Bread – Sin

February 6, 2017


Psalm 51

Have mercy on me, O God, according to Your steadfast love; according to Your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions.  Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin!”  Ps. 51:1-2

The context of this Psalm is that it is written by David after his adultery with Bathsheba, his murder of her husband, and his confrontation by Nathan the prophet.   His evil thoughts and acts revealed, David writes this Psalm, beginning with his plea to God for mercy.

The sins of adultery and murder in the Old Testament were what we might call today “mortal” sins.  The judgment for these sins was death.  Just so that we didn’t miss it, David doubled down on death by committing both sins together.  But for God’s mercy, David was doomed even though he was a king.  But for God’s mercy, David’s penalty imposed by Mosaic law for his actions was death.

 

What is sin?  In these two verses, we have three words for it – transgressions, iniquity, and sin.  We often talk about “sin” as missing the mark, as an arrow misses the bullseye.  And, indeed, sin can be described as our failure to obey God’s laws and regulations for good, righteous living.    We know we cannot meet God’s standards because they are so high and we are so weak, but using this concept of “sin” alone we are left with the idea that we are basically good people who, with a little bit of training and grace, can hit the bullseye.  Much of modern thinking is built upon this narrow and weak view of sin.

But this meaning, that of “missing the mark,” is not the meaning of either “transgressions” or “iniquity.”  When we transgress against someone, we cross the line and become enemies of that person.  The idea is that we transgress when we rebel against the law.  It is not enough that we “miss the mark” by trying, but in our transgressions we don’t even try.  God’s law apply to me?  You’ve got to be kidding!  That is rebellion; that is transgression.  In “sinning” we break the law essentially because of inability or by accident; in transgressing, we break the law on purpose because we are enemies of God.  In transgressing, we exalt ourselves to either ruling over God (we judge Him) or considering ourselves equal to God (we negotiate with Him).

In the word “iniquity,” we look at sin as a state of natural man, as a perversion of God’s plan.  Some might call “iniquity” as our original sin, born of disobedience in Adam and Eve.

So, “sin” in the complete way of thinking is (a) our state (born in iniquity), (b) our position vis a vis God (His enemy), and (c)  our actions or inactions when measured against perfection.

David sees clearly after his confrontation with Nathan that what he has done arises from iniquity, marks his position as an enemy of God, and falls seriously short of God’s moral law.

So David approaches God out of the box, in verse 1, relying solely on God’s mercy.  He is not good enough to merit God’s forgiveness.  He has not done enough good things to merit God’s forgiveness.  He cannot tell God what to do and he cannot negotiate with God as His equal.  He has one choice and one choice only, and that is to fall on his knees in front of God, confessing his sin, his transgressions, and his iniquity,  and plead for mercy.

From great degradation can come great deliverance.  From great depravity can come great transformation.  From great sorrow can come great healing.

And from a great God will come great mercy because of His “steadfast love.”

And for that, we confess our sin and are grateful.

_________

© 2017 GBF   All Scripture quotations are from the English Standard Version (2001), unless otherwise indicated.

 

 

 

 

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Bread – Ignore

November 4, 2016


Psalm 39

“For I am a sojourner with You, a guest, like all my fathers.  Look away from me, that I may smile again, before I depart and am no more!” Ps. 39:12b-13

David ends this Psalm with a request to God – “Leave me alone!”

Aren’t we a strange bunch of people?  We like the peace of God, but we do not like the yoke of God.  We like God to be around when He is friendly, but we do not like Him around when He is judging.  We like the freedom of God, but not His commands.  We like God’s mercy, but not His chastisement.

If there are going to be rules, we want to make them…not have to follow them.

There were three tee-shirts I saw the other day.  One said, “I am the oldest child.  I make the rules.”  The second said “I am the middle child.  I am the reason there are rules.”  The third said “I am the youngest child.  The rules do not apply to me.”

All three are about children making the rules, causing the rules, and ignoring the rules.  But what happens when we become of age as Christians, when we become adults, when we eat meat and not just milk, we come to realize that God makes the rules and we ignore them at our peril.

