I recently had the privilege of preaching at First Artesia Christian Reformed Church. In this clip from the sermon, we take a look at how Christ’s righteousness imputed to us is better than the guiltlessness that Adam lost. Below is the transcript of the video with a few edits to better fit this format.
When we talk about justification, the biblical and theological term of justification, we are talking about two imputations. First, as I already mentioned, our sins are imputed to Jesus. He bears our punishment on the cross, but the second part is that his righteousness is imputed to us and, we are counted righteous in Jesus.
Now some may say, “Well, isn’t guiltlessness the same as righteousness? I mean, if I haven’t sinned, am I not righteous? Well, it is much deeper than that. Let me give you an analogy.
Let us say a mom walks into her son’s room, and her son’s room is a mess. It’s been a mess for a week, and she is kind of getting tired of it. It is morning time, and she says, “Son, you will clean this room by five o’clock today. If you have it clean by five o’clock today, I am going to give you movie tickets for you and your two friends so you can go see that movie you have been wanting to see. If you do not have it cleaned, you’ll be grounded for a week.
Get the analogy here. Here is the law. There are blessings if you do it, and cursings if you do not. Now, imagine the mom comes back at five o’clock, and he hasn’t even started on it. The room is still a mess. She would say, “Okay, you are grounded for a week.”
Now imagine a week goes by, and he has paid his penalty. The son comes back to the mom and says, “Mom, I have paid my penalty. You can no longer punish me for this act.” The mom would say, “That is correct, that was the agreement. Imagine the son then saying, “Now give me my movie tickets.” You would say, “Wait a minute, you never did what was required to get the reward. I cannot punish you anymore, but you do not get the reward.”
Now think about Christ on the cross. We are not just in a place where we cannot be punished anymore. Christ lived the perfect life. He fulfilled all the requirements of the law. He has justly received the reward, and his righteousness is now counted as ours. We are co-heirs with him. That is the beauty of the holiness and the righteousness of Christ. Take that to heart. We are declared righteous in Christ as if we have fulfilled the law.
Thomas Brooks, a great Puritan, said this, “Christ provides a better righteousness than Adam lost.
This morning I had the privilege of preaching at First Artesia Christian Reformed Church. We took some time to look at the Cities of Refuge found in the Old Testament and the amazing picture of Jesus they paint for us.
The covenant of redemption is the theological term for the agreement that was made between the God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit in how they were going to redeem for themselves the elect. This covenant is not mentioned by name in scripture but it is clearly implied that an agreement had been made between the Godhead. Much like the term Trinity does not appear in scripture but the concept is clearly seen. Here is a quote by Charles Hodge explaining where this idea can be seen in scripture…
“In Psalm 40, expounded by the Apostle as referring to the Messiah, it is said, “Lo, I come: in the volume of the book it is written of me, I delight to do thy will,” i.e., to execute thy purpose, to carry out thy plan. “By the which will,” says the Apostle (Heb.10.10), ”we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” Christ came, therefore, in execution of a purpose of God, to fulfil a work which had been assigned Him. He, therefore, in John 17.4, says, “I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do.” This was said at the close of his earthly course. At its beginning, when yet a child, He said to his parents, ” Wist ye not that I must be about my Father’s business?” (Luke 2.49.) Our lord speaks of Himself, and is spoken of as sent into the world. He says that as the Father had sent Him into the world, even so had He sent his disciples into the world. (John 17.18). “When the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman.” (Gal. 4.4). “God sent his only begotten Son into the world.” (1 John 4.9). God “sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” (Verse 10.) -Charles Hodge-
Below is a transcript from a Spurgeon sermon where he describes this covenant and then wonders what it would have been like to be to hear this covenant being made.
“Now, in this covenant of grace, we must first of all observe the high contracting parties between whom it was made. The covenant of grace was made before the foundation of the world between God the Father, and God the Son; or to put it in a yet more scriptural light, it was made mutually between the three divine persons of the adorable Trinity.”
