The ant

When I was a child, the movie Honey, I Shrunk the Kids was a blockbuster.  There was one scene, though, I couldn’t watch.  It was the fight between the children’s gentle ant and a vicious scorpion.

The children (after being shrunk to pea-size) befriend an ant.  The ant escorts them across their backyard safely.  But, all of a sudden, a scorpion appears flashing its pincers.

The scorpion wants the children.

The ant faces the scorpion head-on in battle.  They fight fiercely, and they fight to the death.  The scorpion kills the ant.  He drags his prize away, leaving the children alone.

I couldn’t understand it.  Tears rolled down my cheeks.  Why had the sweet ant died for the children?  Why hadn’t he fled and left the children to die?  And why did he have to die, after he was so brave?

All around us, again and again, is the melody of the Gospel, sometimes faint, sometimes piercing.  But if you listen, you will hear shadows of redemption’s story in the heartbeat of what moves us most . . even in a children’s movie.

Why did the ant die?  He didn’t have to.  He could have fled.  But he loved the children more than his own life.  In a beautiful puzzle–one in which we can never lay down the final piece–is the heroism of the ant, that he would give his life on behalf of the lives of the children.  That he would treasure the children who had done no great service to him, regard them so precious that he would be willing to undergo torture and death for them.  And in this symbolism is the mystery of God’s love.  For us.

Jesus Christ didn’t have to die for us.  He had far less reason to die for us than the ant had to die for the children.  The children didn’t do anything to deserve the scorpion’s wrath, but we turned to our enemy for protection from goodness in the most grave error in mankind’s history.  It would be as if the children ran to the scorpion for protection from the ant.  We became enslaved to the enemy, sure to be stung by his poison.

But Christ still defended us.  When we didn’t want to be defended by Him, when we didn’t even realize what serious trouble we were in, when we thought He was the enemy . . even then, Christ died for us (see Romans 5:6, 5:8, 5:10).

The ant and the scorpion . . are only a faint retelling of the love Christ holds for you and I.

This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. (1 John 4:9, NIV)

 

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more than Your own body

How comforting, Jesus.  How comforting that You love us more than Your own body.

. . the Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took a loaf of bread, gave thanks for it, and broke it in pieces, saying, “This is my body that is for you. Keep doing this in memory of me.” (1 Corinthians 11:23b-24, ISV)

I am Yours

The most moving line in the movie Luther is a Scripture that a monk overseeing Martin Luther gives him one night when he is flat on the floor of his chamber cell, trying to defend himself against Satan in a crazed monologue. [1]

Luther is rambling, ranting, and crying out in an effort to overpower the work of Satan in his life.  He is frantic in his fear of going to Hell, and he keeps trying to ward off the Devil and his attacks.

Luther chronicles Martin Luther’s morphing life from trying to appease God to discovering that Christ has already taken away his sin, and the first breakthrough moment is when the overseeing monk intervenes as Luther rants and gives him a single line to cry out to God,

I am Yours.  Save me.

In the darkest times of his life that follow, Luther retreats in the arms of Christ, crying out,

I am Yours.  Save me.

The prayer is the core of faith in Jesus Christ.  We rely not on our ability to defend ourselves against Satan, but on Christ’s ability to defend us, rooted in His work on the cross.  It is the work of Christ, not the work of us, that saves us.

A heartbreaking part of American Christianity is that many in the church never or rarely get to the point where they see what the atoning work of Christ has done for them.  Either they are not saved, or they live out their existence on earth as immature Christians because they have little concept of what they have been saved from.  They see Christ more as a character from the Marvel comic series who rescued them from the world’s evil, rather than recognizing that Christ is the Lamb of God who submitted to anguish for our individual, very personal sin.  They do not know how to cry out to God for forgiveness and salvation.  They instead merely ask Him for forgiveness and salvation the way they might ask for the certain title of a book at Barnes & Noble or where the jackets are located at Macy’s or on what aisle the caulk is found at Lowe’s.

