Thursday, March 30, 2006

Understanding why Christ had to die

One of the topics we are covering in Systematic Theology this semester is the atonement. When it comes to the atonement, one of the doctrines that is being heavily challenged these days is the the doctrine of substitutionary atonement, namely that Christ died as a substitute for sinners. Many people are trying to replace a substitutionary view of the atonement with other explanations of why Christ had to die. Now, I wouldn't disagree that there is more to Christ's death than a substitution to pay for sin. However, certainly the death of Christ is not less than that. In fact, I believe that the substitutionary atonement is at the heart of the gospel, and therefore, must be vigorously cherished and defended. Dr. Ware provided a very helpful outline that lays a basic theological foundation for substitutionary atonement and explaining why Christ had to die. I hope this will serve to strengthen your convictions.

A. Three Necessary Theological Factors
1) Humanity's Sin - All humans have sinned. This is true of us universally (Rom. 3:23). Sin brings guilt and condemnation (Gen. 2:17, Rom. 5:16-18, 6:23, Eph. 2:3). We are totally unable to rid ourselves of our own sin (Gal. 2:16, 2:21).

2) God's Holiness - Unlike us, God is holy. God is righteous, we are not, and therefore, God’s just wrath must come to us. God will not and cannot accept a sinner, because He is holy. The holiness of God results in God necessarily judging sin. Because God is holy, His nature is such that it must judge sin!

(Comment: So far, in points one and two, we do not yet require a cross. God can easily resolve points one and two by punishing our sin. If this were the end of the story, hell would do just fine.)

3) God's Mercy - God, in His mercy, loved us. (Eph. 2:1-4) This is the deciding factor of why there must be a cross. With this third point, God must now devise a means where the standards of His holiness are not compromised, and yet He may justify the ungodly (Rom. 4:5).
B. Necessity of Maintaining both God's Holiness and Mercy
1) Absolute Necessity of God's Holiness - God has no choice but to uphold the standards of His holiness, or He would not be God. If He were for one moment let sin go unpunished, He would fail to be the upholder of justice and fail to be God. The necessity of God's holiness is absolute.

2) Contingent Necessity of God's Mercy - On the other hand, the necessity of God's mercy is not absolute, but contingent. "Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated... I will have mercy on whom I have mercy and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion." (Rom. 9:13-15) Notice, there is no verse like that with holiness! (i.e. "With Dan I've been holy, but with Patrick I've been unholy") Holiness and mercy are not parallel realities in God.
C. The Cross as the Full Expression of God's Holiness and Mercy
1) Holiness Vindicated - God does not sweep sin under the carpet, but pays for it. Every last bit of our sin is paid by His Son. Think of all the sin of all your life that you have ever committed, every lust, hate, selfishness, pride, disobedience, apathy, greed,... Think of every last drop of sin ever committed, compacted in a moment of judgment, and feel the weight of what you deserve to pay before God.

Now, compound that with the glorious truth that "(God) made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf." (2 Cor. 5:21) This is staggering. For the holiness of God to be vindicated, every bit of his holy judgment must be borne by His Son, and that is exactly what happened at the cross. The justice of God is satisfied at the cross.

2) Mercy Expressed - The substitution above is the heart of the gospel. Mercy can now be extended to us precisely because the justice of God is satisfied.
D. Conclusion: The Atonement as God's Self-Satisfaction through Self-Substitution - God substitutes Himself in His Son for His satisfaction. This is the gospel and our hope and the glory of the cross.

Thoughts on John 15:1-11 - pt. 4

What happens when we abide in Christ?
Positive Motivation

- Those who abide in Christ bear fruit (vs. 5) – The truth is that at the end of the day, all of us deeply long to be fruitful people. Nobody wants to come to the end of their lives, (or even to the end of a year) and look back and see that they lived a selfish, unsacrificial, unloving, cowardly, and shameful life. All of us want to be able to look back on our years and see that we have lived with boldness and love and big-heartedness and generosity and honor. This can only truly happen when we abide in Christ. Only then are we freed to live fruitful lives.

