justice sentences us to LIVE!!

“The word passion now means “sex lust”, but back in the early days it meant deep, terrible suffering. That is why they call Good Friday “Passion Tide” and we talk about “the passion of the Christ.” It is the suffering Jesus did as He made His priestly offering with His own blood for us.

Jesus Christ is God, and all I’ve said about God describes Christ. He is unitary. He has taken on Himself the nature of man, but God the Eternal Word, who was before man and who created man, is a unitary being and there is no dividing of His substance. And so that Holy One suffered, and His suffering in His own blood for us was three things. It was infinite, almighty, and perfect.

Infinite means without bound and without limit, shoreless, bottomless, topless forever and ever, without any possible measure or limitation. And so the suffering of Jesus and the atonement he made on that cross under that darkening sky was infinite in its power.

It was not only infinite but almighty. Its possible for good men to “almost” do something or to “almost” be something. That is the fix people get in because they are people. But Almighty God is never “almost” anything. God is always exactly what He is. He is the Almighty One. Isaac Watts said about His dying on the cross, “God the mighty Maker died for man the creature’s sin.” And when God the Almighty Maker died, all the power there is was in that atonement. You never can overstate the efficaciousness of the atonement. You never can exagerate the power of the cross.

And God is not only infinite and almighty but perfect. The atonement in Jesus Christ’s blood is perfect; there isn’t anything that can be added to it. It is spotless, impeccable, flawless. It is perfect. So Anselm’s question, “How dost Thou spare the wicked if Thou art just?” is answered from the effect of Christ’s passion. That holy suffering there on the cross and that resurrection from the dead cancels our sins and abrogates our sentence.

Where and how did we get that sentence. We got it by the application of justice to a moral situation. No matter how nice and refined and lovely you think you are, you are a moral situation- you have been, you still are, you will be. And when God confronted you, God’s justice cofronted a moral situation and found you unequal, found inequity, found iniquity.

Because He found iniquity there, God sentenced you to die. Everybody has been or is under the sentence of death. I wonder how people can be so jolly under the setence of death. When justices confronts a moral situation in a man, woman, young person, or anybody morally responsible, it either justifies or condemns that person. Thats how we got that sentence.

Let me point out that when God in His justice sentences the sinner to die, He does not quarrel with the mercy of God; He does not quarrel with the kindness of God; He does not quarrel with His compassion or pity, for they are all attributes of a unitary God, and they cannot quarrel with each other. All the attributes of God concur in a man’s death sentence.

You’ll never find in heaven a group of heavely beings finding fault with the way God conducts His foreign policy. God almighty is conducting His world, and every moral creature says “True and just are your judgements…Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne.” When God sends a man to die, mercy and pity and compassion and wisdom and power concur-everything that’s intelligent in God concurs in the sentence.

But oh, the mystery and wonder of the atonement!! The soul that avails itself of that atonement, that throws itself out on that atonement, the moral situation has changed. God has not changed! Jesus Christ did not die to change God; Jesus Christ died to change a moral situation. When God’s justice confronts an unprotected sinner that justice sentences him to die. And all of God concurs in that sentence! But when Christ, who is God, went onto the tree and died there in infinite agony, in a plethora of suffering, this great God suffered more than they suffer in hell. He suffered all that they could suffer in hell. He suffered with the agony of God, for everything that God does, He does with all that He is. When God suffered for you, my friend, God suffered to change your moral situation.

The man who throws himself on the mercy of God has had the moral situation changed. God doesn’t say “Well, we’ll excuse this fellow. He’s made this decision, and we’ll forgive him. He’s gone to the prayer room, so we’ll pardon him. He’s going to join the church; we’ll overlook his sin.” No! When God looks at an atoned for sinner He doesnt see the same moral situation that He sees when He looks at a sinner who still loves his sin. When God looks at a sinner who still loves his sin and rejects the mystery of the atonement, justice condemns him to die. When God looks at a sinner who has accepted the blood of the everlasting covenant, justice sentences him to live. And God is just in doing both things.

When God justifies a sinner everything in God is on the sinner’s side. All the attributes of God are on the sinner’s side. It isn’t that mercy is pleading for the sinner and justice is trying to beat him to death. All of God does all that God does. When God looks at a sinner and sees him there unatoned for (he won’t accept the atonement; he thinks it doesnt apply to him), the moral situation is such that justice says he must die. And when God looks at the atoned-for sinner, who in faith knows he’s atoned for ahas accepted it, justice says he must live! The unjust sinner can no more go to heaven than the justified sinner can go to hell. Oh friends, why are we so still? Why are we so quiet? we ought to rejoice and thank God with all our might!!

I say it again: Justice is on the side of the returning sinner. First John 1:9 sasys, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” Justice is over on our side now because the mystery of the agony of God on the cross has changed our moral situation. So justice looks and sees equality, not inequity, and we are justified. Thats what justification means.

When we talk about justification, it isnt just a text to manipulate. We ought to see who God is and see why these things are true. We’re justified by faith because the agony of the cross changed the moral situation. We are that moral situation. It didnt change God at all. The idea that the cross wiped the angry scowl off the face of God and He began grudgingly to smile is a pagan concept and not Christian.

God is one. Not only is there only one God, but that one God is unitary, one with himself, indivisible. And the mercy of God is simply God being merciful. And the justice of God is simply God being just. And the love of God is simply God loving. And the compassion of God is simply God being compassionate. Its not something that runs out of God- its something God is.”

