The Justice of God in the Cross

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In expressing his moral shock at God’s decision to destroy the good with the bad in Sodom, Abraham voiced what many believers have wanted to yell throughout history, “Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?” Indeed! The slaughter of the righteous and the wicked and the continued prospering of the wicked so many centuries later perplexes us. Some, believers and non, are tempted to the point of labeling God unjust based on what they see around them.

There are numerous warnings in the Bible that turn people away succumbing to this belief. Over and over, the Holy Spirit inspires the authors to record prohibitions against belief that the current reign of the unjust will continue forever. God will mete out justice at an appointed day in the future; “..do you think you will escape God’s judgment? Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?” (Rom 2:3b-4; see also Acts 17:30-31, 2 Pet 3:3-9)

The more observant will note the theodicy evident in the Cross. The clear language Paul uses in Romans 3:21 – 26 forms the foundation of this understanding. God present him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished-he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies the man who has faith in justice.

Divine Justice is on full display. God judges sin, requiring the ultimate penalty in death. He also extends mercy to sinners, paying this ultimate price himself. As Stott says “For now, as a result of the propitiatory death of his Son, God can be “just and the justifier” of those who believe in him.” His justice is defended against the limited understanding of man and the questions that pour forth from it.

Grace and peace to you..

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Justified

At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit,  whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. (Titus 3:3-7)

imageOur exploration of atonement began as a Lenten devotion moving us steadily closer to Calvary on that Friday afternoon. Leading up to this post we have examined two images—propitiation and redemption—that illustrate facets of salvation, but not the entire picture. To these we add a third, justification.

Redemption locates us in the slave market, in bondage to sin with no hope of escape. One who has the will and the means to enable our freedom pays the price to loose our shackles and to walk free. The cost, often dismissed on the 51 weeks away from Resurrection Sunday, was the blood of Christ.

Free, we are still held to account for our sin. Redemption did not enable us to avoid the consequence. That requires a judicial decision: guilty or not guilty. The concept of justification serves this purpose. It stands us before The Judge who declares us not guilty. The verdict comes vicariously, the guilt being assigned to an Innocent.

We must also be cautious to not confuse justification with amnesty. Amnesty means that we overlook guilt or innocence, it is simply put aside without rendering a verdict. The holiness of God does not provide for this option. Holiness requires that only the not guilty stand in His presence. This requires the courtroom and the gavel of God to pronounce humanity’s status. Without it we have the ability to walk free, all the while walking toward the eternal consequences of our fallen nature. The removal of guilt enables us to, at a minimum, stand in the presence of God.

Grace and peace to you…

image Tim Ellis

Psalm 82 – Defend the Cause of the Weak and Fatherless

image“They know nothing, they understand nothing.

They walk about in darkness; all the foundations of the earth are shaken.”

Psalm 82:5

At the heart of this psalm lies a truth that has not changed since the first human leader stepped up and began to exercise control over others. All leaders, whether they believe in Him or accept His hand in control of their ascension. God is intentional in placing specific people in particular positions of authority to arrange His course for history.

Israel cries out to God for justice, asking why He does this. They ask “How long will you defend the unjust and show partiality to the wicked?” (v2). The demand justice from Him, “Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless; maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed. Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.” (vv 3-4) Israel wants to know why God allows those He has placed in authority to abuse that position and injure His people.

Why indeed? Is there consequence for godlessness? Is God the only one who can reach out and lift up the weak and fatherless?

Grace and peace to you..

 

image by Stuck In Customs

Lent Spent with the Psalms Day Eleven

imageThe Lord reigns forever; he has established his throne for judgment.

He will judge the world in righteousness; he will govern the peoples with justice. (Psalm 9:7-8)

Easter is the antithesis of justice. We do not receive the punishment that is so obviously due us. Rather, God, in His infinite mercy, sacrificed that which was so precious to Him on our behalf. The righteousness of Christ becomes our righteousness. We are able to stand before His throne without guilt, a condition that we could never achieve otherwise.

The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble.