- Those who abide in Christ have their prayers answered (vs. 7) – When we abide in Christ, our desires become aligned with the will of God and our prayers are powerfully answered. Much like the first point, we all want to pray prayers that make a difference in this world. If we abide in Christ, our prayers will not only be answered, but they will be prayers that matter. "Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart." Psalm 37:4

- We glorify God and prove to be Christ’s disciples. (vs. 8) – Our bearing fruit doesn’t earn our salvation but rather proves that we have been saved by God (vs. 15:16). In other words, when we are abiding in Christ and bearing fruit, it proves that God is at work in us to make us bear fruit. Our obedience is a result of abiding in Christ. And if we abide in Christ, we will obey his commands, not as slaves, but as friends (vs. 15:15), because we know that Christ loves us. When we obey God with such willingness and gladness, God is glorified.

- His joy is in us and our joy is made full. (vs. 11) – Why? Beause we remain with the Vine! We remain with Christ and in the care of the vinedresser, our Father. This is what we were made for. The main reason being cast into the fire is terrible is not because of the burning, although that is terrible, but it is because we are separated from the Vine. When we abide in Christ we are no longer slaves, but we are friends and our joy is made full. We have a taste of this joy here on earth... just enough to know that it is real. But the day is coming when we will have the entire banquet and on that day we will drink the fruit of the vine together with Christ.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Thoughts on John 15:1-11 - pt. 3

How do we abide in Christ?

- We abide in Christ by believing in the gospel. By believe, I don't mean merely an intellectual acknowledgment of facts. Rather, I mean to hope in the gospel, to trust in it, to depend on it.

- Some might expect that my answer here would be, "We abide in Christ by praying and reading the Bible." Now, those two things can be very helpful means to abiding in Christ, but the reason I didn’t name them primarily is because you can pray and read the Bible in such a way as to think that those things somehow commend you to God. If you prayed and read the Bible hoping that your actions would get you right with God, you would not be abiding in Christ. You would be abiding in your own self-righteousness and would have no basis for a relationship with God. Therefore, the very first thing we must do is to believe in the truth of the Gospel and to place our trust, our hope in it. We must gladly and eagerly bank all your hope in Jesus Christ and what he has done, for a right relationship with God.

- Now, we would not know the promises of the gospel and the trustworthiness of God to keep his promises apart from reading the Bible. And we wouldn't be able to confess ours sins and express our faith to God and plead for His aid apart from prayer. So prayer and reading the Bible are vitally important. But even as we perform these spiritual disciplines, we must remember that they do not earn us any righteousness. Christ alone is all our righteousness and it is faith alone that connects us to Him. Spiritual disciplines rather are means that God has appointed to help strengthen and increase our faith in order that we might abide in Christ. Doing spiritual disciplines are not in themselves abiding in Christ. Trusting in Christ is abiding in Christ. Spiritual disciplines help us to abide in Christ, by reminding us of how much we need Him and how helpless we are and how trustworthy He is. So if you are having a hard time trusting in Christ, a hard time living in a daily awareness of the glory of the cross, then my encouragement is to pray and read your Bible. Read and pray with the goal of seeing how weak and sinful and needy you are, and how beautiful and trustworthy and sufficient Jesus Christ is for all your needs.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Thoughts on John 15:1-11 - pt. 2

What does it mean to abide in Christ?

- The key command of this passage is to abide in Christ (vs. 4). “Abide in me... As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in me.” If you don’t want to taken away and cast into the fire, you’ve got to remain in Christ, to stay connected to him… but what does that mean?

– Abiding in Christ is specifically abiding in the love that Christ has for us (vs. 9). Jesus gives us the command to abide in him, but then he clarifies what he means in verse 9. As the Father has loved Christ, so has he loved us; and the command is to abide in His love for us. Notice, this is not a command to give love to Christ, but to receive his love for us. Abiding is mainly a receptive action. So abiding in Christ is not primarily our doing something for Jesus Christ, but rather it is our action of resting in the love that Christ has for us. It is a receiving of his love for us.

– What is the love Christ has for us? We see Christ’s love most clearly in the gospel; Jesus Christ points to his laying down his life for sinners/friends (vs. 13). To abide in Christ is to live a life of continuous dependence on what Christ has done for us in the Gospel.

- This helps us make sense of vs. 4. We see that abiding in Christ is a mutual relationship. “Abide in Me and I in you.” When we abide in Christ by trusting in him, he also comes and dwells in us and loves us and reciprocates that relationship to us. Christianity is a real two way relationship, initiated by God. God first loved us in sending his Son, and this results in a real relationship in which we abide in the love of Christ and Christ abides in our love for him.

What are the challenges of abiding in the love of Christ?

