Thursday, January 8, 2009

Smile, God Loves You (??)

There has been a very interesting conversation going on over at William’s (Suppressed Truth in Church and Faith) blog. Lots of great comments. His post is on whether or not there is real evidence of God’s love for us as we go through life, or is His “love” for us simply a means to an end, i.e. carrying out His plan of redemption for His own glory.

Following this dialogue has got me to thinking about the love of God. I am asking myself some questions:

If I can’t believe that God loves me, how will I ever convince an unsaved person that He loves them?

Is it even up to me to make them believe that He loves them? God’s “love” is not the same love that we have for our fellow humans. (For an excellent exposition of “Agape” vs “Phileo” love, see one of Adam’s comments on William’s post.)

How can I prove God's love to persons who are as yet unaware of their true standing before a holy and righteous God?

How can I argue against the reality of sin and suffering in trying to prove that God is loving, when He is able, in His sovereignty, to stop suffering in the world?

In my musing, I was reminded of a situation in my life several years ago. My brother had a son with a girl (I’ll call her Becky). She and my brother did not stay together, and she eventually moved to another city, and became engaged to another man. This little boy (let’s call him Toby) was diagnosed with Leukemia. He began treatments, and many complications ensued, keeping him in hospital for several months. Becky was with him night and day during that time.

I had lost contact with Becky, but started talking to her regularly after I found out about Toby’s illness. He was 5 years old. It was all very difficult and sad. I brought these needs to my church at prayer meetings, and we prayed diligently for him. Several times he was gravely ill, with hemorrhaging, strokes, pneumonia. But he pulled through. We thanked God for bringing him through these crisis. Becky was encouraged, and kept a Bible on Toby’s nightstand. She prayed along with everyone else, and believed God would heal her little boy. (I should add that Becky was not a believer).

Days after his 6th birthday, Toby became well enough that the doctor was allowing him to go home on a pass on the upcoming weekend. Needless to say, all involved were elated. He really was doing better. Becky took a picture of him sitting in a wheelchair and drawing that same day.

Late that night, as Becky was in the hospital room with him, Toby suddenly started to hemorrhage from his nose and mouth. Becky yelled for help, and medical staff worked frantically to save him. All in vain. He bled to death, in front of his mother, his eyes wide with fear as he stared and her, beseeching her to help. This is the last memory she has of him alive.

In the months following his death, Becky and her fiancĂ© moved back to my city. I began visiting her regularly. It came to light that many errors had been made in Toby’s treatment. Becky became consumed with the details surrounding his death, and went through agonies of regret that she had not moved him to another hospital.

In all my visits to her, she confronted me with questions. I am sure you can guess what they were. How could a God of love take a little boy? Why did he bring him through all those times, only to let him die in the end? Why did he let the doctors make so many errors? And guess what? I didn’t know how to answer them.

Becky’s only consolation was that she believed she would see Toby in heaven some day. She asked me what heaven was like. Would Toby be happy there? Would he be missing her as much as she missed him? Her grief knew no bounds, as we can all imagine.

During these months, my church was doing an “outreach” program. It consisted of bringing unsaved people into the church to watch a video and have a discussion around Christianity (no it wasn’t the Alpha Course). The videos were very good in explaining the gospel, including the reality of our sin and need for forgiveness. I asked Becky if she would like to watch the videos, and she agreed. So for many weeks I borrowed the video from church, watched it with her at her apartment, then returned it the following Sunday.

Of course, in hindshight, I realize how ridiculous it was for me to do that. She was in the throes of mourning. She needed to be allowed to grieve. She was still in a state of emotional shock. Her pain was so great, it overwhelmed her mind and her emotions. She was in no position to give thoughtful attention to a series of videos on Christianity. They didn’t explain to her why her little boy was dead.

It's not that I didn't support her in other more practical ways, and just "be there" while she expressed the many painful emotions that she was experiencing. But I did feel a certain pressure to show to her, shomehow, what the love of God really means. I wanted her to see the reality of sin, its consequences, and God’s remedy in Christ. All well intentioned, but foolishly ill-timed.

