Holiness Made Its Home Among The Cursed

At Easter, it is natural to reflect upon the death and resurrection of Christ. This year, I find myself also thinking upon the broader scope of His life and its meaning for us. What does it mean that He was Emmanuel? What does it mean that God not only forgave our sins, but came to dwell among us, the sinners? It means God was not merely after forgiveness, but restoration. Restoration of the world in its entirety. Restoration of the human condition in its entirety.

You don’t have to look far to see that we live in a broken world. There is pain. There is injustice and evil and grief. We can find that even our greatest joys can be tinged with sadness as if we know things are still not what they should be. We can be haunted by the dauntless specter of death, our one shared and final fate though something tells us it shouldn’t end that way. Why? Why is the world fraught with sorrow? Why does life end in death? Because we are fallen. We bear the curse of our sin and every square inch of creation bears it with us (Romans 8).

Yet in the life of Christ, we see mercy dawning. We see God retracing the steps of the Fall. We see the Holy One enter the cursed womb and set into motion our ransom, our rescue. The first place He sent sin’s curse was the first place He sent sin’s cure. And there is nowhere else He has commissioned His curse that He has not also commissioned His grace, no scars of His judgment that He has not also touched with the healing of His redemption.

The incarnation means that Holiness made its home among the Cursed. Yahweh, a name too sacred to be spoken by our tainted lips, became Emmanuel, God With Us. How astounding that the holy, eternal God entered into the wasteland of our transgressions. How astonishing to see Him be born of a sinful woman, labor among the thorns and thistles of our cursed ground, touch and heal the sick and perishing, and finally, die the shameful death of a common sinner.

Christ, the God-man, our lamb and conqueror, subjected Himself to our curse that He might defeat our curse. The Lord laid on Him the iniquity of us all (Isaiah 53:6). Who could but falter under such an unfathomable burden? Yet, He never did. He carried it to completion and finally, cast it off, hurling our iniquities into the depths of the sea (Micah 7:19) and with them, our condemnation. Now we find the wrath of God is quenched, spent, satisfied like a fire which finds nothing left to burn. Its cup is emptied. Not a drop remains for He drank it all for thee.

What, then, remains for us to fear? What part of our curse shall hold terror for us still? Shall we fear the womb, be it emptied or filled or aching with the pain of loss? No, for our Lord has been there. Shall we live in dread of sickness? Jesus has taken up our infirmities (Isaiah 53:4). Shall we falter under the burdens of loneliness, grief, persecution? He has been well acquainted with them all (Isaiah 53:3). Shall we tremble as we face our final breaths? No, for Christ has breathed them before us.

He has lived and hurt and died, not merely pardoning us from afar, but entering fully into our human experience and leaving grace for all and in all in His wake. Yes, this ground we tread is cursed still, but now Holiness has been here, sowing the seeds of redemption. For now, they may seem to lie dormant as in winter, or barely shooting up, as in the first, fledgling moments of spring, but someday…someday, they will burst into full bloom. They will chase away the curse forever. All will be made new. It will. It will.

“The desert and the parched land will be glad; the wilderness will rejoice and blossom. Like the crocus it will burst into bloom; it will rejoice greatly and shout for joy….” Isaiiah 35:1,2

“But only the redeemed will walk there, and the ransomed of the LORD will return. They will enter into Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away.” Isaiah 35:10

jesus walking

Planned Parenthood, Abortion, and The God of Self

planned-parenthood

“An oracle is within my heart concerning the sinfulness of the wicked. There is no fear of God before his eyes. For in his own eyes he flatters himself too much to detect or hate his sin. The words of his mouth are wicked and deceitful; he has ceased to be wise and to do good. Even on his bed he plots evil; he commits himself to a sinful course and does not reject what is wrong.” Psalm 36:1-4

A new video was released today, a new video of stomach-turning callousness and cruelty. As I watched it, I wept. I don’t really want to argue about what is and isn’t legal because, frankly, none of this should be legal at all. I don’t even really want to argue pro-life vs. pro-choice. I want to get to the heart of the issue. What is the real issue behind abortion? I don’t think it’s merely a question of when personhood begins or whose rights trump whose. No, it is deeper than that. The real issue is that mankind is in reckless rebellion against God and we refuse to bend our knee to Him and the authority of His word.

