A Sweet Pain
Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus….indeed is interceding for us. (Romans 8:33-34)
Paul’s questions in Romans 8:33 are rhetorical. When he asks who shall bring a charge against God’s elect, he is saying, “Nobody dare!”
Our defense against the accusation of Satan is the gospel. He despises the gospel. He denies the gospel. He wants us to seek our justification somewhere other than in our Christ, who clothes us with His perfect righteousness. Satan will lay charges against us. He will condemn us. He will shout into our ears that our garments are filthy, that we are too sinful to ever be pleasing to a righteous God. But in Christ we say, “Begone, slanderer- who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? My Savior has covered me. He has taken away my iniquity. He prays for me at this very moment. Cover your ears, devil, lest you hear the intercession of Christ for me. Christ is my righteousness. His merit is mine. Nothing can separate me from His love.
We please God when we resist temptation and do not sin. Certainly part of our maturing in the Lord is to do this more and more. But we do sin, and again and again, and as we grow in the Lord we become even more conscious of how many ways we can find to sin against God and others. But part of our growth is becoming more and more sure of God’s acceptance of us. He does not save us because of our spotless lives, but because we are clothed in Christ’s righteous garments. Our awareness of our sin is painful indeed, but it is a sweet pain that drives us into the arms of the loving Father. We please Him when we return to Him, something Satan, the accuser does his best to prevent. When Satan whispers to the believer, “You with all your sin, can’t be pleasing to God,” the believer replies, “Ah, but I am. To God be the glory.”
The strategy of Satan from the beginning is to separate and isolate humans from God and each other. We do not know why Eve was not with Adam when the tempter came into the Garden. What we do know is that she was alone and this is the plot of the devil- to divide and conquer. Since the devil cannot convince God to separate Himself from us, he works on us trying to convince us to separate ourselves from God.
As the Israelites are traveling through the wilderness toward the Promised Land, we can see that God was with them and God was for them. The reputation of God and His chosen people was spreading throughout all of Canaan. As they near the land of Moab, the king realizes that all of his military might isn’t sufficient to stand against the people of God. In the land of Moab lived a man by the name of Balaam, who was known to be a prophet. The king of Moab hired him to invoke a curse on the Israelites. The king took him up on the mountain where he could see the tribes of Israel to invoke the curse, but when Balaam opened his mouth, instead of a curse, he pronounced blessings.
“Then it came about in the morning that Balak took Balaam and brought him up to the high places of Baal; from there he saw a portion of the Israelites. Balaam took up his [first] discourse (oracle) and said: “Balak, the king of Moab, has brought me from Aram (Syria), from the mountains of the east, [saying,] ‘Come, curse [the descendants of] Jacob for me; And come, [violently] denounce Israel.’ “How shall I curse those whom God has not cursed? Or how can I [violently] denounce those the Lord has not denounced? “For from the top of the rocks I see Israel, And from the hills I look at him. Behold, the people [of Israel] shall dwell alone And will not be reckoned among the nations. “Who can count the dust (the descendants) of Jacob And the number of even the fourth part of Israel? Let me die the death of the righteous [those who are upright and in right standing with God], And let my end be like his!” Then Balak said to Balaam, “What have you done to me? I brought you to curse my enemies, but here you have [thoroughly] blessed them instead!” Balaam answered, “Must I not be obedient and careful to speak what the Lord has put in my mouth?” Balak said to him, “Come with me, I implore you, to another place from where you can see them, although you will see only the nearest and not all of them; and curse them for me from there.” When Balaam returned to Balak, he was standing beside his burnt offering, and the leaders of Moab were with him. And Balak said to him, “What has the Lord spoken?” Balaam took up his [second] discourse (oracle) and said: “Rise up, O Balak, and hear; Listen [closely] to me, son of Zippor. “God is not a man, that He should lie, Nor a son of man, that He should repent. Has He said, and will He not do it? Or has He spoken