Monday, March 14, 2016

God is not like the Government

Today I was preparing for my meeting with my associate Chuck.  We have been reading The Gospel for Real Life by the recently deceased author Jerry Bridges.  In chapter 4, entitled “Justice Satisfied,” I came across this statement:  Most people “ …think that God will somehow relax His inflexible justice and pardon all of us by mere sovereign prerogative.”  (p. 43) 

I had to agree with that statement – I do think most people genuinely think God is going to sovereignly give them a pass.  Perhaps it is because they are convinced that their sin is not as bad as someone else’s sin.  Perhaps it is because their good deeds clearly outweigh their bad deeds.  Or perhaps they just think God, being a good God and a loving God, could clearly not judge someone like them who has tried so hard.

Regardless of the reason, many people are convinced that God will somehow, in some way, put aside his holiness and his justice, leaving them unsatisfied, and offer pardon to the vast majority of human beings.  They are convinced that God is able and willing to go against his character and offer forgiveness and heaven to those who are guilty.

So, I got to thinking – why do people think that way?  Well, some do not understand that God’s justice is inflexible – everyone will get exactly what they deserve.  Others do not understand the dichotomy between holiness and sin – our sin is a serious offense to God’s holy character.  And some believe that because of the examples we see in our society.

You see, government has often taken the role of god in our lives.  But God is not like the government.  What do I mean?  Think back a few years.  In 2008, after years of risky investments and phony dealings, the bottom fell out of the mortgage market and the economy as a whole.  Banks and other large corporations, threatened to go under.  And convinced that it was for the ultimate good of the economy, the government bailed out investment firms and insurance companies and auto makers.  They government did not allow them to pay for their years of bad, irresponsible choices.  They offered them forgiveness of a sort despite their deeds.

The same kind of thing could be said of homeowners that bought what they could not afford.  Suddenly upside down in the payments, owing more than their house is worth, some of them were also bailed out by a government that did not allow them to face the just consequences of their own behavior.  I believe the same thing will happen in a few years to the whole student loan industry.  The cries are already beginning to be heard for loan forgiveness on behalf of students.  The day will come, in the midst of a crisis, when the government will somehow, in some way, erase the debts these students have accrued.

Now some of you may be reading this and thinking – wow, Jeff is sure a grouch today.  That is not what I want to communicate.  Rather, I want us to recognize that the government’s actions – necessary or not, whether you agree or not – are not parallel to God’s actions with regard to justice.  God does not and will not forgive sins without justice being satisfied.  He will not “bail out” anyone.  His mercy toward a sinner cannot somehow “trump” his justice. (No Trump pun intended…)  Rather his justice must be satisfied.  God will not act like the government acts on the last day.

Thankfully, this is where Jesus comes in.  As our representative, Jesus died on the cross, bearing the full brunt of God’s justice.  We do not have to pay the price for our sin – Jesus already paid it in full.  Jesus assumed our liability for not perfectly obeying God’s law and he paid that liability to the utmost.  In Jesus, God cancelled “the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands.  This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.” (Col. 2:14)  When we accept and trust Jesus’ provision for our sins, God’s justice toward us is satisfied and his mercy is enabled.

And so, the Christian does not fear judgment day.  Our lack of fear is not because of some phony, false belief that God is just going willy-nilly to offer grace to everyone.  Rather, our lack of fear comes from the fact that we are assured that the price for our sin is paid, justice has been satisfied and what we will receive at Christ’s judgment seat is the abundant mercy of God.  Praise the Lord – God is not like the government!

Friday, March 11, 2016

Do You Have a Worship Disorder?

Do you have a worship disorder?  Let me answer that question for you – yes you do.  So do I.  Every human who has ever walked the planet (apart from Jesus Christ) has a worship disorder.  We regularly find ourselves in awe of the wrong things.
Paul David Tripp, in his book Awe:  Why it Matters for Everything we Think, Say and Do, suggests that every one of us fights a war of awe in our hearts.  Every day we experience a battle over who or what will rule and control our hearts.  You see, God created all of us with an awe capacity.  We were designed to worship.  We gravitate to the things we find awe in.  It is awe that stimulates our greatest joys and our deepest sorrows.  And the world around us is awe-some – God created an awesome world for us to live in.  He intended us to be amazed on a daily basis.

The problem, of course, is that all too often the awe that directs our hearts is directed at and limited to the things of this created world.  This world captures our hearts, and we struggle to look past this world to the truly awe-inspiring Creator that stands behind it and over it.  Sin causes us to be spiritual amnesiacs, men and women who can look at the awesomeness of the created world and completely miss the creator God.

The reason this problem is serious is that misplaced awe keeps us perennially dissatisfied.  Why do I say that?  Because when we find the source of our awe in this world, somehow, in some way, that same source of awe will disappoint us.  Simply put, when we replace God with anything from the created world, at some point in our lives we will have to recognize that the particular created thing we love makes a poor god, an inadequate god, and ultimately a powerless god.  That is true for everything we find ourselves in awe of. 

Think about it how that might play out in your own life.  For example, sin is great at replacing our worship of God with worship of self.  If we replace awe of God with awe of self, what might that look like?  If we are in awe of ourselves, our own self-rule replaces submission to God.  Our insatiable demands for more will displace gratitude to God.  Self-reliance takes the place of faith.  A horizontal envy can become our primary emotion rather than a God-directed, God-given joy.  We embark on a continual quest for personal control rather than resting in God’s sovereignty.  What a miserable picture.  I don’t want to hang out with anyone that looks like that, and I surely don’t want to look like that myself.  When we live in awe of self, we quickly come to understand how limited that life is.  For example, while the idea of controlling our lives sounds great, how long will be it until we come face to face with something that is too big or too frightening or too powerful for us to control?  In those situations, we discover that are awe of self is awe aimed in the wrong direction.

So how do we find help?  Only grace can give us back our awe of God again.  You see, sin causes us to want for ourselves what God alone has.  We tend put ourselves in the center of the story.  As a result, not only do we become rebels against God, we become a danger to ourselves and others, and we are ultimately powerless to help ourselves.  The solution for our problem must come from outside of ourselves.

That is why Jesus came.  His sacrifice directs our attention off of ourselves, and onto the God who is holy and just and loving and all-powerful.  Jesus sacrifice reminds us that we have a sin problem we could never solve ourselves.  Jesus draws us to place our trust in what He accomplished for us – a gift of salvation we do not deserve and never could earn.  Through Jesus, we can get back our awe, so that we are enabled to see and remember the captivating majesty of the God who created us.  Only when we fix our eyes on God, only when we are captivated by the truths of the gospel of salvation, only when we recognize that He is God and we are not, only then can we begin to solve our worship disorder.