All Things Must Pass

12 09 2009

All Things Must Pass’, by George Harrison is a collection of music, a 1970 record album, which, as the title suggests, announces the impermanence of all things – life, love and mop top pop bands.  It is ironic that this album stands as one of his greatest legacies!  It was produced at a significant time: The Beatles had broken up as a band, only 6 months beforehand, George’s wife Patty was falling for his best friend Eric Clapton. And George’s mother had just died—things were quickly very different. Looking back over the years of the Beatles huge stardom, this album was ‘his hand full of earth upon the coffin’ of the band (M. Cheney).  Interestingly enough, a song emerging at this same time was Harrison’s search to know God: ‘My Sweet Lord’, (“I really want to know ya yea”…. in, I think, Eastern religion terms). It was a popular song!

All Things Must Pass, is a saying which echoes (sort-of) that of Jesus’ own statement:

Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away

(Matt. 24:35, Mark 13:31, Luke 21:33).

Not quite all things must pass, then! The words of Jesus have an eternal quality, because they are spoken by the eternal one: How about that?

Saul (or Paul), like many others, fiercely opposed that idea. Maybe you doubt it? But he did come to know it. So can you. It all hinges on the present activity of this Risen Man, this Son of God, and the work of his Spirit in you and me, now.

In the light of the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and seeing that the new eternal kingdom has arrived in him, and will coming fully at his next coming-appearing, the Apostle Paul put it like this:

For the present form of this world is passing away (1Corinthians 7:31).

We don’t like it when our world changes rapidly. But there is a good aspect to it… Do you think much on the good aspects of this statement?

It was on this insight, that Paul charted his course through life. He had rich insight, and certain faith, in what Christ was doing, and had done. In him there is a new creation. The old things are not only passing away, but, indeed, in a human being who is ‘Christed’ – forgiven, and made new, then those ‘old thing’ are made new.

Many things in our old world—that we liked—are passing away. This we find hard. These are some of mine, or my parents… experiences, think on your own:

(1) The good old slower life, when people had no cars and computer, but they did have time to chat by the roadside, with the horse and dray creating little road noise.

(2)  The good ol’ days when England, Australia, and the noble Westminster system of government, worked well, and people could speak at length, and gain a hearing, and reflect – and not be manipulated by a smart 20 second sound-bite.

(3) The days in Europe, recovering from WW2, as growth and peace came in various places, industry grew, the new possibilities opened up, and the whole future was not threatened by the growth of legalistic Islam, and ghettos and terrorist bomber violence.

(4) The days when a monogamous mum and faithful dad and numerous children, and grandparents, and uncles and aunts, were accepted as the normal basis of family life, and the push, push, push, for the a new anthropology, and view of marriage was not ‘in your face’.

(5) Ice cream and chips were reserved at Christmas or a birthday, not in the weekly supermarket trolley; childhood obesity was not hear of; you could play in the trees, miles from home, without a ‘keep out’ sign, or a sanctimonious ‘safe plastic sterile playground’ [to ward of the insurance claims], or a greenie initiative preventing your joy, you could run home without fear of being molested, stolen, beaten up, or of finding no one at home; these were great days!

(6) There are squillions of thoughts, multiplying, however…

Paul wrote to the church in Corinth, who, although Christians, had become bogged in a few deficient ideas: He gave them some health-giving instructions concerning married life, unmarried life, normal creational human passion, and working in the things of the gospel, in the light of this fact:

For the present form of this world is passing away (1Corinthians 7:31).

Here is the full text.  Try and read it with prayer, not just a critical eye! 🙂

7:1 ¶ Now concerning the matters about which you wrote: “It is well for a man not to touch a woman.” 2 But because of cases of sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband.

3 The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband. 4 For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does; likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does.

5 Do not deprive one another except perhaps by agreement for a set time, to devote yourselves to prayer, and then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. 6 This I say by way of concession, not of command.

7 I wish that all were as I myself am. But each has a particular gift from God, one having one kind and another a different kind.

8 To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is well for them to remain unmarried as I am. 9 But if they are not practicing self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to be aflame with passion.

10To the married I give this command–not I but the Lord–that the wife should not separate from her husband 11 (but if she does separate, let her remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband), and that the husband should not divorce his wife.

12 To the rest I say–I and not the Lord–that if any believer has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, he should not divorce her.

13 And if any woman has a husband who is an unbeliever, and he consents to live with her, she should not divorce him. 14 For the unbelieving husband is made holy through his wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy through her husband. Otherwise, your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy.

15 But if the unbelieving partner separates, let it be so; in such a case the brother or sister is not bound. It is to peace that God has called you.

