Glorious Ambition https://youtu.be/iBlDzAH39d8
Why is it that despite the clear admonitions of scripture so many believers “set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches” and not “on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy” (1 Tim 6:17). This issue is a hot topic here in Perth where the pastor of our largest church recently resigned in the midst of a major financial crisis for the fellowship. Amazingly, the public letter explaining the situation contains no reference to Jesus Christ or his cross (https://www.riverviewchurch.com.au/letter-to-church). This is a plain sign that the real crisis of Western Christianity is not about money but a failure to know the gospel as “the power of God to salvation” (Rom 1:16). Scripture testifies that the riches we enjoy in God are wonderful spiritual ones, “grace….inheritance….mercy….kindness….Christ…glory” (Eph 1:7, 18; 2:4, 7; 3:8, 16). Why are we so stupid as to prefer material over spiritual wealth? Since our earthly lives are finite why do we not heed Jesus counsel to be above all else, “rich towards God” (Luke 12:21)? This teaching hopefully explores this question in a new light.
The LORD provided everything in “Eden”, which means “delight”, for the enjoyment of his children. The trees were all “pleasant to the sight and good for food” (Gen 2:9). Everything was well presented and tasty in God’s Garden but free from the raging “food pornography” of our culture. Even more impressively we are told about Eden, “there is gold. 12 And the gold of that land is good; bdellium and onyx stone are there” (Gen 2:11-12). The gold God made was attractive and impressive, shining unblemished with his glory. The precious stones likewise testified to the beauty of the Lord. But far greater than all these delights Adam and Eve had the source of all the wonders of the world, the uncreated Word of the Lord spoken into their hearts, ““of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.””” (Gen 2:17). This Word conveyed a glorious “meekness of wisdom” it was “peaceable, gentle…full of mercy” and was entirely free of “jealousy and selfish ambition” (James 3:13-17). In this “theatre of the glory of God” (Calvin) everything reflected the LORD’s goodness (Gen 1:31).
The Horrible Exchange
The gospel is about a “wonderful exchange” (Calvin) whereby Christ took upon himself our misery and poverty and gave us his eternal riches (2 Cor 8:9). This “wonderful exchange” was however only necessary because of a prior “terrible exchange” in the spiritual world. Ezekiel 28 describes a being “perfect in beauty” covered with “every precious stone…crafted in gold…an anointed angelic guardian”. This glorious creature fell through trade in unrighteousness (vv. 11-18). The satanic spirit exchanged walking with God for proud personal gain, a sin which cascaded down to earth where humans “exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images….exchanged the truth about God for a lie…exchanged natural relations for natural” (Rom 1:23, 25-26). The glory of being given wonderful gifts from God was not enough for the devil and likewise proved not enough for sinful man. Something supremely sinister lies behind this terrible exchange, something which gives it great obstinate power. Satan entices Eve into visualising she can have all the delights of Eden, plus divine knowledge of good and evil without death, by presenting himself as a father whose ambition for his children, unlike God’s, is unlimited (Gen 3:4-6). His offer of immortality abolishes the boundary of death set by the Creator-Father. The serpent’s “fatherly” motivation in prospering his children without limit proved irresistible to Adam and Eve. They soon found however that in choosing the fatherhood of the devil they had not exchanged mortality for immortality but life in God’s presence for death in his absence (John 8:44; Eph 2:1-3).
Jesus is “the radiance of the glory of God… and upholds all things by the word of his power” (Heb 1:3). He not only reflects the glory of God as created things do but is the source of divine splendour. The glorification of the humanity of the Son of God comes through his refusal to be ambitious for the glories of this world (Luke 4:6). Since the Son seeks only the glory of the Father the Father loves the Son in his obedience to death (John 8:50, 54; 10:17). Unlike Adam and Eve Jesus accepts the will of God to set a boundary on human life, sin means death. Against all earthly appearances, the command of God for Jesus to die the shameful death on the cross where he is convicted by men of guilt reveals this Father is not ashamed to have his Son seen as a failure in the eyes of the world. Christ’s cry of forsakenness from the cross this is not a “What’s in this for me?” complaint (Mark 15:34). It is a crying out for the wise word full of peace, gentleness and mercy he knows is true to the character of the heavenly Father (James 3:17). The cross is a perfect revelation that Jesus had no personal ambition and the resurrection witness to the realised ambition of his Father to raise humanity into the glory of immortality (2 Tim 1:10). Why be ambitious for the things of this world when a new creation is offered in Christ?
Scripture encourages, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without rebuke…” (James 1:5). But despite appalling teaching across much of the Church few dare question the unbiblical materialistic teaching of their leaders lest they suffer rebuke. Like the Jews of old they remain silent for fear of being evicted from the assembly (John 9:22; 12:42-43). Behind all such fears lurks a primal fear of death, something from which the true gospel comprehensively delivers us (Heb 2:14-15). The Western Church must realise that in union with Christ we have been commissioned to die; so in Jesus we can be fearless before everything what brings shame and guilt in this world: poverty, rejection, illness (Rom 8:28, 35-37). This freedom is the glory Christ shares with us in our union with God and the summit of the ambition of the true Father for his beloved children (Eph 3:12-13; Heb 12:2).
Satan mercilessly accuses humanity of falling short of its potential for glory (Rom 3:23; Rev 12:10). The gospel proclaims that in Christ we are freed from guilt and shame (Rom 8:1). The prevalence and influence of the prosperity style teaching in the Western Church reveals that masses of beguiled believers have been manipulated into substituting the temporary glories of this world for the glory of God in Christ (2 Tim 4:10). Riddled with false guilt and shame lest they fail to achieve this worlds goods these deluded believers have been robbed of the revelation of the wisdom of God in the way of the cross (1 Cor 1:17, 24). Since no one knows they lack wisdom from God unless this is revealed to them by sovereign divine initiative we stand in total need of grace (2 Cor 8:9). If we pray for mercy it may be that the Lord will share with us some of his unaffected seeking of the wisdom of his Father in the cry of the cross so that we might truly grow as children of God (Mark 15:34; Heb 5:7-8). This will come through a stripping away of the wisdom of earthly securities. Who is up to this?