Friday, May 3, 2013

Relationship vs. Religion (Part 2)

Welcome back!  If you have not read Part one of this I hope you will because this second part is intended to be contrasted against parts of it and a continuation of other parts.  This will be part two of what has become a three part post in order to cover everything and still maintain a respectable length.

The only form of Christianity that is true to the bible is one that stems from a relationship with Almighty God, Maker of heaven and earth.  Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, a.k.a. the Trinity are most clearly depicted in the gospel of Matthew 3:16-17 at the baptism of Jesus.  To my knowledge, at this point there is not a scripture that outright says on it's own that the trinity is God in three persons however, a study on the relationship between these three persons biblically, makes it clear that it is so.  I hope to do such a study as a blog post at some point.

For now just know that there is a God whom, in His holiness, must hate sin and sinners because they are rebellious against Him (Psalm 5:4-6).  He must destroy them to be just.  Sin stands in direct opposition to all that God is and we are guilty of it.  Yet this God is also a Heavenly Father who chose to send His son to die and take on our punishment, representing all of our sin from beginning to end. Jesus is the satisfaction of God's necessary wrath toward sin and sinners. After God's Son died, rose from the dead, and ascended to heaven, He sent the Holy Spirit to comfort us and lead us into all righteousness through faith in Jesus.    If the first statement made you mad then the second should make you glad.

This God who spoke creation into being wants a relationship with you.  Let me be clear, God is all sufficient.  He does not need us in the same way that we need each other.  He is able to be perfectly satisfied within Himself.  He wants a relationship with you because He loves you.  We were all created for one purpose, to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.  We are to reflect His glory.  We were created in His image, not out of any need that He had, but for His benefit that we would glorify Him. Yet it was for our benefit as well, that we might know Him and enjoy His creation.(Genesis 1:26-31) In order for the relationship to be fully appreciated we need some background, so stay with me.  Let's break down the synopsis from the previous paragraph and take a quick journey through the bible regarding our sin and God's grace to save us from that sin.

Creation had perfect communion with God until the day that mankind broke covenant with God. We placed our importance, and lust for knowledge and power, over obedience to God.  We, in our rebellion, allowed sin into the world forever fracturing the perfect and "very good" world that God had created.  From that moment on we have been slaves to sin, separated from perfect communion with God, and deserving of His wrath toward our sin. (Genesis 3)  Coinciding with our separation from God was the beginnings of imperfection in creation.  Creation began to grown in the form of mankind's acts of evil toward one another, natural disasters, death, disease, suffering etc.  Every evil and imperfect thing that happens in this world is a result of sin.  We, and this world, are broken.

The only way to have our sins forgiven was to kill a lamb and sacrifice it before God on an altar as an atonement or payment for them.  This is how it was done for hundreds of years.  But it was not enough.  You see, God is perfectly just and infinitely holy.  In order for His wrath to be satisfied, His justice upheld, and his glory to be made known eternally, a greater price needed to be paid. In order for mankind to have access to eternity with Him beyond the grave, someone had to take their place in receiving God's judgement on sin.
You might ask, "What about those who died before Christ came?"  Good question.  That is answered by Romans 3:21-25.  The primary verse being vs.25 which states, that God showed forth His righteousness in His divine forbearance by passing over the previous sins of the Old Testament saints.

Enter Jesus.  Most aptly and infamously stated in John 3:16, "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son that whosoever believes in Him, should not perish but have everlasting life."   Our Creators' greatest act of love for His creation is that, because He knew we would never be able to live the perfect sinless life that He requires, He sent His Son to do it for us.  Jesus, God's Word made flesh (John 1:14), came to earth, lived sinlessly, taught and served selflessly, and then died graciously. (Romans 5:8) This salvation was provided, based in no part on our own merit.  It was bought for us by Christ's blood on the cross and was planned and made possible by God's grace to lead us to a holy life before time began. (2 Timothy 1:9)(Ephesians 2:8-9)

Many think that His gruesome beatings and death on the cross were the great price that He paid. Of course Jesus suffered physically.  I in no way want to minimize that.  The bible references the physical suffering of Jesu in a number of different places.  Most notably, Isaiah 53.  As I mentioned before, Christ's blood shed on the cross is directly associated with the atonement for our sins.  It is an important feature to stand in awe and reverence of.  The challenge comes in that, when it is discussed, many times, His physical suffering is the focal point of what Christ did for us on that cross. However, that is not it.  Many martyrs have suffered just as horrendously in the flesh as Jesus did on the day of His death.  Their death however, did not pay the price for our sins.  

What justifies us before God is not the physical, but the spiritual suffering that Jesus experienced.  He drank the cup that He knew would be so agonizing to drink that He asked the Father if it could pass from Him. (Matthew 26:39; Luke 22:42)  This cup contained God's wrath toward every sin and consequently every sinner from creation to Christ's return. (Jeremiah 25:15; Revelation 14:10)  Many suffered God's wrath in partial measure in the old covenant because of their disobedience and many will again suffer God's wrath, in full measure, at the end of days.  However, the most wonderful news is that Jesus's righteousness has been placed on  those who have believed in him.  In return, the sin of those whom believe, was placed on Christ and God's wrath poured out on it.  Jesus drank the full cup of God's fury towards our sins.  He took the punishment and became the propitiation or payment for our sin toward Almighty God that satisfied His wrath.  That is how justification comes about.  Those who believe this and, by His grace, work out their salvation with fear and trembling (Phillipians 2:12-13), following Jesus as both Lord and Savior, they will inherit eternal life.

All of this is necessary to understand in order to appreciate a relationship with Almighty God.  You will not fully appreciate the sacrifice paid unless you understand your guilt before a Holy God.  But, when God draws your heart (John 6:44).  When you realize that you are not your own but that you were bought with a price and that the very Spirit of God lives within you, (1 Corinthians 6:19-20) you no longer desire to please your sinful nature.  Your desires for the things of this world will drift away and be replaced by a hunger to please your Heavenly Father.  Don't misunderstand, you will still sin however, you will be running from sin rather than toward it.  John 1:12-13 states, "Yet to all who received Him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God--children born not of  natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God".
If you have believed on Him as Lord and Savior, you are a child of God. 

Please continue with me as I will soon be posting part 3 of this incredible journey into what it means to have relationship with God as His child and to be enabled to serve him faithfully by His grace.  I have greatly enjoyed the journey that I am on as I write this and I hope that you are being fed as well. Whether you are learning for the first time or are being reminded afresh of who God is and what He has done for us, to meditate on His word, think on who He is, and show our love for Him through our obedience is the greatest privilege that we have. See ya soon.

Love in Christ,


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