Elder C. C. Morris
Which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it? Lest haply, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him, saying, This man began to build, and was not able to finish. (Luke 14.28ff).
Jesus spoke the above words to a great multitude and then made this point: "So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple."
Jesus did not suggest here or elsewhere that He required more from his disciples than He Himself had already done. God, in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ, forsook all that He had: "For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that ye through His poverty might be rich (2 Corinthians 8.9)."
This brings to mind something else which is also seen in these words of Jesus: the wisdom of God as displayed in His creation and management of this world.
God Himself (as intimated in the above text), before He began to create, first counted the cost to Himself of this building project, weighing His ability to finish what He would begin, and considering His purpose in the creation and its value to Himself, as compared against whatever mockery that would accrue to Himself should He appear to fail. We say it in these words because there are many thousands who, through the blindness that is within them, misunderstand the purpose of God in creation. In their sin-darkened minds, deluded as they are about what Godís original and eternal purpose to create was in the first place, they believe that God has apparently failed.
Business managers say, "First, plan your work, and then work your plan." They advise their employees, first make a list of the things you need to do, and rank them in the order of their importance. If you do not know which is the most important, ask your boss. Then, begin working on the most important or urgent project of the day. When you finish it, begin working on the next most important job, and so on.
Such is a catchy and effective approach to the affairs of business. When we work this way, whether we get much or little accomplished, we at least are assured that we are working on the most important tasks facing us.
PLAN YOUR WORK
The businessman usually does not work merely for personal enjoyment. He works toward a previously designated goal or end. His goal may be manufacturing a product, making a profit, or gaining personal power, fame, and glory through his business. Often his motivation is a combination of these.
Whatever end he has in mind, whenever possible, he surrounds himself with wise men he trusts and with whom he may counsel. He relies on their wisdom and advice, especially in difficult situations. He draws upon the wisest friends with whom he can associate himself. Together, as well as natural wisdom will allow, they envision every possible thing that will contribute to his success. He then tries to incorporate those things into his master business strategy.
He likewise tries to anticipate each problem that would stand in his way, and he then marshals all available wisdom and power to eliminate every obstacle.
Here is a man who is starting out in the construction business. He plans to build a tower, and a quite expensive one, at that. Does he start first thing Monday morning by sending his men running all around, some with picks and shovels to dig a ditch for the foundation, while sending others out to gather whatever tower-building materials they can find and bring them to the job-site?
By the way, we might well ask, where is the job-site, anyway? Has it even been bought or leased? How much are the building site, the materials, and the labor going to cost? Who is going to pay for it all? Does this man building the tower have adequate financing?
Is the soil and the rock sound enough to anchor his foundation and support his tower?
Then, where will the materials come from, and what will they be--steel and granite, or plastic and glass?
Just who will do the labor? Skilled artisans and craftsmen all, or only those who care for nothing but their pay at quitting time?
A businessman in this world who did not ask himself these and ten thousand similar questions would not be worth his salt as a businessman nor would he last long in the construction trade. So, he plans. He has architectural plans drawn. He estimates all the costs he can anticipate: materials, salaries, legal fees, liability insurance, hospitalization for his workers, administrative overhead, night watchmen, utilities, subcontractors, transportation; and he even allows for inflation. He obtains soil samples and rock corings and has engineering studies done. Professional surveyors establish property lines and the exact location of the future tower on the property to a thousandth of an inch. "Which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it?"
Ah, yes, do not forget the cost. "Money answereth all things (Ecclesiastes 10.19)." There is not a material thing mentioned so far that cannot be obtained with money, and little if any of it can be had without it. Ask any businessman.
WORK YOUR PLAN
Only when he is satisfied that every contingency, good or bad, is accounted for, and that every unforeseen emergency he conceives of can be met, does our contractor actually begin construction.
If he does not proceed at least generally along these lines of planning before he begins to build, then he is reckoned a fool. He leaves himself open not only to failure, but also to the resulting public ridicule sure to come from his enemies.
Nor is the old adage, "Well begun is half done," of any value here. If he completes a foundation, perfect in every detail, but he cannot continue, all is yet lost. "Lest haply, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him, saying, This man began to build, and was not able to finish."
We can see the wisdom of an experienced businessman, wise in these things, bringing his tower to a successful completion.
Since intelligent men concede that this is such a good approach to doing whatever we want to get done, then why do men universally condemn God Almighty for doing the very thing they advocate--for first planning His work and then working His plan?
GOD PLANNED HIS WORK
His plan is called "predestination."