But perhaps David wanted to become a child again for a moment.  Lord, go away and take Your rules and Your love with you “that I may smile again.”

Smile at what?  Reveling in sin?  Wallowing in our own selfishness?  Idly wasting our time on the foolishness of the world.

We may very well be like David and want to push God away, but we are unwise to do so.

Why would David do this?  Perhaps the answer is in the preceding sentence – “For I am a sojourner…”

With God we are sojourners in the world.  We are in the world, but we are not of the world.  We wander through the world pursuing the path God has laid out for us, but there is no place for us to rest in the world, only in the arms of God.  The world despises and distrusts the sojourner because he or she is not a citizen of the place they are, but of the place where they are going.  The world despised Jesus; why should it behave any differently because of us.

There is a real danger for us in the world as sojourners, and that is that we want to belong.  We want to be part of the world.  We want to enjoy worldly things and have the company and approval of worldly people.  As long as God is around, He reminds us that we are His citizens and not the world’s.  He reminds us that we are to behave differently than the world, seeking His glory and not our own or the glory of other people.  He reminds us to aggregate the wealth of heaven and not the wealth of the world.

In other words, He reminds us that we do not ultimately belong where we are.  And sometimes we want to belong where we are … and so we tell the Lord “Go away!”

But although we may behave like the Lord has obeyed us and left, He has not.  Oh He may let us go for a period, following our own foolish ways, but sooner or later He will appear on scene again, reminding us of who we are and whose we are.

So David says and we say “Look away from me, that I may smile again…”  And the Lord, to His children, responds “No.”

And we will smile again, not because the Lord has ignored us like we asked, but because He has not.

But God has ignored something.  He has ignored our request that He ignore us.  He has ignored our sins and instead gone to the cross to die for our sins.  He has ignored His just wrath which we deserve and has replaced it with love and mercy which we do not deserve.

Ignore that at your peril.

_________

© 2016 GBF   All Scripture quotations are from the English Standard Version (2001), unless otherwise indicated.

 

Bread – Speaker

October 5, 2016


Psalm 36

Transgression speaks to the wicked deep in his heart; there is no fear of God before his eyes.”  Ps. 36:1

If we are listening in our minds, in our hearts, or in our souls (depending upon your philosophical bent), then who is speaking?  Who is the speaker who talks to us, guides us, and guards us?  Who do we listen to?

What led me to this question today is actually a translation issue with this verse.  In the ESV, which echoes the King James Version of the Bible, the speaker is “transgression.”  The wicked listen to their transgressions; sin speaks to them in ways that they want to hear and need to hear.

But there is a second translation of this verse.  It is contained in the New International Version translation and goes like this – “An oracle is within my heart concerning the sinfulness of the wicked; there is no fear of God before his eyes.” Here the speaker is an “oracle” which abides in the writer’s heart.  However, this itself is not complete, because the the Hebrew tie-in to “oracle” is “wickedness.” Instead of an oracle of God or an oracle of wisdom, here we have an oracle of wickedness.

Whereas “transgression,” representing an act of disobedience (blind or deliberate, doesn’t matter), relates to a “thing,” the word “oracle” most often relates to a person, an actual speaker for a deity.  People speak with the oracle to obtain wisdom from the deity behind the oracle, or to obtain favors from the deity, or to avoid trouble.   Therefore, the “oracle of wickedness” must relate to the fundamental source of disobedience, of transgression, the spiritual being behind the oracle.  In Christianity, this spiritual being is Satan.

So, is the speaker to the wicked the wicked’s sin (transgression) or is it Satan working through the transgression?

Because of the translation issue, it is possible to conclude that it is both.  However, I think that, to interpret the message properly, to hear the communication, one needs to know who and what the speaker is.  If the speaker sounds like he is speaking the truth but behind him or her is the Prince of Lies, then chances are the apparent truth is not the real truth, but a carefully orchestrated lie.

