Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Priceless Gift; Worthless Recipients

 Romans 5:6-8, 10
"You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us... For if, when we were God's enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!" (NIV)

One of the means by which we can show our affections for the ones we love is by the gifts we give or by the things we do for them. For example,  the gifts children give to their parents on a father's day or a mother's day. Parents in turn make sacrifices just for the future of their kids, perhaps withholding from their selves some pleasures in life just for the kids' tuition fees. An employee who is free to go home after 5 may extend his labor for an extra hour without pay when the need arises out of love for his employer. The employer in turn may give benefits beyond what is required by the law to his employees out of love for them.

Sometimes, its hard to place value on a gift for more than monetary considerations are involved. Let's suppose that on your wedding day, you received two lechons from two different individuals. The pigs are of the same size so you may say that both givers love you equally. Yet Don Rodrigo gave you a roasted pig out of his multi-hectare piggery, while Mang Kulas roasted the only pig in his backyard. Of course Don Rodrigo's gift has some value on it, but Mang Kulas' gift stands out because it was sacrificial giving. (See the same principle in Luke 21:1-4)

The value of a sacrifice is measured by the cost it takes out of the giver, as in David's case:  “No, I insist on paying you for it. I will not sacrifice to the LORD my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing” (2 Sam.24:24).

On this ground, we base our first point:

1.God showed the greatness of his by the cost of the gift he gave—the life of his one and only Son.

Isn't that the message of this song?

We are the reason that He gave his life
We are the reason that He suffered and died
 To a world that was lost He gave all He could give...

Just think about the worth of the person sacrificed: The 2nd person of the Trinity, The One who was eternally with the Father, the Creator of Heaven and earth, the One who sustains of life, the exact representation of the Father, the One who is the object of worship among the angels, the One who even in his humbled state remained sinless. Yet even with this loftiness, he gave his life for us.

His life is of infinite value, more precious than all the soldiers combined. His life is infinitely more precious than the lives of all kings and presidents combined. Yet God gave his Son anyway for your ransom.

Perhaps there is a thought in our hearts that since Jesus is God, and he has the power to take back his life anyway, dying on the cross was so easy for him and it did not cost him much. But to put the weight of the sacrifice in perspective, let us go to Luke 22:42-44. This was his prayer a few hours before he was arrested. It is here revealed that the torture and death he has to go though caused much anguish in the incarnate Son of God. It was too heavy for him who knew no sin eternally to bear sin on the cross. He who enjoyed the love and fellowship of the Father from eternity past must be forsaken for a while-- and the fury of God's wrath must be poured out on him. That caused much agony in his soul a few hours before it took place and surely it caused maximum agony and pain on him while enduring it. Christ death is a true  sacrifice; it was not a sacrifice that cost him nothing. It is a sacrifice of infinite worth.

2.God showed the greatness of his love by giving the gift to unworthy recipients

The truncated quote that appears on the 500 peso bill fails to convey in fullness Sen. Ninoy Aquino's message. Here's the full quote from a speech he delivered before the Asia Society in New York (1980):

“I have asked myself many times: Is the Filipino worth suffering, or even dying, for? Is he not a coward who would readily yield to any colonizer, be he foreign or homegrown? Is a Filipino more comfortable under an authoritarian leader because he does not want to be burdened with the freedom of choice? Is he unprepared, or worse, ill-suited for presidential or parliamentary democracy?

I have carefully weighed the virtues and the faults of the Filipino and I have come to the conclusion that he is worth dying for because he is the nation’s greatest untapped resource.”

So in the full quote we can see that Ninoy was weighing the virtues vs. the faults of the Filipino people. He saw some flaws in them. Well noted is the cowardice of the Filipino in fighting for democracy. Yet in the end, he concluded that the Filipino is worth dying for BECAUSE he is the greatest untapped resource of the nation. The virtues still outweigh the faults. .. And the rest is history. Ninoy is now counted among the heroes of the nation.

But God's love is infinitely greater than the love of any national hero for Jesus died for us who are not worth dying for. The point of the passage is that God's love is unparalleled. For we will not die for bad persons though for good persons, there are rare cases of martyrdom. Yet God's love surpasses all we could do by giving the life of his Son for us who are bad, Bad, BAD! Paul makes this point clear by using a variety of words to describe the recipients of God's love (I used a Greek lexicon for this task)

a. weak, powerless (v.6)-- it talks about our inability to rescue ourselves from the condition we are in  (Rom.8:7, John 6:44)

b. ungodly (v.6)-- it refers to persons who have no regard for God and his standards.(2 Pet.2:5-6-- flood/Sodom)

c sinners (v.8)- we are not occasional sinners; we customarily sin. Sinning is our lifestyle

d. enemy- well, we don't have to consult the lexicon on this one. Just think about the Diaz siblings: Romy and Paquito; or Max Alvarado or Bella Flores.

On the human level, no man will sacrifice his life for villains. Perhaps Clark Kent can sacrifice his life for Lana Lang or Lois Lane, but he would not die for Lex Luthor. Yet Christ died for villains namely you and me.

For the application part, we have already looked into in when we started. Heb. 12:4-13, do not ever think God is against you when you are going through discipline or life's hardships. Look into what he has done for you at the cross. The tragedies and calamities of life pales into comparison to what God has done for you to be saved from his wrath.

There is a second application: That is We must love God in return. We have to respond to God's love with our own love for God.

If you may observe, the text points to a past condition of the recipients that has been changed already. The powerless were given the ability to draw near to God, and the sinners and the ungodly have been transformed into saints. The enemies are now friends of God. It sounds like the text is saying that the recipients of this love have been turn from God-haters into God-lovers. If your sense of smell is sharp enough, you can smell the 4th petal of TULIP here namely irresistible grace.

Tom Schreiner sees it that way too.

“I don't think this text is simply saying that God showed us his love and demonstrated his love. I mean certainly that's true. But isn't the text saying something more than that when you put it all together? Isn't this text also saying that he won us with his love? In other words God has captured us as believers with his love. He's wooed us and reconciled us and brought us to himself with his love.

We see this on the human level sometimes. A guy likes a girl and she doesn't like him. He wants to marry her and he wins her! It may take a long time. At first she didn't like him... at first there's nothing there but the guy wins the girl and he brings her over finally and they end up getting married.”

(from a sermon titled Trinitarian Love of God
Clifton Baptist Church, 2010-09-12)

The text implies that the recipients of this gift are now lovers of God. The bible doesn't give assurance to God-haters (1 Cor. 16:22)

Now that we understand God's love for us, let us passionately love him and seek to increase our love for him. The reason why we have so little love for God is because we don't understand the magnitude of our offense against him (Luke 7:40-43). We don't understand that we were powerless, sinners, ungodly, enemies of God. We think that our sins deserve only five pesos of penalty, that's why we love him so little.

Again, that song goes:

I've finally found the reason for living
It's in giving every part of my heart to Him
In all that I do, every word that I say
I'll be giving my heart just for Him

There is a biblical support for that--

2 Corinthians 5:15 “And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again”

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