Sunday, February 16, 2014

Nothing Is Certain But Death and Taxes—and Christ

While thinking on recent events affecting our church family, I was reminded of a saying my mother used in her efforts to keep me grounded in reality: Nothing is certain but death and taxes.  While both are true, both are unnatural.  Why is that so?  They are both results of sin:
Death comes because we each inherited a fatal condition.  Sin came into the world through one man (Adam), and death through sin, and as a result all have died because all sin (Rom 5:12).
Taxes are paid because we sin daily, and human governments have been set up to maintain a just society.  Without that control, there is chaos.
What was not originally part of creation's design is now unavoidable.  In fact our condition is so deplorable that we desire what leads to death until presented with what brings life.  As an example, when the Hebrews were at the Jordan shortly before crossing into the Promised Land, Moses placed before them a decision they needed to make:
See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil (Deut 30:15).
I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse (Deut 30:19).
For the people to live in the land and be blessed, only one requirement was placed on them:
Obey the commandments of the Lord your God that I command you today, by loving the Lord your God, by walking in his ways, and by keeping his commandments and his statutes and his rules (Deut 30:16).
That’s it.  Just obey the Lord.  All the benefits for following a few rules.  On the other hand, not doing everything the Lord required meant death and destruction (Deut 30:17-18).  Psalm 119:1-8 helps show this all-or-nothing requirement:
Blessed are those whose way is blameless,
      who walk in the law of the Lord!
Blessed are those who keep his testimonies,
      who seek him with their whole heart,
who also do no wrong,
      but walk in his ways!
These are wonderful words to our ears, but notice the next verse.
You have commanded your precepts
      to be kept diligently.
Concentration and effort are needed to fulfill this requirement.  The psalmist goes on to share his great desire:
Oh that my ways may be steadfast
      in keeping your statutes!
Then I shall not be put to shame,
      having my eyes fixed on all your commandments.
I will praise you with an upright heart,
      when I learn your righteous rules.
I will keep your statutes;
      do not utterly forsake me!
The last phrase is the most striking.  In spite of best intentions, reality strikes home.  We cannot do any of it satisfactorily.  We still sin.  That was the reason God gave blood sacrifices—to atone for those sins and transgressions.  That is the reason that Christ died.  His was the last sacrifice that fulfilled all that is required to present us holy and blameless before Him.  He took God’s wrath meant for our sin, so that it no longer rests on us who believe.

In taking the bread and cup, we participate in the body and blood of Christ.  And there is comfort—comfort that our Lord Jesus bore all the punishment for sin.  There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Rom 8:1).

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