OK, all this to say that when it comes to “proving” to unsaved persons that God loves them, we are always going to end up presenting a false “God” if we rely on anything but the Cross of Christ to be that proof. If we try to point out His “temporal” blessings, such as providing their needs, keeping them safe, healing their diseases, they will soon come up with ways to prove that in fact He musn’t love them, as so many tragic things are happening. If not to them, then to many, many people in the world. How could this God love people if He allows such suffering?

The title of this blog comes from a bumper sticker that I have seen around town. Whenever I see it, I am irritated; it proclaims a half truth. It needs to say “God loves you, but He is very angry with you because of your sin”, or “God loves you, because” and then a picture of the cross. (Not that I think bumper stickers are a particularly effective way of bringing the message of the gospel).

It seems to me that the best proof of the love of God to unsaved persons is in the Cross. Jesus, as He ministered to people, was kind and loving. Yet for those that came to faith in Him, it was the reality of their sin that brought them there. It was realizing that He was the Pearl of Great Price, worth more than anything this life had to offer, be it riches, comfort, good health or success. It was knowing that Jesus Christ could heal their sick soul, and that was the most urgent need of healing that they had.

Faith in Christ brings about a new perspective; one that is focused on eternity more than on this earthly life. It is only the made alive spiritual man that can understand these things. Otherwise, they are foolishness. Our natural tendency is to have a man-centered theology; a “Me-ology”, putting ourselves in the place of greatest importance; our comfort, our needs, our “happiness” in this life. But scripture gives much credence to the ultimate importance of eternal things. It also re-directs our attention to God as the Supreme Being, and ourselves as His much-less-than-perfect creation.

I see much nowadays in the realm of “Spirituality” that offers a false “God”. It is a god who lives to meet our needs, who loves us like a kind old grandfather, or magical Santa Claus. And when bad things happen? Well, I guess this god just couldn’t quite prevent them, so he likely feels real sorry for us, and so should we, for ourselves. It is a weak, powerless, less than holy god, whose time is spent in trying to prove his “love” to spoiled, self-centred creatures. He does not demand repentance, or obedience, or sacrifice, but lives to bring “happiness” and self-fulfillment. Truly a god of our imagination.

This isn’t to say that we shouldn’t exhibit the love of Christ to others. There is a patient, compassionate, condescension in the way our Creator views us. Along with the wrath that hangs over our heads, there is a desire on His part that none should perish (2Peter 3:9). Scripture does say that it is His kindness that leads us to repentence:

“Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?” (Romans 2:4)

I struggle with this issue a lot. I want to tell people that God loves them. But when they ask me to “prove it”, I know I am in for a debate, unless the Holy Spirit has made ready their heart to hear the good news of forgiveness through Jesus Christ.

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

Any thoughts out there??


Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing all of this. It touched my heart. You are such a beautiful person. I knew that, but this story and your thoughts about it just all the more confirms it.

~Amy :)

Leonard said...

It's a big un, I'm printing, back later.

ps. Hugs.

RJW said...

>It needs to say “God loves you, but He is very angry with you because of your sin”,...

Um, no. God dealt with sin at the cross. He isn't holding men's sins against them.

Wrath?? God's wrath was completely poured out on Jesus at the cross.

We live in a fallen world. Our inability to understand God's choice to intervene or not doesn't change God's character. He IS LOVE. Not Santa Claus. Faith requires us to believe in God's love for us regardless of what we see. If we could put God in a box of our understanding and tie Him up with a bow to give the world to pull out when they needed Him, that would be a pathetic God. Faith is easy when life goes our way. What about when we can't explain it? Doesn't the fact that there are unanswerable questions require MORE faith?

Maureen said...

Amy thanks for your stopping by. It was a very sad time. The happy news is that "Becky" has since given birth to a beautiful little girl, now 2 years old. And she is expecting another baby in March. I only wish she could recognize more God's hand of grace in her life. But it's not over yet, right?

Maureen said...

RJW (Jamie or Ryan?)

