“You see the ‘therefore'” by Charles Spurgeon

“‘Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.’ (2 Cor. 7:1)

The drift of the argument is this,– if God dwells in us, let us make the house clean for so pure a God.

What! Indwelling Deity and unclean lusts? Indwelling Godhead, and yet a spirit defiled with evil thoughts? God forbid!

Let us cry aloud unto the Most High, that in this thing we may be cleansed, that the temple may be fit for the habitation of the Master.

What! Does God walk in us, and hold communion with us, and shall we let Belial come in? What concord can we have with Christ?

Shall we give ourselves up to be the servants of Mammon, when God has become our Friend, our Companion? It must not be!

Divine indwelling and divine communion both require from us personal holiness. Has the Lord entered into a covenant with us that we shall be His people?

Then does not this involve a call upon us to live like His people, as becometh godliness?

Favoured and privileged above other men to be a peculiar people, separated unto God’s own self, shall there be nothing peculiar about our lives?

Shall we not be zealous for good works?

Divinely adopted into the family of the Most High, and made heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Jesus Christ, what need is there of further argument to constrain us to holiness?

You see the ‘therefore.’

It is just this, because we have attained to such choice and special privileges, ‘therefore’—for this reason, ‘let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit.’

I remember hearing a man say that he had lived for six years without having sinned in either thought, or word, or deed.

I apprehend that he committed a sin then, if he never had done so before, in uttering such a proud, boastful speech.

No, no; I cannot believe that the flesh can be perfect, nor, consequently, that a man can be perfect in this flesh.

I cannot believe that we shall ever live to see people walking up and down in this world without sin.

But I can believe that it is our duty to be perfect, that the law of God means perfection, and that the law as it is in Christ—for there it is, you know,—is binding on the Christian.

It is not, as in the hands of Moses, armed with power to justify or to condemn him, for he is not under the law, but under grace; but it is binding upon him as it is in the hands of Christ.

The law, as it is in the hands of Christ, is just as glorious, just as perfect, just as complete, as when it was in the hands of Moses; Christ did not come to destroy the law, or to cast it down, but to establish it.

And therefore, notwithstanding every point where I fall short of perfection as a creature, I am complete in Christ Jesus. That which God requires of me is, that I should be perfect.

That I can understand; and the next thing I should know is, that for such perfection I ought to pray.

I should not like to pray for anything short of that. I should not like, at the prayer-meeting, to hear any of you say, “Lord, bring us half-way toward perfection.”

No, no, no; our prayer must be, “Lord, put away all sin; deliver me from it altogether.” And God would not teach you to pray for what He did not mean to give.

Your perfection is God’s design, for He has chosen you to be conformed to the image of His Son; and what is that? Surely the image of His Son is perfection.

There were no faults in the Lord Jesus Christ.

We are to be made like Him; and as this is the work and design of grace, then perfection is the centre of the target at which God’s grace is always aiming.

All that He works in us is with this great ultimate end and aim, that He may sanctify us wholly,—spirit, soul, and body; and that He may release us from sin, and make us perfect even as our Father who is in heaven is perfect.

Oh, when will it be? When will it be? Why, the very thought of it makes me feel as if I could sing, “Oh! happy hour, oh! blest abode, I shall be near and like my God.”

What a joy it will be to be just like Him, to have no more corruption of the flesh, and no more incitements to sin to destroy the soul’s delight and pleasure in her God!

May the Lord hasten on the day! ‘Perfecting holiness.'”

–Charles H. Spurgeon, “Our Position and Our Purpose,” in The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons, vol. 57 (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1911), 57: 175–177.

“The best argument to bring sinners to believe in Jesus is Jesus” by Charles Spurgeon

“I am meek and lowly in heart.” —Matthew 11:29

We have preached upon the whole of this passage several times before, therefore we do not intend to speak upon it in its full teaching, or enter upon its general run and connection, but we select for our meditation this one expression, which has greater deeps in it than we shall be able fully to explore;—“I am meek and lowly in heart.”

I have felt very grateful to God for the mercy of the past week, during which the ministers educated in our College have been gathered together as a devout convocation, and have enjoyed a flood-tide of the divine blessing.

Unusually great and special joy has filled my soul; and, therefore, I have asked myself, “What can I do to glorify the Lord my God who has been so gracious to me, and has so prospered the work committed to me and my brethren?”

