Since I took a look at the Psalms yesterday I’ll continue today with the next one, number 106. The Psalms are very human expressions of both the good and the bad in people. Psalm 106 has a series of lessons about how God cared for His people, Israel, and how they soon forgot His care and rebelled from Him. I think of that today as some people will see the flooding that wipes out homes and livelihoods, tornadoes that destroy whole towns, senseless killings that take too many lives, and they ask the question “how could a good God of love allow these things? He’s not a god I want to believe in.” But those same people seem to forget the years of providence, of blessings, and of good that God has given. They seem to think that the good is somehow of their own intelligence and ability, while the bad is blamed on God. On the contrary, the fault is all ours. We are sinful and rebellious people to the core. It is this that has broken our world. Any good that exists is purely of God’s grace, and the greatest of that grace is seen in the redeeming sacrifice of His Son, Jesus Christ. It is only in the light of that grace that we can understand anything in our broken world. Let’s not be those who forget.
I wrote yesterday about the priceless value of God’s gift of our redemption in Jesus Christ. There is another aspect that is important. We see a gift as valuable depending upon the depth of our need for that gift. It is nice to find a $5 bill laying on the sidewalk, but we would have continued on doing what we were doing without it. To a man in the desert dying of thirst a bottle of water is of utmost value. Understanding the gift of our salvation in Jesus Christ only has a true depth of value when we realize how lost and separated we are from our Holy God because of our sin.(Romans 3:23) We are worse off than the man dying of thirst in the desert. The problem for modern society is that we really don’t think we are that bad. We love the phrase “well, nobody’s perfect”. Very true, but God is. How can we imperfect people come to a perfect and holy God? “Oh”, but we say, “God is love and doesn’t reject anyone”. But that really is not what the Scripture says. “…without holiness no one will see the Lord.”(Hebrews 12:14) And holiness is not something we can achieve by our good works. It can only be given to us as a free and unearned gift through the sacrifice of Christ. In our own nature we are truly dying of thirst in the desert. When we realize this the living water of life in Christ is of supreme value. “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”(Romans 5:8) In that truth we truly bow in worship and thanksgiving.
I have two baptisms coming up in the near future. One of my grandson that I mentioned earlier in the week. The other an adult who has been faithfully coming to church for some months. An important truth about baptism is that it is God’s work of regeneration in the life of the baptized. Each time we see a baptism we are reminded that this is what God had done for us in our own baptism. Even at six weeks of age when I was baptized God brought me into His new life, He redeemed me, gave me the indwelling presence of His Spirit, and delivered me from death and the power of the devil. He did that for each of us when we were baptized. It is nice to feel close to God, to feel His presence and guidance for our days. But whether we do or not, we live with the solid truth that we were redeemed by the precious blood of Jesus Christ, and that was applied to us personally in our baptism. That date, that certificate, is important. God did that, and neither my present mood nor the devil’s lies can change it. We can trust God’s good grace.
According to our church liturgical calendar we are in the Easter Season. This coming Sunday is the fourth Sunday of Easter, though every Sunday is a celebration of the resurrection of our Lord. Christians have the very center of their lives in the God-given events of Good Friday and Easter Sunday. Nothing surpasses these events in the history of mankind. St. Paul will speak of the “unfathomable riches of Christ”(Ephesians 3:8); a gift that He “lavished upon us”(Ephesians 1:7-8); and the “surpassing, (or exceeding) greatness of His power toward us who believe.”(Ephesians 1:19) We are talking about the difference this one event makes in our personal lives, the difference between being in the eternal presence of God’s love, or the unfathomable darkness of being separated from Him forever. Our God has redeemed us from sin, death, and the power of the devil, giving us a new and eternal life in Jesus Christ. In that truth every day is an Easter celebration.
How do you measure sin? “Oh, there he goes talking about sin again!” It is just that unless we face the reality of sin we do not see the reality of God’s love. So the question is, how do you measure sin? We’ve just heard on the news that two very dangerous murders escaped from a New York prison. Well, we are certainly not as bad as they are. We’ve never murdered anyone,and don’t have all the police looking for us. We are better than those terrible sinners. We can always look around and find someone we think is worse than we are. Unfortunately, other people’s behavior is not the standard of measure that God uses. Scripture declares that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”.(Romans 3:23) The holiness, the glory of God is the standard by which all are measured. We are not looking so good now! But it is just here in facing this reality that we begin to understand the depth of what God has done for us in Jesus Christ. The Romans verse continues, but they “are justified freely by (God’s) grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus”. Big words, but it simply means that God did for us what we could not possibly do for ourselves, bridge the gulf that our sins have made between ourselves and our God. That is a depth of love beyond all others.
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.
When I write, as I did yesterday, about God as the author and source of life, and breathing life into us, we come up against the creation/evolution debate. I’m not all that concerned about there being billions of years of the cosmos existence. I don’t know what happened to this 8000 mile diameter ball of rock we live on before God said, “let there be light” bringing order out of chaos. What I do express as an essential truth of our faith is that we did not come from some lower form of life, and that at some point in time past, we were created by God complete and without sin. And further, it was from this sinless initial state that we later rebelled from the will of our God, becoming estranged from Him ever since. If it were not true that we began in a sinless relationship with our Creator, and later broke that relationship by our rebellion, there would be no need for a Redeemer, and the whole of Scripture becomes reduced to ancient history topped off with a few moral lessons. This, tragically, is the way many treat God’s Word today. The message we declare in Jesus Christ is that, apart from Him, we are eternally separated from our Creator. By His gracious sacrificial act we have been redeemed and restored to our Lord.
It is easy to look around and see the corruption, pain, and folly surrounding us in life. It is here that we live, work, and try to raise our families in a proper way. We can quickly become discouraged, but there is another truth that we must keep in mind. This is not all there is. There is great hope ahead of us. The Old Testament prophet spoke, and the New Testament confirmed, “Behold, I will create new heavens and a new earth. The former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind. ….the sound of weeping and of crying will be heard in it no more. (Is.65:17-19) This is the hope upon which our hearts are established. But not only this. The Lord has not left us to flounder until the promise is fulfilled. He has come among us. He has redeemed us. He does, even now, pray for us. And He has given us His Spirit as our guide and strength in all times of life. The Lord, Himself, is our guarantee that His word will be fulfilled. We can look forward with expectancy and hope.