“I cannot tell you it in the glorious celestial tongue in which it was written: I am fain to bring it down to the speech which suits the ear of flesh, and to the heart of the mortal. Thus, I say, run the covenant, in ones like these:”
“I, the Most High Jehovah, do hereby give unto my only begotten and well-beloved Son, a people, countless beyond the number of stars, who shall be by him washed from sin, by him preserved, and kept, and led, and by him, at last, presented before my throne, without spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing. I covenant by oath, and swear by myself, because I can swear by no greater, that these whom I now give to Christ shall be for ever the objects of my eternal love. Them I will forgive through the merit of the blood. To these will I give a perfect righteousness; these will I adopt and make my sons and daughters, and these shall reign with me through Christ eternally.” Thus run that glorious side of the covenant. The Holy Spirit also, as one of the high contracting parties on this side of the covenant, gave his declaration, “I hereby covenant,” saith he, “that all whom the Father giveth to the Son, I will in due time quicken. I will show them their need of redemption; I will cut off from them all groundless hope, and destroy their refuges of lies. I will bring them to the blood of sprinkling; I will give them faith whereby this blood shall be applied to them, I will work in them every grace; I will keep their faith alive; I will cleanse them and drive out all depravity from them, and they shall be presented at last spotless and faultless.” This was the one side of the covenant, which is at this very day being fulfilled and scrupulously kept. As for the other side of the covenant this was the part of it, engaged and covenanted by Christ. He thus declared, and covenanted with his Father: “My Father, on my part I covenant that in the fullness of time I will become man. I will take upon myself the form and nature of the fallen race. I will live in their wretched world, and for my people I will keep the law perfectly. I will work out a spotless righteousness, which shall be acceptable to the demands of thy just and holy law. In due time I will bear the sins of all my people. Thou shalt exact their debts on me; the chastisement of their peace I will endure, and by my stripes they shall be healed. My Father, I covenant and promise that I will be obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. I will magnify thy law, and make it honourable. I will suffer all they ought to have suffered.I will endure the curse of thy law, and all the vials of thy wrath shall be emptied and spent upon my head. I will then rise again; I will ascend into heaven; I will intercede for them at thy right hand; and I will make myself responsible for every one of them, that not one of those whom thou hast given me shall ever be lost, but I will bring all my sheep of whom, by thy blood, thou hast constituted me the shepherd—I will bring every one safe to thee at last.”
Imagine, that for all who believe, our names were written in the Lamb’s book of life since before the foundations of the world. The Triune God has covenanted to save us, and who can stay His hand. This is eternal security.
“For if we sin willfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries.” – Hebrews 10:26-27 (KJV).
This verse has caused many people undue anxiety. J. Vernon McGee says, that this verse should cause the hair on the back of our necks to stand up, but not in the way it does for many who read it out of context. If we were to look at this verse by itself we might assume that if we deliberately sin after we are saved, we are without hope and should simply await judgment, but does the author of Hebrews mean any sin, or does he have a specific sin in mind?
The first thing we need to do with this scripture is to check the context in which we find it. First, according to Henry Virkler in his book on hermeneutics, we need to find out some basic information about the book in which we find the statement. We should start by asking, “to whom is this book written?” When studying scripture, the best place to start looking for answers to questions like these is scripture itself because it is infallible unlike external sources. Without much effort we will find that it is written to people familiar with the Jewish sacrificial system, and who have converted to Christianity or at least have made some commitment to it. This is quickly apparent because according to Albert Barnes, in his Notes on the Bible, the author of Hebrews speaks about Jewish customs without any explanation. It is apparent that the audience was Jewish or at least had practiced the customs and knew what they were and what they represented.
Another question we should ask is, “why is this book being written?” As we study the book we find that it has a general purpose, first, the author describes what Christ has done for them as the only true sacrifice for sin and then warns them against falling away. The concern about falling away was not due to persecution but due to the many who were tempted to go back to the old sacrifices which were only symbols of the true sacrifice which is Christ (Heb. 10:14).
