"Give thanks unto the LORD, call upon his name, make known His deeds among the people" (1 Chr. 16:8). "O give thanks unto the LORD; for He is good; for His mercy endureth for ever. And say ye, Save us, O God of our salvation, and gather us together, and deliver us from the heathen, that we may give thanks to thy holy name, and glory in thy praise" (1 Chr. 16:34-35).
The world is full of innumerable evils. It saddens me that dear friends and loved ones spend so much time wringing their hands in fretful anxiety, considering and devising ways to turn the iniquitous tide. I am convinced that if we make it our business to campaign against the evil of this world, or if we spend our time following those who do, we will spend our days in futility and fail to bring the only light of God -- the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ -- to sin-blinded, dying men and women! We must always remember that sin is not only what we do and what this world does (1 John 3:4), but it is what we are (Mark 7:21-23; Rom. 8:7; 7:24; 1 Tim. 1:15). “Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? not one” (Job 14:4). There is but one remedy for sin: it is the grace of God in Jesus Christ (Rom. 5:21). One preacher rightly said, “Everything in this world can be summed up as either sin or grace” (Scott Richardson?). Sin is man’s doing. Sin is all man is in himself. But grace is God’s doing. Grace is who God is. He is the God of all grace (1 Pet. 5:10)! God's grace is His glory (Ex. 34:6-8; John 1:17; Eph. 1:6).
I often get discouraged because of who and what I am, because I fall so far short of what I ought to be and what I want to be. I find sincerity in others, but wonder if there is any in me. I see love in others, but wonder if there is any love for others in me. Others are able to give wonderful expositions of God’s grace in Christ, but I struggle to express basic truth from the heart as one who has actually experienced it. In all of this, I am always brought back to the sad truth about myself: as long as I am in this body of flesh, all that I am and all that I will ever be in myself, is sin. Though this is my sad confession and true state, I also know this: all that Christ is to God as Mediator for His people, I am in Him (1 Cor. 1:30). The fulness of the Godhead is in Him, and I am complete in Him (Col. 2:9-10)! Christ is all (Col. 3:11). Sin is the label stamped on all that I do. Sin is all I see in myself. And yet for all of this, I am sure the half has not been told! Into the darkness and void that is my natural self, a light now shines. May God cause it to never go out! That light is the Gospel of His grace in Christ (2 Cor. 4:4).
What is grace? From my vantage point, it is not receiving what I deserve, but receiving the very opposite. From my view, it is receiving God’s favor and blessing and kindness when I expect and only deserve His wrath. But here is amazing grace: from God’s perspective, He found a way to think upon me, to treat me, to love and bless me as He thinks and treats and loves and blesses His own dear Son (2 Cor. 5:21; Hosea 14:4; Philemon 1:12,17-18; Ps. 85:1-10; Isa. 12:1-3)! Wonder of wonders, what God sees is more than a facade of righteousness, more than an “as-if-it-were-true” righteousness. It is a living, binding union with Him, in which all that He is is mine in Him (Rom. 6:11; 1 Cor. 6:17; Eph. 5:30; 1 Cor. 1:30-31; Php. 3:8-9). Not only do I not receive the evil that I deserve, and not only do I receive good that I do not deserve, but I receive all that Christ deserves! And God says that what I am in Christ is mine, and that because of Christ, I deserve it! That is grace!
All I do and all I am is sin. All that is in this world is sin. Religion sends men down the road of programs and processes and measures that get them looking at and talking about and measuring themselves and one another. But God speaks from heaven: “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased! Hear ye Him” (Matt. 17:5)! He calls us to look away from the pus of our sin-bite, out of the death of our sinful self, to the beautiful light of His glory in the face of Jesus Christ. In so looking, we come to see that all that God is, He is to me in Christ (John 14:1-8; Eph. 1:3; 1 Cor. 3:21-23; Rom. 8:32). And all the sin that I am, Christ took and bore in His own body on the tree (1 Pet. 2:24)! For what God has made Christ to His people, and what Christ has accomplished, all that He is, is all that I am before God (John 17:22-23; Col. 2:9-10).
