Shackled Under Condemnation’s Chains

We’ve all been there. We’ve just committed the sin which we feel is unpardonable. Sure, we know that sin is by definition rebellion against our Creator and Redeemer. We know that those images, those new gadgets, that relationship, or that job cannot fill the longings of our soul. Yet we repeatedly revisit those old wells that never satisfy. Revisiting those empty wells leaves us thirsty. Sin always promises satisfaction, but never delivers on its apparent promises.

Satan convinced Adam and Eve that by eating the forbidden fruit they would be satisfied. You can read the story for yourself. Adam and Eve were convinced that by eating this fruit they could become like God. The truth is that they were already like God. They were created in His image and according to His likeness. (Gen.1:26-27) They had the privilege of walking with God and knowing Shalom or perfect peace, yet they were convinced that eating the forbidden fruit would bring satisfaction. Perfect peace was broken and our first parents immediately felt shame, so they patched together garments to cover their nakedness. God called out to His children and they hid.

There is continuity between our experience and the experience of our first parents. We repeatedly worship comfort, pleasure, or entertainment over Yahweh. As C. S. Lewis remarks, “We are far too easily pleased.” Almost immediately we feel the shame brought on by our sin.

The Holy Spirit convicts us of sin when we fail, but often we feel condemnation over conviction. We forget that Satan is called the accuser of the brethren.

I wish I would have been able to know Dr. John Gibson before he made the decision to end his life. Dr. Gibson was a beloved man on the campus of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. He was quick to love others and served as a vessel of grace to the faculty, staff, students, and community. Though Dr. Gibson modeled Christ’s love for others, he struggled to accept it himself. He, like Adam and Eve, took a bite of the forbidden fruit and felt the bitter sting of shame. He had apparently gotten involved in the Ashley Maddison scandal and became afraid. He was afraid of what his family and what the community would say upon discovering his sin.

Dr. Gibson believed in the matchless grace of Jesus, but struggled to accept it himself. He was shackled by the chains of condemnation. I don’t know about you, but I relate to this struggle. I know that only through the imputed righteousness of Jesus can I be justified before the Father. (Romans 5, 2 Corinthians 5) Yet when I fail I feel like I have to start all over again. This feeling is simply a lie from Satan. He is the accuser of the brethren.

Do you feel condemned today? If you have confessed Jesus as your Lord you are forgiven. (Proverbs 28:13, 1 John 1:9, Romans 6:23) There’s no sin God cannot forgive. You have not gone so far that He cannot redeem you. Even while we were yet sinners Christ died for us. Even as the crowd cried, “Crucify him” he pleaded, “Father, forgive them”. May the His word set us free from the shackles of self-condemnation.

You do not have to remain bound under the shackles of condemnation. You too can be set free from the chains. It will not happen by your effort. It won’t happen simply by trying to be better. Liberation comes when we submit to the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Sin’s shackles are no match for the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Jesus has conquered death, hell, and the grave.

I do not know your struggles. I do not know the empty well you continue to revisit. I do know that we all struggle with sin. We are redeemed sinners, but we are still sinners. If you are struggling with condemnation you must remind yourself that God’s word is true. You don’t have to be Satan’s prisoner anymore. Let’s remember that we are pilgrims. Let’s remember that we are a community of sinners saved by grace through faith. Please don’t keep your struggle to yourself, like Dr. Gibson did.

Conclusion

Sin causes us to feel separation from our Creator and Redeemer. Conviction and condemnation are not the same. Conviction comes from the Holy Spirit, but condemnation comes from Satan. We need to be reminded that “There is now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1) We need to remember that Satan has been defeated as Revelation 12:10-12 reminds us.

Then I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation, and the power, and the kingdom of our God and the authority of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren has been thrown down, he who accuses them before our God day and night.  “And they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony, and they did not love their life even when faced with death.  “For this reason, rejoice, O heavens and you who dwell in them. Woe to the earth and the sea, because the devil has come down to you, having great wrath, knowing that he has only a short time.” Revelation 12:10-12, NASB.

*Please continue to remember the Gibson family in prayer. For more on his life and influence at NOBTS, click here. For the CNN article, click here.

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Worthy Jesus: Part Two

In my last post I shared with you that Jesus alone is worthy of our worship because he takes an active role in creation. In this post I will conclude my thoughts from Colossians 1:15-20. 