After we have the overall argument of the book, the next question we should ask is, “how do these verses of scripture fit into the overall argument of the book?” As we read the book we see that chapter 10 seems to bring the first and major section of the book to a close. Chapter 10 starts by showing that Christ is and was the only sacrifice by which any person will ever be saved. The author in verses 19-25 lays out the “new and living way”, which indicates that the old method of sacrifices are no longer of any value and to continue in them is sin.
It is in this context that we find our text. When the author says, “if we willingly sin” he is clearly speaking of willfully rejecting the sacrifice of Christ and going back to the old symbols which never actually cleansed anyone from sin. If a believer does this, then there is no sacrifice for their sins and they can only await judgment. In a broader sense, the sin that the author is speaking of is apostasy, which is when a member of the visible church walks away from Christ, and as John indicates “were never really of us.” Therefore as J. Vernon McGee said, it should cause the hair on our neck to stand up, because this is a strong warning to keep us from ever letting anyone lead us away from trusting in the only true sacrifice that can cleanse us from our sins; Jesus Christ.
If the book of Hebrews’ internal evidence is not enough to comfort a trembling soul who thinks they are forever lost because they have willfully sinned, then we must always remember that “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.” In them we will find no contradictions. If we ever have trouble with a difficult verse that is not immediately clear to us, then we need to go check the scriptures that are clear, for Scripture is it best interpreter. In doing this we will find a verse like 1 John 2:1, which is crystal clear and says, “and if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” In a quick study of the context we see that John is speaking to believers. We also have the story of David being a man after God’s own heart even after committing adultery with Bathsheba and having Uriah killed. There is also the encouragement found in the account of Peter’s three denials and the forgiveness he receives from Christ, or of Paul in Romans 7 struggling with the flesh and committing sins that he hates. All of these are ample evidence that the two verses in Hebrews 10 are not saying that if you willfully commit a sin, you are lost and no longer have hope. It is saying that if you reject the sacrifice of Christ you have no hope.J
“And He said unto them, This is My blood of the new testament, shed for many.” -Mark 14:24
Never did those lips, upon which grace shed its divinest, sweetest fragrance, utter words so precious as these. The language is figurative, but the truth is literal. “This is My blood,” or, this cup is the ’emblem’ of “My blood of the new testament,” the new covenant, “shed for many,” for the sins of beings whom no man can number. We are thus brought into contact with the most essential and vital doctrine of the Bible, the great Atonement of the Son of God. Beloved, the blood of Jesus is very precious to a poor, guilt-burdened sinner. It is the blood that saves him. There is everything you need in the blood of Jesus, forgiveness for every guilt-burdened, healing for every sin-wounded conscience.
The blood of Jesus speaks peace, the blood brings us into the holiest, and places us in the very presence of the Father. It is the blood that keeps the heart pure, and supplies it with the most powerful motive to holiness. It is the blood that sustains the soul in death, and after death places it before the throne in robes washed white, with the “new song” breathing from its joyous lips. My soul, consider the blood of Jesus in two or three essential points of light.
It is the blood of the Incarnate God. Herein lies its intrinsic worth, its essential efficacy. The Deity of the Savior gave it all its merit to atone, and all its virtue to cleanse. We marvel not that the apostle should denominate it, “the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish.” It is the most precious thing in the universe–it is the precious blood of Him whose person is precious to those who believe. Is it, my soul, precious to you?
And, then, remember that faith alone is necessary to make its saving virtue ours. Believe only, and all the sovereign efficacy of Christ’s blood is ours. This “precious blood” and “precious faith” constitute the two most precious things in the universe.
Look at it, also, as applied blood. We know that the blood of the paschal lamb would have availed nothing to the Israelites when the angel of death swept through the land to slay the first-born of the Egyptian, had it not been really and visibly sprinkled upon their dwellings. It was the applied blood that saved them. So must it be with the blood of Jesus, our Passover slain for us. If we want to be placed in a state of non-condemnation, if we desire to be quite sure that we are safe from eternal death, the blood of Jesus must be applied to the conscience. Rest not short of this, my soul! Clearly this is the mind of the Spirit in those remarkable words of the apostle, “You are come to the blood of sprinkling.” There is a present coming to the blood of Jesus, and this gives us a present salvation.