Shall we entertain the notion that Jehovah God is less organized than a man trying to make a success of a small-time construction company? Not for one second. Jehovah, who hath established His throne in the heavens, and whose kingdom ruleth over all, asks: "Which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it?" Would God endorse that type of forethought for us and not utilize such divine wisdom for Himself--He who is the fountainhead of all wisdom? Shall we think for an instant that this God, in His infinite wisdom, intent on building for Himself a material and spiritual universe, did not first sit down and count the cost, whether He had sufficient wherewithal to finish it? Shall He bid us use a bit of foresight in natural affairs, and shall He then not Himself plan the end from the beginning and from ancient times the things that are not yet done? Shall He not determine for Himself how it will all come out, to satisfy Himself that it all will be successful, and that it will be worth whatever the cost is to Him?
He did exactly all of that, and He tells us so. In eternity, which He Himself is pleased to call "before the foundation of the world," He held what He is also pleased to call a "counsel" with Himself: God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and these three are one. Other than Himself, He had no brain-trust, no supervisor, no manager, no "boss," no superintendent, no owner of the company, no stockholders, and no board of directors with whom He checked in order to establish His priorities; for, He is that supreme and eternal Being who alone is before all things and by whom all things consist. He is the supervisor and the manager of this project, the superintendent and the owner of all things. The Board of Directors is the Three-One God Himself. He named His business meeting "the counsel of His own will (Ephesians 1.11)." He named the contract He agreed upon His "everlasting covenant." It was ordered in all things and sure.
He therefore counseled with Himself (because there was neither any higher nor any other than Himself) to decide for Himself what He and every atom of His proposed creation would and would not be and do. No runaway bulldozers would ever wreck His construction site; no saboteurs would ever destroy His handiwork or His equipment in the night. No striking employees would shut Him down. He would fix it so that the very wrath of man would praise Him and the remainder of wrath He would restrain.
He would create, not to enrich Himself, for all things created and uncreated are already His, and He announces, "All souls are mine." Infinite giving does not impoverish Him, nor does withholding enrich Him, for Infinity can neither be increased nor diminished. Rather, He created in order to enrich His creation by the giving of Himself and the knowledge of Himself to a great multitude, as yet uncreated, but a multitude He eternally foreknew, chosen in Christ.
He would create all things in heaven and in earth, in the seas and in all deep places, as a vast, complex display-case for His manifold wisdom, power, holiness, justice, love, righteousness, and glory. This would not be merely a controlled experiment to find out what would happen. Herein He would actually demonstrate all the pros and cons of good and evil. To do so, the extreme scale of spiritual values, from His own perfect holiness and righteousness to utter and undiluted wickedness, all would be represented. When His project was completed, not a sentient being from the angels around His throne to the lowliest amoeba would entertain one unanswered question about their Creator.
For witnesses, He would create a hierarchy of ten thousand times ten thousand and thousands of thousands of spiritual, intelligent angel-beings with the native, built-in capacity to worship, adore, love, and appreciate Him; to wonder in amazement and awe at His supreme power and wisdom; to serve Him with the majestic power only He could give them; and to rejoice in simply going and coming at His bidding. From the instant of their creation, they were at once His attendants, His worshipers, His warriors, and the guardians of His people, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation.
This God planned not a one-sided universe, stacked, slanted, and weighted, as it were, in His own favor; it would be no pushover, no "piece of cake" in modern parlance. He would have no dubious, hollow, cardboard-and-tinfoil victories that would leave any doubt as to His complete power, wisdom, and ability. Rather, He planned a balanced universe, or, even more suited to His purpose, one in which God Himself would form that powerful adversary who would head up all the dark principles and wicked personalities that would stand opposed to Himself. This adversary, called the devil, Lucifer, and Satan, would be the most glorious and powerful of all created beings. He would be so mighty an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11. 14) that Michael the archangel durst not bring against him a railing accusation but only said, "The Lord rebuke thee (Jude 9)." This devil would be the seat and center of all that was opposed to the righteousness and holiness of God.
This God determined exactly whom He would save, to show His wisdom, grace, love, mercy, longsuffering, and power, eternally choosing them in His Son. In one place and time He would reserve unto Himself 7,000 who, only because of His restraining grace, would not bow the knee to Baal; in another He would seal 12,000 out of each of the twelve tribes of Israel; and from the Gentile nations He would save a remnant according to the election of grace. Such would be a very small group by menís standards, a "little flock," and an afflicted and poor people, at that. Yet, paradoxically, they would collectively constitute a great multitude that no man could number.
