In 1936, a humble shepherd in Montana became ill and was taken to the hospital. His dog, Shep, refused to leave his side and remained at the hospital doors day and night. When the shepherd died and they put his coffin on a train, Shep was there at the depot, whining terribly as the train and his master departed without him. For the next five years, Shep remained faithfully at the tracks. He met every train, four times a day, running up and down the cars, examining every person who got off, looking for his master.
There are many stories about dogs being faithful to their masters. Maybe this is one reason God made dogs... to teach us.
It has been said that faithfulness is one of the most critical characteristics a human being can posess and yet, in an “all about me” culture, it is one that is unfortunately waning. It is in these times that we turn our attention to the One who is forever Faithful.
Sometimes, when thinking about the nature of God, it is helpful to ponder what it would be like if God did not possess a particular attribute. This is one of those cases. We are quick to confess or even sing songs about the faithfulness of God, but rarely do we spend time meditating upon it or what it would mean if He were not faithful. Were we to sufficiently do so, I suppose it would bring us to our knees in thankfulness and deep gratitude.
The word “faithful” is somewhat unique, for it does not seem to follow the normal suffix pattern: meaning a “fullness” of something. “Joy-ful” means that someone is full of joy… so, too, “helpful” and “thankful”, “doubtful” and “sinful”, etc. As Christians, we are a “hopeful” people, meaning we are full of, and filled with, “hope”… or we should be.
But to say that God is full of “faith” because He is “faithful” doesn’t sound right. And it shouldn’t because the “faith” in “faithful” has a different meaning than we are normally used to. It is best illustrated in Deuternonomy 32:15, where God declared to Moses that he would not enter the Promised Land because of his actions before the people at the waters of Meribah-kadish. In speaking this, God said that Moses had “broken faith” with the Lord. Here the word “faith” is used to mean a commitment to a covenantal relationship. God had raised up Moses and put him in a special position of leadership. He was a representative, a messenger, an ambassador of God to the people. Moses was therefore in a “faith” relationship with God and he broke that faith when he acted in a way that did not, as God said, “treat Me as Holy in the midst of the sons of Israel”.
If we were honest, we would have to confess that we daily, if not more frequently, “break faith” with God, for we who are new creatures in Christ, sons of the living God, having God as our Father, are now witnesses, ambassadors, representatives of Christ to the world around us. When we, as sons and daughers, act in a way that is contrary to the nature of our Father, we “break faith” with Him. That is why we are in daily need of His forgiveness by the eternal sacrifice that cleanses us from all sin. This is, indeed, amazing grace!
But though we are not, God is fully faithful in everything that He does. He is true to His Word. He is true to His promises. He is true to His covenants and all of His purposes and plans.
This is why we are a people of hope. For if God were not faithful, we would be a most miserable lot. There would be nothing to trust in, nothing to hang on to, nothing to look forward to… for if God were not faithful, there would be no heavenly Jerusalem awaiting us nor a resurrection after death. There would be no hope of a time where sin will be no more, where tears are wiped away, where the lion does indeed lie down with the lamb and the viper does not strike. There would be no end of death, the grave would still sting and my constant sin would forever condemn me.
But God is faithful and always will be. To be otherwise would be to deny Himself and this He cannot do:
… if we are faithless, he remains faithful, for he cannot disown himself. 2 Timothy 2:13
Great is His faithfulness.
Amen and amen.
P.S. Shep remained faithful until the end. After years of greeting each train, fed by the depot staff, Shep grew old and began to lose his sight and his hearing. He was eventually struck by one of the trains and died. There is a statue honoring him at the Benton train station to this day.
To some extent, there is a parallel here. Our humble Shepherd also physically departed our world. May we be just as faithful awaiting Him.