"We live in a fallen world. Our inability to understand God's choice to intervene or not doesn't change God's character. He IS LOVE. Not Santa Claus. Faith requires us to believe in God's love for us regardless of what we see. If we could put God in a box of our understanding and tie Him up with a bow to give the world to pull out when they needed Him, that would be a pathetic God. Faith is easy when life goes our way. What about when we can't explain it? Doesn't the fact that there are unanswerable questions require MORE faith?"

Sorry, I guess I didn't make myself clear. I completely agree with you. God is Who He is. Period. My point is that apart from understanding the gospel, that is, the Cross of Christ and all that it meant, we cannot truly understand God's love. If we try to present God as someone who makes one's life a bed of roses, then people will always be disappointed. A heart that has not seen its need of eternal salvation will only seek a god who bestows temporal blessings. And THAT is the "god" that I see presented so often in the world today. One that loves with a human, "sentimental" love, and proves it by satisfying all our "felt needs", rather than a thrice holy, offended Creator Who nevertheless extends PERFECT love in providing for our GREATEST need, that is redemption through the blood of Christ. Not that God doesn't give us many blessings here and now, and love us with a father's love. But He is much more than that. I think that in order to "sell" Him to an unsaved world, He is often misrepresented as a heavenly Santa, rather than Who He really is, because in our natural state, that is the kind of "god" that we want.

"Um, no. God dealt with sin at the cross. He isn't holding men's sins against them.

Wrath?? God's wrath was completely poured out on Jesus at the cross."

Yes, for those in Christ, their sins are totally paid for. But for those yet outside of Him, God's wrath remains for them, if they do not receive forgiveness and accept Christ's sacrifice as an atonement for their sins. If not, then why do people go to Hell? That's how I understand it, anyway.

Ruth said...

Maureen you've such a gift of writing !

Just wanted to say I snickered a bit about the bumper sticker :) Like people should just smile cuz, well God loves them . Like it's that easy.

People don't know they are loved, that's the problem. They have been blinded and held captive to thoughts of how unworthy and unloveable the are.

The wonderful joy of being loved is to be able to freely love others.

Once this happens, no need for the usual paraphernalia, just extend and give to others what is already there in your heart. When love has found a home in our heart, it just happens.

love u , r

Adam said...

Perhaps the Way we are supposed to "prove" God loves us is by living as His Ecclesia in Koinonia.

Church and "Fellowship" just don't cut it.

Jesus says "They (the world) will know you are my followers by the Love you have, one for another."

We probably need to start getting together in 2s and 3s (not 10s, not 100s, not 1000s) and letting the springs of Living Water flow from us.

Then it will be -- No proof required.

Then wait for the persecution, tribulation and trials to come visit us!

Anonymous said...

2 John 1:3, "Grace be with you, mercy, and peace, from God the Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father , in truth and love."

There are three words here that we need to be clear on in our thinking. They differ without there really being a great difference in the sense that they all apply to the same thing. The words are "love", "mercy", and "grace".

What is the the difference between the love, the mercy, and the grace of God? We read in Ephesians 2:4-5, "But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)." This is a wonderful Scripture because it combines all three: Paul says that God is rich in mercy, and because of His great love for us, He saves us bt grace! What is the "love" of God? Well, God is love. Before anything was created, God was love. Whom did He love?? Well the Trinity existed, and we know the love which existed between God the Father and God the Son (oops sorry cults)!! "Love is that in God which existed before He would care to exercise mercy or grace" (Chafer). Love is the nature of God; it is what we call an attribute of God. God is love, BUT the interesting thing is that the LOVE of God NEVER saved a sinner!!!!! The love of God caused God to move in the direction of mercy and grace; it caused Him to exercise mercy and grace.....praise God!!!!

