His Grace is at Work!

PerfectionSomewhere in the psyche of all of us is the sense that misbehavior deserves punishment equivalent to the crime. There is something of a balancing mechanism in us that demands that justice be meted out to the wayward and/or to us. Even in animals, this sense of justice is present.

By contrast, grace provides a covering for our behavior in that Christ already paid the price for our sin. So, how is it that we are to think and feel about this dichotomy of grace and deserved punishment? Certainly the efficacy of God’s grace is adequate for all our need and yet, what of justice and what of the consequences for our crime and failure?

He sat in my office, with a fallen demeanor and facial expressions telling of the severity of the inner turmoil he was experiencing. He was in trouble. His business was failing and his family was disintegrating. Nothing seemed to be going right. He wanted to strike out at the circumstances and fight with those pressures that seemed to be bringing destruction to his life, but there was a certain nagging fear that these were the deserved consequences of his past sins. This crisis was simply God, getting back at him.

MosesMany of us have wondered from time to time if in fact the problems of life are just a reflection of some cosmic justice that eventually equals out things and gives as much as it takes. We will ultimately get back what we have given and will suffer for the pain we have given into life. The problem with that nagging sense of justice is that we also observe that it does not work equally for everyone. Everyone knows of exclusions to that rule. There are those scoundrels who seem to prosper without conscience and who gain at the expense of others, without remorse or guilt. Then there are those on the other end of that continuum who seem to suffer loss and pain without any observable deserving of it.

So, the question becomes, is there a rule at all? Does God punish evenhandedly or does He simple hurl the arrows of justice randomly, letting them fall where they may?

In the first place, the Bible never speaks of punishment separately from the act or the sin. We might conclude then, that the punishment is not exacted by God as a separate event from the sin, but that the penalty is in the sin itself. The commandments of God are not punitive but descriptive; that is, they are not given to steal from us our pleasure, our success or anything of that nature. They do however, acknowledge the natural consequences of violating them. They are living principles of cause and effect. If you kill, steal or injure others, there will naturally come to you the backlash of the violation. The penalty is in the sin.

j0435912As for God, He accepted the price paid on Calvary as payment in full for human failure. He is not out to get you, to punish you or to make sure there is a price paid equal to the violation. The penalty is paid. The price you pay is not from a punitive God but from the violation of principle. If you fall, gravity exacts its price on you. But God does not separately need a payment. It is finished on the Cross.

So, get up, get going and stop feeling as though God has forsaken you. He cannot! Because He is God! His love and grace are greater than your failure.

Pastor Dave

 

Hope without Change!

Hebrews 6: 17 because God wanted to make the unchanging nature of his purpose very clear to the heirs of what was promised, he confirmed it with an oath. 18 God did this so that, by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled to take hold of the hope set before us may be greatly encouraged. 19 We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, 20 where our forerunner, Jesus, has entered on our behalf. He has become a high priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.

Dimensions LogoWe live in a day of confusion. Politically, our nation is in turmoil, trying to come to grips with a constant sense of change and uncertainty, with no clear sense of where we are going or of what the future will hold. You can fill in the blanks about those issues that are a constant source of confusion and uncertainty.

By contrast, the purposes of God are unchanging and He does not need to lie to explain them or justify any change – simply because He does not change. His purpose was set and clear from the beginning and the process that follows is not a matter of changing the purpose, the plan, the agenda or anything related to the direction of His eternal purpose. The change is in us, to bring us from our entrance point in His purpose to the maturity He has already determined.

Confusion AheadThe confusion of human government is that it is always uncertain, unclear and often covert. Do you ever feel like there is some massive conspiracy in the minds of some leaders who are manipulating us toward a cliff of destruction? Polls show that politicians fare worse than used car salesmen in our rating of their truthfulness. We do not trust them.

But there is a hope, steadfast and secure that we can follow with certain confidence that it will not move on us, will not be an exercise in smoke and mirrors and will be to our benefit. It is the purpose of the Eternal Creator, who is unchanging, all wise and without the ability to lie. He holds forth a hope that secures the soul, brings peace to the emotions and stimulates confidence in a purpose that is clean, certain and designed for our ultimate good.

The contrasts between human government and the government of God are obvious and stark. They have no points of comparison, only points of contrast. The best that human government can do falls far short, and when the worst that man’s systems can do are evident, we have no hope other than that which is in God.

I Samuel 8: 6 But when they said, “Give us a king to lead us,” this displeased Samuel; so he prayed to the Lord. 7 And the Lord told him: “Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king. 8 As they have done from the day I brought them up out of Egypt until this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are doing to you. 9 Now listen to them; but warn them solemnly and let them know what the king who will reign over them will claim as his rights.”

CrownGod is not mischievous in His purposes. He does not manipulate us. His desire is that we follow Him as a free act of our will. So, when we (the human race) demanded a king (human government) God allowed it, not because it was best for us but because it was our choice. The way we tend to learn is by experience, and we tend to learn more from failure than we do from success. So, we have kings. It is in the course of following them that we see their feet or clay and reject them. The problem is, we select them! In effect, they are graced with our power by our presumptions of their worthiness to lead. Seldom do we get what we thought we were getting. And then when it is too late, we are stuck with them. Whose fault is it? Ours of course.

The alternative is to follow the Eternal in His plans, and by means of His ways. It is a way to His purposes that is free, filled with hope and the delight of His presence. He does not control, but human government knows nothing else. He motivates while human government knows only manipulation and regulation. He desires our willing commitment while human government can only punish to gain control.

It is possible to live in this world and to appeal to a higher arena of government. It is possible to live with change and the lies necessary to manipulate us toward its objectives, while having our eyes set above to the eternal purposes of the Sovereign Lord of Glory. Our High Priest forever, Jesus, has already entered the rest for us. It is ours to enter also. So rest in this, that the purposes of God are sure and steadfast and nothing can change that!

Pastor Dave