Saturday, July 3, 2010

What I Learned Yesterday In the Chemo Chair

Since February I've been doing chemo three weeks out of four. (It's an easy chemo...only minor side effects. That is, if you can call hair loss minor to a woman's way of thinking! That plus a certain lethargy.) It's a matter of 3-4 hours but yesterday's time in the chemo chair was nearly 6 hours long! My bloods had been faxed to the City the day before so that the Onc could sign the order and fax it back to our local clinic.

Somehow no order was available until I had been in the recliner nearly two hours. No matter, I had taken a book to read.

I've mentioned Kevin DeYoung's book, The Good News We Almost Forgot: Rediscovering the Gospel in a 16th Century Catechism. DeYoung presents the 129 questions/answers of the Heidelberg Confession in a 52 week format, providing a summary narrative each week.

Since I've never been through the Heidelberg Catechism (something is remiss in my theological training...I'm in my 60s and this is the FIRST time I've studied this catechism) I was pleased when Hubby bought me a copy. I'm reading it slowly. The book includes the questions/answers and DeYoung's narratives, but does not list the scriptures associated with each Q/A and which are greatly instructional to the reader.

And so I have downloaded the Catechism Q/As AND the scriptures. It is helpful to me to read the scriptures that support each answer.

So yesterday I'm in the chemo chair and I have a good solid two hours to read. I was blessed with the delay in getting doctor's orders because one of the first drugs to be infused is benedryl and, you guessed it, it puts me to sleep for nearly the duration. Nurse Diana brings me lunch and I eat in what feels like a drug-induced haze but other than that, I spend my time sleeping.

So here are some (not all) of my thoughts on yesterday's reading.
Question 12 asks, "According to God's righteous judgment we deserve punishment both in this world and forever after: How then can we escape punishment and return to God's favor?"

Answer 12: God requires that His justice be satisfied. Therefore the claims of His justice must be paid in full, either by ourselves or another.
Let me interject a thought here. It is disconcerting that many in contemporary Christianity (and in the secular world as well) like to believe "God is Love". They distort that to "God loves everyone" and worse to "God is not a God of wrath".

That is the view I get from the women I teach in jail (Sadly, I've had to again take hiatus from teaching although I still fill in on an emergency basis)! For the most part the religious background of these women is nil, and their most common concept of God, if they have one, is that "God is love". So, then, how do I introduce them to the concept that God is also a "God of wrath" and that we need a Savior who will save us from that wrath, and that God Himself makes the provision for that salvation in His Son Jesus?

Sadly, many today do not teach that God hates (yes, I said "hates!!") sin. And He hates it to the extent that except for His redemptive work through Christ on our behalf we would all perish. And we would perish because in and of ourselves we are unable, totally unable to redeem ourselves.

We can not ourselves undo what we inherited from Adam...his sin nature. Nor can we undo the fact that Adam's sin is our sin...that we are guilty of sin because we are in Adam...we are born (conceived) into Adam's sin and are subject to Adam's sin AND Adam's death. (Add to that the fact that we ourselves sin and there seems no end to the extent of our sins).
Romans 5:12 Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man (that's Adam) and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned-- (in Adam we all sinned).
But, you ask, how can we be held accountable for Adam's sin? How can we be deemed guilty of the "sin nature" he acquired when he first sinned? We were not there! Or were we? Let's look at that.

This may seem like a difficult concept. We believe in fairness and in fairness we would suffer condemnation only for what WE do, and not what our common ancestor Adam did so long ago before death entered the world.

But you see, we WERE there WITH Adam. We were IN Adam.

God had instructed Adam that in the day that he sinned he would "surely die". But in Genesis 3 we do not see Adam being struck by lightning (which was God's righteous perogative) and death does not come instantly. No. In God's great mercy He moves Adam and Eve out of Eden and allows them to live for a long while. During this time we begin to be born. We are their children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, to a thousand and more "greats". We are the descendants of Adam and Eve, all of us, every race, every color, every people, every tribe. We are all their descendants. (This post is long...but stay with me. Keep reading!)