The second half of the verse though is where the rubber meets the road.  For the wicked, it is clear who the speaker is not – the speaker is not the Lord because “there is no fear of God before his eyes.”  How can one listen to a speaker whose very existence is denied?  It is not that God is not speaking; it is that the wicked is not listening.  The wicked is not listening because “there is no fear [recognition, apprehension, understanding] before his eyes.”

We can let books speak to us, movies speak to us, radio and television speak to us, our next door neighbor speak to us, our own life experiences speak to us.  Those are the apparent speakers, the ones directly in front of us.  Just like in this verse, the thing is before us (our transgression) and that thing speaks to us.  But who is the speaker behind the speaker?

Christianity has an answer to that question.  The speakers behind the speakers are either God or Satan.

When we are confused by the messages we are receiving, perhaps we should ask ourselves who the speaker of those messages is.  God’s speech leads to eternal life; Satan’s speech leads to eternal death.  God’s speech leads to victory in the worse circumstances; Satan’s speech leads to defeat in the best circumstances.

Who is the speaker you are listening to?

_________

© 2016 GBF   All Scripture quotations are from the English Standard Version (2001), unless otherwise indicated.

 

 

Bread – Missed

August 24, 2016


Psalm 32

Blessed is the one … whose sin is covered.”  Ps. 32:1

In the first Bread this week, we looked at God’s forgiving our transgression, our disobedience.

In this Bread, we look at the type of sin which is “missing the mark” (which is why this Bread is called “Missed”), or falling short of expectations.  In the first, we know God’s command for our lives and we deliberately or negligently disobey it.  In this one, we look at actions taken in obedience which fall short of God’s standards set forth in His Word.  And, of course, this means that we look at everything we do, because we all fall short.

So that you know that I am not making this up, the word translated “sin” in the quote above is the Hebrew word for falling short or missing the mark.  The idea is our actions being like an arrow which is aimed at the center of God’s law, the bullseye, but always drops off before it gets there or goes to the left or the right.  There is only one person who hit the bullseye all the time and that Jesus Christ.

This idea of sin is critical to understanding the reason why salvation is through faith alone in Christ alone.  We cannot get there by good works, because we all miss the mark.  Even if you assume that the law of Moses is completely superseded by the New Testament, the truth is who among us has followed Jesus’ law of treating your neighbor as yourself, to perfection?  No one.

And how does God treat the sin of missing the mark; He “covers” it.  What does cover mean?  Throw a blanket over it?  No, actually, the answer lies in both the Old Testament and in the New Testament.  In the Old Testament, our sin of missing the mark (Israel’s sin) was atoned for by the killing of an innocent animal and the sprinkling of its blood on the mercy seat of God, on top of the Ark of the Covenant.  Inside the Ark was the broken law of God.  The lamb’s blood was shed as a covering, shielding God who lived above the Ark and the broken law inside the Ark, which represents sinners.  We were protected by the blood of the lamb which stood between what we deserve for our sin (the wrath of God) and us.

In the New Testament the covering is the blood of the Lamb, Jesus Christ, which because He was God was a sufficient sacrifice for all time for all people whom God has chosen and have believed in Him.  The temple sacrifice of the lamb to atone for sins had to happen over and over again; because Jesus is God, His sacrifice for us on the cross, His shedding of blood, only needed to occur once for all time for all sins of those who believe.  The shorthand for this is that we are “covered in the blood of Christ.”  We are covered by God in His sovereign mercy to protect us from our sin of failure to meet God’s standards.

Amazing, isn’t it, that all this is contained in the simple phrase “Blessed is the one ….whose sin is covered.”  Whose sin is covered by the lamb of God, His Son, Jesus Christ.

Give thanks in all things, because while even in our obedience we fall short of the mark, God makes up the difference through the blood shed by Jesus Christ which covers us.  Amen.

_________

© 2016 GBF   All Scripture quotations are from the English Standard Version (2001), unless otherwise indicated.

