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Monday, August 25, 2014

The Power of His Resurrection # 33

The Healing of Naaman (continued)

That can be applied in many ways, and various people come up against the same deadlock along different lines. For some it is intellectual; they must have an intellectual salvation, and if they cannot bring everything into the realm of their intellect then the thing is not worth considering, it is beneath them. Others must have it in other vessels, and by other means which are suitable to them in nature. But, be it what it may, God has His own position as represented by the Cross, and God never deviates one he hair's-breadth from that. God's ground is utter self-emptying. That is the Cross! When we come to Jordan, that means that we have come to the place where all consideration for reputation, position, honor, or any such thing in the realm of the natural man has been fully set aside, and we can never come to Jordan until that is so. Naaman may have his battle, just as multitudes of others have had their battles, on exactly the same ground, until they could get through to the place where no consideration whatever for themselves, as being anything of any value at all, has a place. If the waters of Jordan remain symbolic of Divine judgment of man, then that puts man down into a very low place, that reduces man to something without a reputation, without honor. There can be no getting through to the Lord's fullness of life, only insofar as man by nature has been emptied out to where he no longer regards himself as being of any account before God.

These are simple truths, but they apply to believers as much as to unbelievers. The full implications of the Cross have not been kept clearly before the Lord's people through the ages. Unfortunately a great deal of Gospel preaching has laid all the stress upon the satisfaction of man, the good and the blessing of man, with the result that afterward, sometimes years afterward, the Lord has to bring home the fact of the Cross as ruling out man by nature. The consequence has been that we have had to  have conventions and special meetings to get Christians consecrated; and consecration is really a matter of full surrender. But what an obvious fault that is, when all that should have been done right at the beginning without any reservation at all. And had the Cross in its full implications been presented right from the beginning, then the believer would be living on the level of the convention life from the first. We have all suffered from the fault. Most of us, or many of us, have spent years in floundering along in a large measure of weakness and ineffectiveness, because we had never from the beginning seen the full implications of the Cross as to ourselves. We saw that Calvary was salvation for the sinner, but we had never seen clearly that Calvary was the setting aside of man utterly in himself; and it was not until we came to see that, that we came through into the fullness of life. We have brought over a very great deal of our natural life on to new creation ground, and, having tried to use it, we found that it was a constant burden and handicap, whereas the meaning of the Cross is that all things are of God. That is comprehensive and conclusive "all." All things are out from God.

For Naaman the full implications of the Cross were presented, and not one bit of consideration was given to his flesh. No provision was made whatever for his flesh. He came with his pomp and retinue to the tent of Elisha, and sent to announce his arrival, but the prophet did not so much as rise from his stool to look out and see what a wonderful man this was. He simply went on with whatever he was doing, and said: "Go and wash in Jordan seven times ..." The man of reputation felt the sting of the ignoring of "himself", and he was going away in a great rage, saying: "Behold, I thought, he will surely come out to me, and stand, and call on the name of the Lord his God, and wave his hand over the place, and recover the leper." Elisha's attitude was: "Not in the least! that is the measure in which I respect the flesh!" That is the measure in which God takes account of man by nature!

It is a painful lesson for a great many servants of the Lord to learn. Not in the least does the Lord take account of what a man is in himself; not even as to what a saved man is in himself. That man does not come under the eye of God. The prophet would not even look out to see Naaman. That is God's attitude. The eye of God does not take into view what man is by nature; He simply ignores him and sets him aside. Calvary represents that.

It is the way of life, the way of fullness. It seems to be very much the opposite when you are going through those stages, when those principles are being applied. There seems to be no life at all in that direction, and little hope. it is quite true! The natural man may as well take it for granted that there is nothing for him in that direction, as the natural man. Our flesh will get nothing out of salvation when God has His way. Our natural life is not going to get any gratification. Taking up the Cross and denying ourselves is something of a very radical character when wrought out in spiritual terms. It is self denial!

That is the meaning of Calvary, and such a presentation discovered Naaman's real heart state, and illustrates for us what death is. Death working is, after all, only the working of the natural life. To men it may appear a great thing.  There may be that about it which man would call honorable. It may have a good deal of success in this world. There may be features of great ability. There may be a good reputation among men. But before God there is something else which renders all that as nothing, not to be taken into account; it is the reign of spiritual death. Naaman was put to a very thorough test as to whether he really meant business in this matter of resurrection life, life triumphant over death. He was fully extended as to whether to him this was a matter of life and death. "Go and wash in Jordan seven times." The meaning of "seven" is spiritual completeness. Naaman was being drawn out to a point of spiritual completeness.

The story has nothing to say about Naaman stopping short after the second, the third, or the fourth time, and this shows that now he was really going right through with this whole thing, having once definitely faced the issue. His servants reasoned with him, and he had listened to reason. Then confronted with the issue, he said in effect: "Well, if this is the way, then I am going this way without any reservation. My alternative is to go back to my country as I came, in this living death. Am I prepared for that? or am I really prepared to go all the way with this matter without a reservation?" He decided, because of the seriousness of the issue, that he would go all the way. And so, although on any other ground or a less complete consecration he might have stopped after the second dip in Jordan, and said: "Well, there you are! Nothing has happened! Just as I expected!" we find instead that Naaman persevered. And now the third time, nothing! The fourth time, nothing! The fifth time, nothing! The sixth time, nothing! But he went through to the seventh time. His faith was tried on this matter right up to the end.

We know what that means in our own experience. God has placed before us an issue. That issue is no less a thing than life triumphant over death. That not only applies to the unsaved, that applies to saints. The full expression of that life was seen by the Apostle Paul to be bound up with a certain point of advancement, when he said: "Not that I have already obtained, or am already made perfect ... but one thing I do, forgetting the things which are behind ... I press on toward the goal unto the prize of the upward calling of God in Christ Jesus." "If by any means I may attain unto the resurrection [Greek - out-resurrection] from the dead," a resurrection which is a reward, and not a resurrection which is a general thing; some expression of the power of His resurrection which is not general but specific. So that you see the matter of life triumphant over death in its full meaning is something which concerns saints after Paul's type, and goes a long way on into the Christian life and experience. But beyond the initial expression of His resurrection in our salvation, and the ultimate full expression in the out-resurrection from the dead, there are continuous crises, progressive developments of that life, and each fresh stage issuing in further fullness is marked is marked by some crisis of this very character, namely, as to how much more of self we are prepared to leave behind. It may be that at a given point our own personal will is set against the Lord's will, or that a form of sin is present that we are not prepared to give up. On the other hand it may not be in the realm of definite and positive selfishness, but there are points of a fine character to which we come in the matter of our preparedness to let go something, some position, some relationship, and move on with the Lord into a new realm which is costly, and which means the setting aside in a new way of our own sensibilities, and our own feelings, and our own ideas, in order to attain unto that fuller power of His resurrection. We shall be challenged by these thing continually as we go on, and for us the power of His resurrection is bound up with the extending of our faith to some further point than ever before. That is the statement of facts. We shall know that that is true, if we are going on with the Lord, and perhaps the value of what is before us now will be found in our being able to say, when we come to such issues, and such crises: "This is jut that: the question for the moment is whether I am prepared to take this further step, which, involving me perhaps in further difficulties, means that my own personal considerations have to be set aside in a new way." Thus it is a step of faith more than ever before. But it is the way of life, the way of increase. Naaman went the whole way with God, and God went the whole way with him, even unto the seventh degree.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 34)

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