Christ alone is worthy of our worship because he is our redeemer. (vv.18-20) 

Not only did Christ take an active role in the creation of all things, he also takes on an active role in restoring the Father’s creation. Paul tells us that Jesus is the head of the body, the church. The life of the church is dependent on Jesus. He provides life for his church. We are all members of the same body, but Christ is what keeps the body alive. Without him we would swell up and die. In South Georgia where I am serving blueberries are one of the key cash crops. Those blueberry plants would die if they were cut off from their root source. The church depends on Jesus as its life source.

Jesus is the head of living organism called the church, but he is also axis of redemption because he is the firstborn from the dead. This reminds us about Christ being the new and better Adam. Death had no authority over Jesus as our new head. Jesus as God was the author of life. Death’s curse only extends to those who remain in Adam. Christ created Adam, so death had no dominion over him. I would encourage you to read Romans 5 to help you understand this more fully. Remember Paul’s point of this letter is that there is nothing superior to Jesus. He alone is worthy of our worship and devotion. (that in everything he might have the preeminence.) As redeemer Jesus conquered death.

He also contained all the fullness of God. (v.19) This verse literally translated can be rendered, “Because in him willed all the fullness to dwell.” God’s will was that Jesus would be fully divine. Jesus was never meant to be a lesser being. The Father willed that Jesus would contain his full and complete glory. God willed or decreed that all of his nature would be found in Jesus. Not just part of it, but the whole thing. There is a heightened appreciation for the work of the Father in verse 19. Jesus was a mistake or plan B, but God’s original plan A.

Only the God-Man could redeem us. He had to be one like us, but he had to be God. Jesus Christ is our kinsman redeemer. In him we have access to the throne of God. 

Our hymn reaches its conclusion in verse 20, the final stanza of our hymn.

[20]  and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross. Colossians 1:20 (NKJV)

            Jesus has exchanged our hostility for friendship. That’s what the word reconcile means. Our relationship with God the Father was broken in Eden and finds its restoration in the person and work of Christ. There are three ways we can think about this work of reconciliation: (The New American Commentary)

1.) The Scope of Reconciliation: The whole creation; Jesus is working to reconcile all things to the Father. Humans were not the only ones’ to face the consequences of the Fall. If so, Paul would not have wrote all things in Colossians or the whole creation in Romans 8. All of creation has in some way or another been touched by sin. When I preached this passage I referred to harmony between humans and snakes. Before the fall in Eden humans and animals enjoyed a greater harmony than they do now. Christ’s work of redemption is for the human race, but it extends to the entire created order.

2.) The Goal of Reconciliation: To make peace through Christ’s shed blood on the cross. In Jewish circles one of the most common phrases you hear is Shalom, which means peace and mercy. Someone told me once that this peace is only present where sin is not. When Adam and Eve sinned in Eden they tried to hide from God because of the shame of their sin. We do the exact same thing when we sin. An example would be a child when they do wrong against their parents. Rather than running up to dad to hug him after work, the child who has done wrong (maybe a bad grade or smart mouth toward his mother) tries to avoid the parent. I recently heard a story about a contractor who did not complete a home construction project he promised to finish after the couple had already paid him. This contractor would see the couple in down and immediately turn his head down.

Sin destroys the harmonious relationship God intended us to have with Him, but there is good news for you! God has sent Christ to mend your broken relationship with him. You can have peace through Christ’s atonement. This peace is not merely a feeling but a present reality for the believer. The turmoil caused by sin is no match for Christ’s peacemaking work through the cross.

3.) The Means of Reconciliation: The cross is the only means by which our relationship with God is restored and we are allowed peace. Jesus work on the cross renews the harmony between creation and Creator. Only the cross of Jesus makes it possible for us to know God in the context of relationship.

Christ has done a beautiful work in restoring us to fellowship with the Father. God wants to restore our broken relationship. He invites us to come by faith and receive the engrafted word which is able to save our souls. That’s why Jesus alone is worthy of our worship, love, and obedience.

To conclude this post I would like for you to reflect on the hymn “See The Destined Day Arise.” These lyrics have been provided through the generous courtesy of Capitol Hill Baptist Church. I was introduced to this song through the ministry of Sylvan Park Free Will Baptist Church in Nashville Tennessee.

See the Destined Day Arise

Lyrics: Venantius Fortunatus (c.530-600), tr. Richard Mant (1837), Public Domain;

Alt. words, chorus lyrics, and music: Matt Merker, © 2014

 

See the destined day arise! See a willing sacrifice!

