“ABIDING HARD BY THE CROSS-SO SPARKS OF CALVARY CAN KINDLE OUR FIRE”.

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Mar 282021
 

PASTOR’S PERSPECTIVE: “ABIDING HARD BY THE CROSS-SO SPARKS OF CALVARY CAN KINDLE OUR FIRE”.

     Matthew 27:36 says “And sitting down they were watching Him there”. Mark 15:40 says, “The women were there looking from afar off and were looking on”.  He lists them, “Mary Magdalene, Mary of James the least, and Joseph’s mother, (John calls her of Clopas), and Salome”.  Luke says, in 23: 35 and 48-49 “And stood there the people beholding. “”And all the people that came together to that sight, beholding those things which were done, smote their breasts, and all his acquaintance, and the women that followed Him, stood afar off beholding these things”.  John, some sixty years later, writes under inspiration and memory of the Holy Spirit’s guiding, “Now there stood by the Cross of Jesus, his Mother Mary, her sister Mary Cleopas, (his Aunt Mary), and Mary Magdalene” (Three Mary’s at the cross). The Gospel narratives seems to emphasize the impact this execution had on the spectators that day.  Matthew puts the emphasis on the guards’ who were “watching” the crucifixion-pointing to the fact that it was their duty to guide and guard each action that occurred. They were in a reclining position. (The word watch is “tereo” meaning to “watch over and guard”.  But of course, such guarding involved actively observing every movement, word, and reaction of the other bystanders.  Mark points out, as the crucifixion neared the end, that the women there could take it no longer, and had moved away quite a distance, not able to bear it any longer. (“makrothen”-meaning a substantial distance yet still in sight of all occurring). Mark says, “They kept on watching from afar…and they were looking on”. The word looking is “thereo” from “theomai” meaning “to gaze, to partake of, to contemplate with analyzing” It is the root from which we get the word “theater”.  It means “to take in with comprehension and understanding”-“a theater is where people concentrate on the meaning of an action or a performance”.  Luke, likely writing the crucifixion from Mary’s eyewitness perspective, uses the same word-“thereo” but says that the crowds that had come together beheld, (thereo) the spectacle (Theorian).  The emphasis indicates a “happening that is hard to view and understand with comprehension of meaning”.  Viewing the spectacle of Calvary caused almost all of the spectators to beat their own breasts to dull the deep pain viewing this spectacle first hand, with their own eyes, had caused them to feel. Eyewitness viewing was that impactful.  We all must wonder what it would have been like to have been, as John writes of the women, sixty years later in his memory, that they were “standing by the cross of Jesus”.  Mel Gibson, in his Passion of the Christ, has done a theatrical spectacle quite realistic in order to transport us to their side.  That is why we find it so hard to watch-so overwhelming.  So crushing!  In our own way we leave the presentation “beating our breasts” like they did, though maybe not literally.  That kind of experience is critical for Christians-we must never forget that spectacle!

     Charles Spurgeon, in his daily devotional, called Morning and Evening, writes, “Abide hard by the cross and search out the mystery of His wounds”.  John R.W. Stott tells us why that is a valuable exercise for the believer.  He says, “The cross is the blazing fire at which the flame of our love is kindled, but we have to get near enough for its sparks to fall on us!”  That is why Jennie Evelyn Hussey wrote, in her hymn Lead Me To Calvary, sings “King of my life, I crown thee now; Thine shall the glory be; Lest I forget Thy Thorn-crowned brow; Lead me to Calvary.”  Refrain reminds us-“Lest I forget Gethsemane; Lest I forget Thine agony; lest I forget Thy love for me; Lead me to Calvary”

