In Evil Long I Took Delight #6

Friday, February 13, 2015

“To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus” (Romans 3:26 KJV).

The final verse of John Newton’s classic 1779 hymn “In Evil Long I Took Delight” highlights today’s Scripture.

“Thus, while His death my sin displays
In all its blackest hue,
Such is the mystery of grace,
It seals my pardon too.”

It is common today to see beautiful jewelry crosses hanging around people’s necks and arms. They give us a false impression of Calvary. It was not a pretty sight to see the Creator God hanging, suffering, and dying for people who hated Him with passion unspeakable. Calvary was a cruel hill where Father God’s wrath against our sin, was revealed. The same wrath that lost people are facing in hell right this moment, the wrath that they will experience throughout the endless ages to come, it was that wrath that was poured out on Jesus Christ at Calvary. There was no anesthetic or dilution. Yes, it was a dark, glum, terrible place, but in such circumstances of apparent weakness and defeat, there was the most amazing victory to ever “grace” the planet.

The glorious aspect of the doctrine of “vicarious atonement” is that Someone else made us “at-one-ment” with Almighty God. The God-Man, the Lord Jesus Christ, so graciously took our sin debt away because we had nothing with which to pay! Moreover, He did not merely get us out of spiritual debt (forgiveness), but His resurrection was the receipt that the debt was gone. There was not so much as one sin to hold Him in the grave. Hence, the Bible says He was “raised again for our justification” (Romans 4:25). It was with Jesus Christ resurrected that we were raised again and declared righteous. Never again will God “impute sin” to us who trust Christ alone (verse 8; cf. today’s Scripture). Our spiritual debt has been paid! We are now alive “to walk in newness of life.” Now, instead of delighting in evil, we can joy in our identity in Christ! What a concept! 🙂

In Evil Long I Took Delight #5

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus (Romans 3:24 KJV).

The fifth verse of John Newton’s classic 1779 hymn “In Evil Long I Took Delight” highlights today’s Scripture.

“A second look He gave, which said,
‘I freely all forgive;
This blood is for thy ransom paid;
I die that thou mayst live.’”

Our God-given conscience makes us aware of our daily sins (Romans 2:13-15). We also know that there is a Creator God whom we will face in judgment (Romans 1:17-20). What will we do with those sins when we stand before Him? Can we open our wallets and purses and pay off God? Would He let us into His heaven if we simply showed Him our church-membership card, or our baptism record, or our confirmation certificate, or our annual-giving receipt? Religious people have been taught, “Yes!” If they can just give God something good, they assume that He will be happy with them and give them the grace to do good and make up for their wrongs.

Saul of Tarsus learned all about the “value” (nothing!) of his religious performance before God: “[8] Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, [9] And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith:” (Philippians 3:8,9).

What are religious works before God? “Dung!” (How “flattering”—activity not done by faith in God’s Word to us is likened to waste product!) What are our righteousnesses before God? “As filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6)! God offers His forgiveness to us “freely by his grace” (absolutely no cost to us) because we have nothing with which to pay our sin debt (today’s Scripture). Jesus shed His sinless blood and died that we might be free from sin, redeemed, bought out of the slave market of sin. He shed His sinless blood and died, that we might truly live to not delight in evil….

In Evil Long I Took Delight #4

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

“For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly” (Romans 5:6 KJV).

The fourth verse of John Newton’s classic 1779 hymn “In Evil Long I Took Delight” highlights today’s Scripture.

“My conscience felt and owned the guilt,
And plunged me in despair,
I saw my sins His blood had spilt,
And helped to nail Him there.”

Throughout history, Jews have been derogatorily called “the Christ-killers.” While Scripture emphatically affirms Jews rejected their Messiah Jesus, it also says that Gentiles participated in Jesus’ death: Israel wanted the Lord Jesus dead and Rome carried out the death penalty (Psalm 2:1-3; cf. Acts 4:25-28). Calvary was a national and an international conspiracy. Not only so, it was a personal issue—we all played a role in Calvary. It was our sins that sent Jesus Christ to that awful cross: as it is said, “Our hands held the hammers that drove the spikes into His hands and feet!”

It was in God’s grand design to use Israel’s rejection of Messiah and Rome’s rejection of Messiah to bring about the death of Messiah: “For to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done (Acts 4:28). “Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain” (Acts 2:23). Now, with Paul’s revelation, we can see the full picture (what God saw all along but only now discloses to us): “[Jesus Christ] Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God” (Romans 3:25). It was Father God who ultimately killed Jesus Christ, who shed His blood for our forgiveness (Colossians 1:14).

Rather than beating ourselves up with guilt and shame, we need to trust Jesus Christ’s finished crosswork where He took our guilt and shame and covered them with His sinless blood. No, He did not die for the righteous, but for the weak and ungodly (today’s Scripture). He died for us, those who, like Saul of Tarsus, delight in evil….

In Evil Long I Took Delight #3

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

“I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost, That I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart. For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh” (Romans 9:1-3 KJV).