Verses to contemplate throughout the week:
He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he. Deuteronomy 32:4
In all that has happened to us, you have remained righteous; you have acted faithfully, while we acted wickedly. Nehemiah 9:33
For the word of the Lord is right and true; he is faithful in all he does. Psalm 33:4 Your love, Lord, reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies. Psalm 36:5
Teach me your way, Lord, that I may rely on your faithfulness; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name. Psalm 86:11
But you, Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness. Psalm 86:15
I will sing of the Lord’s great love forever; with my mouth I will make your faithfulness known through all generations. Psalm 89:1
Who is like you, Lord God Almighty? You, Lord, are mighty, and your faithfulness surrounds you. Psalm 89:8
For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations. Psalm 100:5
He is the Maker of heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them— he remains faithful forever. Psalm 146:6
This is what the Lord says— the Redeemer and Holy One of Israel— to him who was despised and abhorred by the nation, to the servant of rulers: “Kings will see you and stand up, princes will see and bow down, because of the Lord, who is faithful, the Holy One of Israel, who has chosen you.” Isaiah 49:7
Ephraim has surrounded me with lies, Israel with deceit. And Judah is unruly against God, even against the faithful Holy One. Hosea 11:12
“See, the enemy is puffed up; his desires are not upright— but the righteous person will live by his faithfulness— Habakkuk 2:4
But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen you and protect you from the evil one. 2 Thessalonians 3:3
… if we are faithless, he remains faithful, for he cannot disown himself. 2 Timothy 2:13
I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. Revelation 19:11
 If you recall, this where God told Moses to “speak” to the rock and it would bring forth water. Moses got caught up in himself and his anger, saying “shall WE bring water out of this rock again for you!?!” and instead of speaking to the rock, he struck it, as he did earlier in the Desert of Zin (Exodus 17). Moses struck the rock twice, probably because it didn’t work the first time. Paul tells us in 1 Cor 10:4 that the Rock was Christ… a typology that Moses had obviously disrespected by his actions.
I tremble writing this devotion of gazing upon the face of God, for I sense it could be the most important of all. J. I. Packer writes that the whole of the New Testament could be summed up under the heading “the Fatherhood of God” and that it is in this name that we find the “climax of the Bible”.
I fear my words are not capable of doing justice to this aspect of God’s nature. My prayer is that His spirit will make up for all that is lacking here.
When God introduced Himself to Moses, He gave him the name by which those under the Old Covenant were to primarily know Him: “the great I Am”… “Yahweh”. Appropriately, this Name focused our eyes upon the self-existence of God, his majesty and sovereignty, His holiness and purity, His utter transcendence and the absolute separation that existed between God and man. Nothing illustrated this more than the Holy of Holies, where only the High Priest was allowed to enter once a year and then only after a thorough ritual cleansing. Moses was not permitted to see the face of God lest he die and was told to take off his sandals, for while Yahweh was present he was walking on holy ground. The Law, therefore, became central in the Old Covenant—a revelation and daily reminder of man’s inability to sufficiently purify himself before this Holy, Transcendent Yahweh. A personal relationship with God was not primarily in view here.
But under the New Covenant, something radically changed. God did not change, but because of the work of Christ, the relationship with God changed and the New now revealed what the Old held in the shadows. Not only is Christ unveiled, but through His propitiation, God has acted to make us His children and He, our Father. This title has become the primary name of God for those who are now in Christ Jesus.
In fact, under the Old Covenant, the Jews considered it blasphemous to call God “Father”. They wanted to kill Jesus for saying such. But now, under the New Covenant, the Scripture explodes with this name of God. Jesus teaches us to pray, addressing God as our ‘Father’: “Our Father, who is in heaven, holy is your name.” Notice that God has not changed. He is still “Holy”. But because of Christ, our relationship to Him has changed… radically.
The veil has been torn!
As we read in Hebrews, we have been granted to enter the holy place, through the veil, because of the work of Christ. But this is not just getting to go in to the holy place… we walk in there because we are a son or daughter of the great I AM.
We are even enjoined to come boldly before Him!
… and call Him Daddy!
And this is not because of anything we have done, but because of the grace of God and His act of adoption whereby we are now declared to be His children.
