As I mentioned in my last post, being a believer in a faithful God didn’t come over night and it didn’t come easily for me. Knowing this in one’s head and knowing this in one’s heart are two different things. I learned this next lesson alongside of trusting in a faithful God. These two pieces needed to come together for me to understand in my heart.
My struggle brought on by my college class deeply wounded my belief system. I constantly found myself struggling with the importance of Jesus. I had allowed my thinking to be twisted from the truth to a lie (Romans 1:25). I had allowed the world, a class and a book to limit the power of God and His truth in my life. I had shifted my full trust and childlike faith away from the saving power of Jesus and started to add my knowledge. Over the years as I was trying to build my faith and return to the unshakable faith of my past, I found myself listening to the world.
All along, I still knew Jesus saved me from my sins. I knew He died for me. I knew that faith was a gift from Him. However, my knowledge of God and picture of my own sin were so off that I could scarce see the importance. I allowed the world to tell me that I didn’t need to look to God but only to myself for a status and a position. I allowed the world to tell me that I wasn’t that bad of a person.
I knew I had certainly made some wrong choices but I didn’t think it was really a big deal. I liked to think of myself as having achieved being “blameless in [my] generation” as Noah is described in Genesis 6:9. In my mind, it was about comparison. However, I had chosen the wrong standard to compare myself. I had chosen the people of my time, this society, and our fallen world. In my eyes, I looked pretty good compared to that.
All the while I was thinking of myself with a higher assessment than was valid, I was also focusing on a very limited view of God. I looked mostly to God’s attributes of love and forgiveness. I was always reminded of His grace and peace. I chose to look at His kindness and mercy. While I was looking only to these attributes of God, I couldn’t seem to answer the question deep within, “why do we need Jesus?”
As I look back on this snapshot of my life, I can see myself in several of the people of the Bible. I step back and can see myself as a Pharisee. I can see myself walking as if I knew how to please God. I knew the rules. I knew what a Christian should act like but did I really know God? Did I really think I could achieve His standard? Like the Pharisees, I was missing the point that the law was to show me my sin, not a standard that I could work to achieve. Like the Pharisees, I didn’t really know who God was. I was making God out to be who I thought He was. I can see myself looking into the Old Testament and seeing the God of creation and the Father of Israel and wondering, who is this guy who appears years later to claim that He is God? I can see that I didn’t take the time to really know who God was.
I can see myself like Moses. I was too busy looking at myself and trying to be all that I should be or worrying about what I was not. Instead of looking at and getting to know the very One who would go with me, I was looking at my own efforts and trying to be good enough.
As I began to look closer at portions of the Old Testament, I saw a God that seemed different from the limited aspects I had laid on Him. God turned my eyes to the bigger picture. I saw a God of jealousy, wrath and punishment. Surely these were not His only attributes, but these were attributes I had ignored. Passages like Jeremiah 6:19 show His punishment because the people have not followed His laws.
Jeremiah 6:19 “Hear, O earth; behold, I am bringing disaster upon this people, the fruit of their devices, because they have not paid attention to my words; and as for my law, they have rejected it.”
Isaiah 30 is packed with contrasting ideas of mercy and love set alongside His anger and punishment. God’s mercy and love are held out but the people are unwilling to return to Him and rest in Him (vs. 15). Even in His punishment He has purpose, to draw them back to Himself. “The Lord will bind up the brokenness of his people, and heal the wounds inflicted by his blow.” (vs. 26)
FOR DEEPER THOUGHT AND UNDERSTANDING:
What do these passages teach us about God’s character?
Do you have a limited view of who God is?
What do these passages teach us about our own position?
After looking into these passages and more, I could no longer see God as only the forgiving and merciful God I had always imagined. God is both loving and just God. I began to understand that a holy and just God has righteous anger at sin. He doesn’t just set sin aside but his justice requires punishment. Where does this justice put us in relation to God?
Isaiah 59 discusses more about our own position to God. We are separated from God as stated clearly in Isaiah 59:2: “But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear.”
Why this separation?
God’s righteousness and our sin have such a great separation. We could not attain His holiness. In fact, to be holy is to be set apart.
In a chapter that seems to filled with the realities of how different we are from God and the needy estate all people are in, Isaiah 59:15b-16 stand out.
Isaiah 59:15b-16 “The Lord saw it and it displeased him that there was no justice. He saw that there was no man, and wondered that there was no one to intercede; then his own arm brought him salvation, and his righteousness upheld him.”
Why was God displeased (vs. 15)?
Understanding these verses and the character of my God are what made my need for Jesus very clear to me. Jesus, the way of salvation, the Savior being in the very fullness of God became salvation for us. He is the fulfillment of God’s own arm; sent because God is a just God: because justice must be had! Because there needs to be a payment (sacrifice) to span the gap to His Holiness. Because there is salvation in no other name (Acts 4:12). There was no one to intercede so God Himself did it. With His own arm, He brought salvation. With His own son, He saved us.
What characteristic of God does sending Jesus fulfill?
Acts 4:12 “And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”
John 3:16-18 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.”
According to these verses what does believing in Jesus’ sacrifice bring?
We can be saved by Jesus’ sacrifice. Saved from the justice we deserve for our sin. Saved because God’s love provided a way for Him to be just (Jesus paying for our sin) and accepting us into His presence.
My struggle with my faith began because though I knew the Old Testament spoke of the Messiah, like the Pharisees, I didn’t put enough faith in my God to see that Jesus is crucial to the very character of my God. Without Jesus, His love could not abound to us sinners. Without Jesus, grace couldn’t flow so freely. Without Jesus, we need to be held accountable to a just God. But God.
“then his own arm brought him salvation, and his righteousness upheld him.” Isaiah 59:16b
Next week we will continue with the subject of justice and discuss more about a Savior. I hope that you will continue on this journey.