The answer which my heart gave was this— “Endeavour to bring sinners to Jesus. Nothing is sweeter to Him than that, for He loves the sons of men.”

Then I said to myself, “But how can I bring sinners to Christ? What means will the Holy Spirit be likely to use for that purpose?”

And the answer came, “If you would preach sinners to Christ you must preach Christ to sinners, for nothing so attracts the hearts of men as Jesus himself.”

The best argument to bring sinners to believe in Jesus is Jesus.

Has he not himself said, “I, if I be lifted up, will draw all men unto me?” Then I said, “But what shall I preach concerning Jesus?”

And my soul replied, “Preach the loving heart of Jesus: go to the centre of the subject, and set forth His very soul, His inmost self, and then it may be that the heart of Jesus will draw the hearts of men.”

Now it is very remarkable that the only passage in the whole New Testament in which the heart of Jesus is distinctly mentioned is the one before us.

Of course there are passages in which his heart is intended, as for instance—when the soldier, with a spear, pierced his side; but this passage is unique as to the actual mentioning of the kardia or heart of Jesus by a distinct word.

There are several passages in the Old Testament which refer to our divine Lord, such as—“Reproach hath broken my heart, and I am full of heaviness;” and that notable one, in the twenty-second Psalm, “my heart is like wax, it is melted in the midst of my bowels.”

But in the New Testament this is the only passage which speaks of the heart of Jesus Christ, and therefore we will weigh it with all the more care.”

–Charles H. Spurgeon, “The Heart of Jesus,” in The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons, vol. 19 (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1873), 19: 193–194.

“A pastor’s life should be vocal” by John Owen

“A pastor’s life should be vocal; sermons must be practised as well as preached.

Though Noah’s workmen built the ark, yet themselves were drowned. God will not accept of the tongue where the devil hath the soul.

Jesus did “do and teach,” (Acts 1:1). If a man teach uprightly and walk crookedly, more will fall down in the night of his life than he built in the day of his doctrine.

Now, as to the completing of the exemplary life of a minister, it is required that the principle of it be that of the life of Christ in him, (Gal. 2:20), that when he hath taught others he be not himself “a cast-away,” (1 Cor. 9:27); with which he hath a spiritual understanding, and light given him into the counsel of God, which he is to communicate, (1 John 5:20; 1 Cor. 2:12, 16; 2 Cor. 4:6, 7);—and that the course of it be singular, (Matt. 5:46, Luke 6:32); where unto so many eminent qualifications of the person and duties of conversation are required, (1 Tim. 2:2–7, Titus 1:6–9);—and his aim to be exemplar to the glory of God, (1 Tim. 4:12).

So is their general course and the end of their faith to be eyed, (Heb. 13:7).

And their infirmities, whilst really such, and appearing through the manifold temptations whereunto they are in these days exposed, or imposed on them through the zeal of their adversaries that contend against them, [are] to be covered with love, (Gal. 4:13, 14).

And this men will do when they conscientiously consider that even the lives of their teachers are an ordinance of God, for their relief under temptations, and provocation unto holiness, zeal, meekness, and self-denial.”

–John Owen, The Works of John Owen, Volume 13: Ministry in Fellowship (ed. William H. Goold; Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1850-53/1997), 13: 57-58.

“The formal and principal act of justifying faith” by Francis Turretin

“The nature of faith cannot be rightly perceived unless these two things are known: (1) of what acts it consists; (2) what is its object…

The fifth is the act of reception of Christ or of adhesion and union, by which we not only seek Christ through a desire of the soul and fly to Him, but apprehend and receive Him offered, embrace Him found, apply Him to ourselves and adhere to and unite ourselves to Him.

For as God freely offers His own Son in the gospel to the sinful soul, burdened and cast down and broken by a sense of his sins, and Christ offers Himself with all His benefits and the fulness of salvation residing in Him, so the soul (firmly persuaded of the fulness of salvation in Christ, seriously flying to Him and earnestly desiring communion with Him) cannot help embracing with the highest freedom of the will that supreme good offered, and the inestimable treasure, selling all for Him (Mt. 13:44), resting upon Christ as the sole Redeemer and delivering and making himself over, and so firmly retaining Him that he is prepared to lose anything else rather than reject Him.

This is the formal and principal act of justifying faith, usually termed “reception”:

“As many as received Him” (i.e., “who believed on His name,” Jn. 1:12); believers are said “to receive the gift of righteousness” (Rom. 5:17); “to receive Christ” (Col. 2:6); “I found him whom my soul loveth: I held him, and would not let him go” (Cant. 3:4); sometimes “meat and drink” (Mt. 5:6; Jn 6:51); the “putting on of Christ” (Gal. 3:27).