-a.w. tozer

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no fear in death.

i have been thinking about death lately…weird, i know. about a month ago my roommate and i watched this movie where the main character(anne hathaway) is really dead and the whole movie was about her coming to terms with being dead. odd concept, i know, but when she finally realizes that she was on the plane that crashed and she is actually dead she begins screaming and is overcome with grief and fear and every other breakdown worthy emotion.

immediately i turned to my roommate and said something along the lines of “i am so glad i dont have to fear that moment.” and now, granted, i realize that i wont just be walking around dead and not knowing it and then read my name on a flight manifest of a plane that crashed and left no survivors. but there will come a moment when i will die, a moment where life here will end. and i am beyond grateful that i have no reason to fear that moment.

in 2 corinthians 5 it talks about our earthly tent compared to our heavenly dwelling. ah, what a comfort to know that our heavenly dwelling, our new resurrection body, will not be weak and fragile like our tent is now. and that same verse goes on to say “so that what is mortal may be swallowed up in life.” wait, what? did it just use the word ‘life’ for death? thats it! thats what it just said!! “so that what is mortal may [be swallowed up in life] die” wow. what an amazing truth. this, this moment, right now…is not life. not real, true, everylasting, righteous life. that comes when this moment is swallowed up by life[death].

in light of this truth, death is swallowed up in victory. death truly has lost its sting. death has lost its victory. (1 corinthians 15:55) one of the pastors of my church, josh patterson, said it like this- “death- the judgement seat of Christ is the privelege of every believer. it is our first opportunity to look square in the face of the Lamb and plead the blood of Christ and praise His name.” i love it. even in that moment there is no fear. and even in that moment its not about us. it is our chance to proclaim that He is sufficient. that it is He who justifies. He who saves. He who has covered our sin. “death, the last great enemy, has become the servant of every believer, ushering them into the presence of the Almighty.” wow.

so therefore. there is no fear in death.
for it is the moment when Christ is sufficient.
where our faith becomes sight.
oh, what a day!!

“death is swallowed up in victory. oh death, where is your victory? oh death, where is your sting? the sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

“Thank you, King Jesus, for promising a kingdom where righteousness will reign and joy will be the air we breathe. May that kingdom come quickly- but until it does, may you find us faithful.”
-randy alcorn

p.s. someone HAS to read 1 corinthians 15 at my funeral. the whole chapter.
(not planning on dying soon, just want to let you know. )

thoughts on the “sword”

over the past few days, maybe even weeks the Lord has brought the image of a sword to my mind and apparently to a good friends mind. there is a book written by Mark Driscoll where he tells a story about a great battle in which Jesus is crucified and buried. satan has seemingly defeated the Christ. but, 3 days later Jesus rises from the dead, defeating death and the great enemy. the infuriated satan, not knowing what else to do, snatches us- you and me- as his captives. he thrusts his sword to our heads, naming our sin and sentencing us to death. he begins to recall our shortcomings and places we have failed to measure up to the law. then, Jesus, our savior, intercedes on our behalf assuring satan that our sin has been paid for and he no longer has any right to spew his blasphemies. Jesus commands our release. Jesus Christ then uses his own sword to bash the head of our enemy, releasing us from his grasp. we have been purchased by His blood. set free- for He is our victory.

a good friend of mine has been sensing a war. a very real war. a war going on around us, but invisible to our eyes. recently she was in a dream in which the great enemy threatened to thrust his sword into her, most assuredly bringing her death. in this dream the enemy was not permitted to kill her, or even bring her harm. he had-in the dream- and has-in real life- no authority over her. absolutely none. his sword was stopped and his mouth was shut.

in scripture we see over and over the word of God being referred to as a sword. in ephesians 6, we are commanded to “take up the sword of the Spirit which is the word of God.” in hebrews 4 it compares the word of God to a “two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow.”  Jesus himself claims the word of God as truth. so we can know and be confident in the fact that the sword we carry is truth. and truth brings life. and joy. and freedom.

so what do we do with this…how does this play out in my life? in talking through this outloud i have this overwhelming sense that we are in fact “knit together”(psalm 139) and intimately known by the God, Creator of the universe. he has in fact “put eternity in our hearts”(ecclesiates 3). we were created for much more than this earthly tent. we were created for a heavenly dwelling(2 corinthians 5). we are in the world but not of it(john 17). maybe thats why it makes so much sense that we “know”, somewhere deep in our beings that we are made to fight. we know there is a war going on(ephesians 6). i think we know that we are to take up armor and weapons. i think we know we are called into this story. i think we know there is an enemy out there who is “prowling around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour”(1 peter5). we know these things- deep in our beings we know them.

but we are presented with two images of a sword. we see the sword being the law-satan naming our sin and calling for our death. but we also see the sword being truth- the word of God. we see one sword bringing death and the other bringing life. and so often, i am afraid we pick up the wrong one. we know we are to wield a sword, we just grab the wrong one. we end up thrusting the sword of the law at our own heads, naming our own sin, and in the end calling for our own death. and Jesus himself is standing face to face with us, telling us, in great detail, the story of how He IS our victory. the battle has been fought, the battle has been won and now He is calling us to take up the sword of truth-His promises, His word- and stand confidently in the fact that the battle is His and He WILL fight for us. we only need to be still(exodus 14).

the enemy has no right to us. not to you. not to me. command him to leave and he must(james 4). he is under the authority of our Christus Victor. so, dear friends, there is a battle. there is a war. but be careful. choose your sword wisely. one brings death, the other, life. may we choose life, so that we may live. the battle is the Lords and when we take up arms we tend to choose poorly and in the end become our greatest enemy’s ally. so stand on truth. take up the sword of truth. and stand firm that the battle is won. and we are called to proclaim the victory and rest in what Christ has done. may we plead the blood of Christ.