 

 

Bread – Disobey

August 22, 2016


Psalm 32

“Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven…” Ps. 32:1

The three Breads this week will focus on the three types of sins which David talks about and the three ways in which God deals with those sins for those who turn to Him in repentance and believe in Jesus Christ.  Because of the use of words and Jewish poetic parallelism, these three distinctive forms of sin and God’s work with each type are almost lost in the speed with which David delivers them.  But they are important enough that they need to be broken apart.  This week, therefore, we will not go beyond the first two verses, where it all is.

What is a “transgression.”  I admit that my normal automatic interpretation of this is to think that it means a violation of God’s law.  It does not.  It means a stepping upon God’s person, His authority, His righteousness, His kingship.  It means a rebellion against God and His authority over all.  This transgression first occurred in the garden of Eden, before there was law.  There was one simple command, meant to maintain a proper relationship between God and man.  And that instruction was to not eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil.  And that request by God was ignored by man, Adam and Eve ate, and man’s relationship with God was torn to pieces.

There can be all kinds of disobedience to God, some having to do with His law but most having to do with our relationship with Him.  God asks us to step through a door in faith, perhaps to pray for sick person or engage in a new job, and we resist in doubt and worry.  Is there any law in this?  No.  Is there rank disobedience and unbelief?  Yes,  God asks us to live our lives to bring glory to Him.  Is there any law to this?  No.  When we follow our own paths to act in ways which bring glory to ourselves, is there rank disobedience and unbelief?  Is the failure to trust God and follow Him transgressing His good name, denying His authority and power, and placing Him either beside or beneath us, instead of over us, a transgression?  Yes it is.

And what does God do about these transgressions to His person when we do them and we return to Him, confessing our sins against His Majesty?  David says that the transgressions are forgiven.  The Hebrew word for “forgiven” in this Psalm means to “lift off.”  When we disobey God, we know it.  O we may hide it in a dark closet where we put away our worse memories, or we may bury it in a flurry of busy-ness, or we may discount it by saying that my disobedience was trivial compared to other people’s or compared to some standard of my making, but we know it.  And because we know it, it is a burden which drags us down.  We lose our sense of the Lord’s presence.  Satan finds the hole to discourage us.  We begin to wonder if He cares.  We find excuses to run further and further away.  We either undervalue our disobedience or over inflate it.  All of our disobedience, no matter how silly to us or how serious, is a horror to God.

And yet what does God do with our sin of transgression, of disobedience?  He lifts it from our shoulders and throws it away when we come to the cross of Christ in repentance.

And the amazing thing is that God does it immediately.  David says in verse 5b: “I said ‘ I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,’ and You forgave the iniquity of my sin.”  Ps. 32:5b

In Jesus parable of the prodigal son, the son is far away from the father, steeped in his transgressions against his father’s will … and he turns toward the father and says “I will go back and say to my father, I have sinned …”  What happens?  The father, while the son is on the way back, starts up the party and is waiting for him.  As soon as he turned and acknowledged that his transgressions needed to be confessed and forgiven, they were forgiven.”

The pressures of life this week will cause us to bend and stoop and will pile up on our backs without slowing down. But these burdens are nothing compared to the burdens we carry around as weighted stones, due entirely to our desire to disobey God, to transgress against Him.  When we sin, we do not just violate a law, we step on God Himself.  These burdens can get so severe that they cause us to look at the ground as we plod away, step by step.  And yet, in the midst of this, if we will but turn toward Him and raise our eyes to hills from whence cometh our help, He is ready to forgive us, to lift the burden from our back for all time, and to place us on solid rock where we may stand free.

How crazy glorious and amazing is this!  And yet there is more to come.

But you can begin right here, right now.  If you have been disobedient to God (and you know you have), turn to Him now in repentance and He will forgive you your trespasses against Him.  You can count on it.

_________

© 2016 GBF   All Scripture quotations are from the English Standard Version (2001), unless otherwise indicated.