Jesus, to redeem our loss, hangs upon the shameful cross;

Jesus, who but You could bear wrath so great and justice fair?

Every pang and bitter throe, finishing your life of woe?

Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Lamb of God for sinners slain!

Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Jesus Christ, we praise your name!

 

Who but Christ had dared to drain, steeped in gall, the cup of pain,

And with tender body bear thorns, and nails, and piercing spear?

Slain for us, the water flowed, mingled from your side with blood;

Sign to all attesting eyes of the finished sacrifice.

Holy Jesus, grant us grace in that sacrifice to place

All our trust for life renewed, pardoned sin, and promised good.

Grant us grace to sing your praise, ‘round your throne through endless days,

Ever with the sons of light: “Blessing, honor, glory, might!”

Following the Great Commission and Commandment: An integration of the two

Over the past few weeks my church has been going through a series on Wednesday evenings entitled “A Christian’s top ten list.” To my dismay I have missed a few of these discussions due to previous obligations. Last night we discussed the relationship between the Great Commission and the Great Commandment. Pastor Eric Puschman reminded us that we must not bypass the Great Commandment in order to do the Great Commission. In this post I hope to share with you what I was able to take away from Bible study last night.

Defining Terms

Most of you are likely already aware of the terms Great Commission and Great Commandment. The Great Commission refers to the last words Jesus gave to his disciples. Those words are found in Matthew 28:18-20.

18  And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19  Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20  teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20 (ESV) 

Jesus commanded his followers to make disciples of all nations. This means that we are called to spread the Good News to all people everywhere. These last words of Jesus have not always been called the Great Commission no one really seems to know how this phraseology began to be used. Regardless how the term came about it is clear that these words have great implications for the church and the individual Christian.

Now to define what is meant by the term Great CommandmentAny good Israelite would have been familiar with this commandment. It’s origins arise with Moses’ sermon in Deuteronomy 6:4-6. 

4  “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. 5  You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. 6  And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. Deuteronomy 6:4-6 (ESV) 

This Scripture became one of the most pivotal in the Jewish faith because Yahweh’s oneness is what distinguishes Him from false gods. All good Jews would memorize this passage, known to them as the Shema. Moses called the people to worship only the one true God. Jesus shows that that if we truly worship Him then we will love others. Jesus reminds us that the entire law system depends on our love for God and others.

36  “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37  And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38  This is the great and first commandment. 39  And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40  On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 22:36-40 (ESV) 

So the Great Commandment is that we should love God above all else. He alone has earned the right to rule on the throne of our heart. Because we have been loved by God we are called to love those he has created. This is the Great Commandment. If we began taking Jesus’ words seriously we would live in a much better culture. Many times we think of commandments as burdensome. The Great Commandment is not a burden at all. We are called to come to God just as we are and give ourselves to Him. In God’s economy all things are moved and motivated by love.

The integration of Commission and Commandment

Pastor Puschman asked us to define the relationship between commandment and commission. Through prayer and observation of the Bible I see that commandment and commission are inseparable. It is absolutely impossible to have one without the other. They are intertwined in a way similar to a flower and its root system. The root system of Christian faith is the Great Commandment to love God and others. The beautiful flower established by God is the Great Commission. This flower represents people from every nation, tribe, and tongue who have faithfully responded to and proclaimed His Good News.

Some churches are guilty of emphasizing the Great Commission over the Great Commandment. For some, the ends justify the means. In other words, our method of reaching people doesn’t matter as long as “decisions” are made. God has called us to love those who are outside the faith. To be clear, we must stand with the Bible and not compromise our morals. I just think that sometimes our approach to reaching people is done in judgment. We look down at those who have not yet received God’s grace. May we never forget that at one time we also were far away from God. Notice Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 6:11.

11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. 1 Corinthians 6:11 (ESV)

This is where commission and commandment meet. Jesus has called us to share his soul-satisfying truth with everyone, regardless what they may look like or how they may smell. We must remember that God is relentlessly pursuing rebels who deserve nothing from Him as we seek to obey the Great Commission. We cannot reach people from every nation if we do not first love God and worship Him above all else.

The next time you are tempted to talk bad about an unbeliever, don’t. You may have people in your life who act like heathen all the time. That’s because they probably are. We are all heathen until we meet Christ and accept his imputed righteousness. Both the Great Commission and the Great Commandment directly affect the life of the individual Christian and the church. Let’s work to maintain a missional mindset motivated by love.