And I forgive
Grace fully accepts the injury, and forgives. Grace is not cheap. It does not shrug off the offense as mere common occurrence or one being too hard on himself.
We cannot fight or have victory over sin (and death), unless God forgives us.
We have injured Christ in word, attitude, and action; our wicked wrath hung him on the cross; God’s righteous wrath, there, killed him for our sake.
All our shame is laid upon Christ and our Father says, “I know. And I forgive you.”
“But I feel like an idiot,” we say. “I’ve injured others so deeply. I drag your name through the mud. I screw up all the time.”
Yet again, he says, “I know.
And I forgive you.”
At a great cost to himself – through the shed blood of his son – our Father forgives.
For the past few months, my Bible study and I have been reading Tim Keller’s book Counterfeit Gods. The book deals with idolatry, as the subtitle summarizes The Empty Promises of Money, Sex, and Power, and the Only Hope That Matters. It has been very challenging, as no one likes to be confronted with the reality of their sinful desires, and it has been encouraging, being reminded that we are more sinful than we can imagine, yet more loved than we dare to dream.
This week we’re finishing out the book, so I thought I’d share some thoughts from the Epilogue. I realize I’m skipping 164 pages of the book, but I think this post will summarize the main theme and purpose of the book – what I call the “idol remedy.”
The way to get rid of an idol, Keller says, is by replacing it. He says, “If you uproot the idol and fail to ‘plant’ the love of Christ in its place, the idol will grow back.” This process of replacing an idol comes in two parts: repentance and worship.
“Jesus must become more beautiful to your imagination, more attractive to your heart, than your idol…When we repent out of fear of consequences, we are not really sorry for the sin, but for ourselves. Fear-based repentance is…self-pity. In fear-based repentance, we don’t learn to hate the sin for itself, and it doesn’t lose its attractive power…fear-based repentance makes us hate ourselves.” p.172
“[Idolatry] cannot be remedied only by repenting that you have an idol, or using willpower to try to live differently.” p. 171
“…it is worship that is the final way to replace the idols of your heart. You cannot get relief simply by figuring out your idols intellectually. You have to actually get the peace that Jesus gives, and that only comes as you worship. Analysis can help you discover truths, but then you need to ‘pray them in’ to your heart.” p. 175
In the end it is paramount to remember that God is pleased with us because of Christ’s works, not ours. Operating outside of this truth, to try earn His favor or develop a sense of self-worth, is idolatry and self-focused. Keller quotes Martin Luther in a footnote from this chapter, saying,
“If we doubt or do not believe that God is gracious to us and is pleased with us, or if w we presumptuously expect to please Him only through and after our works, then it is all pure deception, outwardly honoring God, but inwardly setting up self as a false (savior).”
For more from Tim Keller, I invite you to check out his website: here.
What about you? Do you find yourself trying to keep a clean moral record so that God will love you? Is it difficult to believe that God is gracious and pleased with you, not because of your record but because of Jesus’? Idolatry can look like this and so much more, but these are two areas that idolatry plays out in my life. I’d love to hear your thoughts this topic and how Keller’s words inspire and/or challenge you!
Of the many battles which Christian fought on his way to the Celestial City (City of Sion), none were more epic and dangerous than his battle with Apollyon (Rev. 9:11). After being fitted with armor (Eph. 6:10-18), Christian begins his journey into the Valley of Humiliation and comes upon the foe Apollyon. Christian is seized with fear and contemplates turning back but remembers that he has no armor for his back, and therefore resolves to fight.
Apollyon: Whence come you, and whither are you bound?
Christian: I come from the City of Destruction, which is the place of all evil, and am going to the City of Sion.
Apollyon: …I perceive thou art one of my subjects for all that country is mine; and I am the prince and god of it. How is it then that thou hast run away from thy king?…
Christian: I was born indeed in your dominions, but your service was hard, and your wages such as a man could not live on, for the wages of sin is death…
Apollyon: There is no prince that will thus lightly lose his subjects, neither will I as yet lose thee…
Christian: But I have let myself to another, even to the King of Princes, and how can I with fairness go back with thee?