In our day, we are obsessed with our rights. We take them to be ultimate. Personal autonomy is our God. The right to whatever makes us happy is our moral absolute. The issue of abortion then, is that we throw off any claims of authority that God makes over our lives. He tells us life in the womb is sacred (Psalm 139:14-16)? We tell Him it is nothing but unwanted tissue. He tells us we are guilty of murder? We spit in His face and tell Him it is our right to choose. To hell with Him and His law. You see, at the heart of abortion is that we refuse to worship God and instead, insist on worshiping ourselves.

The first problem here is a logical one. I find it interesting how adamantly we insist on our right to disobey God when, without Him, we cannot possibly have any rights at all. The American claim to liberty and autonomy was founded on the basis that “we are endowed by our creator with certain unalienable rights.” But if we reject the authority of the Creator, how can we still lay claim to the rights He gives us? And if there is no Creator, how can we have rights at all? The truth is that if there is no God, we have no rights. There is no truth. There is no justice. There is only “get what you can, while you can because tomorrow, you will be gone.” We can’t have our cake and eat it too. We can’t have the rights given to us by God without also submitting them to the authority of God.

The second problem is more serious. No matter how much we insist that we are our own God and authority, it doesn’t change the fact that we are not. God is God. We can pretend that is not true, but it always will be. We can say with the wicked man, “‘God has forgotten; he covers his face and never sees” (Psalm 10:11), but nevertheless, God has not forgotten and He does see. No matter how happily we make thrones for ourselves and dispense judgments that suit our own desires, we will one day stand before His throne and face His judgment. And that is a day we should all fear.

“All day long I have held out my hands to an obstinate people, who walk in ways not good, pursuing their own imaginations–a people who continually provoke me to my face” (Isaiah 65:2-3).

“Since ancient times no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you..But when we continued to sin against [you], you were angry. How then can we be saved?” (Isaiah 64:4-5).

We are an obstinate people.  We believe that we can live wantonly and willfully free ourselves from the authority of the Almighty God, but we are “pursuing our own imaginations.” There is no God besides Him and one way or another, we will all bow before Him (Romans 14:11). We can choose to do it now or forever in an eternity of judgment and wrath. We all are guilty. There is no one who is righteous before God (Romans 3:10). No, not one.

But despite our rejection of Him, God made a way for us to be saved through Jesus. The wonder of the Gospel is that God refuses to let us refuse Him. He pursues us even as we run from Him. He holds out His hands to those who spit in His face. Even now, He is holding out his hands to the woman who mourns what she did to her child. He is holding out His hands to the victim of sexual abuse. He is holding out His hands to the doctor aborting babies and even those selling them. He is holding out His hands to all of us. How then can we be saved? “Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, and that he may send the Christ, who has been appointed for you–even Jesus” (Acts 3:19).

How Should We Respond to Gay Marriage? Like Jesus.

A few days ago the Supreme Court of the United States of America ruled that gay marriage will now be legalized in all fifty states. I think this was surprising to no one. We all knew it was coming, but the announcement revealed just how polarized our nation has become. Some celebrate it as a great victory for civil rights while others lament it as a sign of our nation’s moral depravity. For bible-believing Christians, the question is, what do we do now? How do we respond and how do we do it like Jesus?

Why We Must Speak

Some argue that we shouldn’t care at all, that we shouldn’t speak. Some think this ruling will not affect us and so we should just be silent and go about our business, keeping our opinions to ourselves but this most certainly does affect us. It is not just that our nation does not hold to biblical Christian values. It is that it is becoming increasingly anti-Christian and hostile to those who hold biblical world views. Already, Christian bakeries have been forced to go out of business because they did not want to participate in a gay wedding. So, it is naive to think that gay marriage will exist in some kind of a vacuum and have no effect on religious rights.