 

Bread – Disease

August 17, 2016


Psalm 31

I will rejoice and be glad in Your steadfast love, because You have seen my affliction; You have known the distress of my soul…Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am in distress; my eye is wasted from grief; my soul and my body also.  For my life is spent with sorrow, and my years with sighing; my strength fails because of my iniquity, and my bones waste away.” Ps. 31:7,9-10

A child has a form of strep infection which causes their skin to slough off, and requires treatment as if they had been burned.  Another child develops an infection in his bone.  A young adult dies at 39 from some kind of a stroke; another dies from a drug overdose; another dies from suicide, for some reason giving up on themselves and us.   An older adult finds out that they have a particularly aggressive kind of cancer.  Another is told that they need to start taking pain medications so that, as they die, they will not hurt so bad.  Another is attacked by shingles, another by pneumonia, another by some new bacteria or virus floating in the air.  And then there are those of us whose self is disappearing in the arms of Alzheimer’s or some other form of dementia.

Disease is around us and in us.  Some of it is curable, at least to some degree, and other is not, at least by modern medicine.  To some are granted the miracle of recovery and to others, not.

David, our Psalmist, talks about some kind of disease which has overtaken him.  Whether it is the disease of depression, the disease of cancer, the disease of heartache, the disease of fear, the disease of the heart or of the bone or of the eye or the ear, we do not know.  Whatever it is, it is causing him great sorrow and distress to the point that he is spending his years with sighing.  He is feeling sorry for himself and that is OK, because he is sick, he is diseased, he is hurting, and he cannot figure a way out.

But there is a deeper disease, affecting all of mankind, and David acknowledges this in this phrase – “my strength fails because of my iniquity.”  The Hebrew word “iniquity” here means depravity; it is sin.   “My strength fails because of my sinfulness, because I am full of sin.”

We know this from the entirety of Scripture.  All were cast down from perfection by Adam’s disobedience; all are full of iniquity (sin), all fall short.  We are all filled with the disease of exile from Eden, and with the disease caused by our own disobedience to God and caused by the brokenness of the world, caused by disobedience to God.

So, when we are diseased and are suffering and God appears to do nothing about it, should we be mad at Him, particularly when we claim to follow Him, believe in Him, trust in Him, live in Him?  If we are loyal to God by attending church and praying and worshiping and reading His Word, shouldn’t we be blessed with protection from disease?  Shouldn’t we be able to summon up a miracle on demand?

David knows better and so do we.  David is rejoicing because he knows that God knows his suffering, He knows “the distress of my soul.”  And David says the only thing he, and we can say, “Be gracious to me, O Lord.”  We tend to think of being gracious as being nice.  It is not being nice – being gracious is being merciful.  Our disease is the natural result of the state within which exists because of Adam and because of us.  God has no obligation to us.  We cannot earn His good pleasure, His mercy, His graciousness.  It is only mercy because it is freely given, in God’s sovereignty, when He wants and for the purpose He intends.

If you think about it, the biggest disease we suffer is our own belief that we deserve something, when we in fact deserve nothing.  All is a gift of God, a gracious act by Him.  If we are rich, it is God’s gift to us.  If we are powerful, it is because God has set us in this place.  If we are saved, it is because God has acted to save us.

You want to get rid of disease?  Kneel before the Lord, Your God.  Trust in Him.  Follow Him.  Obey Him.

And if we suffer from a medical condition, that suffering will not matter because it will fade into the glory of God’s presence in our lives.   His presence with us in suffering will be enough, because He is enough.

How is this possible?  Because we give up the me and the we … and follow the He.

_________

© 2016 GBF   All Scripture quotations are from the English Standard Version (2001), unless otherwise indicated.

