Monthly Archives: September 2014

Forgiveness – the Only Answer

In Macbeth, A5, S1, L75, the doctor sees the guilty despair of Lady Macbeth and says, “Infected minds to their deaf pillows will discharge their secrets.  More needs she the divine than the physician.”  Unrepented, unforgiven sin haunts humanity and plunges its victims into orgies of self-hate, self-destructive behavior and, often, into health problems and social violence.

God’s response in 6:6-7, to Isaiah’s stricken soul, immediately assured him of forgiveness.  The prophet desperately needed that divine assurance.  And no one but God could give it.

Many people today suffer from unforgiven guilt.  They hope to forget their guilt by burying it.  They don’t realize that, like a guerrilla, guilt flourishes best underground, in the dark, damp soil of an unforgiven soul.

Understanding our complete unworthiness before God, and openly confessing our sinfulness to God, is the greatest catharsis we can experience.  For he, the most generous of all persons, harbors no revenge against us, but wishes to bathe us in his cleansing mercy.  His grace, all the more remarkable in that it is undeserved, constantly outdistances our sins.  God will save anyone who calls on him.

Why would we want to torment ourselves with guilt when Christ’s sacrifice banishes the sin and guilt it imposes?      Note:  the next Blog will be posted 9/29/14.

 

God – certainty of his wrath

According to the book Prince of the City, narcotics officers often allowed lesser criminals their freedom if they turned over someone worse than themselves.  Junkies could secure immunity by giving a dealer’s name; a dealer could go free by ratting on a wholesaler.

This concept certainly renders justice flexible, and judgment pliable, as the situation seems to demand.  It allows the “lesser” criminal his freedom—though it may be harmful to many people, on the theory that a worse offender is jailed.  It surely develops a feeling in the criminal that judgment against crime is always negotiable.

God has left no doubt about his anger with unforgiven sinners.  And no “plea-bargaining” on their part will reduce either their responsibility or his wrath.  Judgment comes because they had sinned away God-given opportunities for holiness.

Today, many people want to be free to rule their own lives, but they don’t want to accept the consequences.  They don’t want God interfering in their lives, but they do want happiness and security.  We can take our choice:  do God’s will and enjoy the results; or do our will and pay the consequences.  But never…never, will we be able to do our will and enjoy the results.  The cost of obedience to God is high:  self sacrifice.  The cost of disobedience is infinitely higher:  self destruction.

There will never be salvation for an unforgiven sinner who pleads small sins, hoping God will instead punish the unforgiven sinner of greater sins.  NO unforgiven sinner enters God’s presence.  None.  Let us be aware.  Let us Beware!

Christ – has beaten, not just defeated, Satan

In the Punic Wars between Rome and Carthage, the Romans suffered unimaginable hardships.  They raised and trained an army from their own people and animated it with  fierce patriotism.  The rich devoted their treasures, the people their lives and times.  For 15 years the Romans resisted hunger, the loss of allies, the depletion of their population.  They could not drive Hannibal out, but their perseverance prevented him from conquering Rome.  They could not conquer him all at once; he could not conquer them at all.  Durant, Caesar and Christ, pp. 39-55

In describing the Messiah’s rule, 9:4-5, Isaiah promised an end to all opposition to God’s rule. Satan, and all who fought with him in contesting God’s sovereignty, would be utterly defeated.  This gives great hope to our individual lives.  We sometime find ourselves at the mercy of some sin, apparently unable to overcome it, though we often try.  To it we feel we must yield and grant its “pound” of our flesh.

We must not submit to that bad enchantment.  We must silence that sin and conquer it before it consumes us.  God assures us that Christ’s thrashing of Satan can and must be repeated in our personal lives.  We must not think that Satan cannot be beaten at all since he cannot be beaten all at once.  Even now we can, and must succeed, at least incrementally, in conquering him.

Christ – had power to be gentle

The young slave Frederick Douglass determined not to passively accept any repetition of a beating he took from his master.  When the man later tried to administer another whipping, Frederick resisted, struggled with him and fended off all his blows.  Finally, after two hours, in which Frederick struck no blows himself, but successfully diverted those aimed at him, he was simply ordered back to his chores.

Douglass later said it was the turning point in his life.  Defending himself strengthened his manhood and kindled his self-respect.  Yet, while the use of force gave him a manly confidence, he never again resorted to force to sustain that confidence.  Page Smith, The Nation Comes of Age, p. 585

Isaiah fathomed both God’s power and tenderness as he viewed God’s work with Israel, 40:10-11.  The Almighty had power to accomplish his will, and infinite tenderness in dealing with the people who implemented it.  Both are necessary in life.  Power without gentleness becomes tyranny.  Gentleness without strength becomes impotent idealism.

We must stress God’s power in overcoming his foes.  We must also emphasize his delicacy in dealing with people.  Are we tough in dealing with problems and gentle in dealing with people?

Preaching – speaking to the point

Edward Everett, the orator at Gettysburg, preceded Abraham Lincoln and spoke almost two hours.  The noise in the crowd had hardly ceased when the President stood, read his speech and sat again.  Public reaction to Lincoln’s Address was mixed, but Everett understood its significance.  He wrote the President that he could wish he’d captured the meaning of the occasion in two hours as had the President in two minutes.  But, then, words that achieve the maximum result need not be lengthy, or eloquent.  They must be aimed directly at the situation or circumstance.

Isaiah had been called to preach, 40:6a.  And he asked God what he should preach—an appropriate question.  He didn’t want to arm the air with irrelevant or foolish words.  He sought to be a true messenger of spiritually-meaningful and impressive truths.

Anyone who speaks for God must ask the haunting question, “what shall I say?”  For it’s never enough to just string words together.  We must say God’s word clearly and pointedly.  Only in repeating God’s word after him do we effectively represent him.  And whether it takes a sentence or a sermon, that word must be emphatically and distinctly spoken.  It may offend people.  They may despise hearing it.  Too bad.  Let God be true, and every man a liar Romans 3:4.  It will never be that man is true and God’s a liar.

Christ – always has future hope

Using Mexico as his example, author Andrew Bruccoli says that the literature and drama of some countries always end in tragedy, though hope is held out to the end.  The rescue very nearly takes place, but miscarries; the hero frantically attempts to save the heroine, and arrives only seconds late.  Hope rises, then falls, vanquished by adverse circumstances.  Success seems imminent, only to be dashed by failure.  Bruccoli says this is truer to life than the typical American view, where the criminal is caught, justice is served and virtue overcomes.

Is it really?  Goodness may not always triumph, but we can live in that hope.   It’s certainly better to believe in ultimate success, however much we fail, than in ultimate defeat, however much we succeed.  Besides, Biblical Christianity blazes with optimism, stressing the eventual triumph of good over evil.  It promises eventual rescue from any bad situation, and joy for any present affliction.

Christians have hope for the future.  We know what’s going to happen there.  And we won’t drift aimlessly just because others have no anchor in their own life.  We won’t feign blindness just because others refuse to see.  And we will not play dumb just because others don’t want to know.  What we don’t know we’ll admit.  But what we do know we’ll proclaim.  And we know that our Redeemer lives and will in the future restore all things to their original purpose.