But how it will affect us is not the main reason we must speak about gay marriage. None of this is ultimately about us. Sin is ultimately about God. Marriage is ultimately about God. If our choices only had horizontal results, how they affect others, then I suppose the general rule of thumb would be as long as it makes you happy and doesn’t hurt anyone else, it’s fine. Indeed, this seems to be the general moral philosophy of our day. However, I would say that the other and more important aspect of our choices is a vertical one. Our sin is against God. It dishonors the holiness of God and that is why Christians simply cannot be silent.

Jesus held to every word of scripture. Jesus zealously defended the holiness of God. Jesus never altered His views or message to make it more culturally palatable. Jesus did not fear the scorn and derision of man. He had one authority. He lived to please one Person and so should we (Galatians 1:10).

Why We Must Grieve

To see sin embraced and celebrated this way should break our hearts because we know what sin does and where it leads. Satan is a master deceiver. He promises joy, happiness, satisfaction, fulfillment, peace, but he ultimately comes to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10). Many are blinded. Many are in bondage.

Jesus wept over Jerusalem because it was not willing to turn to Him and find peace. Just as he said to Jerusalem, Jesus says to America, “How often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! (Luke 13:34). Our nation is in reckless rebellion against God. It grieves the heart of Christ and it should grieve our hearts too.

Why We Must Not Fear

I think a lot of Christians now feel a sense of panic and fear. We fear persecution. We fear for our children and the world they will grow up in, but let’s be reminded of the God we serve. He is not surprised. He is not worried. He didn’t wait for the Supreme Court decision and then think, “Darn, what do I do now?” Our God is sovereign over all. The Lord is in His heaven. Jesus is on His throne.

“Have you not known? Have you not heard? Has it not been told you from the beginning? Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth? It is He who sits above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers, who stretches out the heavens like a curtain and spreads them out like a tent to dwell in. He brings the princes to nothing; He makes the judges of the earth useless (Isaiah 40:21-23).”

Let us lift our gaze to our mighty God. Let us “lift up our voice with strength, lift it up and be not afraid (Isaiah 40:9)” and say to the people, “Behold your God!” He is greater than any ruler. We should not fear man or circumstances, but look to the God who is more powerful and supreme than any supreme court here on earth.

Persecution may come, but if it does, “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you” (1 Peter 4:12). We must remember that nothing happens to us outside of the will of the loving and sovereign God who works all things for His glory and our good(Romans 8:28). This should also cause us to remember that this world is not our home, but we are “looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God” (Hebrews 11:10).

Why We Must Preach the Gospel

In many ways, nothing has really changed. The world is still the world. We are still the Church and our calling is still the same, to “go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation” (Mark 16:15). I think we must resolve along with Paul, “to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2). We must be careful not to proclaim our own self-righteousness, but Christ’s righteousness. We must fight having an “us and them” mentality, but remember the only thing that distinguishes us from them is the grace of God. We have to cling to the Gospel, the whole Gospel, and be sure that it is the message we send to the world. If we declare sin, let us also be sure to declare grace for “where sin abounded, grace abounded much more (Romans 5:20).” Sin is abounding in our nation, but there is more than enough grace through the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

We have been recipients of this amazing grace and now we are called to be “ambassadors for Christ” (2 Corinthians 2:20). To preach this Gospel is our one task (Acts 20:24) and to be like Christ as we do it should be our greatest ambition. And how did He do it? Think of how He spoke to the woman at the well. He boldly told her her sins without fear of giving offense and also lovingly and freely offered her living water so that she would never thirst again (John 4:6-14). To the woman caught in adultery, He cast no stones, but He did commission her, not to go and keep on sinning, but to “go and sin no more (John 8:11).”

Jesus loved even when it was offensive. He loved when it was costly. He loved when it hurt. He loved perfectly and effectively. On our own, we fall so short of this perfect love, but He lives in us and He will love through us. What an opportunity we now have to be the hands and feet of Jesus, to be light in the darkness. What an opportunity we have to love as He loves and not as the world does. So, let’s do it. Let’s cling fiercely to the truth of His word and proclaim boldly the grace of His Gospel.

