Monday, April 16, 2012

Thank God for Jesus

I guess the title of this post doesn't really make sense, does it? But I was reading in Colossians again, and my fingers started itching to write some things down. I've kind of come to the conclusion that this is as much of a diary or journal that I'll ever have, and I want my kids to have something behind that they can crawl into my head and either see my foolishness or whatever small grain of wisdom they can glean from my musings. Hang on tight, because I get a little preachy. But if you know me well, you're not surprised, are you?

So I was reading Chapter 1, beginning in verse 15 where Paul begins to describe the character of Christ. This is immediately after Paul's prayer for the believers at the church of Colosse (and indirectly, the church at Laodicea, since this letter was meant to be read by them as well). I was reading and was struck by the fact that Paul goes into very elementary detail about God's attributes, His deity, and omnipotence. Intrigued, I asked myself, "Judy, why did Paul go into all this detail about God?" The only logical answer was that Paul did it because this church didn't know. Colosse was in what's now known as Turkey, and was an important trade route for the Roman Empire. Not as important as Ephesus, a port city, or as Laodicea, but important nonetheless.

I say all this to point out the obvious fact (which has just now become obvious to me, but I'm a slow learner) that Paul's audience was not Jewish, nor did they have a Jewish background. Paul's description of God would have been very offensive to a pluralistic society, and to their worship of many gods. And boy, is it offensive today!!

Reading this, my mind raced ahead to "Earth day", coming up on April 22nd. Talk about a pagan holiday -- this is it! People all over the world will make a huge show of worshipping the creation, NOT the creator! We will hear about all the good works done by people to protect the environment, improve the conditions of the planet, reduce greenhouse gases, etc. Now, I don't think that anything that helps humankind be a better steward of the Earth is a bad thing at all, but what I object to is the elevation of the planet Earth over the people who inhabit the planet. We were given dominion (by God - read Genesis) over the Earth, but it is a sacred trust in that we should be good, kind, compassionate and leave the planet a better place for our children and grandchildren. For example, when we go camping, I make sure the campsite is cleaner when we leave than when we get there. It's my duty to not throw trash out of the car window, my duty to be kind and compassionate to animals (especially if I"m going to eat them); and my duty to be a responsible citizen. But I do all this because I'm a steward, not because the Earth is something to be worshipped. Worshipping idols is alive and well in America. We just don't have little statues in our houses, build an altar to them or kill a lamb in front of them. But we sacrifice our unborn babies on the altar of convenience, and we worship ourselves when we put ourselves before our God, our spouse and our children.

But the idea to the citizens and new believers at Colosse was much like the ideas and beliefs of this post-modern, progressive era in which we live. What do you mean, they ask, how can you be so arrogant as to say that Jesus created all things and that all things were created for Him? These are the same people who worship evolution and science, but that's another topic for another day. Plus, the thought that God has charge of the rulers of the Earth is also a sore subject for many. Somehow, I can't see Vladimir Putin or Hugo Chavez acknowledging that they are in power by God's design. Just not going to happen, is it? And once, we had representatives in our government who believed that they had a sacred responsibility to answer to God for their decisions and governing over the American people. It always amuses me to see elected officials scurrying to church during an election season. I mean, if they're not going to church before they run for election or re-election, then how stupid do they think we are? Unfortunately, many of our elected officials can count on the gullibility of the average voter.

But the main point of my devotion today was contemplating Christ's death on the cross. Paul has already explained that Christ was supreme over everything in creation, including the angels, but then he goes on to talk about the blood. the blood is very, very offensive to modern day society, as it was to the citizens of the Greek & Roman empires. The thought that blood was shed for the forgiveness of sins was an absolutely revolting idea for them. How primitive! The Jews still had their sacrificial system then, you see, because the Temple was still standing. The church at Colosse had jumbled up pagan beliefs, Jewish legalism, Greek philosophy and thrown in a little mysticism which resulted in false teaching.

