Archive for April, 2010

26
Apr
10

Sins Eight Miles Down

 

     One of my favorite Bible passages is Micah 7:19:  “He will turn again, he will have compassion upon us; he will subdue our iniquities; and thou wilt cast all theirs sins into the depths of the sea.”  Most scientists say that the deepest part of the ocean is over 39,000 feet down which translates to about eight miles down.  That’s a long way down.

     There are two times especially when this passage comes to mind.  One is when I am by the ocean.  As I stand on a beach or if I am looking down on it from a plane I imagine trying to find something in it.  We all have seen movies or heard stories of the difficulty of finding survivors of shipwrecks floating on its surface.  That’s difficult enough.  But trying to find something under water – trying to find something that is lying on the depths – that deserves the title, “Mission Impossible”. 

     The other time I think of his passage occurs much more frequently.  It is when the seriousness and ugliness of my sin stops me in my tracks.  When I see the ease with which I can speak cutting and unkind words.  When, without any effort, I pursue a selfish course of action.  When my prayers are rushed and shallow.  When I see pride or envy or greed or lust or a number of other things residing in the deep caverns of my heart.  When I see how consistently I fall so short.  At such times, what a comfort is to picture the vast oceans – to think about eight miles of water covering my sins.

     Although God could easily find sins eight miles down, it is obvious that he uses this imagery to support the biblical truth that sins forgiven by him are sins forgotten by him.   What a relief that is!  What a joy that is!  Talk about a heavy weight being lifted off – never to be put on again!

     Thank you, Lord, for giving such total relief from pressing guilt.  Thank you, Lord, for drowning sins in the depths of the sea – never to be dredged up again.

22
Apr
10

FAITH IN JESUS’ WHAT?

    Both Mormonism and Christianity talk about having faith in Jesus.  But, as with so many words and phrases, each means something differently by that.

     James E. Talmage, who was an LDS apostle, defined faith this way:  “Primarily, and in a theological sense, we are considering faith as a living, inspiring confidence in God, and an acceptance of His will as our law, and of His words as our guide in life.”  Apostle Joseph B. Wirthlin put it this way:  “We each should develop the faith of Nephi to do the things the Lord has commanded [see 1 Ne. 3:7] knowing that all commandments are given for our good.” 

     When Christians talk about faith in Jesus, however, they are not talking about accepting His will as our law or even His words as our guide in life.  The first and primary things Christians think about when faith comes up are not Jesus’ words but his works.  To Christians, having faith in Jesus means trusting that what Jesus did he did for us and because Jesus has done those things, we are already acceptable to God.  So much so that faith in Jesus, for Christians, includes the thought of abandoning any reliance on our own works.  But note that any mention of Jesus’ works for us is completely absent in James E. Talmage’s words – even though he is describing faith “primarily”. 

     Although both Mormonism and Christianity talk about having faith in Jesus, they have two different objects in which they place their faith.  In order to understand each other and not talk past each other, it is important to see this difference.  It is not enough to agree that both talk about having faith in Jesus.  The telling question is: faith in Jesus’ what?

06
Apr
10

EASTER AND GOD’S COURTROOM

     A Bible verse that contains a great deal of comfort but one that is not that well-known is Romans 4:25.  Talking about Jesus it says, “Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised to life again for our justification.”  It consists of two parallel parts which could be formatted like this:

            “Who was delivered for our offences,

              and was raised to life again for our justification.” 

     Most people quickly understand the first half.  Jesus was delivered to death, not because of anything he had done, but because of what we had done.  He was delivered for our offences, our sins.  As John wrote, “He is the propitiation for sins; not only for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.”  (1 John 2:2)

     But it has been my experience that people don’t as quickly see the point of the second half of this verse.  Just as Jesus was delivered because of our sins, so also he was raised for, or because, of our justification.  Just as our sins were the cause of his death, so our justification was the cause of his resurrection.  That statement gives us tremendous comfort – that statement sheds a wonderful new light on Easter.

     This is so comforting because justification is nothing other than a verdict of acquittal.  Paul borrowed this term from the courtroom.  It was the term used whenever a judge formally pronounced a “not guilty” verdict.  By pronouncing that verdict, the judge was justifying the defendant.  He was not making him just, he was declaring him just.  Justification refers to God declaring us “not guilty”.

     The exciting thing this verse brings out is how God’s verdict of us is tied to Easter. Note the cause and effect.  It’s not that because Jesus rose from the dead, we are justified.  No, it is the other way around.  Because God justified us acquitted us, Jesus could rise from the dead.  Therefore Easter is God’s wonderful proof that we have already been justified, acquitted, in Christ.  Our justification is a past event, not a future one.

     This shows just how completely Jesus took responsibility for our sins.  He became so identified with our sins that Paul could write, “For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin.”  (2 Corinthians 5:21)  But this also shows how completely his payment for our sins becomes our payment for our sins.  God looked on it so thoroughly as our payment that, on the basis of Jesus’ sacrifice, God justified us, acquitted us way back then – a point he dramatically makes by raising Jesus from the dead.

     Thus Easter reassures us that nothing is left for us to do in order o be justified by God.  Jesus has done it all!  May you always treasure the fact that he “was raised to life again for our justification.”




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