And because the soul thus apprehending Christ reclines upon Him and rests upon and cleaves to Him, faith is also sometimes described as an act of “reclining” (Ps. 71:5; Isa. 10:20; 48:2; 50:10; Mic. 3:11); as also an act of adhesion and binding closely, and of the most strict union by which we are bone of His bone and flesh of His flesh and one with him; and Christ Himself dwells in us (Eph. 3:17) and we in Him (Jn. 15:5).

From this union of persons arises the participation in the blessings of Christ, to which (by union with Him) we acquire a right (to wit, justification, adoption, sanctification and glorification).”

–Francis Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology, ed. James T. Dennison Jr., trans. George Musgrave Giger, vol. 2 (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 1992–1997), 2: 560, 563.

“The blood of the Son of God” by Stephen Charnock

“The sin of a creature could never be so filthy as the blood of the Son of God was holy.”

–Stephen Charnock, “A Discourse on the Acceptableness of Christ’s Death,” The Works of Stephen Charnock, Volume 4 (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1865/2010), 4: 558.

“The dear love of my Savior” by Richard Sibbes

“Oh, what should water my heart, and make it melt in obedience unto my God, but the assurance and knowledge of the virtue of this most precious blood of my Redeemer, applied to my sick soul, in the full and free remission of all my sins, and appeasing the justice of God?

What should bow and break my rebellious hard heart and soften it, but the apprehension of that dear love of my Savior, who hath loved me before I loved Him, and now hath blotted out that hand-writing that was against me?

What should enable my weak knees, hold up my weary hands, strengthen my fainting and feebled spirit in constant obedience against so many crosses and afflictions, temptations and impediments, which would stop up my way, but the hope of this precious calling unto glory and virtue?”

–Richard Sibbes, “A Glimpse of Glory,” The Works of Richard Sibbes, Volume 7 (ed. Alexander Balloch Grosart; Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1639/2001), 7: 495.

“The keys of Death and Hades are now in our Savior’s hands” by Matthew Emerson

“The most important practical application of the descent, at least in my opinion, is that it means that Christ experienced death in the same way we do and also defeated it.

His human body went to the grave and His human soul went to the place of the (righteous) dead. This is not a natural state for humanity.

Death is an effect of the fall (Gen 3:17–19; Rom 6:23), and Jesus became fully human to the point that He experienced the fullness of death. He did not die one moment on the cross and rise the next moment but remained dead for three days.

This is a great comfort to those who are facing death or those who have lost loved ones. And those two categories encompass everyone on the planet.

When we, or those we love, face death, we can find assurance in the fact that Christ, too, has experienced death in all its fallen fullness. He really, truly died.

His soul was separated from His body for three days. This is just as we will remain dead and just as our souls will remain separated from our bodies until Christ returns.

Our Savior has gone before us.

Just as the Ark of the Covenant went before the people of Israel through the wilderness for three days to find a place for them to rest (Num 10:33), so Christ has gone before us through the wilderness of Hades to prepare a place for us to rest in Him.

But He has not only experienced the fullness of human death; He has also defeated it. Death does not have the last word.

Those of us who trust Christ do not have hope only because Christ experienced it as we do, but because in it experiencing it as the God-Man He defeated it.

And one day He will expel it fully and finally from His presence and from our experience.

We do not remain dead, just as Christ did not remain dead, because Christ has defeated death in His death, descent, and resurrection.

Because Christ rose, we long for the day when we will rise with Him and dwell, bodily, with Him forever on the new heavens and new earth.

This should also bring believers comfort here on earth as they experience evil, suffering, oppression, and all other effects of sin. Christ’s descent answers the problem of evil because in it (and His death and resurrection) He has defeated the principalities and powers (Col 2:15).

The descent, then, ought to be a great comfort to those facing death, whether their own or a loved one’s. It is part of the reason we grieve, but not as those without hope (1 Thess 4:13).

When we cite Paul’s statement in funeral contexts, it is usually to point to the resurrection. And that is right and good, and the ultimate grounds of such hopeful grieving.

But in the meantime, while we think of our departed dead, while we walk in their graveyards and look at their ashes and remember their lives, while we ponder our own deaths, and while we consider how long it is, O Lord, until the Second Coming, we do so with hope.