     Every year during this season it is a privilege, it is a mandate.  It is an imperative given by God for your Pastor to stand in this pulpit and summon you to come to Calvary.  To encourage you to “abide hard by the cross to search out that mystery!”  To encourage you to come close enough to “let the sparks from the fire fall on your cold heart, to kindle a new passion in your heart” as you relive His ultimate sacrifice for you and I. Many famous painters have taken the time and their talents to preserve and portray for us the spectacle with such vividness that it enables us to answer the question of the old Spiritual-Where you there when they crucified my Lord? with a clear affirmative-yes!  And as we revisit Golgotha annually it is my assignment to portray it in a worthy enough manner that your love for Him leads you to respond in kind.  Rembrandt van Rijm, the great Dutch Rennaisance painter painted several scenes of the Crucifixion during the mid 1600’s.  They tell us that he usually included himself in each, sometimes in a subtle way, and sometimes, as in the Raising of the Cross, in an explicit way, with him being the man with the Dutch painter’s beret, helping to raise the Cross of Christ!  His way of saying, we were all there, we were all involved, we all played a part in His necessity to dying that death!  As we visit there again, whether we come, like we did last Sunday, through the words of Israel King-Sweet Singer, and view the cross from the perspective of  the Forgotten I AM, and view the cross from the perspective of the Son of God being Abandoned by the Father,  Abhorred by the Fools, and Attacked by the Fiend, (Satan), written 1000 years before it occurred, or whether, like today we return to stand beside the cross of Jesus, seeing it portrayed by the Prophet of the Gospel of Love, Isaiah, as he paints the portrait of the Suffering Servant as He endures the Stripe of Sin to Redeem us. We must come to this Holy Ground, focus all of our heart, mind, soul, and person on what we see.  Let me again share the words of Spurgeon, which he wrote of Psalm 22, but find application for Isaiah 53 as well.  “For plaintive expressions uprising from unutterable depths of woe we may say of this Psalm, that there is none like it.  It is a photograph of our Lord’s saddest hours. The record of his dying thoughts and words, the lachrymatory of his last tears…the memorial of his expiring joys.  David and his afflictions may be here in a modified sense, but as the star is concealed by the light of the rising of the Sun, he who sees Jesus will probably neither see, nor care to see David.  We should read reverently, pulling off our shoes from off our feet, as Moses did at the burning bush, for IF THERE BE HOLY GROUND ANYWHERE IN SCRIPTURE…IT IS THIS PSALM!”  That is certainly true of Isaiah report of the Suffering Servant of Yahweh, the Suffering Messiah of Calvary, as he voluntarily yielded His soul as a Sacrifice to Satisfy the Stripe of Sin for a world of sinners!  You and I so included that if we were the only ones, he would have still paid the price in full!

     In this perspective I want to give you three real life examples of what “abiding hard at the Cross can do for your heart today.  The first comes from a famous Christian named  Nicholas Ludwig Zinsendorf.  On May 20, 1719 he, his brother Frederick, and a dear friend and tutor Herr Riederer entered the art gallery at Dusseldorf, Germany.  They had been on a tour of Europe’s galleries to take in all the masterpieces.  As he toured the gallery he was drawn to a particular painting-by Dominico Feti titled Ecce Homo (Behold the Man).  It showed Jesus being presented by Pilate for Crucifixion, with a crown of thorns on his head.  Underneath the artist had written the words “This I have done for you.  What have you done for me?” He immediately thought of how he loved to read the Bible.  How he loved to sing hymns.  How much he did love the Lord. But somehow these things seemed so insignificant now.  But his mind went back to Paedagogium in Halle.  He thought about the time he had sat at the table listening to all that Bartholomaus Ziegenbaig, the missionary from India, had to say.  Now there was a man who was doing something for Christ.  “I will do more” he vowed as he stood in front of the painting.  “My life will not be spent for myself”.  He finished the rest of the gallery but could not get that painting out of his mind.  It transformed his life.  He founded a denomination called the Moravians that emphasized a passion heart-felt love for Christians that yielded their resources to sacrificial missionary work all over the world.  Even the great John Wesley, upon spending a trip to America with them, credited them for showing him the way to true faith and salvation…“When feeling his heart strangely warmed”.  “Sparks from the fire of the cross will do that for believers who are close enough to Ziegenbalg have a new passion ignited in their heart for the Savior.” 