It is the blood of Jesus that sanctifies. It sets us apart as a holy people for God, it cleanses the heart from vain thoughts, worldly imaginations, and impure desires–from the taint and defilement of indwelling sin. Rest not short, then, of the applied blood of Jesus. This will remove all your doubts, quell all your fears, and bring you into perfect peace. The Holy Spirit is prepared to take of the blood of the covenant, and sprinkle it upon your heart, and then all will be peace.
The blood will give you great power in prayer. Coming to God with this plea, you may open all your heart to Him, confess every sin, disclose every sorrow, make known every need, and reveal, as in the light of the noontide sun, every secret cloistered there.
In a word, it is the blood of Jesus that saves, saves us from a present condemnation, and saves us to a future and eternal salvation. There is no salvation elsewhere. Here is pardon for the vilest sinner, for the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses from all sin. Yes, dear Lord! it is Your blood, Your own blood, possessing all the dignity and virtue of Your Godhead, and this will be my song and my joy through eternity, “Unto Him who loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, and has made us kings and priests unto God and His Father–to Him be glory forever and ever. Amen.”
“I will give you the treasures of darkness.” Isaiah 45:3
Is not this a strange expression? “Treasures of darkness!” How can there be darkness in the City of Salvation of which the Lord the Lamb is the eternal light? The expression does not mean that the treasures themselves are darkness, but that they were hidden in darkness until they were brought to light. The treasures of Belshazzar, like the Bank bullion, were buried in darkness until they were broken up and given to Cyrus.
It is so in a spiritual sense. Are there not treasures in the Lord Jesus? Oh! what treasures of grace in his glorious Person! What treasures of pardon in his precious blood! What treasures of righteousness in his perfect obedience! What treasures of salvation in all that he is and has as the great High Priest over the house of God! Yet, all these treasures are “treasures of darkness,” so far as they are hidden from our eyes and hearts, until we are brought by his special power into the City of Salvation. Then these treasures are not only brought to light, revealed, and made known, but the soul is at once put into possession of them. They are not only seen, as the Bank of England clerk sees notes and sovereigns, but are by a special deed of gift from the Court of Heaven made over to him who by faith in the Lord Jesus receives him into his heart. No one has the least conception of the treasures of grace that are in the Lord Jesus until he is brought out of darkness into God’s marvelous light, and knows him and the power of his resurrection by the sweet manifestations of his presence and love.
But the word “treasures” signifies not only something laid up and hidden from general view, but, being in the plural number, expresses an infinite, incalculable amount–an amount which can never be expended, but suffices, and suffices, and suffices again for all needs and for all believing comers. When we get a view by faith of the Person and work of the Lord Jesus and see the everflowing and overflowing fullness of his grace, and how it superabounds over all the aboundings of sin, it may well fill our minds with holy wonder and admiration. When we get a glimpse of the virtue and efficacy of his atoning blood, that precious blood which “cleanses from all sin,” and that divine righteousness which is “unto all and upon all those who believe,” what treasures of mercy, pardon, and peace are seen laid up in him! To see this by the eye of faith, and enter into its beauty and blessedness, is indeed to comprehend with all saints the length, and breadth, and depth, and height, and to know something of the love of Christ which passes knowledge. The sun will cease to give his light, and the earth to yield her increase; but these treasures will still be unexhausted, for they are in themselves infinite and inexhaustible.
This Saturday, February 9, I lost a friend to a motorcycle accident. I met Henry just over 16 years ago working in admissions at Trinity Law School. He came to talk to me because he was interested in attending law school. The day I met him he walked in with the same exuberant smile that you see in the picture above, and his countenance never changed in all the years I knew him. Anyone who knew him can attest that Henry was glad to see everyone who crossed his path, and he was an encouragement to me whenever we spent time together.
