Sunday, January 16, 2011

Sunday Meditation

Read through any three or four Psalms in one sitting, not so much looking for personal inspiration or encouragement, but simply to hear the voice of the Psalmist. He is surrounded by enemies. He is often confounded, because it seems at times that God--the God who parted the sea or made water pour from a rock--is no longer in control. Sometimes the Psalmist cries out for vengeance. Other times for mercy. His world is a world of conflict. It is a world enmeshed in debilitating confusion and complexity. The Psalmist is often quite desperate, and the only place to turn is toward God. In the midst of all his troubles, and despite his doubts, he always remembers and trusts in the promises of God.
As for me, I shall behold your face in righteousness;
when I awake, I shall be satisfied with your likeness. (Psalm 17:15 ESV)
In his letter to the Ephesian church, the Apostle Paul says that the "eternal purpose" of God was realized in Christ Jesus, and that as a result we have "bold access" to God (Eph. 3:11-12). Or to put it another way, such access, "bold access" (i.e., "I shall behold your face in righteousness"), was the eternal purpose of God, and this purpose was realized (made real) in Christ Jesus. That is the Gospel in a nutshell.

I cannot read the Psalms apart from this knowledge. The knowledge, the understanding, that it is Christ who will someday fulfill all the longing of the Psalmist for order, justice, peace. For an end to tears, to hate, to doubt, and to trouble.

This longing, arising out of desperate circumstances, voiced by Psalmists, poets, and Blues singers through the ages, is the human condition, and to voice it is to say the most honest thing we can at times. For an example, listen:

But such expression is not the last word. It is an important beginning, but it is not all there is. Sometimes you feel lost and helpless, like a "motherless child," but then there is Jesus. He fulfills the eternal purpose of God. He is bread. He is new wine. He is the promise of a family. In the midst of all the sheer confusion he gets our attention by saying outrageous things like this:
Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. (John 14:19 ESV)

I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.” (John 6:51 ESV)
Or this:
And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart. He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected man. And there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Give me justice against my adversary.’ For a while he refused, but afterward he said to himself, ‘Though I neither fear God nor respect man, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming.’” And the Lord said, “Hear what the unrighteous judge says. And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” (Luke 18:1-8 ESV)
That is the most powerful "nevertheless" in the English language. God will give justice. God will put right. God is better by far than any corrupt judge, and furthermore, in Christ Jesus he has fulfilled his purpose to give us bold access.

How's that? Because in Christ God's justice was "speedily" fulfilled. That work is finished. You, believer, have been delivered from wrath, "speedily," at the Cross. What is left but to go to Him, the righteous judge, boldly and in thanks? This is the Gospel of Christ.

And yet, nevertheless, how bold will he find us when he comes? Or will he find us still trying to earn bold access, dividing our trust between Christ (a little) and our own strategies (a little more than a little).

What can be greater than "bold access" to God? No one can bar us from that door. No one can stand against that access, for God has set aside everything that once blocked the way (our sin), doing so by the blood of Jesus, and confirming his triumph by his resurrection life. "Because I live, you too shall live."

As Nate says so well here, and Tullian here, the Gospel is not some check-off on a sort of eternal W-4 form. It is meant to be grasped, ingested, and lived. Because the world is in deep trouble without it.

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