Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered outside the gate. Therefore, let us go forth to him outside the camp, bearing his reproach. For we have no continuing city here, but we seek one to come.
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We have already seen that those who are “in Christ” will be cast out of the kingdom of God if their deeds in this life do not please God. But what of those whose deeds do please Him? Jesus does not mince words; while the disobedient children of God will be “cut off”, the obedient children of God will be “cut on”.
The author of Hebrews tells us that the Father “scourges every son whom He receives” and that it is the children who refuse to submit to this “scourging” whom God will cast out of His family. Now, in the ancient world, scourging was no child’s play. It cruelly tore a man’s flesh off his body and often exposed his bones. It was never a pleasant experience, and sometimes it was brutal enough to actually kill the man who was being scourged. This is the type of spiritual pruning that every child of God who will be saved in the end must endure, for, as I said, the Father “scourges every son whom He receives.” If you know nothing about such a process, you have not yet been through it.
Jesus himself “learned obedience through the things that he suffered”, and if that was true for him, then we may as well prepare our hearts to face some burning trials so that we, too, may learn obedience. We certainly are no better than our Lord. If God loves us, then He will prune us so that we may be “partakers of His holiness.” Paul told Timothy, a young man suffering through a very difficult situation, “If we suffer with him, we shall reign with him.” That prerequisite for salvation has never changed.
We need not fear anything that our heavenly Father determines is best for us, but we do need to be told, before it happens, that He will try our hearts. Knowing that God’s children have this need, Jesus warned his disciples of the things they would suffer at the hands of wicked men, and he told them plainly his reason for telling them what would happen. He said, “I have spoken these things to you so that you would not be offended. They will put you out of the synagogues. Indeed, the hour is coming when everyone who kills you will assume that he is performing a religious duty for God. And they will do these things because they have known neither the Father nor me. But these things I have said to you so that when the hour comes, you may remember that I told you that it would.”
This truth about the Father and His children sounds out of place in our time. This is a pampered generation, and doctrines now abound that would justify laziness, gluttony, self-indulgence, and the pursuit of earthly riches. But those doctrines mean nothing to God, who still is a “consuming fire” in spite of everything men have taught to the contrary, and His voice still can be heard, commanding His children, “Cease ye from man, whose breath is in his nostrils, for wherein is he to be accounted of!” (Isa. 2:22).
Jesus demands that we make a choice: either fall on the Rock and be broken now, or refuse to fall on the Rock and have the Rock fall on us, crushing us completely (Mt. 21:44). Those are the only two choices man has, and they indicate to us how utterly depraved the human mind and spirit are. Long ago, Jeremiah cried out, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked. Who can know it?” (17:9). Later, Paul was to confess what he had learned through much suffering and sorrow: “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing” (Rom. 7:18).
The nature of man is so desperately wicked that it will never yield to God; man, therefore, must die. It is best to yield to the sharp sword of the Spirit now and let Christ kill us with love, truth, and holiness, making us “alive unto God” than to resist him and suffer the crushing vengeance of God later. Confess it: your own spirit is hopelessly corrupt, your mind is immovably carnal, and your heart is helplessly darkened by its own lusts. We need God’s holy Spirit to cleanse us within; we need the “meek and lowly” mind of Christ to think for us; and we are desperately in need of the Lord to circumcise our hearts from this world’s attractions and to come “dwell in our hearts through faith”. “With men,” Jesus told his disciples, escaping the wrath of God “is impossible” (Mt. 19:26). “But”, he mercifully added, “with God all things are possible.” That God will kill us is our only hope.
It was good news to the saints in ancient Colossae when Paul wrote to them, “Ye are dead, and your life is hidden with Christ in God!”
Because of the nature that comes with our natural birth, there is no happy choice for us who were born with a human nature. If we submit to God and do well, we will be blessed and further pruned by our stern heavenly Father, so as to learn to do His will in all things; on the other hand, if we do not do well and if we stiffen our necks against His yoke, we will be destroyed altogether. We are a desperate, helpless race, and the measures God takes to save us are also desperate, not the least of which was the horrible torture and cruel crucifixion of His own Son. While on earth, Jesus was “despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief, and we hid as it were our faces from him.” However, “for the joy that was set before him he endured the cross, despising the shame” (Heb. 12:2). True happiness comes when we comprehend the value of our being given a choice at all. What measureless compassion and loving grace brought to us fallen creatures a choice at all, a golden opportunity to choose life!
In the night of this life in a wicked world, we may also become “acquainted with grief”, but if we will “humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God”, we can rest in hope that “joy will come in the morning.” Wrote Paul, “If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable” (1Cor. 15:19). This is true. If all there was in Christ was a continual pruning process, what a miserable life that would be! But we rejoice in being chosen and loved now, and in hope of eternal glory, knowing that “the sufferings of this present time are not to be compared with the glory that shall follow” if we prove to be faithful to Jesus.
You are not saved yet, my dear brother, my dear sister. And we never will be saved unless we are first tried in the fire, so that we may prove ourselves worthy to walk with Jesus and with his holy saints. Just a few will pass the test. May God grant us the grace to stand fast when the heat comes and to be found blameless in the midst of this perverse generation.