Healing is God’s Justice
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Healing is God’s Justice
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WHAT REALLY HAPPENED AT THE FIRST CHRISTMAS? (page 1)

OPEN BEFORE CHRISTMAS Why should you take 10 minutes to read this? Because Christmas really matters… Really ***** What are we really to make of Christmas? In today’s culture Christmas takes the form of a celebration of whatever residual sense remains of the possibility that at some point in ages past, in a stable somewhere in the Middle East, something of perhaps real significance happened. Like the culture itself, the superstructure of the Christmas season maintains a semblance of health, but the foundation seems to have rotted out. As a result, for all the attention paid to Christmas, one would be hard pressed to discern from the attendant activities exactly what it was that at one time actually justified a celebration. Now, of course, many of us know the basics of the story, but we may not be sure what to really believe about it or what it all means at the end of the day. The angels before the shepherds heralded the Gospel – the Good News, but what exactly was it? We may even experience a curious sense of expectation leading up to Christmas Day, and we don’t quite know why – and because that expectation never seems to be fulfilled, we often seem to experience some type of letdown by the time it is over. All the fears and dread of what lies ahead for our world or our personal lives seem to come rushing back in, and we are right back to where we were before all the hoopla started. But if we can just take a moment to examine what really happened that first Christmas Day, we may be able to rediscover the magnificent Truth of what it is we should celebrate, and why a post-Christmas letdown should be a thing of the past, and the farthest thing in the world from our heart, mind and emotions. We might see that, as C.S. Lewis well knew, reality is much better understood as an utterly fantastic fairy tale than a science book, with good kings, mighty princes, despicable goblins, and wicked witches, because at its core, that’s what reality essentially is. In fact, after you read the brief discussion to follow, I hope you will agree that what really happened some 2000 years ago in that Middle Eastern stable has completely and eternally changed everything, and I mean everything, including your life and my life in the here and now, far, far more than any other event in history…, …if we really understood it. Reviewing the Basics – Our Predicament According to the Christmas story, some two centuries ago a baby born in a stable in Israel was actually an emissary sent to earth from God in heaven. Just let that sink in for a minute… - an emissary, a personal ambassador, a messenger, sent from God to earth. Obviously, if it is true, as stated above, then it must have been incredibly portentous and fraught with significance. That is the essence of Christmas – God, the Maker of Heaven and earth, the sun, the moon, and the stars, sent a representative from the Kingdom of Heaven to earth in human form. Certainly, that is no less fantastic than Superman arriving from the planet Krypton to save the earth – yet, according to the first Christmas accounts, this really happened. As Luke so pointedly notes at the outset of His gospel, where he painstakingly recounts to one under his tutelage the details of that first Christmas: “These things I am writing to you so that you may know the exact truth about the things you have been taught(!)” And, of course, Luke wrote so near to the actual event that most everything he said could be tested, and he knew it. Some thirty years later this messenger from the Kingdom of Heaven referred to Himself as “the One whom God has sent,” (can you imagine someone actually saying that!) and He further stated that it was absolutely critical for the world’s sake that it believe that he had, in fact, been sent from God. Otherwise, the world would not believe what He had to say, or the purpose of His visit… and the stakes, He explained, were very, very high. Given all the stress, sadness, oppression, craziness, and horror that surround us daily in this world, perhaps we ought to at least consider the possibility that it is true – that the God of all Creation really did send an emissary from Heaven to earth. And then try to understand the real reason why He was sent, because maybe it was intended to, and even has, thoroughly and finally addressed our deepest fears and  questions about the fate of this world, and our own origin, purpose, and destiny – all of which we so desperately struggle with now. The Sending Let’s think for a moment what it often means “to be sent” by another. A sending of one by another is in response to a situation that calls for action, often at the request of a third party. The one sent has been given a mission by the sender, an objective – to respond adequately to the situation that generated the request by the third party. Now, let’s break it down. Who was it who made the request of God to send help to address the fears, oppression, questions, and insecurities above-mentioned? The Scriptures say: “His people” – that “God has heard the cry of His people.” Who would that be and what was their cry? Well, have you ever cried out to God over something – for help or rescue or mercy, or freedom from physical or emotional torment? Or even more generally, for deliverance from our  basic predicament – our innate sense of guilt before Him, our fear of a final accounting for our lives, and our deep anxiety over the overwhelming nature of our circumstances, as finite beings in a universe of frightening scope, mystery, and danger? If so, then if you believed or choose to believe today after reading this that God in fact has responded to your cry by sending His emissary as a baby born in that Middle Eastern stable, then you are one of “His people.” The Fall But might we first ask – there is something terribly amiss here: why is it that people created by God are in a situation where they have to cry out to this same God for help? Has there perhaps been some sort of breach in the