We hope because Christ also remained buried in the grave, buried with us and for us. We hope because we have a High Priest who has experienced death as we all will, if the Lord tarries.

We hope because we have an advocate who has experienced the pain of death and yet has done so victoriously, rising from it and drawing us with Him on the last day.

We therefore dig our graves, facing toward the East, knowing that as our bodies decompose, our souls remain with Christ, awaiting the day when He will with loud trumpets return and reunite our bodies and souls so that we can live with Him forever by the power of His Spirit to the glory of the Father.

Charles Hill summarizes this hope well:

Christ descended into Hades so that you and I would not have to. Christ descended to Hades so that we might ascend to heaven. Christ entered the realm of death, the realm of the strong enemy, and came away with his keys.

The keys of Death and Hades are now in our Savior’s hands. And God His Father has exalted Him to His right hand, and given Him another key, the key of David, the key to the heavenly Jerusalem.

He opens and no one will shut, He shuts and no one will open (Rev. 3:7). And praise to Him, as the hymn says, “For He hath op’ed the heavenly door, and man is blessed forever more.”

All praise and honor and glory to the Lamb who has conquered! “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord henceforth” (Rev. 14:13).

And blessed are we here and now, who even now have this hope, and a fellowship with our Savior which is stronger than death! Thanks be to God. Amen.

Maranatha. Come, Lord Jesus.”

–Matthew Y. Emerson, “He Descended to the Dead”: An Evangelical Theology of Holy Saturday (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic: An Imprint of InterVarsity Press, 2019), 219–221.

“The central fact of the entire history of the world” by Herman Bavinck

“The doctrine of Christ is the central point of the whole system of dogmatics.

Here, too, pulses the whole of the religious-ethical life of Christianity.

Christ, the incarnate Word, is thus the central fact of the entire history of the world.

The incarnation has its presupposition and foundation in the trinitarian being of God.

The Trinity makes possible the existence of a mediator who himself participates both in the divine and human nature and thus unites God and humanity.

The incarnation, however, is the work of the entire Trinity.

Christ was sent by the Father and conceived by the Holy Spirit. Incarnation is also related to creation.

The incarnation was not necessary, but the creation of human beings in God’s image is a supposition and preparation for the incarnation of God.”

–Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics: Sin and Salvation in Christ, vol. 3, Ed. John Bolt, and Trans. John Vriend (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2006), 3: 235.

“The gospel affects all of life” by Sam Storms

“The gospel influences virtually all our relationships and responsibilities in life and ministry. Let’s slow down a bit and unpack these in more detail.

Our approach to suffering—that is, how to suffer unjustly without growing bitter and resentful—is tied directly to the way Christ suffered for us and did so without reviling those who reviled Him: “when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly” (1 Pet. 2:23; cf. 2:18–25; 3:17–18).

Or take humility as another example. The basis for Paul’s appeal that we “do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than” ourselves is the self-sacrifice of God the Son in becoming a human and submitting to death, even death on a cross (Phil. 2:1–5 in relation to Phil. 2:6–11). And as husbands, we are to love our wives “as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Eph. 5:25, 26–33).

Why should we be generous and sacrificial with our money? Because, says Paul, “you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you by His poverty might become rich” (2 Cor. 8:9; cf. 9:13).

Likewise, we are to forgive one another “as God in Christ forgave” us (Eph. 4:32; cf. Col. 3:13). We are to “walk in love” toward each other, says Paul, “as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us” (Eph. 5:1–2). We are to serve one another in humility as Christ served his disciples by washing their feet and eventually suffering in their stead (John 13:1–20).

The freedom we have in Christ, says Paul in Romans 14, is to be controlled in its exercise by the recognition that the weaker brother who might be damaged by our behavior is one for whom Christ died. Paul encourages us to pray for all based on the fact that Christ “gave Himself as a ransom for all” (1 Tim. 2:1–7).

If that were not enough, countless passages in the New Testament direct us back to the reality of the gospel and what Christ has done for us through it as the primary way to combat those false beliefs and feelings that hinder our spiritual growth.

