Deadly Disease, Costly Cure

Wisdom's Friend

Deadly Disease, Costly Cure

Ebola, enterovirus, HIV and other deadly diseases are emerging with more frequency in our world, and the world’s attention is drawn to finding ways to battle these diseases and possibly cure them. And all the while, the world largely ignores the deadliest disease of all and its cure. That disease is sin:

“There is no health in my bones because of my sin” (Ps. 38:3 ESV).

And its cure is Jesus:

“Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness” (Mt. 9:35 NIV).

That sin is the root cause of all sickness and that its cure is found in Jesus is made clear in God’s Word. Isaiah, for instance, makes the connection between the two, when he says of the cleansed city of Jerusalem (as also in Rev. 21:2-4) that “no one living in Zion will say, ‘I am ill’; and the sins of those who dwell there will be forgiven” (Is. 33:24 NIV).

Jesus also made the connection between the soul and the body, sickness in one affecting the other. For he said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners” (Mark 2:17 NIV). Thus did Jesus speak seamlessly and immediately of one and then the other, weaving them together into one sickness. A human soul sick with sin is what he came into this world to cure, not just bodily ailments, though healing there then also comes. But first, he dealt with the foundation of all sickness, sin.

Jesus saw the real problem with our human being. Much of the world does not. Even after ages of most vile wickedness, it still thinks lesser remedies than the death of the very Son of God can effect a cure upon humanity’s soul sickness. It does not understand the seriousness of sin, that it is so terrible that it is beyond being healed by any human means whatsoever. Education cannot cure man’s sin sickness; neither can striving to be good; even religion is powerless to achieve this noble goal. So blind is the world to the seriousness of its condition that it does not see that none of its own efforts to cure its sin sickness can heal it, and so it runs after this seeming cure and that:

“Go up to Gilead and get balm, O Virgin Daughter of Egypt. But you multiply remedies in vain; there is no healing for you” (Jer. 46:11 NIV).

Because the world seeks after the many false promises of healing man’s mortal illness and pain because of his sin sickness, it does not listen to the words of those called out of the Babylon that is this world that they have the only real cure, Jesus. Therefore, this world, Babylon, will fall.

“Babylon will suddenly fall and be broken. Wail over her! Get balm for her pain; perhaps she can be healed. We would have healed Babylon, but she cannot be healed” (Jer. 51:8-9 NIV).

Man is too sick to be healed by any worldly cures. His situation is hopeless, his condition fatal. He must die. Death is the only cure for his condition.

Lest any smirk at this solution for man’s proclivity for evil, let it be remembered that death really is one solution that will indeed stop a human being from performing evil. That is why policemen carry guns. If they shout to a robber to stop and he refuses to do so but, instead, fires upon them, they have only to return fire, perhaps killing him, and the evil that person was doing stops immediately because that person is now dead. Death is certainly a cure for sin. Dead people cannot do anything, good or bad (Ecc. 9:10).

“Anyone who is among the living has hope–even a live dog is better off than a dead lion! For the living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing; they have no further reward, and even the memory of them is forgotten” (Ecc. 9:4-5 NIV).

But, of course, though death is therefore one cure for the sinful, wicked ways of man, it is so only in a sort of perverse way and no one in a right mind would choose it. Still, as in the example given above about the police confronting an unrepentant robber, sometimes death is the only alternative available to stop someone from sinning yet more and more. But surely, except in these rare cases, we ask, “Is there not a better way to rid the world and a person of sin?” Surprisingly, the answer which God gives to this question is, “No”. Death is the extreme step that must be taken to rid man of his sinful nature. For that nature is too corrupt to be healed. The only way left is for it to be put to death.

This, then, is the conundrum of man’s sinful sickness. He is so sick that he cannot be cured except to let that sickness reach its final state of death; only in death does his sin in this world end. But that is a meaningless cure, for only if a person is alive does the word cure mean anything. How then can God say that we must die to be cured of our sinful state? That is impossible. Well, not quite. It is impossible with men, but has he not also said that “What is impossible with men is possible with God” (Lk. 18:27)? He has indeed. He also has said, “My ways are higher than your ways” (Is. 55:9 NIV).

“Heal me, O LORD, and I will be healed; save me and I will be saved, for you are the one I praise” (Jer. 17:14 NIV).