relationship, some sort of estrangement between God and His creatures on this earth, to the point where access to Him was compromised? Wow – if so, then that is monumental and needs to be properly factored into anyone’s understanding of reality, and, in fact, the Scriptures say very clearly: “Yes”, that is exactly what has occurred in ages past - an estrangement between God and man, and a very, very severe one at that. And the estrangement occurred with the first man, Adam, at the dawn of history. What happened was very simple – after he was given dominion and authority over the earth by God, and enjoyed the clear blessing and favor of God, Adam showed his thanks by engaging in mutiny. And this mutiny was actually orchestrated by a very powerful celestial being – a real, live Evil Prince who, himself, was heading up an ongoing mutiny against the Most High God by a host of related supernatural beings. Remember what was said above about the fairy tale nature of Truth? As with any mutiny, its essence was this: “We do not want this God, this King, to rule over us. (In fact, we would much prefer it if He would get lost or, better, was dead.) We want to do what we want – without His interference. Frankly, we each want to be the god of our own lives – we owe Him nothing. Period.” Because God is a good King, to understand the profound consequences of the breach, the unadulterated evil of this mutiny should not be underestimated. So that is the source of the estrangement – a full scale mutiny, nothing less than treason. And, unfortunately, although Adam thought he was to achieve freedom and fulfillment through his rebellion, instead he fell into bondage at the hands of the Chief Mutineer – Satan.  Adam had been conned. Not surprisingly, because of its obvious effectiveness, this same lie promising liberation and happiness as a result of independence from God is being pedalled to each and every one of us today through every available attitude-forming cultural vehicle – movies, TV shows, music, and all the rest. But what about the rest of us - all those like you and me who are merely descended from Adam. Are we painted with the same brush and considered by the Supreme Judge as mutineers and traitors also? Adam, the Scriptures say, was “constituted” a traitor at the moment of his rebellion,  and, unfortunately, that same traitorous nature is all he could pass onto his offspring – nothing more, nothing less. Of course, let’s be honest - as Adam’s offspring, our basic nature as rebels and our choice to continue in that mutiny is affirmed every day with every un-confessed and unrepentant sin or act of rebellion against God. It’s what we do AND what we are. Accordingly, the Scripture again notes: We are without excuse.”  (Rom. 1:20) Therefore, it is a most serious error to think that our résumé will hide the fact of our true nature, that we can escape condemnation because we think we have aced the exam. And that should be a very sobering thought, the Scripture again notes, because “it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the Living God.” (Hbr.10:31) There is only one determination to be made at the Great White Throne Judgment by the Most High God as described in the Book of Revelation, and it has nothing to do with the life we have led – it has to do with one thing and one thing only: His identification of you and me as either “Friend or Foe”. And He will look at only one thing in making this determination: what we, in fact, are by nature.… What, then, we might next ask, does heavenly justice require as the penalty for this treason? We know that secular justice requires death; it’s even written into our own Constitution. We should not be surprised, then, that heavenly justice is no different: in the next life, after we shed our physical body, what remains for all traitors is a sentence of everlasting death - punishment in Hell. Jesus was quite adamant about this. God will not shirk His responsibilities as the Judge of the Universe – there will be no grading on a curve. “The soul that sins, it shall die.” (Eze. 18:4) And in this life, heavenly justice also required the imposition of a Curse as the immediate consequence of Adam’s rebellion. The blessing and favor of God was gone and in exchange man inherited physical and emotional torment, disease, hurt, and want at the hands of a vicious overseer – the Chief Traitor, “the god of this world”, as Jesus Himself called Satan. Despite what we ourselves might think to the contrary, with our limited view of things, as we survey the frightening consequences of this mutiny, if God is just then the punishment fits the crime. (Of course, if God is not just, being finite creatures of His from whom we derive our concept of justice, we wouldn’t know it, as we have no independent basis from which to make that assessment.) Does God have to be just? If He were not just, He would not be good, and therefore He would not be true to Himself. Moreover, it is His duty as the Judge of all men to be just – at the end of the day, all just causes must ultimately be vindicated, all offences punished, or there would be no justice. If you had a just cause, would you want an unjust judge? Do you want a Kingdom where the King dispenses injustice? Of course not. God’s Problem So here, then, was the problem for man – by his own choice man found himself hopelessly enslaved to a corrupt nature and a supernatural Pharaoh in this life, and facing the holy wrath of God in the next. And despite the claims of religion – that we could make amends through our actions, there was absolutely nothing we could do to change our nature as traitors. “Can a leopard change his spots?” the Lord asked the prophet Jeremiah. But it was also God’s problem, because the Scripture says that, although He is just, God is also Love. Could God find a way to satisfy the intense longing of His own heart – to accomplish justice against the rebellion such that somehow, some way, despite being a rebel, man could survive to once again enjoy God’s favor, and be free from both eternal condemnation and the Curse in this life? Now that was a very tall order indeed...…
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