Bread – Presence

June 16, 2016


Psalm 24

“Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord?  And who shall stand in His holy place?  He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to what is false and does not swear deceitfully.”  Ps. 24:3-4

It is a rare occasion, but a few times in my life I have been the presence of a truly holy person.  It is the classic you know it when you see it.   My best example is a bishop of Nigeria, who I was in a prayer meeting with just before he was going to speak to a bunch of folks.  While I was there, he received word that his house had been attacked by Muslims and burned.  When asked if he wanted to put off speaking, his response was simply that the Lord was taking care of his family, that his house could be rebuilt, and that there were souls in the audience who needed to hear the gospel.  He then stood up, walked out, and delivered the truth to those hungry to hear it.   The reason I say he was holy was really nothing he said; it was the way he said it.  He lived in the power of the Holy Spirit, he lived without fear, and he knew whose he was and what his job was.  Every word he spoke he believed; there was no doubt.  And to say the least, I was lifted up, honored, and humbled at the experience.

We may say that we would like to be like him, but is that really true.  Can we live our lives in absolute trust in the Lord to preserve us and our loved ones?  Can we suffer the complete loss of our possessions on earth so that we obtain possessions in heaven?  Are we willing to truly leave everything on the table to follow Christ?  Are we willing and able to preach the gospel in and out of season?

I think if we are truly honest with ourselves, there is something always held back, something always reserved for ourselves.  We are willing to sacrifice our time, but are we willing to sacrifice our life?

In one sense, though, we Christians are all set apart for God and we are all in that sense holy.  But this bishop was truly holier than me.

And yet, as holy as this man was, could he ascend the hill of the Lord or stand in His holy place?  Does even this bishop, this holy one, have clean hands and a pure heart?

The answer is “no.”  He may be a holy man but he is a man and therefore a sinner, made able to climb God’s hill and appear in God’s throne room only because Jesus Christ precedes him and saves him.

“Who shall stand in His holy place?”  Who has clean hands and a pure heart?  It is those whose hands have been made clean and who have a new heart as a result of new spiritual birth, all made possible by Jesus’ obedience to the cross, His sacrifice of Himself on the cross, and His resurrection and ascension to the Father.

“Who shall stand in His holy place?”  If you are a Christian, you know the answer to that question.  If you do not know the answer, it is in the gospel of John, 14:6, where Jesus says simply “No one comes to the Father except through Me.”

“Who shall stand in His holy place?”  Who shall be in the presence of the Lord?  Will you?

_________

© 2016 GBF   All Scripture quotations are from the English Standard Version (2001), unless otherwise indicated.

 

Bread – It

June 3, 2016


 

Psalm 22

“I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint…For dogs encompass me; a company of evildoers encircles me; they have pierced my hands and feet – I can count all my bones – they stare and gloat over me; they divide my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots…All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the Lord, and all the families of the nations shall worship before you, for kingship belongs to the Lord, and he rules over the nations…they shall come and proclaim his righteousness to a people yet unborn that he has done it.”  Ps. 14,16-18,27-28,31

This is actually a fairly simple and straightforward Bread.  Who is “he” and what is “it?”

This is a long quotation from Psalm 22 because it tells of an event in history, one which you should recognize in the telling.  All of these events are significant because they happened at Golgotha and on the way there, but perhaps the phrases “they pierced my hands and feet,” and “they divide my garments…and for my clothing they cast lots” will bring to mind Jesus and the cross and death and resurrection.

These quotations describe a crucifixion in detail, and Jesus’ crucifixion in particular.

So the “he” is obvious, but as you know, I think that all personal pronoun references to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit should be capitalized to raise them up to their proper place above us ordinary persons.  And because the Psalm could arguably relate to anyone (after all, the “me” is lower cased in modern translations of Scripture), the “who is he” question is more easily answered by restating the quotation this way:

“I am poured out like water, and all My bones are out of joint…For dogs encompass Me; a company of evildoers encircles Me; they have pierced My hands and feet – I can count all My bones – they stare and gloat over Me; they divide My garments among them, and for My clothing they cast lots…All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the Lord, and all the families of the nations shall worship before You, for kingship belongs to the Lord, and He rules over the nations…they shall come and proclaim His righteousness to a people yet unborn that He has done it.”  Ps. 14,16-18,27-28,31

The other day I had a person ask me where there is, in the Old Testament, a plain statement predicting Jesus’ death and resurrection.  Well, here at least is a plain prediction of Jesus’ death.  And isn’t that made more obvious by elevating Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit by capitalizing references to them?

