“I want to ask you a question. Have you been made nigh? I can tell you, very simply, how to know whether you have or not. If you are still talking about being good enough, you have not been made nigh. If you are still relying on yourself in any shape or form, you are still afar off. If you are still talking of not being good enough, you also have not been made nigh. Because as long as you keep on talking of not being good enough, what you really are saying is that you think you can make yourself good enough. But you never can. You will never be nearer than you are now. Never! If you lived a thousand years you would be no nearer. You will never be good enough to come into the presence of God. So if you are still saying: Ah, that is wonderful, but I am not good enough, I am a sinner, that means you are not made nigh. The one who is made nigh is one who says: I know that I am a sinner, I know the sins of the past, I know that I still have a sinful nature within me; but though I know that, I know that I am in the presence of God, because I am in Christ. I have listened to the voice of the blood of Christ and it has spoken to me of forgiveness, of reconciliation, ofexpiation, of God being satisfied, of God being ‘just and the justifier of him that believeth in Jesus’. The blood is sprinkled on my conscience. Let hell try to denounce me, that God accepts me; I am relying only, utterly, entirely, upon Jesus Christ and Him crucified. ‘His blood can make the foulest clean. His blood avails for me.’ In His merits alone I know that I have access to God and that God receives me, that I have been ‘made nigh by the blood of Christ.’” —D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, God’s Way of Reconciliation, (Baker Book House, 1987) p. 11
“Furthermore, because man is in this relationship to God he is also in a state of enmity against himself. He is not only engaged in this warfare against a God who is outside of him;but he is also fighting a war within himself. Therein lies the real tragedy of fallen man; he does not believe what I am saying but it is certainly true of him. Man is in a state of internal conflict and he does not know why it is so. He wants to do certain things, but something inside him tells him that it is wrong to do so. He has something in him which we call conscience. Though he thinks he can be perfectly happy whatever he does, and though he may silence other people, he cannot silence this inward monitor. Man is in a state of internal warfare; he does not know the reason for it, yet he knows that it is so.
But in the Scriptures we are told exactly why this is the case. Man was made by God in such a way that he can only be at peace within himself when he is at peace with God. Man was never meant to be a god, but he is for ever trying to deify himself. He sets up his own desires as the rules and laws of his life, yet he is ever characterized by confusion, and worse. Something in himself denies his claims; and so he is always quarrelling and fighting with himself. He knows nothing of real peace; he has no peace with God, he has no peace within himself. And still worse, because of all this, he is in a state of warfare with everyone else. Unfortunately for him everyone else wants to be a god as well. Because of sin we have all become self-centred, ego-centric, turning in upon this self which we put on a pedestal, and which we think is so wonderful and superior to all others. But everyone else is doing the same, and so there is war among the gods. We claim that we are right, and that everyone else is wrong. Inevitably the result is confusion and discord and unhappiness between man and man. Thus we begin to see why the Apostle prays that we may have peace. It is because of man’s sad condition, man’s life as the result of sin, and as the result of his falling away from God. He is in a state of dis-unity within and without, in a state of unhappiness, in a state of wretchedness.”
—D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, God’s Ultimate Purpose, (Baker Book House, 1979) pp. 38, 39
When one reads through the Bible each year, while Exodus lasts a matter of weeks, and Ezekiel seems to never end, Philemon is mist soon forgotten. It is read one day a year and with a few other chapters from another book. But what we are so quick to pass over might have been one of the most shocking letters in the ancient world.
The nature of one’s slavery in the Roman Empire depended on the nature of their lord. A slave’s lot might be such that he is envied by many free men, or, it might be horrid beyond our comprehension. The slave/lord relationship would most often be dominated by fear. Lords fearing their slaves and slaves their masters. Slaves comprised upwards of a third of the Roman Empire. Most were owned by few, and no double many of the non-elite would side with the slaves. Though over a century past, Spartacus’ slave rebellion was an indelible cultural memory. Once that rebellion was quelled, some six thousand captives were crucified lining the Appian Way, the major highway to Rome, for over a hundred miles. Roman men were taught to dominate their households and ensure the submission of their slaves by whatever force necessary.
A runaway slave being returned to their master could expect the harshest of treatment and likely death. But, here is Philemon, returning, not by force, but willingly, with a letter from Paul, asking that his lord receive him as a brother.
This kind of thing can only happen in Christ. Paul doesn’t attack slavery head on. He attacks no social evil in this way. Sinners gotta sin. Outside of Christ, all is Babel. In Christ, there is Pentecost. Outside of Christ, man doesn’t understand man, man is fearful of man, and man is against man. Outside of Christ fear rules the relations of men. Outside of Christ, the powerful enslave the weak in a multitude of ways. Outside of Christ, even brothers kill one another. But in Christ, Pentecost has brought the different together. In Christ, Jew and Gentile, slave and free sup around one table as brothers with their Lord serving them. In Christ, we are speaking and hearing one message—Jesus. Only in Jesus do we see reconciliation and forgiveness of this magnitude and we see it in Jesus because it is dwarfed by that which we have received in Him.
The Christian system is consistent as no other system that has ever been. It is beautiful beyond words, because it has that quality that no other system completely has—you begin at the beginning, and you can go to the end. It is as simple as that. And every part and portion of the system can be related back to the beginning. Whatever you discuss, to understand it properly, you just go back to the beginning and the whole thing is in its place. The beginning is simply that God exists and that He is the personal-infinite God. Our generation longs for the reality of personality, but it cannot understand it. But Christianity says personality is valid because personality has not just appeared in the universe, but rather is rooted in the personal God who has always been.
All too often, when we are talking to the lost world, we do not begin at the beginning and therefore the world stops listening. Without this emphasis on personality we cannot expect people really to listen, because without this the concept of salvation is suspended in a vacuum.
If we understand this, we understand the meaning of life. The meaning of life does not end with justication, but is seen in the reality that when we accept Christ as our Savior in the true biblical sense, our personal relationship with the personal God is restored. Every place we turn in Christianity we find that we are brought face to face with the wonder of personality—the very opposite of the dilemma and the sorrow of modern man who finds no meaning in personality. Consider the words of Paul, ‘The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost be with you all.’ It is the personal to which we are brought. First of all there is the personal relationship with God Himself—this is the most wonderful, and is not just in Heaven but is substantially real in practice now. When we understand our calling, it is not only true but beautiful—and it should be exciting. It is hard to understand how an orthodox, evangelical, Bible-believing Christian can fall to be excited. The answers in the realm of the intellect should make us overwhelmingly excited. But more than this, we are returned to a personal relationship with the God who is there. If we are unexcited Christians, we should go back and see what is wrong. We are surrounded by a generation that can find ‘no one home’ in the universe. If anything marks our generation, it is this. In contrast to this, as a Christian I know who I am; and I know the personal God who is there. I speak, and He hears. I am not surrounded by mere mass, nor only energy particles, but He is there. And if I have accepted Christ as my Savior, then though it will not be perfect in this life, yet moment by moment, on the basis of the finished work of Christ, this person to person relationship with the God who is there can have reality to me. —Francis Schaeffer, The God Who is There