Apollyon: …it is ordinary for those that have professed themselves his servants, after a while to give him the slip; and return again to me: do thou so too, and all shall be well.
Christian: …I count that the Prince under whose banner now I stand is able to absolve me; yea, and to pardon also what I did as to my compliance with thee…and besides…I like his service, his wages, his servants, his government, his company, and country better than thine…
Apollyon: …Thou knowest that for the most part his servants come to an ill end, because they are transgressors against me and my ways: how many of them have been put to shameful deaths!…
Christian: His forbearing at present to deliver them is on purpose to try their love, whether they will cleave to him to the end: and as for the ill end thou sayest they come to, that is most glorious in their account…
Apollyon: Thou hast already been unfaithful in thy service to him, and how dost thou think to receive wages of him?
[Apollyon then recounts many of Christians failures]
Christian: All this is true, and much more, which thou has left out; but the Prince whom I serve and honour is merciful and ready to forgive…I have groaned under them, been sorry for them, and have obtained pardon of my Prince.
Apollyon: …I am an enemy to this Prince: I hate his person, his laws, and people…
Satan (Apollyon) may be the “prince of the power of the air” (Eph. 2:2) and “ruler of this world” (John 12:31), but, as Christian recalled, we serve the King of Kings and Lord of Lords (Rev. 19:16). Amen!
Bunyan, John, and Roger Sharrock. The Pilgrim’s Progress. Harmondsworth. Penguin, 1987. 51-53. Print.
How does this encounter encourage or challenge you? Does it expose any lies you are believing or remind you of any truths you should cling to? I’d love to get your thoughts!
Below is my response to the Eternal Footmen topic of the week:
“Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it. Prone to leave the God I love.”
Love. Action. Denial. Repentance. Community. Reverence. Ebenezer. Flight. Blood. Passover. Israel. Lamb. Prepared. Haste. Memorial. Deliverance. Sin. Promise. Sacrifice. Worship. Blessing. Death. People. Provision. Native. Family. One House. Remembrance. Bread. Slavery. Sign. Regularity. Strength. Fidelity. Redemption. Broken. First-Born. Fear. Power. Altar. LORD. Gift. Melchizedek. Witness. Consecration. Faithfulness. Restoration. Obedience. Grace. Unity. Submission. Disciples. Wine. Body. Wrath. Command. Covenant. Forgiveness. Church. Cup. Vine. Kingdom. Betrayal. Substitution. Gratitude. Drink. Atonement. Prayer. Suffering. Proclamation. Return. Hallelujah. Rejoice!
Yesterday’s message (here) really messed me up. Matt spoke on Heaven and Hell…everyone’s favorite topic. I’m thankful that he is bold enough and faithful enough to preach on the reality of man’s eternal destination.
Heaven and Hell are real places. Please hear that. They are real places. And talking about them is not for fear-mongering or to paint pretty pictures in your mind of a place that everyone goes to be happy some day.
The part that messed me up the most was when Matt quoted a section from one of Charles Spurgeon’s sermons (click here for the full sermon from Spurgeon). He tells the story of a mother who is at judgement with her children. Jesus directs the mother one way and the children to another. The mother loved Jesus with all her heart and she tried to teach her children to do the same. But the children grew to love the things of the world, rather than Jesus. After weeping and seeing that her children were going to spend eternity in Hell, an angel dries her eyes, which reminds her of the treasure she has in Jesus and His perfect justice He executes in punishing sinners, and her response to her children is this:
“My children, I taught you well, I trained you up, and you forsook the ways of God; and now all I have to say is, Amen to your condemnation.”
Please, read and re-read this quote. For those of you in Christ, this is the hard reality of what we will one day face. Imagine those you love here on earth. Some of them don’t know or don’t believe the Gospel of Jesus Christ. As painful as it will be to know that they will not be with us in heaven, our joy in Christ and His justice will cause us to say “Amen” to their condemnation.