Fast forward to 21st century America. Most folks, when asked, will tell you that to get to heaven you have to be a good person and do good things for others. That's nice and it sure would eliminate our prison system if everybody did that, but that's not the truth. Beginning in Genesis, it is clear that man can never be good enough, or holy enough, on their own by their own actions. Who are we measuring ourselves by? I can say that I'm better than some personin jail for dealing drugs. But that person can say she's better than a murderer. Then, that person can say, well, I may be a murderer, but I'm not as bad as Charles Manson. Heck, even Charles Manson can say to himself, at least I'm not as bad as Hitler......and Hitler killed millions less than Stalin and Mao-Tse tung. People are using the wrong measuring stick, aren't they. I can make my own yardstick, and have 36 inches of various sizes, none truly an inch and can sincerely believe that I've measured a yard. But is it a true 36-inch standard yard? I can get in my little red & black convertible, put down the top and decide to go to California. Heading east. Will I make it to California from Georgia heading East? No way. I'll run into the Atlantic ocean in about 6 hours or so. Even if I sincerely believe that I'm heading to California, I'm sincerely wrong. Just as all roads do not lead to California, neither do all roads lead to heaven. And that's very, very offensive to most people, just as it was to the recipients of this letter.

Again, I'm chasing rabbits. Because they main point that struck me this morning as I studied was the question of Christ's physical death on the cross. His past actions have resulted in a method by which my past-due account can be wiped clean. That's what "reconciled" means. It's an accounting term - you know, how you reconcile your bank account and if you've written everything down properly, you come out even. I never write things down and often forget to keep track of my expenditures, so it's typically a surprise to me at the end of the month to find out either that I have money or I don't have money. Crazy, isn't it? I usually have a pretty good idea in my head as to how much I have, but sometimes I'm pleasantly or unpleasantly surprised. Getting back to the physical death of Christ on the cross. The Jewish priests had been slaughtering goats, lambs, birds, bulls, rams, etc. for years. Over and over, the sacrifical blood was spilled for the sins of the people. Sticky, stinky blood staining the stones of the altar. Cascading over the sides of the altar onto the stone floor of the temple. Splashing onto the robes, legs and sandals of all those standing near to the altar. Sacrifices, even human sacrifices, have been practiced for thousands of years by man in an attempt to please their God or gods. But the dumb animal had no soul to present spotless and blameless before God. Although just one man, the blood sacrifice of Jesus was enough to make all things clean. "Peace" - we can rest in Him, knowing that we don't have to do anything - it's all been done. Right before a party at your house, you're running around, vacuuming, dusting, cooking, cleaning, making sure everything is perfect for your guests. Sometimes, you get finished before the first guest arrives, so you plop down in your favorite chair and rest just a minute. It is done, you think. There's nothing else to do. (there probably are a few dust bunnies you've missed, but that's beside the point - when you're doing housework with four kids and four weenie dogs, you're never completely done, trust me.) But this time, it really was finished. We can rest in Jesus, secure in the knowledge that He did everything for us & there's nothing we can do to earn our salvation.

Boy, that galls some people, doesn't it? They either acknowledge Jesus as a good man, or teacher, or they accept His deity - equal to God. Was it His physical death that saved us? or did He experience a spiritual death? I don't think so. But he agonized before His death, bearing all the sins - past, present and future - of the entire world. I dare say that the spiritual pain He suffered far, far exceeded the physical pain He suffered. He was already limited physically to space & time when he assumed the skin, muscle, bones & brain of a man. He gladly gave up his "invisibility" (v. 15) when He became God in skin. He had been hampered by that since birth; He couldn't physically be in the presence of the Father in heaven. What a relief it must have been for Christ to be reunited in heaven with the Father! Fully God yet fully man while bound to this Earth, His costly blood sacrifice means that we no are free in Him!

Most will reject the idea of a Savior, because they don't realize they need saving. You don't need a rescuer if you don't know you're drowning, do you? But when you begin to gulp in water instead of air, when you're flailing in the water, desperately seeking something - anything - you can grab on to, you know you need saving. So much so that the rescuer sometimes drowns along with the victim. Not so with Christ - and if people only knew how desperately they need rescuing, they would grab onto Him and never, ever let go. People today place their faith in science, technology, knowledge, bank accounts, family, their reputation, their position, their career. All of which can be gone in an instant. I'd much rather place my faith in Christ alone. v. 17 - He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.

Not all roads lead to California from Georgia, and not all beliefs lead to heaven. It's my calling and my passion to spread the word about the road map - the Bible - God's gift to mankind. Thank God for Jesus!

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