I am Yours.  Save me

Radical is Luther’s cry for forgiveness, because radical is his awareness of what God has saved him from.  Many in the church never more than glimpse at the burden, the load of weight which Christ carried on the cross.  Many in America see His suffering as something “fated” to happen, not something purposefully planned at God’s greatest expense for the sake of you and me..  They do not know enough about God, or sin, to even realize the extreme sacrifice given on their behalf.

Jesus was at odds with many people who thought they were really wise, really philosophical, and really religious.  They trusted in their wisdom, philosophy, and made-up religion to get them into Heaven.  So they didn’t grasp even the smallest meaning within the Scriptures.  The atoning work of the Messiah was completely veiled from them because they were looking to themselves for salvation, not to Him.  Jesus said one time when some of them tried to trick Him because of their total ignorance of the true and living God,

“Are you not in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God?” (Mark 24:b, NIV)

Luther experienced the enormous torment of conviction because he knew the Scriptures and he knew himself.  He knew that God is holy, and he knew that he is not.  We shirk away from conviction because, at its full weight, it is nothing short of torment.  What we don’t realize is that the more we come to terms with who we are, the more significant the Messiah becomes.

Conviction by itself is deadly, though.  It is spirit-breaking, and in its vulnerability, suicide and madness are all too eager to flood in.  But a broken spirit in and of itself is no bad thing.  Actually, it is what God longs for within us.

My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise. (Psalm 51:17, NIV)

If I am really honest with myself, as much as I hate the suffering that guilt brings, I know that without it I would be unimaginably wicked.  Luther was so burdened by his guilt that he realized, in a society that believed otherwise, that no amount of self-inflicted wounds, monetary gifts, good luck talismans, patronage to the church, ritualized prayers, chants for forgiveness, or so-called good deeds could make him right with God.

At a significant point in the movie, after his pilgrimage to the ‘holy’ city of Rome, he is barraged with the poverty and sin of the streets.  He sees a monk going off with a prostitute and a woman abused by a crowd of men.  Then everyone falls to their knees as a religious leaders gallops by–and then the wild street life starts once more just where it has stopped.

Luther decides he will complete a ritualized prayer to help a relative escape from purgatory while he’s in Rome, where just such a feat is said to be possible.  Luther pays the money at a booth, and is given a paper for his grandfather’s release from purgatory to hold in his hand as he crawls up a long, long flight of stairs on his knees and chants a prayer at each step.

As he starts climbing, he prays dutifully, in the full use of the word dutifully.  As he keeps climbing, he starts looking around him, and sees this sea of impoverished, ill-educated humans crawling up the stairs with him.  A change takes place within him, and by the time he has reached the top, and he can stand, he looks down over them with overwhelming compassion and immense anger.  He watches them all climbing towards the top, where they can look at more religious relics.  He sees a man climbing who is missing a hand.  And the paper Luther holds in his hand that is supposed to release his grandfather from purgatory becomes a wad of fury in his fist.

I am Yours.  Save me

He begins to see that everything he has ever hoped would make him right with God is, at best, a disappointing venture that never leads to the self-righteousness it promises and, at its worst, an appalling masquerade intended to rob coins out from the hands of the poor.

Rather than see himself as ‘justified’ because of the rampant wickedness of the so-called church of his day, Luther still sees himself as in need of rescue, but he stops turning to religious ceremonies, relics, and false religious teachers to tell him what to do.  Here is the turning point of his life. Instead of the artificial religion of his day, he begins to look to Christ as he finds Him in the Scriptures.

Realizing that we sin is not equal to salvation.  Judas realized his sin, and killed himself for it.  But he could not pay for his crime through that, and he accomplished only quickening the day of his judgment by his decision.  Luther, for all the times he lay flat on the floor trying to fight the sin out of his flesh, and every time he abstained from something to try to make himself right before God, and all the times he inflicted punishment of some kind on himself, was no closer to God than he had been before, except that he now knew, by God’s grace, that those things did not work.

