Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Why Did Jesus Have to Die?

From For Your Joy by John Piper:

God put [Christ] forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. Romans 3:25

In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 1 John 4:10

Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us. Galatians 3:13

If God were not just, there would be no demand for his Son to suffer and die. And if God were not loving, there would be no willingness for his Son to suffer and die. But God is just and loving. Therefore his love is willing to meet the demands of his justice.

His law demanded, "You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might" (Deuteronomy 6:5). But we have all loved other things more. This is what sin is--dishonoring God by preferring other things over him, and acting on those preferences. Therefore, the Bible says, "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23). We glorify what we enjoy most. And it isn't God.

Therefore sin is not small, because it is not against a small Sovereign. The seriousness of an insult rises with the dignity of the one insulted. The Creator of the universe is infinitely worthy of respect and admiration and loyalty. Therefore, failure to love him is not trivial--it is treason. It defames God and destroys human happiness.

Since God is just, he does not sweep these crimes under the rug of the universe. He feels a holy wrath against them. They deserve to be punished, and he has made this clear: "For the wages of sin is death" (Romans 6:23). "The soul who sins shall die" (Ezekiel 18:4).

There is a holy curse hanging over all sin. Not to punish would be unjust. The demeaning of God would be upheld. A lie would reign at the core of reality. Therefore, God says, "Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them" (Galatians 3:10; Deuteronomy 27:26).

But the love of God does not rest with the curse that hangs over all sinful humanity. He is not content to show wrath, no matter how holy it is. Therefore he sends his own Son to absorb his wrath and bear the curse for all who trust him. "Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us" (Galatians 3:13).

This is the meaning of the word "propitiation" in the texts quoted above. It refers to the removal of God's wrath by providing a substitute. The substitute is provided by God himself. The substitute, Jesus Christ, does not just cancel the wrath; he absorbs it and diverts it from us to himself. God's wrath is just and it was spent, not withdrawn.

Let us not trifle with God or trivialize his love. We will never stand in awe of being loved by God until we reckon with the seriousness of our sin and the justice of his wrath against us. But when, by grace, we waken to our unworthiness, then we may look at the suffering and death of Christ and say, "In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the [wrath-absorbing] propitiation for our sins" (1 John 4: 10).

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Texas Style Christianity

What about us makes us want things bigger and better in everything we do? Pride? Perhaps. It is our nature. We do this with every undertaking, especially in America. Look at food portions in restaurants, the size of our grocery stores, and even at our religious landscape. We want to do things on a grand scale. But does that creep over into our mentality as Christians?

Yes, it does! God has called us to make disciples and to tell the nations about the Gospel of Christ. But even as Christians, we can buy into the mentality of doing it bigger and better than the next guy. We want to see scores saved, churches packed, and widespread repentance. Are these bad things? No. But we often fall into the trap of wanting to see the results instead of a pleased Father.
What makes it difficult is that we see so many "results" around us. Just in our local community, we have huge churches that are getting bigger, and new mega churches that seemed to spring up overnight. It is hard not to think fleshly and just wonder what they are doing right. But the secret behind it is that the gospel to them is nothing more than a product to peddle in order to get someone "in." And pastors and staff are gathering large groups of unregenerate, unconverted people together and calling it church. There may be signs of life and success on the outside, but they are full of deceived people on the inside.

But this certainly explains alot for me. Ever notice how most preachers resemble your idea of a used car salesman? They have the slicked up moussed hair, the fake smile, the please-them-all attitude. Why? Because they were hired to get results. They were hired to make this place grow and convince people they need to be here.

No one jumps into anything wanting to be a failure. But if your aim is to please your Heavenly Father, you will by no means fail. You may say, "Well, if we do the things God told us, success will naturally come. God told us how to be successful!" Not necessarily. Noah only took his family upon the ark. He had no other converts. Jeremiah spent time in prison for preaching against the sins of his people and telling of forthcoming doom. But they did not listen. Jesus gathered a huge following, but lost them all but eleven by the time of his death.

Let us not be tempted to do big things for God. The biggest thing we can do is become humble, submissive, and simply content to not look within, but look to please Him.


Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Feeling Sin

Have you ever had a dream so wrought with intense emotion that you awoke to feeling that emotion as much as you did when you were asleep? I had such a dream last night. The end of the dream was intense with terror and panic. . . so much so that I woke up suddenly, and it took a good hour before those feelings subsided. But in that hour, I wondered why I did not have such intense feelings toward the enemy of sin. I do hate my sin. I do loathe its awful renderings in my life. But the mere thought of committing sin does not induce within me the feelings of terror that were associated with my dream.

Could it be that I do not see sin as dangerous as it really is? As a Christian, I see sin as something detestable, but do I really feel and know that to my core? Perhaps sin is still to much a part of who I am to be truly alien to me and cause me to revile it so. But does sin have this effect on any man? It has had that effect on at least one man. Before Jesus' arrest and crucifixion, he met with much agony at Gethsemane. In Matthew 26, it says he was sorrowful and deeply distressed and he told his disciples that his "soul was exceedingly sorrowful, even unto death." In Luke 22 it says his sweat became like great drops of blood falling to the ground. And he cried out to the father, "if it is your will, take this cup away from me." The torment was great. The terror was real. But why was Christ, the one who had remained steadfast and bold in the face of opposition, now seemingly to recoil in fear? It was the cup. The cup of God's wrath and righteous judgement. It was a judgement against sin.

Unlike any other man, Christ had not known sin. He did know know what it meant to have sin coursing through the veins from birth. He did not know what separation from the Father meant because of sin. He was not ruled by sin or the flesh but ruled by the will of God. Yet, in a little while, he would become sin and be an enemy of God. It was something he had never known, and the terror struck him with the fierceness of all of hell. Yet he remained faithful.

Oh, may I not become friends with sin. May I not make treaties and become complacent and accustomed to its presence. May even the thought of sin. . . mutiny against a Holy God. . . strike terror within my heart. May it become as loathsome as a festering boil and as terrifying as the flames of hell.


Monday, September 8, 2008

The Overwhelming Love of God

Is God's love overwhelming to you? It is not possible until you see your overwhelming burden of sin. And that is not possible until you see the overwhelming holiness of God. Yet his holiness condescended to us to take on the form of flesh. And his flesh condescended to take on our sin. But he did not just bear the burden of sin. He became as sin. 2 Corinthians 5:17 - "For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God." He BECAME OUR sin by imputation. And once that transaction occurred, God poured his wrath and his righteous anger against that sin upon him. Can you fathom the wrath of our Holy God against what he hates: sin? And then imagine that cup being poured out upon you. Yet through this act, his righteousness was imputed to us who are born again so we can be found spotless in his sight. Oh what a glorious thought!

At times this love swells the heart to beyond its capacity. The love of God becomes as an encompassing weight that seems poised to crush to us if he did not restrain his hand. How marvelous! How wonderful! And my song shall ever be. How marvelous! How wonderful is my savior's love for me! May we all know the experiencing of his love today.