Now the question arises: What is the difference between mercy and grace? Good ole Dr Chafer said, "Mercy, on the other hand, is that in God which duly provided for the need of sinful man." God is rich in mercy. Why is He rich in mercy? Because He is love!! He, by mercy, provided for the need of sinful man. BUT mercy DIDN"T save man!!!! Once again I quote Chafer: "Grace is that in Him which acts freely to save because all the demands of holiness have been satisfied." God today is free to act in grace. You and me are sinners who cannot provide anything for God! We haven't anything to offer to Him. But now grace means that God can come to us, lost sinners, and say, "I am love, and I am rich in mercy. I love you, and have provided by My mercy a Savior for you." Now if you will trust Him, "By grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves (praise God); it is the gift of God" (Eph. 2:8)!!!!

There is a fine distinction here between these words, and someone will say, "It looks like a distinction without a difference." Well....there is a difference in that which doesn't differ (not sure what I just said??)! Salvation all stems from the love of God, but God does not save by His love or His mercy. After all...our God is a holy God, and the Bible says, "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son...."(John 3:16). You see, God did not so love the world that He saved the world-He didn't do that!! God so loved the world that by His mercy He provided a Savior for the world, and He can now save by grace!

There is something else here that is IMPORTANT to see!! Salvation is not only an expression of the love of God, but it is also an expression of the JUSTICE and RIGHTEOUSNESS of God!! We not only need John 3:16, but we also need Romans 3:26: "To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus." In order to justify you and me when we trust Christ, God has to be righteous and holy and just!!!! He cannot simply open the back door of heaven and slip us in under cover of darkness. We are not fit for heaven. We are alienated from Him. We have no fellowship with Him. Communication broke down in the Garden of Eden, and He is the one who renewed it. Because He must be just and righteous, his mercy provided a Savior, and it was because He loves you!! He can be righteous and do this-"that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believe in Jesus."

Therefore, John can now write, "Grace be with you-that is the way God saves you! "Mercy"-mercy provided a Savior! "And peace"-when you have all this, then the peace of God that passeth all understanding is going to keep your heart! As John said, "For the truth's sake, which dwelleth in us, and shall be with us forever"!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

"In truth and love." Remember that love must be exercised in the context of truth!!!!

RJW...I'm sure you mean God's people when you say He isn't holding men's sins against them because Scripture is very clear that His holy hatred is building every day against the sins of man! One day that will be poured out upon this poor world and it will continue forever for those outside of Christ.

I'll address the age old question as to why do bad things happen to good people when the cramps leave my hands!

RJW said...

18All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them. 2 Corinthians 5:18-19.

Nah, I meant exactly what I said.

God's wrath was poured out on Christ at the cross.

Men will go to hell because they chose death instead of life, not because of their sins.

John 3:16-18 (New International Version)

16"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son,[a] that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son.[b]

Why is it so hard to accept what God FINISHED at the cross?

Anonymous said...

RJW.......You would have to do hermeneutical gymnastics of enormous portions to dismiss God's holy hatred for sin even after the cross! Yes, Christ died for the sins of God's people but if His wrath was spent on all people's sin, there would be no hell. Do you "really" believe that God is neutral toward sin?

One of the greatest evidences in 1 John that you are a genuine christian is that you are sensitive to sin. The believer will not sin as a lifestyle, but he will sin! And when we do... we should confess that sin, or you might say, agree with God that it is sin....AND the blood of Christ keeps on cleansing us !! We do not once "repent" but a genuine believer will continue to repent!

I would like to say more but this is Maureen's blog and I do not wish to battle... BUT I did originally say that we should love in "truth"!

Maureen said...

Really interesting comments. I am trying to understand the concept that all of God's wrath was satisfied at the Cross. (Funnily enough, Amy and I discussed this also, but she had a different viewpoint; rather that it was not God's wrath that was satisfied, but Sin (see Post/Comments "A Genuine Plea). It is my belief that Christ's death atoned for all who are "in" Him, and that for the rest, they will pay personally for their sin, for all eternity. This makes sense to me. This is how I have been "taught". I once asked an Elder in my church (a very gifted one), about Christ's atoning for all those sins on the cross, when others will spend all eternity doing it. Did that mean that He suffered the eternal pains of hell in that short time? He answered yes, He had. THAT I can't wrap my head around.

