The Grace of God and the
Day of Judgment
...The Purging of Our Spirits for the Day of Christ
THE CONVICTION OF OUR HEARTS is that there is to be a people processed and made ready for the end-time appearing of the Lord. Paul had this same conviction in Phil 1:6 when he told of the confidence he held toward the Philippians. He said, in effect, "I am persuaded the One who has begun a good work in you will bring it to completion with a view toward what you are to be in the day of Jesus Christ."
In verse 7 he said he was justified in holding that conviction because he had those people in his heart. He loved them. And, he said, Ye all are partakers of my grace. This is, "You are all partakers with me of the grace." He had not told them how to avoid tribulation and suffering, but how to discover the grace that would make them sufficient for whatever came upon them.
Paul knew this grace. He was in prison while writing to the Philippians—and to us—and grace had brought a quality of life to him that his opposers could not squelch, or match in their own lives. In fact, they probably saw something in him they wanted. The grace that had come upon him was sustaining him with confidence. It was releasing joy in him in the absence of all things one would expect to bring joy. It was releasing him from his own pain, to feel, instead, the pain of others. It was making him so sufficient in his own personal needs that his longing came to be, not for himself, but for others in their needs.
Paul longed for the Philippians with a compassion released in him by the indwelling Christ. That was one of the developments of grace in him. It was reaching into his interior parts and, then, through him coming over onto the people of his care. Because this grace worked in him—and joy, and compassion, and a discipline of spirit—he knew it would work in the people to whom he was writing and bring them to their completion for what they must be in the final day.
We who minister the Gospel can well take note of all this, as well as we intercessors. We share the grace of God so that others become partakers of it with us. When we minister, or pray, we draw others into a communion with us of the grace we have received.
When Paul said ye all are partakers of my grace in Phil 1:7, he used the word sugkoinonós. This defines "someone who partakes jointly with another." The latter part of the word, koinonos, itself means "a fellow partaker." We might think it would be a word strong enough, but Paul strengthened it with a prefix itself meaning "together with." He was saying, "Together we share the grace together." Oh, what a strong communion! In Paul’s praying, whatever grace had found release in him came over on those for whom he prayed. However great the dimension of grace in the intercessor could determine how great will be the grace released in the one for whom the intercession is made.
A friend of mine asked me the other day, "How do we get that kind of grace?" I told him the best way I knew was simply to ask the Lord for it.
So, let’s just do that. We will ask our Heavenly Father for a greater release of His grace in us. We will open up to a new degree of fullness in His saving grace. Then, His enabling grace, and His healing grace. Something divine and powerful is ready to flow into us, mercifully, out of His amazing grace.
LET’ S TAKE NOTE NOW OF what Paul prayed for the Philippians. It will help us in our supplications for others. It will also help us see what we are to expect for our own lives. Phil 1:9,10 gives us his prayer. And this I pray, • that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment; • that ye may approve things that are excellent; • that ye may be sincere and without offence till the day of Christ.
His concern was long-range. He wanted them ready for the day of Christ. He mentioned it twice, in verses 6 and 10. For that day, he wanted their love to abound, but tempered with full knowledge and discernment. He wanted them able to make right choices. He wanted them sincere and without offense. All this with a view toward the day of Christ. The request was for qualities that would allow them to stand before Christ in His day when he will judge all the earth, and to have full and free function with Him in His Kingdom.
Some argue Paul was mistaken in his view of the return of the Lord. I don’t believe this. It would not matter whether the Philippians were alive at the day of Christ or whether they died first. In either case, Paul wanted them ready for that day. For those who died beforehand there would be a resurrection.
A few years ago, when we had to confront Glenda’s scuffle with cancer, it came to me one night that she might soon die. Strong desire came that she be ready. I had never considered this—maybe you have before— that in whatever state our spirit is when we die there we are locked for eternity. That shook me. For some reason I had not considered this in my theology. In fact, I had to do some adjusting in how I considered our salvation. As I studied Paul’s writings, it became clear he held the same view. So, whether we die first, or the Lord comes first, either one will lock us into the condition that will seal our state in the eternal Kingdom.
We’re not discussing here whether one will go to heaven or to hell. That is a matter settled in an instant by God’s grace, through faith in Christ. But we are discussing how we will function with Christ through the ages of His Kingdom. It is here that whatever quality of character his grace has worked in us will count.
When Paul said in I Cor 15:51 we shall all be changed, he was telling of a physical change. This is a change to our bodies. Instead of a body ruled by flesh, we shall have a body ruled by spirit. But what about the condition of our spirit? It was here Paul was holding his greatest concern for the Philippians. When I began to feel Glenda’s death might be close at hand, I took on a similar concern for her. I share this now with you.