So, for example,

When you don’t feel loved by others, meditate on Romans 5:5–11 and 8:35–39.
When you don’t have a sense of any personal value, read Matthew 10:29–31 and 1 John 3:1–3.
When you struggle to find meaning in life, study Ephesians 1:4–14 and Romans 11:33–36.
When you don’t feel useful, consider 1 Corinthians 12:7–27 and 15:58.
When you feel unjustly criticized, rest in the truth of Romans 8:33–34.
When you feel excluded by others, rejoice in Hebrews 13:5–6.
When you feel you have no good works, let Ephesians 2:8–10 have its effect.
When you are constantly asking, “Who am I?” take courage in 1 Peter 2:9–10.
When you live in fear that other people have the power to destroy or undermine who you are, be strengthened by Romans 8:31–34 and Hebrews 13:5–6.
When you don’t feel like you belong anywhere, take comfort from 1 Corinthians 12:13 and Ephesians 4:1–16.
When Satan accuses you of being a constant failure, remind him and yourself of 1 Corinthians 1:30–31.
When Satan tells you that you are an embarrassment to the church, quote Ephesians 3:10.
When you find yourself bitter towards the church and indifferent regarding its ministries, reflect on Acts 20:28.
When you find yourself shamed into silence when confronted by non-Christians, be encouraged with 2 Timothy 1:8–12.
When you find yourself experiencing prejudice against those of another race or culture, memorize and act upon the truth of Romans 1:16; 2 Corinthians 5:14–16; Ephesians 2:11–22; and Revelation 5.
When you struggle with pride and boasting in your own achievements, be humbled by Romans 3:27–28 and 1 Corinthians 1:18–31.
When you feel despair and hopelessness, let Romans 5:1–10 restore your confidence.
When you feel defeated by sin and hopeless ever to change, delight yourself in Romans 7:24–25.
When you feel condemned by God for your multiple, repeated failures, speak aloud the words of Romans 8:1.
When you lack power to resist conforming to the world, consider Romans 12:1–2 and Galatians 6:14.
When you feel weak and powerless, be energized by Romans 16:25.
When you are tempted sexually, never forget 1 Corinthians 6:18–20.

And again, when you find yourself saying,

“I’m not having any impact in life or on others,” be uplifted by 2 Corinthians 12:9–10.
“I feel guilty and filled with shame all the time for my sins,” be reminded of Ephesians 1:7.
“I live in constant fear,” be encouraged by Luke 12:32 and Revelation 2:9–11.
“I struggle with anxiety and worry about everything,” don’t neglect the truth of Matthew 6:25–34; Philippians 4:6–7; and 1 Peter 5:6–7.
“I am defined and controlled by my past,” look to 2 Corinthians 5:17.
“I live in fear that God will abandon me,” consider his promise in Romans 8:35–38.
“I can’t break free of my sins and bad habits,” linger long with Romans 6:6, 14.
“I’m afraid to pray and fear that God will mock my petitions,” take heart from Hebrews 4:14–16.
“I carry grudges against those who’ve wronged me and live in bitterness towards them,” reflect and meditate on Colossians 3:12–13.
“I can’t find strength to serve others, fearing that I’ll be taken advantage of by them,” let Mark 10:45 and Philippians 2:5–11 have their way in your life.
“I’m a spiritual orphan and belong to no one,” rejoice in Galatians 4:4–7.

Each of these texts refers to the gospel of what God has done for us in the life, death, and resurrection of Christ, and each text applies that gospel truth to the particular problem noted.

These, then, are just a handful of the ways that the gospel affects all of life, all of ministry, and everything we seek to be and do and accomplish as Christians and as local churches.”

–Sam Storms, A Dozen Things God Did with Your Sin (And Three Things He’ll Never Do) (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2022), 184-188.

“He has removed your sin as far as the east is from the west” by Sam Storms

“I’m not a scientist. Oh, how I wish I were! I simply don’t have the brain for it. But that doesn’t mean I don’t try to understand science. The one area of science that has long fascinated me is astronomy.

The sheer magnitude of the universe has always captivated my attention and fueled my imagination. This fixation on the heavens and all they contain was stimulated greatly by the creation of the Hubble Telescope.

What you are about to read is no abstraction that bears no influence on your life. It is far more than mere statistics that account for the size of the universe. I can say that with confidence because of what the psalmist wrote:

He does not deal with us according to our sins,
nor repay us according to our iniquities.
For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;
as far as the east is from the west,
so far does he remove our transgressions from us. (Ps. 103:10–12)

As you’ve seen from the subtitle of this book, our focus is on not only the dozen things God has done with our sin, but also three things He never will do. Two of them are mentioned here.

