March 20, 2005

NOTHING HELD BACK

He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all–how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Romans 8:32

People can believe strange things, but there’s one group that goes beyond all others in believing the unbelievable. These people think they’re eventually going to be richer than any billionaire, even though many of them are short on money. They think they’ll eventually be in charge of the world, even though most of them have no military or political skill. They think they’re going to be absolutely perfect, even though all of them still commit sins. They expect to have a part in judging the world, even though most have never presided over a courtroom. They even expect to judge angels! You might wonder what weirdoes could possibly believe such things. But whether you realize it or not, you’ve probably met some of these people. In fact, I’m one myself: I’m a Christian.

As a Christian, I believe that along with other followers of Jesus, I will receive treasures beyond price, inherit the earth, live in perfect purity, judge the world, judge the angels, and reign forever with Jesus.

Is there any good reason to believe such things are actually going to happen? When you look at Christians, you see ordinary people with sins and faults. They don’t seem to have the power or the right to expect such enormous riches and authority. They’ll admit this, but they still think they can have it all. Along with St. Paul, they speak of “having nothing, and yet possessing everything” (2 Cor. 6:10). What we can’t do on our own, God can do for us.

But even if God can do amazing things, why would Christians expect God to take notice of us and lavish such riches on us and grant such power and authority and unending glory to small, sinful people like us? Well, when Christians believe in having it all, we’re not just dreaming about what God might or might not do. We know what God has already done. God has already done something that is far more difficult and far more costly than anything he’s promised to do in the future.

The Price Paid

What has God done? God the Father handed his divine Son over to become human and be nailed to a cross and suffer hellish torment. If God did that, there’s no limit to what else he’s going to do. The promises of future glory for Jesus’ followers don’t sound so unbelievable when we realize how much God has already given us when his Son died for us.

If a billionaire offered you a check for five million dollars and gave you the deed to a splendid mansion, you might wonder whether it was too good to be true. Such a huge gift could hardly be for real—it must be a joke. But what if the billionaire had already done something else for you earlier? What if you were dying of a bad heart and only a heart transplant could save you? What if the billionaire asked his beloved only son to donate his heart to you, and the son agreed to do it? What if the son died so that you could live? After that you could be sure that any other gift the father offered you was for real. If a father sacrificed his own dear son, is there anything he wouldn’t do for you? Mansions and millions of dollars would be small compared to sacrificing a son.

That may sound far-fetched, but the truth is that it doesn’t go nearly far enough. God did much more than anything we could imagine. An earthly father giving up a son is only a tiny hint of what the heavenly Father gave. Jesus is the eternal Son of God, one with the Father, infinite in power, beauty, wisdom, love, and holiness. All things were created by him and through him and for him, and he is immeasurably more precious than anything he made. If you add up the value of every creature in heaven and on earth, the total doesn’t begin to compare to the value of God the Son. Entire nations are like a drop in a bucket or specks of dust compared to the Lord. The sun and stars are dim compared to his brightness. The galaxies are tiny toys in his almighty hands. Compared to the infinite worth of Jesus, the entire universe is nothing. God the Father loves his Son more than words can say.     When people sinned and spoiled God’s world, it would have cost God less to destroy the whole creation than to sacrifice Jesus on the cross. If God the Father had decided to cast every last one of us into the fires of hell, if he had trashed the earth and thrown away every star and planet, it would have been less costly for the Father than giving his infinitely precious Son to die. No words can express, no mind can conceive, how much God the Father loves and values his Son—or how much he gave when he gave his Son for sinners.

But God did give his Son! After that, anything else he gives will be easy—the hard part is already done. Everything else he gives will be inexpensive—the costly part is already paid. If the Father had his Son leave his glorious throne for the sake of earthlings, he will also raise earthlings up to glorious thrones. If he had Jesus endure hell’s horrors, he will lavish heaven’s happiness on those for whom Christ died. If Christ the King of angels went to the cross, then those who embrace the cross will be exalted to authority over angels. If the Father didn’t hold his Son back, he won’t hold anything back! As the Bible puts it in Romans 8:32, “He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all–how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” Now that the Father has given his Son, we can have it all, with nothing held back!

