Month: January 2014

The Synergy of God – Part 2

Then Jacob tore his clothes, put sackcloth around his waist, and mourned for his son many days. (Genesis 37:34)

Last time we ended with Joseph in chains headed for Egypt where he was sold as a slave to Potiphar. His brothers lied to Israel telling him that Joseph was killed by a wild animal. We know that in the end of this story that Joseph will be the number 2 man in Egypt saving a million people from starvation. We are asking the question, how does God do it? How does he work all things together for good in Joseph’s life and what part does Joseph play in this?

The LORD was with Joseph, and he became a successful man, serving in the household of his Egyptian master. (Genesis 39:2)

In this one sentence there is a world of things unsaid that matter so much. Can you imagine the first night in Egypt? Do you think Joseph shed a few tears that night? I imagine that Joseph probably wondered what would happen to him. The anxiety could have been suffocating. If you asked Joseph “Is God with you Joseph?” My guess is that he would have said that God had abandoned him. This 17 year old tattle tale spoiled rich brat was about to learn what is means to be the lowest of the low.

Joseph had a choice to make. Most of his choices were made for him as a slave. When to get up, what to eat, where to go and what to do were all decided for him. The one choice that was still in his hands was his attitude. We don’t know what his attitude was exactly but I imagine that Joseph learned how to work, how to be humble and how to trust God for the outcome.

Slaves, obey your human masters with fear and trembling, in the sincerity of your heart, as to Christ. Don’t work only while being watched, in order to please men, but as slaves of Christ, do God’s will from your heart. Serve with a good attitude, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that whatever good each one does, slave or free, he will receive this back from the Lord. (Ephesians 6:5-8)

When we are under pressure (remember thilipsis?) our attitude can become sour. We can turn into the kind of person who does just enough to get by. Just enough to not be beaten (or fired). Joseph didn’t have the book of Ephesians to turn to but I believe his attitude was exactly what Paul described. This kind of attitude is an act of faith. Joseph was trusting that he would receive back from the Lord. This kind of attitude is hard to beat and it was noticed.

When his master saw that the LORD was with him and that the LORD made everything he did successful, Joseph found favor in his master’s sight and became his personal attendant. Potiphar also put him in charge of his household and placed all that he owned under his authority. (Genesis 39:3-4)

If we could have asked Joseph how things were going he might have said something like “Finally things are going my way. I had some rough times there but God is with me and it’s going great now.” Just when he thought his life was on track…

After some time his master’s wife looked longingly at Joseph and said, “Sleep with me.” But he refused. “Look,” he said to his master’s wife, “with me here my master does not concern himself with anything in his house, and he has put all that he owns under my authority. No one in this house is greater than I am. He has withheld nothing from me except you, because you are his wife. So how could I do such a great evil and sin against God?” (Genesis 39:7-9)

If you want to learn what a man is made of just tempt him with sexual lust. There is no question that this is the one area that most men struggle in and fail most often. Joseph had thought this through probably more than once. And what is his attitude? The fear of the Lord.

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and discipline. (Proverbs 1:7)

The man who does not fear the Lord simply thinks of the chances of getting caught. Could Joseph have slept with Potiphar’s wife and gotten away with it? Probably; at least for a while. You can see that Joseph isn’t thinking like this because he calls the act of adultery a “great evil and sin against God.”

Why, my son, would you be infatuated with a forbidden woman or embrace the breast of a stranger? For a man’s ways are before the LORD’s eyes, and He considers all his paths. A wicked man’s iniquities entrap him; he is entangled in the ropes of his own sin. He will die because there is no discipline, and be lost because of his great stupidity. (Proverbs 5:20-23)

Again, Joseph didn’t have the book of Proverbs, but he understood that the Lord is watching everything he does and considering his path. Joseph rightly saw a fling with Potiphar’s wife as a trap and a really stupid thing to do. Day after day he resists her and does the right thing only to be rewarded with a false accusation. Can God use a false accusation for good? You bet he can.

When his master heard the story his wife told him–“These are the things your slave did to me”–he was furious and had him thrown into prison, where the king’s prisoners were confined. So Joseph was there in prison. (Genesis 39:19-20)

Once again Joseph is faced with an awful night that first night in prison. Did he pray? Did he cry out to God? Just when things were looking up and he did the right thing and this is how he is rewarded? Joseph had so little control over his life. Really there was just one thing that he could choose, his attitude. Joseph was not some super saint. He had some help. The same kind of help that is available to you and to me.

