Thanks to Philip Hoffman for today’s post.
In 1763 Augustus Toplady, wrote in his famous hymn “Rock of Ages” – “Let the water and the blood, From Thy wounded side which flowed, Be of sin the double cure, Save from wrath and make me pure.”
Recently I had ample opportunity to reflect on these words as our family took the time to get away and enjoy a week on beautiful Lake Martin in Alabama. Our oldest of three children (Ryan) was married in June. He and his new bride (Anne), our two other children who are in college (Aaron and Caitlin) and their significant others (Jessie & Zach) were all able to spend some time with us in the quiet and stillness of this beautiful setting.
We have been joining my wife’s sister, her husband and their three kids at Lake Martin for an annual pilgrimage of rest and relaxation since 2005. Together we have watched all six kids grow up in this place of serenity and renewal that has come to offer wonderful opportunities not simply to “amuse” ourselves, but also to reflect and contemplate on God’s love and mercies poured out on us so bountifully.
This year I spent a portion of my time floating leisurely on the lake, which has become my favorite place to go (even if at times only in my mind), but I also read “Respectable Sins” by Jerry Bridges. It has become a real life changer, not a book to read quickly and set aside but one designed to converse with the author, to meditate on and pray over. After reading it once during the week, I have begun working my way back through the first section in which Jerry explains the meaning behind Augustus Toplady’s hymn and the very depths of the Gospel.
The “double cure” speaks of Christ’s passive and active obedience on our behalf, both his death as well as his righteous life, which He lived before the Father. Both have been “credited” or “imputed” to our accounts. We celebrate the fact that through His death on the cross, Jesus endured incredible suffering to pay the penalty for our sins. His death was a payment for our guilt and shame before God. As a result, when the gavel comes down in God’s courtroom, He declares us to be innocent of all our varied crimes (sins) against Him and humanity. We have been “justified” before the Judge of all the world!
But in addition to paying the penalty for all of our sins (past, present, and future), Jesus also lived His entire life on earth in a manner that was entirely pleasing to the Father. He alone among all humans has been found to be “without sin”. As a result, His righteous deeds have also been credited to our account. Not only were our own sins “reckoned” or “credited” on our behalf as “paid in full” but we have been credited or “imputed” with the full righteousness of Jesus Himself. In God’s eyes we have a never ending credit line that is never diminished and is far more than adequate to cover the full price of our forgiveness!
When the Father looks at us, He sees not our own lives of sin and “good” deeds, but rather the righteous life of His Son. We are entirely pleasing to Him, not because of who we are or anything we have ever done, but because God has done everything for us! He has covered the guilt, shame, and penalty for our sin(s) and He has also delivered us from the “power” of sin. In this way Christ’s life and death have become the “double cure” from both the guilt and the power of sin.
The good news does not end there however, as God has also given us the fullness of His presence in the person of the Holy Spirit. It is through His indwelling presence that every believer receives not only the conviction of our sins so that we might always be granted the grace of repentance (a change of mind and actions) but also the comfort to know that in spite of how we might often feel about ourselves, He promises never to leave or forsake us! As we learn to rest in God’s love for us, we are empowered to “walk in the Spirit” and as a result to increasingly walk in the freedom that is ours in Christ.
As we grow older in our faith we should be growing more and more like Christ and yet if we are honest about our subjective experiences, we seem to feel more and more mired down deep in the very depths of our sins. Sometimes I personally feel that the longer I serve Christ, the more sinful I seem to become. In reality, this takes place because we are becoming increasingly sensitive to the movements of the Spirit in our lives and as Jerry Bridges points out so well, God begins to open up whole new areas of our lives for exploration so that we might indeed become aware of our need for change and as a result we cry out to Him in absolute dependence.
As we enter more and more into this process we increasingly manifest the very presence of Christ. As we become more aware of needed areas of growth, we can rest in the finished work of Christ on our behalf and the steadfast love of God for us, knowing that “nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ” (Rom. 8:38)!