BC / AD / AC
I do not know about you – but, in my life I see two definite and distinctive phases.
The first phase was a kind of anything goes, “life is good,” Robert’s in charge time that I’ll tell you, and often remind myself was BC – Before Christ. For reasons, many of you would relate to, –thankfully that phase is in the past and I am now in the AC, not AD, but AC – After Christ – phase of my life.
AIR CONDITIONING – GOD SAVES US
For most of us AC has another meaning – Air Conditioning. There is an aspect, especially relevant at this time of year in Destin, Florida, of air conditioning in the After Christ circumstances of my life. If you have been going to church for a while you can already guess what it is.
Accepting Jesus as my Savior and recognizing His Lordship of my life has as one of its many results that I get to spend eternity with Him in a sort of climate controlled paradise.
The scripture makes it clear that if I had gone on in the Robert’s in charge phase of my life then my final destination would have been a place of completely different ambience.
Romans 6:23 says
“For the wages of sin is death…”
Jesus says in Mark 9:47-48
“…if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell, where “‘their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.’”
These are strong warnings about what is to come upon us. They do not apply to someone else but to both me and to you reading this.
In Romans 3:23 we can read for ourselves:
” for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,”
But I thank God that He did not leave me (or you) to the death and the fires of Hell that my sinful life had determined for me (for us.) Because of His love God sent His Only Begotten Son, Jesus, who became one of us, lived without sin, was sacrificed on a wooden cross, becoming a curse, to pay the price of your and my sin by His death, and then by the power of God He rose from the grave, throwing the burial clothes off, defeating death and changing both my, and your, future –
In the second part of Romans 6:23 it says,
“…but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
ALTERNATING CURRENT – THE POWER OF GOD TO SAVE AND NOW POWER FOR TODAY
This is good news. The good news. But, – not that there needs to be, there is more.
From time to time we have contractors working here on our church campus. Not that I intend to – sometimes I confuse them. I grew up in an era before the common use of central air conditioning. Hard to believe, I know. However very true and, in my day AC had a completely different meaning – than Air Conditioning. AC meant Alternating Current.
Alternating Current is a type of electricity. It is the kind of electricity we get from a wall outlet. Its what makes the lights in the room you are sitting in work. When I say AC to a contractor this is what I mean. But of course they usually think I am talking about Air Conditioning – and look around to see what I am talking about. I am really telling them about an electrical outlet that hasn’t worked since it was installed, but the contractor is looking for an air-conditioning unit that does not exist. Communication can be tough!
But anyway, When I think of the AC phase of my life I am reminded of the power of God.
As a consequence of my acceptance of what Jesus has done for me on the cross; and a result of my praying that He forgive my rebellion and sin, and my asking that He take Lordship of the life – He gave me in the first place, God’s power moved me from death to life in Him.
But at the same time He did more for me and for you too. He gave us NOW POWER to live and overcome in this life, in the world, too.
Second Timothy 1:7 says
“For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline.”
Jesus says in John 16:33
” … In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.””
Paul tells the Corinthians in his first letter to them, chapter 10, verse 13
” … God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.”
This is really good news and I am sure news that is quite familiar to many of you.
Jesus tells us that He came to give us LIFE.
You may remember what Jesus said as reported by John in John 10:10
” … I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”
God has given us now power to live now as well as delivered us from the stranglehold of death.
David exclaimed in Psalm 27:13
” I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord In the land of the living.”
SOMETIMES THE AC (POWER) GOES OUT
I too would be in despair if God saved us from death so that we could live with Him in eternity and then abandoned us to live out the remainder of a life here in the fallen world on our own. It would be like telling a terminally ill patient good news -your suffering will be over when you finally die in two or three years but in the mean time there is nothing we can do. and then
Explaining, you will have to somehow cope with intense pain, and crippling and progressive disability; there is no medication or treatment that will help to improve your condition or make your suffering less severe.
WOW! How cruel that would be!