This is an interesting discussion. I want to dig deeper. It is always a good thing to know "WHY" you believe something, and be truly able to back it up with scripture. So........back to "Romans" I go, for a start, anyway.

RJW said...

Hey, y'all.

I never meant to imply that God's righteous judgement would not fall on those outside of Christ. For the believer, though, judgement is in our past. But I am saying anger and "wrath" are not the same things. God reconciled everyone in Christ because of His nature which is love. God isn't angry with anyone. But being wholly other: "holy", God cannot allow that which is not holy to have a place with Him in eternity. Believers are made holy by being in Christ.

I believe that Christ took the full measure of God's righteous judgement on Himself at the cross, thus reconciling EVERYONE. He that knew no sin became sin that we might be made righteous. Through belief.

I believe God "sees" in that sense two men in the world: Adam and Jesus. Believers are alive in Christ and unbelievers are dead in Adam. I do not believe people will face wrath because of their actions, but because they are dead they will continue in eternal separation. I cannot be a minister of reconciliation if I don't understand what happened at the cross. God was SATISFIED. The work was FINISHED.

Just out of curiosity, what do you think "not counting men's sins against them" means? I don't think "sins" have any meaning to God since Christ BECAME SIN and died AS SIN. There is Life or death and choice.

Mac, you know me...Jamie. I don't fuss. This is totally intriguing to me. I love to talk about what Jesus accomplished at the cross.

Repent: change one's mind. Sure, when I miss the mark of my new nature, which is Christ in me, I conclude: that's not who I am in Christ. But I don't ask forgiveness for what God has already FORGIVEN & FORGOTTEN. He calls me RIGHTEOUS. God is not concerned with what we do as much as who WE ARE IN.

Leonard said...

I have a friend, she likens herself to a spineless noodle, I liken her to a mighty bridge. If you've read this post You can vote here.

ps. thanks for playing.

Anonymous said...

Christ Dies under the Wrath of God

To obtain the salvation of "His people", Christ not only suffered the terrifying abandonment of God, but He drank down the bitter cup of God’s wrath and died a bloody death in the place of His people. Only then could divine justice be satisfied, the wrath of God be appeased, and reconciliation be made possible.

In the garden, Christ prayed three times for “the cup” to be removed from Him, but each time His will gave into that of His Father. We must ask ourselves, what was in the cup that caused Him to pray so fervently? What did it contain that caused Him such anguish that His sweat was mingled with blood? It is often said that the cup represented the cruel Roman cross and the physical torture that awaited Him; that Christ foresaw the cat of nine tails coming down across His back, the crown of thorns piercing His brow, and the primitive nails driven through His hands and feet. Yet those who see these things as the source of His anguish do not understand the Cross, nor what happened there. Although the tortures heaped upon Him by the hands of men were all part of God’s redemptive plan, there was something much more ominous that evoked the Messiah’s cry for deliverance.

In the first centuries of the primitive church, thousands of Christians died on crosses. It is said that Nero crucified them upside down, covered them with tar, and set them aflame to provide street lights for the city of Rome. Throughout the ages since then, a countless stream ofChristians have been led off to the most unspeakable tortures, and yet it is the testimony of friend and foe alike that many of them went to their death with great boldness. Are we to believe that the followers of the Messiah met such cruel physical death with joy unspeakable, while the Captain of their Salvation cowered in a garden, feigning the same torture? Did the Christ of God fear whips and thorns, crosses and spears, or did the cup represent a terror infinitely beyond the greatest cruelty of men?

To understand the ominous contents of the cup, we must refer to the Scriptures. There are two passages in particular that we must consider - one from the Psalms and the other from the Prophets:

“For a cup is in the hand of the LORD, and the wine foams; It is well mixed, and He pours out of this; surely all the wicked of the earth must drain and drink down its dregs.”

“For thus the LORD, the God of Israel says to me, ‘Take this cup of the wine of wrath from My hand and cause all the nations to whom I send you to drink it. They will drink and stagger and go mad because of the sword that I will send among them.’”

