The Difference Jesus Makes

Moses010When God chose Abraham, He entered into a unilateral agreement, promising to give him land, make him a father of nations, and yes, the father of His chosen people.

Later this agreement expanded into a conditional one–if Israel did certain things, then God would bless them and make them fruitful, but if Israel did the opposite, then God would bring their actions down on their heads.

In part the conditional agreement was based on Israel keeping the Ten Commandments and participating in the sacrificial system God launched when Moses finally led the people across the Red Sea, ready to be on their way to the land God had promised.

After escaping a confrontation with the Egyptians and surviving the crises of no water and not any food, Israel spend at least a year on hold, waiting as Moses received instructions from God and then as they carried them out. Through Moses, God transmitted the plans for a worship center and laws about their relationship with Him, with each other, with their stuff.

Over and over in all those laws, His call for them was to be holy because He is holy. But the problem was, they weren’t. He knew it and they knew it. When Moses was getting ready to meet with God to receive His instructions, the people were warned not to come near the mountain where God’s presence would be. The place was cordoned off, but God had Moses retrace his steps and warn the people again that if they tried to break through and come up to God, they would die.

Yes, die.

Later, God spoke to the people, and He so terrified them, that they begged Moses to act as their intermediary from then on rather than dealing directly with God.

I have to admit, I find all this stunning. I understand how great God is, how awesome His power, how far above any human He is in might and majesty. I even understand Peter’s command for believers who call God, Father, to “conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your stay on earth” (1 Peter 1:17b).

But understanding all this is purely head knowledge.

I know God to be a just Judge who will one day separate those who follow Him from those who reject Him and will mete out appropriate rewards for both. But my experience with Him is far removed from these things I know.

I shake my head and think, how can I be relating to God as one of the living stones who is being “built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood to offer up spiritual sacrifices” when the people of Israel couldn’t even stand in His presence?

They wanted God to go with them, but in order for that to happen they had to abide by that elaborate system of sacrifices and purification. In contrast, I offer no sacrifices, undergo no purification rites, and have the Holy Spirit of God make His dwelling in me. Not with me. In me.

I know Him as a child knows her father, as a sheep knows its shepherd, as a friend knows his best friend. How can this be???

It’s Christ.

He makes all the difference. God is still awesome in power, but I never have to fear that He will turn His vengeance on me because He turned it on Christ. I never have to fear God’s just judgment for my failures to obey Him because He already judged Jesus.

As a result, I can enjoy God’s presence–not as one trembling on the outside of a boundary line staring up at the top of a mountain in the hope of catching a glimpse of His glory. Rather, I have the Holy Spirit with me, guiding me in all truth, comforting me in sorrow and grief, producing His fruit when I feel inadequate and fruitless.

It’s such a dramatic difference, I can hardly comprehend what life must have been like for those who lived without the Holy Spirit in their lives day after day. Even during those times when I quench the Spirit or grieve Him, it’s not the same as not having Him in my life. It’s more like a fight with someone I love who I know I still love and who will still love me. It’s ugly and painful and sometimes costly, but it’s not permanent and it’s never complete separation.

What a difference Jesus makes!

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Published in: on September 17, 2013 at 6:20 pm  Comments (4)  
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4 Comments

  1. Becky, what you wrote is so beautiful, I hate to say anything, but I feel compelled to make one comment. God knew that we would tend to say one thing that you wrote, so He included a special explanation for all of us. Our wicked little hearts needed to understand Who He Is and Who we’re not!
    You wrote: “I never have to fear that He will turn His vengeance on me because He turned it on Christ.”

    Now, this may seem like splitting hairs, to some, but I am watching myself, for any times when I might be impugning God’s character, as I have noticed it happening, in Christian circles, inadvertently, since 1984, when it came to mind. Isaiah 53: 4-5 clearly states that Jesus was NOT smitten of God, but that it was OUR sins that put Him on the cross.
    The only pleasure God took, in the thing (verses 10-11), was that Jesus would prevail and would “birth” many more children, spiritually, than He would have, physically, on the earth, justifying many, and yes, obliterating our fear of deserved judgment!

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    • Peggy, I didn’t realize the concept of God turning His holy and righteous anger on Christ because of our sins was controversial. First, I don’t think the verses in Isaiah you mention exclude the idea of propitiation. Second, the concept is clearly taught in Scripture. Isaiah 53:10 teaches it was God’s will to “crush him,” as the ESV words it. But why?

      Hebrews 2:17 Therefore he [Jesus] had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.

      Other passages that speak plainly of Christ satisfying God’s anger because of our sin are Romans 3:23-25, 1 John 2:2, and 1 John 4:10. John 3:36 says it obliquely: “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him” (emphasis mine). If God’s wrath remains on those who reject Jesus, clearly those who accept Him and His work at the cross no longer endure His wrath–because Jesus satisfied it.

      For a lengthy discussion on this topic, see “Propitiation: Satisfying God’s Righteous Wrath” by Josef Urban.

      Hope this helps explain where I’m coming from, Peggy. As always I appreciate your comments. You make me think. 😀

      Becky

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  2. Becky, that was so beautiful!

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    • Thanks, Amber. I had good subject matter to work with. 😀

      Becky

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