"As she stood looking at it, wondering why there was a lamp-post in the middle of a wood and wondering what to do next, she heard a pitter patter of feet coming toward her..." (C S Lewis, The Chronicles of Narnia)

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Justice and Mercy

I love this quote by Christmas Evans (1766-1838). He personifies the justice and mercy of God and how they must come together in the cross:

"An embassy of angels, commissioned from Heaven to some other world, paused at the sight; and Heaven forgave that pause. They saw Mercy standing by the gate, and they cried, ‘Mercy, canst thou not enter? Canst thou look upon that world and not pity? Canst thou pity and not relieve?’ And Mercy, in tears, replied, ‘I can see, and I can pity, but I cannot relieve.’ ‘Why dost thou not enter?’ inquired the heavenly host. ‘Oh,’ said Mercy, ‘Law has barred the gate against me, and I must not, and I cannot unbar it.’ And Law stood there watching the gate, and the angels asked of him, ‘Why wilt thou not suffer Mercy to enter?’ And he said, ‘No one can enter here and live;’ and the thunder of his voice outspoke the wailings within. Then again I heard Mercy cry, ‘Is there no entrance for me into this field of death? may I not visit these caverns of the grave; and seek, if it may be, to raise some at least of these children of destruction, and bring them to the light of day? Open, Justice, Open! drive back these iron bolts, and let me in, that I may proclaim the jubilee of redemption to the children of the dust!’ And then I heard Justice reply, ‘Mercy! surely thou lovest Justice too well to wish to burst these gates by force of arm, and thus to obtain entrance by lawless violence. I cannot open the door: I am not angry with these unhappy, I have no delight in their death, or in hearing their cries, as they lie upon the burning hearth of the great fire, kindled by the wrath of God, in the land that is lower than the grave. But without shedding of blood there is no remission.’

Thank God for the cross which satisfies God's justice and provides us the mercy of salvation! As we approach Good Friday and Easter, may we be reminded of God's love for sinners like us.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Gospel, defined

By God’s grace, I persevered through two years as a youth pastor when I began pastoral ministry. One of the great blessings of doing youth ministry was to recognize the need to be as simple and crystal clear as possible. Otherwise forget it, teenagers will eat your lunch. If I tried to skirt an issue, or beat around the bush, or was fuzzy in my own thinking, they would see it as naptime. Eventually, I learned to be direct. I would say to the teenagers, “If at the end of the day, after all is said and done, you do not know what the gospel is, I have failed you as a youth pastor. But if at the end of the day you do know what the gospel is, then I have succeeded. Yes, there is more to it than that, we are going to be learning how to love each other, and serve others, and build community together and learning how to understand the Bible, all of which are products of the gospel. But at the end of the day, the primary measure of my success as a youth pastor is whether or not you understand what the gospel is.” Hopefully till this day you could walk up to them and ask them, “What is the gospel?” and hear a simple short summary. Here it is, the gospel is this:
We are all sinners who stand under the judgment of God. But God in his grace has sent his son, Jesus Christ, to die in our place on the cross and to rise again, that whoever repents and believes in him will be saved.