14 March 2009

Words We take for Granted (Part 2)


For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. Rom 5:10

You stand in a courtroom filled with an angry mob of people who are swearing, throwing things and spitting at you. A door opens and the room goes silent as the jury enters the room after spending some time looking over the evidence. The judge says “Has the jury reached a verdict?” the jury says “Yes, we have your honor. We the jury find you, Mike Andrews, guilty of the crimes committed against the traditions of our postmodern world.” The judge looks down at you in disgust and says, “Michael Andrews, I hereby sentence you to death for the crimes that you have committed against our traditions and our way of life”. You fall to the ground as tears stream down your face, devastated by the events that just took place as they take you back to your cell for the very last time. You begin pacing back and forth in your tiny cell because you know in a few hours you will breathe your last breath. The time arises and you are taken out to meet your executioners. The guards tie you to a pole so that you cannot flee or move out of the way of the bullets that are about leave the barrels of the guard’s guns. The lead guard in charge asks if you have any last requests. You try to speak but no words come out because you are so terrified about what is going to happen. The guard says “As you wish.” and gives the command for the guards to take aim at your tied, helpless, defenceless body. You are now looking down the barrel of the gun which is about to take your very last breath. But something extraordinary happens as a voice from the crowd yells out with a big voice “STOP! DO NOT HARM THIS MAN!” As the people turn to see the person making all this commotion, a man steps out from the crowd and walks toward the men with the rifles and says, “I am going to take this man’s place, because I want to”. What would be your first response be? You would probably think that this guy is one crazy lunatic who just escaped from the rubber room. So then, what would be your second response to this unprecedented act? Maybe dumbfounded as to why someone would ever put themselves in harm’s way for you or me. This is precisely what Jesus did on the cross at Calvary; He became our ultimate Substitute which is defined as “One person put in the place of another to answer the same purpose”. This is what Paul is saying in Rom 5:10 when he uses the phrase “through the death of His Son”. I can remember a friend of mine speaking to a group of men at the Houlton Jail in Maine. This is what he said which really hit home to me:“There is no way I would allow my son to take the place of punishment or death for your crimes, or worse yet, the sins that you have committed against a holy God”. When I listened that night to my friend, I was absolutely stunned by his blunt statement to these inmates. Why? Because he was absolutely right in saying what he did. I myself feel the same way. I would never allow my children to be given nor give my children to anyone for the purpose of taking the place of another so that they could live or go away free. Isn’t this exactly what Jesus did for us on the cross? Jesus became our substitute, because without His sacrifice, we would die in our sins. Even though this word cannot be found in the New Testament, this is yet another very important word that goes overlooked by so many Christians. It explains what Jesus meant when He said “for God so loved the world, He gave His only Begotten Son” or when Paul said “Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, "CURSED IS EVERYONE WHO HANGS ON A TREE")”Gal 3:13. Albert Barnes said “It was by such substituted sorrows that we are saved; and He consented to die the most shameful and painful death, as if He were the vilest criminal, in order that the most guilty and vile of the human race might be saved”. So what would be your third response be? Would you respond with thanksgiving, praise, worship, love, and willingness to follow Him because He has allowed you to take that next breath? You probably think to yourself that this is the same as propitiation, the word I examined earlier. The answer would be NO! Why? Propitiation means to show favour, to show mercy. God still requires justice; God still requires a sacrifice; God still demands payment for sin. We are unable to complete that task because “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, And in sin my mother conceived me” Psalm 51:5. We are all blemished, criminals, broken cisterns. The Bible says, “our righteousness is like filthy rages”, “all have sinned and come short”, “there is none righteous no not one”. We are accursed as Paul puts it which means devoted to destruction, to separate, shut off, detestable, separated from the faithful; cast out of the church; excommunicated. That is why when we read the Book of Romans we see His grace and love for fallen man “For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son.”
God required a sacrifice WITHOUT blemish or spot, and according to the Bible passage we have seen, we cannot fulfill those requirements. Jesus in all His glory said to the Father “I will go down and become like man and humble myself on the cross for them”. Jesus came to the courtroom and said to the judge “Put his sentence on Me because I love him”. Jesus became sin for us! Do we really understand what that really means? Jesus knew no sin, Jesus didn’t know how to sin, and Jesus was incapable of sin. The Bible says of Him "....WHO COMMITTED NO SIN, NOR WAS DECEIT FOUND IN HIS MOUTH; who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously; who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness by whose stripes you were healed” (1 Peter 2:22-24). We are healed through His death. We are healed and allowed to breathe another day because He came to be our substitute. The unblemished Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world came to save sinners like you and me! As Paul says at the end of verse 10 “having been reconciled (to call back into union and friendship the affections which have been alienated), we shall be saved by His life”. Our substitute (Jesus) was, and is, the only way to save our lives from that the wrath that is yet to come. For without Him I have already breathed my last breath.

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