God has a higher way to cure us of our deadly disease. He gave a hint of this higher way to the prophet Jeremiah, when he told him to go to the potter’s house (Jer. 19:1-7). There Jeremiah observed the potter destroy a marred pot and begin anew to create a new vessel. That is the higher way of God. Yes, a death must still take place, that of the old, sinful nature of man; but that is simply the first step. It is necessary to get rid of the old so that the new can take its place. This God has done for us, to us, and in us through his Son, Jesus Christ.

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Cor. 5:17 NIV).

We need to remember that though death is frightening and necessary, it is not the final end. There is a resurrection to new life that follows. The One who destroys the old is also the One who creates the new to take its place (Is. 45:7).

“Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither the immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor sexual perverts, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor robbers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God” (1 Cor. 6:9-11 NIV).

It is interesting that this passage mentions robbers, as was also mentioned in the example given earlier about the necessity for death of those who sin (Ezekiel 18:4). Other sins are also mentioned that keep sinners out of the kingdom of God. For God is building a kingdom and a city, Zion or Jerusalem, as the chief city of that kingdom. And just as in Jeremiah’s day there was a catastrophe of judgment upon the people, so will there be a most severe judgment upon this people in this day. This last judgment and our place in it is the subject of the rest of this warning.

Jeremiah gave this declaration from the Lord to the people of his day: “The city will be rebuilt on her ruins, and this palace will stand in its proper place” (Jer. 30:18 NIV).

A palace is where the king lives. God is the King of all and this palace where he lives is in the hearts of his people (2 Cor. 6:16-18, 1 Cor. 3:16, Is. 57:15, Luke 17:21). The wise king Solomon said, “A large population is a king’s glory, but without subjects a prince is ruined” (Prov. 14:28). If the holy God and King must put to death his sinful subjects as the only cure for what keeps them from being worthy of living in his kingdom, then he is fighting against himself, depriving himself of the very thing he needs to be king of a kingdom: people living in that kingdom.

What, then, is to be done? How can God do these two seemingly opposite and opposing things: (1) cure the potential citizens of his kingdom of their deadly disease of sin, so that they can then be clean and holy and fit to live in his kingdom, and (2) find a way to do this without destroying them in the process, that is, having them die; for they are so sick with sin that there is no other way to rid them of it than to have that sinful nature be put to death?

There seems to be no way out, to reconcile these two contradictory requirements for God to have worthy citizens populate his kingdom. But, as was said, what is impossible with man is possible with God. Where there is no way to do the impossible, God will not just find a way, he will make a way. God is not restricted to what already is; he can create what does not yet exist, just as he created what already does exist. And here, in this most important of all areas, God does just that: He creates a way for sinful man to become clean and holy in God’s eyes and therefore be found worthy to dwell in the kingdom of God. And he does this in a most remarkable and miraculous way, by sending his own Son, who knew no sin, to become sin for us and die on the cross for us, thus enabling sinful man to be cleansed of his deadly disease of sin.

Scripture says that in the final state of the kingdom of God, there will be no more sickness among the people because their sins will have been forgiven. There is a connection between sin and sickness, forgiveness and health. This forgiveness and health is possible only because of what Jesus has done for us on the cross.

“He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that made us whole, and with his stripes we are healed” (Is. 53:5 RSV).

Now, this does not mean that if we are sick now, in the still-incomplete kingdom of God, that it is the result of a particular sin of ours; the whole book of Job dispels this misconception, which Job’s “comforters” held. Rather, it simply means that we are susceptible to sickness at times because we are members of a sinful race of beings. Whatever the surface cause of a particular illness, sin always lies at the root of all sickness, whether it be of body or soul. We may not have sinned in our personal lives at a particular time, yet still are, at times, susceptible to sickness because we live in a sick and fallen world. Nevertheless, when we submit ourselves to Jesus as Lord, we do have his promise that his power is available to protect us and heal us when assaulted by the sickness of this world (Dt. 7:15, Ex. 15:26, Ex. 23:25).

Jesus is Lord over all sickness as well as everything else (Col. 2:10). By his death on the cross he made available to us his power to defeat all the powers of the enemy, including sickness of both body and soul (Col. 2:15). This power is given to us in a way that is most remarkable: We died with Jesus on the cross.

“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal. 2:20 NIV).

“Our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin” (Rom. 6:6 NIV).

