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Sin Stinks!

“And in Him there is no sin.”
1 John 3:5

I remember visiting my grandmother one summer when I was young. More years ago than I would care to admit, my family drove to a quiet little town on the West Central side of Missouri to a place called, Nevada, not too far from Kansas City. Because it is my birthplace and the place where “Granny” lived,  it has always held a special place in my memories.  I remember one particular summer, my cousins also visited and brought with them several little furry, black and white creatures.  Cute and cuddly with a long white stripe running from their heads down to their tales, these baby skunks were the center of attention for a few days.

Now if you’ve ever had the bad fortune of smelling a skunk when it has raised its tail and defended itself, you know it is not the most pleasant of aromas.  Polo cologne it isn’t!  If you have had the misfortune of being sprayed by one of these cute little animals, you know the odor is not something you can easily rid yourself of. That ‘skunk’ smell permeates your clothing and your hair. It seems to embed itself in your skin.  It goes everywhere you go.  It’s there even before you get there! No one wants to be around you because of the offensive smell surrounding you. It seems to bother everyone – everyone but the skunk and others who smell the same. Isn’t it interesting that the very animal whose smell is most offensive to us has no idea that they are offensive and are not offensive to one another!

So it is with sin and the sinner.  The one who is covered with the stench of sin has no idea what a vile thing he is in the presence of God. Those around him who are covered with the same odoriforous smell of depravity are not bothered by the smell either. But,  oh, how offensive it is to the One who is totally without sin.  And none of us are totally without that odor.

“Mortal man can never realize the exceeding sinfulness of sin in the sight of that holy and perfect One with whom we have to do. On the one hand, God is that eternal Being…in whose sight the very ‘heavens are not clean’. He is One who reads thoughts and motives as well as actions and requires ‘truth in the inward parts’ (Job 4:18; 15:15; Ps. 51:6). We, on the other hand – poor blind creatures, here today and gone tomorrow, born in sin, surrounded by sinners, living in a constant atmosphere of weakness, infirmity and imperfection – can form none but the most inadequate conceptions of the hideousness of evil. We have no line to fathom it and no measure by which to gauge it. The blind man can see no difference between a masterpiece of Titian or Raphael and the queen’s head on a village signboard. The deaf man cannot distinguish between a penny whistle and a cathedral organ…And a man, fallen man, I believe, can have no just idea what a vile thing sin is in the sight of that God whose handiwork is absolutely perfect – perfect whether we look through telescope or microscope; perfect in the formation of a mighty planet like Jupiter, with his satellites, keeping time to a second as it rolls around the sun; perfect in the formation of the smallest insect that crawls over a foot of ground.”

(J. C. Ryle, Holiness)

Sin is detestable to God (Jeremiah 44:4). He cannot look upon that which is evil (Hab. 1:13). For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it (James 2:10). The soul who continues in sin is the one who will die (Ezekiel 18:4). The wages of sin is death (Rom 6:23).  It is God who judges the secrets of men’s hearts (Rom. 2:16).  The wicked will be sent away to eternal punishment (Matt. 25:46). Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful (Rev. 21.27). The stench of sin will not be tolerated in the presence of God who is holy and spotless and pure. It cannot be.

There is no greater proof of the fullness of sin than at the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.  The  entire  doctrine  of  His  substitution  and  atonement  is  evidence  of  the seriousness of sin and God’s hatred of it.

“Terribly black must that guilt be for which nothing but the blood of the Son of God could make satisfaction. Heavy must that weight of human sin be which made Jesus groan and sweat drops as of blood in agony at Gethsemane and cry at Golgotha, ‘My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?’ (Matt. 27:46).  Nothing, I am  convinced, will astonish us so much, when we awake in the resurrection day, as the view we shall have of sin and the retrospect we shall take of our own countless shortcomings and defects. Never till the hour when Christ comes the second time shall we fully realize the ‘sinfulness of sin’.” (Ryle)

