(a) Life in the Midst of Death
"The testimony of Jesus" is a phrase that sums up a very great deal in the book of the Revelation. Indeed, it sums up the whole Bible. Now supposing, for argument's sake, that the object of the Church's calling is a testimony to Divine life. (It is no supposition, though, but a reality. "In him was life" (John 1:4): "I came that they may have life" (John 10:10): that is the testimony of Jesus.) Supposing then the testimony of Jesus is the testimony of Divine life: what is necessary in order that our experience and history should tally with Divine purpose? It is that we should have a setting in which we are assailed continually by death. Life becomes a very real thing when death is all around and very active. So, if the purpose is the manifestation of Divine life, then those who are called according to that purpose will have to have a history of conflict with death. That is simple and obvious. If, therefore, you and I have such a history and such an experience, are we to stand back and say, 'Oh, this is all wrong! Would that we could get out of this!'? We should rather say, 'This is in accordance with the object in view, there is a consistency about God's ways with us.'
The mystery of life is one of the supreme features, if not the supreme feature, of the whole record in Scripture. I am not attempting to deal with it exhaustively here, but only to bring out the point that immediately concerns us. What is the mystery of Christ? Many men besides Jesus Christ were brought up in Nazareth. Stand them all in a row. Can you discriminate between them other than by purely natural features? No. And yet there is a difference between Jesus and the rest. What is the difference? While outwardly He looks like the rest, there is a mystery about Him, there is something there, He is not the same. People tried to deal with Him as they dealt with other men, but they found they were dealing with someone unique, in whom there was something different. "The mystery of Christ" (Eph. 3:4), who Christ really was!
The mystery of life. "Called according to his purpose." Supposing then that the Church is to be a manifestation of the life, a testimony to Divine life, then the Church will be set all through its history in scenes of death, with the forces of death raging against it.
"He is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles and kings, and the children of Israel: for I will show him how many things he must suffer for my name's sake". He must suffer in order that the Name may come out in all its glory. The cause of all is to be found in the calling and election, and the effect of the calling is to be seen in suffering, a setting that brings out the reality of this calling. "...to this end..." Have you yourself a sense of this? Then check up as you go along and see if the ways of the Lord with you are not after all perfectly consistent with the thing that He is after.
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There is so much that I love about this article, so rich and full are its contrasts, and in my opinion clearly showing that perhaps so many believers are trying to get out of what He has designed for our lives, being surrounded by death that His Life might become evident to us and to the world around us.As well as with Light, again more often than not finding ourselves seemingly entrenched in times of darkness, why, so that His light might be seen?????