Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The Gift

We know that Jesus saves.  He forgives our sins, he heals our diseases.  “Bless the Lord, O my soul and all that is within me bless his holy name, who forgives all your iniquities and heals all your diseases.” (Psalm 106) But do we know that first of all Jesus is witness to (Matthew 9:1, Mark 2:5) and a demonstration of (Romans 3:25) the Father’s already accomplished forgiveness?  Paul writes that the cross is a demonstration, something like a billboard that splashes its headline near and far, “Come home, all your sins have been forgiven.” (Romans 3:25)    God said, “Comfort, comfort my people speak tenderly to Jerusalem, say to her that her warfare is over, her iniquities are pardoned, she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins” (Isaiah 40:1) and Jesus recognizes that it has been done.  In the Lord’s gracious superabundance, Jesus saves, Jesus heals, Jesus forgives, but first of all, Jesus attests to what has been done by the word of the Lord.  God said let there be light and there was light.  God says “your iniquities are pardoned” and they are pardoned.  “Heal us and we shall be healed.”

How have we managed to forget such an important thing?  Perhaps we have forgotten what a friend is. Friends give out of the sweetness of their hearts with no thought of return. They make right what is wrong.  They heal the broken heart.  God the creator of the universe is our friend.  Or perhaps we have forgotten what love is, or what it means to be a mom or a dad.  I know a couple who have just adopted a nine year old child from Detroit.  They do this not because they will “get something out of it,” but because they love her.  God is our father in heaven, our Abba, who sees we are clothed in filthy rags and clothes us in his righteousness, who sees we are wounded and binds up our wounds and takes care of us, who sees we are dead and restores us to life.  Why?  Because he loves us.  We didn’t do anything to get salvation.  There is no contract between us and God. There is no exchange.  We do not give a little to God and receive grace.  Our error arises in some measure out of that tangle of misunderstandings having to do faith. For instance, we think we are justified by “faith in Christ” but it is by the “enfaithment” or “establishment” of Jesus. (Romans 3:21-22, 26, 30)  We engage in painful mental gymnastics about free will but the entire concept of “free will” is philosophical, not Biblical. Despite the efforts of the Church Fathers, we do not even really know in our hearts that belief is the result of justification.  But I think that one day, if God be pleased, we will see what he has done in reconciling us to himself.  It is a gift. It is the gift. It is rescue.  It is resurrection from the dead.  Even now when we read through Isaiah and the Old Testament as a whole, there is no other conclusion. Out of the longing of his heart, out of his great faithfulness, God pours himself out to make us whole.  It is something so great and good, we never could have imagined it ahead of time, so great and awesome a gift that the prophet must ask, “Lord, who has believed our report?” (Isaiah 53:1) Who could believe a love like this?