Monday, July 23, 2012

Punishment and the Christian

(An excerpt from Psalm Notes on Psalm 6)

      As a Christian, you know that your sins are eternally forgiven in Christ, accomplished by His atoning death on the cross. Right?
     And yet... do certain sins still seem to haunt you, even though they were forgiven at Calvary... sins you keep falling into, over and over again?  Have you ever wondered if the hardships you are facing right now are somehow God's punishment for those those sins? Is there a limit to God's mercy?
      You are not alone. Three thousand years ago, David struggled with the very same concern. In Psalm 6, verses 1-4, David cries out:

"O LORD, do not rebuke me in Your anger, nor chasten me in Your hot displeasure. Have mercy on me, O LORD, for I am weak; O LORD, heal me, for my bones are troubled. 
     My soul also is greatly troubled; but You, O LORD- how long? Return, O LORD, deliver me! Oh, save me for Your mercies' sake!"

       We find David here suffering from both physical illness and spiritual distress, and true to his character, he cries out to God to deliver him from both.    
       According to the text, David had apparently sinned in some way, and now believes that his present distress is related to that sin. Thus, David is not only physically sick in his body, but is feeling sick in his heart as well.   
      He is obviously keenly aware of his sin, but worse yet, he fears that his sickness is sign that God may still be angry with him for it. Whereas God does lovingly chastise His children at times, which is a sign of adoption rather than rejection, (Hebrews 12:3-11), David fears that he may have angered God to the point of rejection. "Have I sinned one time too many? Is there a limit to the LORD's mercies?" David may have asked himself. 

      Have you ever asked that? As a Christian perhaps you have again and again stumbled into some sin, and now find yourself feeling condemned, wondering if you are forsaken, and suffering under what feels like punishment for your failings. You fear you have out-sinned the mercies of God
      Dear friend, hear me. God is not punishing you, and He is not angry with you. This is not His wrath. If you have trusted in Christ for your salvation, you stand before God clothed in the righteousness of Jesus, not the guilt of your sins. Jesus bore in His own body on the cross the punishment for all your sins, and God never punishes twice

      Let me say that again, God never punishes twice.

      Your present distress was allowed by Him, yes, but He is not rejecting you. Even if you brought this trial upon yourself, He is there right beside you in it, upholding you in His grace. He will never leave you nor forsake you. 
        God alone can turn the worst of circumstances and the most fiery of trials into something even beautiful. In 1 Peter 1:6-8 it says, "In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, whom having not seen you love."  
      God was not punishing David, but testing him... trying him... in his crisis. 

    Trials are not about punishment, but FAITH! 

      And David, in simply crying out to God for mercy, was victorious in this test.  God's times of testing are not to prove our own goodness, but our faith in His goodness 
      David does not give in to the condemnation of the enemy, but still hopes in God's mercy. 

So, in the midst of your trial, place your hope and trust in the God whose mercies never fail! 

      "Through the LORD's mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness." (Lamentations 3:22-23) His mercies have no limit. 

     "Oh, give thanks to the LORD, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever." (1Chronicles 16:34)

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