     Another famous person found that same visit to that Gallery, that painting, impact her life as well.  Francis Havergal while advancing her education in Dussseldorf, Germany saw the same painting.  She saw Christ standing between Pilate and a crowd demanding death.  Pilate says, “ecce homo” “behold the man”.  That scene-Jesus whipped mercilessly, wearing a crown of thorns, purple robe of mockery.  She copied the caption-“this I did for thee.  What hast thou done for me?’  Back home when she relived that emotional moment at the gallery, she wrote a poem of five stanzas each ending with a pointed challenge-“what have you done for me?”  Reading it again, she thought it a poor poem and threw it in the fireplace.  It did not burn. She retrieved them.  Showed them to her father.  He encouraged her to save them.  Years later they became her most famous hymn I Gave My Life For Thee.  “I gave, I gave my life for thee; My precious blood I shed; That thou might ransomed be; and raised up from the dead; I gave my life for thee; what hast thou given for me?’

     The third famous person who was impacted by “abiding hard at the cross” was Ernest Borgnine.  He recounts the story in the March 1989 Guidepost testimony.  While filming the movie Jesus of Nazareth, by Franco Zeffirelli, playing the role of the Centurion, back in 1976 with Anne Bancroft, and Olvia Hussey.  The film was shot in January and February in Tunisia on the Mediterranean. He tells his story like this: ” It was cold, windy, and miserable.  I was uncomfortable wearing the Roman soldier’s gear, especially the ponderous metal helmet.  It made me pity those ancient soldiers.  When it came to film my part at the cross, Robert Powell, who was playing Jesus, was given the day off.  Zefferelli put a chalk mark on the cross and told me to ‘stare at it as if you were looking at Jesus’. I said, ‘okay’.  I tried.  I could not do it, I requested, ‘somebody read me the words of Jesus as He hung on the cross’.  The director agreed to do that.  I knew the words from my youth, and from reading for the part.  I stared at the chalk mark and began to think like the centurion.  That poor man up there, I thought.  I met him.  He healed my servant.  He is the son of God.  An unfortunate claim during these perilous times.  But I know he is innocent of any crimes”. As Zefferelli read Jesus saying ‘father forgive them’ I felt so ashamed!  I thought if you forgive me too, I will retire from soldiering and live out my life on that farm land outside of Rome.  Then it happened!  I no longer saw the chalk mark.  I saw Jesus, on the cross! Not Robert Powell, the actor.  Jesus! Pain-seared. sweat-stained. blood flowing from the crown.  His face filled with compassion.  He looked down at me, through tragic sorrowful eyes, with an expression of love beyond description. He cried out ‘it is finished’.  ‘Into thy hands I commend my spirit’.  His head slumped to one side!  I knew he was dead.  A terrible grief welled up inside of me.  I became oblivious to the camera.  I started sobbing uncontrollably, Zefferilli yelled, ‘Cut’.  Olivia was crying.  Anne Bancroft was crying, I wiped my eyes and looked again.  Jesus was gone!  That encounter changed my life.  Made my faith real…  Was a profound conversion experience. I have not been the same person since!  As the centurion learned 2,000 years ago, you cannot encounter Jesus like that without being changed forever!”  May that be your encounter today as we visit Mt. Calvary located in this text of Isaiah 52/53.

     Two last quotes-  J.I. Packer wrote, “The traveler through the Bible landscape misses his way as soon as he loses sight of hill called Mt. Calvary”.  J. Knox Chambliss wrote, ” The Spirit does not take his pupils beyond the cross, BUT EVER MORE DEEPLY INTO IT!”  May that be your worship experience today.  “EVER MORE DEEPLY INTO HIS CROSS!” 

“The Christian Witness-Bears a Bull’s Eye for a Birthmark of the New Birth”.

