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Biblical Illustrator i John 3

Biblical Illustrator i John 3

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Published by: glennpease on Jul 15, 2011
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BIBLICAL ILLUSTRATOR I JOH 3CHAPTER III.Vebs. 1-6. Behold, what mamier of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, thatwe should he called the sons of God. — Children of God : — These two verses of St. John's Epistle contain a simple summary of true religion. " If ye knowthat He is righteous, ye know that every one that doeth righteousness is begottenof Him." Thus far the Old Testament goes. Israel had learned this primarylesson of true religion, that the Almighty is the Eighteous Power. KnowingJehovah, not as a national deity who would help His own people whether theywere right or wrong, but as the righteous God over aU, who would reject Hia170 THE BIBLICAL ILLUSTRATOR. [chap. m.chosen people if they did wrong, the prophets saw clearly also that only thosemen who do right can claim to be the sons of the Most High. The next versecontains a summary of the ew Testament revelation of real religion :" Behold what manner of love," <fec. It is all from God's love in Christ that wehave right to be called children of God. These two words — one fulfilling theOld Testament, the other opening the riches of the ew — mark the essence of real religion : righteousness and sonship. Let us first take up the Old Testamentword for it. It is a solid word. The true religion is not a moral veneering of life ; itis not a piece of pious ornamentation, nor an official robe drawn over an unprin-cipled heart. It is not an emotional substitute for conduct. The Old Testamentword for religion is a word of cubic contents — righteousness, a real thing, concreteas just dealing between man and man. A present indisputable argument for belief in Moses and the prophets as holy men of old inspired of God is that they madethe superhuman effort of building a nation on the Ten Commandments. Theyhad the supernal faith to command a people to do right, and to live together in just relations in the fear of God. We do not yet dare bring our politics up to thatlevel of the prophets. The religion which first mastered the lesson of eternal justice and made it the foundation of a state was not a faith which had sprung upof itself out of the jungle of Canaanitish superstitions. It was not found inBabylon. Assyria's power perished for the lack of it. The true God impressedHimself upon Moses and the prophets. We know that they were the appointedbearers of a Divine revelation, and the bringers of the light, very much as we mightknow that a highway running up to some clear mountain height through the swampand the underbrush at its foot was never a spontaneous freak of nature, but marks
the course of some intelligent purpose. The Lord God made that way of righteous-ness through all the superstitions and idolatries of the nations on and up to itsMessianic height. The religion of eternal righteousness is the supernal fact of history. Once gain sight of the everlasting righteousness, and nothing else seemsgreat. Observe that the righteousness which from beginning to end the Old Testa-ment presses for is no abstraction, but concrete, solid right-doing. The preachersof righteousness is the Old Testament faced men, and threw themselves in thename of the holy God into the thick of events. They were the fearless advocatesof the oppressed ; they were God's statesmen amid the shifting politics of Jerusalem.They could flash the eternal justice into the covetous eyes of princes. Righteous-ness in the old testament is no scholar's candle flickering in an attic ; it is anelectric light revealing the street ; all classes have to pass under it and be seen.Turn now from the prophets to the ew Testament. We hear ringing clear andfull through the preaching of the apostles another word for the true religion. It issonship. " Beloved, now are we the sons of God." The essence of the ewTestament is in the Lord's parable of the prodigal son. So Jesus Himself openedthe heart of the gospel toward us sinners. The grandest thing in the world for anyman to do is really to live day and night, alike in the darkness or in the joy of life,as a son of the Most High God. Only one ever accomplished perfectly this task ;and we for the most part do but succeed as yet in living here and there, now andthen, as the children of the Father in heaven. But think a moment what it is todo this. It would signify within us a very genuine humility. In a life of sonshiphumility would have to be at times that conscious sense of evil or of wrongdoingwhich is repentance for sin. The humility of a life of filial dependence on Godwill become so deep and pure that no possible outward success or inward spiritualtriumph will be able to cause the son of the living God to dwell in any other habitand atmosphere. Sonship, again, so far as this ew Testament word for religionis realised by any of us, will free us from the haunting sense of strangeness in thisworld. It is not simply the mystery of things ; it is the mystery of ourselves thatbaffles us. Death does not grow less strange from our increasing familiarity withit. All things are strange, and will grow stranger to us, unless we can discoverBome diviner thoughtfulness in them ; unless, amid all the mystery of the universe,we shall know ourselves as God's children, and begin on this earth to be in ourhearts at home with our God. This likewise will be the mark of true sonship,and the religion of sonship — obedience, strong, cheerful obedience. The Christiansense of sonship, so far as we receive the spirit of adoption, whereby we cry Abba,Father, will enable us, in short, to live the simple life of trust. It is life up on theBunny heights. Trust is final spiritual mastery of things. It is perfect poise of Bpirit, like the poise of the eagle after it has beaten its way up against the windinto the sky, and rests circhng with buoyant wings upon the sunny air. Trust ia
CHAP, in.] I. JOH. 171ability of soul to live happily without Divine explanation. Faith in God is willing-ness to wait for explanations of things. You ask for reasons why certain eventshave happened to you ; why any evil, such as we may meet in the street, is toleratedfor a moment in a world which has a God over it ; why human life has oftenproved so tragic ; why death reigns ; why a thousand shadows fleck the light ; why,in short, we mortals seem to be like wanderers in a forest, where it is both dark and bright. ow, faith is not an answer to any of these inquiries ; faith does notyet lead us out with the clearing, but faith is trust in the light between the shadows,trust that the light is high and eternal, and the shadows only for the moment.Trust is the discovery of the soul that it can live awhile without explanations, andnot be disturbed. Such trust is the confidence of sonship. ow, I am aware thatmen who have to meet the practical urgencies of life often find it easier to come to '•some determination of righteousness than it is for them to let their lives be liftedup into the assurance of sonship. It is less difficult for some of you to be OldTestament worthies than it is to become ew Testament saints. You love righteous-ness, and you hate injustice and fraud. There you are inclined to stop. It isbetter for any one to live according to the righteousness of the Old Testament thannot to live at all from the Bible. The seeds of the perfect life of sonship are con-tained in the religion of the prophets. evertheless, the Christ came to fulfil therighteousness of the old dispensation. The righteousness which is by faith is ourfull salvation. Let one's dutiful living spring directly out of his sense of sonship,and it will become a transfigured conscientiousness. The light of love will play aUthrough it. To this higher life we are called. Men will finally do right toward oneanother when they shall learn to live together as sons of God. The present revivalof right-doing wiU be complete when in the power of the Holy Spirit men are bornanew as the children of the Father in heaven. {ewman Smyth.) The Divine birth — the family likeness : — The first verses of the third chapter are to be viewed asinsepar-able from the last verse of the second. It is that verse which starts the new line of thought ; our " knowing that God is righteous, and doing righteousnessaccordingly,"in virtue of our " being bom of Him." Born of Him 1 That is what awakensJohn's grateful surprise. I. In every view that can be taken of it, our being calledthe sons of God is a wonderful instance of the Father's love. U. And weARE His children: "Beloved, now are we children of God." Our being calledchildren of God is a reality ; our being born of God makes it so. The world maynot know us in that character, for " it knows not God," and has never known

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