My daughter and her husband have adopted two special needs children from China. It was totally their doing, under the providence of God, of course. But the point is that adoption is not a mutual selection process. It was initiated by the parents-to-be, paid for by the parents-to-be (with the gracious help of others, I must add), the children were chosen by the parents-to-be, the parents-to-be went a long distance to take them to themselves, etc. There was nothing my now grandchildren did that was necessary in this process. They didn’t sign any papers, they weren’t consulted, they didn’t choose their parents-to-be, they didn’t pay anything—no down payment, no closing costs, no co-pay… they didn’t even have to say “I do”.
So too, is God’s sole action to adopt us into His family… given rights as sons and daughters… now a child who has the privilege to call the holy, transcendent, I Am, our Father.
By the way, have you ever noticed just how “family” all of this is? We now call Him Abba, Daddy, Father. He calls us “sons”, children. Jesus is not only called our brother, but He is also called the Bridegroom and we are called the Bride. These are “family” names… and that is what we are now.
Maybe there is a clue here as to why the enemy is so fiercely dedicated to destroy the family on earth: he is determined to destroy any relational meaning behind these precious words.
When we contemplate the immensity of what it means to have God as our Father, the implications are profound. We are rightly in awe of the grace extended to us for our salvation—the justification that comes to us through Christ’s sacrifice. But we too often fail to realize that the grace of God did not stop there, for He then extended that grace in His adoption of us. I suppose one could imagine that it might be possible to be justified but not adopted. This, unfortunately, is the unattainable lot of those who are trying to be justified by their own works. Not only do they fail to reach that level of holiness before God, but they are left with no way to then force their adoption. The Scripture makes it clear that adoption only comes to those who are justified through Christ… and Christ alone:
“No one comes to the Father, except through me.” (John 14;6)
“For you are all sons of God through faith in Jesus Christ.” (Galatians 3:26)
“But as many received Him [Christ], to them He gave the right to become children of God.” (John 1:12)
“… God sent forth His Son… in order that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.” (Galatians 4:4-5)
“He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will.” (Ephesians 1:5)
So if we try to justify ourselves, we not only fall short in that justification, but we are also left without the means of adoption to become God’s child… and He our Father. This is why, for those under Islam, there is nothing beyond the Law… no sense or assurance of any real relationship with God.
But the truth is that the grace of God both justifies and adopts. And it will be the grace of God that will one day restore us in the last resurrection.
So, we contemplate the unfathomable reality that God has made us His children and that He is therefore now our Father. This truth provokes within us our deep desire to now please Him in all we think and say and do. Not because of some “quid pro quo” or obligation to earn something from Him, but simply out of love for Him in response to what He lavished upon us.
“See how great a love the Father has lavished upon us, that we should be called children of God; and such we are.” 1 John 3: 1
There is an extremely radical difference between the obedience of a child to their Father and the obedience of someone seeking to gain acceptance or even salvation by their works. The former is motivated by their deep love for the Father and carried out in the safety of His love for them; the latter is motivated by a fear of ultimate rejection and carried outside of the security of a “family” relationship with God.
How often do we fail to walk as a child of the King? How often do we take for granted the right that He has graciously given to us? Are our minds and hearts continually filled with an awe of this deep relationship that has been freely given to us? Are our thoughts and words and actions motivated by our eternal family position?
If we really believed that God was truly our Father, and we were really and truly His child… would it change our prayer life? Our Christian walk? Our attitudes?
May we, the “children of God”, come to an ever-deeper understanding and reverence of what it truly means to be given the right to call Him Abba, Father.