When it comes to memories of Henry, there are too many to mention so I will only tell you of one here. One of my favorite recollections is when Henry, myself, and our good friend Ryan Theule represented the law school at a three-day music festival in Monterey CA called Spirit West Coast. The best part was that we decided, instead of getting a hotel, to sleep in a tent at a campground for three nights. Henry was exuberant in all aspects of life and this aspect carried over to the noises he made while sleeping. Ryan and I did not get an hour sleep that night because Henry sawed enough logs to devastate an entire forest. As we began stirring in the morning, standing in the cleared land that was now our campground, a couple neighbor campers came by to tell us that they too could not sleep thanks to Henry. Why would I tell you this? Because Henry’s response to all this is a perfect picture of who he was. Henry was slightly embarrassed, apologetic, and yet tickled pink at the entire scenario. His grin went ear to ear each time we brought it up as if he saw it as some kind of accomplishment. His thumbs would go up, his head would begin to nod slightly, and he would let out a slow and satisfied “YYYYEEEAAAAHHHH!”
One of the things Henry and I used to do when he worked with me full-time, is we would go to the used theology bookstore on lunch to find treasures. There are many things I could tell you about Henry, but there is one thing I can not leave out because it was the basis of so many of our conversations, and that was his love for the theological writings of the Puritans. I can still picture the day he returned, arms full, with all eight volumes of John Owen’s commentary on Hebrews. Henry was glowing.
What was it he loved so much about the Puritans? I believe it was their ability to speak to his spiritual condition. Like every Christian, Henry was a sinner saved by grace. The Lord called him out of a background of drugs, and other sinful choices. He knew what he deserved for his iniquities, and he knew, thanks to Jesus, he would not have to face that recompense. This is what bonded Henry and me. We also knew that even though we have been justified by the blood of Jesus, we were still fighting a daily battle with indwelling sin, and this is where the Puritans, the physicians of the soul, had their most profound effect on us.
Often, the Christian life is portrayed as one of constant victory, “if you have enough faith,” but this is not what is presented in scripture. Being a believer in a fallen world is one fraught with difficulties and disappointments, and that is on top of the daily battle with our own sinfulness. The Puritans understood this and this is why I believe they resonated with Henry so much. The joy that flowed from Henry was not contrived, it was real and it was deep, but this did not mean that Henry did not feel the weight of the world on a daily basis. Like the Puritans, he desired to grow into a holiness that he did not yet entirely possess in practice, but he did not place his hope in himself, or his ability to conform himself into the image Christ. He had laid that at the feet of Jesus.
Upon coming to Christ, Henry’s sins were forgiven. Any regrets he may have had from his past were wiped away, and the justice that those sins deserved, Jesus bore on the cross in his place. Henry was counted righteous in Christ because his sins were imputed to Jesus, and Christ’s righteousness was counted as his. This is justification. From there, the Lord begins the sanctification process. This is where we begin to actually become more holy in our daily living. The desire to be conformed to the image of Christ was something Henry pursued; though, like every other Christian, he did not pursue it perfectly. As Henry strove to grow in godliness, he kept his confidence in Jesus who promised to “complete the work he started in him.” (Phillipians. 1:6). It is with this foundation that any other obstacle can be endured, and this is what kept Henry smiling.
Henry has fought the good fight, he has finished his race (2 Tim. 4:7-8). He lived a life of hope and heartbreak, of discouragement and delight. In the midst of all of his successes and failures, the Lord never let go of his child. The last enemy that Henry had to face was death, and death will be the last enemy to be destroyed (1. Cor. 15:26). Jesus was not only delivered over to death for Henry and all who will place their trust in Him, but He rose for our justification (Romans 4:25). Anyone who believes in the name of the Son of God may know that they have eternal life (1 John 5:13), and Henry has taken hold of the eternal life to which he was called (1 Tim. 6:12).
I can remember the day I was married to my wife, Julie. I am the youngest of five and all my siblings had already been wed. As I stood there, I remember thinking, “this is actually happening to me. It is my turn to do what so many have already done.” Beforehand, it always seemed so far in the future, but there I was in the midst of it. The same could be said for so many other events in our lives, and the same could be said about the day we will die. Henry never would have thought that it would come so soon, but it was his time, and it will be our time soon enough. To paraphrase John Donne, there is a sense we need not ask for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee. Every death is a reminder that our time is coming.
