Monday, April 26, 2010

Blessed Contradictions

Have you ever stopped to consider the blessed contradictions of Scripture?

For instance, the Apostle Paul told the Corinthians: "There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it?" (1 Cor 10:13)

Now, if that's not a contradiction, then I don't know what is: "He'll make a way of escape...that ye may be able to bear it?" Why, everyone knows that if you escape something, you don't have to bear it anymore!

A convict, escaping from his cell, is free from the torments of his captors. A bird, released from its cage, is free from its captivity. But Paul tells the believers in Corinth that the Lord will provide a way of escape--so they can bear their temptations!

But while Christ said He would make a way of escape, He doesn't say we won't have trials.

Just as He did stand in the flames with the Three Hebrews, but did not keep them out of the fiery furnace, so Christ never promised to remove us from tribulation, but to preserve us through it.

I realize that my struggles and trials are petty and paltry compared to the saints of old. So many have willingly given their lives for the faith, yet I fret and complain about a few "difficulties." Nevertheless, His promise is true for even the least of His children; He will make a way of escape, but how?

"For consider him that endured
such contradiction of sinners against himself,
lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds." (Heb 12:3)

It comes to me then, that the answer is in looking to Christ and considering the contradictions He bore. When we look at our present circumstances, we can only grow weary and faint. But when we see what Christ has borne on our behalf, we realize our way of escape is Christ. Feasting on Him and on His Word is our way of escape. And considering those contradictions reminded me of my favorite Christmas hymn:

Jesus, Wonderful Lord!
By: Paul White

Born among cattle, in poverty sore,
Living in meekness by Galilee's shore,
Dying in shame as those wicked ones swore;
Jesus, wonderful Lord!

Weary, yet He is the World's only rest;
Hungry & thirsty—with plenty has blest;
Tempted—He promises grace for each test;
Jesus‚ wonderful Lord!

Friend of the friendless—betrayed & denied,
Help of the weak—in Gethsemane cried;
Light of the World—in gross darkness He died;
Jesus, wonderful Lord!"

When we consider these blessed contradictions; when we "look unto Jesus" and contemplate how He, "for the joy that was set before Him, endured the cross" then the statement becomes less of a riddle and an increasingly wonderful promise, He will "with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it."

Have you ever experienced this way of escape? Has there ever been a time when a verse of Scripture, or a hymn, popped into your head at the right moment and gave you the grace to endure and defeat a particular temptation? Have you ever found strength for the day, just by considering what He has borne for you?

"Consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself,
lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds." (Heb 12:3)

Monday, April 19, 2010

The Mercy Seat: An Allegory by C.H. Spurgeon

Once on a time, Mercy sat upon her snow-white throne, surrounded by the troops of love. A sinner was brought before her, whom Mercy designed to save.

The herald blew the trumpet, and after three blasts thereof, with a loud voice, he said—"O heaven and earth, and hell, I summon you this day to come before the throne of Mercy, to tell why this sinner should not be saved."

There stood the sinner, trembling with fear; he knew that there were multitudes of opponents, who would press into the hall of Mercy, and with eyes full of wrath would say, "He must not, and he shall not escape, he must be lost!"

The trumpet was blown, and Mercy sat placidly on her throne, until there stepped in one with a fiery countenance; his head was covered with light; he spoke with a voice like thunder, and out of his eyes flashed lightning!

"Who art thou?" said Mercy.

He replied, "I am Law; the law of God."

"And what hast thou to say?"

"I have this to say," and he lifted up a stony tablet, written on both sides; "these ten commands this wretch has broken. My demand is blood; for it is written, 'The soul that sinneth it shall die.' Die he, or justice must."

The wretch trembles, his knees knock together, the marrow of his bones melts within him, as if they were ice dissolved by fire, and he shakes with very fright. Already he thought he saw the thunderbolt launched at him, he saw the lightning penetrate into his soul, hell yawned before him in imagination, and he thought himself cast away for ever.

But Mercy smiled, and said, "Law, I will answer thee. This wretch deserves to die; justice demands that he should perish—I award thee thy claim." And oh! how the sinner trembles. "But there is one yonder who has come with me to-day, my king, my Lord; his name is Jesus; he will tell you how the debt can be paid, and the sinner can go free."

Then Jesus spake, and said, "O Mercy, I will do thy bidding. Take me Law; put me in a garden; make me sweat drops of blood; then nail me to a tree; scourge my back before you put me to death; hang me on the cross; let blood run from my hands and feet; let me descend into the grave; let me pay all the sinner oweth; I will die in his stead."

And the Law went out and scourged the Savior, nailed him to the cross, and coming back with his face all bright with satisfaction, stood again at the throne of Mercy, and Mercy said, "Law, what hast thou now to say?"

"Nothing," said he, "fair angel, nothing."

"What! not one of these commands against him?"

"No, not one. Jesus, his substitute, has kept them all—has paid the penalty for his disobedience; and now, instead of his condemnation, I demand as a debt of justice that he be acquitted."

