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Weekly Message 03-07-10: Gift Of God

Gift Of God

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is
eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord

Romans 6: 23.

Our Creator God is judge and since He is perfectly just, all his actions must serve the universal law of justice. And of course, by our own choice, we are the prisoners. We all deserve the death sentence because we are guilty of numerous sins: "All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God." But in his fairness, our God judges our sin with realistic punishment, "The wages of sin is death." It was our choice and He cannot invade our sovereignty. In reality, however, He cannot allow imperfect sin to inhabit perfect heaven, that state without a spot of uncleanness, a thought of wrongdoing or charge of guilt.

In a supreme act of mercy our heavenly Father displayed divine favor and forbearance to guilty offenders. He took our punishment upon himself That is what the Saviour accomplished for us. By his sacrifice all who put their trust in him are declared "not guilty" upon repentance. Freedom is granted them. That is true mercy and grace!

"He who did not spare his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall He not with him also freely give us all things" Romans 8: 32? If our God rejoices over the smallest one who is finally found and freed, how can we possibly be indifferent to those our God earnestly cares for? We are called upon to give up even our lives for one of these little ones. How many times we look upon them as lost and contemptible? Then it is even more important that we do everything we can to preserve them for the treasury of heaven. Even the Lord leaves ninety­nine sheep; and goes after the lost one. He took advantage of the safety of so many to prevent the loss of just one. St. Luke even tells us He brought the lost one home on his shoulders. And "There is no greater joy over one sinner that repents, than over ninety nine just persons." By his leaving momentarily the saved ones and by his taking more pleasure in this lone one, He shows how greatly He values the lost soul who is found, the abysmal soul who repents. So our attitude must be that carelessness about profligate souls is dangerous, for the sake of our neighbor we cannot refuse to do any of the tasks that seem lowly and troublesome. Although we have to do the service for someone small and perhaps by appearances, shabby, although the work is hard and we must pass over mountains and valleys, endure everything for our neighbor's salvation, we must jump eagerly at the chance, embrace the opportunity because a soul is so important to God that He does not even spare his own Son.

"For I was resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified" I Corinthians 2: 2. We must be mindful of the privileged life we have undertaken and set always before us the remembrance of the Crucified. Truly we should feel a definite sense of shame as we look upon the life of our Lord because we have not yet seriously endeavored to conform our own living to him, though we have been a long time in the way of our God. The serious and sincere person who exercises himself seriously and devoutly in the most holy life and passion of our Lord shall find there abundantly all things that are profitable and necessary; neither is there need in attempting to seek anything better beyond Jesus Christ. If we permit the crucified Christ to enter our hearts, how quickly and completely should we learn all that we need to know!

Unquestionably, our Lord evokes many images in the minds of people. Some picture him as an Infant in a manger because this suits their sentimentality best. Others picture him as a child growing up, perhaps living in the house of a carpenter or confounding the religious leaders of Jerusalem. Many picture him as a compassionate and powerful healer who restores the sick and raises the dead. Still others picture a bold and fiery preacher expounding the Word of God to great eager crowds. And there are those who see him as the consummate man, a model of goodness, kindness, sympathy, concern, care, tenderness, forgiveness, wisdom and understanding.

Yet the one image of Christ that seems to surpass all the rest is Jesus Christ on the cross. To know Christ crucified is to know him as the author and finisher of our faith, the truest picture of his person, life and purpose and work. The suffering of our Lord on the cross is the focal point of our blessed faith simply because that is where his divinity, humanity, vocation and suffering redemption are most clearly seen and understood.

"I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me" Galatians 2: 20. If a single sin is so awful that we think it is safer not even to aim for a holy life, how much more awful is it for an entire life to practice sin, and remain absolutely ignorant of the purer way! How can we in our indulgent life, obey the Crucified? How can we obey the example of Paul when he urges us " present your body as a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God" when instead we are just about perfectly conformed to the values of this world? How can we save our souls when we are not attempting to be transformed by renewing our minds? How can we achieve our own salvation when we are not walking in the newness  of life, but still pursuing the routine of the old man that should have been left behind and forgotten, and abandoned? Does all this seem insignificant, being crucified with Christ, presenting ourselves as a sacrifice to God, becoming a literal priest to the most high God, making ourselves worthy for the Almighty to look upon? What greater blessings can we imagine for ourselves if we make light of the consequences of all these expectations? St. Gregory Nyssa insists, "The inevitable consequences of being crucified with Christ is that we will live with him, be glorified with him and reign forever with him."

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