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"...if anyone makes the assistance of grace depend on the humility or obedience of man and does not agree that it is a gift of grace itself that we are obedient and humble, he contradicts the Apostle who says, "What have you that you did not receive?" (1 Cor. 4:7), and, "But by the grace of God I am what I am" (1 Cor. 15:10). (Council of Orange: Canon 6)

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  • « Question Regarding the Ordo Salutis (the order of salvation) | Main | How theology affects our view of "revival" »

    The Hidden Treasure (3 -- Finding the Gold: A. Wherein it Consists)

    When news of the gold rush of 1849 began to spread from California, passing eastward on the lips of men who had made their fortune and could not contain their joy nor hold back the good news, many countless prospectors were encouraged by tales of great riches to be had for the taking, to leave behind their homes, and set off to California, where they hoped they would strike it rich. But as is often the case, far more of these prospectors ended up rather squandering all their goods than finding their fortune, for the riches were not so great as to satisfy the lusts of every miner, and those few fortunate enough to have discovered the rich veins horded up vast treasures, while the rest starved on a pile of worthless sand. This can never be the case among those who are seeking the riches of wisdom from God’s Word; for as much as is uncovered, there is always more yet, and however many miners make their fortune by their toils, they leave the fields not a whit less rich for those coming behind them. However, notwithstanding the inexhaustible richness of the gospel-field, many prospectors of wisdom have undertaken to dig there, and have returned without a trace of the precious metal. How can this be?

    This sad scenario often takes place simply because the miner does not know what the gold is, nor how he might recognize it when he sees it. He is as a simple child, whose mind has been filled with vague and wondrous stories of hidden gold, and forthwith sets out to find it, but knows not at all what gold is, and it never occurs to him to ask. Such a miner might cast aside a hundred rich nuggets, not realizing their value, because he had thought they would be clear and sparkling like a diamond, or smooth and white like a pearl. He knows not what to look for, so of course he will not find it.

    So foolish a miner may finally return discouraged and embittered by his failure, supposing that religion is a delusion or a crutch to bolster up the wills of weak-minded men, and turning his back on all that he had been told, begin to live according to his own whims, seeking such little, worthless pleasures as may mask his deep discontentment and anger at the God who made him. Thus he who is blind will make himself blinder yet by all his exertions, and even that which he has will be taken away.

    Or else, a miner may be fooled into thinking that he has found the riches for which he was seeking, when all he has in truth are worthless rocks. So many prospectors were tricked into thinking they had struck gold by the glittery appeal of iron pyrite, a thoroughly worthless substance, that it acquired the nickname “fool’s gold”. In the same way, many religious professors have found much fool’s gold in their reading of the bible, and consider themselves to be rich in spiritual treasures, when they are really poor and wretched.

    Such a man was the Apostle Paul, before the Lord found him out. He was as zealous a seeker of the wisdom of God’s Word as could be found, and gathered up many false riches of head-knowledge and moralism and self-motivated religion, so that all around him professed him to be a mighty man of God, rich in the truth he had vouchsafed to mankind. But all those things that he had once considered gain, he learned to count as loss when this one thing occurred, that he saw the true gold, and recognized it for what it is. Then, he saw that his pile of glittering baubles was really a dung heap, and rejoiced to cast aside the whole worthless mound. So must it ever be: until we see the true gold, we will think that all other manner of worthless substances are precious beyond compare, when they are really rubbish.

    So what is this true gold? It is none other than Jesus Christ. Jesus is he whom Paul saw on the road to Damascus, and it was he who made him understand the worthlessness of all he had valued before. How rich and sparkly the treasures of the moralists appear, before one has looked upon Christ! How righteous and worthy do they seem, who live their lives flawlessly, never transgressing one of those rules that they have imposed upon themselves for the implementation of holiness in their lives, and who hope by their mighty efforts to find a place in the Kingdom of God. Such men have sat upon poles for many years, or worn only harsh and cruel garments of hair, or gone for many days without food and drink, and have won the admiration of many. Others have faithfully attended church every Sunday, and avoided wine and tobacco, substances in which those Gentile sinners delight, and never let a curse-word slip out of their mouths, but within their hearts are full of pride and hatred. These have treasured up much fool’s gold, but have not a penny to their name.

    Let us not be so easily fooled, dear Christian! The false treasures of the externalists only appear to be rich and beautiful when Christ has not been seen. In the light of the sun, the brilliance of the stars is swallowed up; in the art gallery of the masters, the stick-figure scribblings of a child seem poor and contemptible; and before the righteousness of Christ, the fool’s-gold morality of the self-righteous is seen at once to be a stinking pile of dung. A miner must find that which is gold indeed, which God has made and hidden in the earth, or he will get it nowhere, no matter how he paints over his worthless rocks. And a Christian must find the righteousness of Christ, which comes from God, if he would be rich. No matter how he may gild over the sandstone of his heart with mighty deeds and prayers, it will be as worthless as before unless God exchanges it for the righteousness of Christ.

