Redemption…Is It Easy?

This keeps playing in my head.  There are so many things in scripture that seem to be conflicting, but aren’t.  This is the great mystery of God…if you think you’ve got Him all figured out, tied up in a nice, neat little package, with all your questions answered, then you don’t know the God I know.

So, is redemption easy?

From God’s standpoint, yes and no.  Yes, it is easy because He loves you with an everlasting love and is not willing that any should perish.  Like the father of the prodigal, He waits with eager heart and loving arms for all who will come to Him.  From the time the world was formed…even before…He knew your name, and loved you so much that the plan was already in the works for your salvation.

That is why the answer is also “no.”  The cost was high.  The price was excruciatingly painful.  Have other men endured pain equal to that of the physical pain on the cross?  Probably so.  But no other man suffered as the Lord Jesus.  Perfectly just God, He suffered the injustices of wicked men.  Everything that led up to His crucifixion would cause Him to humble Himself, refusing to exercise the indignation of perfect righteousness.  His wounds were ugly, vicious, and undeserved.  He bore them in silence.  This is not a human reaction, but the decisive resignation of the Savior to bear all of this for you and me.  Do you know what it is like to be one with God?  To be part of a trinity that is three and yet also one in unity?  When Christ bore our sin, that unity was severed…so much so that Christ Himself said that He felt “forsaken.”  Do you know what it is like to experience this?  I think this was the most torturous aspect of the entire plan.  No, in this way your redemption was not at all easy.

How about you?  If you have trusted Christ, was your redemption easy?  Again, as the prodigal personified, you came to the realization that you had sinned against your Father.  You approach him, and instead of having to beg at the door, you find him running down the path to greet you with a loving, tearful embrace.  Is that hard to receive?  No.  With overwhelming joy and relief, you collapse in His arms.  So what is the hard part?  Well, if you are truly regenerate, you understand that there is a very difficult truth to address.  You must come to grips with the fact that you are wrong.  You are not “all that”…you are ignorant, simple, imperfect, helpless, hopeless.  Did you find that initially easy to swallow?  Probably not, without the aid of grace.  I rejected the gospel for years because I was too full of myself to let anyone else in.  There simply was no room.  But then I realized He loves me…”just as I am”…as the song says.  He loved me, though I was filthy from the world, my hands were empty.  My stubborn heart that had been so hard, was overwhelmed by this.  Such love is irresistible, once we are awakened to it.  And so, we come full circle.  Trust Him who cannot lie, and in whom everything is “Yea” and “Amen”?  Accept His gift, which cost me nothing but setting aside feeble pride?  Oh yes, that was easy.

“Come, everyone who thirsts,
come to the waters;
and he who has no money,
come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
without money and without price.
2 Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread,
and your labor for that which does not satisfy?
Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good,
and delight yourselves in rich food.
3 Incline your ear, and come to me;
hear, that your soul may live… Isaiah 55:1-3

Retribution

Allowing God to handle the injustices in our lives is not passivity.  On the contrary, it requires a great deal of exertion.  I have found that human beings do not wield the sword of “righteous indignation” well.  In most cases, they end up wounding themselves and others unnecessarily.  Anger, no matter how righteous, is not managed well by sinful beings.  It often implodes.  It destroys a person from the inside out, both physically and spiritually.  Anger and the subsequent stress destroy the body and morph into bitterness, aggression, arrogance and brooding contempt.

This passage was included in my morning reading today:

But you do see, for you note mischief and vexation,
that you may take it into your hands;
to you the helpless commits himself;
you have been the helper of the fatherless.~Psalm 10

I decided a long time ago, when one of our children was the victim of grievous sin, that I had to forgive and give my hurts to God.  Also, I found that brandishing mercy and unconditional love is quite a bit harder than exercising anger.  It is difficult to show forgiveness toward the unlovable in a selfish way.  Evening the score is gratifying to the flesh.  Bestowing mercy is not.  It requires a keen understanding of the degree of mercy we all have already received… without asking for it:

For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die.  But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. ~Romans 5:6-8

We are to be like Him, and humble ourselves (Phil 2).  We have a strange notion (rooted in selfishness and pride) that we are not required to grant forgiveness until it is deserved…or at least until the other person offers an apology and shows “enough” remorse.  This is wrong.  If this were the nature of forgiveness, where would we be?  Still hopelessly lost.  We are quick to say that salvation is not by works, and yet we contradict ourselves when we demand our pound of flesh as satisfaction before we will extend a forgiving hand to an offender.  I have written before about the fallacy of “closure” in modern psychology.  It simply does not jive with scripture.

