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“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 12, 2011

Why so little of the grace of Christ??

Why are Christ’s rebukes so detailed and get first billeting, but His acts of mercy are so generalized? So much of His teachings were condemning, and those that were warming and welcoming were lightly passed over. Even when the prophecy of His gentleness was quoted in Matthew 12:20, it was in the context of a controversy over Sabbath-keeping between Jesus and the Pharisees, and more strong language by Jesus. So, where was the gentleness? It got up-standed, and therefore, by contrast, played down. The verse said,
“A bruised reed shall He not break, and smoking flax shall He not quench, till He send forth judgment unto victory.” (Matt. 12:20). Just before this, “He had looked round about on them with anger, being grieved for the hardness of their hearts.” (Mk. 3:5). What did He just do and say to the Pharisees that was so gentle??

Should we just assume that Jesus was nice? Or can we have some hard evidence? So much space has been used in the gospels for His controversies that it leaves any kindness by Christ as a short side note. The main course has been His harshness. Why would the Holy Spirit inspire the apostles to write the Messiah’s story like this?

It can leave a person bewildered and wondering if this is why the Christian church became so dead after the apostles died and violent during the Dark Ages. It seems to answer the question why there are so many atheists and agnostics in the once Protestant countries of Europe and America. It explains why the Catholics adore children but ignore adults. “Jesus loves the little children...la la la...” they sang, and enslaved the grownups. Children don’t test our flagging Christian fortitude like adults do. Children naturally make us rejoice and fill the void in hearts that never experience divine love. This may be typical of every false religion around the world since its beginning.

Where is the friendship in the gospels that Abraham received from God as they walked and talked together? Where’s the peace? Where’s the love in the gospels that I might rest my heart there? “Oh that I had in the wilderness a lodging place of wayfaring men; that I might leave my people, and go from them!” (Jer. 9:2). “For thou art the God of my strength: why dost Thou cast me off? Why go I mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?” (Ps. 43:2). My people, the servants of the Lord who wrote the Bible; and my enemy, the clouds surrounding Christ’s love.

After being scooped up by the Lord in 1995 and brought back to the church, I studied and studied the Bible to know it again after being away from it for 13 years. The Book became my favorite companion. It was a curiosity to relearn, but also a source of hope that took me away from the present evils of this world.

But after a while it didn’t supply me with joy and happiness. I couldn’t put my finger on why that was, but I continued to pursue all that the Bible had to offer me. I was convinced the holy scriptures had the answers for all of life’s problems and was dismayed by how few Christians talked about it. It seemed they only spoke of the Bible in Sabbath School or Sunday School class for 45 minutes each week. Even the rest of the Sabbath was spent talking of common things, or even foolishness. Also, I would hear people say things that contradicted the Bible and I would try to correct them. But they kept telling wrong things about scripture. Some even got angry with me when I would correct them.

Then one day the Lord implanted the thought, “The love of God.” As I though about it I realized that I didn’t know the love of God. I challenged myself at that point to recall any scripture that explicitly revealed God’s love. I didn’t count the verse, “God is love” (Jn. 4:8), because it showed no action. I needed to “see” His love. Grace is love in action. I needed to see God’s acts of friendliness and grace.

That moment showed my glaring ignorance God’s love. The only verses I could think of were, “Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest;” (Matt. 11:28) and, “All that the Father giveth Me shall come to Me; and him that cometh to Me I will in no wise cast out.” (Jn. 6:37). Those were friendly, welcoming words, open and explicit. But they are the only friendly ones that I could remember. I challenge you to find others equally as inviting throughout the Old and New Testaments. I believe you will find it a real challenge.

What’s going on here? Isn’t the Bible a book of grace and hope? This is what was getting me down but I didn’t know why. I wasn’t meeting a gracious Friend every morning and evening. I wasn’t daily finding a friend in Jesus, being convicted and humbled by His love. A friend, even by faith, would have done wonders to my paltry frame of mind. This is why movies full of love-sick sentamentalism, love songs, and novels replaced the family Bible reading and personal Bible study. These fictional stories offer some exhibition of love, even though it is all imaginary.

But wouldn’t non-fiction, real-life love be more powerful? When you can say, “This is real love; it really happened;” wouldn’t that fully grab a hold of your heart and bring it peace? Isn’t this what the Bible has to offer, with real people in real trouble in need of real forgiveness and love?