Are you ready? Have you placed your faith in the atoning work of the only mediator between God and man; Jesus Christ (1 Tim. 2:5)? Are you living for the things that matter? As Henry found himself on his death bed, I am sure he would have told us, that so many of the anxieties he had held while living were driven by the pursuit of things that hold no ultimate value. I can say this because of my many conversations with him, and my own experience chasing the things of the world. Knowing Henry, if he could tell us anything now, he would tell us to “glorify God and enjoy Him forever. Any pursuit that does not have this as its ultimate aim is chasing the wind.”
I believe with all my heart that right now Henry is in the presence of Jesus. Henry has been conformed to the image of Christ now that he has seen Him face to face, and his hunger and thirst after holiness have been filled. I imagine soon, he will be sitting down with John Owen to discuss and the glory of Jesus. For those who believe, we will see Henry again, and at that moment his thumbs will go up, his head will begin to nod slightly, and he will let out a slow and satisfied “YYYEEEEAAAAAHHH!
Therefore I am now going to allure her; I will lead her into the desert and speak tenderly to her. There I will give her back her vineyards. Hosea 2:14-15
“Therefore” has a strangely beautiful connection in this verse. God’s people had been grievously backsliding. He had been loading them with mercies; they had been guiltily disowning His hand. They had taken the gifts and spurned the Giver. “She did not know that I gave her corn, and wine, and oil, and multiplied her silver and gold.” No, more, she had shamelessly gone after her lovers—she had deliberately preferred the ways of sin to the ways of God. What will His thoughts be towards this treacherous one? Can they be anything else but those of merited retribution—casting her out, and casting her off forever?
We expect when we hear the concluding word, “therefore,” that it is the awful summing up of His controversy—the turning of the Judge to pronounce righteous sentence. We listen, but lo! utterances of love are the exponents of ‘the thoughts of God.’ “Therefore I am now going to allure her; I will lead her into the desert and speak tenderly to her. There I will give her back her vineyards.”
It is the way He deals with His people still. They often forget Him in the glare and glitter of prosperity. He hushes the din of the world—takes them out into the solitudes of trial—and there—while abased, humbled, chastened—He unburdens in their ear His thoughts of love, forgiveness, and “comfort.” Oh, what infinite tenderness characterizes the dealings of this Heavenly Chastener! How slow to abandon those who have abandoned Him! Every means and instrumentality is employed rather than leave them to the bitter fruits of their own guilty estrangement.
The kindest human thoughts towards an offender are harshness and severity compared with His. What were the thoughts—the deeds—of the watchmen in the Canticles towards the Bride, as she wandered disconsolate in search of her heavenly Bridegroom—and that, too, in consequence of her own unwatchfulness and sloth? They tore off her veil. They smote her—reviled her—loaded her with reproach. But when she found her lost Lord, though she had kept Him standing amid the cold dews of night—He smites her not—He upbraids her not—no angry syllable escapes His lips. He brings her into the wilderness, and speaks comfortably unto her—and the next picture in the inspired allegory, is the restored one coming up from that wilderness “leaning on her Beloved.”
Reader! is God dealing with you by affliction? Has He blighted your earthly hopes—”caused your mirth to cease,”—”destroyed your vines and fig-trees,” and made all around you a desert? Think what it would have been, had He allowed you to go on in your course of guilty estrangement—your truant heart plunging deeper and deeper in its career of sin! Is it not mercy in Him that He has dimmed that false and deceptive glitter of earth? You would not listen to His voice in prosperity. You took the ten thousand precious gifts of His bestowing—but there was no breathing of gratitude to the Infinite Bestower. You sat, it may be—sullen, peevish, proud, ungrateful, at the very moment when His horn of plenty was being emptied in your lap.
He has brought you into “the wilderness.” As Jesus did with His disciples of old when He would nerve them for coming trial, He has taken you to “a high mountain alone,”—”a solitary place”—apart from the world. He has there humbled you and proved you. He may have touched you to the quick—touched you in your tenderest point—severed hallowed companionships—leveled in the dust clay idols—but it was all His doing. “Behold, I will allure”—”I will bring into the wilderness”—”I will comfort.” He leads us into the wilderness, and He leads us up, and He leads us through.