Glenda did not die. The Lord has given her some good years of obedience and service and restoration of health. She’s learned valuable lessons through her pain that has made her all the more useful in ministering to others in their pain. But now, in our place of "retirement"—that’s really a joke—He is dealing with us both, not because either of us fear a soon death, but because we simply desire to be pure for His Kingdom’s purposes. We’re asking Him to work on our inner man, the eternal part of us, with a close view toward making us ready for the day of Christ. Things we’ve gotten by with before are no longer allowed. The time is too close upon us to fool around, when every man’s work shall be made manifest and the day shall declare it—I Cor 3:13. Whether we speak to young or old, there is no time for our love to come up short and cause us to make wrong decisions because of blinded judgment. There is no time to make wrong choices about things we think are our own business but that have long-running effect on others. There is no room for any more insincerity or offensive things in the spirit of any of us.
SUMMER CAME AND WENT here in the Carolina mountains. Fall came on with splendor. Everyday we looked in awe to see spectacle after spectacle of our Father’s handiwork. If you haven’t seen it here, it’s beyond imagination. Many who lived here only in the Summer packed up and went somewhere warmer, but we’re battening down for Winter. We cannot live in denial that the color and elegance will give way to its bitter freeze. Leaves that turned red and yellow fell to the ground. Glenda wanted to pick up each one and study its fleeting beauty. The day of growth and productivity came to its end. There’s no more chance for development. It’s too late to fertilize the crop or give it water. It’s too late to deal with worms that invaded the core. Jeremiah saw something like this when he bewailed the condition of Judah and its impending judgment. He lamented, The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved (Jer 8:20).
Like Jeremiah, what’s gripping us is not the end of a season of growth. We’re taken with the conviction that a season in God’s grace is ending. It will soon do its final and beautiful work. Then, a judgment is coming and we will be sealed in our eternal condition.
I’ve been attending a men’s Bible meeting once a week. About fifty men my age attend—remarkable men, all retired, all open and honest, all with questions not yet answered. Being with them is a challenge to my way of thinking. I’ve never been as old as I am now and have spent most of my ministry with younger people.
Now, I’m seeing the challenge of people whose lives are winding down and who are fairly well locked into a way of thinking that carried them for years, but that might not stand in the judgment.
For most of the men who attend the meeting, not me, there’s extra time for things like golf and fishing. But I’m seeing more challenge in the Kingdom of Christ than ever. If Glenda and I have any spare time, we want to give it to waiting on the Lord, seeking His face like never because we sense His day is close upon us.
He’s dealing with the pains that have followed us since youth and that have brought about ways of thinking and responding that won’t work in Christ’s Kingdom. He’s dealing with the tendency to sin that has remained even though we’ve not wanted to admit to it. He’s dealing with our lack of complete trust in Him.
The two of us have nearly a hundred years together of knowing the Lord, and He’s still working in us. Even though we have known the Finished Work of Jesus, and have lived out of its fullness, it is still working its way into our inner parts. And there is something we are seeing more than ever: the only qualities that have any value to remain for His day are qualities wrought in us by His grace, not by our self attainment.
Whether the day of Jesus Christ or the day of our final breath comes first, it will bring a sealing that can never be changed. It will settle what we can be in His eternal Kingdom. For many of us the searching work of the Holy Spirit is revealing much remaining for His grace to do—if we but open ourselves to it.
IN THE FINAL ANALYSIS of what will survive through all the fire of the closing days of this age, there is but one thing that can shine through, untarnished by any tribulation. It is the grace of God—saving grace, healing grace, enabling grace. And there is one more dimension to grace that I must mention for those who minister and those who pray. It is what Paul called my grace. That is the grace that comes upon us who minister. Could we call it "ministerial grace"? In some way it will reach into the lives of those to whom we minister and for whom we pray. For this, we are seeing that what we are has as much effect on people as what we say. It may even have more effect. Right doctrine preached with a polluted spirit produces people whose spirits will be polluted in the final day.
Let’s get back to what Paul was praying. We need to see clearly what he was asking, for our own lives as well as for those for whom we pray.
First he dealt with love, but in an unusual way. He asked that it might abound with knowledge and all judgment. This is important in a time when the world is trying to set the standard for love. It is using words like "tolerance" and "acceptance" and urging us to avoid "bigotry." It’s calling Christians "right-wingers" who have no tolerance for "those who differ." This is to throw confusion in upon those who have discovered the greatest tolerance and acceptance in all the universe.
We need what this prayer is directing us to pray. The word translated knowledge in Phil 1:9 is epignósis. We have noted this before. It means "full knowledge" or "acknowledgment." It is a knowledge that doesn’t have eyes closed to facts. Love with this kind of knowledge doesn’t cause one to live in denial of what the facts are.
