Monday, March 13, 2006

"Sovereign Surprises" - by Dr Ern Baxter - Part 1

Here is the promised first part of this outstanding sermon preached at New Covenant Church, Dunstable in September 1983.

This message is something that’s been in my spirit for some time and I think I shared it tentatively with a group of leaders in Chicago but I felt released to use you as my second group of guinea pigs to try it on. Last night I don’t know how many of you were here (I’m afraid to ask) but last night I finished my study by making reference to our mission as the people of God and the great salvation process – that is to make disciples of all nations. Now I realise that as I start to talk about this across the world, I feel a withdrawal on the part of many people. It’s just too much. Hand out some tracts? Yes. Knock on some doors? Hmm. Witness to your next door neighbour? Hopefully. Talk to the chap at work? Could be. But what’s this business about making disciples of nations. What’s it all about – this matter of touching the world? Changing a world? What’s it all about? Well I think that traditionally we have been too confined. I think that our evangelical preaching and teaching, at least in the last 150 years, has not only been a bit exclusivist, but it has also had a kind of novel futurist aspect to it. So that instead of looking at the world as a field of activity – we look at the world as something to get out of. Many evangelicals are conditioned to wanting to get away from it. Even our teaching on separation makes us a bit self righteous and improperly withdrawn. I believe in separation. I think that there are things that we ought not to be involved in. But I don’t believe that gives us the right to not fulfil the mandate that has been given to us – to do something about evangelising the world and bringing the nations to Christ not only as Saviour but to bring them under His influence as Lord.

Now with that in mind sometime ago I see my own heart. I don’t know how impressed you are with current events. I’m a very news conscious person. Well I’m just nosy – that’s all (*laughter*). Just plain nosy. I want to know what’s going on. Maybe I got that from my father. When the newspaper came in the evenings (we always got an evening newspaper), my father read it from beginning to end, including all the ‘Wanted’ ads. All the ads, the obituaries. It seemed like my father was everlastingly reading the evening newspaper. Well I guess some of that rubbed off on me. I read all the little parts (Ruth is smiling – she knows) I just have to know it all and I’m always surprising people with some little thing I got out of the paper. They didn’t get I – I got it, because I’m nosy! (*laughter*). Unless you’re nosy like I am, you’ll miss a lot of those things. But that has an adverse effect because if I don’t protect my heart against that nosiness about what’s going on in the world – it starts to influence my faith. And it starts to influence my attitudes and affect my philosophies of life. So let me cut through all that just to say this – I don’t want to take my theology or my philosophy of life from current events. I don’t want the television newsman to tell me what I should be believing. I don’t want the newspaper to tell me what I should be believing. I don’t want to become an obscurantist either and sit there with my head covered so I won’t find anything out – I don’t think that there’s any advantage in that. But for you and me there is a dimension of information that unregenerate men do not have.

One of my early mentors and a man to whom I’m greatly obliged for what he put into my life – Dr E W Kenyon – put out a little booklet entitled; “The Two Kinds of Knowledge”. This little book has been a tremendous blessing to many thousands of people – many servants of God (some of whom are unwilling to acknowledge him as their source). But I confess my deep indebtedness to him as one of the men who has made input into my own life and philosophy. He based it very simply on two Greek words for ‘knowledge’ – now I don’t think we can prove this in any through-going way and I’m not a Greek scholar – but there are two Greek words for ‘knowledge’ – one is ‘knosis’ and the other is ‘epinosis’, which has been translated “full knowledge”. Dr Kenyon built on this, I think with care. He said that knowledge or ‘knosis’ is that information that comes to you through your senses. This is available to all men that through their five senses they can acquire information. But that there is another kind of knowledge that is supra-sensual, that is ‘epinosis’ – it is “divine revelation”. No man unhelped by the Spirit and the Word can attain to this information. It can’t be discovered in a scientific laboratory. A simple reading of the history of philosophy will indicate that all man’s philosophical research hasn’t brought him close to it. Philosophy is a very frustrating study because it is by and large the attempt of man to understand himself and his behaviour apart from a whole source of date. So that man doesn’t have all the information at hand that is cosmically available. And so he makes determinations that are fractional and fragmentary because he doesn’t have all the data. Everything is not in the computer so when he gets a computer reading, it’s a reading based on inadequate input.