But, if I am completely honest with myself, and with you, sometimes it feels just like that is exactly what has happened to me. I know that the Scripture promises that God will never leave me or forsake me, I know Jesus promised to be with us always, “even, unto the end of the age.” I know these things then in the midst of some difficulty out of nowhere the darkness sets in and
Sometimes it feels as if the AC (power) has gone out! and I wonder to myself where I missed God, what did I do to get off the path??
I awake in the middle of the night and the blackness of my (forgiven) sinful past over takes me. The troubles of the world begin to overwhelm me. My heart starts to melt as I recognize that my mortgage is now larger than the value of my home. I begin to despair as I wonder about the father I am to my son, and what kind of husband I am to my wife. There is so much more I could be for them. Doubt begins to take me on its destructive ride. And I look for God – but think for a minute why would He save me, sinner that I am? In spite of all my earnest effort not to sin I still fail and fall far short. In anguish I utter the words of my hopelessness, OUT-LOUD
“My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me?”
and the words echo in my ears.
I have exclaimed these words as a man living amidst the comfort of 21 Century America. I have exclaimed these words while, faithfully as I am able, serving a wonderful congregation of God’s people, having a healthy and beautiful family, and living in a fantastic place. In the midst of great blessing I have felt the wrenching agony of thinking I had abandoned God by some act of known or unknown transgression, by some act of taking matters into my own hand instead of waiting on God. I have wondered in utter dismay if He had abandon me because of it.
Have you ever felt these words echoing inside your mind? Have you ever had the courage, or perhaps you consider it irreverence, to utter these awful, hopeless, words?
Have you ever trespassed into the dark night when you thought you had been abandoned by God?
If you have, there is hope, I am going to tell you two stories from Scripture about men who said these very words. If you have never had this black fear overtake you – I hope you will hear this anyway because it is nearly certain that at some point the test will come upon you.
In Psalm 22 verse 1 and 2 we read the following words of King David:
“My God, my God, why have You forsaken me? Far from my deliverance are the words of my groaning. O my God, I cry by day, but You do not answer; And by night, but I have no rest.”
DAVID’S BACK STORY
You may be familiar with the story of David. It is at the heart of our Scripture. The full account of David’s life is found in First and Second Samuel, and in First Chronicles.
We can learn much of David and Our God from reading the Psalms many of which were put down on paper by David as God moved him to write.
We do not have time to account the full story of King David. But we do need to remind ourselves of some of the highlights of his story in order to understand the agony that brought him to utter the words of hopelessness.
We discover in Chapter 8 of First Samuel that the people of Israel wanted to have a king over them. They asked Samuel the prophet to provide one. Samuel was not at all happy over the request but essentially God told him to relax about it and that He would appoint a man to be king over Israel. In the course of time Samuel is led to a man named Saul of the tribe of Benjamin and instructed by God to anoint him as King over Israel.
Almost immediately Saul strays off course and God rejects him as king and in First Samuel 15:22 and 23 we read,
“Has the Lord as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices As in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, And to heed than the fat of rams. … Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, He has also rejected you from being king.”
Leaving Saul in his place the Lord then instructs Samuel to go to the town of Bethlehem and seek out Jesse. God tells Samuel that He has selected a king from amongst Jesse’s sons.
Samuel arrives at the home of Jesse and after rejecting all the other, older, sons God instructs Samuel to anoint David the last and youngest as King.
In First Samuel 13 verse 14 a prophesy says of him,
“…The LORD has sought out for Himself a man after His own heart, and the LORD has appointed him as ruler over His people…”
Strangely, after being anointed as the chosen King of Israel David returns to his duties tending his father’s sheep. And while Saul is still king in name and office and in the eyes of Israel, the scripture tells that God has removed His anointing from him and given it to David.
It is great irony then that when Saul is beset by an evil spirit that drives him to the verge of madness that his household servants recommend that he send for David, son of Jesse, to play music to sooth him. Saul does as they suggest and David’s playing is indeed healing to Saul.