But the LORD was with Joseph and extended kindness to him. He granted him favor in the eyes of the prison warden. (Genesis 39:21)

That first night, if you asked Joseph “Is the Lord with you?” He might have said no. But somewhere along the way Joseph made the decision to honor God by serving well in the place he found himself. This kind of faithfulness is hard to find and it goes a long way even with people who don’t know or care about God.

Consider it a great joy, my brothers, whenever you experience various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. But endurance must do its complete work, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing. (James 1:2-4)

God allowed Joseph to face hardship to teach him about endurance, to make him mature and complete. This is so contrary to what some people are teaching saying that God wants to give us victory in all things, just one success after another with health and wealth ours to command by our faith filled words.

If Joseph had the power to command his own destiny he would never have chosen this path. This is why God doesn’t leave it up to us. We need the strength that comes from trials. God knows this and give us hardship because it is the most effective way to train us. My old boss said

“Success is a lousy teacher. It seduces smart people into thinking they can’t lose.” Bill Gates

If Joseph is going to save a million people as the number 2 man in Egypt God is going to have to work a miracle to get him into the right place. He is getting much closer now because he is in prison with the king’s prisoners. As we once again leave Joseph he is serving again as the number 2 man. He was Potiphar’s number 2 man and now he is the Warden’s number 2 man. Joseph is in the school of affliction and it’s going to take some time but don’t ever doubt God is working. Through false accusations and suffering God is building Joseph into the man who will save a million people.

The Synergy of God

We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God: those who are called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28)

This verse is one of those great and precious promises that we hold on to when we are struggling with life. Sometimes it is hard to believe it but let’s make sure we understand what it really means.

We Know

The word oida means “to have seen or perceived.” This is different than knowledge gained through personal experience. So how do we know this? It is the work of the Holy Spirit to teach us all things and this is one of those things that you come to only through the Spirit. Thanks be to God that he has written this truth through the lives of people recorded in scripture.

God’s Good Plan

You planned evil against me; God planned it for good to bring about the present result–the survival of many people. (Genesis 50:20)

How did God take the evil plans of men and turn them into good in the life of Joseph? Synergy; that’s how. That’s the word we get from sunergiā – works together. The life of Joseph is a story of dark sin and God working it all together for good, even Joseph’s flaws are put to use. Let’s consider how a young dreamer tending sheep in the backwaters of Canaan land was able to save millions of people from starvation by becoming the second most powerful man in Egypt.

Tattle-Tale Dreamer Goes to Egypt

If God wants to save a million people he is going to have to get young Joseph to Egypt. There are many ways to do this, but God is going to get it done by using sinful acts of sinful people for good.  Now Joseph was the kind of kid you might call a tattle-tale. If his brothers were up to no good, Joseph was the one who was going to tell on them.

… At 17 years of age, Joseph tended sheep with his brothers. The young man was working with the sons of Bilhah and Zilpah, his father’s wives, and he brought a bad report about them to their father. (Genesis 37:2)

Yes, every family with more than one child has one of these kids. Is being a tattle-tale sin? Probably not, but it certainly isn’t going to make you popular. Let’s just say it wasn’t the smartest move. Can God use Joseph’s flaws for good? You bet.

Now Israel loved Joseph more than his other sons because Joseph was a son born to him in his old age, and he made a robe of many colors for him. (Genesis 37:3)

If you want to cause big problems in a big family just show favoritism for a child. Of course, he was the baby of the family. Older siblings always have the suspicion that the baby gets off easy but Israel left no doubt by giving him that special robe. Can God use Israel’s poor parenting for good? Absolutely.

Joseph had dreams where his brothers and even mother and father were bowing down to him. Of course, he just had to share these dreams with his brothers and the result wasn’t pretty.

“Are you really going to reign over us?” his brothers asked him. “Are you really going to rule us?” So they hated him even more because of his dream and what he had said. (Genesis 37:8)

In a society where the first born child was going to rule, the idea that this spoiled young brat who was his father’s favorite would rule just grated on the brothers. Can God use hatred for good? You bet he can.

