Thursday, 1 June 2017

Free to Serve

Thy Will Be Done . . . On The Earth

The Kingdom of God is from above.  The Kingdom of God brings freedom.  It liberates mankind from sin and sin's enslavement.  The Kingdom of God manumits the slave and restores him to freedom.  But for the individual the achievement of freedom is both instantaneous and a protracted process of deliverance.

When a person believes upon the Lord Jesus Christ as his God and Saviour he is justified.  He is declared righteous in God's sight and presence;  all the guilt of all his sinfulness is removed.  It is transferred to Christ Himself who bore our guilt upon the cross.  But the perfect righteousness of the Man, Christ Jesus is imputed to each believer.  Thus, upon repenting and believing, every man is declared free from the guilt of sin.  He is declared just and sinless before God.

As the Shorter Catechism [Q.33] puts it:
Justification is an act of Gods free grace, wherein he pardoneth all our sins, and accepteth us as righteous in his sight, only for the righteousness of Christ imputed to us, and received by faith alone.
But sin's habits and corruptions remain.  For the rest of our lives upon earth, we daily fight against residual sin.  But sin's power has been broken.
 Though we may take three steps forward and two backward, we gradually grow in holiness.  We experience what the old saints called the mortification of sin itself within our lives.  But this involves a long hard struggle, and many close fought battles.  Struggles and battles are messy.  Christian freedom is messy.  We win some battles, but lose some struggles.  So, we need daily to retrench, regroup, and then re-enter the lists of conflict.

While our daily experiences may not offer much hope, yet hope remains.  Why?  We trust our Saviour and His perfect work.  The fact that our experience of His work in our lives and in our culture is messy is neither here nor there in the truly grand scheme of things, for "I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ."  [Philippians 1:6; I Corinthians 1:8]

In the grand course of the coming of God's Kingdom upon earth, our lives are short.  We are like the flower of the field--here today, gone tomorrow.  But despite this, progress is being made in the world in general, as the nations are gradually discipled.  Freedom of heart, mind, spirit, and community increases.  The prayer we pray according to the instruction and permission of our Lord--namely, "Thy Kingdom come; Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven"--is being answered.  Nevertheless, as in our individual lives, it is a messy business.
Freedom produces, among other things, countless screwups, mistakes, rebellions, apostasies, and more.  Freedom is messy and presents a standing affront to the tidy minded. But historian Christopher Dawson once said that the church lives in the light of eternity and can afford to be patient.  Robert E. Lee, with penetrating wisdom, put it this way: "The work of progress is so immense and our means of aiding it so feeble; the life of humanity is so long, that of the individual so brief, that we often see only the ebb of advancing ways, and are thus discouraged.  It is history which teaches us to hope."  [Douglas Wilson, Five Cities that Ruled the World (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2009), p.189.]
 We are speaking here of true liberty wrought by the Spirit of God.  Without the Spirit, liberty rapidly devolves into libertinism.  In Tolkien's Middle Earth, the orcs were a miscegenation, an attempt by Morgoth to mimic the elves.  In the same way, libertinism is the end result of Satan's attempt to mimic and copy the glorious liberty of the sons of God.
As the ramifications of liberty unfold, there are those who see (and often see accurately) the destructive power of abused liberty, they are not hesitant to warn us.  With freedom of speech comes gossip and slander.  With freedom of the press comes pornography.  With freedom of markets comes greed and acquisitiveness.  And so on.  It is very easy to see the glass half empty.  But at the same time, the glass is half full.  [Ibid., p. 190.]
 The Kingdom of God is from above.  The heavenly Jerusalem is our mother.  It is a high calling to play our part in extending the glorious liberty of the sons of God, in the part and place and days appointed to us by the Lord, our King.

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