Sunday, July 26, 2015

From Guilt to Grace

You may wonder what this picture of a cat has anything to do with the title, so let me say this cat's name is Grace. And Grace, too, has... "the earnest expectation of the creature" that "waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God." (Romans 8:19) For all creatures were made to praise the Lord. When I go to see my grandson, Grace longs for attention, and in a small way, she is like me when I go to my Abba Father. She loves for me to pay her some attention and soon starts rumbling with purrs of joy. In the same way I am happy when I realize that my own guilt has been put away thanks to Another, who bore it for me. Knowing that I am loved perfectly brings me all the peace my heart longs for. And it was all from a free gift from the One foretold to come from the beginning of human history.

David, who only had the Torah, somehow understood this gift of free grace when he wrote in Psalm 32:1:

"Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered."

David was guilty of murder in the first degree when he had Uriah the Hittite killed in the line of battle after he himself impregnated Uriah's wife Bathsheba. David walked around for a good while knowing he had committed this grievous sin but not acknowledging it before God. The man who was said to "be after God's own heart" had blood on his hands. It was only after the son borne from their adultery was taken that he came clean after a visit from the prophet Nathan.

Nathan told him the story of a rich man who had been given nearly everything he wanted and a poor man who had only ewe lamb. The rich man decided all he owned was still not enough and stole the poor man's ewe lamb away. When David heard this story, at first he did not recognize that it was about him. He said to Nathan:

"...As the LORD liveth, the man that hath done this thing shall surely die..." (II Samuel 12:5)

Then Nathan revealed the truth to David saying, "Thou art the man." (II Samuel 12:7)

It was this experience that David wrote about in Psalm 32. Somehow, he knew that God would provide a sacrifice to forgive his sin and cover his guilt. He knew this, even though Christ had not yet come into the world. He knew and relied upon the promise that his forefathers in the faith also relied upon. In the first book of the Bible, the sacrifice to come was revealed to Abraham and Isaac upon Mount Moriah.

"And Abraham said, My son, God will provide Himself a lamb for a burnt offering..." (Genesis 22:8)

This same concept is revealed in the New Testament in the little word "aphiemi." This word is used in Mark 2:10, which speaks of the Son of man having the power to forgive sins. What Adam forfeited when he chose his way over God's in the garden of Eden, the Son of man came to fully restore. There are 88 references in the New Testament to the Son of man, Jesus Christ.

We can have peace in a world gone beserk from knowing that Christ has come and taken away our sins, which is one of the definitions of this word, "aphiemi." In my Zodhiates Hebrew Greek Key Study Bible, it says of this word (#863 in the Greek Lexicon to the New Testament): "from apo from and hiemi to send. To send away, dismiss...The expression "to forgive sins" means to remove the sins from oneself. Only God is said to be able to do this.(Mark 2:10)"

“But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins”—He said to the paralytic,“I say to you, arise, take up your bed, and go to your house.”

Zodhiates continues: "To forgive sins is not to disregard them and do nothing about them, but to liberate a person from them, their guilt, and their power."
(Emphasis mine) Definition from page 1672 in Hebrew Greek Key Study Bible, compiled and edited by Spiros Zodhiates, ThD, AMG Publishers, 1986.

I only touched the tip of the iceberg on the concept of our sins being taken away by Christ's atoning sacrifice. You might also be blessed, as I am, in finding all the references of Jesus as the "Son of man" in the New Testament. One thing I know, I do not have to live with yesterday's failures, or to try to do something good to make up for something bad. I only need to look away from myself, to Another.

Psalm 89:15 "Blessed is the people that know the joyful sound: they shall walk, O LORD, in the light of thy countenance."

Reader, do you know the joyful sound today? Put your faith that what Christ did was enough, and walk in the light of His countenance.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Suffering for our own faults

21 "I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good. 22 For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. 23 But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. 24 O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25 I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!"

Romans 7: 21-25

What a time we are living in. I shake my head and wonder how it came to be like this. I am tempted to despair as I watch things slowly collapsing around me. I feel like the Psalmist, who said, "There are many who say,“Who will show us any good?” LORD, lift up the light of Your countenance upon us." Psalm 4:6

Today I despaired because of my own sin. On top of that, I heard of a young man (a friend of my son's) who took his own life. I walked past the funeral home where people came from all over to give their condolences. I never saw so many cars lined up everywhere for a funeral. I couldn't help but think to myself, if only the young man would have known how many people cared about him, maybe he wouldn't have ended it that way? But it is too late now, too late for second chances, too late to tell him anything. He has passed beyond the veil.

And yet I remain on this earth, wondering what will happen next, and somehow must find strength to keep running faith's race. I didn't feel well today, and I let it get to me. I argued with my husband and then felt angry with myself for what I said. Yet why was I expecting anything good to come out of me, from my own human viewpoint without relying on Christ?

John Nelson Darby wrote once that, "We find the greatest difficulty often in bringing our sorrow to God. How can I do so, some may be saying, as my sorrow is the fruit of my sin? How can I take it to God? If I was suffering for righteousness' sake, then I would, but I am suffering for my sin; and can I, in the integrity of my heart towards God, take my sorrows to Him, knowing I deserve them?