(Mercy restraining Justice)

"Stand thou here," said Mercy, "sit on my throne; I and thou together will now send forth another summons." The trumpet rang again. "Come hither, all ye who have aught to say against this sinner, why he should not be acquitted;" and up comes another—one who often troubled the sinner, one who had a voice not so loud as that of the Law, but still piercing and thrilling—a voice whose whispers were like the cuttings of a dagger.

"Who art thou?" says Mercy. "I am Conscience; this sinner must be punished; he has done so much against the law of God that he must be punished; I demand it; and I will give him no rest till he is punished, nor even then, for I will follow him even to the grave, and persecute him after death with pangs unutterable."

"Nay," said Mercy, "hear me," and while he paused for a moment, she took a bunch of hyssop and sprinkled Conscience with the blood, saying, "Hear me, Conscience, 'The blood of Jesus Christ, God's Son, cleanseth us from all sin;' Now hast thou ought to say,?"

"No," said Conscience, "nothing. Henceforth I will not grieve him; I will be a good conscience unto him, through the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ."

The trumpet rang a third time, and growling from the innermost vaults, up there came a grim black fiend, with hate in his eyes, and hellish majesty on his brows. He is asked, "Hast thou anything against that sinner?"

"Yes," said he, "I have; he has made a league with hell, and a covenant with the grave, and here it is signed with his own hand. He asked God to destroy his soul in a drunken fit, and vowed he would never turn to God; see, here is his covenant with hell!"

"Let us look at it," said Mercy; and it was handed up, whilst the grim fiend looked at the sinner, and pierced him through with his black looks. "Ah! but," said Mercy, "this man had no right to sign the deed; a man must not sign away another's property. This man was bought and paid for long beforehand; he is not his own; the covenant with death is dis-annulled, and the league with hell is rent in pieces. Go thy way Satan,"

"Nay," said he, howling again, "I have something else to say: that man was always my friend; he listened ever to my insinuations; he scoffed at the gospel; he scorned the majesty of heaven; is he to be pardoned, whilst I repair to my hellish den, for ever to bear the penalty of guilt?"

Said Mercy, "Avaunt, thou fiend; these things he did in the days of his unregeneracy; but this word 'nevertheless' blots them out. Go thou to thy hell; take this for another lash upon thyself—the sinner shall be pardoned, but thou—never, treacherous fiend!"

And then Mercy, smilingly turning to the sinner, said, "Sinner, the trumpet must be blown for the last time!" Again it was blown, and no one answered. Then stood the sinner up, and Mercy said, "Sinner ask thyself the question—ask thou of heaven, of earth, of hell—whether any can condemn thee?"

And the sinner stood up, and with a bold loud voice said, "Who shall lay anything to the charge of God's elect?" And he looked into hell, and Satan lay there, biting his iron bonds; and he looked on earth, and earth was silent; and in the majesty of faith the sinner did even climb to heaven itself, and he said, "Who shall lay anything to the charge of God's elect? God?'

And the answer came, "No; he justifieth."


Sweetly it was whispered, "No; he died."

Then turning round, the sinner joyfully exclaimed, "Who shall separate me from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord?" And the once condemned sinner came back to Mercy; prostrate at her feet he lay, and vowed henceforth to be hers for ever, if she would keep him to the end, and make him what she would desire him to be. Then no longer did the trumpet ring, but angels rejoiced, and heaven was glad, for the sinner was saved.

"There is therefore now no condemnation
to them which are in Christ Jesus,
who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit."
(Romans 8:1)

Excerpt from: Obstacles Removed
By: Charles Haddon Spurgeon

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Hope and Promise

This will probably be my last blog post for awhile. A certain three-year-old has succeeded in acutely revealing my miserable failings as a mother and I can't conscientiously continue to pretend otherwise.

As dark as despair and discouragement can be, I am thankful for hope and promise, though I feel them but dimly. It just amazes me that our Sovereign Lord uses them when we least expect it.

I know there are diverse opinions regarding C.S. Lewis and his Narnian Chronicles. I'm still on the fence myself. But yesterday morning, driving back from my workout, I strangely began to think about a scene in "The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe" that has caused me to snicker on a few occasions.

During the coronation of Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy, Aslan presents them to the Narnians with new names. But his names for them are quite contrary to their behavior throughout the story.

You see: Peter wasn't very "Magnificent", Susan was anything but "Gentle", Timid Lucy could hardly be called "Valiant", and Edmund (the defiant traitor) was definitely not "Just."

Then it hit me. Aslan wasn't looking at their past or present. He saw what he making them. He saw what they would be. And despite your views of Lewis and his books, you have to admit that this analogy holds true for every one of us that belongs to Christ.

Instead of just viewing faults and failures, our Heavenly Father sees the finished work of Christ on our behalf.

He sees what we will be.

So, while I only feel weak and miserable, He sees Strength and Beauty. I groan under the vileness and wretchedness in my soul, but He sees Grace and Glory. Oh, what a wonderful Savior!

No condemnation now I dread;
Jesus, and all in Him, is mine;
Alive in Him, my living Head,
And clothed in righteousness divine,
Bold I approach th’eternal throne,
And claim the crown, through Christ my own.
~Charles Wesley