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Mar 212021
 

PASTOR’S PERSPECTIVE: “The Christian Witness-Bears a Bull’s Eye for a Birthmark of the New Birth”.

     In his book, Waking the Dead, John Eldredge finds an historical parallel to the jealousy that the Devil has about Christ, and the believers who bear his image.  This parallel is found in the jealousy that the Court Composer, Antonia Salieri, had of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.  Eldredge writes, “Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was a glorious man.  An image bearer.  You remember from your youth the song-‘Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star’? Mozart wrote that melody when he was three years old!  He composed his first symphony when he was twelve years old.  Mozart’s music has endured, enchanting the world for centuries.  He is probably played more often than any other classical composer.  Yet this brilliant man died very young-we really do not know how or why.  Impoverished, alone, his body was dumped into a common grave.  In his 1984 movie, Amadeus, Peter Shaffer attempts to tell the tale of what happened to this musical genius, and the jealous rivalry and conflict that went on between Mozart and Salieri.  It is a story of genius and jealousy, leading to murder.  Shafer presents Salieri as a villain worthy of the devil himself.  Salieri is a musician of lesser note.  Once he discovers the greatness of Mozart, and sees how he is appreciated and loved by all, he is tormented by a jealousy that has only one goal-to destroy this music who is the Incarnation of God’s gift of music.  He embodies what must have been Lucifer’s jealousy of God’s glory, which brought the angel to his ruin. There is a remarkable scene in the film.  Mozart’s wife brings a sample of his music to Salieri, in hopes of getting her husband a job.  She does not know that he is a wolf in sheep’s clothing.  Glancing through the pages of Mozart’s portfolio, Salieri is captivated by the work of his rival’s hand.  He asks Mrs. Mozart-‘are these originals?’  She responds, ‘yes-he never makes copies’.  Salieri is amazed. ‘How can this be?  There are no corrections of any kind.  He writes his music down-a finished product-from his head-page after page-as if it is dictation…finished like no music is ever finished. Displace one note and there would be diminishment. Displace one phrase and the structure would fall.  The sound I heard of him playing in the Archbishop’s palace was no accident.  His music is the very voice of God…absolute beauty.  It is miraculous!'”  Eldredge then describes the defining scene of the movie.  “(Salieri leaves the room sullen.  He goes into his private chambers.  He takes his crucifix down from the wall.  He places it in the fire.  Then Salieri addresses God and says, ‘From now on we are enemies.  You and I!  Because you have chosen for your Instrument this boastful, lustful, infantile boy…and give me only the ability to recognize this Incarnation! Because you are unjust…unfair…and unkind!  I will block you.  I swear it! I will hinder and harm Your gifted creature here on earth as far as I am able. [shaking his fist in the air]. I will ruin your Incarnation!”  In Eldredge’s mind Salieri illustrates for every Christian, how Lucifer resents Jesus, and all who have embraced Him as their Savior.  He especially feels that Satan has marked all Christians, who have made winning the lost their priority, and has declared an all-out war on them to destroy them and their attempt to follow their Lord in “seeking and saving those who are lost and perishing”. 

