Not Because, But Because

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My Musings – Lest we think that being more righteous than most, or that our “righteous” acts will outweigh the rest, and will be sufficient to gain us entry to Heaven, this verse assures us that these will not save us. It is not because of our righteousness, it is in spite of our unrighteousness.  If not for God’s mercy, there would be no salvation for anyone.  Furthermore, mercy is not an obligation (as if we earned it), it is wholly unmerited, and undeserving.

My Advice – Seek His mercy, because you cannot achieve salvation any other way.

Grace In The Endzone

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My Musings – Perhaps the most universally known Bible verse (at least by football fans) of all time.

He loved – before we loved Him.  No guarantee we ever would.  Him knowing that many never would.

He gave – at the greatest cost imaginable.  While we were still sinners.  No fine print.  No purchase required.

Whoever – no one is disqualified.  Not just the elite.  No exclusions apply.  That means you and me.

Believes – that’s all there is to it. Pure grace.  Maybe it’s because the offer is so unbelievable that so many will not believe, will not accept.  Maybe it’s because we think that free is actually too costly – we don’t have to pay anything for it. But we must be willing to give some things up (our sinful lifestyle).  Yes, that is part of believing, but look what we get in the exchange.

Eternal life – That’s forever.  Heaven.  With God. Pure bliss.

My Advice – Believe.  “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.” (Jim Elliot)

 

The Real Prosperity Gospel

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My Musings – The context of this verse is the Babylonian captivity that would last seventy years.  A captivity brought on by a rebellious and sinful nation.  God has always had plans for His people.  Good plans.  But somehow, sin always seemed to get in the way.

God never intended for mankind to ever have to leave the garden, but sin got in the way. God never intended to have to wipe out mankind (except Noah and his family) by a flood, but sin got in the way.  God never intended to have to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah, but sin got in the way.  God never intended to need to send His chosen people into exile, but sin got in the way.  God never intended for His creation to result in the crucifixion of His Son, but sin got in the way.  Yet despite all this, and more, God continues to have plans for us.

The word “prosper” in today’s text is the translation of the Hebrew word šālōm, a term denoting well-being, wholeness, harmony, and peace. (Martens, E. A., 1995. Jeremiah. In Evangelical Commentary on the Bible, Vol. 3, p. 540. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.)  It has nothing to do with riches, wealth or treasures.  God’s concern goes much deeper (into the soul of mankind – the hope) and much further (into all eternity – the future).  It always has.

Before the fall, even before the creation, God knew His plans to prosper those He made in His image would require the ultimate sacrifice on His part.  It was not His intention, but it was His plan.  His plan not to harm us, resulted in the severest harm to His Son.  In the process, He “bankrupted” Heaven in order to prosper us.

My Advice – Seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness.  You’ll not have to seek any further.

The Outer Limits?

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My Musings – This verse is not meant to be taken as hyperbole (exaggerated statements or claims not meant to be taken literally).  Just the opposite, and more.  How does one explain the infinite love and forgiveness of God?  There is nothing literal that can adequately capture it.  So you go beyond the literal, pushing on to the outer “limits”

“To infinity and beyond!” (Buzz Lightyear).  To those who had not yet experienced flight, much less space travel, the heavens were something beyond the grasp of early man.  Today, having actually reached out into space, and seen into deep space with instruments like the Hubble telescope, the depths of the heavens are still far beyond our grasp.  If all space, time and matter came into being at the Big Bang (“And God Said…and it was so.”), and the “universe” is ever-expanding, does this mean there is an outer-edge to it?  If so, then you would have reached infinity, and the limits of God’s love still reaches beyond.  “Whoa, this is heavy!” (Marty McFly).

“Oh, East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet.” (Rudyard Kipling).  This one, early man could possibly grasp.    If you travel West (or East), you can travel on forever and never reach the East (or West).  The twain will never meet.  You may turn around, and there it is, but that is called repentance (if turning away from sin) or backsliding (if turning back to sin).  But forgiveness means never being under sin’s penalty ever again. The Psalmist did not say as far as the north is from the south.  If you travel North (or South), eventually you reach a point where your direction changes and you begin to travel South (or North), without ever turning around.  This would have never captured the magnitude of God’s forgiveness. “Heavy!”

My Advice – If you have not already done so, “Go West, young man!” (John B. L. Soule). Take a trip “to infinity and beyond.”  How’s that for mixing metaphors?

If have already done so, do not turn around, do not even look back. “We ought not to look back, unless it is to derive useful lessons from past errors and for the purpose of profiting by dear bought experience.” (George Washington).  Keep heading to the outer limits (situated farther out).  Because when you think you have reached the limits of God’s love and forgiveness, there is even more “situated farther out.”

Despicable Me?

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My Musings – We usually think that a broken spirit is a negative thing.  But how could God possibly forgive a proud and rebellious spirit? The text implies that God actually despises such a spirit.  Genuine contrition (feeling or showing sorrow and remorse for a sin or shortcoming) is not possible absent a humble and penitent heart.

My Advice – Do not allow a proud or rebellious spirit get in the way of a humble and penitent heart.

New Every Morning

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Nehemiah 9:17 – “But You are a forgiving God, gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love.” (NIV 1978)

My Musings – God did not discover grace, compassion, love and forgiveness in the New Testament.  It has always been there.  God did not compromise His justice, righteousness and wrath against sin in favor of these other qualities.  He reconciled  them at the intersection of the cross.  This was not a fall back plan after centuries of “failures” of the Law.  It was always the plan, even before He created man and woman.

My Advice – Available to all who believe and receive.  Do not pass it up.

The Deeper Magic

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1 Samuel 15:22 – “Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of the Lord? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams.” (NIV 1978)

My Musings – In the Garden (Eden) there was disobedience. God covered Adam’s and Eve’s nakedness, presumably from animals that were sacrificed.  The blood that was shed also covered their sin.

On the mountain (Moriah), Abraham was prepared to obey and sacrifice his son, but God prevented Him from doing so.  To obey is better, because it requires no sacrifice.

In the Garden (Mt. of Olives) Jesus prayed that if there was any other way, that He be spared from sacrificing His life.  Yet in obedience, He said “not my will but yours.”  In this instance, obedience (His) would necessarily lead to sacrifice because of disobedience (ours).

On the mountain (Golgotha), Jesus was sacrificed to atone for our disobedience.  There was no staying of the hand as in the case of Abraham, because there was no other way.  Christ’s obedience was more than sufficient to remove (not merely cover) the stain of our disobedience.

In the garden, the stone was rolled away and the tomb was empty, as death (the “deep magic”) turned into life (the “deeper magic”).  The fall of mankind in one garden comes full circle with the redemption of mankind in another.

My Advice – We have victory over sin, death and judgement because of Christ’s obedience.  And while no further sacrifice is required, we nevertheless should still live a life of obedience.  If we confess our sins, He will forgive them.  But why go there in the first place?  Let’s show our appreciation for God’s “deeper magic” that overcame the curse of “deep magic.”

“But what does it all mean?” asked Susan when they were somewhat calmer.

“It means,” said Aslan, “that though the Witch knew the Deep Magic, there is a magic deeper still which she did not know. Her knowledge goes back only to the dawn of time. But if she could have looked a little further back, into the stillness and the darkness before Time dawned, she would have read there a different incantation. She would have known that when a willing victim who has committed no treachery was killed in a traitor’s stead, the Table would crack and Death itself would start working backward.”

(From “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” by C.S. Lewis)