Yes the Lord Jesus has been to God about them. This, then, is the ground on which I can go. There has been perfect atonement for all my sins; Christ has been judged for them. Will God judge us both? No, I go to Him on the ground of atonement, and God can justly meet me in all my sorrow, because Christ's work has been so perfectly done."
(From None but the Hungry Heart edited by Miles Stanford, for the day of June 7, emphasis mine)

Did you read what Darby wrote? Jesus has been to God about our failures for today, even though we should have known better. One might think He wanted us to do some good thing in order to make up for the bad thing we did. But that is telling God we don't quite think it was finished enough! But Jesus said it was totally finished, and so, even if we are tempted to berate ourselves for our failures, we can choose by faith instead to think of how great and merciful a God we have, who foreknew all our failures in advance.

It is not about us trying to be good, it is about Him being formed in us. Over and out. Christ inside of us is our only hope, as Paul wrote in Colossians 1:27:

"To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory." (emphasis mine)

I glorify God when I take Him at His Word instead of wallowing in my own failure. The tricks of our enemy only grow more and more devious as he tries to ensnare us in these last days. But if I keep my eyes on Jesus, I will overcome.

Lord, let me be like the ones described in Revelation 12:11: “And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death."

Monday, July 6, 2015

Tears of the Oppressed

Habukkuk 3: 16 "I heard and my inward parts trembled,
At the sound my lips quivered.
Decay enters my bones,
And in my place I tremble.
Because I must wait quietly for the day of distress,
For the people to arise who will invade us.
17 Though the fig tree should not blossom
And there be no fruit on the vines,
Though the yield of the olive should fail
And the fields produce no food,
Though the flock should be cut off from the fold
And there be no cattle in the stalls,
18 Yet I will exult in the LORD,
I will rejoice in the God of my salvation.
19 The Lord GOD is my strength,
And He has made my feet like hinds’ feet,
And makes me walk on my high places.
For the choir director, on my stringed instruments."

I have been thinking a lot about oppression lately, about so many in this world who are downcast right now. Whether it is from standing up for their faith and receiving persecution, or from sin which ensnares us, or just the state of the world as it is right now. In fact, I woke up this morning feeling oppressed myself. Long standing difficulties don't appear to have an end, I feel pain in my body, and sadness about the state of the world all contributed to this. But thank God, I know where to go when I am sad: only to my Lord. The other day I read in Ecclesiastes, chapter 4. It seemed the first verse leaped off the page at me, as if Solomon spoke for the whole world:

4: 1 "Then I looked again at all the acts of oppression which were being done under the sun. And behold I saw the tears of the oppressed and that they had no one to comfort them; and on the side of their oppressors was power, but they had no one to comfort them." (emphasis mine)

It was as if the Lord said to me, think about all the other people in the world who are oppressed right now! Yes, I have problems, yes I have difficulties and sorrows, but there are millions, billions even, who walk in darkness and don't see where to turn in the midst of their troubles. On the other hand, I know where the solutions are: in Jesus Christ, the ultimate solution who died for our sins on the cross. I am encouraged then to pray for them, the downcast in North Korea, China, Vietnam, Eritrea, Kenya, Sudan, Honduras, Mexico, Laos, Tibet, Morocco, Algeria, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Indonesia, Malaysia, Russia, and on and on. I could list every country in the world, for their are those that suffer in every land. God knows their names, God knows their faces,and He longs to be gracious to them.

So I ask Him to look upon them today, the ones who are searching. I pray, "Oh Lord, send out laborers into Your harvest while their is still time!"
John 4:36 “Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, and then comes the harvest’? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look on the fields, that they are white for harvest."

for He says,
Behold, now is “THE ACCEPTABLE TIME,” behold, now is “THE DAY OF SALVATION”—

II Corinthians 6:2

As I prayed to Him this morning, I felt empty as I approached His throne of grace. But I lifted myself out of my own pit by praising Him, even though I didn't feel like it. As I did, I saw that I am able to rise once again over my problems. Not in my own power, but in His power, His strength, His stamina. Mostly today, I just prayed back His Word to Him. Though struggling, I praised Him with Psalm 150, the last Psalm of the Bible, which is a command to praise the Lord. It says:

1 Praise the LORD!
Praise God in His sanctuary;
Praise Him in His mighty expanse.
2 Praise Him for His mighty deeds;
Praise Him according to His excellent greatness.
3 Praise Him with trumpet sound;
Praise Him with harp and lyre.
4 Praise Him with timbrel and dancing;
Praise Him with stringed instruments and pipe.
5 Praise Him with loud cymbals;
Praise Him with resounding cymbals.
6 Let everything that has breath praise the LORD.
Praise the LORD!

Yes, there may be no fig tree blossoming, or no fruit on the vines. But God wants me to ask Him to send forth laborers, to hear the cry of those in this world who have no hope at all. A good friend of mine just had a death in the family. It was her mother in law, who was over 100 years old and a believer. This woman knew she was dying and asked for her family so she could say goodbye. Near the very end, she looked up, gasping in anticipation before taking her final breaths. Her family rejoiced more than grieved, for they knew where she was going, and knew that she was in a place where there is no more sorrow or pain. They were not ones that grieved with no hope (I Thessalonians 4:13).

This is the kind of hope you can have too if today you are without Christ, if you don't understand what is going on all around us, if you are feeling oppressed. Take the gracious cup of salvation that is offered to you by believing in the One who died in your place, so that you can have eternal life and no separation from God in eternity. It is called the "Great Exchange." He took our sins, and we in turn take His righteousness. What a gift!

18 Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, 19 namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and fnHe has fncommitted to us the word of reconciliation.
20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. II Corinthians 5:18-21

Do it today, before it is too late!