The ultimate paradox — Jesus who commits no sin becomes sin for us, “so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.” Paul explains, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciles us to Himself through Christ.” (2 Corinthians 5:17-18) Our sin is stripped away by the Lord’s death. As a result,”God makes His light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.” (2 Corinthians 4:6-7)
Because the power we have is directly from God,”we know that the One who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us…in His presence.” (2 Corinthians 4:14) We also know that “though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” (2 Corinthians 4:16-17) We know “we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands.” (2 Corinthians 5:1) We also know that God “has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.” (2 Corinthians 5:5) Therefore, “life is at work in [us].” (2 Corinthians 4:12)
Job, in his terror, longs for a mediator, one who will state his case to God. Job cries out, “If only there were someone to arbitrate between us, to lay His hand upon us both, someone to remove God’s rod from me, so that His terror would frighten me no more. Then I would speak up without fear of Him, but as it now stands with me, I cannot.” (Job 9:33-35)
Job wisely asks, “Who can bring what is pure from the impure?” (Job 14:4) And, he just as wisely answers, “No one!” (Job 14:4) Because Job despairs yet hopes, he begs: “If only You would hide me in the grave and conceal me till Your anger has passed! If only You would set me a time and then remember me! If a man dies, will he live again? All the days of my hard service, I will wait for my renewal to come. You will call and I will answer You; You will long for the creature Your hands have made. Surely then You will count my steps but not keep track of my sin. My offenses will be sealed in a bag; You will cover over my sin.” (Job 14:13-17)
What Job hopes, Paul confirms: “God our Savior…wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” (1 Timothy 2:3-4) Here, Paul shows that Job’s prayer is answered. “For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all men — the testimony given in its proper time.” (1 Timothy 2:5-6)
Job’s sins are finally “covered over” and “sealed in a bag.” God’s “anger has passed!” Job is indeed “remembered;” his “renewal comes” and “he lives again.”
Like David the psalmist, I am completely dependent upon God; for this reason, I am grateful He is both strong and loving. Because “He is my fortress, I am never shaken.” (Psalm 62:2) “With God I gain the victory.” (Psalm 60:12)
My rest is found in God alone. My hope comes from Him which explains why I trust Him at all times. I pour out my heart to Him, for He is my refuge. My salvation depends upon God alone; in the same way, my glory, my honor derive from His.
“I long to dwell in [His] tent forever and take refuge in the shelter of [His] wings… for [He] gives me the heritage of those who fear [His] Name.” (Psalm 61:4,5) “May [I] be enthroned in God’s presence forever.” (Psalm 61:7) May God “appoint [His] love and faithfulness to protect [me].” (Psalm 61:7)
“O my Strength, I sing praise to You; You, O God, are my fortress, my loving God.” (Psalm 59:17)
Jesus privately tells Peter, James, John and Andrew about the future destruction of the temple in Jerusalem. At the same time, He speaks of His return and “the beginning of the birth pains” when “nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places, and famines.” Jesus also states, “And the gospel must first be preached to all nations.”
Some of us seem to be hung-up on the when of Jesus’ return, even getting excited when Japan was hit by the largest magnitude earthquake ever recorded in that country. In actuality, there have always been earthquakes, famines, and wars — they are not particularly more prevalent now than in our past.
The key element upon which few seem to focus is Jesus’ emphatic statement that “the gospel must first be preached to all nations.” Missionaries are indeed located around the world, but somewhere there is a tribe — yes? — not yet reached. There are peoples who have never heard of their Savior, Jesus Christ.
Paul says, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring the good news!'” (Romans 10:13-15)
Jesus commands, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations.” (Matthew 28:19)
The author of Hebrews reminds us that we “have not come to a mountain that can be touched with fire.” We have not come “to darkness, gloom and storm.” (Hebrews 12:18) We are not come into “a kingdom that [can] be shaken.” (Hebrews 12:28) Rather, we “have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God. [We] have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. [We] have come to God, the judge of all men, to spirits of righteous men made perfect, to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.” (Hebrews 12:22-24)
On this earth,”we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come.” (Hebrews 13:14) Like Abraham, we are “stranger[s] in a foreign country…looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.” (Hebrews 11:8,10)
We are “still living by faith…[having] not received the things promised; [we] only see them and welcome them from a distance. And [we] admit that [we] are aliens and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own… [We] are longing for a better country — a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called [our] God, for He has prepared a city for [us.]” (Hebrews 11:13-16)
“It is good for our hearts to be strengthened by grace.” (Hebrews 13:9)
Paul is redundant, quite often. He appears to be trying as hard as he can to make the churches understand the gospel of Jesus Christ. He writes, “For sin pays a wage, and the wage is death, but God gives freely, and His gift is eternal life, in union with Christ Jesus our Lord.” Paul contrasts an earned wage with a free gift; he contrasts sin and death with eternal life and union with Christ. The benefit of the free gift, says Paul, is holiness. In contrast, the benefit of sin is death.