In the case I alluded to, I have chosen to love that individual who sinned against our child.  There was never an apology.  There was no remorse, although there was an admission of guilt.  I do not know what is happening in that person’s life today, but I pray there has been victory.  I pray the Hound of Heaven will continue to pursue that individual until there is rest.  He can do that more steadfastly and lovingly than I can.

I know now that until I first release the matter into His hands, I cannot move forward.  There may be more that is required of me in the situation, but until I make it over this hurdle, restoration cannot be accomplished.  This is my responsibility.  Please note that I did not say it is easy; but it is right, and very freeing.  It is not a natural response.  We are not naturally wired to “turn the other cheek”…our reflex is to raise our hand and retaliate.  No, this is entirely supernatural.

Selah: Something Worth Pausing to Think About…

“Trust Me with a fuller abandon than you ever have before. Trust Me, as minute succeeds minute, every day of your life, for as long as you live. And if you become conscious of anything hindering your relationship, do not hurt Me by turning away from Me. Draw all the closer to Me, come, run to Me. Allow Me to hide you, to protect you, even from yourself. Tell Me your deepest cares, your every trouble. Trust Me to keep My hand upon you. I will never leave you. I will shape you, mold you, and perfect you. Do not fear, O child of My love, do not fear.  I love you.”

-Amy Carmichael

The Dash Movie

A great way to start a new week.  What will matter in the next seven days?  If you do not get to complete them, will you have anything of significance to show for the ones you lived through?  How are you fulfilling the dash between your birth date and the day that you enter eternity?  This is a powerful, thoughtful, beautiful message.  Click here.

For it matters now how much we own…

The cars,

The house,

The cash…

What matters is how we live and love,

And how we spend our dash.

Twitteresque: “The Hound of Heaven”

“Whom wilt thou find to love ignoble thee save Me, save only Me? All which I took from thee I did but take, not for thy harms. But just that thou might’st seek it in my arms. All which thy child’s mistake fancies as lost, I have stored for thee at home; Rise, clasp My hand, and come!” ~~”The Hound of Heaven” by Francis Thompson (1859-1907)

Free Gospel Lesson

Now is the time to teach your children about the greatest Gift of the season.  Here is a free gospel lesson that is simple, yet thorough.  The pdf file includes teacher’s instructions as well as a timeline visual for the children to complete.  Click the logo to go there.

I Love Me

Light_Make_Up_MirrorDo you eat daily?  Clothe yourself?  Take a bath occasionally?;)   Dislike criticism? Dress for the weather? Own a mirror? Wear a seatbelt? Have any magazine subscriptions? Enjoy desserts? Get upset when others misunderstand you? Frequently feel the need to prove you are right? Wear makeup?  Color your hair?  Paint your nails? Brush your teeth?  Save for a rainy day?  Enjoy prosperity, prominence and promotion?

At the root of all these things is a love for self.  This is one of the topics we discussed at the Gemstone Conference.  Here is a great quote on the topic from Tozer:

“The labor of self-love is a heavy one indeed. Think whether much of your sorrow has not arisen from someone speaking slightingly of you. As long as you set yourself up as a little god to which you must be loyal, how can you hope to find inward peace?”

Even someone who says they hate themselves, truly is manifesting a great degree of self love, because he or she is not ____________ or does not have _________________ or cannot be ________________. It is an ironic demonstration of selfish discontent.

Is loving self wrong?  Well, while egocentricity is never admonished in scripture, it is a given that we will love ourselves (Mt. 19:19; Eph. 5:29);  but if we live in observance of  Phil 2:3 and esteem others better than ourselves, and also follow the admonition to love as God Himself loves (Jn 15:12)–selflessly, sacrificially, unconditionally– self will not be preeminent.  That’s a tall order.  When you study the attributes of agape as given in 1 Cor 13, you can certainly understand why the next chapter states that we need to “follow after” or (per the Amplified Bible) “eagerly pursue and seek to acquire these things.”  A great marriage takes work…a grand love relationship with  Almighty God requires self-denial, perseverance, and humility.  We are seeking to know and emulate Someone who is, as J.I. Packer says, “totally other.”