16 Wife, for all you know, you might save your husband. Husband, for all you know, you might save your wife.

17 ¶ However that may be, let each of you lead the life that the Lord has assigned, to which God called you. This is my rule in all the churches.

18 Was anyone at the time of his call already circumcised? Let him not seek to remove the marks of circumcision. Was anyone at the time of his call uncircumcised? Let him not seek circumcision. 19 Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing; but obeying the commandments of God is everything.

20 Let each of you remain in the condition in which you were called.

21 Were you a slave when called? Do not be concerned about it. Even if you can gain your freedom, make use of your present condition now more than ever. 22 For whoever was called in the Lord as a slave is a freed person belonging to the Lord, just as whoever was free when called is a slave of Christ. 23 You were bought with a price; do not become slaves of human masters.

24 In whatever condition you were called, brothers and sisters, there remain with God.

25Now concerning virgins, I have no command of the Lord, but I give my opinion as one who by the Lord’s mercy is trustworthy.

26 I think that, in view of the impending crisis, it is well for you to remain as you are.

27 Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek to be free. Are you free from a wife? Do not seek a wife. 28 But if you marry, you do not sin, and if a virgin marries, she does not sin. Yet those who marry will experience distress in this life, and I would spare you that.

29 I mean, brothers and sisters, the appointed time has grown short; from now on, let even those who have wives be as though they had none, 30 and those who mourn as though they were not mourning, and those who rejoice as though they were not rejoicing, and those who buy as though they had no possessions, 31 and those who deal with the world as though they had no dealings with it. For the present form of this world is passing away.

32 I want you to be free from anxieties. The unmarried man is anxious about the affairs of the Lord, how to please the Lord; 33 but the married man is anxious about the affairs of the world, how to please his wife, 34 and his interests are divided.

And the unmarried woman and the virgin are anxious about the affairs of the Lord, so that they may be holy in body and spirit; but the married woman is anxious about the affairs of the world, how to please her husband.

35 I say this for your own benefit, not to put any restraint upon you, but to promote good order and unhindered devotion to the Lord.

36 ¶ If anyone thinks that he is not behaving properly toward his fiancee, if his passions are strong, and so it has to be, let him marry as he wishes; it is no sin. Let them marry. 37 But if someone stands firm in his resolve, being under no necessity but having his own desire under control, and has determined in his own mind to keep her as his fiancee, he will do well.

38 So then, he who marries his fiancee does well; and he who refrains from marriage will do better.

Yes folks, what a piece of writing!
Yes, it needs some clarification. A commentary will help.
The hope is, that in Christ, you will ‘do well’!
The point is there is a noble, creational way of living, in the present age, in the light of the impending crisis, yes, the coming of the kingdom. This is it. It is a gracious kingdom, with room to move, under the gracious care of the Lord, for each of us. Are you keeping uppermost in mind what matters most?

The world of sin and death, is passing away, and the world of holiness and life, is breaking in upon us. Amidst all the uncomfortable changes, faith sees Jesus.

Jesus Christ, and his kingdom. Thy Kingdom Come.





The Conquest of Time By Eternity

14 10 2008

THE CONQUEST OF TIME BY ETERNITY

 

Study 11

 

Trevor Faggotter  

 

Take courage; I have conquered the world! – Jesus (John 16:33b)

 

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen… (Hebrews 11:1)

 

‘…eternity is doing far more for time than time is doing for eternity’ (P.T. Forsyth)[1]

 

Aware of the complexities of life, the tragedy of war on a global scale, satanic power, and the blindness of humanity among nations, faith sees Jesus!  The Justification of God is written that the church might re-establish a renewed confidence in Jesus Christ, and the gospel, on a grand scale.  P.T. Forsyth confidently asserts his gospel convictions:

 

Faith is more than an individual calm; it is the Church’s collective confidence on the scale of the world for the destiny of the world. The evil world will not win at last, because it failed to win at the only time it ever could. It is a vanquished world where men play their devilries. Christ has overcome it. It can make tribulation, but desolation it can never make.[2]

 

ALL THINGS ARE YOURS[3]

 

The writing of P.T. Forsyth continues to be a highly valuable gift to the church. Forsyth belongs to us. Our appreciation of Forsyth’s enduring theodicy, should serve us well in our ministries – bearing faithful witness to Christ, in the face of all things.