    Why then do so many Christians search the gospel-fields of God’s Word for the fool’s gold of morality, self-esteem, and other such things, and refuse to gather from them the true gold of knowing Jesus? They read the Old Testament stories like Aesop’s fables, and derive from them many useless morals, which serve only to build up their dung heaps of self-righteousness. They misuse the Law and the Gospel, thinking by the one to earn a righteousness as it were by works, and by the other to cover over their selfish lusts as with a cloak of maliciousness. This they do simply because they have not seen Jesus, and do not know how all the parts of scripture relate to him, and so they are easily fooled by shiny trinkets. Let us learn from their tragic example, and be quick to trace every verse to the cross of Jesus Christ, where its significance will become utterly apparent, lest we too end up as they.

    That Jesus alone is the true gold hidden within the fields of God’s Word may be demonstrated in several ways. First, in that man’s true riches consist of the knowledge of God, and the scriptures were written by the condescension of God, to be a self-revelation to mankind, so that they might find their blessedness in him alone. God did not speak to mankind so that they might know how to live their lives well without him. He did not give his word as an instruction manual for self-made men. He spoke to call out of the kingdom of darkness a people to be his own people, to whom he would be God forever. This is why he first called Abraham, and held himself out to the patriarch as his only treasure and exceeding great reward. This is why he redeemed his people from Egypt, so that they would be a kingdom of priests to him, dwelling in the land where he had chosen for his name to dwell. This is why he gave such meticulous instructions for the construction of the tabernacle and later the temple, both of which signified and held forth to the people his very presence. This is why he instituted the sacrificial and festal systems, which taught the people in a figure the way to come back into his presence. In all the word of God, we see God acting to call out a people for his own name, that they should be his, and know him, and have fellowship with him forevermore. The treasure he gave to all his people is nothing but himself. God is his people’s exceeding great reward.

    But consider further: how can God be known or seen? Is it not only through Jesus Christ? No man has seen God at any time, but the only-begotten Son of God has made him known. The word of God is the self-revelation of God; and Jesus, who is the eternal Word, is the final and perfect self-revelation of God. This self-revelation is the sole substance of the gospel treasure; and therefore Jesus, whom to see is to see the Father, is the sole substance of the riches and the only gold that we may find, as we dig in the treasure fields.

    Jesus is our treasure because he reveals to us God; he is likewise our treasure because he reveals to us perfect manhood, and shows us what we ought to be. We were created in the image of God, and with the purpose of extending his kingship and righteousness throughout the world, always in joyful fellowship with and subordination to him. Until we can accomplish that purpose, our lives will be incomplete. But we have fallen, God’s image within us has been marred, and we are thoroughly unable to accomplish our created purpose, or know the satisfaction which inheres in the perfect state of blessing into which Adam was first created. But Jesus took upon himself human flesh, became one of us, and accomplished that which Adam had failed to do. He showed forth the image of God in man to perfection, he obeyed God’s law, and he will one day rule over every creature in the earth, with all his enemies under his footstool, as the perfect man. And by this accomplishment, he holds forth to us the gospel gold in two ways:

    First, he demonstrates what we ought to be, both by his teaching and by his example, which he showed forth when he was upon earth. Oh, how wisely did our Savior expound the law of Moses and the eternal law of God, during his Sermon on the Mount! The law of Moses was flawless, having come from the very finger of God; and yet it was inadequate until Jesus, our second Law-giver came. Moses was able to write on stone, but Jesus writes on tablets of flesh. Moses gives the external requirements of morality, but Jesus gives the essential truth behind the command. Moses looks ahead to Christ in a thousand different ways, but Jesus is Christ indeed, and fulfills all the hints and shadows of the law. How great is the wisdom of our Savior!

    But not only does Jesus show us perfect manhood, he also forms perfect manhood within us, first by the mystical union of ourselves with him, so that we become his body and he our head; and second, by sending his Spirit to create anew within us the image of God that we had marred; which he does by showing us himself, and causing us to reflect that very image. In Christ, we are brought to God, who is our treasure; and we are brought to perfect manhood in the image of God, which is our highest calling and most blessed state of happiness.

    Finally, Jesus is the true gospel-gold of God’s fields, because he is the one who reveals grace and truth. So much fuller is the grace and truth that Christ brought to mankind in his advent, that it could be sharply contrasted with Moses’ contribution, who wrote down the very words of God! In Jesus’ truth, we see who God really is, and meet in that knowledge our rich and fulfilling destiny. In Jesus’ grace, we are brought to that God whom we have been shown, and made to triumph over every obstacle of sin that had previously prevented us. Jesus has become one of us to show us the Father, to forgive our sins and bring us to him, to rule over all the earth, and bring us up to rule with him, to fulfill and accomplish all that the law and prophets had spoken. In all these ways, he is the gold which Solomon would counsel us to seek. He is the true Wisdom of God. Let us cast aside the dung heap of false riches, and seek him alone, as we dig in the fields of the scriptures.

    Posted by Nathan on February 1, 2008 10:54 AM

    Comments

    Your devotional is refreshing and delightful. I found Hidden Treasure 1 & 2 on Google after I read #3. Very insightful.

    Carolyn,

    Thanks for your encouraging comment. There are still a few more chapters coming.

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