The Creator would put a hook in His enemy Satanís nose and a leash around his neck, and for openers He would give him an abiding interest in religion, politics, economics, and all the other affairs of men. God would give him plenty of equipment, lots of demons, the large majority of humanity, and a big head start. Yes, this would be a cosmos which, when the entire program was over, would the better show forth Godís limitless power, holiness, wisdom, and righteousness.
To serve the will and purpose of God completely, then, the cosmos He would create, this tower He would build, must have and must manifest not only all of Godís holy attributes, but it must also show forth all of their most wicked opposites in order to everlastingly and finally demonstrate to all creation the eternal value of the one system over the other. "If the Lord be God, follow Him: but if Baal, then follow him." This, in a very real sense, is what this whole creation is all about: the force and validity of Elijahís challenge.
In His creation, then, there would be wickedness, and plenty of it, contrasted to His righteousness; there would be night alongside the day, hatred as a backdrop to His love, war arrayed against His peace, and death everywhere, reigning alongside of life. God would even see to it that universal night would flood the starry heavens for the time being, instead of His universal light.
That multitude of people He loved and chose in His Son Christ Jesus before the world began would in time fall into sin and death in their federal head, Adam. With men and angels alike it would be impossible to save them. Outnumbered by men and devils, outmatched by the same, none would care to save them, let alone be able to do so. Cast out in the open field, to the loathing of their person, in the day they were born; unwashed, unswaddled at all, none eye to pity them to do any of these things for them, to have compassion on them; polluted in their own blood; God would therein show forth the greatest display of His love and grace. It would be at exactly such a time as this He would pass by and say, "Live." It would be a time of love. He would cast His skirt of righteousness over his little foundlings. To demonstrate His grace, He would wash them, and anoint them, and clothe and bedeck them in the most costly and beautiful clothes and jewels that God Himself ever produced. He would bring them back to Himself, and, in so doing, He would destroy the works of the devil. He would demonstrate the superiority of His righteous attributes over any contrasting wicked principles. While doing so, He would hide these things from the wise and the prudent while revealing them to His babes.
In all of this, the planning stage, we can rest assured our God considered the results of such a creation. If anything in His plan could have been unsatisfactory to Him, if any foreseen event would not have suited His purpose, if any disappointment in any way ever could have loomed beyond the horizon, He would have caught it. If men or devils were ever to get too far out of hand and become unmanageable, He would have seen it, anticipated it, and made arrangements to take care of it. If in all eternity His creation would ever get to be a mockery to Him, a reproach, where any of His creatures could begin to mock him, saying, "This man," or this God, "began to build, and was not able to finish," He would have foreknown it during this, the planning stage. This, then, would have been the time for Him to quit, to save face, to not begin what He could not finish.
He drew and approved His architectural plans. Building materials, utilities, and all else required would be no problem. Subcontractors would be used only in the sense of the providential outworking of His plan, and they would be under His own direct control. God Himself would handle all administration and overhead. He would be His own night watchman, for He dwells in thick darkness and neither slumbers nor sleeps, for the darkness and the light are both alike unto Him. The building-site property is there, and He owns it free and clear. The soil is adequate; He Himself has surveyed the site and pronounced it very good.
As for legal fees, He would be the Judge, and His Son would be the lawyer and advocate of His people in all things, donating His time, labor, and wisdom to deliver these poor indigents at no charge to themselves. Whatever this project costs, its price would be charged to His own account. His only begotten Son would be appointed Construction Superintendent. God wills to create all things by His Son, and not anything made will be made except by Him. Further, the continued existence of every created thing would depend upon Him exclusively: All things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions, principalities or powers: all things would be created by him and for Him. As He is before all things, so by Him all things would consist, and He would uphold all things by the word of His power.
This is, most briefly, only part of His plan, the whole of which was examined by the eternal and infinite wisdom of the Three-One Godhead, and ratified in His eternal counsel before the world began.
Having determined He indeed was able to finish what He would begin, what of the cost?
The costs of this tower were to be borne by the Builder, God Himself. Payment would center in His Son who would bear the brunt of all costs, responsibilities, legal fees, judicial requirements, whatever their nature. Before this tower would be completed, it would cost the Son His life, and, most literally, an infinite amount of suffering. The Son would lay aside the glory He had with the Father before the world was, in exchange for a lifetime of poverty and suffering in this world. Though He were rich, yet for His electsí sake He would become poor, that they through His poverty might be rich. In their behalf, He would live a righteous life none of His people could live, accruing a perfect record to their account. Then He would be tortured and suffer as no man in all His creation has ever suffered. He would suffer not only physically, but also socially, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually as well. The greatest suffering of all would not be any of these, however. He would make His own soul itself an offering for sin. For His beloved bride He would suffer the unspeakable horror of His being separated from His beloved Father with whom He was eternally one. In this transaction the Father would forsake His "only begotten Son, in whom He is well pleased," and the Spirit, who was poured out without measure upon that Son, would leave Him to die alone.
