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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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  • « We Wouldn't Make This Up | Main | Incarnational Infiltration- Meditation on the Apostle Paul's Letter to the Philippians »

    The Hidden Treasure (6 -- Admiring the Gold)

    In the world of men, there are two basic classes of wealth which are ever sought. The first class is composed of those substances which have an inherent worth and beauty, such as silver, gold, and diamonds. The second class is composed of those substances which, though inherently worthless, may be traded for other things of value, such as the ugly paper dollar which might readily be exchanged for all goods and services under the sun, and which is therefore highly prized. The difference between the two is that the latter class only allows one to delight in something other than itself – a man with dollars may find joy in the fine dining and fancy houses for which he might trade them, but little values the look of the paper itself. But the former class inspires admiration by its own intrinsic properties. A diamond dazzles the eye, and is therefore sought for itself, and not just to be traded for other things.

    The hidden treasure of the gospel is of the former variety. It is valuable by virtue of its inherent ability to thrill the soul. To have it is to be rich by default, and there is nothing for which one can trade it, because it surpasses all other substances for beauty and desirability. This means that, for one to benefit by its worth, he must admire its beauty, and not seek to use it for another kind of wealth.

    Many professors of religion have missed this point. They think that the worth of the gospel consists of its ability to free us from hell, to give us eternal life, or some other such thing which, although not at all bad in itself, can certainly not be good in itself either, when isolated from its gospel-context. Heaven will be heaven simply because it is the place where Jesus Christ may be known more fully than anywhere else. Hell is hell simply because Jesus is there absent. The gospel currency is not paper money to be traded off for an eternal life of sitting on the clouds with a harp and a halo, it is the pure gold of knowing Jesus, than which nothing could be more valuable. It is its own reward, and can never be traded for any goods or services, except to infinite loss. The gospel gold is wealth that carries its value in itself, and wealth that must be admired to be rightly used.

    This is why the figure we have employed for the gospel treasure is gold, and not dollars. And even as we have just seen that the intrinsic beauty of gold is a characteristic which demands that it be fashioned into a form which draws out its peculiar charm, so we will now see that it is a necessary effect that the gold so fashioned must then be admired. The fashioning is a response rendered necessary by virtue of the gold, but the admiring is a response rendered necessary by virtue of man’s own innate sensibilities. The fashioning is a must of obligation, the admiring is a must of natural consequence. The admiration of the gold is thus the effect following the faithful discharge of the duty of fashioning it, and is at the same time the greatest motivation for doing so. Let us lay this truth well to heart, for when we apprehend it, we come to realize that the careful and painstaking labors of love which we bring to bear on the text of God’s word are in fact labors which serve to nourish and enrich our very souls. Religion then ceases to be a laborious task that duty demands, and becomes a self-interested pursuit of deep joy and soul-satisfaction, which is at the same time a disinterested confession of the glory of God, to the exclusion of any glory which resides in one’s own soul.

    But let us be more clear on that point: both the fashioning and admiring of the gospel-gold of knowing Jesus are the highest duties of man, and his most solemn responsibilities. God demands of us that we pursue and love him with all our hearts, and that, forsaking all other pleasures, we seek our good in him alone. Further, he demands of us that, when we have found him, we be satisfied in him, indeed, overjoyed at his presence. We are to rejoice always, but only in the Lord. To fail to do so involves a most serious and damning dereliction of our greatest duty as creatures of the great God. To fail to do so is to commit the twofold sin, of which every particular sin is just an individual expression, of forsaking the Fountain of living waters, and hewing out broken cisterns which can hold no water.

    These two highest duties of man, of pursuing the knowledge of God in all its inherent worth, or in other words, of fashioning aright the gospel-gold of knowing Jesus; and then of rejoicing and being satisfied in it, or in other words (under our figure), of admiring those exquisite ornaments of gold, are most certainly his most humbling and disinterested. To admire something external to oneself is at once to admit that within oneself there is nothing which can satisfy. One can gain an interest in the heavenly Treasure only by disavowing any interest in the treasure of his own heart. When one admires an ornament of gold instead of a mirror, he is admitting that he is less worthy to be admired than that which captures his attention. He is trading his own glory for the glory of gospel-gold. And in doing this, he is laying his pride in the dust, and humbling himself before the Savior.

    But not only is this duty man’s most humbling and disinterested; it is at the same time his most rewarding and self-interested, by virtue of the fact that what he is humbly seeking is his own greatest good, and what he must trade in for it is his own greatest misery. The world is full of selfish narcissists drowning in the self-reflecting pools of their own pride. The Christian is he who has discovered, to his delight, that if he leave the miry pool of his own worth, not only does he no longer have to drown, but further, he is thereby freed to look about on that which is much more beautiful than his own little reflection ever could have been. In laying aside the interest of his own self-image, one may thereby avoid his own destruction and find his eternal good. But the trade-off is the humbling recognition that his own natural condition constituted the source of his misery and failure, and that the good which he finally found was wholly external to himself.