When Israel wanted to know what his sons were up to as they were out with the flocks, he sends the family tattle-tale because he knows he will get the straight scoop to check on them. And when his brothers saw him coming…

They saw him in the distance, and before he had reached them, they plotted to kill him. (Genesis 37:18)

Now that is some serious hatred. I had fights with my brother when we were kids but I never plotted to kill him. Part of the story here is that Israel had children by four different women. They were step-brothers and this played a part in their hatred of him. Not only was Joseph Israel’s favorite son, his mother Rachel was Israel’s favorite wife. God never intended for men to have more than one wife. God allowed it in ancient times but it was never the ideal. Can God use this hatred and family jealousy for good? Yes he can.

Now if the brothers kill Joseph the plan will fail. So what does God do? He uses Reuben to save Joseph’s life.

When Reuben heard this, he tried to save him from them. He said, “Let’s not take his life.” Reuben also said to them, “Don’t shed blood. Throw him into this pit in the wilderness, but don’t lay a hand on him”–intending to rescue him from their hands and return him to his father. (Genesis 37:21-22)

Great, but if Reuben’s plan succeeds, Joseph doesn’t end up in Egypt so God has something else in mind. He prepares a group of Ishmaelite traders and has them passing right by just at the right moment when he places an idea in Judah’s head.

Then Judah said to his brothers, “What do we gain if we kill our brother and cover up his blood? Come, let’s sell him to the Ishmaelites and not lay a hand on him, for he is our brother, our own flesh,” and they agreed. (Genesis 37:26-27)

Oh yeah… let’s not kill him, let’s sell him and lie to our father about what happened. Once again, sin on top of sin. Can God use brothers selling their brother into slavery for good? Oh yes he can! Now Joseph is on his way to Egypt.

Imagine what must have been going through Joseph’s mind at this point. Did he beg his brothers not to sell him? Was there weeping on his part? As the Ishmaelites tied him to a camel for a long walk to Egypt this privileged son… the favorite son of the favorite wife… the dreamer with the best robe is now stripped of everything a slave. If you could have asked him at that moment “Is God working this for good?” He would have probably said no.

Joseph probably felt at that moment that God had abandoned him. Perhaps he thought that God was punishing him for his sins. Maybe in his darkest moments he felt that he deserved what was happening to him. But God had a better plan for Joseph than just being the family tattle-tale. If God was going to save a million people from starvation he was going to have to prepare Joseph to rule Egypt.

Meanwhile, the Midianites sold Joseph in Egypt to Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh and the captain of the guard. (Genesis 37:36)

Just imagine that first day. Joseph had been used to having servants and giving orders to them. Now he was the one being ordered around. What kind of work do you suppose they gave him on that first day? Probably the dirtiest most filthy hard work you can imagine. And so we take leave of Joseph as he is cleaning up animal stalls or some other such filthy work until next time.

Can God use for good…

  • The favoritism of a father?
  • The tattle-tale dreaming baby brother?
  • The murderous hatred of step-brothers?
  • The selling into slavery?
  • The lowest of the low work in a foreign land?

Yes! None of these things are good on their own and yet God is working all things together… good things, bad things, even sinful things for good.

What Job’s Friends did right

ImageNow when Job’s three friends–Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite–heard about all this adversity that had happened to him, each of them came from his home. They met together to go and sympathize with him and comfort him. (Job 2:11)

Job’s friends did wrong no doubt. It was their words that got them in trouble as they repeatedly suggested that Job must have sinned. When great calamity falls on someone people want to believe that somehow they deserve what they got. This type of thinking is very old, from the oldest book in the bible. But enough about what they did wrong, I want to focus on what they did right.

First of all, when they heard what happened, they dropped everything and came. In 1996 my son Alexander died during the night. He was 12 weeks old. I was away on a business trip when I received a phone call from my dad early in the morning. I hopped on the next plane. By the time I got home a few hours later I was surprised to find some of the husbands and all of the wives of my small group there at the house on a Monday. As word spread throughout our church and community people came. Of course this was the kind of sudden shocking loss that moves you to action.

The loss of my health is a slow motion disaster. You can see it coming but it happens so slowly there doesn’t seem to be a single moment that prompts you to action. When the ambulance was called to take me to the hospital because I was temporarily paralyzed from the neck down… that would be a good time. My church sent our worship pastor to visit me then. On the third day in the hospital when the doctors could find nothing wrong and the psychiatrist was called my pastor saw me then. At that point everyone believed that I was mentally ill and nothing I said could convince them otherwise.

The first right thing to do is to come; just be there. In 1996 when our small group came, they looked around and saw laundry that needed to be done and they did it. They saw the phone ringing and we were in no shape to answer so they answered it for us. They saw a house full of people who needed to eat so they cooked. The support was terrific.