The third verse of John Newton’s classic 1779 hymn “In Evil Long I Took Delight” highlights today’s Scripture.

“Sure, never to my latest breath,
Can I forget that look;
It seemed to charge me with His death,
Though not a word He spoke.”

Beloved, there has never been—and will never be—a more drastic conversion than when Saul of Tarsus met Jesus Christ on the road to Damascus (Acts chapter 9). Formerly lost, once dead in his sins, and formerly on his way to hell, he was now saved from those sins, now alive in Jesus Christ, and now on his way to heaven. Previously Israel’s—and the world’s—leader against Jesus Christ, Saul of Tarsus (as the Apostle Paul) became the most useful servant of Jesus Christ. What a transformation God’s grace can bring when trusted!

Until his dying day, the Apostle Paul never forgot from where he came. Throughout the book of Acts and his epistles, he makes reference to the spiritual slums in which he once lived. For instance, he wrote, “For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another (Titus 3:3). That was Saul—that was we!

In today’s Scripture, Paul had such a desire to see lost Israel saved, the nation whose fall before God he had greatly encouraged. “Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved” (Romans 10:1). Throughout his ministry, he witnessed the unbelief and spiritual insanity of the wayward nation out of which God had saved him. How it broke his heart to remember that he had been a Pharisee so fervently against Jesus, highly influential in encouraging Israel to reject Him, responsible for Rome sentencing Him to death. Having met Jesus Christ face-to-face, Saul would delight in evil no more….

In Evil Long I Took Delight #2

Monday, February 9, 2015

“But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ” (Philippians 3:7 KJV).

The second verse of John Newton’s classic 1779 hymn “In Evil Long I Took Delight” highlights today’s Scripture.

“I saw One hanging on a tree,
In agony and blood,
Who fixed His languid eyes on me,
As near His cross I stood.”

Saul of Tarsus, a proud, self-righteous religionist “verily thought with [himself], that [he] ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth” (Acts 26:9). He saw Jesus as an imposter, a blasphemer. Figuring that he was doing JEHOVAH a favor by putting all those Jesus-lovers to death, Saul decided that all of His followers had to be punished! Yes, so infatuated with his religion, he was willing to physically eliminate “competition” at whatever the cost.

One of the most learned Mosaic scholars of his day, Saul had it all—religion, education, fame, and fortune. The context of today’s Scripture describes him perfectly: “[4]… If any other man thinketh that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more: [5] Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee; [6] Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.”

Outside of Damascus’ city gates, Saul lost it all (or, rather, he realized he was destitute of what really mattered!). He heard JEHOVAH speak to him audibly, “Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? I am Jesus whom thou persecutest” (Acts 9:4,5). Imagine how overwhelming the shock was—the God he thought he was serving was the Jesus he was persecuting! It was in today’s Scripture that he remembered these events of all those years ago (over 30, actually). He gained it all in religion only to lose it all in Christ—he lost his religious “goodness” and gained Jesus Christ’s righteousness by faith! In that doctrine revealed to him, he saw and trusted the efficacy of Christ’s finished crosswork as total payment for his sins. Saul of Tarsus took his eyes off of himself and looked to Jesus….

Our latest Bible Q&A: “Should I be concerned about the four ‘blood moons?’

In Evil Long I Took Delight #1

Sunday, February 8, 2015

“And I persecuted this way unto the death, binding and delivering into prisons both men and women… and went to Damascus, to bring them which were there bound unto Jerusalem, for to be punished. And it came to pass, that, as I made my journey, and was come nigh unto Damascus about noon, suddenly there shone from heaven a great light round about me” (Acts 22:4-6 KJV).

The first verse of John Newton’s classic 1779 hymn “In Evil Long I Took Delight” highlights today’s Scripture.

“In evil long I took delight,
Unawed by shame or fear,
Till a new object struck my sight,
And stopped my wild career.”

While some of us trusted Jesus Christ as our personal Saviour at a very early age, others among us did not do so until well into their earthly life. Saul of Tarsus was of the latter type. Blinded by religious fanaticism, today’s Scripture says that Saul did not think twice about using his prominent position in Israel’s religion to do away with every single Jesus-adherent. If it meant personally tracking down and literally dragging back to Jerusalem every last Jewish man and woman who had trusted Jesus as Messiah, Saul was all for it. He would have them imprisoned and then slaughtered! There was no shame, no fear, just religious zeal and delight (has religion changed at all since then?).

One day (Acts chapter 9), Saul left Jerusalem (the last time as a lost man), bound for Damascus up north, ever so eager to capture the Messianic Jews who had sought refuge there. Jesus Christ Himself stared down from the third heaven, watching every move of Saul en route to Syria. When Saul was just outside the city of Damascus, Jesus Christ made a surprise appearance and “captured” Saul before he could capture His saints. A mighty light shown from heaven—a light so intense that Saul is actually struck to the ground; Jesus Christ has permanently ended that worthless ministry! Now humbled, Saul sees something so much better than his vain works-religion; he sees Jesus Christ, the Saviour of sinners, of whom Saul is chief….