Pardon There Was Multiplied To Me

One of the saddest aspects of evangelicalism is that people make professions of faith without genuinely understanding why they need salvation. Evangelicals often present Jesus as an agent of life enhancement rather than the One Who bears the wrath of a holy Judge on our behalf.

But how thankful I am that the Holy Spirit confronted me with my sin 46 years ago! Knowing that I deserve eternity in hell has made me so appreciative of the Lord’s sacrificial death on the cross for my sin! Only those who see how terrible their sin is realize what a wonderful thing the Lord did for us on Calvary.

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A Prayer We All Should Pray

Recently I read that someone, in a critical tone, asked why so many Christian songs and hymns focus on the cross. I’m not quite sure what the point of the question was, so I’ll resist the temptation to speculate on the motives behind the question. But it saddens me that the person didn’t know how Christ’s atoning sacrifice has purchased God’s pardon, allowing wretched sinners like me to enter heaven to live eternally with the Lord Jesus Christ.

Hymn writer Fanny Crosby certainly understood the value of the cross, as well as the necessity of constantly reminding ourselves that Christ’s work on it is the only basis for our salvation. In the hymn featured below, she prayed that Jesus would keep His cross always before her. Perhaps more  of us should pray that sort of prayer. And then sing hymns that remind us that we mustn’t glory in anything other than the cross.

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In Celebration Of John’s Fifth Year Since Cancer Surgery

2012 was probably the most difficult year John and I have endured in our marriage. That February, his doctors found cancer in his colon. During his recovery from a colonostomy that next month, he suffered a heart attack that delayed the colon restructuring surgery for six weeks.

John, as a Polio survivor, uses a ventilator to breathe, causing everybody tremendous concern that he might not make it through surgery. I definitely struggled to trust the Lord to protect him. Yet as WordPress publishes this post, we’re attending a party at our church to celebrate the fifth anniversary of his surgery (the actual anniversary was this past Monday).

As I thought about what hymn to post this week, this simile hymn about trusting Jesus seemed the most appropriate. As you listen, please join us in rejoicing in the extra time God has given me and John. He is so faithful!

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His Blood Availed For Me!

Even as a new Christian, I yearned for everyone to know the wonderful Savior Who had graciously granted me forgiveness by shedding His innocent blood in payment for my sins. So Charles Wesley’s powerful hymn, “O For A Thousand Tongues To Sing” became one of my favorites early on.

In particular, I love its reminder that no sin, no matter how vile and polluted, can resist the cleansing power of Christ’s blood. All too often, I let the enormity of my sin obscure my vision of His great grace in taking the punishment on my behalf. The name of Jesus certainly does charm my fears and bid my sorrows cease! How can I not both praise Him and long for others to praise Him with me?

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Familiar, Horrible And Beautiful

Horrible Beautiful CrossSo much has been said about Christ’s death on the cross that many people, even those who passionately love the Lord, can sort of glaze over. A good expose on Beth Moore would be more welcome right now, we secretly think.

A lot of our weariness with Good Friday blog posts, sermons and what have you results from familiarity with the story. We’ve read the accounts by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John  countless times, almost so often that we can recite the details effortlessly (and without much thought). As the saying goes, “familiarity breeds contempt.”

But perhaps Good Friday also bothers us because it confronts us with the horrible truth that our sin nailed Jesus to the cross.  The more we read about the beatings, mockery and the physical anguish of crucifixion the Lord endured, the more we want to distance ourselves from the whole mess. Surely our sin can’t be that bad!

Surely it is!

Like it or not, ladies, even the Old Testament points to Christ’s crucifixion as the only means of atonement. Over 600 years earlier, the prophet Isaiah predicated that Messiah would suffer for the sins of the people.

4 Surely he has borne our griefs
    and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
    smitten by God, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions;
    he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
    and with his wounds we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray;
    we have turned—every one—to his own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
    the iniquity of us all. ~~Isaiah 53: 4-6 (ESV)

When we look at the cross, we see our sin. And, since our pride wants to flatter us that we are actually good people who simply make a few mistakes here and there (hey, doesn’t everybody?), we prefer to ignore the implications of Christ’s crucifixion.

But as we acknowledge our sinfulness, the cross becomes beautiful, even in its horror. It reveals a Savior Who loves us enough to bear the wrath of God that we deserve! As Christians, we cherish the cross as Christ’s loving atonement for our transgressions against Him.

The crucifixion story, for all its familiarity, never ceases to fill Christians with both sorrow and joyous wonder. As we await the glories of Resurrection Sunday, we can praise the Lord for taking our sin upon Himself, setting us free from its consequences. As we rejoice in His inexplicable love toward us, the accounts by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John of Good Friday never get old.

