FROM THIS TIME FORTH...
The way God sees Time--
So far as the believer’s time-realm existence is concerned, God is only looking forward with respect to our journey with Him.
‘From this time forth’ is a phrase we encounter quite often in the Bible—used by people and by God too.
Examples? ‘The Lord shall preserve your going out and your coming in FROM THIS TIME FORTH, and even forevermore’ (Psalm 121:8)
‘But we will bless the Lord FROM THIS TIME FORTH and forevermore’ (Psalm 115:18)
Can we see that FROM THIS TIME FORTH implies a constantly-renewing start-point? In our walk with Him—in His marvellous grace, it’s always ‘from NOW—forward’!
I may may falter, I may stumble and disappoint, yet every tick of the clock is providing its own new, ‘from this time forth’ opportunity!
It is His extraordinary grace that says, ‘Forget former things, don’t consider the things of old. Behold, I will do a new thing, now it shall spring forth...’ (Isaiah 43:18/19)
WHY THE GOSPEL SOUNDS ALIEN...
To a generation or two who have been sold and sold and sold again the idea that we are here entirely to do our own thing; that we are entitled to benefits we didn’t earn and took no risk to gain—and to whom commitment has been reinterpreted to mean ‘I’m in whilst ever conditions go my way and favour me’—to these, the gospel of Jesus Christ can sound like a cruel joke.
Who would desire to follow someone who insists that to find life I must be willing to lose the one I’ve persuaded myself is best—and in which I have invested so much time and energy?
And the answer is; the one who has at last discovered that the narcissistic, self-seeking, look-after-me life chosen, has an awful downside: The one who has awakened to the truth that bit by bit, the way I’ve been choosing is transforming me into someone I’d actually rather not know. Someone whose actions and words I find myself constantly justifying and explaining. In the end someone I actually dislike and who keeps seeing and resenting in others the very things I find in myself!
For this is the trap; to have me attempt to gain ‘life’ by the means most loudly and persistently presented to me as normal and the way it’s done...and the way a majority appear to be laying claim to it.
Over against (and in starkest contrast to) this loud, prevalent zeitgeist is the quiet call of the gospel and the voice of Jesus Christ. It’s like the lone and distant piper on a hill above the bawdy, self-inflamed mardi-gras-like antics of media, entertainment, politics, relationships, business and even sport: all of them yelling ‘herein is life!’
Who will hear and heed the quiet but insistent call? How can it be heard and heeded?
There is a special way it is heard. Just as a Scotsman in the valley in the midst of all the din might catch the faint swirl of the distant pipes because something deep within him resonates with it—so within each one God has planted the sound of home and homeland.
It is by the unique work of God’s Spirit, whose ministry is not only to reveal to me the truth about sin and the possibility of righteousness and the reality of judgement—but to play the sound of ‘home’ at which my heart resonates. Not as a sound of condemnation but as the sound that calls home the prodigal who, in the far country ‘came to himself’ and realised what his own pursuits had made of him. When he had first travelled to that ‘far country’ the voice of home had become alien and unwelcome to him, but a time came when he heard it again—his ears became open to it above everything else until it was all he could hear!
And, coming home, he found himself embraced and forgiven—and even honoured!
Is the sound of God’s really, really good news still alien? Or—is it beginning to resonate?
‘He raises the poor out of the dust,
And lifts the needy out of the ash heap,
That He may seat him with princes--
With the princes of His people’ (Psalm 113)
If a hungry beggar is given a bread roll and withholds any of it from another nearby, he is functioning within, and under the principles of, a particular paradigm; an earth-bound system.
The impulse to ‘look after number one’ may appear justifiable and reasonable: however—should he decide to share half of it with another poor person, he has thereby immediately begun to place himself within a different paradigm—a different economy. He has, whether he is aware of it or not, connected with a principle much larger and more beneficent than himself.
If there were a ‘back gate’ into the kingdom of God, this would be closest to it in my view…and indeed it can be a gate that eventually leads to the front door of repentance and faith toward God. For the beggar is tapping into what is heavenly—how things operate in THAT realm (the realm of actual REALITY). In fact, in turning from a self centred-ness, there has already been an act typical of ‘repentance’ for repentance is a change of mind that results in a change in action.
The principle of grasping for oneself (and withholding from another) is what caused Lucifer to immediately self-eject from heaven’s realm for there is no such principle at play there. That realm functions only on principles of giving and reciprocity.
If the beggar adopts this principle and continues to give from what is received and perhaps even to the point of some self-denial—he is thereby detaching himself from one system and joining himself to a different economy and paradigm! One in which reciprocity is in play.
(Those who are desperate to avoid God might use silly terms such as ‘the universe looked after me’ [yes, I’ve heard it!], but they are mistaken).
What is happening is that the One who sees all, honours genuine selfless and other-oriented action that is effected without others necessarily knowing.
It can be a first step to having God reveal Himself to that one through the principles on which His kingdom functions—those of giving rather than grasping—and of reciprocity; and he may soon discover that the more he gives, the more he is given to.
Along with this realisation will begin the recognition of a Giver who is ordaining this and the heart will become open to the greatest Gift of all—a gift which can also be shared with others.
“…GIVE, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you.” JESUS CHRIST (Luke 6:38).
‘WHAT YOU SEE IS WHAT YOU GET!'
Nothing could be truer of Jesus, than this.
What you read in the Gospels—the grace, the mercy and kindness, the gentleness, the compassion as well as the incisive judgement—all of these and more, are exactly what you may expect from Him today because He hasn’t changed and doesn’t change!
He is...’JESUS CHRIST, the same yesterday, today, forever.’
The portrayal of Him curated for us by Holy Spirit in the Gospels is intended for a specific purpose: to enable us (living later along the line called Time) to know Him and His nature, character and fullness—to bring Him close and to make Him accessible—just as He was then.
What you see portrayed then is what you can expect to get today—exactly. He has not changed! It was, and is, His intention to continue acting from heaven in just the same way as He acted in His manhood, among us. His readiness to hear; His desire to save and to heal; His desire to walk with and converse with us, His eagerness to teach and correct and to explain to us how His kingdom (government) works.
We should make no mistake—what He did in His physical presence, He continues to do now.
Otherwise why would He have disclosed to us what He is like? Why would He reveal His heart, His nature and character as He did? To tease us?
No...it was to say “this is ME; this is what I’m like and how I feel about you,” and is why He said “come to me” and, “abide in me” and “take my yoke upon you and learn of me.” It is why He told the story of the son lost to prodigality—and found again by coming home.
He (and all His attributes and kindnesses) are as accessible now as then—and He behaves now in exactly the way He made visible. The rich could come. The poor could come. The sick and the desperate and the ashamed and downright corrupt CAME—because He made Himself accessible. People knew they could come...but of course they had to do so!
The invitation was embedded in the integrity, beauty and guileless-ness of His character. Those immediately visible and attractive characteristics that people knew were not found elsewhere...and so they came.
Nothing has changed. Anyone may come.
THE VIDEO BELOW, Titled 'Daniel succeeds where Israel failed' is one of several short talks about Daniel and his friends in Babylon.
You can find Ian's YouTube Channel here