Verses to contemplate throughout the week:
See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! 1 John 3:1
God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. Galatians 4:4-5
He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, Ephesians 1:5
But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, John 1:12
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. John 14:6
Since therefore, brethren, we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil… Hebrews 10:19-20
For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. Galatians 3:26
For you have not come to a mountain that can be touched and to a blazing fire, and to darkness and gloom and whirlwind, and to the blast of a trumpet and the sound of words which sound was such that those who heard begged that no further word be spoken to them. For they could not bear the command, “If even a beast touches the mountain, it will be stoned.” And so terrible was the sight, that Moses said, “I am full of fear and trembling.” But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to myriads of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the Judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood, which speaks better than the blood of Abel. Hebrews 12:18-24
For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!” Romans 8:15
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, Galatians 1:3
Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” Galatians 4:6
C. S. Lewis offered an illustration regarding the relationship of time and God’s eternal existence. If you had a sheet of paper and could extend it in both directions endlessly, representing the eternality of God, and then drew a short line on the paper. The line would represent all of time—engulfed in the eternal nature of God. This is why God can be both the Alpha and Omega simultaneously. There is neither beginning nor end with Him. He is “from everlasting to everlasting”, as Moses put it.
These are hard things to comprehend for those of us bound up within that line. We live in the confines of an existence in which we experience this mortal thing we call “time”—the measurement of change: the clock ticks; the earth rotates and circles the sun; events are preceded by a cause and followed by an effect; actions have reactions; things begin and end; a birth is followed by growth, aging and death. Everything around us is in a state of flux—a universe of constant change. But for the immutable, unchanging God in whom that short line exists, time is irrelevant. The words “begin”, “change”, and “end” are not part of His nature.
Somewhere in here our minds begin to grow fuzzy because we are so totally bound up in the march of time that we have trouble conceiving a God who is not caught up in it with us. This why a child might ponder, or the atheist challenge, “Where did God come from?” To ask is to begin with the assumption that God is not transcendent to time, but subordinate to it. This shrinks God down to something finite that can be placed inside the line.
But if God is eternal, as the Scripture declares, and time has a beginning and end, then God has created a finite line of time that exists as a small dash within His eternality.
It is puzzling enough to contemplate that God has existed forever, without beginning or end, but it becomes more difficult for us when the eternal God acts causally within our realm of time. When He asks Adam: “Where are you?” we have a tendency to think that God is caught up, as we are, in the flow of time, cause and effect—Adam hides and then neither we nor God can see him. But God is not like us. He exists outside of time, seeing both the “beginning” and the “end”—and everything in between, in one complete view:
“I am God, and there is no one like Me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times, things which have not been done…” Isaiah 46:9-10
That is why neither Adam nor Jonah could hide from God… nor can we. And this is not because He knows all the good hiding places, it is because He not only sees us hiding but He sees our entire hiding event from beginning to end as if it were all present to Him. The past, the present, the future… the whole of time exists within the eternal presence of God. When God declared to Moses that His name is “I Am”, it bore, among many things, the essence of the God who “is” regardless of where we are on our finite timeline.
Yet this eternal God “stoops” to interact with us, entering into our realm of time to do so. Certainly God sees where Adam is, just as He sees where you and I are hiding today, tomorrow and years from now, but He asks the question so that Adam can respond and confess that he was naked and ashamed.
God acts within the line of time but He is transcendent to it—engulfing it within His eternal and infinite nature. As Tozier put it: “… God lives in the everlasting now.”
The implications for us are as immeasurably good as they are immeasurably puzzling. Consider 2 Timothy, as Paul is talking about the Gospel and the power of God:
“… [He] saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity… ” 2 Timothy 1:9
This is an astounding statement. Our salvation and calling were granted to us “from all eternity”. This is only possible if God Himself is eternal and able, therefore, to grant them from the eternal past. And, if this is so, then it is understandable why the Scripture speaks of our “eternal salvation”—a salvation that extends from eternity past to eternity future. Otherwise, it cannot be “eternal”. And, it is also why we see our future state so often declared in the “present tense”. For example, we are declared to be “seated in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus”, present tense. How can this be when that hasn’t, in our time frame, happened to us yet? It is because of the eternality of God, in whom our future is already a reality to Him. And if it is a reality to Him, then it is a reality for us.