God does not and never will deal with us according to our sins. God does not and never will repay us according to our iniquities. We’ll address both of these wonderful truths later on. But here, I want us to focus on the removal of our transgressions from us as far as the east is the from west.

I would be remiss, however, if I didn’t say something about the intervening sentence. David rejoices in the fact that God’s steadfast love toward those who fear Him can be measured only by the height of the heavens above the earth. David was not an astronomer. He had no grasp of the unimaginable magnitude of the height to which he refers. But we do today.

A good illustration to help us fathom the unfathomable is the light-year. A light-year is how far light travels in 1 calendar year. If you have a big calculator, you can figure it out for yourself. Multiply 186,000 times 60, and you have a light-minute. Multiply that figure by 60, and you have a light-hour.

Multiply that figure by 24, and you have a light-day, and that by 365, and you have a light-year. So, if light moves at 186,000 miles per second, it can travel 6 trillion miles (6,000,000,000,000) in a 365-day period. That’s the equivalent of about 12,000,000 round trips to the moon.

Let’s assume we are speeding in our jet airplane at 500 miles per hour on a trip to the moon. If we traveled nonstop, 24 hours a day, it would take us just shy of 3 weeks to arrive at our destination. If we wanted to visit our sun, a mere 93 million miles from Earth, it would take us a bit more than 21 years to get there.

And if we wanted to reach Pluto, the (dwarf) planet farthest away in our solar system, our nonstop trip would last slightly longer than 900 years! Of course, we’d all be dead by then, but I trust you get the point.

Now, try to get your mind around this: The Hubble Telescope has given us breathtaking pictures of a galaxy some 13 billion light-years from Earth. Yes, 13 billion light-years! Remember, a light-year is 6,000,000,000,000 (6 trillion) miles. That would put this galaxy at 78,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 miles from Earth!

In case you were wondering, we count from million, to billion, to trillion, to quadrillion, to quintillion, to sextillion. So, this galaxy is 78 sextillion miles from earth.

I can barely handle driving for more than 3 or 4 hours at 65 miles per hour before I need to stop and do something, either eat at McDonald’s or, well, you know. The thought of traveling at 500 miles per hour nonstop, literally 60 minutes of every hour, 24 hours in every day, 7 days in every week, 52 weeks in every year, with not a moment’s pause or delay, for—are you prepared for this?—20,000,000,000,000,000 years.

That’s 20 quadrillion years! And that would get us just to the farthest point that our best telescopes have yet been able to detect. This would be the mere fringe of what lies beyond.

Pause for a moment and let this sink in.

Are you beginning to get a feel for what it means to know that God’s love for you, that love that took unimaginable steps to remove the guilt of your sin, is greater than the distance between the heavens and the earth? Take as much time as you need.

If there is a clear sky tonight, go outside and gaze into the expanse above. Pick a star, any star. It seems fairly close. Want to visit? Surely it couldn’t take that long to get there. It almost seems you can extend your hand and touch it.

Well, not quite.

The nearest star to us is a system of three called Alpha Centauri. The closest of those is Proxima Centauri, a mere 4.3 light-years from Earth.

If we were bored with Pluto and wanted to extend our journey, speeding along nonstop, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year, we would land on the closest star to Earth in a mere 6 million years! That’s 500 miles per hour for 6,000,000 years.

Beginning to get the picture? It’s a very small illustration of how high the heavens are above the earth.

Let’s speed up our travel a bit. Suppose our airplane was fast enough to go from Earth to the sun in only 1 hour. That’s traveling at 93 million miles per hour. Imagine what that would do to the radar gun of your local police department!

Traveling nonstop at 93 million miles per hour, it would still take us over 78 years to reach 61 Cygni, a star in the constellation Cygnus (the Swan), roughly 10.9 light-years from Earth.

If you aren’t satisfied with visiting a single star, perhaps you’d like to take a look at the next galaxy in our cosmic neighborhood. The Andromeda Galaxy is a giant spiral, almost a twin of our own Milky Way galaxy. Astronomers have determined that there’s probably a black hole at its center 1 million times the mass of our sun.

Although Andromeda is closest to us it’s still a staggering 2.5 million light-years away (a mere 15 quintillion miles, or 15 followed by 18 zeros). On dark nights in the fall, it’s barely visible to the naked eye as a small misty patch of light. Some are frightened to hear that it’s moving toward us at 75 miles per second.

