Sunday, June 12, 2016

"Knowing the depth of God's love in Christ …"

Day #165

Scripture Reading:  Psalms 117 - 118 …

"His love endures forever!"  Do you know the depth of God's love for you in Christ Jesus?  The apostle Paul prayed for the believers in Ephesus, "I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints (holy ones), to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled to the measure of the fullness of God" (Ephesians 3:17-19).  

The Psalm-writer knew the God who saves those who know Him, who believe in Him, who have something that they have received as a gift from God Himself:  righteousness!!  Amazingly, "righteousness" is a word you don't hear much about in Christian circles (and never in any other religion), and yet it is the very heart of the Gospel!!  Case in point ... Romans 1:16-17:  "I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes; first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.  For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written:  'The righteous will live by faith'" (Habakkuk 2:4).

The writer of the Psalms could not have understood the full meaning of the words that the Holy Spirit inspired him to write, but he DID understand his sin and his need for righteousness before a holy God who must punish sin.  "Sin" means, literally:  "Missing the mark."  The "mark" is perfection, and God requires perfection for any and all who would enter His presence. "Righteousness" is another word for that perfection that God requires to stand before Him, and it is that "righteousness" that is GIVEN to the believer through faith in Jesus Christ.  That IS the good news of the gospel of Jesus!

So the Psalmist gives praise to God for His love and faithfulness, a love and faithfulness that "endures forever!"  He calls those who know this one true God to say, "His love endures forever" (118:2,3,4).  Why?  Because "in my anguish I cried to the LORD, and He answered me by setting me FREE!” (118:5).  Why would the Psalmist use these words to describe what God had done for him?  Because he knew that he was NOT free … that his sin stood between him and God and made him a slave.  Once again, Paul contrasts those who are free in Christ and those who are not as he writes to believers in Romans in 6:22-23:  "But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life.  For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord."

Freedom from the guilt and power of sin to enslave you and to separate you from God is found only in Jesus Christ!  With the Psalmist we can say, " … in the name of the LORD I cut them off!!" (118:10,11,12).  And, "The LORD is my strength and my song; He has become my salvation.  Shouts of joy and victory resound in the tents of the righteous; 'The LORD's right hand has done mighty things!'" (118:14-15).  God has done in Jesus what we could not do.  Therefore, "I will not die but live, and will proclaim what the LORD has done" (118:17). That is the cry of every true believer!!  Jesus suffered God's wrath in my place and when I trust in Him HIS righteousness is "credited" to ME!!  God sees me as holy, as perfect …  IN Christ!!  I AM FREE!!!

My response??  "Open for me the gates of righteousness; I will enter and give thanks to the LORD.  This is the gate of the LORD through which the righteous may enter.  I will give you thanks, for you answered me; YOU have become my salvation" (118:19-21).  Whom could the writer be writing about? How has God BECOME our salvation?  What (who) is this "gate"?  Hear Jesus' words in John 10:7 and 9:  "I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep. … I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved."  Oh, how beautiful is the Word of God as you put the pieces together and rejoice in the One who alone can give you the righteousness you need!!

As if to leave no doubt as to who this ONE is, we read, "The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone; the LORD has done this and it is marvelous in our eyes" (118:22-23).  Translation:  " … you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through JESUS CHRIST.  For in Scripture it says: 'See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in HIM will never be put to shame.' Now to you who believe, this stone is precious.  But to those who do not believe, 'The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone'" (I Peter 2:5-7).  The Psalmist was writing about JESUS!!

Another reference to Jesus is found in 118:26:  "Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD."  The crowds cried out those words as Jesus rode into Jerusalem on the colt of a donkey shortly before His crucifixion.  And then verse 27:  "The LORD is God, and He has made His light shine upon us."  The fulfillment is explained in II Corinthians 4:6:  "For God, who said, 'Let light shine out of darkness,' made His light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ."  The Psalms, like the rest of Scripture, point to Jesus as the Savior, the One through whom and in whom we receive God's gift of righteousness.

"By one sacrifice He has made perfect (righteous) forever those who are being made holy" (Hebrews 10:14).  Are you FREE in Christ?  Free to live in righteousness and holiness, following the path of righteousness for His Name's sake?  THIS is the love of God!!  You cannot know the depth of God's love in Christ until you acknowledge your sin and your need to be set free.  The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the power of GOD for the salvation of all who believe in Jesus.  I pray that you, too, know the depth of God's love in Christ … the love that endures forever!!

"Almighty God, in Your great mercy You have made a way for sinners to be righteous in Your sight through faith in Your Son.  I praise You and thank You for Your grace to me in Christ Jesus.  I rejoice in YOU, my God, and pray that You would daily help me to understand the depth of Your love for me in Christ, that I may respond with joy and thanksgiving as I live in Your presence now and forever.  In Jesus' name, Amen"

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