I am Yours.  Save me.

He had to be saved by Christ.  Not by himself, but by Christ.  The blessing of a terrifying conviction is that, if that person finds Christ, he is probably a thousand times more useful to God than the one who merely thinks he’s gotten forgiven from his ‘mistakes’.

To really know yourself and how depraved you are is a grace, because God is burning in your heart a passion for forgiveness.  He is giving you a yearning for Him.  If you turn to Him and cup your hands towards Him, His love will spill out not only just over your hands, but your whole body, too.  He will drench you with His mercy and you will know, far more than the Christian who has only known mild-mannered conviction, how beautiful His grace really is.  [2]

The more convicted you are of your sin, the more thirsty your guilt.  The more thirsty your guilt, the more the love of Christ can quench you.

The one who cries out with a heavy heart,

I am Yours.  Save me.

and trusts in the Messiah will soon cry out the unburdened heart’s longing,

I am Yours.  Use me!

The more we are aware of what God has saved us from, the more God uses us in this life for the salvation of other sinners who He wants to become His, too.

The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent. (2 Peter 3:9, NLT)

Luther reached thousands and thousands and thousands in his lifetime, and millions (and counting) after his death.  Had he not seen so clearly the grace of God that destroyed the sin of his life (which climbing millions of stairs on his knees could never so much as wound), I don’t think he could have ever become the mighty man of God he became.

Had he only been a little convicted; felt a little saved . . he would have only wanted to have become a little useful.

One time, when a religious man was way offended at the way Jesus was letting a woman with a public sin life cry at His feet, wash His feet with her tears and hair, kiss His feet, and pour perfume on His feet, Jesus said this,

“I tell you, her sins–and they are many–have been forgiven, so she has shown me much love. But a person who is forgiven little shows only little love.” (Luke 7:47, NLT)

Was Jesus saying it’s better to be a big-time sinner than to sin only a little?  No!  Jesus was saying that it is better to realize you are a big-time sinner than delude yourself into thinking you sin only a little.

Luther realized he was a sinner.  He had lived for years with the guilt of his past, and the nightmare that he kept sinning in his present.  His awareness of the dungeon of culpability he had been locked in by righteousness became incredibly powerful when Christ’s key turned in the prison lock and the sunlight of His mercy poured in.  Luther lived his life as a man in passionate loyal allegiance to God because he had seen where he had been, and he had an idea of what God had saved him from.  [3]

If we cry out to God with all our heart,

I am Yours.  Save me.

Then we will cry out to God with all our heart,

I am Yours.  Use me.

If we only halfway believe we are sinners, then we will only halfway want to serve Him.  If we think we’re not so bad and just needed a little help, then our service to Him will be as artificial, insincere, and destructive as that of the religious leaders in Luther’s day or those of Jesus’ time on earth.

I desire to cry out to God with the heaviest heart a sinner can have,

Jesus, I am Yours.  Save me.

so that I can cry out to God with the lightest heart a sinner can have,

Jesus, I am Yours.  You have saved me.  I beg You now to use me!

With David, we can cry out Psalm 119:94a, but, unlike David, we don’t have to hope our pursuit of God’s Law, through trusting the promise of the Messiah to come, will bring Him to save us.  Instead, we can hope in the Messiah Himself and His fulfillment of the Law.  Salvation is here.

I am Yours, save me (Psalm 119:94a, ESV)

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. (Titus 2:11, ESV)

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[1] LutherMGM, 2003

[2] My pastor, John, gave me this illustration in two sermons that he did.

[3] No one actually knows how much God gave for us at the sacrifice of Christ.  As finite persons, we cannot understand what the infinite trinity of Persons, without beginning or end, gave up through the death of Christ Jesus.  We could not even bear knowing; it would burst our mortality.  God in His graciousness does not expect us to fully realize what He has done for us; never will we.  Nor do any of us understand even in full mortal capacity what He has done, because we are sinners and our understanding is crippled by sin.  In my salvation about 4 years ago, I certainly did not grasp the reality of what Christ had done for me.  I knew He wanted me; I am now on the never-ending journey of discovering how much.

