Friday, April 18, 2014

'Light' Afflictions: Compared to What?

2 Corinthians 4 is an intriguing chapter of Scripture. In it, Paul expresses that if we have the proper focus on eternity that we will have little difficulty battling through our struggles in this temporal world. It culminates in 2 Corinthians 4:16-18,
"For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal."

As I read this verse, I can't help but hear distressed Christians all over the world scream, "What are you talking about, Paul? You have no right to belittle my struggles! You don't know what I'm going through."

We hear this from those Christians who have been diagnosed with cancer, those who are being tortured and martyred for their beliefs, those whose loved ones have just died.

Hey, no one ever said the Christian life would be easy. Sure, these days we will occasionally hear a Pastor proclaim  that Jesus is the solution to all your life problems, but sadly, those pastors are drastically mistaken. Jesus did not come down to this Earth to solve our temporal problems, but our eternal ones.

Today is Good Friday. It is the day that we celebrate what Jesus did for us on the cross. As previously mentioned on this blog, Jesus underwent complete torture before and during the crucifixion to the point where his entire body was screaming in pain.

But this physical torture is nothing at all compared to what Jesus truly went through on the cross. The words he screamed in Matthew 27:46 highlight torture much different and much more painful.
"Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?"

These words can be confusing at first. Why would Jesus feel forsaken by God the Father on the cross? There is a simple reason for it.

Jesus came into this world to be a substitute for our sins. Because the Lord's holiness requires punishment to be exacted somewhere, He was to face the penalty for our sins, so that His sacrifice would change the eternal destination of all those who would accept it as their own.

We all know this, of course, but sometimes in our analysis, we forget that the punishment for sin wouldn't have been paid by a physical death on the cross. The punishment for the sin of this world is separation from the Lord. That's why Jesus feels - no, is - forsaken by God the Father in this verse. R.C. Sproul explains,
"Jesus didn't just feel forsaken on the cross; he was totally forsaken by God while he hung on the cross because that's exactly what the penalty for sin is. As the apostle Paul elaborates, sin cuts us off from the presence and benefits of God. Christ screamed, 'Why have I been forsaken?' It wasn't just a question; it was a cry of agony."  

Complete separation from the presence of the Lord would cause some agony indeed! Ultimately, we all know that Jesus was raised from the dead 3 days later, and is now on the right hand of the Father.

But for us, the separation would have been for all eternity. Eternity separated from the power and presence of God, from whom all good gifts come.

Well, that makes cancer, persecution, and our other afflictions seem pretty light indeed.

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