It’s easy to be a support when you know that it will be for a short time. They knew that this wasn’t going to last. We were healthy and life would go on. When you see someone who is suffering with a long term debilitating condition you worry about helping. Will they come to depend on you? Will you get so involved in this long term suffering that you cannot get yourself out? I know because when I was healthy I thought the same things. Compassion is risky business. Take a chance, I’m sure that whatever you do will be appreciated.

When they looked from a distance, they could barely recognize him. They wept aloud, and each man tore his robe and threw dust into the air and on his head. (Job 2:12)

The second right thing they did was to join in the grief. They cried, they tore their robes, they threw dust in the air… these were all expressions of grief. Sometimes we think that we must be strong for the one who is grieving. That we can’t cry in front of them even though scripture says to weep with those who weep (Rom 12:15). When you come to the grieving, do whatever culturally appropriate things you need to do to join them in their grief.

Then they sat on the ground with him seven days and nights, but no one spoke a word to him because they saw that his suffering was very intense. (Job 2:13)

The third thing they did was to be silent for a very long time. In moments like these people think they need to say some brilliant words of comfort. While I appreciate the thought, the truth is that many of the things people said to me when my son died were just plain silly. It was not the words spoken that mattered. I don’t remember the things that people said that day. I do remember them being there, hugging us, doing laundry, answering the phone, making meals.

When you ask people why they don’t go, people reply “I don’t know what to say.” Here’s good news then, you don’t have to say anything. You just go, give them a hug, cry if you want to cry, tell them you are devastated for their loss. Look around and do what needs to be done.

People often tell me “If you need anything, just let me know.” When they say that I wonder if they really mean “anything.” Even so, I appreciate the thought, but I’ll probably never call them. It’s not that I don’t believe that they meant it… It’s just that I don’t want to be a burden to them. Yes, of course there are things that I need help with. Just come and take a look. Ask me if you can help take care of something for me… that is love in action.

Jobs friends did some things right.

Weep with those who weep

Rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep. (Romans 12:15 HCSB)

Perhaps one of the most surprising things to me about having a chronic and debilitating disease is the reaction of others in my life. There were several phases that people went through.

  • Denial
  • Anger
  • Compassion
  • Moving On

Denial

In the early stages of my disease there was pain but the doctors were unable to find any cause for it. For about 9 months I went to 30 different doctors, in the hospital 3 times, had X-Ray, MRI, CT Scans and many different blood tests all of which showed nothing wrong. Doctors were suggesting to my family that the problems were psychological in nature but I knew that something was very wrong with me.

During this time, close family members repeatedly reached out to me to try an snap me out of this depression or whatever was causing this. I was advised to enter mental health treatment programs. My symptoms were met with skepticism, even my seizures were believed to be fake by some.

Anger

Strange as it may seem, some people close to me responded, eventually, with anger. The anger was subtle but definitely there. The pressure of someone close to you losing their health and life before your eyes over a period of months takes a toll.

This painful reality, coupled with first-hand knowledge of society’s flagrant disregard for the safety and well being of the feeble and frail, takes its toll on everyone from full time employees to part time volunteers. Eventually, negative attitudes prevail.
CompassionFatigue.org

I see this in scripture when I consider Job’s wife. We don’t know much about her but consider that Job’s losses were her losses as well. Children dead, wealth lost and finally Jobs health lost as well. She was angry and you can hear it in her words.

His wife said to him, “Do you still retain your integrity? Curse God and die!” “You speak as a foolish woman speaks,” he told her. “Should we accept only good from God and not adversity?” Throughout all this Job did not sin in what he said. (Job 2:9-10 HCSB)

She was advising Job to commit suicide. Either she believed that the act of cursing God would end his life or perhaps she was advising him to curse God and then kill himself. Either way, a self-initiated act would end his life, a suicide.

Job dealt with the anger by appealing to God’s sovereignty. He knew that everything that came to him, including the devastating losses was from God.

Compassion

When the diagnosis finally came at first there was an outpouring of compassion. There were kind words, offers of help and queries about my condition and treatment options. We like to hear about stories of overcoming and I wanted to overcome this disease. I thought that I could beat it like people beat cancer but sadly there is no treatment for Dercums Disease. There is no cure. Just a long steady slide towards death.

The passion of compassion fades away quickly when things get hard. People return to their lives, and soon it’s out of sight, out of mind for those who do not have to be close to you.