All Things

All things—is that an exaggeration? No, the Bible means what it says, and it gives two rock-solid reasons to be sure that “all things” means all: the first is that the Father gave up his Son for us; the second is that he gives his Son to us.

God gave up his Son for us at the cross of Calvary to pay the penalty for our sin and purchase for us the right to eternal happiness. The size of the benefits is based on the size of the cost. The cost was infinite, precious beyond all measure, so even the most valuable benefits can’t possibly surpass the price paid, no matter how many benefits are added for all eternity. It’s like a credit card with no limit—everything is already paid for by Jesus’ precious blood, which has limitless value.

God gave up his Son for us, and he also gives his Son to us. The dying Christ paid for every benefit; the living Christ is the chief benefit. Jesus himself is the supreme blessing to which all other blessings are attached. It is “along with him” says Romans 8:32, that God will “graciously give us all things.” If we don’t get Jesus, we end up with nothing. But if we get Jesus, we get everything else as well.

It stands to reason, doesn’t it? Jesus is the one through whom all things were created, the one in whom all things hold together. He’s more valuable than all created things combined. So he’s not only the most costly gift God could give for you but also the most precious and delightful gift God can give to you. When you have Jesus, whatever is his becomes yours. And since Jesus is Lord of all, all things are yours. If you have him, you have it all. It’s plain logic.

The Present

God has made some awesome promises in the Bible about future riches and reigning with Christ in eternity, but before I say more about that glorious future, I want to emphasize what Christians have right now. The Bible says, “All things are yours, whether … the world or life or death or the present or the future; all are yours, and you Christ’s, and Christ is God’s” (1 Corinthians 3:21-22). It doesn’t just say all things will be yours in heaven; it says all things are yours. If you belong to Jesus, then the present is yours as well as the future. Life is yours and death is yours, as well as the unending, unimaginable happiness that will come in life after death.

What does this mean? Suppose you’re a Christian with little money and lots of troubles. How can it be true that all things are yours? Well, Scripture says that “in all things God works for the good of those who love him” (Romans 8:28). Every event in this entire world is being arranged by God for the good of his people. It’s not always easy to see this. Sometimes God’s people suffering terrible pain and perplexity. God’s plan isn’t always plain to us. But it’s real, whether we see it or not.

The proof is this: God did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all. God used the most horrible event in the world, the crucifixion of Jesus, for the good of those who love him. The worst thing that ever happened turned out to be the best thing that every happened. If God could bring good out of Jesus’ dying, he will also work for our good in all the lesser troubles and trials of life. If Jesus’ cross is yours for your good, then so is every lesser cross in your life, whether colds or cancers or controversies or crushing heartbreaks of any kind. “All things are yours,” including life in the present world, with its ups and downs. It’s yours and it’s guaranteed to work out for your good if you love God. The Lord will make sure of it.

The Bible even says that death is yours. You own death! Sometimes, when two rival teams play each other regularly and the same team seems to come out on top every time, we say the one team “owns” the other. If you’re about to face an opponent that’s almost sure to defeat and humiliate you, you dread it. But if you “own” your opponent, you don’t fear defeat. Instead, you look forward to the contest, because you expect to win. The same is true of death. Without Jesus, death owns you, and the thought of dying is dreadful indeed. But if the crucified and risen Jesus is yours, then you “own” death, and you’re going to enjoy winning over it. Death is yours. It can’t harm you; it can only help you. Instead of destroying you, it’s your gateway to glory.

The Future

Now, if it’s true that our present troubles and even death itself are ours for our ultimate benefit, how much more the final future God promises! If it’s a joy and a marvel to have a taste of God’s love and a relationship to Jesus even now when we can’t see him, how much more the direct sight and enjoyment of Jesus with no sin to come between us and nothing to hide him from us! My heart beats faster and my imagination soars as I picture the future in light of Romans 8:32, “He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all–how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?”

