“Oh, the unspeakable greatness of that exchange,—the Sinless One is condemned, and he who is guilty goes free; the Blessing bears the curse, and the cursed is brought into blessing; the Life dies, and the dead live; the Glory is whelmed in darkness, and he who knew nothing but confusion of face is clothed with glory.” Trailady

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A person God turned around many times.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Jesus, the God of temperance

Jesus always mingled truth with grace. He never strayed far from either aspect of His Father’s character, these two cornerstones of love. He never dispensed grace, but that He expected an equal obligation from the recipients. “Were there not ten cleansed? but where are the nine?” (Lk. 17:17). Yet, He did not withhold His goodness until He might wrench from their lips an agreement to be grateful to Him; nor did He use His benefits to enslave people to His will. Though He did desire their appreciation, He would not bicker and bargain before blessing people. Neither does God, who sends the sunshine and rain on those who worship Him, and on those who act like He doesn’t exist. But the Father desires our expressions of thanksgiving for all His wonderful benefits to us. Like an earthly father desires his children’s love and attention, He “inhabit[s] the praises of Israel.” (Ps. 22:3).

Christ never spoke truth without grace. Even to the Pharisees and priests. What made them so angry with Him was that He wouldn’t speak only unvarnished truth without grace. They didn’t like that because that’s all they could do—Truth without grace. They didn’t know God, an so they couldn’t give anyone any of His grace. They could only give Satan’s grinding spirit, either very harshly or “nicely”. “Give God the praise: we know that this man is a sinner,” or they “by peace shall destroy many.” (Jn. 9:24;Dan. 8:24,25). But either way, rudely or nicely they misrepresented God, and Christ’s methods presented a stark but quiet and constant rebuke to their ways.

“Thou art fairer than the children of men: grace is poured into Thy lips: therefore God hath blessed Thee for ever.” (Ps. 45:2).

Jesus never met a man He didn’t like. Scripture says in one place, “Then Jesus beholding him loved him.” (Mk. 10:21). We can infer from His encounter with this young ruler that very often, if not every day, He did this to people. But though He loved everyone, He hated sin with perfect hatred. He came “for sin,” His one purpose in every thought, word, act was to condemn it. (Rom. 8:3). To Him sin was the existence of the recognition of self. Total self-forgetfulness was the condition of life in the Garden of Eden, which the Savior came to restore in man. The Son of God became flesh to be the second Adam; and He was a greater than Adam. Therefore when Peter grabbed Him and tried to shake some self-filled common sense into his Master, saying, “Pity Thyself, Lord: this shall not be unto Thee,” then the Lion of the tribe of Judah came out of Jesus. (Matt. 16:22,margin).

Peter brought a full-faced, frontal attack on his Master’s campaign against sin; and his Master threw back on Peter a full, frontal, blunt message, brighter and more blinding than He had ever before done to any of His disciples. Jesus must have waited patiently for the day when His Father would work the conditions for Him to be able to make His standard of selflessness perfectly clear, and when the time finally presented itself, He utilized it for a blitzing promotion of the reality of His Father’s kingdom. Right in Simon’s face and in the hearing of the other disciples, “He turned, and said unto Peter, Get thee behind Me, Satan: thou art an offence unto Me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men.” (Matt. 16:23). His words were not a confusing yea and nay. No duplicitous speech ever left His mouth.

Peter snapped back into attention as if he were hit by a stun gun, or given a big shot of penicillin in the hind quarters. Mouth shut, eyes wide open, he must have thought, like Job, “Behold, I am vile; what shall I answer Thee? I will lay mine hand upon my mouth.
Once have I spoken; but I will not answer: yea, twice; but I will proceed no further.” (Job 40:4,5).

Both Job and Peter were reminded of where they stood in contrast with the Lord of truth. “Gird Thy sword upon Thy thigh, O most mighty, with Thy glory and Thy majesty.
And in Thy majesty ride prosperously because of truth and meekness and righteousness; and Thy right hand shall teach Thee terrible things.
Thine arrows are sharp in the heart of the king’s enemies; whereby the people fall under Thee.
Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: the sceptre of Thy kingdom is a right sceptre.
Thou lovest righteousness, and hatest wickedness: therefore God, Thy God, hath anointed Thee with the oil of gladness above Thy fellows.
All Thy garments smell of myrrh, and aloes, and cassia, out of the ivory palaces, whereby they have made Thee glad.” (Ps. 45:3-8).

Peter and Job were Jesus’ favorites in their days; they had received His full compassion and blessedness. But that gave them no right to presume upon His Law and His propensity for righteousness. He would not budge a millimeter or allow even a micron of Satan’s advances into His kingdom. He told Peter what Eve should have told the serpent or what Adam should have told Eve, “Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men.”

Yet Job and Peter and all His children were dear to the Lord. He spoke to Israel as to a man, in admonition and in rebuke. After punishing Israel with 70 years of captivity and permitting the difficulties of reestablishing their homeland, He sent messages to encourage their heart through the youthful Zechariah.

