Tuesday, July 1, 2008

But we... and But HE...

The stories of the kings of Israel and Judah are sobering to read. The kings of Israel seemed to go from one level of evil to another until they were judged. But the kings of Judah had glimmers of light as many kings chose to do right in the sight of the LORD. What sobers me though is that even as the chronicler described kings who did right, they so often needed to qualify those descriptions.

Amaziah did right in the sight of the LORD, “but not with a whole heart” (2 Chronicles 25:2), which became his undoing. Then Uzziah did right in the sight of the LORD, and it says that “as long as he sought the LORD, God prospered him” (2 Chr. 26:5). “But when he became strong, his heart was so proud that he acted corruptly” (2 Chr. 26:16). And that was his undoing. The next king was Jotham, who did right in the sight of the LORD, and of whom it was said that he “ordered his ways before the LORD his God” and thereby became mighty (2 Chr. 27:6). And though no qualifier is mentioned regarding Jotham, the chronicler is compelled to mention a qualifier about the people he led as it says, “But the people continued acting corruptly (2 Chr. 27:2). It’s as though Judah was incapable of turning to God in such a way that deserved an unqualified commendation! There always seemed to need to be a “but…” Divided hearts, pride, acting corruptly. All stuff I’m capable of.

I want to serve the Lord in such a way that no “but…” is necessary, no qualifier needing to be mentioned about me. The problem is though, that’s not likely to happen in this earthly body, and that’s precisely why another use of the word “But… frequently appears in Scripture.

Ephesians 2:1-3 describes how God found us to be dead in our sins, walking according to the ways of this world, and deserving of God’s wrath. Then in verse four we read: “But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us… made us alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved” (Ephesians 2:4-5). God knows that we cannot seek Him in a way that requires no qualifiers, and so He adds a qualifier regarding Himself: “But I will save you!”

The words “But now…” of Romans 3:21 have to be the most encouraging words in all of Scripture. Paul has just laid out how totally pervasive our sin is, and he sums up that dark description of this rebel race by asserting that no one can be justified by attempting to do well enough at following the law of Moses. It all seems hopeless. Then come those words, “But now…” There is hope for us. “But now, apart from the Law, God’s righteousness has been revealed… even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe” (Romans 3:21-22). In other words, for all who believe, the righteousness of God will become our righteousness.

What a wonder! There I was, standing in darkness and full of darkness, and suddenly – “But now…” – the sun rises right before my eyes and shines upon me, and fills me with brightness and warmth! All I need to do is believe in what Jesus has done for me. And I do! And now God’s righteousness is at work in me to make me wholly acceptable to God with no “buts” necessary to qualify His love for me!

© 2008 by Ken Peters

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