From Ruin to Redemption

''I FEEL LIKE A WRECK!'' So goes the common expression nowadays, and well it may. We live in a day of wreckage. Some of the world's great cities have been ruined. Our highways are marked by wrecks caused so often by ''the nut at the steering wheel.'' Our hospitals are filled with mental and physical wrecks. Up and down our streets walk thousands more who still manage to get around.

   For all the ruin, most of us are afraid that the worst is yet to come. Badly in need of repair as we are, we are fearful, what with atomic power at our command, that we are in for more damage than ever.

   The fact is, we are all wrecks and we have been living in a wreck all the time. It must have been a lovely earth when Adam had dominion. It is still beautiful in spots, though now marred and broken. There was a day when man ruled the earth, when there was no bloodshed, nothing to hurt or destroy. But Satan came and Adam sinned and nature came under the curse. We lost our dominion and we have never regained it. We cannot whistle and have the birds obey us or crook the finger and make the fishes come at our bidding. We have lost our dominion and must snare the animals and go forth armed to meet the worst of them,

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lest we fare like the big game hunter I read about recently of whom somebody said, ''It is feared that something he disagreed with ate him.''

   The loveliest scene of nature is deceptive because underneath there is bloodshed and terror; the creatures creep about in fear, the birds look nervously in all directions, the snake crawls in the grass. Everything is under the curse, just a wreck of its original glory.

   But there is coming a day when nature will be at peace. The lion and the lamb shall lie down together—and the lamb will not be inside the lion! The first Adam failed, but two thousand years ago there came a second Adam. He had dominion, and there are signs of it all through His days on earth. He stilled the tempest, healed the sick, turned water into wine, raised the dead. He knew just where a certain fish could be caught, rode an unbroken colt into Jerusalem, and had a certain little rooster all set to crow at just the proper time on the night of Peter's denial. He did not use His dominion as fully as He could have when He was here the first time, but one day He will return to reign over a redeemed earth, and then it will not be a wreck. But it is a wreck now, and the whole creation groans in expectation of that day of redemption.

   A desert traveler was awakened in the night by a strange unearthly sound sweeping across the wastes, something between a sob and a sigh. He awoke the old guide, who explained, ''Ah, it is the desert crying.'' Immediately there flashed on the traveler's mind those words from Romans: ''For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now. And not only they, but ourselves also, which

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have the first-fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.''

   I am something of a bird-lover.I used to tramp the woods somewhat saddened at times, because, no matter how lovely the day, how sweet the bird songs, how fragrant the flowers, there were everywhere present the evidences of pain and death and decay, the marks of the bondage of corruption. It was a great day when there dawned on me that blessed truth, so neglected and unknown, that it will not always be so:

   The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them. And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together: and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice' den. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea (Isa. 11: 6-9).

   Not only is the earth a wreck, but civilization is a ruin. Civilization is not going to the dogs, it is headed for the vultures. With a most loathsome figure, our Lord described the final state of man before His coming: ''Wheresoever the body is, thither will the eagles [vultures] be gathered together'' (Lk. 17:37). For all our vaunted science and boasted inventive genius, we are now mainly occupied with trying to find means of escape from the results of our inventions. A popular book bears the title, No Hiding Place. A leading Scientist writes on the subject, ''I'm a Frightened Man.'' A recent cartoon pictures a cave man at his cave entrance

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greeting a modern citizen trying to find refuge from atom bombs. The greeting is, ''Welcome home, brother!'' Civilization is a wreck, and our progress will end in ruin.

   Civilization is a failure because the human race is a failure. ''By one man sin entered into the world and death by sin''; ''All have sinned''; ''In Adam all die.'' Just as nature's loveliest landscape is deceptive, so is all our effort to make earth's wreck look like the Garden of Eden. I sat in a little Southern city on a beautiful morning looking across the placid surface of a tranquil lake. It was one of those rare days in June when, if ever, come perfect days, when earth seems in perfect tune and all nature in accord. But my peaceful meditation was jarred when I perceived that the waters reflected a hospital that stood on the other side. That spoke of sickness and pain and death. No matter how we dress up our cities and beautify our dwelling places, we must have hospitals and morgues and police stations, all the paraphernalia of a ruined race.

   But two thousand years ago there came to earth One who said, ''My Kingdom is not of this world.'' He stood condemned on that occasion, and it appeared that He had failed. But it was haughty Pilate who failed. The old Adam has failed, but the second Adam came down in all the wreckage of our race and became the firstborn of a new race. And as many as receive Him, to them God gives the power to become the sons of God. There is a new commonwealth of those whose citizenship is in heaven, pilgrims and strangers looking for a city. One of these days there will be the manifestation of these sons of God. We are coming into our own! Every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus

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Christ is Lord. One thing I am sure of, there is coming a day when every skeptic will agree with me and every unbeliever admit that my message is true, but it will be too late for them. I can afford to wait but they cannot. If you are sitting in the seat of the scornful it is high time to get into the new race by the new birth, and move out of ruin into redemption.