Paul says this is a matter of slavery: either slavery to sin or slavery to righteousness. “You used to offer the parts of your body in slavery to impurity and to ever increasing wickedness, so now offer them in slavery to righteousness leading to holiness.” (Romans 6:19,NIV)
Paul writes of being “dead to the law through the body of Christ.” (Romans 7:4,NIV) “By dying to what once bound us, we are released from the law so that we may serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code.” (Romans 7:6,NIV)
“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,” concludes Paul. He is trying again to make the church understand the simple gospel of Christ; that the free gift of God is salvation from sin, the development of righteousness leading to holiness and eternal life.
What is the trial Christians are to endure? What is the test through which we are to stand? The trial and the test are one in the same — life. Life is the trial we are to endure. The test we must pass is living. No one who is born into this earthly existence does not suffer. The sufferings Christians endure are those which all human beings share. We may experience a special “thorn in the flesh” to keep us humble as did Paul. We may be attacked for our faith, but many other peoples are attacked for what they believe.
Life is the common trial, the universal test. Christians are “those who love God.” Because we love God, we are promised “the crown of life” by God Himself who gave His Son for us. “And this is [God’s] command: to believe in the Name of His Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as He commands us.” (1 John 3:23) We are to know that “the One who is in [us] is greater than the one who is in the world.” (1 John 4:4)
Because of this truth — that God has overcome the world — we are able to withstand the natural sufferings which are part and parcel of life on this planet.
“And now, dear friends, continue in Him, so that when He appears we may be confident and unashamed before Him at His coming.” (1 John 2:28) We will be able to show we stood the test; we endured life. Then we will receive the crown prepared for us in advance.
Are you able to remain green when “the heat comes” “in a year of drought?” Are your roots stretched “along the stream” “like a tree planted by the waterside?” When the sky dries up and rain does not fall, are you able to “bear fruit?” Are you able to see “when good comes” because “your heart is [not] far from the Lord?” (Jeremiah 17:6)
“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, and rests his confidence upon Him. He is like a tree.” He is like a tree with a healthy root system and full foliage that “stays green.” This man “has nothing to fear.” He “feels no care, and does not cease to bear fruit” for the Lord.
Yet, Jesus asks: “But when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on earth?” And here is another parable that [Jesus] tells. It is aimed at those who are sure of their own goodness and look down on everyone else. ‘Two men go up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax-gatherer. The Pharisee stands up and prays thus: ‘I thank Thee, O God, that I am not like the rest of men, greedy, dishonest, adulterous; or, for that matter, like this tax-gatherer. I fast twice a week; I pay tithes on all that I get.’ But the other keeps his distance and does not even raise his eyes to heaven, but beat upon his breast, saying, ‘O God, have mercy on me, sinner that I am.’ It is this man, I tell you, and not the other, who goes home acquitted of his sins. For everyone who exalts himself is humbled; and whoever humbles himself is exalted.’ ” (Luke 18:8-14)
The man who is exalted is the one who puts his trust in the Lord; the one who recognizes that “the heart is the most deceitful of all things, desperately sick; who can fathom it?” (Jeremiah 17:9) The man who prays, “Heal me, O Lord, and I am healed, save me and I am saved;” (Jeremiah 17:14) this is the one who is exalted. This man is “like a tree planted by the waterside, that stretches its roots along the stream, When the heat comes, it has nothing to fear.”
My neighbor came over this evening to look at photographs of my new puppy, and to have a glass of red wine. He told me that an American had been found dead in Japan.
A young teacher of English — a young woman who apparently got caught in the tsunami as she attempted to unite parents and children. He said she then “rode away on her bicycle.”
“And was never seen again?”
“Hit by that 30 foot wave, I guess,” he said.
I cried for her, but even more for her parents. I cried for her parents because I am the parent of a 25 year old young woman teaching English in Japan.
When I heard about Taylor Anderson’s death, all I could think was “there but for the grace of God go I.” And then I wondered again — as I do so often — what have I ever done to deserve God’s grace?
And the answer — of course — is NOTHING at all. That’s why we call it GRACE!
“If the Spirit is the source of our life,” writes Paul to the church at Galatia, “let the Spirit also direct our course.” (Galatians 5:25) The source of power for a sailing ship is the wind; the sail captures the wind and — in conjunction with the rudder — directs the course of the ship through the waters of the world. The Spirit of God is the source of our life in Christ; so we must allow the Spirit to direct our lives.
And “the harvest of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, fidelity, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law dealing with such things as these.” (Galatians 5:23)
“If [we] sow in the field of the Spirit, the Spirit will bring [us] a harvest of eternal life. So let us never tire of doing good.” (Galatians 6:8-9) “Therefore, as opportunity offers, let us work for the good of all, especially members of the household of the faith.” (Galatians 6:10)
“But God forbid that [we] should boast of anything but the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world is crucified to [us] and [we] to the world! Circumcision is nothing; uncircumcision is nothing; the only thing that counts is new creation! Whoever they are who take this principle for their guide, peace and mercy be upon them.” (Galatians 6:14-16)