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Filling In For His Own

At The CrossHe approached me just minutes before church stated (and therefore a scant 20 minutes before Sunday School) to inform me that he didn’t feel like teaching that day. He and I, along with another lady, rotated teaching the Junior High Sunday School class, each of us teaching every third Sunday. As lead teacher, I also served as the substitute when either of the others couldn’t (or in this instance, wouldn’t) teach.

Dictionary.com defines the word “substitute” this way:

 
noun
1.

a person or thing acting or serving in place of another.
2.

(formerly) a person who, for payment, served in an army or navy in the place of a conscript.
3.

Grammar. a word that functions as a replacement for any member of a class of words or constructions, as do in He doesn’t know but I do.
 
verb (used with object), substituted, substituting.
4.

to put (a person or thing) in the place of another.
5.

to take the place of; replace.
6.

Chemistry. to replace (one or more elements or groups in a compound) by other elements or groups.
 
verb (used without object), substituted, substituting.
7.

to act as a substitute.
adjective
8.

of or pertaining to a substitute or substitutes.

9.

composed of substitutes.
 

The Bible teaches that, in dying for the sin that would rightly condemn you and me, Jesus willingly died in our place! Scholars refer to His act as the “substitutionary atonement” to emphasize that He accepted the punishment for crimes that we (being born sinners) commit against God. This article on the GotQuestions.org website begins with the following summary of the doctrine:

The substitutionary atonement refers to Jesus Christ dying as a substitute for sinners. The Scriptures teach that all men are sinners (Romans 3:9-18, 23). The penalty for our sinfulness is death. Romans 6:23 reads, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

That verse teaches us several things. Without Christ, we are going to die and spend an eternity in hell as payment for our sins. Death in the Scriptures refers to a “separation.” Everyone will die, but some will live in heaven with the Lord for eternity, while others will live a life in hell for eternity. The death spoken of here refers to the life in hell. However, the second thing this verse teaches us is that eternal life is available through Jesus Christ. This is His substitutionary atonement.

Scripture supports the premise that Jesus died as our Substitute, as you’ll discover if you read the GotQuestions.org article for yourselves. I’d like to highlight just one of the Scriptures involved in this doctrine. I particularly like this two-verse passage because the second verse offers the practical implication of Christ dying the death that you and I deserve.

24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. 25 For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls. ~~1 Peter 2:24-25 (ESV)

Of course, we balk at the truth that, as born sinners, we actually deserve God’s wrath. For that reason  it’s difficult for us to grasp the fact that Jesus bore the horrible judgment that rightfully belongs to you and me. If you resist the truth that you’re completely incapable of earning God’s acceptance through your own efforts, I beg you to ask the Holy Spirit to speak to you through the Bible.  Once He convinces you of your spiritual bankruptcy, you can rejoice that He went to the cross as your substitute!

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A Wrinkle In Theology

Robin Olsen PortraitSocial media definitely gives me a wealth of subject matter! Consider this quotation:

Joy is the infallible proof of the presence of God.  ~~Madeline L’Engle

When that quote showed up on my Twitter feed a few years ago, I vacillated between laughing, crying and throwing up. I have fond childhood memories of Madeline L’Engle’s book, A Wrinkle In Time, but I rather wish she’d confined her writing to children’s fiction and left theology alone. That quote sounds pretty and poetic, admittedly, but it positively oozes with the sloppy theology that permeates today’s visible church.

L’Engle elevates the subjective emotion of joy as “infallible proof” that God is present. This “reasoning” reminds me of so many professing Christians who validate things like the Gay Christian Movement because they interpret the enthusiasm among “gay Christians” as an indication that He sanctions their misinterpretation of Scripture.

But truth must never be at the mercy of fleeting experience. People often feel great joy in the midst of extremely sinful behavior. Yet God, being holy, neither will nor can grace sinful  behavior with His presence. The joy at a college drinking party may, in some instances (such as celebrating the end of finals), be quite genuine, but any true presence of the Lord would bring the revelers to repentance in short order. Indeed, His presence brought the prophet Isaiah to humility.

In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said:

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts;
the whole earth is full of his glory!”
And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!” ~~Isaiah 6:1-5 (ESV)
 
Throughout the Bible, actually, God’s presence frequently evoked fear and trembling as people saw the contrast between their sinfulness and His holiness. Sometimes, joy followed. And we definitely will have joy in heaven, where those of us who are born again through His Spirit will be in His presence forever. But humility and repentance serve as much more reliable indicators of His presence for now.
 
Hopefully Madeline L’Engle ironed out her theology before she died.

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