“And said unto him [an angel], Run, speak to this young man, saying, Jerusalem shall be inhabited as towns without walls for the multitude of men and cattle therein:
For I, saith the Lord, will be unto her a wall of fire round about, and will be the glory in the midst of her.
Ho, ho, come forth, and flee from the land of the north, saith the Lord: for I have spread you abroad as the four winds of the heaven, saith the Lord.
Deliver thyself, O Zion, that dwellest with the daughter of Babylon.
For thus saith the Lord of hosts; After the glory hath He sent me unto the nations which spoiled you: for he that toucheth you toucheth the apple of His eye.” (Zech. 2:4-8). “And the Lord answered the angel that talked with me with good words and comfortable words.
So the angel that communed with me said unto me, Cry thou, saying, Thus saith the Lord of hosts; I am jealous for Jerusalem and for Zion with a great jealousy.” (Zech. 1:13,14).

The mercy of the Lord might not have appeared to be forthcoming to Israel, so lately encumbered with temptations and troublesome neighbors, flinging Israel’s past failures in their face, being burdened by shame and guilt. So Christ sent messages to them through Zechariah and Haggai. They were strong messages, but had their softer parts. They were full of instructions and reminders to no longer do as their fathers had done which led to the subjugation of the nation to pagan powers; but the word of the Lord was also full of precious promises.

Christ’s spirit of grace mingled with promises of judgment.

“Then he [the angel] answered and spake unto me, saying, This is the word of the Lord unto Zerubbabel, saying, Not by might, nor by power, but by My spirit, saith the Lord of hosts.
Who art thou, O great mountain? before Zerubbabel thou shalt become a plain: and he shall bring forth the headstone thereof with shoutings, crying, Grace, grace unto it.” (Zech. 4:6,7). “Thus speaketh the Lord of hosts, saying, Execute true judgment, and shew mercy and compassions every man to his brother:
And oppress not the widow, nor the fatherless, the stranger, nor the poor; and let none of you imagine evil against his brother in your heart.
But they refused to hearken, and pulled away the shoulder, and stopped their ears, that they should not hear. …
Therefore it is come to pass, that as He cried, and they would not hear; so they cried, and I would not hear, saith the Lord of hosts:
But I scattered them with a whirlwind among all the nations whom they knew not. Thus the land was desolate after them, that no man passed through nor returned: for they laid the pleasant land desolate.” (Zech. 7:9-11,13,14).

Jesus’ great jealousy for His people, but great fury also.

“Thus saith the Lord of hosts; I was jealous for Zion with great jealousy, and I was jealous for her with great fury.
Thus saith the Lord; I am returned unto Zion, and will dwell in the midst of Jerusalem: and Jerusalem shall be called a city of truth; and the mountain of the Lord of hosts the holy mountain.
Thus saith the Lord of hosts; There shall yet old men and old women dwell in the streets of Jerusalem, and every man with his staff in his hand for very age.
And the streets of the city shall be full of boys and girls playing in the streets thereof.
Thus saith the Lord of hosts; If it be marvellous in the eyes of the remnant of this people in these days, should it also be marvellous in Mine eyes? saith the Lord of hosts.
Thus saith the Lord of hosts; Behold, I will save My people from the east country, and from the west country;
And I will bring them, and they shall dwell in the midst of Jerusalem: and they shall be My people, and I will be their God, in truth and in righteousness.” (Zech. 8:2-8).

His love for peace mixed with truth.

“For thus saith the Lord of hosts; As I thought to punish you, when your fathers provoked Me to wrath, saith the Lord of hosts, and I repented not:
So again have I thought in these days to do well unto Jerusalem and to the house of Judah: fear ye not.
These are the things that ye shall do; Speak ye every man the truth to his neighbour; execute the judgment of truth and peace in your gates:
And let none of you imagine evil in your hearts against his neighbour; and love no false oath: for all these are things that I hate, saith the Lord.... Thus saith the Lord of hosts; The fast of the fourth month, and the fast of the fifth, and the fast of the seventh, and the fast of the tenth, shall be to the house of Judah joy and gladness, and cheerful feasts; therefore love the truth and peace.” (Zech. 8:14-17,19).

Mercy and justice; patience and correction; grace and truth; precious promises and faithful warnings; jealousy for and fury against. These are not character traits of a dysfunctional, bipolar God. They are both the constant elements of balanced love, even extreme love, wound together. Neither grace without truth, and never truth without grace; both entwined into a cord of love that “is as strong as death.” (Song 8:6 NIV).

“I taught Ephraim also to go, taking them by their arms; but they knew not that I healed them.
I drew them with cords of a man, with bands of love.” (Hos. 11:3,4). This two-fold divine cordage “is not quickly broken.” (Ecc. 4:12).

Christ was the same Son of God in both Old and New Testaments—the very same divine Person with the same personality and same goals and methods. He was the goodness of God personified; God in the flesh. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.” (Jn. 1:1,14).


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