But if the greatest Book apparently doesn’t demonstrate grace and love (I speak for the agnostic), and the preachers don’t reveal it from their study of the Bible because it has eluded them too, then what can we expect of die-hards who insist on reading the Bible? Coldness? Harshness? Condemnation? Hopelessness? Hypocrisy? Pharisaism?

Doesn’t this characterize the churches today? Self-indulgence of earth’s blessings is at an all-time high in order to satisfy the apparent lack of a God who has denied them His love. Fellowship dinners are more about the dinner than fellowship. The people and preachers are getting pretty hefty. This should indicate that they are living by bread alone and not by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.

Paul said it right when he warned, “Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled.” (Heb. 12:15). When agape love waxes cold, iniquity will automatically abound. But if they don’t see His love, what can you expect them to do?

So we need to see love; we need God-sized agape care. We need to witness it and be thunderstruck and awed by it. Not cupid’s arrow, but the Holy Spirit’s arrow of love needs to convict us. So we need to study and dig and search love out, with all our hearts. We need to engage not just the intellect as we read, but the soul, the heart, with prayer. We must engage hope, faith, and yearning with learning. Every nerve and faculty must be utilized as we look for a knowledge of God’s love.

“My son, if thou wilt receive my words, and hide my commandments with thee;
So that thou incline thine ear unto wisdom, and apply thine heart to understanding;
Yea, if thou criest after knowledge, and liftest up thy voice for understanding;
If thou seekest her as silver, and searchest for her as for hid treasures;
Then shalt thou understand the fear of the Lord, and find the knowledge of God.
For the Lord giveth wisdom: out of His mouth cometh knowledge and understanding.
He layeth up sound wisdom for the righteous: He is a buckler to them that walk uprightly.
He keepeth the paths of judgment, and preserveth the way of His saints.
Then shalt thou understand righteousness, and judgment, and equity; yea, every good path.” (Prov. 2:1-9).

“Happy is the man that findeth wisdom, and the man that getteth understanding.
For the merchandise of it is better than the merchandise of silver, and the gain thereof than fine gold.
She is more precious than rubies: and all the things thou canst desire are not to be compared unto her.
Length of days is in her right hand; and in her left hand riches and honour.
Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace.
She is a tree of life to them that lay hold upon her: and happy is every one that retaineth her.” (Prov. 3:13-18).

“Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able. When once the Master of the house is risen up, and hath shut to the door, and ye begin to stand without, and to knock at the door, saying, Lord, Lord, open unto us; and He shall answer and say unto you, I know you not whence ye are.” (Luk. 13:24,25).

Hear the love coming through the reproofs of apostles and prophets, and especially from Christ, Himself. If you perk up your ears, you will hear it.

“Is Ephraim My dear son? Is he a pleasant child? For since I spake against him, I do earnestly remember him still: therefore My bowels are troubled for him; I will surely have mercy upon him, saith the Lord.” “For I have satiated the weary soul, and I have replenished every sorrowful soul.
Upon this I awaked, and beheld; and my sleep was sweet unto me.” (Jer. 31:20,25,26).

It’s only as the infant sucks and feeds that its sucking muscles become strong. They already have the sucking reflex at birth, but the child must put it to use. And if we are to glean the goodness of God out of the Bible, we must use our sucking reflex and our sucking muscles, i.e. our understanding of Bible language and our heart that yearns for our Father’s attention. And if we will do this, our comprehension of Bible usages will grow fuller, our appetite for more divine love will intensify and our faith and hope in Him will deepen and grow stronger. Don’t make the mistake of only looking in the New Testament. With so apparently little to go on, you need the whole Bible record.

“He made him ride on the high places of the earth, that he might eat the increase of the fields; and He made him to suck honey out of the rock, and oil out of the flinty rock.” (Deut. 32:13).

Let us assume nothing about Christ’s love? Let us obtain all the hard biblical evidence, and there is so much there that this will be a lifetime project, and a good project. We don't need to be a theologian to do it; all we need is a need for God’s love. The door is going shut. The time is coming to an end for striving to know God, before the great tribulation that puts our comprehension and acceptance of God’s love to a huge test. When the big winds start blowing, only the rock-solid children of God will keep their faith.

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