Tooele Transcript Bulletin – News in Tooele, Utah

April 15, 2014
Nothing for us to do but to believe and repent

Editor’s note: “Matters of faith” is a column that provides local religious leaders a place to write about how their respective faiths provide hope, courage and strength in these modern times. 

 

This week is considered by many Christians to be the most sacred time of the year for the Christian Community. If you ponder what the Bible claims God did at this time, over 2,000 years ago, you will likely think that Christians are insane, or that God is truly amazing. I tend to believe the latter.

How many times have you heard, “I would move heaven and earth for you, if I could,” or some such exaggerated statement that is intended to show how committed the person is to the other person? Often our love for someone compels us to do almost more than we are able to, because we are not willing to allow anything to get in the way of our bringing joy, care, or safety to the one we love.

I find that somewhat interesting, and not at all coincidental, because that is how God acts toward us, and He has created us in His image. I believe that is why we are often deeply committed to the welfare of those we love, even compelled at times to do whatever is needed, even if that means putting ourselves in what can only be described as a “loathsome, painful position.” Again, this is not unlike what God did for us.

There are a number of accounts in the Old Testament that many people find difficult to understand, and even if they think they understand what was going on, they nonetheless find it hard to accept. One such account is found in Numbers 21:6-9.

Because the Israelites made slanderous and false accusations against God, in judgment He sent poisonous serpents into the camp, and anyone who was bitten was at risk of dying. Moses interceded for the people, and out of mercy, God told him to make a ‘bronze serpent,’ and then raise it up on a pole in the midst of the camp. God told Moses that if anyone who was bitten by a serpent looked in faith at the bronze serpent, God would heal them. Many have wondered, “Why did God do such a thing?” The main reason was to point ahead to what the Savior, Jesus, would do for us.

In John 3:14 Jesus said, “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so the Son of Man must be lifted up, so that whoever believes will in Him have eternal life.”

Some people think it somewhat strange that God would have them make a bronze image of the very thing that threatened their lives, and have them look upon that in faith, in order to have their life saved, if they had been bitten. But amazingly, it is a picture of Christ!

Irony permeates this entire picture. The serpent (Satan) brought about the bite of sin that led to death for all of us.  And then Jesus was willing to become that sin for us, as He was lifted up on the cross. (2 Corinthians 5:21 says, “God made Him {Jesus} who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”)

Now, all who are bitten by the “serpent” of sin, who believe in faith that Christ died on the cross for them, is cleansed of the venom of sin and death (when they, as it were, look to Christ raised up on the cross), and they are saved.

We are those who are dying from the venom of the serpent, and Christ took that venom into Himself, so that we might be saved. I don’t know about you, but it breaks my heart, right down to my very soul, to think that Jesus had to take upon Himself the venomous filth of my sin, so that I could be forgiven of my sin. He was infected with what was killing me, just so that I could live.

When you consider that He is perfect, sinless, and holy, it is nothing short of amazing that He was willing to do that for us.

I believe that we tend to minimize this when we think, “But He is God; surely He could handle it.” Of course He could, and He did handle it. But the truth is, we will never— ever—know the cost of His becoming sin for us, so that we might become the Righteousness of God in Christ.

It is no wonder that the Crucifixion and Resurrection are so sacred to us; it is when God did for us what we could never, ever do for ourselves. Jesus finished all the works of righteousness for us, and then died in our place to pay for our sins, every single one of our sins.

There is nothing left for us to do but to believe and repent, asking Him to forgive us, and in doing so receive total forgiveness and the gift of Eternal Life.

What an amazing gift! What an amazing God!

 

McCartney is pastor of First Baptist Church of Tooele.

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