The Gospel for Bruce Jenner

A few days ago I wrote a post about Bruce Jenner. My main point was that I don’t think this man is a hero. It has received over 2.5 million views and I have received some 4,000+ comments, many of them accusing me of being a hateful, judgmental, idiot. I am only human and I think we are all judgmental at times, but I really don’t think anything I said was hateful. I’m not sure when disagreeing with someone became the same as hating them, but there you have it. Nonetheless, it has compelled me to write a follow up post.

I have two goals when I write. First and foremost, I aim to exalt Jesus Christ, to show Him as the supreme treasure that He is, and secondly, to shed the light of the truth of His Gospel on issues here on earth. I have been accused of not showing God’s love to Bruce so that is what I want to do now in the best way I know how. I want to share the Gospel of Christ for Bruce Jenner, the Gospel for all of us. I will speak it all. I will not add or subtract. I will not be ashamed of the Gospel for it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes (Romans 1:16). So, Bruce, this is God’s message of hope and love to you.

Bruce, you are created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). You are God’s idea. You are fearfully and wonderfully made, woven together in your mother’s womb by the very hands of God (Psalm 139:14-15) You have intrinsic value and worth not based on your self, but on your Creator.

But Bruce, you have a problem. You and I both have a problem. Because we have sinned, because we have broken God’s law and marred his image, we stand guilty before a holy God. None of us is righteous (Romans 3:10). We all have fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). This sin has infected our souls, our bodies, even the very ground we walk on. It has so skewed our perception of reality that we cannot see the truth of God (Romans 1:21-23) nor can we see who we were meant to be. That is why we struggle to find our identity.That is why we look for it in all the wrong places, in money, in sex, in materialism, in fame, and even in altering your body to become a woman. We think these things will liberate us, but the truth is, they only keep us in bondage.

Not only that, but because God is holy and just, His wrath is aimed at us (Romans 1:18). Because of our sin, we are by nature objects of this wrath (Ephesians 2:3). Bruce, some people will try to tell you differently. Some will say that God is love and therefore, He just wants you to be happy and do what pleases you. Well, God is love, but if we don’t first see His righteous wrath, we will never understand or receive His amazing grace. The Gospel is meaningless and powerless to save without this truth. If we didn’t have a sin problem Christ would not have needed to die. But He did die. Why? Because the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). Yet, God has shown His love for you, Bruce, by dying in your place while you were still in sin, while you were still rebelling against Him (Romans 5:8) in order that He might give you eternal life (Romans 3:21, Romans 6:23, John 3:16) and set you free from the bondage of sin (Romans 6:18). You see, His love does not affirm us in our sin but liberates us from it.

Bruce, Jesus died as a sacrifice for your sins. He rose from the dead in victory over them.  He stands now, arms open, calling you to Himself so that He might freely pour out His grace and love upon you. All you need do is go to Him, but one thing you must know. You cannot get near the mercy of God without also getting near His holiness. You cannot come to the cross on your own terms. You cannot have him as Savior without also yielding to Him as Lord. Christ died to put your sin to death so you must put it to death too (Romans 6:5-14).

No, I don’t think you are a hero, but Jesus is. Bruce, are you weary? He will give you rest. Are you confused? He will give you truth. Are you struggling to find hope and meaning? Jesus will give it to you. He will give you life. He will tell you who you were made to be.  You were made to be His. Listen to Him. Answer His call.

Weary, burdened wanderer, there is rest for thee at the feet of Jesus in His love, so free. Listen to His message, words of life, forever blest. Oh, thou heavy-laden, come to me, come and rest

There is freedom, taste and see. Hear the call, come to me. Run into His arms of grace. Your burden carried, He will take, yeah yeah, He will take

Bring Him all thy burdens, all thy guilt and sin. Mercy’s door is open, rise up and enter in

There is freedom, taste and see. Hear the call, come to me. Run into His arms of grace. Your burden carried, He will take, oh, He will take

Jesus, there is waiting patiently for thee. Hear Him gently calling, come, oh, come to me. Come, oh, come to me. Come, oh, come to me

Won’t you come? Won’t you come? There is freedom, taste and see. Hear the call, come to me. Run into His arms of grace. Your burden carried, He will take

Easter Musings: Pursued by Grace

Our annual celebration of Easter is drawing near and so I have been thinking on what it is all about:  the life, death, and resurrection of Christ.  When I think on what it means for me personally and look back on my life thus far, I am struck by the fact that my story is a story of grace from beginning to end.  To quote the Psalmist, the Lord’s goodness and love have followed me and will follow me all the days of my life (Psalm 23).

