June 06, 2018 | Articles by Rev. David Bodanza
During the past two weekends, a man has stood up in the court of public opinion. He was just one man and there were very many in the court. Most of the court spoke with one voice. The court questioned him each time he began to stand. This unusual hearing now resumes for the third time, after a week-long recess.
THE COURT: Sir, when we heard you last, you told us that Jesus was the sacrifice and the sacrificer. You also stated that God is the just and justifier. What is the meaning of this?
THE MAN: Jesus is both the sacrificer and the sacrifice in that he himself sacrificed his own life to pay the penalty for the sins of his people. God is just. He requires that a penalty be paid for the sins of each and every human being. Yet, God is the justifier in that he gave his one and only son, Jesus, to pay that penalty for all who put their faith in him, and in him alone, to save them.
THE COURT: We have heard that God forgives us if we simply ask him to do so. Isn't this true? We have been taught since kindergarten to say we are sorry when we offend, and the offended then must forgive the offender. Isn't this in keeping with the Christmas spirit?
THE MAN: While this may keep the peace in a schoolroom, consider that it is not what happens in a courtroom. An accused cannot simply apologize to the victim and be done with it. If that were the case, there would be many insincere apologies and very few convictions. The offense is against the state. The judge represents the state and the judge must render justice.
THE COURT: Very well. But there are pardons.
THE MAN: No judge can issue a pardon. Only the governor can issue a pardon. Moreover, every accused knows that one has a right to justice, but no right to a pardon. A pardon is at the complete discretion of the governor.
THE COURT: Yes, you speak correctly. We remember this. What is your point?
THE MAN: Simply this: justice is what we deserve from God, but no one deserves a pardon from him. Do not confuse justice with mercy.
THE COURT: But we have heard somewhere that God is love.
THE MAN: Yes, God is love and he demonstrates his great love by offering you a pardon. He will pardon your sins, and consider you right with him, not for anything you have done or not done, but by imputing the obedience and sacrifice of Jesus Christ to your case. Jesus Christ is God's great gift to the world at Christmas. This great gift is received through faith in Jesus.
THE COURT: Why is this not advertized more widely? Why are the sales of retailers' goods the only thing we see and here during Christmas when the real gift, indeed the reason for the season, lies hidden and silent, buried in the snow?
THE MAN: The voice still cries out, but it is drowned out by what Christmas has become to a preoccupied world. People are like hamsters running on a wheel. The faster they run, the faster the wheel turns. They ignore the offer of a pardon, not only at Christmas but all year long. Some ignore this offer for their entire lives. Then they die, and it is much too late.
THE COURT: This is tragic.
THE MAN: Indeed, it is. I speak now so if anyone can hear me they will truly listen.
THE COURT: Sir, why is this good news not in the newspaper?
THE MAN: You are holding such a newspaper in your hands as you read this transcript!
THE COURT: You got us on that one.
THE MAN: And no one can perceive their need for a pardon without God the Holy Spirit working in their hearts.
THE COURT: Why is this?
THE MAN: Our sin not only keeps our lips making excuses, it keeps us putting our fingers in our ears like a defiant three year old who refuses to listen to his mother's admonitions.
THE COURT: You insult us, sir!
THE MAN: I don't mean to, I don' t mean to. Few doubt the existence of the wind, because it is invisible. The wind is invisible but its effects are clearly seen. Many doubt the existence of God, however, because he is invisible.
THE COURT: Sir, can God's effects be seen as well?
THE MAN: Oh, yes! But humanity attributes his effects to someone or something else. The power of a storm or the beauty of creation is attributed to Mother Nature. Who is Mother Nature but a mythical bait and switch? The birth of a baby is attributed to his parents. I heard a parent tell an unruly child, "I brought you into this world, and I can take you out!" Even a fool knows that they cannot create a human life though their relations are the catalyst. Such are the things that make me fully realize that deception is alive and working in the world.
THE COURT: Who is deceiving the people?
THE MAN: The deceiver. The devil, also known as satan.
THE COURT: We thought the devil is only a myth like Mother Nature.
THE MAN: He is no myth. He lurks behind the deception and incitement to evil that is so prevalent in this world. It has been well-said that the greatest wile of the devil is to make you think he does not exist.
THE COURT: We like this Christmas Carol now playing. What is it called?
THE MAN: It is called, "God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen." It is a traditional English Christmas carol. Listen to the lyrics of the first verse at least:
"God rest ye merry, gentlemen Let nothing you dismay Remember, Christ, our Saviour Was born on Christmas day To save us all from Satan's power When we were gone astray O tidings of comfort and joy, Comfort and joy O tidings of comfort and joy."
THE COURT: Why that carol says that Christ saves us from Satan's power when we were gone astray!
THE MAN: Indeed, it does. When Christ is truly received through faith, the eyes are opened, the mouth is shut and we cease forging the chain. The sinner is saved from his sins. He receives a pardon with benefits now but with full benefit upon death.
THE COURT: What do you mean "the eyes are opened?"
THE MAN: The blindness caused by sin heals the eyes so one can see the excellency of Jesus Christ and his truth.
THE COURT: What do you mean "the mouth is shut?"
THE MAN: We will stop mumbling excuses for our sins but rather confess them to God.
THE COURT: And what is this reference to "forging the chain?"
THE MAN: I was alluding to Charles Dickens' story, "A Christmas Carol." It was the dead banker, Jacob Marley, who came to visit Ebenezer Scrooge with a heavy chain wrapped around him ("The chain he drew was clasped about his middle. It was long, and wound about him like a tail; and it was made (for Scrooge observed it closely) of cash-boxes, keys, padlocks, ledgers, deeds, and heavy purses wrought in steel.") When Scrooge asked him what it meant, Marley
replied, "I wear the chain I forged in life! I made it link by link and yard by yard! I gartered it on of my own free will and by my own free will, I wore it!" Christ saves us from our self-destructive behavior which is like the forging of a chain that gradually takes away our freedom.
THE COURT: That chain concerns us. What chains could we be forging?
THE MAN: Our sinful addictions and sins of the heart can unwittingly trap us and wrap us up like a person bound in a chain. That is why addictions are called a disease. What starts out as volitional becomes a dangerous habit that gradually cedes self-control.
THE COURT: We have witnessed some drinking or drugging themselves to an early grave, and others so bitter with anger and revenge so as to have hearts like a poisonous cesspool. These are just examples.
THE MAN: Yet, even those skipping down easy street may be charmed into thinking that it will never end, but it always does.
THE COURT: We knew of people who had everything going for them only to be suddenly diagnosed with a terminal disease.
THE MAN: We are all terminal, for our days are finite. Each one of us is running out of time. And yet, every man, woman and child needs to be reconciled to God. Our many sins have separated us from God. His wrath and judgment will be imposed upon all who have not sought and received a pardon through Jesus Christ. You cannot be rightly related to God without Jesus Christ. Please hear me, and let me say it again, for I do not want you to miss it. You cannot be rightly related to God without Jesus Christ.
THE COURT: Very well. We will hear you next weekend. This court stands in recess until then.
THE MAN: But remember, you have a decision to make: what will you do with Jesus Christ?