Sunday, February 05, 2012

God's Unspeakable Gift

II Cor.9:15 - Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift.

The word “unspeakable” in the Greek means indescribable. The actual sentence is preceded by the words “the exceeding grace of God in you”. We use many terms with great familiarity with the word “grace” being among them. But rarely do we take the time and energy necessary to unfold the meaning of such words. And grace, God’s grace, is so deep and so inconceivable that it requires a contrite heart clothed in abject humility and a hunger and thirst to understand more fully just what this gift of grace entails.
We have all heard the definition of grace which says it is “unmerited favor” and in a very surface way that is true. However that is doctrinal nursery school when we examine the deeper elements of that surpassing grace. To begin to understand just what the grace of God actually is, we must first examine who we are and Who God is. Let us take a look in the Biblical mirror and see who we are.
We are more than just passive sinners who mistakenly got caught up with the things of this world. We are a thousand times more sinister than that, and our spiritual DNA was so altered in Adam’s mouth that at the moment an egg is fertilized in the Fallopian tube it begins to grow rapidly into a nine month miracle of God who also breathes that first breath as an enemy of God. Oh yes, life comes from God but that does not exclude the ravages of sin that has disfigured the entire human race.
So we are born with a debt incurred by Adam but was passed down to us, Adam’s heritage. Each individual sinner is born with the weight of this debt, and just in case you think that is unfair, all of us willingly add to that debt through personal acts of sin. So now we stand before God not only guilty through Adam, but with a great and compelling guilt based solely upon the indictment of our own sin. And when our sin is presented in the courtroom of God’s justice, there is no reasonable doubt. We stand guilty!
And instead of the human race seeking forgiveness and redemption, it joins forces together to form an existence that winks at sin and creates religions that soothe our conscience without interfering with our sin. And in thousands of years we have invented all kinds of sin as well as expanded and built upon sins already being practiced. In spiritual reality, we are dead in our sins and if nothing changes before physical death we are vessels being prepared for eternal judgment.