1) Habitual sin – We all struggle with sin and when we are sinning, the last thing we care about is Christ and the cross. When we are driven by sin, although we know in our brains that Christ suffered and died for sinners so that we would be holy, our hearts could give a flip about that and we would much rather enjoy our sin. Sin makes us forget Christ.

2) Guilt – And then to make it worse, after we have sinned, Satan will use guilt to fill us with doubt about whether God will forgive us for the thousandth time. How often do we struggle with guilt, and instead of turning to God right away for forgiveness in Christ, we think, “I better beat myself up for a few days and clean up my act and not sin and then God will hear my prayer”? That is a lie. That kind of thinking is not abiding in the love of Christ, but depending on yourself.

3) Apathy – There are just seasons of your life when you are just dry and apathetic towards God. During these seasons, sin is not a big deal and so the gospel is not a big deal. It’s just hard to get excited about the truths of the Bible ‘cause you don’t feel the reality of spiritual truths and eternity. During these seasons of our lives, it is hard to abide in Christ.

4) Blessing - Even during times of blessings, it also can be a challenge to abide in Christ. When everything is going well, our flesh can become proud and think that all these things are accomplished by our own obedience and wisdom, which will keep us from having a heart that recognizes that all we have is from Christ.

There are many, many more... pride, persecution, suffering, doubt, distractions, busy-ness... the list can go on and on. The bottom line is that we as humans in our flesh are wired to be independent, instead of dependent and abiding in Christ. This is why for even those who are abiding in Christ, there must be a constant pruning (vs. 2) in order that we might bear more fruit. Abiding in Christ is a battle we must fight everyday.

Thoughts on John 15:1-11 - pt. 1

John 15:1 “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. 2 “Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit. 3 “You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. 4 “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. 5 “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. 6 “If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned. 7 “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 “My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples. 9 “Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love. 10 “If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. 11 “These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.
Who are these branches?
Are the branches all the people in the world? Or are they a specific group of people? I don't think this passage is speaking to every person in the world, because it would make little sense to think of a Muslim overseas who has never heard the gospel being connected to Christ, the vine. We know from the context, that Jesus is specifically addressing the disciples. I understand the branches to be those in verse 3 who have heard the word of Christ and have, in a sense, been cleansed by it and are connected to him through it, because they know the truth. Jesus here is speaking to the disciples, but notice, that among the disciples there are true believers and a false believer, namely Judas. There is indeed a branch that did not abide in Christ. So I understand the branches to be those who have received the Gospel and are in the visible church, whether they are true Christians or not. This passage is to all professing followers of Christ.

Why would I want to abide in Christ?
Negative Motivation

1) We can bear no fruit unless we “abide in Christ” (vs. 4) - Bearing fruit means living a life of obedience to Christ's commands and thus, a life that glorifies God (vs. 12, vs. 8). Therefore, not bearing fruit is the opposite, namely a life of disobedience that brings dishonor to God. If we do not abide in Christ, it is impossible for us to bear fruit (vs. 5).

2) Every branch that does not bear fruit is taken away (vs. 2) - Not abiding in Christ will result in sin (not bearing fruit), which will result in being further separated from Christ (taken away). Sin, apart from the grace of God, always leads to more sin. Disobedience, apart from the grace of God, always begets more disobedience. There is a hardening effect of sin that will cause one to be drawn further away from God. Anyone who has fallen into habitual, repetitive sin knows the bondage of sin, which makes one powerless to fight it.

3) The branches thrown away are “cast into the fire and they are burned” (vs. 6) - I understand Jesus to be speaking here ultimately of hell. There are a lot of other parables that use this kind of language throughout the gospels, referring to hell. Some might argue that this is a refining fire, but branches do not get refined in fire. They are burned and destroyed. So what we’re talking about here is of eternal importance. Abiding in Christ is not optional for branches but matters more than anything else in life.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Sprinkling babies

Dan (my Presbyterian friend) and I have been recently discussing the issue of infant baptism and he has posted our arguments for and against it on his website. You can read them here:

Part 1 - Intro

Part 2 - Arguments for Infant Baptism

Part 3 - Arguments for Believer's Baptism (or against Infant Baptism)