It is one thing to say that we have found God and quite another thing to say that He has found us. Yet when we really consider our Gospel story, we cannot deny that that is really what has happened and that it makes it all the more wonderful and powerful.  I did not pursue God, but He has pursued me.  did not follow after God’s love, but it has followed after me.

The love and grace of God have pursued us from the beginning.  Our frames were not hidden from Him when He made us in the secret place, as we were woven together in our mother’s wombs, His eyes saw our unformed bodies.  Indeed, “all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be” (Psalm 139:14-15).  

He has followed us along every step of our path.  No, he has determined every step of our path with wisdom and love (Proverbs 16:9).  And when our feet have traveled down sinful ways that His holiness forbid Him go, He followed us instead to our rightful place of judgment, condemnation, and punishment.  We find that before we even came to be, His eyes were on us, His grace aimed at us, and His love compelled Him to follow us, nay replace us, on our cross.

This is Easter.  This is why we celebrate, because His grace has pursued us so persistently and His love enveloped our lives so completely that we are completely His.  “We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6).  “Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:9-11).

 

Good News: God Is Intolerant

There’s a rumor that has been floating around for quite some time that God is Love.  He hates nothing.  He offends no one.  He makes no accusations.  All he really does is pat our heads and tell us how wonderful we are and how much he wants us to do whatever makes us happy. Essentially, he is a tolerant God.

I am not sure what this God is based on, but it is not the God of the Bible.  It is a God of our own making, a God made in our mage.  I’ll admit he is appealing on some level. No one likes to be told they are wrong. No one finds it pleasant to have their sin exposed.  This God is certainly easy to get along with.  Yet I would suggest that this God of tolerance is not a God of love.  My last post was about the fact that acceptance is not the same thing as love.  This post will suggest that intolerance is not the same thing as hate.

The God of the Bible is a God of love, but that does not mean that He hates nothing.  In fact, I would argue that it is because He loves that He hates certain things, namely, sin.  The message of the Bible is actually that God’s intolerance and His love flow from the same place and work to achieve the same goals:  the glory of His name and the redemption of His people.

Suppose for a minute that God really was a tolerant God.  He might notice that we all sin, that this sin leads to our destruction and death, but he would do nothing about it.  Perhaps, he would see that what we think makes us happy really only makes us more miserable, but he would not lift a finger to stop us or say a word against us because he would not want to offend.  He would simply sit back and watch us as we ruined our lives, but oh he would celebrate with us that we were able to live freely unencumbered by old-fashioned rules and out-dated standards of morality.  This God might make a good pal, but not a very good Savior and above all, he would not be a God of love.  His tolerance would be convenient for him, but come at a very high price to ourselves.

Fortunately, this is not the Gospel.  God did not choose the path of convenience, but of sacrificial love. The good news of Jesus Christ is that God loves us so deeply and hates our sin so passionately that He absolutely refused to tolerate it.  He would not leave us in our sin and knowing that we were powerless to keep His law and meet His standards, He took our penalty.  His love for us has cost Him greatly.

The Cross is as much an expression of God’s wrath as it is of God’s love. It was as much an offensive action as a defensive one.  Christ died to save us, but He also died to defeat sin, to purge His creation and His people of the sinfulness that He abhors.  On the cross, His love and His hate coalesced to purchase our salvation.  So we find that contrary to popular belief and political correctness, we should rejoice to find that we have an intolerant God. For just as a good and loving Father refuses to stand back and accept the harmful and destructive habits of his child, so our Father has refused to accept and leave us in our sin.  Our God is intolerant and this is very, very good news for both His intolerance and His love have compelled Him to save us from our sins.