15 October 2012

He Loved Us Then: He'll Love Us Now

It is not hard for me to believe God has put away all my old failures that occurred before new birth. What is hard is to believe that God continues to put away all my present failures that occur after new birth.

We tend to view the Father looking down on us with raised eyebrows--'how are they still such failures after all I have done for them?' we see him wondering.

A Christian conscience is a re-sensitized conscience. Now that we know God as Father, now that we have become human again, we feel more deeply than ever the ugliness of sin. Failure makes the soul cringe unlike ever before.

That's why Romans 5:1-11 is in the Bible.

Lots to say about 5:1-5 and the present peace believers enjoy because of the past justification that has been secured, but here's something I'm reflecting on this week from verses 6-11.

No less than three times in these verses Paul says roughly the same thing:
While we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. (5:6)

While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (5:8)

If while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. (5:10)
Three times Paul says that God did something to save us when we were hating him. Weak. Sinners. Enemies. We didn't have to clean ourselves up first. He didn't meet us halfway. He pulled us out of the moral mud in which we were drowning.

That's great news. But that's not Paul's burden in these verses. He's after something else.

What's the ultimate point Paul is driving at in Romans 5:6-11? Not God's past work, mainly. Paul's burden is our present security, given that past work. He raises Christ's past work to drive home this point: If God did that back then, when you were so screwy and had zero interest in him, then what are you worried about now? The whole point of vv. 6-11 is captured in the "since" of v. 9: "Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him . . ." It is not hard for him to hug you in your mess now that the hard part's done.

This really helps us relax.

He drew near to us when we hated him. Will he remain distant now that we want to please him?

He suffered for us when we were failing, as orphans. Will he cross his arms over our failures now that we are his adopted children?

His heart was gentle and lowly toward us when we were lost. Will his heart be anything different toward us now that we are found?

"While we were still." He loved us in our mess then. He'll love us in our mess now. Our very agony in sinning is the fruit of our adoption. A cold heart would not be bothered. We are not who we were.

Christ loved you before all worlds; long ere the day star flung his ray across the darkness, before the wing of angel had flapped the unnavigated ether, before aught of creation had struggled from the womb of nothingness, God, even our God, had set his heart upon all his children.

Since that time, has he once swerved, has he once turned aside, once changed? No; ye who have tasted of his love and know his grace, will bear me witness, that he has been a certain friend in uncertain circumstances. . . .

You have often left him; has he ever left you? You have had many trials and troubles; has he ever deserted you? Has he ever turned away his heart, and shut up his bowels of compassion? No, children of God, it is your solemn duty to say 'No,' and bear witness to his faithfulness. 
 --Charles Spurgeon, 'A Faithful Friend,' in Sermons of C. H. Spurgeon (New York: Sheldon, Blakeman & Co., 1857), 13-14 


Joshua Rogers said...

Beautiful, simple summary of our forgiveness - past, present, and future. Thank you.

Luma Simms said...

This is difficult for me to read, Dane. I'm afraid you've put your finger on some heart issues...I want to believe it, but... I need to think about this seriously. I wasn't going to comment but I thought that it was more important for you to know that God is using your writing then to worry about my pride. What you said makes me very uneasy and uncomfortable... Wouldn't every step forward in sanctification cause God to expect more from me? I just don't know, I don't know how he can keep loving us/me...I know to doubt God's love is a form of arrogance, so I guess I have to add that to the list of sins...ad infinitum...

Unknown said...

We need this reminder often through life because we can become discouraged by our failures to the point that we give up. The only caution I could give is that we should not take the grace of God for granted and abuse it by ignoring it and not repenting of our sin.

Otherwise, we should rejoice in the goodness of God and realize mercy triumphs over judgement.