Mercy

Christians, preach the mercy of God to yourself.

–From Pastor Daniel

Christ has received the punishment for our sin–there is no revenge on us.

–From my Sunday school teacher, Kevin

Have you ever been afraid you made one too many mistakes?

Missed one too many dental appointments?  Forgot one too many birthdays?  Flunked your New Year’s Resolution one too many years?  Botched one too many tests?  Failed a friend one too many times?  Lost your phone one too many times?  Told a lie one too many times?  Wrecked your car one too many times?  Gotten fired from a job one too many times?  Lost your way one too many times?  Gotten one dollar too many in debt?  Argued with someone you love one too many times?  Broke your promise one too many times?  Wasted the day one too many times?

Disappointed God one too many times?

Sometimes I live in fear that I just broke the last straw.  I broke the rule one time too many.  I missed the last chance.  I went too far.

Can I come back?  Have I ruined everything?  Do I still matter?  Do you still love me?

These are the questions of the insecure heart.

Sometimes we try to ask forgiveness like we are offering God lambs to be sacrificed on His altar.  We try to be sorry enough, pay it all back, make up for it, do something good enough to offset the bad.

We forget that the Lamb of God has already come.  There are no more lambs to offer.  The sacrifice is over.  The new life has begun.

To be a Christian is to receive the sacrifice of Christ.  The merit is all Christ.  The life after is learning to be like Him.

It would be something like if I flunked a chemistry test (which is very believable).  A student approaches me and offers to give me his A+ paper.  I receive his paper and receive his grade.  But he doesn’t just walk away.  He begins to coach me in chemistry.  But the whole time he coaches me, and the whole time I improve, I must still have his A+ paper to save me from flunking.  The test is already over.  I’ve already failed.  And I’ve taken his paper for my own.  None of that changes by my improvement.  (And besides, if at any point I was the one tested, I would still fail to make that A+.)

Christ is the only one who lives a perfect life on this earth.  He is the only one who can coach us towards holiness.  He’s earned the right.  But it is always only His sacrifice that brings us to Heaven.  One day, we will die to our flunked self, and the only thing left in us will be the perfect work of Christ Jesus.  That is what God will see in us.  But it is not this work He has done in us that brings us to Heaven.  It is the work He has done for us that brings us to Heaven.

That is mercy.

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:2, NIV)

You came

You came and had no place to lay Your head so I would have a place to lay mine.

“Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” (Matthew 8:20b, ESV)

“Come to me, all of you who are weary and loaded down with burdens, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28, ISV)

Published in: on April 2, 2012 at 9:10 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Christmas Countdown: Day 6

Dear Lord,

Create for me a heart of sacrifice to replace my selfish one.

I want to molt from who I was into who you want me to be.

I want to sacrifice what matters to me for what matters to You, because You matter most.

I want to sacrifice everything I hold close that needs to be cast away: what tempts me, what misleads me, all the grudges I nurse, all that I want to hoard for myself and keep away from others, whatever turns my eyes from You to stare at Hell instead.  Before I ever sacrifice anything worthy or beautiful, I want to sacrifice these ugly things, these unwanted things, these things that seek to do me in.  I want to burn them on Your altar of forgiveness so that I can pour my life out as a living sacrifice to You, who poured Your eternal life out for me, Jesus.

Lord, I want to sacrifice everything I’m not supposed to be for all that You see in me.

In Jesus’ Name,

Amen.

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Photograph by Kris, profile on http://www.flickr.com/people/krislitman/

Photograph is under Creative Commons License.

The Stench

A couple weeks back, I decided I would save money by cooking Thai rather than buying out.  As usual in any kind of errands in my life, I had no real plan of action, and so when I went to the grocery store, my strategy was to buy a few sauces from the Thai aisle and hope they fit together.

