High Maintenance Christians Are Better Than Nice Ones.
“It costs God nothing, so far as we know, to create nice things; but to convert rebellious wills costs Him crucifixion.” ---C.S. Lewis
This quote was given for part of the morning reflection before worship. So as I was sitting in my seat I was thinking about how often we try to be or think we already are “the nice things.” Whether it’s in my friendships, vocations, or my relationship with God, I don’t really want to be that high maintenance person. I want to be easy to befriend, easy to serve alongside, and easy to save.
And so my life echos the adage, “I don’t want to be a burden.” I want to be a nice thing that God created: delightful, pleasant, good, and low maintenance. But sin is not low maintenance. What did it cost God to create nice things “in the beginning”?
In one sense, we can say with Lewis that it cost him nothing. There was no apparent sacrifice in speaking creation into existence. He created a holy temple garden with a righteous couple to carry out his mandate. But there is a condescension on God’s part to enter into a covenantal relationship with man. So even though God created the world and man and called it good, the Westminster Confession explains:
The distance between God and the creature is so great, that although reasonable creatures do owe obedience unto him as their Creator, yet they could never have any fruition of him as their blessedness and reward, but by some voluntary condescension on God’s part, which he hath been pleased to express by way of covenant. (WCF 7.1)
In another sense, we know that there was an intratrinitarian covenant made between the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit before time:
It pleased God, in his eternal purpose, to choose and ordain the Lord Jesus, his only begotten Son, to be the Mediator between God and man, the Prophet, Priest, and King, the Head and Savior of his church, the Heir of all things, and Judge of the world: unto whom he did from all eternity give a people, to be his seed, and to be by him in time redeemed, called, justified, sanctified, and glorified. (WCF 8.1)
With that in mind, there was already a presupposed cost determined in eternity to convert rebellious wills. And so as God created the world through the Son (Heb. 1:2), he already knew what it was going to cost. He already knew that we would be a burden. And we have a great illustration of the weight of this burden in Matthew when we read about Jesus falling on his face to pray to the Father for any possibility to not drink the cup of his wrath (26:39). I love how Jeremiah Burroughs expounds on this passage in his book The Evil of Evils:
He, who upholds the heavens and the earth by his power, now falls grovelling upon the earth, having the weight and burden of man’s sin upon him. He falls upon his face; He falls to the ground. Certainly, brethren, Christ had that weight and burden upon Him that would have pressed all the angels in heaven and all the men in the world down to the bottomless gulf of despair.
If all the strength of all the men who ever lived since the beginning of the world, and all the angels in heaven, were put into one, and he had only that weight upon him that Christ had, it would have made him sink down into eternal despair: for had not Christ been God as well as man, He could never have borne it, but would have sunk down eternally. This burden and weight which was upon Christ was so great that he sunk down to the ground. (100)
The crucifixion, and all that it entailed, was a burden none of us could carry. The Son of God condescended to take on flesh, fulfill all righteousness, bear the wrath of God for our sin, and be the mediator of the new covenant. Glory to God! Yet he fell to the ground and sweat great drops of blood in agony over the weight of the burden.
He spoke the world into existence knowing the cost. He came in the flesh knowing the cost. Jesus knew the cost when he made the promise with the Father and the Spirit before the world began. He didn’t come to save nice things or nice people. He didn’t make a promise to redeem nice, low maintenance Christians. This leads to another quote in the morning reflection:
“What meaning can there be in love which is not costly to the lover?”---HW Robinson
Our sermon was on Zechariah 11: “God’s Price Tag.” This scripture passage has a strong warning for treating God like a commodity. What is the the price tag of the good shepherd who cared for a rebellious flock? In Zechariah it is the cost of a slave, thirty pieces of silver. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? But pastor Francis VanDelden pointed out a difference between Zechariah and Christ. Because the people were so insubordinate, Zechariah broke the staff of favor and the staff of union, annulling the covenant that he made with his people and the brotherhood between Judah and Israel. On the cross the rods of favor and union were broken over Jesus’ head, the One who was rejected for thirty pieces of silver, so that we, a rebellious and stiff-necked people, could know the Good Shepherd.
Because of this, I know he will continue to make good on his promise. I’m high maintenance, alright. But I have been given a priceless gift, Christ himself. All those who trust in the Good Shepherd are better than nice. We are redeemed. We are given the righteousness of Christ. And by his Spirit, we can now extend the favor of God as we are being sanctified into his likeness.