Those who know your name will trust in you, for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you. (vv 9-10)

As recipients of the gift of Grace, our meditation becomes action. We identify those oppressed spiritually and by the injustice of the world and point them to the Forgiver. Knowing the location of the refuge, it is our responsibility as Saints to lead others to its safety. Look about today and find those looking for direction.

Grace and peace to you.

image john linwood

Second Sunday in Advent with Micah – Longing for Justice

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The Prophet Micah spoke a message that is ultimately about hope. Though difficult times must come upon God’s people, in the end, the just nature of God will overcome all and His people and His world will be restored to their proper relationship. The advent season can be a joyous, hopeful season but for some people, it can also serve to magnify their distress and hopelessness. There are numerous reasons that people feel this way but one cause that the Bible teaches us to address with His blessing is injustice. We can be the hope bringers in situations of injustice. God’s grace can be transported to these situations and they can be transformed…if we are willing. One of my favorite passages regarding worship describes in the voice of God himself the direct relationship between justice, mercy, and adoration.

He has showed you, O Man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you?

To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. (vv 6:8)

In this season of longing and anticipation, we can turn to one of Micah’s passages of hope as a prayer of our own. We can trust that God will restore justice in His time. Until that day, we can carry His message on our own.

Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance?

You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy.

You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea. (vv 7:18-19)

Psalm 12 ~ Purified Seven Times

Help, Lord, for the godly are no more; the faithful have vanished from among men. (v1)

Looking around in our modern day can reveal in us a similar sense of resignation. Our culture constantly pushes the boundaries of truth, ethics, and morality and proclaims each to be their own god who devises the appropriate framework for their lives. As we read the lament of Psalm 12 we find that not much has changed through the centuries.

The psalmist was not alone is lamenting the decadence of his society. The prophets spoke as boldly to these dangers in their time. Micah echoes the sentiments:

What misery is mine!

   I am like one who gathers summer fruit at the gleaning of the vineyard;

there is no cluster of grapes to eat, none of the early figs that I crave.

   The godly have been swept from the land; not one upright man remains.

All men lie in wait to shed blood; each hunts his brother with a net.

   Both hands are skilled in doing evil; the ruler demands gifts,

the judge accepts bribes, the powerful dictate what they desire— they all conspire together.

   The best of them is like a brier, the most upright worse than a thorn hedge.

The day of your watchmen has come, the day God visits you.  Now is the time of their confusion.

   Do not trust a neighbor; put no confidence in a friend.

Even with her who lies in your embrace be careful of your words.

   For a son dishonors his father, a daughter rises up against her mother,

a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law— a man’s enemies are the members of his own household.

  But as for me, I watch in hope for the Lord, I wait for God my Savior;

my God will hear me. (Micah 7:1-7)

King David expressed the same trust – that God would restore the right balance, no matter how far the society tipped.

O Lord, you will keep us safe and protect us from such people forever,

The wicked freely strut about when what is vile is honored among men. (vv 7-8)

Our trust requires a long term perspective, an eternal kingdom perspective. How do you develop such a perspective? By learning and making your own the whole of scripture. A kingdom perspective is not formed from promise books and joyful passages alone, it must be refined in the furnace of reality. We may never escape the persecutors and deceivers that cross our path in this life but we can look forward to a new heaven and new earth in which they will not ‘strut about.’

Psalm 11 – Flee Like a Bird?

Where else, the psalmist asks, can I place my trust? “In the Lord I take refuge.” (v1a) So many of the entries in the psalter echo this same theme. Though life may be an uphill struggle in which we are pursued by our enemies. Though it may seem that evil has free run in our world and that the wicked are victorious. Although our calling may be one of persecution and even death, in who else can we trust? No one but the Lord.

The Lord is in his holy temple; the Lord is on his heavenly throne.

He observes the sons of men; his eyes examine them.

The Lord examines the righteous, but the wicked and those who love violence his soul hates. (vv 4-5)

The promise that we rest in is not in the ease and comfort of our lives, the promise is in knowing that through eternity we will be the recipients of the Lord’s unfailing justice. His grace has given us the path to redemption and removes our fear.

For the Lord is righteous, he loves justice; upright men will see his face. (v7)