One of the ones I bought was fish sauce.  I am not a big fish kind of person, but I like Japanese eel sauce on my sushi and I love one particular Thai dish that has no fish sauce in it and somehow this brought me to the conclusion I might like the Thai fish sauce.

Upon making Thai at home, after glancing at Thai recipes, I began pouring different sauces into the bowl of noodles I’d made.  I decided to add a little fish sauce.

I opened the bottle and a waft of something like dead and unhappy fish sitting in crates on a dockside for a hundred years hit my nose.

Oh, wow.  I capped the fish sauce back up.  No way.

Now, I have a tough time throwing stuff away, even if I know there is NO chance I will ever eat it.  Somehow it makes me feel better to know it’s sitting in the refrigerator or pantry rotting away rather than in the garbage can.  So I decided to put the fish sauce back in the pantry.

This morning, my mom trying to juggle an arm full of stuff, knocked the fish sauce bottle over.  It broke on the floor of our pantry.

Would anybody like to buy our house?

For the first 15 seconds or so, it wasn’t bad.  I walked into the pantry and saw the sauce on the floor.  I was actually happy the fish sauce had been knocked over and not something I was planning on eating.

I was happy for about 10 seconds.

And then an invisible, giant, rancid, 1-billion pound fish swam into our house.

In disbelief, I grabbed my shirt, holding it over my nose and mouth so I wouldn’t breathe fish air.  My appetite for breakfast completely lost, I handed my mom wet, soapy paper towels while she braved the pantry, scrubbing away.  I cowardly went and got disinfectant in the non-hazardous back of the house while she cleaned.

Like some kind of Abbot & Costello routine, I sprayed air freshener up in the air, which of course rained down all over my mother who was on the floor trying to clean up the rancidity.  My mother then took the bottle away from me and sprayed some more.

At first, the soap seemed to work.

Nope, it didn’t.

I hate air freshener, because they smell like fake chemicals to me.  But the air freshener would have been better than the reeking fish smell.  I say would have been and not was because what actually happened was the artificial freshener swam around Mr. Giant Invisible Fish and we had two smells to contend with.

I hoped the smell would go away, but after about 2 hours it became so pungent I decided more had to be done.

I turned off our air conditioner and tried to open windows.  To my dismay I found they were stuck shut or had been painted shut or something.  I ripped at the windows until I could get 2 of them up, opened the door and used the sliding screen door for I think the first time ever, and attacked the fish smell with more air freshener.  I sprayed the air freshener right on the brick floor in our pantry and the vent which had gotten soaked in fish sauce as well.  (Mom had washed out the vent, but talk about an ideal way for Mr. Fish to stink up the whole front half of our house.)

I then attacked the smell with sunny-smelling soap.  But Mr. Fish apparently had SPF on.  I tried to figure out what else to do. Nobody was likely to buy our house today.

A cleaning tip came back to me I’d read a long time ago.  I wondered if it would work for this strong of smell.

I search in our pantry to see if we had any of what I was looking for.  I was almost sure we did, but where was it?

I found what I was looking for, poured it into a rag of napkins, and wiped the floor down with the new substance.

Within seconds, the stench was killed.

I couldn’t believe it.  I could now smell only the smell of the bitter substance I’d used to clean.  But that bitter fragrance seemed so very sweet right now, so very, very sweet.

Now I could smell the outside streaming through our house (and the unpleasant air freshener I’d tried to use—why had I even gone to such a fake substance?).

I opened the bottle of substance and took a deep smell.  Nothing sweet had worked.  But this bitter substance had overpowered an impossibly-strong smell.

I think about the significance of vinegar—not in the unimportant spill at my house, but in the most important sacrifice of all time.