I'll also let Mark Dever, a Baptist, weigh in on this discussion with his brief summary of five reasons against infant baptism:
1) Nobody disagrees with believer baptism. The debated point is infant baptism.
2) There are no clear examples in the New Testament of infant baptism.
3) There is no clear teaching on infant baptism in the New Testament.
4) The New Testament nowhere teaches a parallel of physical circumcision with physical baptism. In fact, Colossians 2 exactly parallels spiritual circumcision with physical baptism, that is, the circumcision of the heart with physical baptism. This would support the idea of baptizing only those who give evidence of being born again.
5) Historically, infant baptism is not in the New Testament, and it is not in the Didache, and early second-century manual of Christian worship. There is no certain record of it in the first century, or even in the second century. In the third century, there is certain record of infant baptism, but it is not the infant baptism which some of our Reformed Protestant friends teach. It is rather what the Roman Catholic church now teaches-that baptism actually effects our being born again, our regeneration, our salvation. The idea of infant baptism that some of our reformed Protestant friends teach, in fact, does not appear until after other Protestants in the 1520's have re-introduced the practice of believer baptism. It is really Huldrich Zwingli who pioneers the idea of an infant baptism that is not salvific or regenerating.

(From A Display of God's Glory 2nd ed., pg. 52)

Monday, March 20, 2006

Weekender quotes

Quotes from the Weekender Conference I attended this past weekend (which I would heartily recommend to all pastors and lay leaders... if you're interested, I would be glad to tell you more):

"Don't try to reform anything you don't love." - Matt Schmucker quoting Al Mohler on the danger of unloving pastors.

"How we live matters... more specifically, we are claiming that it is dangerous for the Christian to attempt to live outside the church and it is positively encouraging and good to live inside the church, to grow up in Christ within the family of God just like children grow up in a family." - Matt during the membership classes for prospective members

"A lot of people accuse us of not being humble. Let me tell you our understanding of humility. Humility is going to the Word of God and doing all you can to understand what it teaches. And once you understand it, you hold on to it and obey it and preach it with boldness regardless of whatever opposition you face. That's being humble." - Matt

"Seminaries make academics. Churches make pastors." - Michael Lawrence on the need for churches to train pastors

"All the worldly divisions in our congregation are an opportunity to preach the Gospel in our cooperation."
"If you ever doubt the limits of God's love, look in the mirror and realize that if God loved you, a sinner, then his love must be limitless." - Mark Dever in the sermon on Sunday

"There's no such thing as a closed country. You can preach anywhere you want. There's just no guarantee that you'll preach a second time." - Mark during the session on sermon preparation

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Gunter Klein on the kingdom of God

One of the things I'm learning in my NT Theology class is that you don't have to agree with everything a person writes in order to benefit from their work. Take for example Gunter Klein. He is a Bultmannian, being influenced by existentialism and the enlightenment and denying the historicity of the Bible. Yet he makes some very helpful comments on Jesus' view of the kingdom of God:
"(Jesus) projected no socio-political programs, he did not demonize the structure of society . . . and he did not call for revolution. This is not to say that he was for a moment blind to the repressiveness of his day."
He warned of the dangers of riches and power, but he did not call for an attack on the structures. Instead, he called for the payment of taxes, even to Caeasar. This is certainly not what the Zealots would've said.
"(In the command to pay taxes to Caesar,) Jesus sovereignly declares as irrelevant what apparently was the most explosive political question of his day; he even goes so far as to downgrade it to a trifle by referring to God's proprietary rights. But it is precisely God's claim which makes us aware that his rule will not prevail by man changing any kind of structures but only by man changing himself and by preparing him for God's coming."
To think that Christ's "kingdom of God" was focused on social structures primarily would be to miss Jesus' point.

Klein's Lutheran heritage also helped him see evil as being in the heart of man.
Locating evil in social structures "conflicts with Jesus' proclamation which so uncompromisingly located evil in man's heart."

It is not the transformation of social structures but the message of the gospel "which puts an end to man's self-idolatry and frees him for a new obedience."
Klein talks about how we can see transformation in individuals, but asks "can it ever be said of a structure that in it Satan has been overthrown by Christ"? Individuals are under Christ's lordship, but to apply this to structures would result in Constantinianism. But Klein strikes a balance:
"This is not to give the false impression that the condition of the world is unimportant. To the contrary 'the conversion of the individual as such brings about changes within the world.'"
So he's not a fundamentalist, but sounds very evangelical! Evangelicals see that political involvement is important...yet isn't the greatest change agent conversion through the gospel? Isn't the conversion of the heart the only way for the world to really be changed?
"(It does not agree) with the exuberance of some ranting revolutionary to build the kingdom of god. It seeks change because it has perceived God's mercy, yet it knows full well that changing structures does not bring salvation any closer."