If God had chosen to eliminate Adam and Eve, to have them die instantly on the spot, we would never have come to be born. We were THERE, all of us, in Adam's (and Eve's) loins. We were in their DNA, their genes. Without them we would never be. And if God had carried out the penalty of death right then and there...we would be DEAD before we were ever BORN. It is in great mercy that He did not do that.

God, in His mercy, allowed them to live...and in that mercy allowed US to live. We are each one of us alive today because of God's great mercy extended to Adam and his descendants. While we live we are still children of Adam and hence, still participate in his penalty of death. In Adam we die as we read in Romans 5:12.

That's bad news for all of us. We all die in Adam. That is the sorrow of life...that we are subject to death. We, our loved ones, our babies, our young ones, our middle-aged ones, our old ones. We All Die. Some easily, some painfully, some acceptingly, some resistingly. But death belongs to all. There is no escaping. (I hope you do not find this morbid...if you do, it is only because you have not already accepted this fact. We understand it more as we age.)

But the Good News is that Paul explains further in Romans 5:18-19 "Therefore as one trespass (Adam's sin) led to condemnation for all men (that's us), so one act of righteousness (the righteous life of Christ and His complete obedience unto death on the cross on our behalf) leads to justification and life for all men (to those whom the Father has given Him, those to whom God gives new life, to those who are in Christ).

And the "wrath" of God? His anger towards sin? Paul mentions that, too. Romans 5:9 "Much more then, having now been justified by His blood (the blood of Christ), we shall be saved from the wrath of God (God's righteous anger towards sin) through Him (through Christ)."

Not only are we justified by Christ's blood on our behalf and made right before the throne of judgment, we are also saved from the wrath of God's righteous judgment against our sin. We stand before God clean and right because He has made us clean and right through Christ. That, friend, is Good News.

The easy summation is this:
Bad news: In Adam we die.
Good News: In Christ we live.
Yesterday I saw it this way:

1. Adam, prior to sin, had access to the Creator and to life provided by the Creator. He had life.

2. Adam, after his sin, lost that access to "life" for himself and for his descendants. He now had death. And in Adam WE have death. (Except for what God would provide for him and us through the promised Savior).

3.Adam and his descendants, those who are of the elect, those who will receive new life through God's work on man's behalf, regain access to "eternal life" through the intercessory work of the Christ, the Savior, the one who is fully God and fully Man. Jesus, the God-Man, stands as mediator between fallen man and God the Father. He is our sacrifice, our advocate, our savior. It is in Christ that we have life and that life begins in the Here and Now and continues in the Hereafter. John 5:24
Thanks be to God who created us and who redeems us. The work of creation AND of redemption is His work. On our behalf. In His great mercy. And that is how we can say truely that "God is love." Sin was a costly sin. His love is a costly love, a cost that He Himself provided through His Son on the cross on our behalf.

(You can read the catechism with scriptures here. And if you get bogged down on the first question, do not stop there. Go deeper. Keep reading. Study it out for yourself. Where you have questions, write them down, but keep reading!!



Kim said...

I really enjoyed Kevin DeYoung's book. I borrowed it from my friend, so I didn't get to underline and mark the copy. I do, however, have a copy of a study edition of the Heidelberg catechism, by G.I. Williamson. I am planning on making this book a priority to read in the next few months.

Pilgrim Mommy said...

Thanks for sharing this. I have not studied the Heidelberg or the Westminster catechism, either, but I would like to. This another book to add to my wish list.

Whidbey Woman said...

Great post. I appreciate your insight and what you took away from your reading. I need to get down to the Christian book store and see what book God leads me to!

Scott said...

Whitestone, excellent explanation of Christ for us - Christ in our place and on our behalf! I'm so happy my girls regularly read your blog - this one will be sure to prove rich in our discussions. I'm gonna add De-Young's book to my wish list. I already have and have read two books by Kevin which were very very good. (Just do something and Why We're not Emergent by two guys who should be) And I can relate for I'm realizing I'm past my youth now and neither have yet studied the Heidelberg. We were certainly concentrating on the same truths today - rich gospel truths.

Kelly said...

Very interesting post.

I must get a copy of this book so I can study this myself. It sounds so thought-provoking!