Our sin separates us from God. It is a stench in His nostrils. Just as we can’t stand to be in the presence of those little creatures with odoriferous scents, God refuses to allow any who are covered with the scent of sin into His presence. Thanks be to God, that by His Grace, He has provided a way for us to fellowship with Him. Jesus said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No man comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). God turned His face away from Jesus while he was on the cross. Our Holy God ‘forsook’ Him who knew no sin as He (Jesus) became sin for us. Our sin, and the stench of our depravity, Jesus presented to the Father, as a holy and living sacrifice. His righteousness is our righteousness as we come before the One God, Holy and Righteous, and Pure, through faith and repentance in the one who is our Righteousness, Jesus Christ.

No matter what you do to a skunk, it will always be a skunk. Even when its scent gland is removed, it still carries a distinct odor of ‘skunk’. We are still sinners, saved by God’s grace, allowed into His presence because Jesus Christ intercedes for us, but we are still sinners none the less.  May  we  with  an  ever increasing  awareness  understand  the seriousness of sin.  Individually it separates us from God.  Corporately if left unchecked, it will destroy His Church. We should rejoice that our sins are covered, but we should mourn over the remaining sin in our lives. That mourning should force us to our knees as we bow before Him asking for forgiveness, repenting of our sins and turning from our evil ways.

O My Saviour,
I thank thee from the depths of my being
for thy wondrous grace and love
in bearing my sin in thine own body on the tree.
May thy cross be to me
as the tree that sweetens my bitter Marahs,
as the rod that blossoms with life and  beauty.
as the brazen serpent that calls forth the look of faith.
By thy cross crucify my every sin;
Use it to increase my intimacy with thyself;
Make it the ground of all my comfort,
the liveliness of all my duties,
the sum of all thy gospel promises,
the comfort of all my afflictions,
the vigour of my love, thankfulness, graces,
the very essence of my religion;
And by it give me that rest without rest,
the rest of ceaseless praise.
(from the Valley of Vision, A Collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions, Arthur Bennett)

Blessings and Peace to you all,

Pastor Mark

The Suffering of Christ

“Lord, thou hast there thy ninety and nine;
are they not enough for thee?”
But the Shepherd made answer;
“This of mine has wandered away from me,
and although the road be rough and steep,
I go to the desert to find my sheep,

The words above are from a hymn written by Elizabeth C. Clephane (c. 1868). There Were Ninety and Nine graphically describes the extremes the Great Shepherd of the Sheep will go to pursue and save His sheep.

But none of the ransomed ever knew how
deep were the waters crossed;
nor how dark was the night
that the Lord passed thro
‘ ere he found his sheep that was lost, . . .

Can we ever understand it . . . the darkness of the hell that Jesus passed through to redeem His people? Sin has separated us from God. That wide chasm between God and man can never be traversed by the likes of us who are constantly getting bogged down in the muck and mire of our sinful natures.

2 Corinthians 5:21 says, “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we   might   become   the righteousness of God in Him.” We say those words so easily… ” Jesus died for my sins.” And yet there is no sentence that catches  the horror of His atoning  death  more  than  this one…”He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us…”

Jesus did not know sin. He never experienced sin. He had no sin nature. He never had a sinful thought. He was totally pure. He was completely perfect. He was holy. He was righteous. And yet He is not someone who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses. He is one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet was without sin (Hebrews 5:15).

Jesus hated sin. This is the one who said, “If your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out…if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off…” Now that’s pretty radical surgery by any standard, but sin was just that heinous to Jesus.   The sin that was laid upon Him who knew no sin as He hung upon the cross was so repulsive to Him that He prayed in the Garden that the Father might remove the “cup” from Him. This is the one who had been with God, the Father, from all eternity. He now faced the reality of being separated from a Holy God by the filthiness of sin not His. In His humanity, he struggled with the perfect will of God, but in His Divinity, He submitted to God’s divine plan in order to perfect even our stubborn human wills.

