Friday, March 6, 2009

Who Gave Himself For Our Sins

I feel more alive today than I have since I first heard the gospel 33 years ago. . .I may die today, and stand before God and hear the Accuser rail against me, yet I will say to him:

To our Lord Jesus Christ, Who gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father: be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

Martin Luther, in commenting on the above, asks us to really consider WHAT JESUS GAVE HIMSELF FOR. . .did He give Himself, did He allow Himself to be crucified, for gold? For a kingdom? For man’s fame and glory? God only knows how many men and women in our world willingly risk or give up their lives for the hope of gain and/or glory. That is how they attach meaning to life. But our Lord willingly gave up His life. . .not for gain. . .not for glory. . .but. . .FOR OUR SINS.

Can you imagine Paul Revere undertaking his *Midnight Ride* not for liberty, but for some pathetic crack whore’s HIV? Or Mohammad Atta flying an airplane into an office building not for the glory of Allah, but for the lies of George Bush?

He gave Himself FOR OUR SINS. . .

I can look at my life this morning, and for the first time in many many years, really see my sin. . .this is a blessing.

For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God. . .

Over the years, family members and a very few friends have sent cards on the holidays or for a birthday. . .I would rip open the envelope, glance at the front cover, read the prefabricated sentiment printed on the inside and look at the quickly scrawled signature. . .then drop the torn envelope and card into the nearest garbage can. . .the cards never meant a thing to me. . .in fact, I almost resented the effort to tear open the envelopes and read the things. . .

At some point in the last years, I began to treat the gift of God like it was a $2.00 greeting card from my mother-in-law. . .

The gift of God had lost meaning. . .I took it for granted, just as one takes for granted a wife or a child giving you a card on your birthday. . .

And as I took the gift of God for granted, I therefore took my own sin for granted. . .

My sin became of little interest to me. . .

At the time of receiving the gospel, there was a great awareness of God’s grace. . .that salvation truly is a gift of God, that we can offer nothing of our own in exchange for it. To truly understand this, we must truly understand our own sin.

Here are the words of Martin Luther:

How may we obtain remission of our sins? Paul answers: "The man who is named Jesus Christ and the Son of God gave himself for our sins." The heavy artillery of these words explodes papacy, works, merits, superstitions. For if our sins could be removed by our own efforts, what need was there for the Son of God to be given for them? Since Christ was given for our sins it stands to reason that they cannot be put away by our own efforts.

This sentence also defines our sins as great, so great, in fact, that the whole world could not make amends for a single sin. The greatness of the ransom, Christ, the Son of God, indicates this. The vicious character of sin is brought out by the words "who gave himself for our sins." So vicious is sin that only the sacrifice of Christ could atone for sin. When we reflect that the one little word "sin" embraces the whole kingdom of Satan, and that it includes everything that is horrible, we have reason to tremble. But we are careless. We make light of sin. We think that by some little work or merit we can dismiss sin.

Time is the great destroyer. Over the last 33 years, the 33 years since God dragged me to Christ, I slowly, gradually renewed my friendship with the world, the flesh and the devil. I never turned my back on Christ. . .I never proclaimed a false gospel. . .certainly Christ never left me nor forsook me. . .yet I became *careless* with sin.

All that God blessed me with, I yawned at. I cast His pearls before the swine. Christ’s sacrifice came, more and more, to seem a small thing. . .a $2.00 greeting card.

Will I now be *good?* Certainly not. I will sin and sin and sin until I die. Yet I pray I not be *careless* about it. I pray I not become the dog that returns to its vomit.

It is the height of arrogance to diminish Christ’s giving of Himself for our sins. . .if one could know the full degree to which this offends the Heavenly Throne, I imagine one would tremble, indeed.

My favorite Psalm has always been number one hundred and three:

Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits: Who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases; Who redeemeth thy life from destruction; who crowneth thee with lovingkindness and tender mercies. . . The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy. He will not always chide: neither will He keep His anger for ever. He hath not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities. For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is His mercy toward them that fear Him. As far as the east is from the west, so far hath He removed our transgressions from us. Like as a father pitieth his children, so the LORD pitieth them that fear Him. For He knoweth our frame; He remembereth that we are dust.

I know firsthand the Lord has not dealt with me after my sin, nor rewarded me according to my iniquity. . .

Imagine a lewd scene. . .an orgy in Hell, complete with every perversion. . .men, women, children and beasts. . .writhing and moaning. And imagine I cast before it all God has blessed me with. . .

When I take for granted that He gave Himself for my sin, and therefore take my own sin for granted, and am *careless* with it, I poison myself.

I remember that Adam and Eve ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and their *eyes were opened,* and they saw everything differently, including themselves. . .they had a new and prurient view of their own bodies, for example. When I am *careless* with sin, *my eyes close*. . .I have a dimmer view of God’s blessings. . .I look at my own life, the life God blessed me with, with bitterness, murmurings and complaints. I have a perverted view of my own life. . .I see only myself. . .the life God has blessed me with slowly vanishes from my vision. . .the universe contracts to the size of my own lusts. . .God’s gift seems as small as a $2.00 greeting card.

How am I freed from the poison of my own sin? Only by taking my eyes off of myself and placing them upon my Savior, and seeing once again HE WHO GAVE HIMSELF FOR OUR SINS.

I did not of my own will take my eyes off of myself, nor was it a pleasant circumstance which led my eyes back to Christ on the cross:

For whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom He receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons. Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live? For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but He for our profit, that we might be partakers of His holiness. Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness.

I say amen.

At a time I cannot accurately recall, I shifted my gaze from Christ to my old friends the world, the flesh and the devil. . .I took the gift of God for granted. . .I treated His blessings as a tiresome burden. . .I became *careless* with sin. . .and as I lived more and more in sin, my discontent and bitterness and murmurings grew. . .though I would not consciously acknowledge it, I looked for *peace* in sin. Though it sounds trite to the unbeliever, it is nevertheless true: sin does not bring fulfillment. . .I lived in sin and misery. . .I lived as Paul once described:

But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?

I spent so many days in sin and misery, because I lost sight of those six little words:

Who Gave Himself For Our Sins. . .

Today I could die and the Accuser could rail against me, and everything he said would be true. . .yet as Martin Luther observed:

If he says, "Thou shalt be damned," you tell him: "No, for I fly to Christ who gave Himself for my sins. In accusing me of being a damnable sinner, you are cutting your own throat, Satan. You are reminding me of God's fatherly goodness toward me, that He so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. In calling me a sinner, Satan, you really comfort me above measure." With such heavenly cunning we are to meet the devil's craft and put from us the memory of sin.

I wonder at what the unbeliever who stumbles across this must think. . .but no need to wonder:

For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness. . .

But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness. . .

Today, I have the peace of God which passes all understanding. . .

And He that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And He said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful. And He said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely. He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be My son.

Thank you, Jesus.

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