As He gives us our comforts—our “oil and wine,” our “wool and flax,” our “vines and our fig-trees”—so when He sees fit does He take them away. Whatever be the voices He may be now addressing to me, be it mine to recognize in them the thoughts and utterances of unalterable love, and to say—
I listen carefully to what God the Lord is saying, for He speaks peace to His people, His faithful ones. Psalm 85:8
Their snarls penetrated my ears with every evading stride. Every breath I took was weighted by the awareness that they were close behind. I had entered at the narrow gate, but somehow they had managed to follow me onto the path. I could hear their taunts, and every one of their footsteps were like the sound of a war drum. There are days when they are far away. During those times, I feel the warm breeze of the Celestial City beckoning me homeward, but even then I know they are lying in wait. Their pursuit often leaves me anxious and exhausted.
I didn’t think they would be able to follow me onto the narrow path, but somehow they made their way onto the road. When I entered the narrow way, under the shadow of the cross, my sins were forgiven. He had delivered me from the slavery of sin that held me captive. Since He had open the way and called me in, I thought, at that point, I would be out of the reach of my enemies, yet they pursue me daily.
Every time I fall, the enemy shouts from behind, “You do not belong on this path! You belong to us, and we will catch and destroy you!” I have learned the names of some of them, but others I am still trying to figure out. There are two who give chase named Shame and Regret. They often disguise themselves as messengers of the king. They tell me that, since my heart is prone to wander, the King prefers that I stay out of sight. That is Shame’s greatest strategy. He convinces us that we need to hide. He does this to keep us from finding the assistance that is available in the congregation of the saints, and he works closely with regret to keep us from approaching the Throne of Grace.
Many other enemies desire to sink their teeth into me as well, like sickness and sorrow, sin and sadness, and the final enemy death who boasts of his many conquests. However, in those moments when I am running scared, I have learned that there is a song being sung. It is a song of the past as well as a song of the future, and I must tune my heart into its melody.
The first time I heard it was at a time when I thought all was lost. The enemy had convinced me that I was a trespasser on the narrow way, and their presence was the proof. They told me that Lord had allowed them access to remove me from His sacred passage. I heard them chanting as they chased, “Our desire will have its fill. Our sword is in our hand. We will destroy (Exodus 15:9).”
Their tune, however, was soon drowned out by the song of the saints. The great cloud of witnesses sang, “The Lord is a man of war. Your right hand, O Lord, glorious in power, your right hand, O Lord, shatters the enemy (Exodus 15:3,6).” This refrain gave me immediate comfort. Then another line stood out and gave me the perspective I needed. It recounted, “Pharoah’s chariots and his host He cast into the sea.” It continued, “The floods covered them: they went down into the depths like a stone (Exodus 14:4-5).”
The song I was hearing was the Song of Moses (Exodus 15:1-18). At that point, it all fell into place. God had set the people free from their slavery in Egypt, and He had made a way of salvation by parting the Red Sea. He then allowed their enemies to pursue them into the way of escape for the very purpose of destroying them.
You and I have entered the narrow path. At the entrance of that gate, we found salvation where there is no accusation or separation, but there is a path we must walk between the door of salvation and the gates of the Celestial City. Do not be dismayed by the fact that there are enemies still pursuing you. Regret and shame, fear and anxiety, the troubles of a fallen world, and even death itself, will never make it to the other side, but you will.
One day shame and regret will be no more. Even now they have lost their power. To believe that a life of self-punishment and shame is required for us to be right with God is to believe that Christ’s sacrifice on the cross was insufficient. That is a lie of the enemy. There is complete freedom in Jesus. The reason they are unable to hurt us now is that He has disarmed them and put them to open shame (Colossians 2:15). Our sin is what gave them their power, but He has canceled our debt (Colossians 2:14). Even death has lost its sting in His resurrection.
