Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Devotions from Lord's Day 5

Propitiation

12 Q. According to God’s righteous judgment we deserve punishment both in this world and forever after: how then can we escape this punishment and return to God’s favor?

A. God requires that his justice be satisfied. Therefore the claims of his justice must be paid in full, either by ourselves or another.

Romans 3:23-25a

God is just. Everything he does is right and fair. He created us and therefore we answer to him as our judge. When he judges, he judges with perfect justice. Abraham, who was called the man of faith and the friend of God, knew this. Abraham said, “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?” (Gen. 18:25).

But God’s justice creates a problem for sinners. According to God’s justice, sinners must be punished for their sin. God cannot simply overlook his own justice. He must be true to who he is, and he is just.

So how does God remain just and yet save us from his righteous judgment? The answer is the cross of Christ. Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, according to Romans 3:25, was a propitiation. This word means that Jesus took the judgment and punishment our sins deserved. In taking our punishment, Jesus satisfied God’s justice. God remains just, because his people’s sins have been punished through the sacrifice of his beloved Son!

Now that God’s justice has been met, united to Christ we now have God’s favor and blessing! If we have received Jesus as our Lord by faith, then the favor and blessing God has toward his Son is now shared by us! God showed that he was pleased with Jesus when he raised him from the dead. United to Christ, we now share in this favor the Son has with the Father. The reason we delight in the cross as Christians is because it was there that Jesus changed God’s wrath to favor---his judgment to blessing!

Discussion: Explain the word propitiation in terms of God’s wrath and favor. Upon whom did the wrath of God fall? Upon whom does the favor of God now rest? Why is the word propitiation such a happy word for Christians?

Prayer Starter: In your prayer thank God for the fact that he is just, and yet has found a way to save us from our sins without compromising his justice. Pray for a person you know who needs Christ.


Our Unpayable Debt

13 Q. Can we pay this debt ourselves?

A. Certainly not. Actually, we increase our guilt every day.

2) Scripture

Matthew 18:21-35

Do you hear what the catechism is saying in Q&A 13? It says that our sin and guilt keep piling up each day of our lives. Think of a landfill where they bring trash. Each day more and more trash comes in on the trucks. The pile keeps getting bigger and bigger. Or think of someone in debt, who has no ability to pay the debt. Each day the debt keeps getting larger and larger as the interest on the debt grows.

Jesus tells a parable about a man who could not pay his enormous debt. In a parable, each of the main characters stands for someone else. In this parable the king stands for Jesus. The servants stand for Christ’s disciples. The unforgiving servant stands for a professing disciple, but a man who is not a true disciple of Christ.

In the parable, the unforgiving servant is forgiven his huge, unpayable debt. This debt was over 3 billion dollars in today’s terms! This debt is like the debt of sin and guilt every believer is forgiven if he truly belongs to Christ! Our debt of sin and guilt against God is much greater than we realize! It is way too big for us to pay ourselves!

But in the parable, the unforgiving servant shows that he was not truly Christ’s disciple, because he failed to forgive others. The unforgiving servant was unwilling to forgive a man who owed him only about five thousand dollars, after he had been forgiven billions of dollars by the king!

Christ’s forgiveness of our sins is incredibly great! We have been forgiven far more than we realize. Our debt of sin against God is a huge amount that reaches to the heavens, but God’s love reaches even higher (see Psalm 36:5 or Psalm 103:11-12). God has forgiven us our enormous debt in Christ. It was way too much for us to pay, but God’s eternal Son could pay it, and did pay it at the cross. Now that we are forgiven so much, we should be willing to forgive the comparatively small sins/debts of others against us!

Discussion: 10,000 talents of gold is equal to 750,000 pounds, which comes to over 3 billion dollars. Why does Jesus make this amount so great in his parable? A soldier or laborer made about 12,ooo dollars in a year, so the debt owed to the unmerciful servant was about $5,000. Why such a small amount in comparison to the debt the servant was forgiven? Why must forgiveness of others and compassion be essential characteristics of Christians?

Prayer Starter: In your prayer thank God for forgiving your great debt of sin through Christ. Ask him to help you to appreciate how much he has forgiven you. Confess your lack of forgiveness toward others. Pray for yourself and your fellow believers that we would forgive others even as we have been forgiven.


The True Lamb of God who Takes Our Place

14 Q. Can another creature---any at all---pay this debt for us?

A. No. To begin with, God will not punish another creature for what a human is guilty of. Besides, no mere creature can bear the weight of God’s eternal anger against sin and release others from it.

John 1:29-36

In the Old Testament many animals were offered as sacrifices for sin. When a person came to the temple with one of their sheep, they would place their hands on the animal’s head and confess their sins. Then they would take the knife and slit the animal’s throat, so that the animal would die.

You can imagine how hard this was, especially if the sheep had been raised by you and your family. Maybe for the last year you fed this lamb and raised it. Your children played with the little lamb. This animal was almost like a member of your family. But then came the day when you went to the temple with the lamb and sacrificed it for the forgiveness of your sins.

When you confessed your sins and killed the lamb you were agreeing with God that your sins deserve the penalty of death. In the very beginning, the Lord said, “In the day that you eat of it you shall surely die” (Gen. 2:17). The Lord says in Romans 6:23 that “the wages of sin is death.” The lamb that was sacrificed took your place---the place you deserved because of your sins.

All of these Old Testament offerings pointed to Jesus, who is the true lamb of God. Sheep or goats or oxen could never truly pay for sins, because sin is committed by humans, not animals. Ultimately the one who takes our place as a sacrifice must be human, not an animal, nor even an angel. Human nature sinned, so the sacrifice that pays for our sins must be that of a human being.

But how dear Jesus is! If it tugs at our heart to kill a lamb, how much more it should tug at our hearts that Jesus died for us! How precious he was to the Father! He is the Father’s beloved Son. And, how we should love him too! He is our Lamb of God, who takes away, not only the sins of the world, but our sins too!

Discussion: What happened in the Old Testament when a sheep was brought to the temple? Do you think a lamb raised for a year by a family might become dear to a family? How dear should Jesus, the true Lamb of God, be to us?

Prayer Starter: In your prayer thank your heavenly Father for sending his beloved Son to take your place. Pray for the opportunity to tell the good news to someone who needs to hear the good news that Jesus died for the forgiveness of sins.

The Lord is Holy, Fully Just

To the tune QUEBEC (http://www.hymnary.org/hymn/PsH/307 or http://www.hymnary.org/hymn/CCEH/72). Based on Lord’s Day 5 and 6 of the Heidelberg Catechism, Q&A 12-18 (related Westminster Shorter Catechism Q&A 85, 19-21). Words: Bill Weber, 2010.

v. 1
The Lord is holy, fully just.
If He gave us what sin deserves,
we would be judged, condemned to hell,
we would not have eternal life.

v. 2
Our debt grows greater day by day,
increasing guilt, we cannot pay.
The law of God reveals our sin;
shows our corruption deep within.

v. 3
Who can save us from guilt and sin?
We need one fully God and man,
One who is who is righteous, without sin,
One who could pay our debt to Him.

v. 4
Jesus is fully God and man.
He came to pay what we did owe.
He bore God’s anger at our debt.
In Jesus, God and man do meet.

v. 5
Christ died to give us righteousness,
and bring us near unto our God.
Through Him we can be justified.
Through Him we enter into life.

v. 6
How can we ever thank this Lord,
who came from heaven down to earth?
Then in our nature died for us,
and righteousness imputes to us.

v. 7
Let us believe and trust in Christ;
live near the Father and the Son;
walk in the Spirit, learn God’s ways;
Seek first his kingdom all our days.


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