As a result of the unceasing rebellion of the wicked, the justice of God had decreed judgment against them. He would rightly pour forth His indignation upon the nations. He would put the cup of the wine of His wrath to their mouth and force them to drink it down to the dregs. The mere thought of such a fate awaiting the world is absolutely terrifying, yet this would have been the fate of all, except that the mercy of God sought for the salvation of a people, and the wisdom of God devised a plan of redemption even before the foundation of the world. The Son of God would become a man and walk upon the earth in perfect obedience to the Law of God. He would be like us in all things, and tempted in all ways like us but without sin. He would live a perfectly
righteous life for the glory of God and in the stead of His people. Then in the appointed time, He would be crucified by the hands of wicked men, and on that Cross, He would bear His people’s guilt, and suffer the wrath of God against them. The perfect Son of God and a true Son of Adam together in one glorious person would take the bitter cup of wrath from the very hand of God and drink it down to the dregs. He would drink until “it was finished” and the justice of God was fully satisfied. The divine wrath that should have been ours would be exhausted upon the Son, and by Him, it would be extinguished.

Imagine an immense dam that is filled to the brim and straining against the weight behind it. All at once, the protective wall is pulled away and the massive destructive power of the deluge is unleashed. As certain destruction races toward a small village in the nearby valley, the ground suddenly opens up before it and drinks down that which would have carried it away. In similar fashion, the judgment of God was rightly racing toward every man. Escape could not be found on the highest hill or in the deepest abyss. The fleetest of foot could not outrun it, nor could the strongest swimmer endure its torrents. The dam was breached and nothing could repair its ruin. But when every human hope was exhausted, at the appointed time, the Son of God interposed. He stood between divine justice and His people. He drank down the wrath that they themselves had kindled and the punishment they deserved. When He died, not one drop of the former deluge remained. He drank it all!

Imagine two giant millstones, one turning on top of the other. Imagine that caught between the two is a single grain of wheat that is pulled under the massive weight. First, its hull is crushed beyond recognition, and then its inwards parts are poured out and ground into dust. There is no hope of retrieval or reconstruction. All is lost and beyond repair. Thus, in a similar fashion, “it pleased the Lord” to crush His only Son and put Him to grief unspeakable. Thus, it pleased the Son to submit to such suffering in order that God might be glorified and a people might be redeemed. It is not that God found some gleeful pleasure in the suffering of His beloved Son, but through His death, the will of God was accomplished. No other means had the power to put away sin, satisfy divine justice, and appease the wrath of God against us. Unless that divine grain of
wheat had fallen to the ground and died, it would have abided alone without a people or a bride. The pleasure was not found in the suffering, but in all that such suffering would accomplish: God would be revealed in a glory yet unknown to men or angels, and a people would be brought into unhindered fellowship with their God.

In one of the most epic stories in the Old Testament, the patriarch Abraham is commanded to carry his son Isaac to Mount Moriah, and there, to offer him as a sacrifice to God.

“Take now your son, your only son, whom you love, Isaac, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I will tell you.”

What a burden was laid upon Abraham! We cannot even begin to imagine the sadness that filled the old man’s heart and tortured him every step of his journey. The Scriptures are careful to tell us that he was commanded to offer “his son, his only son, whom he loved.” The specificity seems designed to catch our attention and make us think that there is more meaning hidden in these words than we can yet tell.

On the third day, the two reached the appointed place, and the father himself bound his beloved son with his own hand. Finally, in submission to what must be done, he laid his hand upon his son’s brow and “took the knife to slay him.” At that very moment, the mercy and grace of God interposed, and the old man’s hand was stayed. God called out to him from heaven and said:

“Abraham, Abraham! ...Do not stretch out your hand against the lad, and do nothing
to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your
only son, from Me.”

At the voice of the Lord, Abraham raised his eyes, and found a ram caught in the thicket by his horns. He took the ram and offered him up in the place of his son. He then named that place YHWH-jireh or “The Lord will provide.” It is a faithful saying that remains until this day, “In the mount of the Lord it will be provided.” As the curtains draw to a close on this epic moment in history, not only Abraham, but also everyone who has ever read this account breathes a sigh of relief that the boy is spared. We think to ourselves what a beautiful end to the story, but it was not the end, it was a mere intermission!