These and other verses confirm that we did indeed die with Jesus on the cross. Thus the needed death to rid us of our sins has occurred. And how gracious of God to put us to death in this manner. For we felt nothing at our death. God joined us together with his Son on the cross (1 Cor. 6:17, Eph. 2:21). He endured all the pain, all the just wrath of God over our sinfulness, so that we could live unafraid of that same wrath. He suffered all the pain; we felt nothing; we did not even yet exist, except in the eternal mind and plans of God.

“Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world” (Acts 1:18 KJV).

So that takes care of the first requirement for God to have people healed of their deadly disease of sin so that they are then worthy to be members of his kingdom. But what of the second requirement, that they not be destroyed by being put to death? Is not death the end of everything? How can God put people to death and still have those same people be alive to populate his kingdom? How can there be both death and life in these same people?

We are told in God’s Word how this is done. It is just as God showed Jeremiah in the potter’s house. The old is destroyed only to make way for the new. The old pot is destroyed, but it is not necessary to remove the clay of which it was composed. The same clay is used to make a new vessel. The new rises up on the potter’s wheel from the old clay. New life is born from the remains of the old.

“The city will be rebuilt on her ruins, and the palace will stand in its proper place” (Jer. 30:18 NIV).

This is the miracle of our being joined to Jesus on the cross. He died, we died. But that is not the end of the story. He arose from the dead, so have we. We were put to death, but miraculously we are found now to be still alive:

“Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. 5 If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection. 6 For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin– 7 because anyone who has died has been freed from sin” (Rom. 6:3-7 NIV).

Therefore, having died and been set free from the deadly disease of sin, through the costly cure of the death of the very Son of God, we are now free to live in the kingdom of God, our fitting and proper place. God now has cleansed, living people to live in his kingdom, people who once were sick with sin but who were put to death and born anew to dwell in their proper place, the kingdom of God.

There is a proper place for every human being, those who have received the new life from God and those who refuse it. The proper place for all who refuse it is the place outside the new city of God, the new Jerusalem, new Zion.

“Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city. Outside are the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood” (Rev. 22:14-15 NIV).

Not only is there a proper place for human beings, but God has said that the place in which he desires to dwell is the human heart (Is. 57:15, Rev. 21:3). But he cannot dwell there because of its sinful sickness; it is not proper for the holy God to live in a sick and sin-infested place (Hab. 1:13). But God himself has cleaned out his desired dwelling place for the King of kings (Jer. 30:18). Therefore God says to them:

“So you will be my people, and I will be your God” (Jer. 30:22 NIV).

But to the rest, who refuse his cleansing of his temple and dwelling place, he says:

“See, the storm of the LORD will burst out in wrath, a driving wind swirling down on the heads of the wicked” (Jer. 30:23 NIV).

This is the warning that the Lord declares to our world today. For that wrath of God has begun to fall upon this earth, and “the fierce anger of the LORD will not turn back until he fully accomplishes the purposes of his heart” (Jer. 30:24 NIV).

For so long, God has graciously given this world time to repent, holding back his wrath over its sin, when he has so graciously given the cure for that sickness, which the world has scorned, thinking that things will continue to go on as usual and that all the many warnings of a future judgment will not come to pass, even as they have not yet in this world. But God says:

“For my own name’s sake I delay my wrath; for the sake of my praise I hold it back from you, so as not to cut you off” (Is. 48:9 NIV).

“Son of man, the house of Israel is saying, ‘The vision he sees is for many years from now, and he prophesies about the distant future.’ Therefore say to them, ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: None of my words will be delayed any longer; whatever I say will be fulfilled, declares the Sovereign LORD'” (Ezekiel 12:27-28 NIV).

These are those days. What was called the distant future for those living in the days of Ezekiel and Jeremiah has come to pass. That long-distant future day is the present day, our day, the day in which God begins to pour out his wrath on the wicked (Jer. 30:23) and to protect his children from that same wrath (Jer. 30:22, 1 Th. 1:10, 1 Th. 5:9).

These are the days. It may be just the beginning of those days, but these are the days.

“The fierce anger of the LORD will not turn back until he fully accomplishes the purposes of his heart. In days to come you will understand this” (Jer. 30:24 NIV).

Do you understand this?

“We have the mind of Christ” (1 Cor. 2:16 NIV).

“We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us. This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words” (1 Cor. 2:12-13 NIV).

“Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness. So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him” (2 Peter 3:11-14 NIV).

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