   Individually, we all are wrecks. We were ruined by the fall, the curse of Adam's sin is on our bodies and minds. No matter how husky or attractive you may be, you started to die the day you were born, and everyday you have one day less to live. You may not yet be aware of disintegration, but you soon will be! Some of you realize it well already. Maybe your eyes have failed. Maybe right now you are wearing out your neck trying to get used to bifocals and have discovered that no eyes are like the ones God gave you. Perhaps your teeth have failed, and ''the voice of the grinding is low,'' and you may be reading this with your new teeth in your pocket! We are disintegrating because our present outfit, both physical and mental, is in the bondage of corruption.

   Our minds are wrecks, and, therefore, we make so many mistakes. We are just a shell of what we were in Adam, for sin and Satan have done their work. We are headed for the grave. We may get drunk and forget it, live in pleasure and make light of it, but

The boast of heraldry, the pomp of power,

And all that beauty, all that wealth e'er gave,

Awaits alike the inevitable hour.

The paths of glory lead but to the grave.

   It is a good thing to ''forefancy your deathbed,'' as an old saint put it. The modern emphasis on ''Get

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ready to live, not ready to die,'' sounds very up-to-date, but no man is more ready to live than the man who is ready to die.

   Does this sound like pessimism? I have not finished yet! The best is yet to come. Two thousand years ago our Lord came, not only to give us a foretaste of the day when nature shall be reclaimed, not only to begin the new race of the sons of God, but to die for our sins and rise again to guarantee that those who live in Him shall have new bodies and live forever with Him. Our salvation is free, but not yet full in our actual experience. Recently a preacher suggested that we use the word ''salvage'' instead of ''salvation.'' But we merely salvage the same old wreck, while salvation guarantees us a new outfit. I don't want to be towed into heaven behind a wrecking crew; I want to go in brand new!

   The best is yet to come. ''To die is gain,'' and being a Christian makes death a paying proposition. That blessed assurance that Jesus is mine is but a foretaste of glory divine. We that have the first-fruits of the Spirit groan within ourselves waiting for our new bodies. ''The earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God.''

   It is true that we are merely shells of what we were in Adam; but we are also but shadows of what we shall be in the Second Adam. I am not what I was, but neither am I what I shall be. ''Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that when he shall appear. we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.'' Every time I look into a mirror I am well aware that it doth not yet appear what I shall be!

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I am not now what once I was,

Nor am I what I want to be;

But what I am I am by grace,

  And when I see Him face to face

I shall be like Him perfectly.

I once was dead yet thought I lived;

And now I live, yet dead I am;

I live in Him with whom I died;

I to the world am crucified,

My life, my song, is Calvary's Lamb.

                                                    Author Unknown 

   These blessed truths hold for us both an encouragement and a warning. For one thing, while it is true that we are wrecks and the resurrection is still ahead, there is a very real sense in which the Spirit strengthens our bodies and minds here and now, to enable us to do His will. We are identified with Christ and are members of His body, and as we live by simple faith and obedience in complete dependence on Him, the power of God in Christ flows in and through us, empowering us to do all God wants done. Some go to extremes here and expect too much in the present body, thinking they should have no pain and make no mistakes. Others go to the other extreme, struggling along in their own strength, living on their reserves instead of on His resources. He is able to make all grace to abound so that we may abound. But we must come to the end of our reserves, that extremity which is God's opportunity. The woman who touched Jesus had come to the end of her reserves, physically and financially. The rich young ruler still had reserves of his own, so he went away without the blessing.

   Paul was a wreck. He had a thorn in the flesh. I

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think his eyesight was bad. They said his bodily presence was weak and his speech poor. But he could do all things through Christ—that is, all things that God wanted him to do. There is provision even for our present bodies and minds to enable us to do His will.

   But there is a fearful warning here. It is bad enough to live in the wreck of a body in the wreck of a race in the wreck of a world. But if we do not avail ourselves of the new life in Christ we are doomed to the eternal wreckage and garbage heap of hell, where the worm dieth not and the fire is not quenched. Whosoever does not believe shall perish.

   What a prospect, however, awaits the child of God! ''For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle be dissolved, we have a building of God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.'' The apostle goes on to say that we groan while we live in this tent, desiring to be clothed upon with our house from heaven. In Romans he tells us that the whole creation groans and that we groan, but the Spirit helps our infirmities, interceding for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.

   A little boy sitting in the door of a mountain cabin was asked, ''Do you live here?'' ''Yes,'' he answered, ''but we've a new house up on the hill and we're moving tomorrow. You can see farther, the water's better, and everything's brand-new.'' If your tent is fast deteriorating, brother, we're moving up higher soon. You can see farther, the water is better, and everything will be brand-new.

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Some day the silver cord will break,

And I no more as now shall sing;

But O the joy when I awake

Within the palace of the King!

Some day my earthly house will fall

I cannot tell how soon 'twill be;

But this I know, my All in All

Has now a place in heaven for me.

Some day: till then I'll watch and wait

My lamp all trimmed and bright;

That when my Saviour opens the gate,

My soul to Him may take its flight.

From ''Some Day The Silver Cord Will Break,'' by Fanny Crosby.

Chapter 14  ||  Table of Contents