The Christian on the other hand, if he knows how to hold these things in balance, not only can become a very well informed person through his senses – educationally he can explore the scientific realm and all the academic resources with his senses – he can be a very well informed man, but with the added dimension of added revelation which course we believe is confined to the Word of God. This is the content of revelation and the Holy Spirit within you, is the ability to understand it. So that you and I not only have the capacity to take in all the things that are available to us through our senses but we also have this added dimension. Now in this added dimension God not only gives us insights on the things that our senses are able to acquire but He gives us information on the things that are above the senses.

Now that’s the area I want to talk to you about this morning, and you have to pray that the Lord will help me because this is a very disorderly talk. You see I told you I had no idea where I was going. Other than I know what I want to do to you and I want to do for you and what I want you to get out of it. A lot of Christian life is very plebeian and ordinary and mundane and unexciting and uninteresting and it shouldn’t be so. There should be an area of valid excitement that comes from having faith. I noticed last night; whether it was fatigue or the kind of response I often get when I came to talking about the world, that there was a kind of withdrawal. Somebody said, “Look all I can do is to handle my house – my kitchen is my area. Here is this man talking about the world. This is where I get off the bus. I’m just not going any further”. We can’t get off the bus!

We don’t have the option to get off the bus; for the simple reason that we are the ones who carry the mandate to change the world. It’s not the Conservatives, its not the Liberals, or the Progressives or the Communists or anybody else. We are the People of God! We are the new nation! We are the leavening agent! We are the light of the world – the salt of the earth! We are the people! Now in the light of that – look at yourself in the mirror and drop dead! (*laughter*). I mean that is a ludicrous suggestion! You’re a fine bunch of people. But you’re pitiful small in light of the great population even of your area. But you see there again we are making sense evaluations. Remember the feeding of the Five Thousand? The disciples said ‘let them go away and eat’. Jesus said, ‘They need not go away – you feed them’. Immediately Philip gets his pad and pencil out and says to Judas, ‘How much have we got?’. Judas said, ‘Well we’ve got about 50 dollars in the kitty’. What was he doing? He was figuring out how he would meet the Lord’s command with their human resources. Every time you and I do that we have abandoned the dimension that God has made available to us. There is no way this morning – now lets get this clear – there is no way that this body of people in terms of your human resources are going to affect Dunstable the way it should be affected. So lets rule that out. Your energy – your sincerity – your commitment – that’s all tremendous but without the added dimension of divine intervention there is no way you’re going to handle it.

Now here’s what I want to talk to you about. I want to talk to you about “Sovereign Surprises” and you may do a lot better with this after you hear what I’m going to say and then you can work it out in the laboratory of your own situation. All through the Word of God there runs a line of information that tells us about God surprising people with His intervention. I don’t know how good your imagination is and I don’t know when the angels were created. If you do – maybe you’d let me know. But apparently from a passage in Job, the angels were a created species at the time that the time space world was made. I don’t think that our minds can handle what that was like. What is God like at home? What was the Triune God like before anything was made? Where did He live? What was He like? And when He made the angels – what were they like? And where did they live? There aren’t many answers. We are just given little glimpses into it. But now I was going to say ‘one morning’. But they didn’t have mornings. Mornings didn’t start until after the creation. Well then – one time. Well they didn’t have time either because time wasn’t made until after the creation. Well – whenever. Well there is no ‘whenever’. Well – whatever. You see, we break down as we try to bridge the gap between the finite and the infinite. So let me break down and speak of time.