Two thousand years later, the curtain opens again. The background is dark and ominous.
At center stage is the Son of God on Mount Calvary. He is bound by obedience to the will of His Father. He hangs there bearing the sin of His people. He is accursed - betrayed by His
creation and forsaken of God. Then, the silence is broken with the horrifying thunder of God’s wrath. The Father takes the knife, draws back His arm, and slays “His Son, His only Son, whom He loves.” And the words of Isaiah the prophet are fulfilled:

“Surely our griefs He Himself bore, and our sorrows He carried; yet we ourselves esteemed
Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed... But the Lord was pleased to crush Him, putting Him to grief.”

The curtain is drawn to a close on a slain Son and a crucified Messiah. Unlike Isaac there was no ram to die in His place. He was the Lamb who would die for the sins of the world. He is God’s provision for the redemption of His people. He is the fulfillment of which Isaac and the ram were only shadows. In Him, Mount Calvary is renamed “YHWH-jireh” or “The Lord will provide.” And it is a faithful saying that remains until this day, “In the mount of the Lord it will be provided.” Calvary was the mount and salvation was provided. Thus, the discerning believer cries out, “God, God, "I KNOW YOU LOVE ME"(WILLIAM) since you have not withheld your Son, your only Son, whom You love, from me.”

It is an injustice to Calvary that the true pain of the Cross is often overlooked by a more romantic, but less powerful theme. It is often thought and even preached that the Father looked down from heaven and witnessed the suffering that was heaped upon His Son by the hands of men, and that He counted such affliction as payment for our sins. This is heresy of the worst kind. Christ satisfied divine justice not merely by enduring the affliction of men, but by enduring and dying under the wrath of God. It takes more than crosses, nails, crowns of thorns, and lances, to pay for sin. The believer is saved, not merely because of what men did to Christ on the Cross, but because of what God did to Him - He crushed Him under the full force of His wrath against us. Rarely is this truth made clear enough in the abundance of all our Gospel preaching!

P.S. Hey Maureen....its snowing in Pennsylvania!!! If you and your husband ever decide to retire how about swinging by my place and pick us up and "we" can all move out to Arizona and live with Amy! I hear its beautiful out there all year long!

William said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
RJW said...

Oooh, I totally agree with Anon. Is that William??

1) The cross is evidence enough of God's love.

2) What if WE are the pearl of great price???

Maureen said...

"The wonderful joy of being loved is to be able to freely love others".

Wow isn't that so true? Just as the love of God to us is an overflow of the love that is shared within the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, that love that we realize from Him can't help but spill out to others. The more we know His love, the more we will love others. In fact, we can't love others unless we know it. And even then, it's by His grace that we move ourselves out of the way, and put others before ourselves.

I love your heart Ruth.

Maureen said...

Hi Adam. I agree one hundred percent. To be "living proof" of God's love, our love for one another has to be seen out in the world, in our neighbourhoods and communities. Not hidden in buildings, reserved for certain times of the week when we all "come out of the closet" to get together and do the "Christian" thing.

Meeting in small numbers for authentic sharing and real "fellowship" is what I have come to appreciate. Yes you are right; they'll know we are Christians by our love. And we'll know it by the resulting opposition, of which we see frighteningly little of in this part of the world.

Maureen said...

Wow Leonard, I don't know if I can live up to the "Bridge" analogy. But I would sure like to be one. A bridge between those who are lost and the One that can save them. I guess that's what we're all supposed to be, right?

Maureen said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

I also love Ruth's heart! We by nature are self centered. When the world looks at us and see's "love" they may think we are weird or whatever.....but even they know something "supernatural" has taken place. They know it is from God! Our passing out "tracts" is not near the importance of our "tracks" of our daily lives and how we interact with the people we rub elbows with day in and day out.