This, of course, raises more mysteries in our mind as we read in Ephesians 1:4 that He “chose us in Him before the foundation of the world”. Some would say that this was based upon God “knowing” that we would do some sufficient “work” in the future. Yet our Timothy passage clearly says that our salvation is granted to us purely by His purpose and grace and not according to our works. How is this possible, for surely He knows our beginning and end and our daily failings in between? Surely this “knowledge” of us would disqualify us rather than qualify us, wouldn’t it?
Several years ago, a theological position arose in which men tried to diminish the difficulty of biblical words like “chosen” and “predestination” and “foreordained” by pulling God inside the line with us. It was called “Process Theology” because God was supposedly in “process” with us… bound up in the present, not really knowing the future but learning along with us. They thought they could erase those troubling words. But the cost was to create a God who was quite scary, for if He is learning about me and my thoughts and actions on a daily, minute by minute basis, then He may soon realize that I am not worth bothering with. He will, day after day, be disappointed in my lack of true agape love, or my less than full devotion to Him, or my constantly falling short of His bar of holiness and perfection. For if He is in “process”, then He could well change His mind about my “sonship”, now that He has learned the “truth” about me.
BUT, for the eternal God who knows and sees every one of my gazillion faults and failings from beginning to end simultaneously and still, from the eternal past grants that to me? Oh, the depth and richness of the love of God in Christ Jesus!
It is at this point we should fall prostrate to the ground before Him in utter thankfulness for a grace poured out upon us that is so completely unearned and so completely forever-forever… so eternally eternal.
As Peter ended, so do we:
“… but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.” 2 Peter 3:18
For contemplation throughout the week (don’t skip the hard ones J ):
“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.” Revelation 1:8
Remember the former things, those of long ago; I am God, and there is no other;
I am God, and there is none like me. I make known the end from the beginning,
from ancient times, what is still to come. I say, ‘My purpose will stand,
and I will do all that I please.’ Isaiah 46:9-10
And having been made perfect, He became to all those who obey Him the source of eternal salvation… Hebrews 5:9
Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord or of me His prisoner, but join with me in suffering for the gospel according to the power of God, who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity… 2 Timothy 1:8-9
But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. Ephesians 2:4-9
Lord, You have been our dwelling place in all generations. Before the mountains were born or You gave birth to the earth and the world,
Even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God. Psalm 90:1-2
Even from eternity I am He,
And there is none who can deliver out of My hand;
I act and who can reverse it? Isaiah 43:13
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. Ephesians 1:3-6
For if the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling those who have been defiled sanctify for the cleansing of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? For this reason He is the mediator of a new covenant, so that, since a death has taken place for the redemption of the transgressions that were committed under the first covenant, those who have been called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance. Hebrews 9:13-15
See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god beside me;
I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal; and there is none that can deliver out of my hand.
For I lift up my hand to heaven and swear, As I live forever,
if I sharpen my flashing sword and my hand takes hold on judgment,
I will take vengeance on my adversaries and will repay those who hate me. Deuteronomy 32:39-41
The eternal God is a dwelling place,
And underneath are the everlasting arms; Deuteronomy 33:27
Behold, God is exalted, and we do not know Him;
The number of His years is unsearchable. Job 36:26
But the Lord abides forever;
He has established His throne for judgment… Psalm 9:7
Your name, O Lord, is everlasting,
Your remembrance, O Lord, throughout all generations. Psalm 135:13
Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom,
And Your dominion endures throughout all generations. Psalm 145:13
For thus says the high and exalted One
Who lives forever, whose name is Holy,
“I dwell on a high and holy place,
And also with the contrite and lowly of spirit
In order to revive the spirit of the lowly
And to revive the heart of the contrite. Isaiah 57:15
But you, O Lord, reign forever; your throne endures to all generations. Lamentations 5:19
He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man's heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. Ecclesiastes 3:11
“… but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.” 2 Peter 3:18
Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen. 1 Timothy 1:17
From A.W. Tozer, “The Knowledge of the Holy”, page 45: “The truth is that if the Bible did not teach that God possessed endless being in the ultimate meaning of that term, we would be compelled to infer it from His other attributes, and if the Holy Scriptures had no word for absolute everlastingness, it would be necessary for us to coin one to express the concept, for it is assumed, implied, and generally taken for granted everywhere throughout the inspired Scriptures. The idea of endlessness is to the kingdom of God what carbon is to the kingdom of nature. As carbon is present almost everywhere, as it is an essential element in all living matter and supplies all life with energy, so the concept of everlastingness is necessary to give meaning to any Christian doctrine. Indeed I know of no tenet of the Christian creed that could retain its significance if the idea of eternity were extracted from it.”
