The Wonder of It All!

Basket of Figs, February, 2005

Bud Powell

 

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 Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no more stiffnecked.” [Deut. 10:16]

 

How can I do that?  What knife will I use to cut away the corruption of my heart?  I know not any that I can use for such a thing.

 

Reason won’t do it.  The basic irrationality of sin is referenced in Ezekiel: “Cast away from you all your transgressions, whereby ye have transgressed; and make you a new heart and a new spirit: for why will ye die, O house of Israel?” [Ezek. 18:31]  

 

But how can I make my heart new?  “Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? [then] may ye also do good, that are accustomed to do evil.” [Jer. 13:23]  I don’t know how to change my heart any more than I know how to circumcise it.

 

It is certain that there is something wrong with my heart, O Lord, and I cannot behold You unless something is done about it for, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” [Matthew 5:8]  But how can a man be pure before God?

 

Inability to do the law is no excuse for not doing it.  Therefore I die!    Oh, Lord, I die for I cannot live without You.   You have said it clearly:   “For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them.”   [Gal 3:10]  “Moreover all these curses shall come upon thee, and shall pursue thee, and overtake thee,   till thou be destroyed;   because thou hearkenedst not unto the voice of the LORD thy God, to keep his commandments and his statutes which he commanded thee: And they shall be upon thee for a sign and for a wonder, and upon thy seed for ever.  Because thou servedst not the LORD thy God with joyfulness, and with gladness of heart, for the abundance of all things…”  [Deuteronomy 28:45]

 

Zeal will not do it.  It is not enough to try to do the law, for You will not justify the wicked, O Lord.   “Keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear [the guilty]; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children’s children, unto the third and to the fourth [generation].”  [Ex 34:7]  Is this contradiction?  How can You forgive iniquity and transgression and sin without clearing the guilty?

 

Is there folly with You, O Lord?  I cannot even think it, for what hope have we poor fools, if there is folly with You?

 

Shall I resort to pretense, O Thou that searchest the hearts of men?  Shall I clear myself by approving of the law and pretending to perform it, condemning others, excusing myself for trying really hard and condemning them for not trying hard enough?   Will that excuse me before Thee, the righteous judge of all the earth?  Nay, for  “not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified.” [Rom. 2:13]  Is it enough for me to make my boast of God, and know His will, and approve the things that are more excellent, being instructed out of the law?  Shall I be justified because I am confident that I am a guide of the blind, a light of them which are in darkness, an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of babes, having the form of knowledge and of the truth in the law.  Shall I be justified if I am able to teach others, but do not teach myself?

 

Will I be justified by teaching others?  Shall I preach that men should love You with all their heart, soul, mind and strength, warning them of hell, and do not myself love so love You?  For though I try very hard to love You aright, shall I make that my boast: that I love You with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength?  My very heart will condemn me.

 

Is it enough that I maintain that men should love their neighbors as themselves when I do not so love my neighbor?  I do try very hard, but is this sufficient, O God?   To try hard?  Did not Israel try very hard at times?

 

How shall I circumcise my heart?  What knife can reach to my heart?  How can a man be just before You?    “Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look on iniquity…”  [Hab. 1:13]

 

But You, O God, search and try the hearts of men, including mine, O Lord.  You understand my dilemma and my darkness.  You saw that there was no man, and wondered that there was no intercessor: therefore You arm brought salvation unto You; and Your righteousness, it sustained You.  [Is. 59:16]

 

Oh, the wonder of it, O Lord!  When You found no righteousness in me, you found enough righteousness in Yourself for me!  O the wonder!  O the grace!  O the mercy, O Lord, Thou righteous judge of all the earth!

 

A righteousness not my own, but a righteousness sufficient to sustain You in Your mercy and grace!  This is too great for me, O Lord God!

 

I can only drink in the shallows of this grace, O Lord God!  It is more than my soul can encompass.  The very righteousness that You leaned upon, O Lord God, is the very righteousness upon which I lean.

 

And the LORD thy God will circumcise thine heart, and the heart of thy seed, to love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, that thou mayest live.”  [Deut. 30:6]

 

Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.  For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.  And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power:   In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ:   Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead.”  [Colossians 2:8-12]

 

I am complete in Christ!  “For he hath made him [to be] sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.”  [2Co 5:21]  Christ was made an unclean thing, the off scouring of the earth, and cut off from the land of the living and placed under the curse of God so that I might have a righteousness complete and perfect, able to sustain both God and me at the day of judgment.  He is my circumcision from all my sins.  In Him I can be just before God.  O the wonder of it all!

 

Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed [is] every one that hangeth on a tree: That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.”  [Gal. 3:13,14]

 

I cannot attain unto the blessing of Moses, O Lord, for sin chains my heart.   But I do attain to the blessing of Abraham, which is the promise of the Spirit by faith.  “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.  For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh:  That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” [Romans 8:2-4]

 

A righteousness not my own!  Who could have thought of such a thing!  Complete in Jesus Christ.  O the wonder of it all!!!

 

What can I give thee, O Lord, for such salvation?  I can but give my broken and contrite heart to You, as a living sacrifice of thanksgiving and praise.

 

“Marvelous Grace of our Loving Lord

Grace that exceeds our sin and our guilt

Yonder on Calvary’s mount outpoured

There where the blood of the Lamb was spilt.”

“Jesus, thy blood and righteousness

My beauty are, my glorious dress

‘Midst flaming world in these arrayed

With joy shall I lift up my head.”

 

“My heart for thy cause I offer thee, Lord, promptly and sincerely.”    --motto of John Calvin.