Tuesday, September 22, 2015

"Not Unto Us"

     What would the Lord's martyrs say if they could audibly communicate with us?

     Those who have given their lives for the Lord Jesus Christ would arise as one to proclaim, "Not unto us, o Lord, not unto us, but unto Thy name give glory, for Thy mercy and for Thy truth's sake!" (Psalm 115:1).  The martyrs of the ages would tell us that the Lord Jesus met them in the hour of their earthly departure in such a manner that they suffered and died not by their own devotion to Him, but rather by His to them.  He empowered their sacrifice.  They trusted and submitted themselves to Him, but the greater truth involved the love of Christ enabling the last full measure of love for Christ.  "Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal bodies" (II Corinthians 4:10).

    The martyrs would also declare that while most of us may not be called upon to give "the last full measure," our own sacrifices must be viewed as the fruit of the Holy Spirit's empowering, and of our "looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith" (Hebrews 12:2).  Our Heavenly Father has no interest in flesh-produced dedication, or the mere grudging and servile obedience of a slave.  Indeed, one of the strongest Old Testament pronouncements of chastening directed toward Israel involved the Lord's displeasure that His people "servedst not the Lord with joyfulness, and with gladness of heart for the abundance of all things" (Deuteronomy 28:45-47).  Our works and sacrificial actions on behalf of God's glory must originate in "the hope of glory, which is Christ in you" (Colossians 1:27).  Such faithfulness creates in faithful ones the keen awareness that the motivation and power necessary for self-sacrifice originates not in humanity, but in Divinity.  No less than the Apostle Paul plainly stated his experience of power from above: "By the grace of God, I am what I am, and His grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain, but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me" (I Corinthians 15:10).

    This truth of enabling grace does not mean that we do not remember, affirm, and admire the martyrs.  We do.  We direct our respect, however, not primarily toward their works of sacrifice as much as we recognize their knowledge of the Lord Jesus that elicited faith exercised in the flames, or on the gallows, the guillotine, and the cross.  As Paul declared, the martyrs received God's grace not in vain, but in triumph, Christ's triumph, known in their pain.  "Not unto us, not unto us!" they would tell us.  And they do.

"As it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord."
(I Corinthians 10:31)

Weekly Memory Verse
    Ye are not in the flesh but in the spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you.
(Romans 8:9)


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