No need to panic or rush to build a bomb shelter. At that pace, given its distance from earth, it might reach our Milky Way in about 6 billion years! Some say it will take only 3 billion years, so perhaps you should begin working on that bomb shelter after all!

In case you’re wondering—on the assumption that your brain is still able to calculate the seemingly incalculable—our trip to Andromeda would last a paltry 4.2 trillion years (that’s 4, 200,000,000,000 years).

Here’s one more for you to ponder: Shrink the earth to the size of a grapefruit. Pause for a moment and let the scale sink in. On this basis, the moon would be a ping-pong ball about 12 feet away. The sun would be a sphere as big as a 4-story building a mile away. Pluto would be an invisible marble 37 miles away.

Now, put our entire solar system into that grapefruit. The nearest star would be over half a mile away. The Milky Way would span 12,000 miles! Now reduce the entire Milky Way to a grapefruit! The nearest galaxy to us, Andromeda, would be at a distance of 10 feet. The Virgo cluster would be a football field away.

Those calculations are the best I can do to explain how high the heavens are from the earth, all in order to illustrate how “great” God’s steadfast love is for you. Incalculable love. Immeasurable love. Indecipherable love.

King David’s point is that the distance between Earth and this distant galaxy, a mere 78 sextillion miles, is a pathetically small comparison to the likelihood that you will ever be dealt with according to your sins or repaid for your iniquities!

If you were ever inclined to pursue your transgressions so that you might place yourself beneath their condemning power, 78,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 miles is an infinitesimally small fraction of the distance you must travel to find them!

One of the reasons we struggle to enjoy all that God is for us in Jesus is that we live under the influence of a lie. The lie is that our lifetime of sins, which often feels incalculable, is very close at hand, nearer to us than we feared.

But David’s assurance is that God has removed our sins from us “as far as the east is from the west.” By “remove,” he means that God has taken steps to eliminate any possibility that our sins and acts of idolatry and immorality could ever be used against us to justify our condemnation.

And just how far is the east from the west?

Once again, we should remember that David is not speaking as a scientist. He’s not giving us precise mathematical or astronomical calculations.

He’s trying to describe, as best he can, the utter impossibility that the penal consequences of our sins will ever return upon us. I’m quite sure that the way I will now explain David’s language would be challenged by modern astronomers. But bear with me.

If I were to venture due east from my home in Edmond, Oklahoma, unhindered, undeterred, and in an immovable and unbending straight line, I would soon pass through the states of Arkansas, Tennessee, and North Carolina, before crossing the Atlantic Ocean into parts unknown.

If my wife were to do the same going west, we would never again lay eyes on each other. She would travel through northern New Mexico, Arizona, and southern California before passing above the Pacific Ocean. Neither of us would ever reach the end of our journey.

Don’t think of this as two individuals traversing our globe, as if one launched out going east and the other going west, only to encircle the globe and finally bump into each other halfway around the world. David wasn’t thinking in those terms.

His point is that God takes the guilt of our sins and propels them eastward, and takes you and me personally and sends us westward, each on a perfectly straight line.

When and where will the two ever meet up? Never, of course.

And those are the chances, if you will, the odds, that you and I will ever encounter our sins or their power to condemn.

I’ve often wondered why the Spirit of God stirred the hearts of the biblical authors to make use of such extravagant and mind-bending images and illustrations. But I now think I know why.

We—or perhaps I should speak only for myself. I am a hardheaded, slow-witted doofus who lacks the capacity to believe anything so wonderful as this.

Were God to have written in the psalm that He loves us and has taken our sin away, that would, of course, have been enough for some people to fathom. When certain folk hear of the love of God, their response is something along the lines of: “Well, of course He loves me! I’m a lovable person! There’s nothing so surprising about all that.”

But for most of us, knowing ourselves as we do, it takes more than a simple affirmation of divine love for sinners to awaken us to the sheer magnitude of what God has done for us. It takes a comparison of the height of God’s love with the height of the heavens above to drive home the point.

It takes asking me to conceive of the inconceivable distance between east and west to open my eyes to this truth.

I do not easily acknowledge God’s love for me. If I were put in his place, I would never love me!

God knows this, and has thus taken these elaborate verbal steps and the use of seemingly outlandish illustrations to overcome my resistance to the reality of his love.

I hope and pray that it is beginning to sink into your soul as well.”

–Sam Storms, A Dozen Things God Did with Your Sin (And Three Things He’ll Never Do) (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2022), 97-103.