel to go through a needle's eye, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. And they that heard it said, Who then can be saved? And he said, The things which are impossible with men are possible with God. Then Peter said, Lo, we have left all, and followed thee. And he said unto them, Verily, I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or parents, or brethren, of wife, or children, for the kingdom of God's sake, Who shall not receive manifold more in this present time, and in the world to come life everlasting."Although Jesus Himself was the Son of God, and thus (a part of) God Himself, yet He put Himself in the same position as a human being. He came to this earth as the "Son of man", and therefore called Himself not good, but said that God alone (in the true sense of the word) is good.
And although this rich ruler, from his youth up, obeyed the law of charity, yet he felt he was missing something in order to inherit ETERNAL LIFE. God did not give that commandment in the Old Covenant (namely the ten commandments according to Exodus 20:1-17, and Deuteronomy 5:6-21) to His people in order that they be saved by that law (otherwise Jesus' sacrifice on the cross of Calvary would not have been necessary); but that His people, by that law, come to humility (subjection, meekness) and awareness of sin; that they by way of symbolic animal sacrifices which all point towards the great sacrifice of Jesus, God's Lamb, still receive His grace.
In order to obtain this meekness Jesus had to point out to this rich ruler the sin, which, without him noticing it, had him in its grip, namely his worship of the mammon (i.e. the god [idol] of money and possessions); his preference of the mammon. For the security of his earthly life he did not draw on the rich source of God's works of grace – which already fell to God's people in the Old Covenant through animal sacrifices – but from the awareness of his (earthly) wealth, his great amount of money and his possessions. How completely different it was with wealthy Abraham, who did not trust in his possessions, but who expected the city of God, with the firm (and thus trustworthy) foundation, of which God Himself is the Architect and the Builder (Hebrews 11:10; Revelation 21:10-27).
The spirit of this "rich" ruler had to be loosed from this great bondage to money and things. And, because he thought he had to do this in his own strength, he went away disappointed. The disciples, too, thought the same and uttered their disappointment with the words: "Who then can be saved?" But Jesus had said, also to this "rich" ruler: "Take up your cross!" (Mark 10:21). But these words of Jesus they then did not yet understand. Only when, after Jesus' death and resurrection, the Holy Spirit had come down in His Church – whereby the gifts of the Spirit of a.o. wisdom and knowledge (regarding God's Word) were revealed (see 1 Corinthians 12:4-11) – could (and can) the depth of this word of grace be understood. For it is only through obedience to the commandment: "take up your cross" – whereby is meant that we must die to our old and sinful ego and lusts, and this is only possible through His Spirit's works of grace, our repent-ance and our faith in His blood which was shed for us – that we can be delivered from all (sinful) works, bands and lusts of the flesh. It goes without saying that we must readily and gratefully accept these divine works in our heart and life. But not only this; the believer must also be willing to share the NEW (resurrection) LIFE of the resurrected Lord Jesus Christ, and be willing to lead a life in union with Him; as the head has with the body; as the bride has with her bridegroom!
Jesus stressed the (often) idolatrous bond of money and material possession by saying: "...it is easier for a camel to go through a needle's eye, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God." In other words: this demonic force is very strong. There are not many rich people who would prefer the wealth of Jesus over their earthly possessions! Therefore Jesus says here that the chance of a camel going through the eye of a needle is greater than a rich man (spiritually seen) coming loose from his riches. (The "eye of a needle" is the small door opening beside the large city gate. When this large city gate was closed at night, this small door was opened and guarded.) Let us pray that God be especially gracious to such people that their eyes, too, be opened unto the riches of God's grace, which we may find and receive in the Lord Jesus Christ!
Once they are delivered from (the power of) their earthly possessions, they too will be prepared to serve the Lord Jesus, and be willing to dedicate their possessions with joy to the service of the Kingdom of God! And we must thank and praise God for such a changed human life, for it is His work in the heart and life of (us) people!

CLICK HERE if you want to read this study (Chapter 18) – that is to long for the Blog.

By E. van den Worm