It is sometime later as the army of Israel is faced with an enemy, literally, a giant, by the name of Goliath, that David begins to garner fame by his actions. We see his God heart as he approaches the great warrior with only a sling and five smooth stones for a weapon.
in 1 Samuel 17:45-47 it says
“Then David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with a sword, a spear, and a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have taunted.
“This day the Lord will deliver you up into my hands, and I will strike you down and remove your head from you. And I will give the dead bodies of the army of the Philistines this day to the birds of the sky and the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, and that all this assembly may know that the Lord does not deliver by sword or by spear; for the battle is the Lord’s and He will give you into our hands.”
We all know the result – Goliath is defeated. David is given one of the daughters of King Saul in marriage as reward. However upon Goliath’s defeat the fame of David begins to spread throughout the land. King Saul is greatly threatened by this and makes several attempts to kill David. After long effort to prove to Saul that he is a loyal servant of the king David is forced to flee the court and begins to live in the wilderness. The rejects of society soon join him there.
For years upon years Saul’s army pursues David and his followers in the wilderness, looking for him so they can kill him. There are unsuccessful. On two occasions Saul unknowingly is in the power of David yet David is unwilling to kill him saying to his men, “far be it from me to touch the Lord’s anointed.” At one point David even pretends to be insane while among the Philistines and finally he moves his family and all his followers to Philistine territory to escape the attacks of Saul.
It is during the despair of these times that it is thought David wrote Psalm 22. He knows that God has called him and placed His hand upon him and that God has thus far protected him and provided for him. Yet he and all of his family and followers are pursued and continually threatened with destruction.
David cries out “My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me…” at the height of his agony, in the grip of his confusion, having not seen the deliverance of the Lord his God and caught in the middle of dark doubt as perhaps he wondered if his belief in God had all been fantasy.
When you study the detail of this story (and I hope you do) you will see that David was a man who sought earnestly after God. Before every action he inquired as to God’s will for him and dared not make a move before he knew that will. David had ample evidence that God was with him and would ultimately bring the promises He had made to him to pass. He had seen God act in so much. Yet, doubt rose up, and perhaps on the eve of deliverance David cried out, “My God, why hast thou forsaken me…” Then David’s deliverance came. It was sudden. Saul was killed in battle – and David became King over Judah, then eventually all Israel.
Was there any shred of real doubt in the man David as he cried out to God? I wonder if there was any of the same doubt I face as I too cry out wondering if my transgression has doomed me, wondering if God has indeed forsaken me? God is so holy and so different from us, maybe we have misunderstood??? I believe that David just like us experienced doubt. Scripture confirms that he was just human, like you and I. As a man he was deeply guilty of the same sins that besets us all. He committed adultery. He was a murderer. His parenting methods leave something to be desired. He disobeyed God by taking a census of the people. He had a vengeful streak and in fact passed his personal vendetta on to the next generation via Solomon when he made him king. Unlike you and I, David probably broke all of the Ten commandments.
Yet in spite of all of this humanness God called him a man after His own heart. His deliverance was complete. His reign over Israel was the nations golden age. By God’s promise his throne was established forever. And through his descendant Mary, Jesus The Christ, Savior of the world was born among us.
God’s incredible AC (power) was certainly operating in David’s life.
Remember this as you consider the plight that has driven you to your knees in agony, confessing, fervently, “My God, My God, Why Hast Thou Forsaken Me???”
Remember too that there is another in Scripture who utters these words with us.
“Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” (/sab·akh·than·ee/)
that is, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” Matthew 27:46
These are the words of Jesus, The Son of God, our Savior and Lord, as He hung on the cross at about the ninth hour of THAT day, THE DAY.
I know why I have cried out to God, pleading, asking Him if He has forsaken me, even asking Him if He exists! I know why I would wonder from time to time why God would care about me, just one of billions, with all of my rebellion and disrespect on the scales weighing against me. I know why David would cry out to God as he did. I understand why even after his deliverance from the hand of Saul and God’s establishment of the eternal throne of David, that David would say in 2 Samuel 7:18-19
“Who am I, O Sovereign Lord, and what is my family, that you have brought me this far? And as if this were not enough in your sight, O Sovereign Lord, you have also spoken about the future of the house of your servant.