God not only made Jesus to be sin for us, but he punished Him for that sin. “He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed..” (Isaiah 53:5). Who pierced Him? Who crushed Him? Isaiah answers that question “Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer…” (53:10). God punished Him for something He never did. It was not possible for Him to sin.

The physical suffering He experienced on the Cross was only a shadow of the greater suffering that was taking place. On the Cross all the wretchedness of our humanity was poured out on Him. Imagine being immersed in the contents of a septic tank. The Sinless One became guilty of our lying, cheating, and stealing…our adultery, hate, and bigotry…our lust, pride, and arrogance…our gossip, slander, and murder, our immorality, idolatry, and impatience. All this and more was His. The sin was real. The guilt was real. God poured out His wrath and judgment against our sin. The full weight of our hell fell on
Jesus.

James Henly Thornwell wrote,

“None but Jehovah’s fellow could have received the stroke of Jehovah’s justice in His bosom and survived the blow. The penalty of the law was no vulgar ill, to be appeased by a few groans and tears, by agony, sweat and blood. It was the wrath of the infinite God, which, when it falls upon a creature, crushes him under the burden of eternal death. It is blackness of darkness through which no ray of light or hope can ever penetrate to the soul of a finite being; to all such it must be the blackness of darkness forever. But Jesus endured it. Jesus satisfied it. Jesus bowed beneath that death which the law demanded, and which sinks angels and men to everlasting ruin, and came victorious from the conflict.”

“He made him who knew no sin to be sin for us” – Can you imagine sacrificing the life of one of your children for a friend? Can you imagine administering the death blows yourself? God loved His Son infinitely more than I love my children; yet He sacrificed Him for my life, even though I was His enemy. He administered the lethal blows Himself.

But none of the ransomed ever knew
how deep were the waters crossed;
nor how dark was the night that the Lord passed thro’
ere he found his sheep that was lost, . . .

None of us can ever begin to imagine what transpired between the Father and the Son in the darkness of that hour. So the next time we are tempted to doubt God’s love for us, we have an answer that cannot be questioned: “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). The proof of God’s love for us is in His Word, “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. .”

Grant, Almighty God, that as we have not only been redeemed from Babylonian exile, but have also emerged from hell itself; for when we were the children of wrath you have freely adopted us, and when we were aliens, you did in your Infinite goodness open to us the gate of your kingdom, that we might be made your heirs through your Son, – 0 grant that we may walk circumspectly before you, and submit ourselves wholly to you and to your Christ, and not feign to be his members, but really prove ourselves to be his body, and to be so governed by His spirit, that you may at last gather us together into thy celestial kingdom, to which you daily invite us by the same Christ our Lord. Amen.

(a prayer of John Calvin, translated by John Owen, found in Commentaries on the Twelve Minor Prophets. Vol. 1)

Blessings and Peace to you all,

Pastor Mark

Controlled Burn

 

“…each man’s work will become evident;
for the day will show it, because it is to be revealed with fire;
and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work.”

1 Corinthians 3:13

In the days of the pioneers, when men saw that a prairie fire was coming, do you know what they would do? Since not even the fastest of horses couldn’t outrun it, the pioneers would take a match and burn the grass in a designated area around them – controlled burn.   Then they would take their stand in the burned area and be safe from the threatening fire. As the roar of the flames approached, they would not be afraid. Even as the ocean of fire surged around them there was no fear, because fire  had  already  passed  over  the  place where they stood.

We are told in the scriptures that a day of reckoning is coming. This Day of Judgment has been appointed by God (Acts 17:31). It is a day when not only the fallen angels will be judged (2 Peter 2:4), but all people that have lived upon the earth will appear before the judgment seat of God to give an account of their thoughts, words, and deeds. It is a time for receiving “reward”, a time during which each person will receive according to what he has done in his body, whether it be good or bad (2 Corinthians 5:10). God will bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil (Ecclesiastes 12:14).

