Friday, July 17, 2009

"I Deserve It"

“I deserve it.” Have you ever thought that phrase to yourself (or had someone tell you that you “deserve” something)? The term “deserve” can be applied either in a negative or positive aspect. One might “deserve” to get what’s coming to them (as in punishment) or maybe they did something nice and so they “deserve” a reward. In either case, that word is particularly detestable to me. Yes, in BOTH senses of the word!

My musings about this word occurred today when I was reading in “The Lord’s Table” (which I blogged about earlier). Today, the subject was about what Jesus did on the cross and how, through His blood, we have freedom. That’s the “good news” of the gospel, and many of us have heard it LOTS of times. So many times, in fact, that the “good news” almost seems like “old news” to those of us that haven’t bothered to remind ourselves of WHY exactly the news is SO GOOD!! Today, it was revived afresh to me.

The big trigger that started it all was when I read this phrase: “God has reconciled us by putting Jesus to death.” My immediate thought after reading that was, “That’s not fair! He didn’t DESERVE it!“ For lack of a better example, that would be like saying to Charles Manson, “We know that you are full of evil and that you hate everyone and have done terrible things. But, we’re going to let the Pope sit here and die in prison instead of you. You’re free to go and be with your family…er, people…um, whatever.” Does it strike you in the same way? Does the thought of a perfect man dying a horrible and tortuous death on the cross seem fair, just, and deserving to you?

After thinking about how bad I have been and how the only thing I “deserve” is punishment for my iniquities, the thought of Christ (a perfect, blameless, and pure man) dying for me is all the more shameful for me. Me, the one who “deserves” all the punishment is spared. Instead, this perfect and beautiful God comes incarnate to take what I “deserve.” God’s justice demands that sin be paid for. TRUE justice would be to make the one who transgressed pay up. And YET, the INNOCENT ONE is the one who paid! HE DENIED JUSTICE TO HIS OWN SON…….for the SAKE of ME (and for all of us)!! It ASTOUNDS me!! It makes my pleas of “That’s not fair!” about any given situation nothing more than a pathetic whimper! We didn’t get justice for ourselves - PRAISE GOD!! Indeed, PRAISE GOD!! We got mercy, forgiveness, and freedom instead! All we “deserved” WASN’T given to us! We were given what we DID NOT deserve; all the kindness, goodness, and mercy of God! Christ was denied HIS justice and instead, became the object of wrath on the cross. How “unfair” is that?!! Yet, His love willingly kept Him there.

I feel so grateful and humbled; yet, so sad and ashamed. His punishment was my true entitlement. I “deserved it” and was denied it because He loves me. I don’t think I ever understood it as clearly as I do now. All I can do is absorb the shock and awe as the tears stream down my face. It’s unbelievably horrendous to think what my sin has done to Him, but unbelievably wonderful to think of what grace does for me. There are no words, only tears. I am speechless. This is the most stunning and amazing thing that I will ever think about. It’s something so remarkably simple and yet, complex at the same time. The sheer impact of it makes me feel the weight of my own sin, as well as freedom from it simultaneously. What else, WHOM ELSE, could ever possibly have that effect on me? NO ONE! There is no other! There is only one: Jesus Christ!

What are we to say or do in response to grace other than being grateful and accepting it? It’s impossible to express adequate thanks for such a perfect gift! It’s impossible to “pay back” to God what we have been graciously given. We cannot out-give Him. HE is the giver. HE is perfect and complete. If we are able to do even a fraction of what we humans call “good”, it’s because HIS goodness and love (through the Holy Spirit) allowed us to do so. It’s nothing we can do. We can do nothing without Him (John 15:5). It is only THROUGH Him that anything is possible (Philippians 4:13). Therefore, what credit can we truly “earn” or even accept for the “good” things we do? We can‘t! That is why all honor and glory belongs to Him. He CANNOT be topped or outdone! Nothing anyone can “do” can EVER come even remotely close!

Grace is the ultimate accomplishment; the top of the heap. Actually, it’s above the heap; it can’t even rest on anything that lies beneath it! That’s how holy and good it is!! Perfection doesn’t lie on top of filthy piled up rags. It can’t and it won’t! It’s like piling up used Kleenex and then throwing a beautiful, spotless, perfect, white handkerchief on top of it. We cannot accomplish what’s already been done; we can only contaminate and taint grace with our own filth by trying to stake our claim on our own righteousness by touting our own glory. Though, in reality, NOTHING can touch or taint grace. We merely cause others to be blinded to it when we wave our rags around and obstruct the view of what is truly perfect and glorified. Is it any wonder God calls us to be humble and to give HIM the glory? He wouldn’t want anyone mistaking our filth for the REAL thing which can be found (and ONLY found) in Him! We think we’re so “good” but WHO is really “good”? Even Jesus refused to be called “good” (Mark 10:18 Luke 18:19). Instead, He gave credit where credit is due: to God. If even the Son of God refuses His own credit and acts in humility, by golly how much more should we?! Our little pats on the back should be pats on our, well, you know. ;)

Even in all our selfishness, I am beyond amazed at God’s patience, tolerance, and true love. We are such leeches, and yet, He wants (and chooses) to bless us and share HIS GLORY with us by making us heirs with His Son (John 1:12-13)! We get what we DON’T deserve OVER AND OVER again and in measures beyond comprehension! And, are SPARED from that which we DO deserve, over and over again!! It blows my mind! There is no love, mercy, or kindness that compares to this!! God is unrivaled and unmatched!! How magnificent, holy, and glorious is the Sovereign Lord!! Praise God!

1 Peter 2:21-25 really sums it up well: To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. “He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth." When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed. For you were like sheep going astray, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls. (NIV)

Can I get an “amen”?! What could there ever be that could ever compare with that?! Nothing. Absolutely nothing! You want the ultimate prize? It’s Jesus! If you have Christ, you WIN!! When life on earth says, “Game Over” you’ll have the joy of already beating the game! Unlimited life! No more quarters or continues. It is finished; accomplished and complete! Christ did it, and He’s SHARING it with us!! That, my friends, is awesome!! TRULY AWESOME!!

May the grace and peace of God truly be with you!! Allow those words to sink in until they are more than just words. Celebrate the fact that you’re NOT getting what you deserve and that instead, you are blessed with all the goodness that you DON’T deserve!! The word “deserve” should be obsolete. There‘s no place for it anymore. Christ cancelled out the fact that we “deserve“ hell, and we give back all the good things we (or others) think we “deserve“ to God so that He may be glorified! May God richly bless you, my dear friends, with everything you don’t deserve!! Amen!!

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