"(Revolutionary ideology) leads to that fatal misunderstanding which says that Christ is gathering 'the dispossessed so they together might overthrow the mighty.' What here is laced with Christian terms and so unashamedly ideologized is the very opposite of love and would only succeed in perpetuating human conflict."
I think this is very insightful and right. Thoughts like this will become more and more relevant in the coming future. Be aware of overly naive, simplistic, utopian appropriations of Christ's teachings on the kingdom of God.

Opposite misconception

One of the themes we see in the New Testament is how Jesus' contemporaries failed to understand him. When Jesus came preaching that the kingdom of God was at hand, his Jewish hearers understood this to mean that Jesus was going to drive out the Roman rulers, win a great military victory for Israel and usher in the complete fulfillment of all of God's promises. But Jesus' inauguration of his kingdom was not as a warrior king, but as a servant king. He was anointed with the Spirit of God not to wage war in the streets, but to heal the weak and deliver the oppressed and encourage the downcast. Jesus' entrance into Jerusalem was on a donkey, fulfilling the prophecy of the arrival of a humble king. We see again and again that Jesus was a king contrary to the expectations of many and very different from the kings of his day. He did not establish his kingship by winning wars, rather he triumphed through suffering. When a disciple sliced off the ear of one his enemies, Jesus rebuked him and healed his captor. Even though at any moment, he could have called down twelve legions of angels to assist him, Jesus submitted to the cross in order to fulfill the Scriptures. It is astonishing how misunderstood Jesus was by so many of the Jews.

Sure enough, Scripture promises that Christ will come back one day, not to serve, but to reign. Yet, how ironic it is that as he was misunderstood in his first coming, from the looks of it, so also will he be misunderstood by so many on his second coming, except this time, they will have the opposite misconception about Christ. Liberals (in all denominations), health and wealth proponents, humanists, universalists, open theists, the Jesus seminar, emergents and many other camps in the church teach a Jesus who does not condemn, does not judge and does not impose his will on others. They are not anticipating a Jesus who is passionate for the glory of God and full of wrath over the sin of this world. How shocked will they be on the day when Christ is revealed, this time not as a servant on a donkey, but a king on a warhorse, ready to judge and wage war against his enemies. Instead of finding a Jesus that approves of their lifestyles and worldliness, they will meet a warrior-king who has come at last to establish his kingdom on earth and fulfill his covenant to Abraham.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

In the reckless raging fury

The Love of God
Rich Mullins

There's a wideness in God's mercy
I cannot find in my own
And He keeps His fire burning
To melt this heart of stone
Keeps me aching with a yearning
Keeps me glad to have been caught
In the reckless raging fury
That they call the love of God
Rich Mullins' description of the love of God has been a painfully accurate one in the life of my church. Piper defines the love of God as "his doing whatever needs to be done, at whatever cost, so that we will see and be satisfied with the glory of God in Jesus Christ." In the past two weeks, we have seen one of our college students diagnosed with a brain tumor and another one of our youth pass away painfully after a long battle with cancer. And oh, how we have grieved as a church over this. When one member suffers, all other members suffer with it. If Piper is right, then the love of God has been nothing but reckless and nothing but raging in the life of my church.
Now I've seen no band of angels
But I've heard the soldiers' songs
Love hangs over them like a banner
Love within them leads them on
To the battle on the journey
And it's never gonna stop
Ever widening their mercies
And the fury of His love
Yet in the midst of this suffering, I have heard the parents testify to their hope in God with trembling and tears. I have seen Christians brothers and sisters supporting one another with the courage of soldiers on a battlefield. And flying over these acts of hope and faith is the banner of the love of God. "Because of the Lord's great love, we are not consumed." "Though He slay me, yet will I hope in Him." If the love of God is a raging, reckless fury, then may He keep this band of Christians in the center of the storm.
Joy and sorrow are this ocean
And in their every ebb and flow
Now the Lord a door has opened
That all Hell could never close
Here I'm tested and made worthy
Tossed about but lifted up
In the reckless raging fury
That they call the love of God

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Relief pitching and marital counseling

If I ever should become a pastor someday, one of the most intimidating thoughts is having to do marital counseling. Dan Phillips makes a good comparison and gives some solid advice:
Some of the hardest, scariest, most dangerous, heart-wrenching work pastors do is marital counseling. (I can hear the Amen's from where I sit.)