“All things,” including our future blessings, already belong to followers of Jesus because he had paid for the right to them, but right now we don’t yet fully enjoy what is ours. A fabulous home has been bought and paid for, but we haven’t yet moved in. We’ve been appointed to positions in our great King’s government, but we haven’t yet taken up those positions with all their powers and perks and privileges and happy responsibilities.

The pleasures of our future home are so great that if we tasted them now, in our weak and sinful condition, they would be so overwhelming and intoxicating that we’d focus on the pleasures rather than on the Lord. But when we’re sinless and see Jesus in all his loveliness and feast on the sweet delights of his goodness, any other pleasures he gives to us won’t distract us from him; they will draw us to him. These appetizers will arouse our appetite for the main feast of Christ himself. These droplets will move us to drink more deeply from God the fountain.

The powers and privileges of our new position are so stunning that they would puff us up and make us proud in our present situation where we’re still sinful and don’t know the Lord very well. But once we see the Lord in his immeasurable greatness, we’ll never again be tempted to take pride in our own greatness, and we’ll have the humility to enjoy reigning with him and giving him glory instead of thinking the glory is ours.

The meek will indeed inherit the earth and judge the world and judge the angels and reign with Christ for ever and ever. The meek will be seated on thrones, and yet they will remain forever meek because they are forever in the presence of God’s throne. In the new creation, we’ll be greater than we ever dreamed and yet humbler than we’ve ever been, for we will know beyond doubt that even if we become more splendid than angels, we will never match the splendor of God, and we’ll know that all our greatness is God’s gift and shows forth his greatness.

The pleasures and powers we’ll enjoy in God’s presence are pictured in the Bible in terms of feasting and music, mansions and gardens, gates of pearl and streets of gold. It will be so magnificent that things which seem extremely precious now will seem commonplace there.

Maybe you know the story of the man who found a way to take his wealth to heaven with him. He trusted the Lord and longed for heaven, but he had a lot of money, and he didn’t like the thought of leaving it all behind. Somehow he got permission from God to take as much wealth to heaven as he could fit into a suitcase. The man filled a suitcase with solid gold bricks. When he died, the suitcase was buried with him.

The man came to the gates of heaven, lugging his heavy load. The angel who greeted him there said, “We’ve never had anyone come here with luggage before, but I’ve been told to let you in. First, though, I’d like to look inside.” He opened the man’s suitcase, looked at the gold bars, and shook his head in bewilderment. “Go on in, and take your suitcase if you like,” said the angel. “But I really don’t understand why you’re so eager bring along a bunch of paving stones!”

That’s not a true story, of course, but the point is true. In the city of God, gold won’t be a rare thing that purchases power and prestige. It will be part of the pavement. Sure, we may appreciate heavenly pavement without potholes—and that may be part of God’s promise to give us “all things”—but it’s not the best thing about living and reigning with Christ. Being richer than any billionaire and more powerful than any president or prime minister will merely be fringe benefits in the kingdom of God. The holy city and its mansions will be beautiful and breath-taking, and yet the splendor of the surroundings will be the least of the gifts we get in Christ.

Humanity Made Perfect

A still greater gift will be our risen and glorified bodies. If the Lord is preparing such a grand place to serve as a home for our bodies, then the bodies he gives us will be even grander than their surroundings. Scripture says that our bodies will be like the glorified body of Jesus himself: pure, happy, healed of every defect, immortal, perhaps with the same powers that Jesus has. Will our resurrection bodies be able to walk on water or move from one place to another in an instant, as Jesus’ body can? Most likely. In any case, we may be sure that our bodies will have stunning beauty and radiance. The Bible says that when Moses was on Mount Sinai with God for just forty days, his face became dazzlingly bright. How radiant will our bodies be, then, when we’ve been face to face with the Lord for countless ages?