and will He not make it good and fulfill it? “Behold, I have received His command to bless [Israel]. He has blessed, and I cannot reverse it. “God has not observed wickedness in Jacob [for he is forgiven], Nor has He seen trouble in Israel. The Lord their God is with Israel, And the shout of their King is among the people. “God brought them out of Egypt; They have the strength of a wild ox. “For there is no enchantment or omen against Jacob, Nor is there any divination against Israel. At the proper time it shall be said to Jacob And to Israel, what has God done! “Behold, a people rises up like a lioness And lifts itself up like a lion; He will not lie down until he devours the prey And drinks the blood of the slain.” Then Balak said to Balaam, “Please come; I will take you to another place. Perhaps it will please God to let you curse them for me from there.” He took up his [third] discourse (oracle) and said: “The oracle of Balaam the son of Beor, And the oracle of the man whose eye is opened [at last, to see clearly the purpose and will of God], The oracle of one who hears the words of God, Who sees the vision of the Almighty, Falling down, but having his eyes open and uncovered, How fair are your tents, O Jacob, And your tabernacles, O Israel! “Like valleys that stretch out, Like gardens beside the river, Like aloes planted by the Lord, Like cedars beside the waters. “Water [that is, great blessings] will flow from his buckets, And his offspring will live by many waters, And his king will be higher than Agag, And his kingdom shall be exalted. “God brought Israel out of Egypt; Israel has strength like the wild ox; He will devour [Gentile] nations, his adversaries (enemies), And will crush their bones in pieces, And shatter them with his arrows. “He bowed down [to rest], he lies down as a lion; And as a lioness, who dares to rouse him? Blessed [of God] is he who blesses you, And cursed [of God] is he who curses you.” Then Balak’s anger was kindled against Balaam, and he struck his hands together; and Balak said to Balaam, “I called you to curse my enemies, but behold, you have done nothing but bless them these three times.
What we ought to learn from this episode is that as the children of God, we cannot be put under a curse by the devil nor anyone else. This is what Paul is saying to us in Romans 8 when he says, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation to them who are in Christ Jesus.” No matter where you were, no matter what you’ve done, no matter how ugly the sin was, when you come to Christ, all that is washed away, removed, and remembered against you no more.
The question then is, if this is true then why do I sometimes feel as though I am being punished by God. We must remember the adversary will always try to condemn us and try to separate ourselves from God. The response to failure ought to be that we run to God rather than away from God. When we fall, we need Christ more and we need His Body, the church and yet the temptation is to separate ourselves from both. When we continue to read the story of the Israelites and Balaam, we find that he taught the Moabites how to cause the Israelites to bring themselves under the curse of sin. Only sin can cause us to lose the blessings of God. This doesn’t mean that when we sin, we have no remedy for God has provided us one through Christ. So today, if for some reason you have failed, missed the mark, sinned, don’t stay there. Don’t allow Satan to keep you in that trap. Do as the prodigal son did and run home. You will find a Father who will welcome you with open arms and wash you and clothe you in the righteousness of Christ.
In the story of Peter, who denied the Lord thrice, we can see that in the meeting with Christ on the shore after the resurrection, there were no words of condemnation spoken. All Christ asked him after his colossal failure was, “Peter, do you love me?” Now Jesus could have said to Peter words of condemnation. I’m sure Peter expected them. He, for sure probably deserved them. He was probably beating himself up over his sinful act of denial. But instead of a scolding he received only a question- “Peter, do you love me?”
O child of God, never let your failures make you a failure. Learn to walk in a spirit of humility and repentance. Trust in Christ alone for your righteousness, trust the Holy Spirit to convict you, trust the Father’s love and when you sin, and you will, let that awareness immediately drive you to the throne of grace where repentance meets forgiveness and restoration. Whatever you do don’t allow Satan to separate and isolate you. The more of a failure you feel the more you need to run to God.
Dr. John Thompson