Do we really understand the magnitude of God’s holiness? Holiness is absolute purity, perfection, the epitome of all that is good and right. Do we really understand the depth of our own sinful nature? Sin is our rebellion from God, our putting our desires, our will above that of our Creator. Do we really understand the fulness of God’s love? Love that is not a feeling, but a total willingness to give, even to self-sacrifice, for the good of another. Do we really understand the magnitude of God’s grace? Grace is a free gift, something we receive which we do not deserve, did not earn, and have done absolutely nothing to merit. I’m not sure we really understand the depth of any of these. I know I don’t. We hear these words frequently in our churches – holiness, sin, love, grace. As we meditate on the meaning of each of these, and far more than I’ve expressed here, we begin to see something of who God is, who we are, and what God has done for us in Jesus Christ. We owe our life, now and eternally, to the One who has loved us so much that He freely gave the life of His only begotten Son to redeem us from sin and death, to bring us into His holiness. As we think about the magnitude of God’s act we come before Him in humble worship.
I do a lot of complaining! It’s easy for a Christian to complain about the times we live in, even as I did in yesterday’s GM. What is not so easy is to do something about it. I’m afraid I’m pessimistic enough about the state of the world to believe that there is not going to be a major change apart from the coming of our Lord Jesus. But that most definitely does not mean that I sit back wringing my hand, and crying “Oh poor me.” The Apostle Peter was one who knew his share of opposition from the world, but he gives us clear counsel. “Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened. But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.”(I Peter 3:15) We are people with the greatest hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. We have the greatest message of new life in Him. We live that new life in the midst of our own trials, and we look for the opportunities to “answer everyone who asks”. The world is full of problems, and far from the will of our Lord, but instead of complaining, it is more important to “give the reason for the hope we have”. I’ll try harder!
I have several old tape recorded sermons, and I even have an old real to real tape recorder to play them on. One of those messages is a 60 year old sermon by The Rev. Peter Marshall, former Chaplain of the U.S. Senate. He is speaking about the sins we all commit that nailed Christ to the cross. Mel Gibson made the film, The Passion of the Christ, with the same message. We can read hundred and fifty year old sermons by Charles Spurgeon and other pastors from the past with the same message. Or for that matter, the sermons of the Apostles Peter and Paul in the book of Acts 2000 years ago. The message hasn’t changed, and it will never change. Sin is real. It is rebellion from the absolute standards of Almighty God. Sin separates people from God, and requires the punishment of death. You are a sinner. I am a sinner. But God loves us so much that He was willing to take the punishment for our sin into His own body. The nails in Jesus’ hands and feet were meant for our own hands and feet. He willingly received the blows for us. Our punishment has been removed. Jesus has given us His righteousness as we stand before Almighty God. We have forgiveness and life the moment we turn to the cross. The message will never change. Hallelujah!
The Apostle Paul was on trial because of his preaching. In his defense he spoke of Christ’s suffering, death, and resurrection. The suffering and death are one thing. The authorities were certainly familiar with that. But when he got to the part about the resurrection it brought doubts and scoffing. The King’s adviser shouted “you are out of your mind, Paul. Your great learning is driving you insane.” (Acts 26:24) We can justify the suffering and death in a lot of different ways…. Jesus was in the wrong place at the wrong time; He got the authorities up set, etc. But when you add the fact that God raised Him from the dead, you have a whole different picture. You have a God event that cannot be dismissed. Almighty God took a specific action in this person, Jesus Christ, in the midst of human history. It has eye witnesses, and historical evidence. This is certainly an event beyond the normal, but it is not from an insane mind. All must face it, and ask Why? Who is this God? and What does this mean?
Christmas is over! We’re back to the issues of the Fiscal Cliff, the winter storms, tragic shootings, and Kate Middleton’s latest look. Stores are trying to unload Christmas merchandise, and get ready for Valentines Days. And in the middle of it all the Christ Child is still Immanuel – God with us. He doesn’t change. He doesn’t go any where. He can’t be put back into a box with the along with the Nativity scene. Jesus still seeks a response from all people. Either the acts of worship and devotion from those of us who love Him, or some decision about the nature and directions of life from those who try to ignore Him. The birth, life, death, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ has become a dividing line in the midst of life. As time goes on that dividing line comes into sharper focus. Our desire is for all to hear and find their life in Him. But whether they do or not, Scripture assures us that the time will come when “every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:12) The Christ Child cannot be put into a box.
People respond to a felt need. That is what this election season is all about. People feeling that the country needs this change or that program, vote for the candidate they think will meet the need. This felt need is also a problem with coming to Christ. They simply don’t feel the need. They don’t consider themselves sinners in need of a Saviour. They are getting along well and don’t need His strength. Besides Jesus would intrude on their time and life style, which they don’t need or want. This is all very subjective. Everything changes depending upon one’s feelings at any given time. What we proclaim, and pray for people to hear, is the objective truth that there is a God who created us; who made us for His purpose, and who loves us. He loves us so much that he came among us Himself in Jesus Christ. Yes, the subjective is there. He came to give us a good life, and do for us what we could not do for ourselves. But these are based upon the objective truths of God’s great love for His creation. These do not change with our feelings. They are extended continually by His gracious hand.
We use numerous ways to identify a person. For many years we’ve used finger prints which are unique to each individual, and now we have DNA, retinal scans, and dental records. We also use driver’s licenses, passports, and birth certificates. We are tracked by many government and non government agencies. Society wants to know who we are. Some of this is necessary, a lot of it is a nuisance. But there is one identification we desire everyone to see, that we are a Christian, a follower of Jesus Christ. Oh, we don’t need a fish symbol on the back of the car, or a cross around the neck. These are fine, but our primary identification is in the life we live. Paul wrote that the fruit of the Spirit (of Christ) is “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, meekness, faith, and self-control.”(Galatians 5:22-23) This is the nature of Jesus, and it is the nature that the Holy Spirit works into the lives of believers. As we grow in Christ, this is what people see, and hopefully want to come to Christ themselves. This is the only identification that really matters.
When a man and woman are married Scripture says they become “one flesh.” A new identity is formed. Neither is the same person they were before. They are a part of a new whole. In Genesis, the man and woman are taught to leave father and mother and cleave to one another. They are no longer two, but one. It is in this identity change that the illustration of marriage as a model of Christ and the church has meaning. Paul wrote, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!”(I Corinthians 5:17) The church is the Bride of Christ. We have a new identity in union with Him. We have taken His name, Christ-ians. The Bridegroom has come, and taken us to Himself. In His love and sacrifice, He has made this union possible. It is why the final consummation is called “The marriage supper of the Lamb.”(Revelation 19:9) This is the way we are to understand ourselves as Christians, and also in its greatest symbol, marriage. We are no longer two, but one.
We, i.e. much of society, spends a lot of time and money worrying about what others think of us. We spend billions of dollars on clothes and cosmetics, hair preparations and jewelry. We all want to look nice when we go out, but so much value is placed upon presenting a good image. It really doesn’t matter how we compare to others, or what they think of us. The only thing that really matters is what God thinks of us. God’s value is a heart that is clean and presentable before Him, but that is something we really can’t accomplish, try as we might. It is something that He has done for us in Jesus Christ. God has said, “I love you. I have given the atoning blood of My Son to cleanse your heart. In Him you are perfectly acceptable to Me.” We hope others like us, but God has demonstrated His love and acceptance of us in Jesus Christ. No other opinion really matters much.