     One of my favorite cartoonists is Gary Larson, who ran the Far Side in syndication from January 1, 1980 until he retired it on January 1, 1995.  One of my favorite cartoons showed two deer standing near a wood.  One of them has a large bulls-eye on its side.  The other deer looks at it and responds, “Bummer of a birth-mark Hal!”  Lol.  John Eldredge is saying that any Christian who takes seriously the mandate of our Lord to “go into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature” has a new birth mark.  It is a bulls-eye target.  Satan has them in his cross-hairs!  He, like Salieri, has declared all out war, with the intention of destroying them and any witness they might have.  In his trilogy Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien has one of his characters, Théoden say-“I will not risk open war”.  Aragon replies to him, “Open war is upon you, whether you risk it or not!”  William Gurnall writes “It is the image of God reflected in you that so enrages hell; ot os tjos at which the demons hurl their mightiest weapons!”  Thomas Cosmades reminds us-“Anyone one who witnesses to the Grace of God in Christ is undertaking direct assault against Satan’s dominion”.  Satan will not let that happen without retaliation.  John of the Cross told his followers-“The devil fears a soul united to God as he does God Himself”.  Ambrose of Milan said that as Christians we are “athletes in preparation for a spiritual wrestling match-to the death!”  Florence Nightingale said, “The Christian life is a hard fight, a wrestling with evil, hand to hand, foot to foot.  Every inch of the way is disputed!”  One of the very best books I have ever read on witnessing is by Mark Cahill.  It is titled One Thing You Can’t Do In Heaven. The book is filled with quotes of motivation on witnessing from the great Charles Haddon Spurgeon.  The first quote sets the tone-“Every Christian is either a missionary, (a witness), or an imposter!”  You can only imagine the rest!  Edifying reading.  As Christians we must go all out in these last days giving our lives and lips to sharing Jesus with those who need him while there is still time.  When we do that, we must brace ourselves for an ALL OUT ASSAULT ON THE GOSPEL OF GRACE.  Today’s message describes the methodology that Satan uses in that all out assault.  He that hath ears-Let him hear what the Spirit says to those who Testify to the Gospel of Grace.

“The Black Velvet that Displays the Diamond of the Love of God”.

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Mar 142021
 

PASTOR’S PERSPECTIVE:  “The Black Velvet that Displays the Diamond of the Love of God”.

     The Parable of the Prodigal Son has been called “The Most Beautiful Story Ever Told!”- (William Cowper-Hymn writer).  It has been called “The greatest short story ever written-with such drama that is so clear and precise that everyone can relate to it-and cannot miss its central point” (Max Lucado-author).  It was called a “Lifeline to God” by Fyodor Doestevesky.  Rembrandt was so touched by it, his last painting put an exclamation point on all of his masterpieces!  That very painting captivated Dutch Theologian Henry Nouwen for over four hours, after which he wrote his most important book-The Return of the Prodigal Son.  He said, “I become the Prodigal Son every time I seek for unconditional love anywhere but where it can only be found, in the heart of the Father!”  The Parable and the painting changed his life and ministry forever.  If we would spend a few minutes this morning in meditation on its central message it can do the same for us!  Great men of history have been so touched they have written poems and songs as well!  We all know the name John Newton.  His greatest masterpiece of hymns is the famous Amazing Grace!  But he wrote a very touching summary of the Parable in a poem.  He wrote:

THE PRODIGAL SON by John Newton

Afflictions though they seem severe

In mercy oft they are sent

They stopped the Prodigal’s career

And led him to repent

Although he no relentings felt

Till he had spent his store

His stubborn heart began to melt

Though famine pinched him sore

What I have gained by sin he said

But hunger, shame, and fear

My father’s house abounds with bread

While I am starving here

I’ll go and tell Him all I’ve done

And fall before His face

Unworthy to be called His son

I’ll seek a servant’s place

His father saw him coming back

He saw, He ran, He smiled

And threw His arms around his neck

Of His rebellious child

Father I have sinned, O please forgive!

I’ve heard enough He said

Rejoice my house, My son’s alive

For whom I mourned as dead!

Now let the fatted calf be slain

And spread the news around

My son was dead, but lives again

Was lost, but now is found.

     Somehow, we manage to make the prodigal son the central message of this parable.  I think that when we do that, we miss the main point Jesus had in mind when He told that story to its original audience.  Jesus was telling the audience that they had totally forgotten the true nature of the heart of His Father.  The central point of this Parable is that the Father always has, and always will welcome prodigals from the far country of sin and rebellion to come home to His loving forgiveness and restoration.  This Parable is about the Loving Father, not the Lost Son!  Kenny Bishop has written a song entitled The Prodigal’s Dad.  Listen to it on U-tube.  Look up the lyrics.  It has a remarkable message.  It is about the broken heart of our Heavenly Father that goes from Sad to Glad, when his Prodigal Son comes home! That is the message of the Parable we are studying today.  That is the thrust of the sermon’s message today!  The point of this parable is not the depths of the lostness of the rebellious son.  It is the depth of the love of the restoring Father.  The depth of the lostness of the son is shown only to highlight the depth of love of the Father.  THE LOSTNESS OF THE SON IS THE BLACK VELVET AGAINST WHICH THE DIAMOND OF THE LOVE OF THE FATHER IS DISPLAYED IN ALL OF ITS FACETS AND SPLENDOR!  Please don’t miss that.  If you do you miss everything!