(amazed David exclaims)
Is this your usual way of dealing with man, O Sovereign Lord?
You and I, and David have not seen God. We know of him from preaching and perhaps from study of the scripture. We have heard His promises and perhaps have seen Him take action in our lives. We believe because of faith. Faith can sometimes be fragile. So sometimes we cry out! Sometimes we are afraid even though Jesus tells us not to fear more than he tells us anything else. Even those who walked with Jesus cried out in fear when the storm came upon them. As Jesus was asleep in the back of the boat, curled up with the nets, they cried, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!” (Matthew 8:25)
I can understand us and David, and perhaps the Disciples.
But Jesus – Jesus’ cry takes these words to a whole different level.
Jesus is God. Yes, as Son, part of the trinity, born amongst humanity, He had Faith in the Father – But Jesus is God. Yet He cries out, “My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me?” just as you and I have done and just as David did. Do you think Jesus lost faith? Perhaps there is something deeper at work here in the circumstances and in these words.
HE BECAME SIN
I want to note something Paul says to us in Second Corinthians chapter 5 verse 21,
“He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”
The Scripture tells us that God is holy and will not tolerate the presence of sin. So as this event occurred God withdrew from the Son completely. Now I believe Jesus to be the only one to ever walk among our race that has experienced this total withdrawal of God. Hell is described as the place where there is no presence of God and no possibility of relationship with God for any of its inhabitants. The Scripture implies if not outright says that God the Son has been with us always. So God has always been present at least in some way with us from the beginning of time down to this very day. We have not ever experienced the complete absence of God.
Jesus, Son of God, was always with God, face to face, from before the beginning of time, eternally.
Now suddenly at three in the afternoon on the 14th of Nissan 3,750 (old Hebrew Calendar) Jesus is hanging on a cross, the sin of the world is supernaturally poured out upon Him and He owns it.
In that instant the Father God, rejects the sin and human Jesus who carries it. No other person has ever experienced the depth of this rejection.
Jesus cries out, “My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me.?”
One of the onlookers soaks a sponge, in sour wine, sticks a branch of the hyssop tree though it, lifts it to Jesus’ lips and gives Him a drink. (see John 19 for the hyssop reference.)
Jesus cries out again. “It is accomplished.” John 19:30 (New Jerusalem Bible) strongs – greek = τελέω [teleo /tel·eh·o/
after this in Luke 23:46 we read – “Jesus called out…”Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit.” When He had said this, he breathed His last.”
The lights went out. The alternating current of God left Jesus and our world at the same time. Luke reports “…darkness came over the whole land… for the sun stopped shining.” 23:44 & 45
The sun stopped shining
this is not an ordinary, natural kind of darkness. There is nothing ordinary or natural about any of this. Fortunately the AC did not stay off for very long – if it had I would not be writing and you would not be reading this post right now. We all know what happened next. The grave could not hold Jesus.
WORDS THAT HEAL THE RIFT AND RECONCILE US TO GOD
It would be valid to understand the cry of Jesus, “My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me?” as simply an expression of His utter agony at the sudden loss of face-to- face communion with the Father. There is at least one other way to look at it and I have finally gotten around to my real point.
Many have said that Jesus was quoting David in Psalm 22. What if David were really quoting Jesus? Hard to swallow? Listen to Jesus recorded for us by Mark in chapter 12 verse 35 through 37,
“How is it that the teachers of the law say that the Christ is the son of David? 36 David himself, speaking by the Holy Spirit, declared: “‘The Lord said to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand until I put your enemies under your feet.”’ David himself calls him ‘Lord.’ How then can he be his son?” The large crowd listened to him with delight.”
What if, in that moment on the cross, all who look forward to the Christ of God from before that pivotal day, and all who look back to the Christ of God from every day since, supernaturally meet on the Cross in Jesus, IN AN ETERNAL MOMENT, as the curse of sin is destroyed?