    The duty of admiring the hidden treasure of knowing Jesus is man’s greatest obligation and highest good. And so the question must arise, “How then does one go about this blessed duty of admiration?”. And at the outset, we must realize that there is a wrong answer to this question just a surely as there is a right. We acknowledge that a Christian must seek the true heavenly gold, and we admit that this gold is nothing less than knowing our Savior; and that is well. But many false believers and imposters have likewise admitted that much, and have yet been destitute of any real wealth. How can this be?

    You see, there is a kind of seeking that is not for joy, but out of pride. There are some men, wealthy by the standards of the world, who would rather delight in the morose lines of a ledger than in the beauty of the pure gold they have hidden away for fear of thieves. This class of men may think themselves rich by virtue of the piles of gold they never look upon, but for all its practical effect, their wealth is nothing but a few scribbled lines of ink! In actual fact, that poor peasant who has but a little trinket of gold, and who hangs it upon his wall and rejoices in its beauty every day as he arrives home from the fields, is richer by far than the foolish old gentleman whose coffers are full.

    So is it with the currency of scripture. There are men who have sought a true knowledge of the scriptures, and have advanced far in understanding the words and principles set down in their pages, but they have sought this knowledge only in pride, supposing that they may thereby display how worthy and learned they are – when it is at once apparent that the simplest truth in all the bible is that we are unworthy and Christ alone is worthy! These men delight in all their knowledge, but what it really consists of is only ink markings on a page. For all the wealth calculated up in their ledgers, they have never once seen the gold itself, and so they have no understanding of its admirable beauty.

    But richer by far are those poor humble saints who have not stored up so much wealth, and do not know the times and circumstances surrounding the recording of the scriptures to so great a degree, but what they have uncovered they hang prominently on their walls, and rejoice in its beauty, and find satisfaction at the end of a hard day by gazing in wonder on its splendid worth and purity. Their ledgers might record less, but their actual wealth is greater to an untold degree.

    There is a species of knowledge which does not measure up to the golden standard of gospel-knowledge. This is the sort of knowledge that the demons have, which causes them to tremble. It is the sort of knowledge that the arrogant professors have, which causes them to boast in their little ledgers. It is the sort of knowledge that can only damn, and can never save.

    If we would be rich indeed in the gospel-gold of the Savior, we must not just know that the Lord is good, we must taste and see his goodness on our tongues, with our eyes, and in the depths of our hearts. We must know him as a husband knows his wife, or a father knows his child, and not just as a schoolboy knows Napoleon or Alexander the Great. In other words, if we would truly be rich in the gospel, we must not just have the golden knowledge of our Savior hidden away in our coffers, we must have it on display in the vestibule of our hearts, and we must rejoice in its beauty every day. In fact, if we believe that we have great stores of knowledge hidden away in the ground, then when our Lord returns, we will find it all vanished away; just as the lord took away the talent of that wicked servant who hid his wealth in a napkin. All the gold that we had treasured up will be found out to be counterfeit; for the true gold is that which, by virtue of its own surpassing excellence, cannot fail to produce admiration. If you believe you have a little gospel gold, and know a little about Jesus, but your heart does not flame up in wonder and worship at the remembrance of what you know, then be assured that your gold is not the gospel-gold after all. It is only a line in a ledger, and it will soon burn away.

    What shall we do then, as we labor to be rich indeed? Let us seek to be affected with the truths of the gospel, and not just to have an intellectual awareness of them. Let us not simply endeavor to uncover the truths of the scriptures, let us rejoice and dance and shout for joy at the sight of them. Let us demean our own unworthy and sin-blackened souls, and boast in Christ’s goodness alone; for in so doing we will tear ourselves away from the miry pools of pride, where we had all but drowned, and find that ugly reflection replaced by truest beauty and worth. Let us do what God demands of us, and disinterestedly glorify his name; and let us do so with our own good in mind, knowing that in this way we will make ourselves rich indeed. As we lay up in heaven great heaps of the gospel coin, we will readily see that its obverse is God’s glory; its reverse is our own joy; and its name is the knowledge of God. For when God is known for who he truly is, his glorious worth is thereby displayed in a heart of wonder, and thus is he glorified; but in his glorification, we are inundated with the wonder for which we were made, of seeing inexhaustible beauty; and in that wonder is our only eternal joy.

    If we would be rich with the hidden treasure, we must look ever to Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith. We must labor to set before our eyes that which is unseen, and forgetting the things which are seen, press on from day to day in the hope of glory. We must laugh at all the hardships and persecutions which await us on this earth, because we have seen a more excellent inheritance, incorruptible and undefiled, which the grace of God is guarding for us in the heavens; and we must shout for joy at the glory of him whom, having not seen we love, and rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory.

    Friends, the gospel-gold is precious because of its ability to stir up our hearts in wonder and worship! Let us admire and rejoice in the glorious Name of our Savior Jesus Christ every day, as we press on through this vale of tears. Though poor in earthly goods we are rich in everlasting joy, if indeed we have tasted that the Lord is gracious, and have seen his goodness in the face of Jesus Christ, and have felt our hearts overflow in admiration at the wonder of his glory. If we have not yet known this gospel-joy, then let us deplore our own prideful souls, and cry out to the Father of every good gift for his greatest gift of all: the heart-knowledge of the Savior of the world!

    Posted by Nathan on March 11, 2008 12:31 PM

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