“HE’S BACK!-A CLEAR AND ETERNAL LESSON FOR US?”

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Mar 072021
 

PASTOR’S PERSPECTIVE:  “HE’S BACK!-A CLEAR AND ETERNAL LESSON FOR US?”

     When I say-“he’s back!”-what comes to your mind?  In 2013,Timur Vermes, released a documentary, more of a mockumentary that tried to present how Hitler would react today, if he returned to modern Berlin Germany.  But that is not what I am referring to.  Or perhaps you thought I was making a reference to George W. Bush’s return to political life, when he traveled to South Carolina to campaign for his brother Jeb, who was running for president.  A promo trailer for another Jaws movie; Rocky Balboa; or Michael Myers?  No-none of those.  But if you had said, “O.J.” you would have been correct.  A recent six episode series The People v. O.J. Simpson was released to celebrate the 20 year anniversary of the American Crime Story.  It is the recounting of the trial of last century when Orenthal James Simpson was tried for the June 12, 1994 death of his ex-wife Nichole, and waiter Ronald Lyle Goldman.  The trial ran from January 24, 1995 to October 3, 1995 being described as “the most publicized criminal trial in American history”.  Newsweek called the trial “The Trail of Blood” on its cover; Time titled it “An American Tragedy”.  The current drama stars David Schwimmer, of Friends, as O.J.’s friend Robert Kardashian; John Travolta as lawyer Robert Shapiro; Cuba Gooding Jr. as O.J.  For most of us who lived through it we would not call it the “trial of the century!”  My appraisal of it would agree with Don Henley’s summary of it in his 1995 hit, The Garden of Allah. In the song he describes Satan laughing at the state of justice in America, and the triumph of evil.  Here are the lyrics:

    “Today I made an appearance downtown

     I am an expert witness because I say I am…

     I will testify for you, I am a gun for hire, I am a saint, I am a liar

     Because there are no facts, there is no truth 

     Just data to be manipulated

     I can get you any results you like

     What’s it worth to you?

     There is no wrong, there is no right

      And I sleep very well at night!

     No shame, no solution, no remorse, no retribution

     Just people selling t-shirts

     Just opportunity to participate in the pathetic little circus

     And winning, winning, winning!”

             Those words, combined with the proposition about the bloody gloves, “If they don’t fit you must acquit!”   just remind us that the trial was a magnanimous “miscarriage of justice”.  We watched as he was acquitted and said he would search for the real killer.  Something he never did for a second.  Then it was followed by a civil case in February 1997, that found O.J. guilty of the wrongful deaths of Nichole and Ronald Goldman, awarding the Goldman family   $35.5M in damages.  Then in 2007 O.J. co-authored a book entitled If I Did It:  Confessions of a Killer.  All of this just reminds us that in America, if you have enough fame and fortune, you can literally get away with murder!  You might be asking me now why I am wasting your time recounting this “pathetic little Circus” that resulted in such a “miscarriage of justice”.   Actually you can blame it on the late Chuck Colson.  Chuck Colson?  Yes-let me explain.  Years ago I intrigued when Colson wrote in his book Loving God, that Watergate, another crime of the century, that ended in the first and only resignation of a President of the United States, actually proved for him that the Resurrection of Jesus  Christ is an incontrovertible historical fact!  More on that next week.  But after reading his thesis I discovered that real life experiences can teach us, in very real ways-spiritual truths.  O.J.’s trial and acquittal does just that.  Just a couple of weeks ago another O.J. intrigue surfaced.  At a press conference at LAPD headquarters Capt. Andy Neiman announced that a police officer just turned over a knife that was discovered on the property of the Simpson mansion when the Brentwood estate was being razed.  Apparently a construction worker found it and gave it to a police officer who had kept it in his possession all this time.  How bizarre?  What if the knife was the one used and contained DNA evidence against O.J.?  Would we finally see justice for Nicole and Ronald Goldman?  University of Southern California law professor Jody Armour answered that question for us.  Even if the knife was the one used in the crime; even if it was covered with DNA proving O.J. guilty as the killer- Armour said, “The 5th Amendment ensures double jeopardy would preclude a second trial for O.J. Simpson…O.J. cannot be tried again for that double murder!”  Incredible!  He got away with murder and will never be brought to justice!  How unfair!

