Sunday, January 23, 2011

Exaltation of Christ

Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:09-11, NKJV).
From poverty, slander, imprisonment, torture and an agonizing death on the Cross, to the Right Hand of the Throne of God; a voluntary journey of inconceivable extremes all for our benefit and the Father's glory. This is the King of Kings we Christians serve and worship. This is the Man who calls us Friend and Brother. This is Messiah, the Anointed One, the only begotten Son of God.

In those six hours on the Cross, Jesus, who knew no sin and who became sin for us, paid the eternal penalty incurred by each one of us for our rebellion against God. He was our voluntary substitute, taking upon Himself the sin of the world and suffering the full force of the Father's righteous wrath, thus paying the debt we owe and could never repay. There are ageless mysteries here, of course, but what we do know through Scripture makes a terrible kind of sense, especially if we view sin from Heaven's perspective.

But that is hard to do, isn't it? Having been born in sin, and having spent all our conscious moments as sinners, I am convinced we do not understand how monstrous and evil sin is. We largely dismiss it, until we are confronted with a conspicuously egregious example, and then we sometimes get a glimpse of its true nature, and are HORRIFIED. Rightly so. Of course, it doesn't help our understanding that the modern world denies even the existence of sin, calling it everything else but that, and propagandizing the culture into viewing it as sickness, or aberration, or the result of a dysfunctional upbringing. We lose our moral anchor when we do this; when we pretend that evil is a quaint, nostalgic concept of the simplistic past.

Know this, if you believe true evil is a figment of religious imagination, and sin is a mistaken, unsophisticated concept, you have no hope of salvation. You just won't see it as something necessary, or real, and you will not seek the Savior. That's why this diminution of sin is such an effective and evil strategy devised by the Enemy to ensure the damnation of countless souls. It ranks right up there in effectiveness with the trivialization of the concept of Satan or the Devil, himself. What better tactic than to make the denial of evil, sin and Satan a prerequisite for laying hold to the claim of being modern, educated, and too sophisticated to fall for myths and wives' tales. It is brilliant! It plays diabolically into humanity's greatest weakness: its own imagined, and delusional strength. Human pride is both the cause of the Fall, and the single most effective impediment to its rescue.

Throughout history, God has shown us the hideousness of sin by demonstrating its cost in the shedding of innocent blood. For centuries, His chosen witnesses to the world, the Jews, practiced a religion that floated on an endless sea of innocent animal sacrifice; a foreshadowing of the ultimate sacrifice of Christ which was to come. Sin entails the forsaking of the Source of Life Himself, who created us as immortal beings to live in wondrous fellowship with Him, forever. Immortal beings who choose to rebel against an eternal God, declare their desired independence from Him, forever. It is a casting off, a denial of that which is, by definition, good and right and just. To oppose that is to embrace its opposite, and the result is the absence of all that is good and right and just - a place, and a state of existence called, Hell.

Hell is likened to a place of despair, a place of eternal suffering in unquenchable fire, where conscious, indestructible beings are consumed every moment by agony described as being eaten alive by worms. It is an unthinkable place reserved for those who, having full knowledge of God, reject Him anyway. If you cast your lot for that which is against God, who is all, and in all, the only place left in which to exist is outer darkness. And since you were created in God's image, you cannot be uncreated. You cannot cease to exist. Annihilation is impossible, however much we would like that not to be the case.

Given this truth of the consequences of conscious and willful rebellion, it is even more amazing that the Father sent His Son to suffer this punishment in our place. If eternal damnation for voluntary sinners is unthinkable, how much more unthinkable is the wrath of God poured out on Jesus after He was nailed to the Cross. The one Man who was as far from sin as Hell is from God, suffered the punishment of Hell for us, and became sin. I don't really think there are words sufficient to describe what this really means. I know I don't have them, but what it does bring to mind is the monumentally disturbing knowledge of all those instances throughout the human experience involving the unfair and despicable treatment of the innocent. 

You name it, and it has occurred. Beaten, tortured and mutilated men, women and children, abused animals, senseless unfathomable violence and bloodshed, and all this only the palest approximation of what it meant to have the sinless Son of God suffer the way He did. And yet the physical agony was not that which paid the price for our sin. If anything, that only increased the condemnation of the human race. No, it was being forsaken by God, by being the sole undeserved recipient of His righteous and holy wrath in our place - that is what paid the price. 

That prospect of divine abandonment is what caused Christ's unutterable despair in the Garden of Gethsemane. That is what made Him sweat blood, and cry out three times in heart-broken resignation to the will of the Father. And it is that abandonment that we accept when we are "crucified with Christ", but it does not end there, and for that, all glory and worship and honor and blessing should be given to Christ. Because we are not only crucified with Him, we are raised up with Him, as well. Because He lives, we will live also. Because He died and rose again, we have life everlasting.

Do you see both the cause and the necessity of the exaltation of Christ? Without Him, Adam's sin would have been the end of the story of mankind. With Him, and in Him, our story goes on forever. Unless His humiliation and sacrifice in our place had been complete, our redemption could not have been complete. But because of His unhesitating obedience, He has saved that which was lost, and presented to the Father that special treasure, that gift bestowed out of indescribable love. 


Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:09-11, NKJV).