Our bodily radiance will be great, but even greater will be our inner brilliance. Not only will our bodies be made like Christ’s, but so will our souls. In Jesus are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge, and that overflowing treasury will flood our souls with genius and understanding of many things we can’t possibly understand now. In Jesus is perfect love and holiness, and that same love and holiness will fill our souls.

And there’s more. People who are so lovely in body and soul will enjoy the loveliness of others in perfect harmony. We will see in each other the perfect image of Jesus, and that will cause us great joy in each other and great joy in the Lord whose image we reflect so beautifully. Instead of envying or competing with each other for the best positions, we will be content with our own blessedness, and we will delight in those who may receive even greater blessings than we do. Just as angels don’t envy archangels, so people of lower position and lesser reward won’t resent those who receive higher position and greater rewards. Even the humblest doorkeeper in God’s house considers it an unspeakable privilege to be there.

The Bible teaches that there will be different degrees of reward in heaven. Does this mean some people will be partly empty or unfulfilled or unhappy? No, all will be filled, but some who have received greater grace and have grown more in holiness will have a greater capacity for pleasure in the Lord. Christians will be like containers of many different sizes who are all cast into the ocean of Christ’s riches and love. All will be full, but some will contain more than others.

There will be no envy, because all will take delight in each other and be so enraptured with God’s riches that they will realize everything is exactly as it should be. Our love for one another will be so perfect that someone else’s joy will increase our own, because we are all one in Christ. The angels, too, will not resent it if lowly humans are exalted above holy angels. The angels will rejoice all the more that their Lord and Master can do such marvels. In their love for God and for us, the angels get more joy out of enjoying God with us than if they had God all to themselves. In giving us “all things” together with Christ, God gives the saints and angels each other to enjoy and love.

Accepting All This

The greatest enjoyment and gift in all this is Christ himself. The God who gave his Son for us will give his Son to us, fully and forever, and we will have direct, rapturous, unending friendship with the Lord Jesus Christ himself. Through that friendship, we will partake of the same relationship to the Father that Jesus has, in the love of the Holy Spirit.

God intends to keep flooding his people with more and more of his divine love and wisdom and holiness and happiness, age after age, for all eternity. The payment for this outpouring of blessing was the outpouring of Jesus’ blood. And since that blood is infinitely precious, not even an eternity of blessings can exhaust the amount of the payment. So even though the destiny of Jesus’ followers may sound fantastic beyond belief, it’s not irrational at all. It’s perfectly in keeping with what God has already done in giving up his Son on our behalf.

Now the question is, Do you accept this? Does what you’ve heard about Jesus’ sacrifice stir your soul? Does what you’ve heard about having it all make your heart burn within you? My words don’t do justice to these marvels, but despite my limits as a communicator, this is all so staggering that you can’t possible yawn about it unless there is something dreadfully wrong with you. To remain cold and dull toward such astonishing riches purchased as such an infinite price is to have a soul that is dead and rotten. Those who despise the blood of Jesus and ignore God’s great promises of glory will perish under his wrath. I pray that this won’t be the case with you. I pray that you believe in the marvels you’ve just heard, that you’re awestruck at the price God paid at the cross and the prize he offers in glory.

Still, even if you believe and marvel at these things and yearn for them to be yours, you may have a hard time accepting them for yourself. You may think it sounds wonderful, but you fear that they are meant only for others but not for you. You may feel your sins are too grievous, or you’re a loser and a nobody.

But Romans 8:32 says that the price Jesus’ paid was “for us all,” for people of any kind, no matter what we’ve done or what background we come from. And Romans 8:32 also says that he gives us all things “graciously,” freely. We don’t earn or qualify for this outpouring of blessing. It depends on Jesus’ value, not ours; on God’s riches, not ours. “He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all–how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?”

So trust the crucified Jesus as the price God paid. Delight in the risen Jesus as the prize God gives. The Lord has given his all, with nothing held back. Receive his gift and give him your all, with nothing held back.

By David Feddes. Originally broadcasted on the Back to God Hour and published in The Radio Pulpit.