And let me lead us into a more disturbing portrait of ourselves, unless you’ve already had enough and fled to safer theological ground. Here we are, condemned and fallen and observable enemies of God. As Spurgeon put it, “We were not just unwitting sinners who unconsciously broke God’s commandment, no, we were caught with the weapons of warfare that were used against God and we were all enthusiastic participants." You don’t like that, well take it up with Spurgeon!
But here comes the divine offer of redemption and forgiveness straight from the veins of God Himself. What would we do? Perhaps the whole human race en masse would embrace it and rejoice in God! Perhaps we would be so overwhelmed by such an offer that we surrendered by faith and live lives that gloried our Creator. A thousand times yes! But in reality it is a thousand time no! Sinners by the billions refuse this offer, choosing instead to supply their own redemption or just ignore the issue entirely.
And there is even a more monstrous expression of a fallen nature that is bound and determined to oppose God. Within the church, even from some who profess to know Christ and His redemption, there are many movements to change, alter, and eviscerate the power of the gospel by changing the very nature with enticing words of men’s wisdom. Could there possibly be any more dastardly scheme? God designs and executes the redemptive offer for all mankind at the cost of His Son’s life, and sinful man takes that plan and modifies and refashions it to such an extent that thousands now preach a mutation of the gospel. And this new and “improved” gospel is powerless to save and only tickles the ears and consciences of sinners who are complicit with those who preach such heresies.
But this is a short synopses of the who we are that is in no way unabridged.
And before we examine who God is let us remember that before the first word of creation was ever spoken, God knew all of this. I mean come on, if God knew who we are and what a disgusting mess we would willingly make of His wonderful creation and yet He still implemented His plan, well what does that say about God? And when I say we are going to address who God is I hope we all realize how limited we are in fully defining the Eternal Creator, but suffice to say that even a small and obstructed glimpse is more glorious than can ever be adequately captured by the lips or pens of man.
But even with that truth, it is still a glorious privilege to speak of our Wonderful God and His wonderful works! Before time was there was God. Pristine and august and self existent without need of anything. All the attributes that are usually associated with certain works were inherent within the loins of the Godhead. Again, when I speak of such things I often get goose bumps since like a child gazing into the great expanse of space, the things he can see gives him a small glimpse of just how much he cannot see or even know.
And then there is the mystery of the Trinity and the communication process within the Godhead. We often assign anthropomorphic qualities to God and suggest the Father asked, "Who will go for those sinners?’, and the Word replied, “I will.” Oh my friends, that may satisfy our earthly thought patters but it is colossal reductionism. The glory of the Godhead and all its in house workings is one of the greatest mysteries that can never be known. But we do know that the Second Person of the Trinity set in motion a plan for His arrival upon this planet.
Thousands of shadows and types rolled out the prophetic red carpet which ended in the house of bread, Bethlehem. Now remember, this was God coming to His own creation so one would think of a great welcome with all the necessary ornamentation and the presence of earth’s dignitaries to welcome this King. But instead we smell the stench of animal odors and we see a bassinet lined with straw and doubling as an animal’s feeding trough. To even attempt to describe the love that agreed to such condescension is only to diminish its glory.
And the condescension of which I speak is not just the atmosphere surrounding this extraordinary birth. No, the animals, the trough, the straw, and the entire scene must bow to the fathomless condescension of being born in the likeness of human flesh. Suppose for a minute that someone had brutally murdered your only child and that murderer was not remorseful in the least. In fact he continued to commit all kinds of crimes openly and with great enthusiasm. Now someone comes to you and says, “A plastic surgeon wants to work on your face. He believes he can make you look exactly like the man who murdered you only child.”
Would you agree to such a thing? Well, times that by the millions and you may approach the kind of selfless humility and debasement that Christ embraced when he came in the likeness of sinful flesh. Go ahead and gasp since we are stepping on holy ground. Does it not unsettle your emotions to meditate on something so wondrous, so astonishing, and so inconceivable? And we still are just touring Bethlehem. Isn’t our God beyond all we could ask or think?
That Word Incarnate, now known as Yeshua (Jesus) goes about doing all kinds of compassionate deeds as well as teaching the mysteries of the kingdom. And all the while His heart is set for Jerusalem, and more specifically an event of such unfair wickedness that most will never recognize it as the pathway to eternal life. Jesus lives and walks with sinless determination and even though He is headed for the wooden altar for which He came, He still cannot resist ministering to sinners along the way. The Sinless Lamb touches the lepers with His power and His love.
But Jerusalem looms. It is here we will find out just who God is. Isaiah was granted a vision of this mystery.
Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.
The chosen One of Israel was stricken? And to add to the confusion, this verse seems to indicate that we mistook the burdens of our sorrows and grief for the afflictions of God Himself. What is he saying here? Is the prophet suggesting that we caused this grief and this sorrow and this affliction, and yet we blamed it on God?? Oh no, this can never be and we cannot but dismiss such a thought.
But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.
Oh please, my ears cannot hear and my heart cannot receive such news. Where was I in the prophet’s words and how did my iniquities fall upon this man? We must refuse such picturesque gore and we must retreat to the comfort of the Glorious One who comes to deliver us and lead us into victory! There can be no symmetry in these two visions of God’s coming Messiah, so we are forced to reject the written mural that so shames us and portrays Him as receiving punishment rather than dispensing it.
Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand. He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities
Who can know this blasphemous conundrum? Who can describe the color red to a man born blind; and who can teach an ant to speak; and who can see the center of the Earth; and who can understand this saying? The same God who will send this Messiah, chosen before anything was, will be pleased to bruise Him? Can our hearts know any deeper insanity than this? How many days or months or years of meditation will this require before the illumination comes forth? And when this illumination comes forth and guides the mind into the trustworthiness of this mystery, will it bring us any closer to comprehension?
And how shall we approach the travail of His soul? To what shall we liken the travail that is an offering for sin? And how can we embrace such massacre knowing it is the looking glass into the wretchedness of our own selves? Count the sufferings of all mankind throughout history; enumerate the oceans of tears spilled by human grief; listen to the pleas of countless children as they suffer without an ounce of understanding; and multiply the heartaches that stalk humankind until they pounce upon each and every sinner born of woman. The answer to those tallies are worthless comparisons to the griefs pronounced in and upon this man.
But let us go further into a reality filled with violence, pain, and savagery. Step into the inventory of sins, all sins, committed and omitted by mankind as a whole. How many documentaries and accounts of one serial murder's sins have astounded our senses and disgusted our sensibilities? How many massacres has history provided for us in a sterilized context of literary comfort, and yet even with a reality buffer it can still manage to evoke emotion? How many sins are accumulated in one sinner’s life? One hundred? One thousand? Untold millions?? How many sins have been committed in totality among the complete compilation of human kind? And how many are added to that figure daily?
And yet in six hours Almighty God will be satisfied? What does it feel like to suffer for one sin, and yet in six hours the Messiah will suffer for all the sins of the world? And He had no sin of Himself but was willing to suffer for others; others that would despise and reject Him? We live in an amazing age of technology and knowledge. Quantum mechanics, the Theory of Relativity, the Hubble telescope, organ transplants, moon walks, vehicle trips that pass between Saturn and its rings, all these and more reveal a time of great human achievement.
So how can the bloody wounds of one Jew be the doorway to eternal life? How can the sufferings of this son of Judah satisfy the Creator in our place? Has God not seen what we have accomplished? Is He blind to the lifestyles we have carved out in His creation? Are we still to believe that God can only be satisfied by the gruesome wounds inflicted upon this pitiful figure? Can we allow ourselves to believe this Jew was the divine Messenger that would become the Servant of His enemies?
Who can describe your wounds, O Lord? Yes we can see the blood and the ripped skin and we can hear your cries, and we can see and understand the sufferings your body endured. But how, O Lord, can we ever touch the depths of your inward sufferings? With what tool do we measure how you suffered for so many sins and in so little time? And where can we find a place where we can touch the spiritual dimensions worthy of the staggering depths of Your sufferings? We cannot, dear Jesus, we cannot.
We are resigned, joyously resigned, to fall before Your cross and worship You. O for a thousand tongues to sing, and how can it be, and O sacred Head now wounded, and lead me to Calvary. There are no words, no human words that will ever suffice in describing what You have done. And there is no expressions of the heart that can be compared with Your scarlet labor. Sacred is the place and hallowed is the sight. The stone will soon roll away to be sure, but when I survey that wondrous cross I am undone. It is there I find my life among the dying, and it is there I find comfort in those sufferings. Please continue to bid me to be an audience again and again before this Suffering Servant as He writhes for me. To say I did not deserve this sacrifice is to shamefully state the obvious and make a clumsy attempt at some false humility. Let the awesome spectacle speak for itself, for in the silence of a beaten and bloody corpse the God of all Creation has and will continue to speak forever.
So if any man of woman born would desire to see the glory of God you need not look at the highest mountain tops, you need not look across the greatest ocean, you need not gaze into the deepest heavens, you need not be carried to the highest place in the universe and see the immensity of the wondrous creation made with just a Word. No, to see the unveiled glory of Almighty God go to a little hill outside Jerusalem, fall to your knees and lift your eyes, and look fully at the event that completely revealed the express image of His Person and the brightness of His glory.
Do I dare ask, “Can you now understand why the Spirit calls it the Unspeakable Gift?”
Selah, selah, selah…

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