Moving On

The final stage is a forgetfulness that takes hold. People move on with life and when they don’t see you they forget about you. I’m not saying that they are bad people, I’m sure that if I were the healthy one I would have done the same thing. Every now and then they think “I wonder how Ron is doing.” I know this because sometimes people say this to me.

The truth is that across these 3 years since I’ve been diagnosed there have been very few people who have taken the time to stop by and visit me at my home. Even my church where I was a very active member for 15 years seemed to have abandoned me. They are welcoming if I can make it there or if I am well enough to help with something but otherwise I was completely ignored by them.

Weep with those who weep

On the surface, this command of Romans 12;15 seems like a simple thing to do but it really isn’t when the weeping doesn’t stop. When there are no answers, no cure and no optimistic tomorrow, weeping takes a toll.

According to the grace given to us, we have different gifts: … showing mercy, with cheerfulness. (Romans 12:6-8 HCSB)

There is a spiritual gift of mercy. It is a God given ability to show compassion beyond the initial impulse of charity that all of us feel. I have one friend who I believe has this gift. Across the years he is the one person who has stuck by me whether I was near or far. He calls me every few days to see how I’m doing as he is prompted by the Spirit. When I don’t show up for Bible study because of pain he is the one who will follow up and check on me.

If you had asked me prior to my sickness if I thought we had a loving church I would have said yes. They are loving, if you show up. They are engaging, if you are engaged. But if you don’t show up, you are quickly off the radar.

Ministering to the sick is not an easy thing. Our compassion wears thin, especially if we think the person deserves what they are getting. When healing isn’t coming we shy away from the reminder of our frailty. Perhaps this is why as a teenager we always hated the trip to the nursing home.

Show family affection to one another with brotherly love. Outdo one another in showing honor. (Romans 12:10 HCSB)

We used to sing a song “I’m so glad I’m a part of the family of God.” Some churches call each other Brother or Sister. In the first century the choice to become a Christian meant for some that their biological family would cut them off. They needed a new family. Today many people live far from family, or perhaps their family is broken. They too need a new family. When your family member is sick you don’t forget them. You don’t simply move on, you go to them, you care for them, you weep with them.

There will be trouble

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33 NIV)

As Jesus prepared his disciples for the cross he told them he would be leaving them. He told them to expect trouble.  The word translated as trouble is thlipsis “a pressing, pressure.” The word is often coupled with other words such as stenochoria “anguish,” ananke, “distress,”  and diogmos “persecution.”

There are in our day, as there were in the first century, those “who think that godliness is a means to financial gain.” (1 Timothy 6:5). Such people often teach that we have a supernatural ability and God given favor to walk in victory. Our wallets will be full, our houses will be blessed, our bodies will be healthy, our children obedient. And when these things do not happen, it is the attack of the enemy on our faith. We respond by simply digging deeper and pulling ourselves up by our spiritual bootstraps of faith.

The Bible and life say otherwise. The truth is that in this world we will have trouble, pressure, anguish and distress. That even in the lives of good people, godly people

  • Children will die
  • Health will fail
  • Marriages will fall apart
  • Careers ended
  • Businesses bankrupt
  • Homes foreclosed

How do we survive when thlipsis comes? When the crushing pressure of loss and pain comes down upon us what holds us together? When these things happen we need an unshakable, firm foundation.

So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. (Ephesians 4:11-15 NIV)

Jesus tells us to “take heart”, not because we have anything within us, but because he has overcome the world. In this overcoming, Christ himself gave us something bigger than ourselves, the body… the church.  He gave us each other, he gave us gifted people to teach us, to equip us and to build us up together in love so that we won’t be infantile in our understanding and thus vulnerable to tricksters who claim that God promises health, wealth and prosperity.

I have been in the school of thlipsis for quite a while. I can tell you that I have learned things from this pressure that could not be learned any other way. Perhaps the most important lesson is that I am not sufficient. I do not have within me the strength, the power and the faith to overcome this on my own. I was not saved by the blood of Christ to stand alone. I was saved to become a part of the body of Christ… the Church.

In our day people often say that they are spiritual but they don’t like organized religion. I wonder if they would prefer disorganized religion? When they say this what they really mean is that they prefer the Church of Me. Where I go if I want. Where the message is always what I like. Where I worship Me and I become the end of all things. Spiritual things then become a means by which I get what I want.

