Meticulous Mercy

Jesus didn’t purchase saveability; he took names to the cross. – Paul David Tripp

And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account. -Hebrews 4:13

I had an encounter with a Bible teacher when I was younger that left me with a warped view of God. Well, to be perfectly accurate, I’ve had several encounters like this with many different Bible teachers. This one sticks out in a horrifically special kind of way.

I don’t remember how old I was but it must’ve been a Thursday night chapel session—everybody knows that Thursday night is the night of Bible camp when the teachers turn down the lights, turn up the heat and really try to get you sweatin’ and cryin’ during their message. She had it in her mind that the best way to get through to us kids was to convince us of how bad of a batch of sinners we were.

The chapel was warm from the summer heat, and she had reached the climax of her message. She stuck her finger in the air and, after taking a moment for dramatic effect, shrieked out loud, “NUMBERS 32:23 – BUT IF YE WILL NOT DO SO, BEHOLD, YE HAVE SINNED AGAINST THE LORD: AND BE SURE YOUR SIN WILL FIND YOU OUT.

The fear of God enters into prepubescent boys a special kind of way when they’re confronted by dramatic renditions of the King James Bible. I didn’t know how far I had to run or where I could hide, but I knew this: God was angry at me. Just as sure as that old lady wagged her finger in the air, I knew somewhere God must be doing the same thing. I was sure my sin would find me out.

It’s moments like these—and verses like these—that made me fear God for most of my upbringing. I imagined standing in a courtroom—guilty as sin—as God stood in a powdered wig to read off all of my transgressions, meticulously noting every foul word, unchaste thought and reprehensible action. Then, after everything had been laid out in the open, he pulled a lever from behind his bench, sending me through a trap door just beneath my feet.

This was the God I feared—a God who turned over all the stones, who quadruple-checked all his lists, who was legally assured of every single detail of my depravity. God was not just a merciless judge, he was a relentless prosecutor who sought the maximum sentence for each crime.

Now that I’m older and have studied the issue for myself, I see God differently. Don’t get me wrong, in a very true sense, God is that relentlessly detail-driven prosecutor who will punish all sin as an affront to his holiness. But as he applies his love in salvation for those whom he saved, his meticulous nature works in a different direction.

Here’s why: Jesus didn’t go to the cross the way an 8 year-old walks into a candy store with $100 in his pocket—knowing that no matter how deeply he fills his pockets with candy, the $100 will probably cover the bill. No, an omniscient and sovereign God ordained the cross as the means through which he would pay for every single one of his sheep’s transgressions—every single one. It’s the same detailed, scrupulous approach flipped on its head. The meticulous God who promised to discover and punish all of my sin has done just that—by precisely applying the weight of my specific sins to the excruciating burden of my savior. The cross isn’t just old and rugged, it’s insanely, intentionally personal.

The assurance this brings to the believer cannot be overstated. We all have dark corners deep within our hearts and minds. We hide these pieces of ourselves because having them known and out in the open would subject us to the court of public opinion, where we may not fare so well. “If they knew how I felt about this, or what I did back then, or who I was before…” These are the thoughts that keep our secrets secret, that keep our darkness in the dark. But the assurance of the believer in Jesus Christ is this: Jesus knows all of our darkness and he didn’t run from it, he ran toward it and he dealt with it.

There is no sin a Christian has committed that Jesus did not intentionally pay for with his blood. And we know this because God is meticulous.

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