The pastor is very much like baseball's relief pitcher. He's not called into action when everything is going great, as a rule. No, the manager waves for him when it's the bottom of the ninth, bases loaded, score tied, and the opposition's power-hitter about to approach the plate.

Similarly, couples often come into the study grim-faced, tight-lipped, angry, bringing years of entrenched patterns of behavior, scar tissue, grudges, and angry memories. Bottom of the ninth. Bases loaded. The breathless crowd leans forward.

And ol' Pastor Bud is supposed to fix everything.

So he tries gamely, God help him. Depending on his orientation, maybe he talks about boundaries, or love language; maybe he tries to teach the husband to think and talk more like a woman. He carries some Bible water around, trying to put out this and that fire -- some of them raging, some of them long-smoldering, like the volcanic belly of Mount St. Helens.

But what if he didn't? What if he did something totally different?
Read the rest here.

What do you have that you did not receive?

There are truths in the Bible that are so powerful that they would transform our lives if we would only believe them. One such truth is how God is the Giver of everything we have:
The God who made the world and all things in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands; nor is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all people life and breath and all things - Acts 17:24-25

What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it? - 1 Cor. 4:7

Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above
, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow. - James 1:17
This truth is one of the most powerful antidotes to the poison of pride in our lives. What do we have that we did not receive? NOTHING. Everything we have, our talents, our strength, our minds, our relationships, our possessions, our ministries, and every breath we take has been given to us. But make no mistake about it, we have received all these things as gifts, coming down from our heavenly Father. They are not payments that we have earned, but are gifts that have been given undeservingly.

And how undeserving we are! These gifts were not given to obedient children who do what they are supposed to do. They were given to rebellious, ungrateful children. In our sin, the only thing we have earned is death and destruction. Yet, we have received, and continue to receive, grace upon grace. I like C.J. Mahaney's response whenever people ask how he's doing: "Better than I deserve." Every second of life that we experience that is not hell is a gift of grace from God. This will be true for every second of all eternity.

Oh, if we would only believe this truth, that everything we have is an undeserved gift from God! It would create in us so much thankfulness, joy, humility, love, courage... and destroy so much of our envy, pride, complaining, insecurity, and a thousand other sins. May God be pleased to give us the gift of knowing Him as our all-sufficient Giver.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

I had no idea it was this bad

Mark 14:36 And He was saying, “Abba! Father! All things are possible for You; remove this cup from Me; yet not what I will, but what You will.”
It is astonishing to think that there was no other way for our salvation than the cross of Christ. If ever there was a prayer from the Son that the Father would have been pleased to answer, it would have been this one. All things were possible for God, yet it was not possible for Him to effect our salvation without Christ going to the cross.

The horror of sin is never so fully manifest until we realize what it took for God to bring victory over and forgiveness of our sin. The horror of sin is seen to be what it is when we realize what the cure required was, namely the death of the perfect Son of God himself. The severity of a sickness is seen in how radical a treatment is required, and never has there been a disease requiring so great a remedy as our sin. Sin is so utterly terrible that Jesus Christ, the God of the Universe, could bring our healing through nothing less than His own blood.

There is a teaching today that doesn't look at the cross of Christ this way. It teaches that the death of Christ displays not the wickedness of our sin, but the greatness of our worth. In other words, Christ's life was a fair market exchange for our friendship. We are so valuable in God's eyes that He was willing to give His own Son to bring us to Himself!

This is almost blasphemous.

The atonement does not show us our worth, but the cost of our guilt before God. The greatness of the atonement corresponds to the greatness of my guilt before God. Why is 100 billion years of hell insufficient punishment? It is insufficient because that much suffering is not enough to pay for my infinite guilt before the glory of an infinite God. This is why hell is an eternal torment. Oh, how great is our guilt, our debt that only the infinitely precious blood of Christ is sufficient to satisfy the wrath of God.

Throughout human history, in the current events, in our personal lives, we see many, many examples of how terrible and evil sin is. Yet, it is not until we come to the cross of Christ that we finally and fully see just how terrible sin is. It was only when I was struck with the truth that my sin could only be paid for by the death of the Son of God that I realized the full wickedness of my sin.

Before the cross, I had no idea it was this bad.

But aren't we valuable to God? Yes, you and I are valuable to God, but to equate our worth with the Son of God is blasphemy. Jesus puts it this way, "You are more valuable than many sparrows." We are more valuable than many sparrows... Let us be humbly grateful for that.