Perhaps as Jesus speaks these words they transform His forsakenness into our hope
FORSAKENNESS – FOR US A FIST STEP INTO THE KINGDOM OF GOD
My God, My God, Why hast thou forsaken me? These words echo from the cross throughout eternity as they heal the rift between humanity and God. The earth shook then and still reverberates today as these words work ultimately to heal the fallen universe. We can rejoice in them because with out being forsaken there could be no deliverance.
For Jesus being forsaken was the final step. He lived a flawless life completely obedient to His Father. He did not do or say anything unless instructed to by the Father. He told us that He came not to judge the world but to save it. In the final moments of His human life He accomplished His mission by taking the sin of the world into Himself and being forsaken of God. At least for a moment
– but what a moment – a moment that in a real sense lasts until the culmination of all things. Jesus took and paid for the sins we committed today and Jesus will take and pay the price for the sins we commit tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow, until He comes at the end of time.
Just after He uttered our words he said, “It is finished.” and breathed His last. Mission accomplished. His being forsaken, working throughout time to restore both us, and the fallen universe to God.
WE JOIN JESUS IN HIS DEATH AND RESURRECTION
For you and I – becoming aware of our forsakenness before God is the first step. As we first recognize our desperate circumstances and then accept God’s solution – in some sense – we join Christ on the cross and die with Him. Paul says in Romans 6:3
“Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?”
Then in some sense we are raised with Him into a new life, which is eternal life. Paul again tells in Romans 6:4-5
“We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection.”
A NEW LIFE
David, too, talks of his being forsaken leading to new life in Psalm 119 verse 67,
“Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I obey your word.”
and in verse 71
“It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees.”
and Paul talks of the new life in Romans 6:10-14 speaking of both Christ and those who follow him in Sonship
“The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God.
In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness. For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace.”
IF KNOWING YOU ARE FORSAKEN IS THE FIRST STEP – WHAT’S STEP TWO?
After step one our new life has the tendency to get really complicated. For some reason we are so sure that we have to do something. In our Churches we often get really busy with lots of good things that need to be done.
As we get busy, but before we begin, and then every now and again through the years, lets consider something from the book of Philippians as we work out our Salvation in fear and trembling.
“I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”
Philippians 1: 3-6
Did you see that? “… He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion…” God our Father by the act of Jesus The Son 2000 years ago will finish the GOOD work He has begun in each of us. We can put aside all fear.
It will be easier for us if we begin to live out the lives God has given us just as Jesus lived out His earthly life. (so very simple to say, yet so very difficult to implement in our life, BUT)
If we will ask Jesus to teach us to love God above all else.
If we will ask Jesus to teach us to love our neighbors as ourselves.
If we will ask Jesus to teach us to love our enemies.
If somehow we as children of God could, like Jesus, only do those things God the Father shows us to.
If somehow we as children of God could, like Jesus, only say those things God the Father speaks to us.
Then the next steps of our lives would look more and more like the first steps in the life of Jesus.
We are blessed more that our words can express. By the mercy of God we have been given a new life by the very words Jesus was born into the world to say, just before He breathed His final human breath. And now in Christ we can hear the Father saying to us
“Well done my good and faithful servant.”
“You are my child in whom I am well pleased.
Perhaps it is less complicated than we sometimes think. He will complete the work He began in you. Work He Himself finished before you were born. We can live out our lives in the gentle hands of Him who carried us down from the cross and carried us to be seated, in Him, at the Right Hand of the Father in the very throne room of The King of kings. What a glorious mystery!
Something very interesting about alternating current. It is called alternating current because it alternates between positive charge and negative charge at an exact frequency. It has power to move things like motors and energize lights precisely because of this alternation between positive and negative.
In the same way we must know the negative to recognize the positive. Deliverance comes out of forsakenness. Growth comes out of testing and trial.
My brothers and sisters count it all joy when you face trials of every kind. Rejoice as God works in you to perfect your faith!