Last night I attended a Good Friday service at Lifepoint Church .The Lord used the message I heard to help me to understand more of Who He is and what He has been doing in history. I will apologize in advance to Pastor Eric in case my interpretation of what he said is not exactly what he meant. The message ought to be up soon on iTunes if you would like to listen to it (iTunes - Podcasts - The Lifepoint Connection by Eric Darst). Following is what I gleaned out of the message:
In the Old Testament, God warns His people over and over and over again that they need to obey His commands and give Him the glory. A main theme throughout the Bible is that God will not share His glory with another. Isaiah 42:8 says: "I am the Lord; that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to carved idols." In God's dealings with His people, He tries to woo them to Him, they reject Him, and they are punished over and over for idolatry and disobedience. The punishment to me has seemed harsh. Yet, in the New Testament, if anything, the consequence for rejecting God's glory (trusting in idols, disbelief, pride. . . really, all sin) appears even more cruel, for Romans 6:23 states "For the wages of sin is death. . . ". Christians often avoid the use of the word Hell, but Biblically speaking, it's pretty clear that to reject God is to choose Hell, which is an eternal separation from God and an absence of all that is good and true and right.
Hell is not a fun idea. People often say "God wouldn't do that." Yet, the very idea that WE are saying what God will and will not do to preserve the holiness of His Name only further belittles His glory. My objection to the curses in Deuteronomy are MY sin of thinking that surely God's glory is not that big a deal. So the Israelites disobey. So they turn to idols after seeing God's glory more up-close and personal than any people in history. So they grumble and disbelieve and sin. Can't God just overlook it? The Bible says clearly no, though God even in the Old Testament, even after His repeated warnings and urgings and punishments, shows His people mercy. Psalm 78 is a wonderful picture of Israel's rebellious history and God's mercy to them:
When he killed them, they sought him;Reluctantly, I have to believe that Hell is justified because God says that it is. However, gloriously, thankfully, amazingly, Hell is not the sole response that the Lord has to the trampling of His glory. God's compassion and love for us is so great that He provided another way. God really did love us so much that He sent His son Jesus, to pay the price for our sin and disregard for His glory. God Himself bore the punishment for our sin so that we could be united with Him and in relationship with Him forever.
they repented and sought God earnestly.
They remembered that God was their rock,
the Most High God their redeemer.
But they flattered him with their mouths;
they lied to him with their tongues.
Their heart was not steadfast toward him;
they were not faithful to his covenant.
Yet he, being compassionate,
atoned for their iniquity
and did not destroy them;
he restrained his anger often
and did not stir up all his wrath.
He remembered that they were but flesh,
a wind that passes and comes not again.
(Psalm 78: 34-39)
Why did I find this so momentous that I needed to blog about it? Isn't this basic Christian doctrine? What is so earth-shattering?
I needed to blog about this because, though I grew up going to church and have been a Christian for a long time now, I still do not grasp the depth of God's grace and mercy toward me. The Old Testament people deserved death for their sin. I deserve death for my sin. Yet God made a way so that I don't have to die. I don't have to be separated from God for all eternity even though I have belittled and trampled upon and not even fully grasped the extent of God's glory and holiness. He made a way for me when I could not make it myself, and He continues to love and guide me even when my understanding is so woefully lacking. His grace is SO much bigger than I imagine, and whenever I come even a teeny bit closer to seeing it, I want to share it with everyone!
Though my thinking that God should always be "in my favor" is false, the reality that He truly does have a heart to bestow favor upon me is true. May you see more of God's glory this Easter!