     Before you throw your hands up giving up on the American justice system, saying “Justice is indeed blind-in more than one way”-please learn a truth from this law that could be called “The Gospel According to O.J. Simpson”.  Orenthal James Simpson is not the first, nor the only guilty person to get away with his   crime.  Before you throw your rock-think about the crimes that we committed against God.  If you and I committed two sins a day, one of commission, and one of omission, (an underestimation of magnanimous proportions), we would be guilty of 51,100 sins, crimes, breaking of laws against a Holy God.  Just one act of disobedience brings the sentence of death-spiritual death; physical death; eternal death!  God’s courtroom makes no mistakes.  His evidence against us is irrefutable and indefensible.  We deserve eternal damnation forever in a place of torment called the Lake of Fire.  But as Paul states in his Magnus Opus of Biblical writings, the Book of Romans, “where sin did abound, grace did much more abound”. (Rom. 5:20).  In that chapter Paul also tells us the good news of the Gospel is that through the cross of Jesus Christ, God can be just, and the justifier of those guilty of heinous sin!  When we embrace the death of Christ as our propitiation for sin, and trust Him as a Substitute and Savior, “he who knew no sin became sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him”.  The Guilty goes free, because the Innocent took our penalty.  We are acquitted.  We are justified.  Read Romans 8…it begins with “No Condemnation” and ends in “No Separation”.  We benefit from God’s Superior Law of Double Jeopardy.  Since the guilt and penalty for all of our sins, past. present, and future were placed on Jesus on the altar of Calvary’s cross, our sin debt has been paid in full.  Remember all of our sins were still future when he died on that tree!  Never will we face judgment or be tried for our sins again.  They are paid in full, and as Scripture reminds us are “removed from us as far as the east is from the west” (Ps. 103:12); “Cast behind God’s back” (Isa. 38:17);  “cast in the depths of the sea” (Mic. 7:19); to be “remembered no more” (Isa. 43:25;Heb 8:12).  We will be reviewed and rewarded for our service, but will never be retributed for our sin!  O.J. will not be that fortunate.  Unless he confesses and repents-God’s justice will prevail on him for all eternity!  But for us, who to Jesus for refuge have turned, we are blessed as the chorus says, “Gone, Gone, Gone, yes my sins are gone!  Buried in the deepest sea; yes that’s good enough for me; I shall live eternally.  Praise God My sins are gone!” That should make you “sleep very well at night!” 

     Erwin Lutzer illustrates this truth with the story of some firefighters fighting wildfires out of control.  Finally the situation got desperate and they had to flee.  Realizing they could not outrun the fire, one of the men lit an area of grass on fire.  He did so as his partner protested!  He then exhorted his partner to help him stamp out the fire.  As they kneeled in the center of the burned-off area he told his partner, “The fire cannot come where the fire has already been!”  When you find yourself being reminded of the travesty that occurred in O.J.’s case, thank God for the travesty that came our way through the travesty of Calvary that became our triumph in Christ.   Then rejoice that we are all living the “Gospel According to O.J.!”