God gives us thlipsis as a means of grace by which we learn that I am not sufficient; that I am not god, I do not have the power and if I continue to worship myself that I will ultimately lead myself into darkest hell.

Instead, God gives me a church, a body, a family so that together we grow up into Him. We worship Him. We call on Him who has the power. Him who has loved us, called us, chose us, saved us and commanded us to obey. I am not the goal, Christ is all!

so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. (Romans 12:5 NIV)

We belong to each other. When one aches, we all feel the pain. When one rejoices we all rejoice! We use our grace given gifts to help and heal each other. This is just one way in which we offer our bodies as a living sacrifice in worship.

Slaves Set Free

We have redemption in Him through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace that He lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding. (Ephesians 1:7-8 HCSB)

Slavery was a part of the world in the first century and had been for a long time. So much so that Caesar Augustus imposed a 2% tax on the sale of slaves. According to records this brought in about 5 million sesterces annually on the sale of about 250,000 slaves. Outside of Rome, Ephesus was a major center of slave trade.  With its great temple of Artemis and a natural harbor Ephesus was the third largest city in Roman Asia Minor.

People became slaves in several ways.  They could be sold into slavery, taken captive in a war, kidnapped by pirates etc. If you were taken as a slave and your family could locate you they could redeem you from the slave market by paying a lutron (ransom).

“If a foreigner or temporary resident living among you prospers, but your brother living near him becomes destitute and sells himself to the foreigner living among you, or to a member of the foreigner’s clan, he has the right of redemption after he has been sold. One of his brothers may redeem him. (Leviticus 25:47-48 HCSB)

This part of the law is a good example of this practice. The slave, unable to help himself can be redeemed by his brother.

Slaves to Sin

Jesus responded, “I assure you: Everyone who commits sin is a slave of sin. (John 8:34 HCSB) 

 

Don’t you know that if you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of that one you obey–either of sin leading to death or of obedience leading to righteousness? (Romans 6:16 HCSB)

The simple fact is that all of mankind in our rebellion against God have been sold as slaves to sin. When Jesus told the Jews that the “truth would set them free” they boldly replied that they had never been enslaved to anyone. Jesus tells them that their sin reveals their true master.

I find this troubling because as much as I would like to say that I do not sin the fact of the matter is that I do sin and quite regularly. How I wish that it were not so. I wish that I could honestly write to you Theophilus and say that I have found the strength to never sin but I must say with Paul “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners–and I am the worst of them.”

And here I am as helpless as the Jew who sold himself to a foreigner as a slave. Unable to accomplish my own redemption but Jesus has purchased it for me.

Through His Blood

For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have appointed it to you to make atonement on the altar for your lives, since it is the lifeblood that makes atonement. (Leviticus 17:11 HCSB)

The blood of Christ was shed for me. This ought to astound us. Take our breath away. It has become so familiar that we say it without hardly a second thought. Every spotless lamb whose throat was cut. Every Passover celebration across hundreds of years pointed to this once for all sacrifice. From the time that Abraham said to Isaac “God Himself will provide the lamb” (Gen 22:8) to the day Jesus came every believer knew by faith that one day God would provide this redemption.

The Forgiveness of Trespasses

There are three terms in the New Testament for sin the first hamartia means to miss the mark. The second, often translated trespass, is paraptoma which literally means a false step, a blunder. It carries the idea of a slip and fall. The third translated as transgression is parabasis a stronger word meaning to transgress a known law.

Forgiveness here is the word aphesis freedom. Now that should take your breath away. This is the same word Jesus used in Luke 4:18 as Jesus, quoting Isaiah 61 said “He has sent Me to proclaim freedom to the captives.” 

We tend to view sin as a behavior problem, something we need to improve on but something that doesn’t fundamentally change our state of being. From God’s point of view however we are captives to sin, held under it’s power… slaves and only the blood of the spotless lamb can set us free.

Grace Lavished On Us

Sometimes we think of an angry God gritting his teeth and reluctantly saying “I forgive you” as if he didn’t really want to but had to because of a legal technicality.  The word that is translated here as lavished is perisseuō which means to superabound. Not just enough grace so that we barely get free but way, way more than could possibly be needed.

This is good news indeed because it means that God’s grace is more than enough to cover our sin. As free people we are still tempted and still fail and yet God is working in us to grow us beyond our slavish ways. We have to learn to live in this freedom.

Thank you Lord for this greatest of all gifts.