 

All things are ours, even that victory, that elevation over a world’s sin in us; and our very relapses cannot rob us of it. It is easy to believe with a poor sense of what the holy is, of what it makes sin to be, of what the world is, and can do, for the devil. But it needs the supernatural courage of the Cross to believe (at such an hour as this, say,) in the completeness of the Cross and its eternal victory. But there, the more horror, the more hope. The most damning light is the saving light. Therefore, the more holy fear, the more the Cross is working in us; and the sense of the Cross’s judgment is the effect of its grace.[4]

 

In 1 Corinthians 3:21, Paul – having warned his hearers against following party or theological factions – reminds the church that we can learn from and make good use of all things – For all things are Yours! Forsyth may not say everything well.[5] However, he belongs to us.  And we can learn much from him. Forsyth himself, skillfully attributed measured praise to the negative, critical work of the German philosopher – Friedrich Nietzsche[6], who felt as millions feel, that life culminated in its tragic experiences, and that whatever solved the tragedy of life solved all life.[7] Sadly Nietzsche, a vehement critic of Christianity, suffered debilitating mental illness towards the end of his life.  Forsyth comments upon this influential man’s failure to find his answers in the cross of Christ (a salient warning, I think):

 

To grasp the real, deep tragedy of life is enough to unhinge any mind which does not find God’s solution of it in the central tragedy of the Cross and its redemption.[8]

 

Our plethora of ‘why’ questions concerning injustice and the matter of evil, are resolved in the action of Christ’s cross.  For especially here, Jesus gives active praise to the Father, for the rightness of his just and true judgments, as he personally and willingly enters the furnace of God’s holy judgment upon sin, and bears the guilt and evil of humanity. We can replicate the observations of Jesus early ministry, now applying them to his cross, and the fruit of that event for all eternity: ‘He has done everything well.’ (Mark 7:47).

 

FAITH IN CHRIST FOR ALL CIRCUMSTANCES OF LIFE

 

In the light of:

  1. The worst evil – murdering Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and Author of Life, and
  2. The best news of all – the resurrection of Jesus as Man, which opened possibilities, and a reality, not previously dreamed of, 

the early church knew that all things were working together for good for those who loved God and were called according to his purpose. They learned to give thanks in all circumstances (1 Thessalonians 5:17).  Through the cross, understood by faith, in the power of the Holy Spirit the church down through history is assured that nothing is outside of God’s control, nothing is exempt from being used for the purposes of God.[9]

 

Life begins as a problem, but when it ends well it ends as a faith: a great problem, therefore a great faith. Ordinary experience gives us the first half, it sets a problem; but the second half, the answer of faith to us, comes from God’s revelation of grace. As we here pass from the one to the other it should be on large lines, not that we may simply descant on life in a literary way, but that we may magnify the greatness of Christ.

 

FORSYTH’S CLOSING RÉSUMÉ

The final chapter is a résumé of all that Forsyth has been writing about in this book. He expands upon the following 9 essential points:

  1. ‘Life, then, is a problem. If offers a task rather than an enjoyment. The soul must be achieved. The kingdom is above all a gift, but it is also a conquest. We are here to fight the good fight rather than to have a good time. The people to whom life is only an excursion, a picnic, a stroll, or a game grow more and more outlanders in society.[10]
  2. The problem of life is tragic, and no mere riddle. It is not a war game.We are in no Kriegspiel[11], but in the real thing always. It touches the nerve.’[12]Life is not a seductive puzzle; it is a tragic battle for existence, for power, for eternal life’.[13]
  3. There is a solution to the problem. Our battle is not a sport for heaven. The solution is given to us rather than won by us. Already done and not merely shown.
  4. The solution is practical, not philosophical. It is not really an answer to a riddle but a victory in a battle. A life problem cannot be thought out but lived out. Man conquers by faith and not by philosophy.[14]
  5. The practical solution of life by the soul is outside life. The destiny of experience is beyond itself. The lines of life’s moral movement and of thought’s nisus converge in a point beyond life and history.[15]
  6. This world is only complete in another; it is part and prelude of another, and runs up into it, and comes home in it as body does in soul. What is meant when we speak of another world? We do not mean only one that begins at death. We do not mean a new tract of time beyond the grave, but another order, another dimension, of things, that both haunts the precincts and fills the spaces of this life always.
  7. All the crises of His [Jesus] life, I have been saying, had themselves a crisis in His death, where the victory and the solution was won once for all. He did not cheer the disciples with the sanguine optimism of the good time coming. It was not a sanguine optimism, but an optimism of actual faith and conquest. It was not the hope of a conquering Messiah soon. ‘He is here,’ was the Gospel.[16]
  8. The solution in the Gospel is wrought once for all because it was on a world scale, an eternal scale, because He, and He alone of all men, was on such a scale. He was on a scale, which made the New Testament writers give Him not only a human and historic influence but a cosmic, nay, an absolute. He was to command not only the race but the universe, and save not only the soul but the whole groaning and travailing creation.[17]
  9. Trust God. ‘We cannot solve life by moral thought or effort but by trust, which unites us with the invincible, eternal, moral act of God in Christ. Christianity is not the sacrifice we make, but the sacrifice we trust; not the victory we win, but the victory we inherit.  …Christ crucified and risen is the final, eternal answer to the riddle of life. One day, when we sit in heavenly places in Christ, we shall see the tangle of life unroll and fall into shape. We shall see death as the key of life. Our own dead could tell us so already. We shall see guilt destroyed; and, with that, death, wrong, darkness, and grief’.[18]