Sometimes it seems sweet to say, "Love is blind," but this kind of love will not fare well in the Kingdom where all things are revealed. It must be open and honest about what actually is—and still remain love. The knowledge we’re praying about is a quality that goes with love to enable us to love no matter what the condition of the one loved. It is unconditional love pushed to a degree acceptable in the Kingdom of Christ.
With this knowledge goes judgment. This is from an unusual word found only here in the Greek New Testament. It is aisthésis and carries the meaning, I believe, of "spiritual sense." It is the ability to discern a matter thoroughly and to base one’s actions accordingly. For this, one needs understanding enhanced by the Holy Spirit to make it useful for God’s Kingdom. These are things that come in answer to prayer. They are wrought by God’s grace in us and cannot be imitated in a person who rejects the aid of His Spirit.
THERE WERE TWO MORE THINGS for which Paul was begging for the day of Christ. He wanted the people sincere and without offense.
I’m fascinated with this word sincere. Paul liked
it too. It’s from the Greek eilikrinés and literally
means "judged in the sun." We get out English word "sincere" from it’s
Latin equivalent which brings in two words to make the one: sin, "without," and cere, "wax." It’s not for certain how
the word developed, but there is an interesting tradition that carries
a strong possibility. A woman, on going into the market to purchase a
pot for use in her household work, would hold the vessel up to the sun
to see if it had a crack in it. Ancient producers learned how a pot marred
in its manufacture could be made to look acceptable. They coated it with
wax. A cracked pot could be made to look quite well. In fact, one thus
covered might even look better than one not coated. An inexperienced woman
in household chores might be taken with the greater beauty of the waxed
pot, only later to discover, as she carried it on her head filled with
water, that she had been duped. She learned to judge it in the sun before
making its purchase. You can see she soon learned to choose a "sin-cere"
But, what must we do about our cracks?
I remember Brother Ivan Spencer, founder of Elim Bible Institute in New York, being taken with the word contrite. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise (Ps 51:17). He had been somewhere to a pottery maker. He discovered that vessels marred in their making could be crushed in an implement called a "contriter" so they could be remade into new vessels. The early meaning of "contrite" meant "ground into small bits." Life has a way of doing this. And the grace of God has a way—a wonderful way—of coming in upon the ground-up bits and making something beautiful and new for His Kingdom. If we will but allow it, the Spirit of God will come in upon the whole process and make it all a work of grace.
We can take well whatever reveals us for what we really are, grinds us to powder, and remakes us into vessels useful in the Kingdom. This process, supervised by the grace of God, is not to be dreaded but welcomed. You see, it is God’s grace that receives us in our marred estate and welcomes us into His family. But there is no such thing as "cheap grace" that will cover the iniquity of our inner man to make us look good in the marketplace. The grace that will not let us go demands a new person, a new creation, if you please.
Now here is something to consider. A person who has cheapened God’s grace by using it as a cover for some iniquity, will not have sufficient strength to endure the furious times that will precede the day of Christ. This is the reason we are learning from Paul to pray that ye may be sincere and without offence till the day of Christ.
If this means we must be ground in the "contriter" and made into a new vessel, we can know the grace of God will oversee the whole process. This is where persons have their value who love enough to pray with confidence. We can say to the one whose inner weakness, (or sin, or iniquity, or whatever you might want to call it) has been revealed: "Hey, I love you! I love you so much I’m not going to give up on you. Something has persuaded me you’re going to make it. I think it’s the Holy Spirit Who’s showing me He has begun a good work in you. He’s going to take all that has happened and all that is weak in you and process it together to make you useful for the Kingdom of Christ." We can even take on this attitude for ourselves.
Let us say one more thing here. It is in regard to being without offense in the day of Christ. An offense is anything that causes someone else to stumble. It might be an attitude, a way of responding, a lack of patience, an outburst of temper, a lust, or a broken promise. Most of these things spring from beneath the surface and have their roots in things we might not even consider as sin. The Holy Spirit is reaching for these things in us to remove them completely.
All of this brings us to an awesome passage from Paul, Rom 8:26-28. Let me give it here as it comes to me from the Original. It speaks powerfully, both to those of us who need intercessors as well as those of us who will pray. Likewise the Spirit also comes right with us to take upon Himself our weaknesses so He can deal with them. When He begins we might think He’s against us, but He’s only against what’s wrong in us. He deals with things we don’t know how to deal with, our weaknesses that we can’t even pray intelligently about. He takes the matter into consultation with God, praying inside us with something like an inward sighing. With a way of thinking only the Holy Spirit can have, He brings us through to what God wants. In this we’ve come to see something wonderful. God can take the combined energies of everything in us, both good and bad, and work with them for something good. This is because He loves us and has a sure calling upon us.
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