Though these enemies may get the best of us from time to time, they will all fail because our Lord is triumphant. Their pursuit of us into the King’s domain will be their destruction. As I mentioned earlier, this is a song of the past as well as a song of the future. This song will be sung again when the Lord returns to set all things right (Revelation 15:3). Listen to the song and keep marching heavenward. “The Lord will lead us with His steadfast love, the people whom He has redeemed. He will guide us by His strength into His holy abode” (Exodus 15: 13).
Sing to the Lord, for He has triumphed gloriously; the horse and his rider He has thrown into the sea. – Exodus 15:21
The movie Bohemian Rhapsody has hit the theaters to chronicle the life of Freddie Mercury and his untimely death to aids. To reflect on such a life as a believer is sobering. To reflect on the life and death of anyone would do the same, but there seems to be something more significant when we think about the death of someone like Freddie Mercury. To imagine that rock royalty, Queen, will one day stand before the King of kings, should cause us all to pause and reflect on our lives for a moment.
Scripture tells us that it is appointed once for a man to die, then the judgment (Heb. 9:27). All men, even those who seemed to have the world by the tail for a time, are subjected to it. What is more troubling for the Christian who considers such an event, is to see how many people are still clamoring to have what Freddie had at the height of his fame, knowing that they fail to see how quickly these kingdoms will come crashing down.
There is no doubt that the pursuit of fame has engulfed many to the point that it seems to have consumed them. Knowing this, it should not surprise us when we read in scripture that “the wicked are like the troubled sea when it cannot rest” (Isa 57:20). Even if we end up with all that we dreamed of in this world, unless Christ is our treasure, we will be unable to find the rest that seems to be eluding us (Matt. 16:26). In fact, we often impale ourselves with many troubles as we continue the pursuit (1 Tim 6:10).
There is a restlessness in the human heart as Augustine pointed out when he said, “Our hearts are restless until they find their rest in thee.” This restlessness comes from the fact that there is a knowledge of God written on our hearts, and in our sinfulness, we want nothing to do with it (Rom. 1:18-20). It is from this point that our pursuits for peace take us everywhere except the one place we would be able to find it.
In our sinfulness we reject God, knowing that we have violated his ways (Rom 1:32), and to cover up that knowledge, we tend to work even harder to find things that can distract us from that truth. In it, we tend to go further and further down a path of vanity, for all is vanity apart from Christ (Ecc. 1:2).
From here we create our own standards of what we think a virtuous person ought to be, but even by our own standards, we fail to measure up. Only by deceiving ourselves are we able maintain any level of self-approval. Often during these pursuits, we find ourselves engaging in all kinds of aberrant behavior merely trying to measure up to our own standards and fill our emptiness. In it, we cling to our own righteousness to appease the God we know is there and to assuage the guilt we know is ours. We, even in our suppression of the truth, will create a God to our own liking and will try to appease it (Rom 1:23), and these little gods are tyrants without mercy. On top of that, the God of scripture tells us that all our righteousness is as filthy rags, and he wants nothing to do with it (Isa. 64:6). But, praise God, He then goes on to tell us of the remedy that he has offered in Christ Jesus, for all of us have sinned and fallen short of the Glory of God (Rom. 3:23). God the Father sent his son to die upon the cross to bear the punishment for all who will believe in Him (John 3:16) to bring us into a right relationship with Him and give us the peace we are seeking.
As was mentioned before, it is appointed once for a man to die then the judgment. The only way anyone will be able to stand in the judgment is if they are in Christ because he is the only one who has lived a truly righteous life and paid the penalty for our sins (Acts 4:12), and if we are not in Christ, we will have to pay our own penalty for sins. This truth applies to all men and women, whether rich or poor, famous or unknown, loved by the world or not.
To paraphrase John Donne, when we hear that someone has died and we wonder for whom the bell tolls, there is a sense in which it will always be tolling for us. It is a constant reminder of our own frailty, telling us to be cognizant of our own end, and to ponder what awaits us afterward, and whether or not we are living life the way it should be lived; to the glory of God (Psalm 39:4). In it, you will find the fulfillment, rest, and, most importantly, the forgiveness of sins, you so desperately need. It was for this reason Jesus said, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28).