There came a time in eternity (that in itself is a contradiction) but there came a point when God surprised the angels and out of nothing He suddenly spoke the whole cosmic situation into existence as we know it. Now I was reading this morning in the magazine section of the Telegraph (you do get some decent things out of there) where in New Mexico in the United States, you have got these giant saucers that are reaching up into the heavens and are drawing radio information. Now its too much for me – that’s not my area. But they say that outside the realms of our galaxy, there are vast quasars and these are gigantic bodies of energy, and they are wondering if we can’t plug into these things to switch on our light bulbs. But the more that scientists probe into the universe, the more mysterious, the more intimidating, the more interesting it becomes. Now before that was ever spoken into space, the angels were doing what angels do and suddenly they looked and God had done this thing. I would call that a divine surprise. And do you know what they did? The Bible said that the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy! What had happened? They had been surprised! By a divine act that wasn’t on their calendar – maybe I was wrong. Maybe God told them He was going to do it. But if you will allow me this liberty I would suggest that He didn’t tell the angels. And the angels thought that they were the whole of the situation. God had made them and they were it. Then suddenly they look and there was this whole vast panorama of material – all out there. The angels looked at it and broke into a loud hurrah – a loud acclaim. God had wrought a divine surprise.

I think they must have been surprised when God made a man. When God made the heavens and the earth and the angels looked down at it and I’m sure they didn’t understand at all what was involved. I picked that up from the fact that they ‘desired to look into a lot of the things that God was doing’. But you can imagine with what wonder as they watched God reach down and take a handful of dust and start to architecturally structure this magnificent creature called a man and you can imagine how they watched with amazement as God reached down and kissed into his lips the breath of life and he rose up a living soul, and they marvelled at what they saw. Another divine surprise! Or when the first divine operation took place and God anaesthetised Adam and took a rib out of his side and created woman. Can you imagine the angels looking at that? Not only the angels, can you imagine Adam looking at it? Adam had tried to be cosy with the animals. He was suspicious that something was missing because right about ‘go home’ time, he noticed that all the animals went home in pairs. And Adam jogged off home alone. And I guess many times he wondered. The way in which our Bible puts the whole introduction of Eve is very interesting. Because it says that God created the animals and He brought them to Adam to be named. As the animals went by Adam named them but he didn’t get any vibrations. (*laughter*). Adam had absolutely no desire to date a giraffe. And a hippopotamus did absolutely nothing for him. (*laughter*). As they all went by he named them, but didn’t want to date them. Now the Bible very significantly says, “And there was not found among all the animals a help-meet for Adam”. Now is Adam condemned forever to celibacy? Is he going to live alone forever? God put him into a deep sleep and took a rib. The Hebrew indicates it was not only living tissue but the Bible said He took “a side” from Adam. Have you ever said about somebody “You know I’ve never seen that side of them before?”. Not only living tissue but a part of Adam. Part of Adam’s personality – part of Adam’s equipment was taken out. Adam came out of the anaesthetic and he saw walking down the garden under the leafy boughs of Eden on the arm of Yahweh, the most exquisite creature he had ever seen. The Living Bible said that as he looked, he said, “This is it!”. Now he’d seen that other parade go by and this was a great improvement. That was a divine surprise! Adam had probably wondered what was going to be done for him and here was the surprise.

Part 2 coming shortly!

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Dr James R White said...

Once again this is clearly and absolutely vintage Ern ... thank you so much for taking the time to transcribe this so carefully. You must share with us your methods at some point ... do you type it directly into your computer or short hand it and then transcribe it?

Anyhow - I have benefited tremendously from this. I think that as a nation we are in a state like the elders in Ezekiel; "The Lord has forsaken us - the Lord has forsaken the land" and thus behave as though we do not and could not expect a divine intervention.

Yet Ern reminds us rightly and so powerfully that He does intervene time and time again!!

I suspect this will be a vintage message and I cannot wait for all the parts that are to come.

Bless you richly Brother Dan.

ollie said...

Great stuff! Divine surprises!! I've never heard the phrase before and I likes it muchly!!

Anonymous said...

The quotes you gave us were a good taster - this material is so not a disappointment!! I love the colors, the richness of his language. Dr Baxter was one awesome dude. Wow - to be HIS research assistant eh!? Thank you so much for taking the time to put this onto the screen - I've taken the liberty of printing out this for my readign and purusal.