It is not “Amen, I’m such a good person and they’re not.” It’s “Amen, God showed me grace and His perfect name will not be defamed by those who rebel. To Him be glory and honor forever. Amen.”
Please have the spiritual sensitivity to let this bother you. May it cause you to cherish the grace that Christ has shown you, if you are a believer, and may it cause us to open our mouths and proclaim the Gospel.
I’ve recently been reading The Holiness of God by R.C. Sproul with my Wednesday night bible study guys, and we’ve all been challenged to think more deeply and hold with higher reverence the holiness of our God.
Last night we had a very healthy discussion about God’s justice and mercy, which I found very humbling. Below are some of the main points I took from the reading and our discussion.
- The Old Testament law is one of astonishing mercy, not injustice from a malicious God. How could this be? He’s always killing people in the OT – men, women, and children!
- “The soul who sins is the one who will die” (Ezek. 18:4). The penalty for sin, from the beginning, has been death. The right to life is forfeited by sin. Every act of sin is treason against an infinite, holy, and just God. The appropriate response to this treason is death. Yet here we are eating, sleeping, working, breathing, carrying on. How could a just God allow rebels, who have defamed His perfect name, to go on living??
- Mercy. God is full of justice and mercy. We live and breathe and eat only by His mercy, because He allows us to. This merciful patience is designed to lead us to repentance. “The most mysterious aspect of the mystery of sin is not that the sinner deserves to die, but rather that the sinner in the average situation continues to exist.”
- Our tendency, however, is to feel entitled to God’s mercy and grace. Entitled. As if He owed us a good life. As if grace and mercy is something anyone can deserve! The nature of grace and mercy is that we DON’T deserve them! When we talk about “deserving” something, we’re talking about justice – something earned. So, when things don’t go our way, we feel that God is being unjust in not giving us mercy.
- If ever anyone would have had the “right” to complain about “injustice” it was Jesus. He lived a perfect life, yet what did he receive? The most violent display of wrath and justice the world will ever know – the Cross. If we should be outraged, it should be with the Cross.
- But for the joy set before Him, Christ endured the cross. His sacrifice sets before us the same joy. What mercy! Rebels redeemed by the justice and mercy of the Cross! What an intersection, what unfathomable love! When there was no way – when justice demanded death – God made a way, through mercy, by murdering His perfect and innocent Son in our place – cleansing us of our sins AND giving us right standing before God.
Should we be outraged at the Cross? Absolutely.
Outraged that it was not us.
A good friend of mine, Mason King, blessed me with the book The Valley of Vision: a collection of Puritan prayers and devotions (ugly cover, amazing book), and I love coming back to their words of deep affection and fervor for the Lord. Below is a selection from a recent reading that I hope encourages you.
Man’s Great End
Lord of all being,
there is one thing that deserves my greatest care,
that calls forth my ardent desires,
That is, that I may answer the great end for which I am made-
to glorify thee who hast given me being,
and to do all the good I can for my fellow men;
Verily, life is not worth having
if it be not improved for this noble purpose.
Yet, Lord, how little is this the thought of mankind!
Most men seem to live for themselves,
without much or any regard for thy glory,
or for the good of others;
They earnestly desire and eagerly pursue
the riches, honours, pleasures of this life,
as if they supposed that wealth, greatness, merriment,
could make their immortal souls happy;
But, alas, what false delusive dreams are these!
And how miserable ere long will those be that sleep in them,
for all our happiness consists in loving thee,
and being holy as thou are holy.
O may I never fall into the tempers and vanities,
the sensuality and folly of the present world!
It is a place of inexpressible sorrow, a vast empty nothingness;
Time is a moment, a vapour,
and all its enjoyments are empty bubbles,
fleeting blasts of wind,
from which nothing satisfactory can be derived;
Give me grace always to keep in covenant with thee,
and to reject as delusion a great name here or hereafter, [emphasis added]
together with all sinful pleasures or profits.
Help me to know continually
that there can be no true happiness,
no fulfilling of thy purpose for me,
apart from a life lived in and for the Son of thy love.