Were His beloved bride required to die for her own sins, it would have required her occupying a suffering Hell for eternity. Why such an infinite span? Because she had offended infinitely the infinite God. Nothing less, then, than an infinite retribution can be required. She is a multitude that no man can number, yet she is a finite number known only to God. Collectively, she is viewed as being "one." One body, times an infinite transgression, equals an infinite debt.
Her Beloved, the Lord Jesus Christ, was infinite in both His power and in His intrinsic value. One sacrifice times an infinite value equals an infinite payment. One times infinity equals infinity times one. The debt is paid!
But, although the blood would be drained from His body, that would not be the cause of death. In all the annals of human history, He would die uniquely by voluntarily dismissing His spirit (Matthew 27.50; John 19.30).
GOD WORKED HIS PLAN
We call the outworking of His plan, "providence."
The scientists of this world tell us the universe started out with a "big bang." That is not the half of it. Who was there to know what God said, except God and His angels? Whatever God said, whether it was "Bang," or not, whatever He said, He created every bit of this universe merely by what He said. He spoke the universe into existence by the word of His power , specifically, the second Person of the Godhead, The Word, the Lord Jesus Christ. Until that time (that indeed was the beginning of "time"; until this point we have been speaking of eternity) there was no time, no material or physical universe. There were only spirit beings: God, His angels, archangels, cherubim, and seraphim.
Whatever He said when He spoke the universe into existence, the effects of what He said have continued from then until now. We cannot begin to imagine the glory of that awesome, divine, cosmic fireworks display which instantaneously hurled trillions upon multiplied trillions of galaxies into the blackness of nothingness in such dazzling splendor that the very morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy. Such a demonstration of His power it was that a shepherd boyís words, "The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament sheweth His handiwork," are as good a description of what He had done as has ever been given.
It was upon this little stage, the sparks from His fingertips which we call a universe, He built His tower while the angels watched from a respectful distance in worshipful amazement.
Off to one side of His universe, far out in one of the spiraling arms of an obscure and minor galaxy, amidst billions of flaming stars, He hung a little world upon nothing, named it "Earth," and, to keep the minds of skeptics upon it puzzled and preoccupied, He asked, "Whereupon are the foundations thereof fastened?"
He created the waster to destroy, by His Spirit He hath garnished the heavens, and His hand hath formed the crooked serpent. Lo, these are parts of His ways: but how little a portion is heard of Him?
Upon this earth He created the great and wide sea, and Leviathan, whom He made to play therein; and He named His priesthood Levi, which was more than a coincidence. There was nothing coincidental--in the sense of "it just happened to have happened that way"--in how God designed or brought about any part of His tower.
He says, "I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the Lord do all these things. Drop down, ye heavens, from above, and let the skies pour down righteousness: let the earth open, and let them bring forth salvation, and let righteousness spring up together; I the Lord have created it. Woe unto him that striveth with his Maker! Let the potsherd strive with the potsherds of the earth. Shall the clay say to him that fashioneth it, What makest thou? or thy work, He hath no hands?...I have made the earth, and created man upon it: I, even my hands, have stretched out the heavens, and all their host have I commanded (Isaiah 45.7-12)."
Time and space forbids our continuing. Suffice it to say, our God determined from before the beginning that He had all it takes, and more, Oh! so much more, to complete His tower exactly as He planned and on schedule. Plan your work, then work your plan. Only God Himself can do that and do it absolutely.
If He had known He could not execute His plan, He was under no constraint, self-imposed or otherwise, to continue. Being both infinitely wise and infinitely free as He is, there could be no obligation placed upon Him, no requirement binding Him to continue unto failure before His witnesses. If He could not complete His project and did not know it, He would not be worthy of the name and title of God. Therefore, we conclude that He proceeded both knowingly and willingly, knowing that neither angels, men, nor devils could accuse Him of starting a project, a tower, that He was unable to bring to a satisfactory conclusion.
Satisfactory? Indeed. All creation revolves around the grace displayed in the cross of His Son, Jesus Christ the Lord. "He shall see of the travail of His soul, and shall be satisfied: by His knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for He shall bear their iniquities (Isaiah 53.11)." To satisfactorily complete His tower, to His own honor and everlasting glory, through Jesus Christ, is what His building project called "the Creation" is all about.
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