Thank God for His grace! “I am what I am by the grace of God” (1 Cor. 15:10)! Apart from Christ, I will never be anything more than sin. But God has made me pleasing to Himself in Christ (Col. 2:10). He has justified me by Christ's blood (Rom. 5:9) and given me a new nature to know it, which is created in righteousness and true holiness, though with physical eyes I cannot see it (Eph. 4:24; Rom. 6:17; 7:24-25). God is so gracious that He has in love to my soul made a way for all of His holy perfections to stand up in justice and truth for my defense (Rom. 8:31-34; Ps. 85:10)! He has put His name on His people (Jer. 31:33; Gal. 6:16)! If He fails to bring to glory one on whom His name is named, then His name will be associated with failure (Num. 14:15-21)! God's people are the members of Christ’s body! If even one of those given by the Father to Christ, one for whom He died, were to fail to stand before Him spotless, blameless, faultless -- in love -- eternally perfected before the very holiness of God, and if God were not able to sing over everyone of these with exceeding joy, then Christ’s own body will be eternally incomplete (Jude 1:24-25; Zep. 3:17)! But neither God’s name nor Christ’s body, nor God’s will nor God’s work can fail one iota in all that He thinks and all in which His soul delights (Ps. 33:11; Isa. 46:10)! This is grace! Sinners, made the sons of God, by the eternal choice and love of God the Father, by the redeeming life and death of Jesus Christ, His only begotten Son, and by the omnipotent life-giving operations of His own Holy Spirit in wretched, lifeless sinners (Col. 2:12-13)! I take great comfort and delight in knowing that this thing of living and dying is not about me seeing myself becoming what I want to be or think I ought to be, but it is about seeing Christ and God’s glory in all that Christ has accomplished and promised to bring about by His reigning authority and interceding grace (Rom. 8:34; Heb. 7:25). I walk by faith, looking to Christ. From beginning to end, salvation is all of His grace (Ps. 57:2; Rom. 11:5-6)! Knowing that this is so from God’s word, enables me to stand in spite of the misery of all that I am.
“That the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified in you, and ye in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thessalonians 1:12).
Christ is glorified in every believer because we are the objects of His saving grace. In our salvation, He makes known the greatness of His grace and mercy, His wisdom and His love, His truth and righteousness, indeed, all of His perfections. Not only is Christ glorified in us, but we are glorified in Him. We were ordained to receive eternal glory with Him as the reward of His obedience, because He did all the will of God (2 Tim. 2:10; 1 Pet. 5:10; Heb. 10:5-8). In His work of our salvation, He glorified His Father. God therefore glorified Him (John 10:15-18; Php. 2:6-11; Heb. 10:5-17; Esther 6:6-11; John 17:1-5). God the Father has given Christ the greatest glory possible, because our Lord Jesus, by Himself, has saved His people from their sins according to the will of God. “His glory is great in thy salvation: honour and majesty hast thou laid upon him” (Ps. 21:5; Gal. 1:4; Heb. 1:3; 8:1; 10:12).
And Christ is glorified when we believe Him (Rom. 4:20). Our faith is the result of His conquest over the guilt and corruption of our sin (Rom. 6:17), the death we deserved (Gal. 3:13), the devil and the world (Matt. 18:7; John 16:33). Christ rules as sovereign over all and dispenses faith to His elect (Titus 1:1; Acts 3:16; 1 Pet. 1:21). He is glorified by faith because in believing, we own that Christ alone is worthy of all glory because He saved us from our sins with His own blood, and established our everlasting righteousness (1 Cor. 1:30-31; Rev. 5:9). We agree with God. He has exalted His Son. He has given Him honor and glory. The believing heart wants it that way. Moreover, Faith glorifies Christ by calling on Him as the only one who has and will yet save us (1 Cor. 1:2; 2 Cor. 1:10). Faith looks to Him in dependence to fulfill all that He has said, in hope of the certain fulfillment of His promises (Num. 14:16-21; 2 Sam. 7:25; Ezek. 36:37). In the day of trouble, we call (Ps. 50:15). He hears. He saves. We are shown to be the objects of His grace. But we are not only passive tributes to His glory, in our heart we are glad that He has saved us by Himself, to His glory. And we say so. “When the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the word of the Lord: and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed” (Acts 13:48).
“Wherefore also we pray always for you, that our God would count you worthy of this calling, and fulfil all the good pleasure of his goodness, and the work of faith with power: That the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified in you, and ye in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thess. 1:11-12).
“Heal me, O LORD, and I shall be healed; save me, and I shall be saved: for thou art my praise” (Jer. 17:14).
“As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us” (Rom. 8:36)!
I was talking to my five year-old granddaughter, Lauren, about Jonah and the Lord Jesus Christ. In the middle of our conversation, she asked, “Grandpa, why do we have to die to go to heaven?” I love the way children say what they’re thinking without “getting all theological.” I believe our Lord wants us to ask Him all that is on our heart as little children do.