The reality of divine judgment is a fact set out clearly on page after page of Bible history…Adam and Eve expelled from the Garden…the flood during Noah’s day…Sodom and Gomorrah…Nadab  and  Abihu…Korah,  Dathan,  and  Abiram…Achan…unfaithful  Israel (the Northern Kingdom) taken into captivity by the Assyrian armies…Judah (the Southern Kingdom) swallowed by Babylon…the Jewish people rejecting Christ…Ananias and Sapphira…and it goes on…

It’s standard fare to think of God in the Old Testament as the God of wrath and judgment. There are those who tell us that God in the New Testament is a God of love, but all you have to do is read a few pages of your Bible beginning in the chapters after Malachi and you will find at once that the Old Testament emphasis on God’s action as Judge, are not diminished, but are actually intensified.

The entire New Testament is overshadowed by the certainty of a coming day of universal judgment. We
find  that  Jesus  Christ,  ‘the  righteous  judge’ (2 Timothy 4:8) is the one who has been designated by God to execute judgment (Romans 2:16, John 5:22ff). Jesus of the New Testament, is Savior and also Judge!

What is involved in the idea of the Father, or Jesus, being a judge?

 J. I. Packer in his book Knowing God  lists four thoughts that must be considered…

1) The judge is a person with authority. God is our Maker.  He owns us.  As our Owner, He has a right to dispose of us as He wishes. He has a right to make laws for us and to reward us according to whether or not we keep those laws. He is both the Lawgiver and the Judge.

2) The judge is a person identified with what is good and right. We have this modern idea that a judge should be cold and dispassionate, but the biblical judge is expected to love justice and fair play. He hates all ill-treatment of man by his fellow-man. God loves righteousness and hates sin. He is “wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth.” He can be no other way. It is because He is the God of Love that he must be the God of Judgment.

3) The judge is a person of wisdom, to discern truth. In biblical terms the judicial system has no jury! “It is the judge’s first task to ascertain the facts in the case that is before him. It is his responsibility and his alone, to question, and cross-examine, and detect lies and pierce through evasions and establish how matters really stand. When the Bible pictures God judging, it emphasizes His omniscience and wisdom as the searcher of hearts and the finder of facts. Nothing can escape Him. We may fool men, but we cannot fool God. He knows us, and judges us, as we really are (Packer, p. 128).” This judgment is according to factual as well as moral truth.

4) The judge is a person of power, to execute sentence. The modern judge by way of the jury’s  finding  only  pronounces  the  sentence.  Another  department  of  the  judicial  system executes  that  sentence.  “The  same  was  true  in  the  ancient  world.  But  God  is  His  own executioner. As he legislates, and sentences, so He punishes. All judicial functions coalesce in Him (Packer, p. 129).”

The reality of divine judgment must have a direct effect on our view of life. Leon Morris in his book  The Biblical Doctrine of Judgment puts it this way…

“The doctrine of final judgment…stresses man’s accountability and the certainty that justice will finally triumph over all the wrongs which are part and parcel of life here and now. The former gives a dignity to the humblest action, the latter brings calmness and assurance to those in the thick of the battle. This doctrine gives meaning to life…The Christian view of judgment means that history moves to a goal…Judgment protects the idea of the triumph of God and of good. It is unthinkable that the present conflict between good and evil should last throughout eternity. Judgment means that evil will be disposed of authoritatively, decisively, finally. Judgment means that in the end God’s Will will be perfectly done.”

As in the days of the pioneers, the ‘prairie fire’ is coming. The day is coming when the quality of each man’s work will be tested by fire. Where have you taken your stand? The roar of the flames is approaching.

For godless men, this thought has frightening implications. But for those who have taken their stand in the place where God has already poured out his wrath upon sin – in that place of controlled burn –  that day will be filled with joy in knowing that ‘There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus’ (Romans 8:1).

“While I draw this fleeting breath; When my eyelids close in death; When I soar through worlds unknown, See thee on thy judgment-throne; Rock of Ages, cleft for me, Let me hide myself in thee.”

Rock of Ages – a hymn by Augustus M. Toplady, 1776

Blessings and Peace to You all,

Pastor Mark