[preface] When I was 16, I wrecked my father’s brand new car. It was the only time he ever “switched” me. But I deserved it, because if I had been more attentive, it wouldn’t have happened. One of the few times I had to spank my children was when they were playing with fire in the shed and almost burned it down—and with it possibly our house and others’. I wasn’t “punishing” them; I was training them with words of admonition coupled with a “memory moment”.
Unfortunately, we often equate “discipline” with punishment. But punishment and discipline are radically different. Punishment is meant to somehow extract a “payment” for what was done… a form of retribution or a leveling of the books or scales. Discipline, on the other hand, has a fruitful purpose and objective in mind… a means of training or molding the person into someone better.
Consider 1 John 4:17-18
"By this, love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment; because as He is, so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love."
This is interesting: “…fear involves punishment”.
John is obviously talking here about a fear of “punishment” instead of the reverent “fear” that one has before a holy and omnipotent God. Under God’s grace, the entirety of His wrath, reserved for us, was poured out upon Jesus. As a result, there’s nothing left for us to be “punished” for. If punishment is a means by which we “pay” for what we’ve done, then punishment would never be able to “save” us from out sins, for you and I are hopelessly unable to pay for even the smallest breach of God’s holiness. What? Am I to think that maybe 10 years in prison would pay for my sins? What about 100 years? If so, I think too little of my sin and too little of God’s holiness. This is why those who are not in Christ will be separated from God for eternity. I suppose one could say that even after an eternity, there is still an eternity of payment left.
This is why Jesus had to pay for ALL of it.
And, that is why it is called “good news”.
For if Jesus had paid only part of our penalty, even as much as 99.999999% of it, the balance due from us would be infinitely more than we could ever “pay”, no matter how severe or deep… or long the punishment.
There is no fear in true agape love, John tells us, because there is no punishment remaining. And, that is why he says we will have confidence in the day of judgment. Not a confidence in ourselves, but in the radical grace of God. So if you still live your life in fear of punishment before God, then there are two possibilities: 1) you have never really come to know Him and the grace of His love; or 2) you may be in Christ, but you have yet to fully understand His grace, believing the lie that you must pay for some part of your sins, or that you have to “balance them out” through good works.
This is foolish, for we can do neither. Who are we to believe that our “punishment” is sufficient to pay for even smallest portion of our sin or that our most ardent attempts at righteousness are sufficient to make us holy?
When you pull your salvation back under the law, Paul refers to this as “falling away from grace” for you have left the sufficiency of Christ’s atoning work, placing yourself back under the “curse” of the law, which can only condemn. Because our “righteousness is as filthy rags” in the presence of a Holy God, any punishment is insufficient payment for the depth of our unholiness. Only One can make us holy; only One can pay for our sins. And that Someone is Christ, accomplished through His propitiation.
Oh, my! How deep is the love of God and how rich is His grace towards us! We are in awe of His amazing grace, poured out upon us without any merit of our own… nothing in which we can boast.
However… though we are made righteous in the sight of God through Christ’s work, yet we still live and walk in this world, a son of Adam, burdened with a sinful nature that is contrary to the Lord’s will. Therefore, we stray… we sin… we fall woefully short. Yet, we remain as His children. And God, as a good Father, treats us as true sons and not as illegitimate. And because of this, He disciplines us:
“… you have forgotten the exhortation which is addressed to you as sons, 'My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor faint when you are reproved by Him; for those whom the Lord loves He disciplines, and He scourges every son whom He receives...” Hebrews 12:5-6
The Greek word here for “discipline” is “paideia”. This is a very, very interesting word and we must take the time to examine what it means.