 

FAITH GREATER THAN THOUGHT

 

Forsyth’s profound thought rouses us to give our own thought process a solid workout. However, the relationship between thought and faith, is an important one to understand:

 

Thought is a mighty and precious power, but on the last things it does more to enlarge our field than to steady our feet. It gives us range, not footing; a horizon rather than a foundation. It does not establish the soul, but widens its vision. It extends our reach more than it fixes our grasp. It therefore often magnifies the problem rather than solves it. Truly, that is a great service. To greaten the problem is to prepare for a great answer. Faith is not there as an asylum for those who are too lazy or shallow to think. But, though thought may tax faith mightily, it cannot do its work. It gives it a grand challenge, but it has not faith’s final word.[19]

 

Rich thought can certainly expand our horizons, but faith steadies our feet, causing us to stand firm, securely, in the strength of the Lord’s power (Ephesians 6:10-18):

 

There is something that gives us power to live and conquer, where thought may only raise challenge and doubt. Thought opens a world ahead of us, but faith forces us back into the soul and its case. Faith must be more conservative than thought; for it is deeper. The vaster the world that thought opens, the vaster is the question it puts; and the answers, the solutions, that fitted a small world, go out of date in a large. But the solution, the secret, of the soul, is the same yesterday, today, and forever. It is Christ dead and risen that has the key of life. It is living faith in His living, giving, and saving God.[20]

 

It is good to finish our study book! Faith fortified. Yet, of making many books, there is no end. Much study is a weariness of the flesh (Eccl. 12:12). Jesus said: You search the scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that testify on my behalf. Yet you refuse to come to me to have life (John 5:39-40).

 

TO THE LAST WORD – LET US COME!

 

We only ever say second-to-last words; God, the Word always has the last Word. So then, let us come to the Word, Jesus Christ in faith, in prayer, in praise and thanks, resting in His finished work, assured of the glorious future, glorified in Him: Thank you Lord, for your servant, P.T. Forsyth! May his writing and insight continue to be a blessing, to many!  Jesus you said: be of good cheer. Jesus, you have overcome the world, triumphed over the power of evil, and secured eternal life. You are our future, and our Life. Amen


[1] P.T. Forsyth, This Life and the Next, London Independent Press Ltd., 1918 (1948), p. 81

[2] P. T. Forsyth, The Justification of God, NCPI, Blackwood, 1988, p. 223

[3] For the wide application of this short biblical phrase, I am very grateful to Geoffrey C. Bingham, All Things are Yours, NCPI, Blackwood, 1991 (1996).

[4] P. T. Forsyth, The Justification of God, p. 222-223

[5] Indeed Forsyth’s final book commends prayers for the dead, and displays a troublesome tendency towards Universalism:  See P.T. Forsyth, This Life and the Next, London Independent Press Ltd., 1918 (1948). It is worthwhile reading it. But many will have strong reservations about some of his statements.

[6] Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche (1844-1900) was a significant influence in the establishment of an understanding of life known as Existentialism. This is a movement in philosophy that says that it is not God, bur rather individuals, that create the meaning of their own lives. 

[7] P. T. Forsyth, The Justification of God, p. 210

[8] P. T. Forsyth, p. 210

[9] P. T. Forsyth, p. 4

[10] P. T. Forsyth, The Justification of God, p. 208ff.

[11] Kriegspiel: A full-scale war game between two nations.

[12] P. T. Forsyth,, p. 209

[13] P. T. Forsyth, p. 209

[14] P. T. Forsyth, p. 211

[15] P. T. Forsyth, p. 212

[16] P. T. Forsyth, p. 219

[17] P. T. Forsyth, p. 219

[18] P. T. Forsyth, p. 220-221

[19] P. T. Forsyth, p. 211

[20] P. T. Forsyth, p. 211-212








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