This question also sometimes rises in my mind: “Why did God allow sin to enter the world by one man?” I have probably tried to answer that question something along these lines: “Well, God could have done things differently, but He did it this way because this way best makes known His glory,” as Peter, not really knowing what to say. But the first part of that answer is incorrect. Based on what I read in scripture, I don’t think God could have done things differently. If God wanted to do things differently than He did, He would have. But God thinks as He is and does what He thinks. Therefore, He would have to be different to do differently. The sovereign God of scripture is eternal and unalterable and does all that pleases Him (Ps. 90:2; Deut. 33:27; Ps. 135:6). The thoughts of His heart are established from eternity. They never change (Ps. 33:11). He always brings them to pass (Isa. 46:9-11). God always does all that He thinks. What He thinks is truth. It is holy and just because He thinks it. “The LORD is righteous in all his ways, and holy in all his works” (Ps. 145:17). Moreover, nothing can be added or taken from any of His works, because His works are the outworkings of His thoughts (Eccl. 3:14; Eph. 1:11). God is the God of truth. If God changed, truth must change. If truth changed, God’s word must change, scripture must be broken and God must lie. But none of these are possible (John 10:35; Titus 1:2).
Our minds, in contrast, are constantly changing, sometimes learning, sometimes forgetting, ever uncertain, sometimes certain about wrong things, mostly confused about many things and troubled by everything. But God is never confused, never learning, never disappointed. If He could change, He would not be God, at least not the eternal, immutable, holy-in-all-His-ways God that He is. Therefore, all that comes to pass must, of necessity, be the only thing that could come to pass and God still be the God that He is.
But returning to the question, “Why did God allow sin to enter the world by one man?” And to Lauren’s question, “Why do we have to die to go to heaven?” The answer to both questions is the same. It is the will of God. The only thing that will be done is the will of God. The only thing that must be done is the will of God. “Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven” (Matt. 6:10). But we might go on to ask as children, “Why is this God’s will?” I think it is fair to ask, though the answer He gives may rebuke our arrogance (Rom. 9:20). God is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think (Eph. 3:20). Why not ask Him then? He knows. I trust Him.
I believe Rom. 8:36 sheds light on mine and Lauren’s question. “For thy sake we are killed all the day long.” Doesn’t this answer Lauren’s question? Before my mom died on June 21, 2013, I wondered how God gets glory from His suffering saints...when they seem...unable to... while the Spirit of God groans within them (Rom. 8:26-27)…and in these musings I had my answer. I believe God allowed sin to enter the world by one man because it seemed good to Him to make His glory known out of weakness and helplessness, indeed, in spite of the strength of this enemy. In spite of the obstacle that my sin raised to His justice; in spite of the ruin my sinful corruption raised to His holiness; in fact, in the face of these my greatest enemies, God showed Himself unerringly wise and strong and righteous in all His ways. Sin enwrapped and intertwined and permeated my very nature. It is so inextricably part of me that my very nature is sin! But just when there was no hope for me but to justly perish under the wrath I so richly deserved, then, into the darkness, in the graveyard of my soul, when every obstacle was raised to its zenith in opposition to my salvation -- then eternal love and immeasurable, unerring wisdom and inscrutable justice and magnificent grace stepped forward in holy concert to find in Christ a greater honor to God’s law, and satisfaction to His justice, and gratification to His eternal love, and display of His infinite goodness than any but His boundless wisdom could devise! He raised me from the dead, creating in me a new nature that knows and believes, and even loves my God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who is holy, just, good, almighty, all-sovereign, gracious and merciful! This Savior ransomed and rescued and freed me from the prison of my own sin and unbelief to see His beauty at full cost to Himself! Is this not eternal life out of His eternal love (John 17:3)?
“As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us” (Rom. 8:36-37). Let all things in time and eternity redound to the glory of our great God and Savior! Our light affliction is but for a moment (2 Cor. 4:17; Dan. 3:17)! God told Abraham that his physical descendants would suffer at the hand of the Egyptians, and that after over 400 years He would bring them out from under the bondage of the cruel tyrant that He would raise up for the very purpose of showing His power in destroying him at the height of his pride and strength. By this He declared His name throughout the whole earth. “Blessed be the LORD God, the God of Israel, who only doeth wondrous things” (Ps. 72:18)! God makes known the “breadth, and length, and depth, and height” of His eternal love by defeating our enemies in the height of their pride and opposition.
"Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body" (2 Cor. 4:10). Believers suffer to make known "the life of Jesus", that is, that He is risen and reigning at God's right hand to the glory of God for our salvation. We are victors in every trouble by His sovereign rule. Even in death we triumph because Christ overcame death in glorious triumph, and now reigns over all of our enemies. Jesus told His disciples, "Because I live, you shall live also" (John 14:19). Christ is thus glorified in His people, and God is glorified in Him.
“When this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 15:54-57).
Pastor Rick Warta