The Greeks believed the individual should be molded into the “ideal”. The word “paideia” was used to describe the means by which the individual was to be trained and molded into this ideal. It carried the notion of perfection or excellence in intellectual, moral and physical characteristics… the model Greek.
The Scripture uses this term in all of the New Testament passages that refer to God’s disciplinary actions toward us. He is not punishing us, but he is training us, molding us, forming and transforming us more and more into the likeness of the ultimate Ideal, Christ.
It is spurred on by an affectionate zeal to enhance, not by a punitive fist.
This is why Christ says in Revelation 3:19
"Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline; therefore be zealous and repent."
The discipline of the Lord shapes us, so that we grow in the right direction, just as one would prune a Bonsai tree into a desired form. Or as the vinedresser, He prunes us like a grape vine so that we might produce more fruit:
“… He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness. All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness." Hebrews 12: 10-11
As earthly fathers, we are enjoined to do the same:
"Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord." Ephesians 6:4
Why? Because we desire our children to be fruitful, to flourish, to bring God glory in all they do. This is what true discipline seeks and this is the discipline the Lord uses to form us more and more into His Ideal.
“For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training [root: paideia] us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age… “ Titus 2:11-12
And though there are physical manifestations of this in our life as God acts through the events around us, it is entirely possible that the primary means of discipline is through the work of the Spirit of Truth as we read His word:
“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training [root: paideia] in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:16-17
God wants to form us into children who are “complete, equipped for every good work”. He uses the Word and the discipline that comes through it to achieve this.
So, we rejoice! For if God did not discipline us, then we would not be His children. Or, another way to put it is this: when you become the child of the King, you will then be subject to His carving and pruning tools… a discipline that is motivated by true agape love.
Don’t kick back at Him. Be thankful in the midst of His discipline.
Ponder these verses throughout this week:
Thus you are to know in your heart that the Lord your God was disciplining you just as a man disciplines his son. Deuteronomy 8:5
“For you hate discipline, and you cast My words behind you. Psalm 50:17
My son, do not reject the discipline of the Lord or loathe His reproof… Proverbs 3:11
Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid. Proverbs 12:1
A wise son accepts his father’s discipline, but a scoffer does not listen to rebuke. Proverbs 13:1
Poverty and shame will come to him who neglects discipline, but he who regards reproof will be honored. Proverbs 13:18
He who neglects discipline despises himself, but he who listens to reproof acquires understanding. Proverbs 15:32
Listen to counsel and accept discipline, that you may be wise the rest of your days. Proverbs 19:20
Apply your heart to discipline and your ears to words of knowledge. Proverbs 23:12
But when we are judged, we are disciplined by the Lord so that we will not be condemned along with the world. 1 Corinthians 11:32
Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. Ephesians 6:4
Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline; therefore be zealous and repent. Revelation 3:19
You have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood in your striving against sin; and you have forgotten the exhortation which is addressed to you as sons,
“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,
Nor faint when you are reproved by Him;
For those whom the Lord loves He disciplines,
And He scourges every son whom He receives.”
It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Furthermore, we had earthly fathers to discipline us, and we respected them; shall we not much rather be subject to the Father of spirits, and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness. All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.
Therefore, strengthen the hands that are weak and the knees that are feeble, and make straight paths for your feet, so that the limb which is lame may not be put out of joint, but rather be healed. Hebrews 12:4-13
In the upcoming (hopefully and prayerfully) “Engagement” series, the first tour* will examine the rise of a phobia in our culture toward Truth… Truth with a capital “T” that is, for our culture is filled with little “t” truths… those truth claims that have their genesis in our own precious and special little hearts. We celebrate those truths so much that it borders on being a new cult… one in which the individual and the individual’s belief is elevated to something akin to divinity. To say “my heart tells me…” or “this is who I am…” is tantamount to speaking scripture and to speak against the feelings or desires of the individual is to be labeled with the culture’s current schoolyard names: bigot, hate-monger, intolerant, etc. etc. in hopes, as we did in grade school, that we can elevate our own significance and posture by sneering immature “put-downs” at our favorite “nobodies” and “deplorables”.
