Many Christians substitute an abstract doctrine for belief. It’s like we’ve read the menu and missed the meal. All the while, beliefs of the heart can be a feast.
Our need transcends doing something special; we long for being something special. Winning the third grade Spelling Bee didn’t satisfy, and neither will writing a Pulitzer Prize poem.
Irving Berlin wrote 1500 songs, including God Bless America and White Christmas (and 1498 other songs!). George Gershwin said he was the greatest composer America ever produced. Yet after Berlin’s death his daughter wrote,
The trouble was, no matter how much he achieved, somehow, as soon as he achieved it he immediately fell into a discouragement and despair. He would say “I’ll never be able to do that again, I’ll never write a song like that one.” *
Justification by Faith is God’s answer for our need to matter. It is a being not a doing. But we treat it like a winning lottery ticket that we keep un-cashed in a dresser drawer. We have it, but we don’t draw on it. We see it as a ticket into heaven for tomorrow when he wants us to cash it in for today.
Somehow we’ve learned to live lives divorced from deep beliefs. Like a legally separated couple, we are technically married but devoid of deep conversation, intimate embrace, and passion. God wants our Justification to arouse our passions. Of his Joy in us.
Jonathan Edwards said there are two ways to know the sweetness of honey. We can study it under a magnifying glass; or we can taste it. God says there are two ways to know Justification by Faith. We can study it on paper; or we can taste it.
So how do we taste Justification by Faith?
Colin Smith wrote:
God is not like the government, responding to unforeseen circumstances and making adjustments for unintended consequences … Redeeming sinners … was God’s plan from the beginning. … Christians find joy in knowing that God’s plan will lead to the greatest possible display of his glory and the greatest possible joy for his people. (The Gospel as Center, chapter 6)
God knew what he was doing when he placed the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the garden. He allowed us to taste evil so we could eventually taste his joy in us.
There are two ways to know the horror of the Ebola Virus. We can study it under a microscope; or we can contract it.
And we’ve all contracted it.
We really were infected. We say, “I didn’t deserve it,” or “I was never as bad as so-and-so;” but these protests are irrelevant: we were infected with the Ebola Virus.
Ebola Virus—a hemorrhagic fever—causes intense fever, internal and external bleeding, severe headaches, vomiting, and diarrhea. We tried to pretty ourselves up; we combed our hair and clipped our nails, but we failed to hide the revolting bleeding and the dissolution of our internal organs. Our self-cleaning was like dressing a corpse.
And there was no cure. Because doing—combing and clipping—is not being.
Until Jesus came to heal us.
When Jesus healed us, two things happened. He touched us and we were instantly clean. The internal and external hemorrhaging stopped; the unbearable pains vanished; and the vomiting and diarrhea ceased. Instantly. We were clean.
But to do this, he had to take our place. He contracted the virus himself. He felt the fever, the headache, the bleeding, the tissue necrosis of internal organs, and the putrification. He took the virus in our place. And then he died from it.
God did this because we are significant. We matter. To him.
Our deepest need is to sense his love in our hearts, a love that took this evil, horrific disease upon himself. We need this for a life that lives Justification by Faith. He took this horror to show his immeasurable love. For us. To him we are of utmost importance.
Remember. He knew before creation what we would cost. He made us to love us, and he made us to know it. He did it so we could know he did it, for the joy set before him.
To the degree we can capture this image in our hearts—that we are healed at the cost of his taking our infection, joyfully—to that degree we taste sweetness.
We no longer have to do anything for our joy. We merely have to be his joy.
This sense of being his significance—the significance which we ultimately crave—cannot be stolen by a spouse’s insensitivity, or by failing a Spelling Bee, or by losing a promotion. Christ took the ultimate horror for us, and because of us. In Joy (Heb. 12:2).
We do nothing so we can be something.
Then, when we know we are significant, we can go do somethingsignificant. We become men and women of glory who act in glory, reflecting God’s glory. God’s glory is transmitted through us.
It’s only when we are that we can do. And once we are, what we do is glorious!
Do we want to live significant lives in the reality of Justification by Faith? Let’s reflect on his healing of our horror, and we’ll taste the sweetness of his honey.
(See also, Reflections on Belief: Part 1.)
* I heard this quote in a Tim Keller sermon, but I forget which one.
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