Sunday, February 19, 2012

Sharing an Inheritance

Children learn from a very early age to guard what they believe to be their own. My one-year old has a particular grunt that she makes, along with an authoritative stiff arm, when our two-year old comes near her baby doll. One might say it is motherly instinct, but in all reality she's just marking her territory. We all get a little nervous when something we value could fall into the hands of another, and we might not say it out loud, but our hearts often scream "MINE!" It's virtuous to teach a toddler to share to share her toys, but how many parents exhibit the same generosity they plead with their kids to give? The same nature demonstrated in those small toddlers is also found in the full-grown versions. Our fists are clenched tightly to what we possess because we're afraid that the things we release may not in some way return to us- as if all that we have came to us simply by our own hard work or our own power (Deut. 8:17-18). The clinched fist reveals more to us than our shrewdness, nor can it be chalked up to good business savvy. It tells us that we don't trust a Father who provides for His children. He brought all into our hands, and if it is used to bring glory to His name, by sharing with those who have need, will He not also care for us? We, who in actuality, have very little should take note from Him who possesses all things. The One who claims the cattle on a thousand hills does not have a sharing problem. In fact, He takes great joy in showering others with all that He possesses, and has seen to this in a remarkable way. Outside of Christ, all people are what the Scriptures describe as alienated from God, hostile toward Him, doing evil deeds (Col. 1:21), dead in their sins (Eph. 2:1), without hope (v.12), blindly following the god of this world (2 Cor. 4:4). All are slaves to sin with no power to overcome it, rejecting the Creator to worship the created thing (Rom.1:21-23). But God, in His great mercy, "sent forth his that we might receive adoption as sons" (Gal 4:4-5). Jesus is the perfect firstborn Son who rightfully inherits all that the Father has, but He willingly came to die a sinner's death, so that we might share in His inheritance as adopted sons and daughters. Isn't this profound? Disney has made a fortune off of fairy tale stories like Cinderella, where a girl who is basically a slave to her step-mother climbs out of her circumstances to marry the prince, thus having a claim to all the kingdom. In our story, Cinderella is a slave prostitute who won't even acknowledge the King- in fact opposes Him, but the King gives her a new heart that will love Him, refuses to punish her for her past (having taken the punishment for her Himself), and treats her as his virgin bride. Jesus, who has a rightful claim to all things, refuses to say to us, "MINE!" but rather shares all that He has with His new brothers and sisters (Heb. 2:11-13) and will do so into eternity. He does not expect repayment. We cannot pay Him. We have nothing to offer. If we even tried, His gift to us would cease to be by His glorious grace, but instead by a worker's wage. So, when I see my girls clutching their things tightly, and I tell them to share, I must not do this because it makes me look like a good parent, nor should I teach them this because it's the nice thing to do. Rather, I should teach them to do it, and practice it myself, because this is what the Father teaches His children, and does for them, in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, who "though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich" (2 Cor 8:9). Their hearts will not be transformed by mere commands of their father's law, but instead by understanding and believing what God has done for them in Christ, thus becoming part of His everlasting family.

Monday, February 13, 2012

An Aversion to Blood

I have an aversion to blood- especially my own. I've actually been known to get a little faint when I've lost a moderate amount of it. There was a time when I had to have a considerable amount of blood work done, and two large vials needed to be filled. I believe that I have pretty good veins, but apparently the one chosen for the task wasn't hit well enough to give what was desired. My body, however, believed it had given enough (and probably too much). If you've ever experienced anything like this, you know that cold sweats and hearing sounds like you're under water are common, though unwelcome. So, after coming out of this personal drama, you can imagine that I wasn't too pleased to be told I would shortly re-enter it. Needless to say, I'm not the first person in the line at the blood-mobile each month. Unless one works at a hospital, the sight of blood is not a very common thing in our culture (movie culture notwithstanding). It was, however, very common in ancient Israel. There was a continual trail of blood in the sanctuary of their tabernacle and temple. Many of the animals used in the sacrifices would have contained gallons of blood, so there would have been bloodstains everywhere, enough for the fainthearted to get a little queasy. The Scriptures tell us that the life of the creature is in its blood (Lev. 17:14), so it is little wonder that creatures would prefer to keep what they have. God requires that blood (and life) be shed for sins to be forgiven (Heb. 9:22), and under the Law almost everything was purified with blood- the tabernacle and all that was used for worship (v.21), including the people. Death is truly the wages of sin, for a holy and perfect God, to whom everyone is accountable, cannot accept wickedness from those He made in His own image. In order for God to be the Holy One, there is no possibility of Him turning a blind eye to sin. He must judge righteously. It is His nature, and He will not profane His glorious name. So, from the time of Moses to the time of Christ- a span of approximately 1500 years, there would, no doubt, have been millions of gallons of blood spilled- a daily (and yearly) reminder of the sin that remained. In Romans 3, Paul addresses the fact that the inadequacy of the sacrifices that were made under the Old Covenant could lead one to wonder if God was truly just, because sin was punished by killing animals whose blood could not bear the weight of guilt. However, God had passed over (stayed His hand) the sins in former times in expectation of what He would do by sending His Son as the perfect sacrifice, who willingly shed His blood so that sins of the redeemed, those ransomed from "every tribe and language and people and nation" (Rev. 5:9), would be washed clean. God showed that He was just in His punishment, for Christ bore sin in Himself, incurring the wrath of God as our substitute. Jesus' sacrifice was acceptable to God, paid in full, thus evidenced by His being raised from the dead. There was a time when only the Jewish High Priest could step into the Most Holy Place to draw near to God with blood, but now through the blood of the Lamb, all who know Christ as Savior and trust in His sacrifice have access to the Father and draw near to Him in the true, heavenly Holy Place (Heb. 7:19). God's people are not to live under the expectation of condemnation as though they are still guilty, but to joyfully live as those who will enjoy God forever because they have a Redeemer. You might find yourself like me, a bit squeemish at the thought or sight of blood, especially your own. This is the one instance, though, where you, if you know Christ as Savior and Lord, should find yourself contemplating blood on a regular basis. You didn't have to spill your own. God graciously let you keep it. The Righteous One gave His to you willingly- once for all on a wooden cross. Look on it and find forgiveness of sins (1 John 1:9) and peace for a troubled conscience (Heb. 9:14). Look on it joyfully, knowing that it purchased you eternal life- everlasting bliss, away from sin and with your glorious God. There should be no aversion to this blood. You're covered in it.