If our Christianity has ceased to be serious about discipleship, if we have watered down the gospel into emotional uplift which makes no costly demands and which fails to distinguish between natural and Christian existence, then we cannot help regarding the cross as an ordinary everyday calamity, as on of the trials and tribulations of life. We have then forgotten that the cross means rejection and shame as well as suffering. The Psalmist was lamenting that he was despised and rejected of men, and that is an essential quality of the suffering of the cross. But this notion has ceased to be intelligible to a Christianity which can no longer see any difference between an ordinary life and a life committed to Christ. -- Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Cost of Discipleship, p. 88-89
The day that God died for me.
Think about that for a moment. The only reason you and I can stand here on this day and thank God for redeeming us is that Jesus Christ, the perfect, spotless, holy, Son of God, died.
The bible says that in our sin we were storing up wrath for ourselves (Romans 2:5). One way or another that wrath had to be poured out. As sinners we blasphemed God by worshiping His creation instead of Him as Creator. We did not love Him and honor Him as God. We deserved to be condemned and punished for our sin.
Instead of consigning us to our deserved fate, God, in His infinite mercy, sent His very own Son to stand in our place.
But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ - by grace you have been saved. -- Ephesians 2:4-5
Jesus Christ came to this earth and in His perfect innocence willingly gave up His life and absorbed the wrath of God that we had been storing up. Every drop was poured out on Christ on our behalf. Because of that we will never know God's wrath (1 Thessalonians 5:9).
Instead we get salvation.
Not because we deserve it.
Not because we earn it.
Not because we choose it.
Only because on this day centuries ago, God died.
In Psalm 73 David's frustration is one that too often I call my own. David looked around him and saw those who did not love God and did not obey Him seeming to prosper and find success in all they did.
But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled, my steps had nearly slipped. For I was envious of the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. -- Psalm 73:2-3
David found himself being envious of the wicked and their lifestyle. It appeared to him that they were actually prospering and making their life easier by ignoring God and His commands. David felt like he was diligently pursuing righteousness for nothing. What was the point? These other men cared nothing for God or His ways and they were living the good life while David devoted his life to his God and his life was difficult. He says as much in verses 13-14:
All in vain I have kept my heart clean and washed my hands in innocence. For all the day long I have been stricken and rebuked every morning.David could not understand what God was doing (or not doing). He says in verse 16 that trying to understand these things seemed to be "a wearisome task". When did David get a glimpse into what God was doing? When he "went into the sanctuary of God". Then and only then was he able to perceive what the end would be for these seemingly successful wicked people.
What God reminded David of in His sanctuary was that everyone far from God will ultimately perish and only those who are near to God will live. David forgot that the greatest blessing that God bestows on His children is Himself.
I needed to be reminded of this today. The events of the last 18 months have sometimes left me right beside David in wondering "Why do the wicked prosper?". I have even found myself sympathizing with David's lament of feeling like all his efforts to please God have been in vain.
If we are honest with ourselves and with God I think we will admit that we feel like this sometimes. Why are people around us who ignore or mock God succeeding while we are struggling so much? For those of us in positions of leadership in the church the question even follows us there. Why are churches who place such a low priority on God's word growing while our church struggles as it faithfully preaches the word? I find, like David, understanding these things to be a wearisome task.
And then God, in His word, reminds me, just as He did David, that I already have all that I need or could ever desire. I have Him. Because of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus I am now a child of God and my Father has promised to never leave me or forsake me. No amount of worldly or ministerial success could ever equal that. Sometimes our heart and flesh fail us and we envy the wicked around us. Thankfully for us God is our strength and portion when that happens.
Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. -- Psalm 73:25-26
All too often my heart and strength fail me. Praise God that when that happens He is my strength and my portion forever.