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Thursday, August 23, 2007

Coming to "terms" (part 2); or, "What Jesus died for."

Romans 1:18-20 tells us that everyone knows and is therefore without excuse:

"For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse."

What is this knowledge everyone has? Every person knows "God is" and because everyone knows He "is", they are without an excuse. One cannot help but think of Moses asking God to identify Himself, to which He replies, "I am." God reminds Moses what is already known about Him: He is and He is always contemporary. God has made Himself so evidently known though creation, we can say with assurance that the athiest does not exist!

Also, the eternality of God (just one of the many facets of who He is) should not to be equated with the sum of all God is. He is not solely eternal; that is, "eternal" is just one of His many attributes. How His eternity relates to man is connected with the fact that He has "He has set eternity in their heart, so that no man can find out the work that God makes from the beginning to the end" (Eccl. 3:10). The default setting does not mean man has apprehended, comprehended or is reconciled to God; rather, this means man is the creation of the creator, and by what his conscience tells him, should begin to himself through God who is.

What God is on God's mind? What is He concerned about? First, God is concerned about righteousness. This is why His wrath is revealed against unrighteousness, because unrighteous men (not "unchurched" but "unrighteous" men) suppress the truth in unrighteousness! Why? Because they see God and they see His righteousness and prefer to love themselves with all their heart, soul, and strength. Second, God has Jesus on His mind. Jesus is the exact radiance of God's glory--He is perfect. What do I mean when I say "God has Jesus on His mind?" Consider how you do not know what is on my mind until I open my mouth or write it down. The writer of Hebrews tell us, "God, who at many times and in many ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, by whom also He made the worlds, who being the shining splendor of His glory, and the express image of His essence, and upholding all things by the word of His power, through Himself cleansing of our sins . . ." (Hebrews 1:1-3)

Did you see that? God is so concerned about righteousness that He has to provide it and has done so in opening His mouth and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:14), to cleanse us from sin!

"Since then the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He also Himself likewise partook of the same; that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death (that is, the Devil), and deliver those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage." (Hebrews 2:14-15)

Now watch this. This is the golden nugget: "He Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that dying to sins, we might live to righteousness; by whose stripes you were healed." (1 Peter 2:24)

You've heard the story about the three umpires who were debating their philosophies of umpiring. "There's balls and there's strikes,' says the first, "and I call the the way they are."

"No," exclaimed the next. "That's arrogant. There's balls and there's strikes, and I call them the way I see them."

"That's no better," says the third umpire. "Why beat around the bush? Why not be realistic about what we do--there's balls and there's strikes and they ain't nothin' 'till I call 'em."

Man wants to be the third umpire, making "nothin'" into "something" as he calls them. Really this is yet another evidence of God's image in man--as God created with language, so man is creative with language--but this creativity does not make nothing into something. Man cannot make truth out of non-truth just as he cannot make righteousness out of unrighteousness. Consider Chesterton's assessment of his day, "The thing from which England suffers just now more than from any other evil is not the assertion of falsehoods, but the endless and irrepressible reptition of half-truths." A baseball is a baseball, but if it crosses the strike zone the reality of its condition does not change, no matter what you or I think or say.

How powerful are our words to change reality? I was talking with a guy downtown who set himself sternly against the truth of the gospel and his need for righteousness, denying that the day would come he would stand before God in judgment. I encouraged him to step into the road and deny the existence of trucks. "Having tried, we must hold fast [to the truth] (I Thes. 5:21), upon [the penalty of] the loss of a crown (Rev. 3:11); we must not let go for all the fleabitings of the present afflictions, etc. Having bought truth dear, we must not sell it cheap, not the least grain of it for the whole world; no, not for the saving of souls, though our own most precious; least of all for the bitter sweetening of a little vanishing pleasure." Thus saith Roger Williams (1603-1683).

Remember our reference last post on the world not taking the church seriously because the church is not serious? Listen to J. Hudson Taylor (1832-1905), "We are not only to renounce evil, but to manifest the truth. We tell the people the world is vain; let our lives manifest that it is so. We tell them that our home is above and that all these things are transitory. Does our dwelling look like it? O, to live consistent lives!"

Now that you are done reading this, go share the good news of Jesus Christ!

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