It would be a grave mistake, as many Christians have done, to label what is happening here with things like “liberal” or “progressive” or “Democrat”. What we are witnessing is a wholesale attack upon truth that has infested much of the cultural powers. The New Democratic party has been deeply infected. But it isn’t the Party… it is the worldview.
That worldview is one in which Transcendent Truth is no longer merely ignored nor just set aside so that we can go our own way. No… now there is a war against it. There is a hatred toward it… and a deep fear.
An interview on several northwest campuses highlighted this fear. The interviewer, a 5’10” white guy, was trying to get university students to tell him that he wasn’t a 6’ 5” Chinese woman. Even though it was obvious to them, they were afraid to speak it, for to do so was to trump the individual’s declaration with something Transcendent… even that which was obviously real.
So, last week, Daniel Piepenbring, writing in the New Yorker, decries the advent of a Chick-fil-A store to the City where, Daniel believes, it “doesn’t quite belong”. He writes that the store’s arrival “augurs worse than a load of manure on the F train”.
Is it because he believes there is something wrong with the chicken or the fries? Is it because the milkshakes carry a lot of calories? And, in a city that bans “Big Gulp” drinks in order to protect its citizens from consuming too much sugar, is the store simply out of “nutritional” step with New Yorkers?
No. That isn’t why Piepenbring writes a scathing article against Chick-fil-A.
It is because Chick-fil-A and its owners embrace a Transcendent Truth.
Here is the caption under the article’s picture of the new store:
“Chick-fil-A’s corporate purpose begins with the words “to glorify God,” and that proselytism thrums below the surface of its new Fulton Street restaurant.”
Interesting, isn’t it? A corporate purpose that begins with “to glorify God” is viewed with distaste and is equated with one of the growing schoolyard taunts: “proselytism”? By the way, “proselytizing” is viewed as an attack upon the divineness of the individual, for It implies that the individual should be persuaded to a different way of thinking and living. In a culture that has made the individual divine, to say there is something wrong in the individual’s beliefs is to speak blasphemy and deserves a sentencing to the stocks… or worse.
That is the tenor of the article. It is written with a sense of outrage, of seething anger and hatred toward an establishment, as Daniel states: whose headquarters “are adorned with Bible verses”… Oh my! Or its stores have the audacity to “close on Sundays”… double Oh My!
Then comes, of course, the thing that is probably stirring up the greatest phobia in Daniel, and that is the position of Dan Cathy, the CEO, who stood for “traditional marriage”.
Our culture is in a war against Transcendent Truth and anyone who dares to stand for that Truth. If it is a transcendent truth about anything: sex, marriage, male and female, God, Jesus, salvation by Him alone, moral right and wrong… anything… you will be either opposed or openly hated by the cultural “elites”.
Although the war against truth has been raging from the Garden, it has never been so openly waged in our culture as it is today.
This is a recent phenomenon.
But, there is a strong and faithful remnant in the land… take hope.
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when men revile you and say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” Jesus, Matthew 5:10-11
Do everything in your power to live at peace in this culture, but don’t let it bully you into giving up the Truth. Jesus said He was the Truth. We will not turn away from Him, even if the beautiful people of Hollywood mock us, or the professors scorn us, or the NBA or NCAA move their games, or the state and the courts threaten us and close our stores, or even if a writer holds us in disdain and contempt.
You are the light of the world. If you hide your light, then the whole house groans in darkness.
We are a Remnant of Hope. Stand firm in Him.
*the Engagement: Tour 0: “In a Land of Nought—A Remnant of Hope”