And when they came to a place called Golgotha (which means Place of a Skull), they offered him wine to drink, mixed with gall, but when he tasted it, he would not drink it. (Matthew 27:33-34, ESV)

At noon darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. At three o’clock Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” When some of the people standing there heard him say that, they said, “Listen! He’s calling Elijah.” Someone ran and soaked a sponge in vinegar. Then he put it on a stick and offered Jesus a drink. The man said, “Let’s see if Elijah comes to take him down.” Then Jesus cried out in a loud voice and died. (Mark 15:33-37, GW)

When they came to the place that is called The Skull, they crucified him there with the criminals, one on the right and the other on the left. Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.” Dividing his garments among them, they cast lots. The people stood watching. The rulers with them also scoffed at him, saying, “He saved others. Let him save himself, if this is the Christ of God, his chosen one!” The soldiers also mocked him, coming to him and offering him vinegar, and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” An inscription was also written over him in letters of Greek, Latin, and Hebrew: “THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS.” (Luke 23:33-38, WEB)

Later, knowing that all was now completed, and so that the Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I am thirsty.” A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus’ lips. When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. (John 19:28-30, NIV)

Through the most bitter death, the Lord Jesus destroyed the impossibly overpowering stench of sin for all who would come to be covered by His bitter sacrifice so that the most sweet redemption of all time could take place.

Yes, when Christ died, he died to defeat the power of sin one time—enough for all time.

(Romans 6:10a, NCV)

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See Copyright Page for Bible translation information.

Published in: on August 20, 2011 at 11:51 am  Leave a Comment  
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Who is a Perfect, Willing Sacrifice with Infinite Ability?

There are two kinds of sacrifice:

  • Imperfect
  • Perfect

There are two kinds of perfect sacrifices:

  • Unwilling (tragic)
  • Willing (redemptive)

For a sacrifice to cover our sins eternally, the sacrifice must be

  • Perfect (only good)
  • Willing
  • Infinite in ability, and therefore able to carry all of humanity’s sins

Where do I find a perfect, willing sacrifice, infinite in ability?

This is the heart of Christianity.

C.S. Lewis wrote a series of allegorical stories called The Chronicles of Narnia, and, in the first book he wrote, The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, he paints a picture for us of what the sacrifice of Jesus Christ would look like in a different world (in an imperfect way, since C.S. Lewis was not perfect himself, as he would be the first to say).

C.S. Lewis believed that you often don’t see things when you are in them, but that if you step outside of them, you can see what you have actually been in[1].  He called this “looking at the beam [of light]” rather than “looking along the beam [of light]”[2].

Thus came The Chronicles of Narnia, a stepping outside of our world to see the earth-shattering effect of Christ’s redemption.  In the Narnia series, Christ is described as Aslan, the lion who rules the land of Narnia and beyond.

In the blog Why Do I Need a Perfect Sacrifice? Part 2 I referred to The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe and made this statement: “Aslan is perfectly good and Aslan is truly innocent, but he is put to death for crimes that a selfish, spoiled, ruthless boy commits.”

This is the first characteristic of Aslan: he is portrayed as perfect.  He does not sin: he does not choose evil, engage with evil, or enjoy it.

There is a second fundamental characteristic of Aslan that I did not discuss in that blog: He chooses to die for Edmund.  He is not like Boxer in Animal Farm in that he is tricked or forced into dying for Edmund.  Aslan comes to Narnia for the very purpose of dying.

He elects himself to pay for Edmund.  Aslan chooses himself for at least three reasons:

  • He is the only one who is perfect (that is, totally good).
  • He would rather suffer and die than allow anyone he loves go through this.  He is willing.
  • He is the only one who can break the stone table by his death.

This story has become a classic for many years not because it is an original idea, but because it is a reflection on an original idea that came from God Himself: God becoming man, coming down to save all who would place their sins on Him.

Redemption through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is the core concept of Christianity.  This great redemption is what sets Christianity apart from all other worldviews and also what makes it incompatible with all other worldviews.

The true Christian is the person who places their hope and faith in Jesus Christ as the ultimate sacrifice and the ultimate redemption.  And they will follow Jesus.  (I know from personal experience, having been a person who thought you could be a Christian and not even follow Christ until Christ in His great grace one day opened my eyes.  And now I follow.)