This is prophesy in its purest form, and less one thinks David is describing something in the present, in his time, then think about this – this is a detailed description of a crucifixion and crucifixion was unknown in the time of David.  David is reciting details about a form of torture that did not exist when it was written.  It is detailed, it is accurate, and the description was fulfilled by Jesus.  And it was written some 1000 years before Christ’s death.

Then what does it mean that “He has done it?”  To understand this, one needs to recognize that Psalm 22 ends with that statement – “He had done it.”  And it begins with this statement – “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”  It is the crucifixion of Christ, He has been forsaken by God as He takes on our sins and separation from God is the price of sin, and at the end that relationship is restored because He is is the perfect offering of His blood for our sin.  “He has done it” means simply that Jesus paid the price of sin and the offering of His life for ours was accepted by God the Father.

He has done it means that the bridge between us and God, destroyed by Adam’s sin, has been rebuilt by Jesus’ obedience to the cross.

From the depth of despair (why have You forsaken Me) to the height of victory (He has done it) through the cross (described in the middle of Psalm 22).

That “He has done it” means that we don’t have to.  Jesus did the “good work” of perfect obedience to the Law, of perfectly bearing our sin, of perfectly satisfying the demands of the Father for payment (sacrifice) for sin.

But what we do need to do is recognize who He is and what He has done, turn to Him in repentance, and trust in Him for our salvation.  Easily said, but impossible to do without God.  And, so we pray, “Come Holy Spirit.”

_________

© 2016 GBF   All Scripture quotations are from the English Standard Version (2001), unless otherwise indicated.

 

Bread – Hope

May 30, 2016


Psalm 22

“My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?  Why are You so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?…Yet You are holy…In You our fathers trusted…” Ps. 22:1-4

How often have we felt like this?  Out in the middle of our trials and tribulations, surrounded by events not of our (apparent) doing and surrounded by people we would rather not be associated with, we feel really, really alone.  Where are our friends?  Where is our family?  Where is God?

Perhaps the closest we can come from feeling like we have been totally abandoned is if we are a small child and both parents are killed or disappear, or we have some terrible disease fall upon us which is horribly contagious, and all of our friends and family melt away.  But even then, the small child may be helped by some people who come alongside of him.  The contagious disease-ridden person, may see the nurses and doctors surrounding them and they may even see their loved ones outside the windows, aching to get in.

But what if we have fallen to the bottom of the well and the voices of the searchers have wandered away to be replaced by the sounds of the night and by the predators who wander it?

Or we find ourselves alone in a desert, accompanied only by scorpions and drenching heat?

But even in those circumstances we may have memories to attach to, to fill our longing for companionship.

The fact is that, even when we feel like we have been forsaken, there is a part of us which knows that we have not.  The Psalmist joins us in this knowledge, reflecting that, even In the worst of times, we know that God has been faithful to those who believe in Him – “In You our fathers trusted.”

And, yet, as we read this and apply it to ourselves, perhaps there is a “gong” going off in the back of our mind, that we have read or heard those same words before.

And, the answer is, “yes, you have.”  You have heard these words before because they are the same words spoken by Jesus on the cross – “And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying ‘Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?’ that is, ‘My God, my God, why have your forsaken me?”  Matt. 27:46

This Psalm is known as the “Psalm of the Cross” by some people because it is a prophecy, written by David at a time when crucifixion was unknown, of a crucifixion, of Jesus’ crucifixion.

In order for God the Father to forgive our sins, there had to be a perfect atonement.  Because Jesus took on our sins, the sins of the world, and because sin is abhorrent to God, an affront to His holiness, God left Jesus and Jesus was truly forsaken.   For a moment in time, all connection, all love, all relationship, between Jesus and the Father was broken.

