God’s Two Words
The post below was taken from the introduction of the short devotional edited by Sean Norris entitled “Two Words: Teaser Edition” produced and published by my friends at Mockingbird Ministries.
The Bible addresses our everyday lives, full of problems and pressures. Contrary to popular belief, God does not approach us through His Word with a manual for living. He does not offer us a golden rule by which we can reach higher ground and begin to rid ourselves of our problem with sin. Instead, God comes to us through His Word in the midst of our problems, failure, and pain with an unexpected message that at first says, “The problem is much worse than you think.”
We all want the doctor to walk in and say, “It’s not too bad. Don’t worry, you’ll be fine.” However, when we read the Bible, we discover that our problem is dire. God is the Doctor, and He enters our lives and delivers the most disturbing news: “You are dead.” Our initial response is one of disbelief and defiance. We think, You’re crazy! I am sitting right here talking to you. I know I don’t feel great, but I’m certainly not dead. We do not agree with the diagnosis God delivers through His Word.
Through the Law—the standards and demands presented in the Bible—we see that we are not, in fact, neutral beings who go astray here and there and just need to be brought around again with a little compassion and grace. Rather, we read that we are the stubborn and obstinate people that consistently rebel against God and His Law. We read that we are the dry bones in the valley of death. We are lost in the wilderness with no hope to find our way home. We are the sick that Jesus speaks of. We are born into death.
The Law is the “first Word” we hear from God when reading the Bible, and often it seems all too familiar. It seems to affirm the small, condemning voice in the back of our heads that tells us that we do not cut it. It is consistent with our knee-jerk judgments of other people. It is consistent with our everyday disappointments and pain. It is our death sentence, and it is devastating. It must be so, however, in order for us to hear God’s “second” and final Word.
Only when we die to our illusions of control, success, power, victory, and self-reliance can we be born again into new life. After the Doctor’s disturbing diagnosis, which makes us want to storm out and get another opinion, we finally are ready to hear the cure. Ironically, the cure is found in the same place as the diagnosis: at the cross. There, we see that we are indeed beyond self-repair and need nothing short of salvation. There, we find our cure in the sacrifice of the innocent man, God’s only Son, Jesus.
[Law and Gospel] are the “two Words” spoken by God. Through the Law, God wakes us up to our true condition of being “dead in our trespasses.” We find ourselves standing at the cross guilty, deserving to be justly nailed to it and hung for all to see. But then comes the more powerful and final Word, the Gospel. In our stead comes a broken, beaten, innocent Jesus to be nailed on the cross for us, to hang for us, to be ridiculed for us, to die for us. In His actions, we discover the true definition of love. Love that transcends death. Love that breathes new life into these dry bones. Love that breaks the chains of sin and death and sets us free. Love that gives hope. Love that is unconditional and self-sacrificing.
At the cross, God speaks His two Words simultaneously. The whole of the Bible points to this one moment. The Bible and all of life function according to these two Words. In every situation, you can see the Law at work for the purpose of driving people to know their need and find the answer to it in the Gospel.
This is Christianity.