Where do I find a perfect, willing sacrifice with infinite ability?

I find it in Jesus Christ my Lord and Master.

We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are.

For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.  Yet God, with undeserved kindness, declares that we are righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins. For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood. This sacrifice shows that God was being fair when he held back and did not punish those who sinned in times past, for he was looking ahead and including them in what he would do in this present time. God did this to demonstrate his righteousness, for he himself is fair and just, and he declares sinners to be right in his sight when they believe in Jesus. (Romans 3:22-26, NLT)

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[1] From The Narnia Code book by Michael Ward, 2010, Chapter Two “The Beam of Light”, in discussion of C.S. Lewis’ essay Meditation in a Toolshed.

[2] From The Narnia Code book by Michael Ward, 2010, Chapter Two “The Beam of Light”, page 17, in discussion of C.S. Lewis’ essay Meditation in a Toolshed.

See Copyright Page for Bible translation information.

Why do I need to receive Christ’s sacrifice?

In  North to Freedom (also known as I Am David in the U.S.), David, a boy who escapes from a prison camp, befriends a dog along his journey to freedom.  The dog, King, becomes his companion during his harsh and lonely escape.  When David has almost made it to the free country of Denmark, he makes a grave mistake and finds himself facing an army barricade with no where to go.  King sacrifices his life by jumping out and barking so that David can find his freedom.  King is shot.

The feeling here is very different than in Animal Farm, even though King and Boxer are very comparable in their innocence and goodness (for further discussion on Animal Farm by George Orwell, see this blog.).  The feeling changes because King’s sacrifice saves David’s life, whereas Boxer’s sacrifice is seemingly for nothing.  We grieve King’s death, but we see that his purpose all along has been to rescue the boy he loves so much.  King has succeeded.  A tearful victory wells up within me because I see that King has won.

King steps into this role of self-sacrifice willingly when he becomes David’s dog, like Boxer steps into his role of self-sacrifice when the animal-run farm is first introduced.  Unlike Boxer, though, King is not tricked into dying so that some evil characters do more evil things.  King has a real reason to die: David.  Whereas Boxer tries to escape his unnecessary death, King gives his life willingly.

If we could go back and stop Boxer from dying, I daresay we would, most of us, because we love Boxer and we want him to have a good retirement.  But if we could go back and stop King, I don’t think most of us would, because we would be, in effect, allowing David to die and we would be reversing King’s beautiful, willful sacrifice.

The roles of sacrifice in these two stories–Animal Farm and North to Freedom–are very different, because the purpose of one sacrifice stops at death and the purpose of the other goes beyond it.  Boxer is sacrificed against his will.  He is an unwilling sacrifice.  His sacrifice halts his life and his story ends there.

King, on the other hand, is sacrificed because of his will.  He is a willing sacrifice.  His sacrifice halts his life, but his story does not end there.  He becomes an inextricable part of David’s story, and, when David reaches freedom, we are all reminded it was because of King.  For the rest of his life, everything that David does will be possible because of the sacrifice of King.

Boxer’s story tells of sacrifice.  But King’s story goes beyond sacrifice to tell of redemption.

Boxer represents the people throughout history who have been sacrificed for evil purpose.  There are millions of examples throughout history of people who have died, like Boxer, for no good reason.

King, on the other hand, in a very small sense, reminds me of the One person who first made His redemption plan known by making clothes for two creatures who had miserably failed Him (and themselves).  Though their lives were filled with hardships and disappointments from their poor choice, the [erson who clothed them planted a hope in their mind, a hope that one day a Person would come to clothe their evil, so it would be seen no more.

They didn’t realize that when the Person who clothed them was talking about the Person who would come to eternally clothe them . . . He was talking about himself.

Yes, this is the story of God, who, from the time of Adam and Eve, has shown humanity what redemption is about.  This is a story that does not end with sacrifice.  Like the story of King, the story of God’s love for humans does not end with Jesus dying on a cross: rather, it is through His death that we can live.