And in the moment of that separation, in the agony of being abandoned by the Father, what did Jesus remember?  Did He, as the Psalmist suggests, remember that God was faithful historically and, by extension, would be faithful to Him?  We were not there and we do not know, but why not?  He of all people knew the character of God the Father – the very character that had to separate from Jesus because of sin was also the same character which had shown Himself time and time again would not forever abandon His people.  The connection between God the Father and God the Son had to be broken because of wrath, because of sin, and the connection would be restored because of love.

In the moment of His greatest desperation, when Jesus was separated from the Father, because He knew His Father’s character, Jesus also had the greatest hope.

We may and probably will feel abandoned by many around us.  We may also feel so abandoned that we cry forth “My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?”  And in that moment, instead of despair, perhaps in this we will find hope – the God who rescued Israel is the God who raised Jesus from the dead is the God who has saved us from death eternal to life everlasting.    For those who trust Jesus, we may feel abandoned but we are not, we may feel forsaken but we are not, we may feel unforgiven but we are not.

We have hope in spite of ourselves, in spite of circumstances … because we remember.

_________

© 2016 GBF  All Scripture quotations are from the English Standard Version (2001), unless otherwise indicated.

 

Bread – Blameless

May 6, 2016


Psalm 18

“For who is God, but the Lord?  And who is a rock, except our God? – the God who equipped me with strength and made my way blameless.”  Ps. 18:31-32

When I began preparing this Bread, I thought that there may be some merit in looking at the words translated “God” and “Lord” in these verses, but in the process of doing that I noticed a notation in front of the word “blameless” and the notation was that the word “blameless” has multiple meanings, including the words “complete” and “having integrity.”

And, like most aspects of Scripture, when you dig deeper into God’s Word, the Holy Spirit operates to expand self-understanding, self-analysis, and self-application.

Now think about this:  “the God who … made my way blameless;” “the God who … made my way complete;” and “the God who … made my way so that I have integrity.”

We normally think of the word “blameless” as being “without sin,” and we then proceed to the immediate conclusion that, yes, God does make our way blameless but only because He sees us through His Son, Jesus Christ, who stands between us and God the Father so that all the Father sees is the blamelessness of Christ.  To use more “theological” words, God sees me as blameless because Jesus’ blamelessness is “imputed” to me.  Wonderful, but I am still sinning (less, maybe, but sinning nonetheless), even though I have been saved by grace (mercy).

But what if I substitute the words “complete” and “with integrity” for “blameless.”  Now what?

Well, it is not so easy now to shove off responsibility for my behavior upon Christ, saying that I am a sinner no matter what.  The reason is that I can, when I have the strength and the perseverance, complete a task.  And I can, with strength of character and resolve, operate “with integrity.”  So I have no excuses.  I cannot lay this off on Jesus Christ as my stand-in because I have experiences in my own life where I completed the task or I acted with integrity.

So, if I am not complete, if I have not completed the task, perhaps it is because I do not have a radical reliance upon God to “make my way complete.”  So, if I do not walk with integrity, perhaps it is because I do not have a radical reliance upon God to “make my way with integrity.”

See, there are really only two choices.  I can walk the walk or I can lean on God and let Him make my way straight, make my way complete.  I can strive to live a life of integrity or I can lean on God to make my way one of integrity.

And how can I do either?  How can I both do it and rely radically upon God to do it for me?  The answer is in the first part of the verse: “the God who equipped me with strength…”

Do I walk with integrity, complete the tasks laid before me, and am blameless?  There is a way I can, but it is not the way of man or the world; it is the way of Jesus Christ.

Do I wake up in the morning saying “My will, my way, in my strength” or do I wake up in the morning saying “Your will, Your way, in Your strength.”

The first is weak and will soon result in loss of integrity, incomplete results, and many reasons to blame ourselves and others.  The second is strong and will result in a blameless way, complete and full of integrity.

How do you wake up in the morning?  Whose will do you follow?  Whose way do you use?  In whose strength do you act?

_________

© 2016 GBF   All Scripture quotations are from the English Standard Version (2001), unless otherwise indicated.

 

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