Anonymous said...

The more I press on in the Christian walk the more I am convicted about the matter of pride. I begin to see its ugliness and its pervasiveness in my being. It is a monster that crowds out the presence of the God of all humility. How can I possibly expect to recognize such a quiet, meek and lowly God through the screaming arrogance of my own restless heart?

O how I begin to actually see what God says about me is true! How the Word of His Truth slays me. Thank you God! Bring it on and cut down every lofty branch, bring down every tower, undercut every battlement of my willful flesh that blocks my view of You! Use that sword to kill me, for it is then that I will be made alive by the only One Who can do it...You Yourself.

I must humble myself under your mighty hand, as you have commanded...and I will strive for it...but, in the end, I know that it will be You at work in me by the Holy Spirit through the grace of Jesus Christ that will have the effect. I have nothing that I did not first receive. No power, no knowledge, no will to be anything but what I was. It is you Who are able and Christ Who had done all, leaving me only to walk in it...and even that by the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit, sent to me by Him.

But again the understanding that I am nothing, that I know nothing and can do nothing...far from making me languid actually motivates and energizes me. The unconditional excellency and unbounded love in which You do all for me draws me through the mystery of the faith You wrought and gave to me, to run after You and to desire that You do more in me than I could possibly hope or think. I am like the man with a load of useless junk in his knapsack staggering towards a distant oasis, tossing and shedding it all, piece by piece, in anticipation of that life-giving stream of flowing water that is Your Own beautiful Person.

This verse contains more than the simple idea that I must be humble. It announces the very purposes of God regarding that which is opposed to Him. For every lofty thought is an abomination to the Most Holy God. It rightly provokes His anger. How can we mere creatures who are so obviously not self-existent not only deny the One Who made us, and Who holds all of creation in His hand, but also raise ourselves up in our own thoughts until we lose all sense what we really are? How arrogant! How despicable! How ungrateful!

I do not excuse myself in this. Before I was saved I was as bad as any other person on earth in this regard. But after God has given me light I am actually worse. My unrepented arrogance and foolish pride is a daily affront to His grace. It is a worse sin than when I was in ignorance of my true condition. Yet grace upon grace is given to those who are in Jesus Christ, that His bounteous mercy and love may be seen and extolled for all eternity. To those to have is more given. Yet from those who have not will be taken away, even that which they have.

The aggravating sin of my unhumbled soul, even in the light of His grace and truth, is a horror more worthy of eternal death than anything I did before I was saved. Yet the gifts and calling of God are without repentance. He fills the cup of grace, presses it down and it runs over in an infinite surfeit that springs from the shed blood of Christ. The excellency of His Being, the boundlessness of His mercy is magnified by His forgiveness of the betrayals in the sins of the saints whenever they repent. His love for them is so over-sufficient, so superabundant that their salvation is prevented from becoming their damnation.

This is what Jesus bought when He died in my place. This is what He knew of me...that I would presume upon the very grace that sought and bought me. And that even God’s anger against that further debauchery was satisfied by the Christ Who knew it would be necessary, to the very last drop of His blood. This love knows no bounds. When He decided to save me He counted the cost to the last penny and gladly paid it. The only redeeming thing about me is the Redeemer Who is in me.

O God, let me not be found presuming upon such love!

Leonard said...

The votes are in, it's 7 to zip.

So I guess your stuck with it.

ps. we have a mighty bridge here too, they call it the Mackinaw.

Anonymous said...

"I once asked an Elder in my church (a very gifted one), about Christ's atoning for all those sins on the cross, when others will spend all eternity doing it. Did that mean that He suffered the eternal pains of hell in that short time? He answered yes, He had. THAT I can't wrap my head around".

I understand what you mean but if "we" look at "WHO" was on that certainly helps "our" little brains. Put Jesus on one side of the scales and all of God's creation on the other side. Who is "worth" more? No contest is it! Don't you love this wonderful non-exhaustive Gospel? know I like to be anonymous so just for your information....I hate your site meter!!!! I think I'm going to google another Leonard!!!!