Friday, March 25, 2016

The Death That Wins the War

The death of Jesus the Christ is not mocked and derided because it lacks historical verification. Neither is it denounced because it is some failed rescue mission of an incompetent mythological deity.

Rather, the death of Jesus Christ is maligned, and insulted, and attacked, and denied, for one very simple and deadly reason.

The death of Jesus Christ attacks the most important person in the world: ME![1]

God’s Book makes much of the death of Jesus Christ because of its magnificent achievement. For those who receive it, we can confidently testify, “He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”[2]

However, it grates on the mind of the prideful self of man to admit that such a rescue mission is required. If we celebrate a victory in which the domain of darkness is defeated, and all the POW’s are brought into the kingdom of God’s beloved Son, we must admit that the best any of us have ever done is handle our prideful little lives in the domain of darkness.

And, our prideful and selfish little selves do not like that!

Which is another reason that God’s children celebrate how completely Jesus’ death has set us free. Not only does it offer salvation from sin and death, but it graciously delivers us from the prideful self that has no ability to see the good in such a deliverance.

Yes, every child of God knows this, that it is by the gracious favor of God, his loving initiative on our behalf, that he puts to death our prideful selves in the death of his Son, and gives us, “the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.”[3]

In other words, the death of Jesus Christ not only gave us the sacrificial and substitutionary death of our Redeemer, but it presented us with the death of our pride, and the death of our blindness, and the death of our darkness, and the death of our ignorance, and the death of our arrogant belief that we are simply okay without him.

This is why Jesus introduced the characteristics of his kingdom by declaring, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”[4] It would not be the proud of spirit who entered his kingdom, for their prideful selves would always be blind to the true condition of their sin. Instead, the grace of God would bring prostitutes, and drunks, and tax collectors, and sinners of all kinds, to admit their tremendous need (the same need as the proud who are too blind to see what is wrong), and to enter in to Jesus’ comfort.

Jesus continued, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”[5] This identifies the fact that those who arrogantly denounce any sense of their deadly condition before God will only have the temporary reward of whatever meager happiness they squeeze out of their self-centered life experiences. On the other hand, those who mourn what is wrong with them experience the full comfort of salvation out of sin, and deliverance into the comforts of God’s love.

When Jesus added, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth,”[6] he identified that it would not be the strong and self-dependent who would inherit all that belongs to the Savior who created the heavens and the earth. Rather, it would be those who admitted in their hearts that they do not have the wherewithal to fix what is wrong with them, who would receive the gift of God’s grace,[7] the adoption as sons,[8] and the inheritance that is laid up for us in heaven.[9]

And, when Jesus declared this glorious promise, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied,”[10] he denounced those who were so satisfied in their own good works that they felt no need of him, and declared eternal hope over everyone who would hunger and thirst for the righteousness they saw in the gospel of their salvation.

The ones who would admit they did not have this righteousness in themselves, but saw it freely offered to them in Jesus Christ, and so hungered for it, and thirsted to experience what the gracious gift of a righteous soul could feel like, would be fully satisfied in their souls with the righteousness they longed to know.

As an example of the way the death of Jesus Christ puts the prideful self to death in order to give us the life that grace alone provides, God’s Book tells us about a man named Saul. If ever there was someone who would have earned his way to heaven by good works (were such a thing possible), it was this man. In terms of human achievement, he had every reason to be proud of his accomplishments.[11]

However, on one particular day, Saul was met by the most gracious appearance of the Lord Jesus Christ proving once and for all that Saul was just as sinful as all the rest of us, and that the gift of salvation could cover this man’s sin as well as that of any other.[12] The transformation was so drastic, that God changed Saul’s name to Paul, the man we have come to know as a great servant of the grace of God.

Paul’s testimony about himself was, “The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.”[13] Paul wanted it to be very clear that, while he was living the life of a very good person, he was actually “the foremost” of sinners. He did not want anyone to think he was a good man who came to prominence in the kingdom of God because of his good works. Everything was by the grace of God taking hold of the life of the most sinful of men.

This is why he would add, “But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life.”[14] Paul testified that, because the mercy of God was fully capable of saving the foremost of sinners, his testimony stands as a timeless example of the perfect patience of God towards sinners.

In other words, are you uncertain whether God can save a sinner like you? Well, Paul was the foremost of sinners, and God saved him.

What about if you think you are too good to need the death of Jesus Christ to deliver you out of your sin? Well, God took hold of Paul, a man who had a much higher pedigree than any of us, and showed that he was the foremost of sinners in need of salvation as much as the prostitutes, and drunks, who came into the kingdom of God’s beloved Son.

The death of Jesus Christ is not old news. Its only “best before” date is the return of Christ, at which time the offer of salvation will immediately expire, and the judgment of the lost and found begin.

While the commemoration of Good Friday is optional, the conviction that “there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved,”[15] is necessary to life.

The tragedy and triumph of this good news continues to show in this clarification given close to two millennia ago, 
The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.[16]

© 2016 Monte Vigh ~ Box 517, Merritt, BC, V1K 1B8 ~
Unless otherwise noted, Scriptures are from the English Standard Version (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.)

[1] I do not mean that I am more important than you, or that I am even as important as I imagine. I mean that, for each of us, in our immaturity, and ignorance of God, we still believe we are the center of the universe, and everything revolves around us and our happiness.
[2] Colossians 1:13-14
[3] Ephesians 4:24
[4] Matthew 5:3
[5] Matthew 5:4
[6] Matthew 5:5
[7] Ephesians 2:8-9
[8] Romans 8:15, 8:23; Galatians 4:5; Ephesians 1:5
[9] I Peter 1:4
[10] Matthew 5:6
[11] Philippians 3:4-6 is a summary of the personal attributes that put Saul above anyone else in his achievements.
[12] Acts 9:1-31 gives the account of prideful Saul encountering Jesus the Christ.
[13] I Timothy 1:15
[14] I Timothy 1:16
[15] Acts 4:12
[16] John 1:9-13

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