When King died distracting the soldiers, David had to choose to use his sacrifice.  He could have chosen to ignore King’s sacrifice and not used the diversion as an opportunity to get away.  If he had made that choice, it would not have made King’s sacrifice less redemptive, but it would have made David unable to live through King’s gift.  David would have died, and his story would have been over.

In much the same way, we must choose to receive Christ’s sacrifice to redeem us.  Otherwise, we will die having been offered redemption, and having declined it.  We will be on our own.  Like David would have been, we will have to face our worst enemies alone, and we will have utterly missed the point of the sacrifice.

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:20, NIV)

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See Copyright Page for Bible translation information.

Christianity isn’t a necklace.

Christianity in the Western Hemisphere has become known as an accessory.

I used to think Christianity was an accessory.

As in, “I’m feeling kinda nice today, I think I’ll put my Christianity necklace on.”  Or, “It would go well with my church outfit to have my Christianity jacket on today.”  We polish our Christianity jewelry and iron our Christianity clothes and hang them in our closets for special use.

Like a little girl who carries a Littlest Pet Shop toy in her pocket, I carried a trendy, and highly personalized version of ‘faith’ in my pocket.   I guess I thought I was supposed to pull my faith out when I wanted to think warm feelings or when it was time to go to Heaven.

Church has become, in some very sad places, an activity center where we pull out our ‘kinds’ of Christianity and compare them, much like little girls might pull out their Littlest Pet Shops and say, “I have a rabbit.  You have a frog.  That’s cool.”

This is not Christianity.  This is the emptiness that comes from having nothing more than an accessory around your neck and a charm in your pocket.  This ‘trendy faith’ could more easily be sold on Ebay than it could be used to find Christ, because God is in the role of an object.

I had all the symptoms of a trend: shallow, pathetic faith . . lack of interest in God’s Word . . . a halfhearted, lackadaisic, I’ll-serve-when-I-feel-like-it attitude.

When we place God in our life as an object, we worship only us.   After all, we don’t expect objects to tell us what to do.  We expect to hold them as our possessions to do with as we please.

Cain in the Bible typifies halfheartedness towards God.

Abel took care of flocks, and Cain became a farmer.

Later, Cain brought some food from the ground as a gift to God. Abel brought the best parts from some of the firstborn of his flock. The Lord accepted Abel and his gift, but he did not accept Cain and his gift. So Cain became very angry and felt rejected. (Genesis 4:2b-5, NCV)

Cain could have joined the God-as-I-want-Him movement.

Able raised livestock, and he sacrificed a portion of his animals to God–and not just a portion, but a portion of the best. Animals he had raised, watched out for, and taken care of.  Animals he could have saved for special breeding, since they were so healthy, strong, and beautiful.  But he killed these animals instead.  He gave them totally to God.  And as Able sacrificed his animals, blood would have run down his arms, reminding him of just how much sin had cost his family.

Cain, on the other hand, got ‘some food’ and gave it to God.  I wonder if he went out to his orchards and crops one day, picked some stuff here and there, and brought it in . . . like how I used to bring a little worship, a few 1-minute devotions, and a dab of service to God and expect Him to be pleased.

The Lord asked Cain, “Why are you angry? Why do you look so unhappy? If you do things well, I will accept you, but if you do not do them well, sin is ready to attack you. Sin wants you, but you must rule over it.” (Genesis 4:6-7)

Why does God expect so much?

Because God didn’t look down from Heaven at our sin, throw down a handful of potatoes, a bucket of apples, and a sack of flour and go back to things He would rather be doing.

No, He gave His one and only Son–the best gift He has, the best gift there is!–as atonement for our sins.

“‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.'” (Jesus, quoted in Matthew 22:37b, ISV)

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See Copyright Page for Bible translation information.

Published in: on February 4, 2011 at 12:58 pm  Leave a Comment  
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