It Should Have Happened to Me

He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a ulamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth.

Isa. 53:7

A just judgment that is what we deserve: our selfishness, pride, and anger have pained God and hurt others. Without a reason why, we run roughshod over others needs, we ignore God’s commands, we indulge our passions, and demand our way no matter the cost. Even when others are hurting more, need compassion, and help, we want our way, or no way.

Punishment is what is required for our self-indulgent behavior, conceited attitude, and insensitive actions. Yet, Christ took our place, bore our judgment, and suffered our well-deserved punishment. Christ’s sufferings should have happened to us, but he paid the price for our selfishness and pride. The cross should have happened to us, but out of love, Christ bore our just judgment.

Every time a Jewish man watched the priest slaughter a sacrificial lamb for him and his family, he knew that an innocent, beautiful creature was taking their place–suffering the fate they should they should have suffered for their sins. There could be no escaping the awareness that the magnitude of their sin required such a death. Just before the sacrifice, the worshiper who presented who presented the lamb laid both of his hands on it. By his touch, he signified that he understood the exchange: What happened to the lamb should have happened to me. 

Jesus Christ is God’s Lamb for you and me. And as we come to the cross, let us come humbly, laying trembling hands upon the Lamb. He will hear us whisper through our tears: “What happened to you, Lord Jesus, should have happened to me.”

Let us remember, too, that one day–and for all eternity thereafter–this sinless, spotless Lamb who was slain will reign–receiving all praise, honor, glory, and power.

Michael Card, A Violent Grace (Sisters, OR: Multnomah, 2000), 129.

Look Firmly at the Cross

 

 

As for me, may I never boast about anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. Because of that cross, my interest in this world has been crucified, and the world’s interest in me has also died.

Gal. 6:14 NLT

When I wake up in the morning and all the demands of the day flood upon my soul; I look firmly at the Cross of Christ. On Golgotha’s Hill, there I know I am forgiven, there I am healed, there I am freed from my selfishness and pride, and there I know-I know that I know-I am accepted by God. At the Cross, the world’s enticements and pleasures cannot compete with the love of God. After looking firmly at the Cross, all I desire to do is to please my Lord.

Look at the cross, think of the cross, meditate on the cross, and then go and set your affections on the world if you can. I believe that holiness is nowhere learned so well as on Calvary. I believe you cannot look much at the cross without feeling your will sanctified, and your tastes made more spiritual.

As the sun gazed upon makes everything else look dark and dim, so does the cross darken the false splendor of this world. As the taste of honey makes all other things seem to have no taste at all, so does the cross seen by faith take all the sweetness out of the pleasures of the world. Keep on, everyday, looking firmly at the cross of Christ.

J.C. Ryle, “The Cross of Christ”

HT: J. C. Ryle Quotes

To Disfigure the Cross

 

How much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.

Heb 9:14 ESV

To disfigure the Cross is to attempt to add our good works to Christ’s perfect, complete work on the Cross.

Good works cannot achieve right standing before God. However, a faith-filled salvation will produce many good works. Good works are the fruit of salvation, not its cause or basis. Good works flow from Christ’s grace enabling us to pour out costly love for and on behalf of others.

Good works cannot earn God’s favor. Good works cannot gain God’s approval. Good works do not obligate God to forgive us. Good works cannot replace a salvation that only a sinless, beautiful Savior accomplished for us in his death and resurrection.

To add to the finished work of Jesus Christ is to disfigure it, mar it, and destroy it altogether. There is nothing you can contribute to the payment that Jesus made on the cross for sin. There is no penance you can undergo, no good work you can perform, no pilgrimage upon which you can embark, no punishment you can endure to clear your guilt before God. When Jesus said, ‘It is finished.’ he meant it.

He meant that he had completely paid the price to release his people from their bondage to sin. So for you to try to pay for your own sins is to deny that Jesus really did finish paying for sin. For you to try to do something to earn your own salvation is to make Jesus Christ out to be a liar.

James Montgomery Boice and Philip Graham Ryken, The Heart of the Cross (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1999), 52.

A Little Child Crucified?

 

Preacher of the Cross: John Henry Newman

And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.

Matt. 1:21 NLT

John Henry Newman was born in England on February 21, 1801 and he died on August 11, 1890. Newman was ordained an Anglican priest on Trinity Sunday, June 13, 1824, and later was received into Roman Catholic Church in 1845. Newman’s preaching ministry was well known throughout England. Newman faithfully taught at St. Mary’s chapel at Oxford serving in the capacity of vicar. Newman’s sermons are collected in ten volumes; they are just a sample of the over 1,000 sermons he preached. His most popular set of sermons is the Parochial and Plain Sermons (eight volumes) still available through Ignatius Press. In his day, Also Sermons Bearing on Subjects of the Day and Fifteen Sermons Preached Before the University of Oxford were published. These ten volumes make up the corpus of Newman’s Anglican ministry.

Even a devout Baptist, Warren Wiersbe, describes Newman’s preaching in glowing terms. “Newman can help teach us how to preach to a man’s conscience, how to get beneath the surface and apply spiritual truth where it is needed.” [Warren Wiersbe, Walking with the Giants (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1998), 23]

Newman’s ability to paint pictures and make startling contrasts in order to bring a spiritual truth to bear on the conscience was his greatest gift. The following quotation from Newman’s sermon, “The Crucifixion,” displays his aptitude at mastering powerful truths, and then insightfully, applying those truths directly to the struggles of a parishioner’s heart. In this sermon, Newman compares the innocence of a mistreated child with the holiness of Christ in the midst of his Passion.

How overpowered should we be, nay not at the sight only, but at the very hearing of cruelties shown to a little child, and why so? For the same two reasons, because it was so innocent, and because it was so unable to defend itself. I do not like to go into the details of such cruelty, they would be so heart-rending. What if wicked men took and crucified a young child? What if they deliberately seized its poor little frame, and stretched out its arms, nailed them to a cross bar of wood, drove a stake through its two feet, and fastened them to a beam, and so left it to die? … O, my brethren, you feel the horror of this, and yet you can bear to read of Christ’s sufferings without horror; for what is that little child’s agony to His? And which deserved it more? Which is the more innocent? Which the holier? Was He not gentler, sweeter, meeker, more tender, more loving, than any little child? Why are you shocked at the one, why are you not shocked at the other?

John Henry Newman, “The Crucifixion”

 

Good Friday Is Not a Funeral

The Cross Is the Victory

And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.

Col. 2:13-15

Many misunderstand, they see the Cross as a defeat. They see Christ’s weakness, suffering, and humiliation as failure to convince the crowds, persuade the Jewish leaders, and empower the disciples. Some grand misunderstanding created this tragedy. However in the minds of these people, God vindicated Jesus by raising him from the dead. God the Father by power of the resurrection snatched victory from jaws of the Cross’ defeat.

Nothing is further from the truth. The Cross is the victory of God and the resurrection is the announcement to the world that the Christ has triumphed over all our foes. The Cross was not a defeat, but the astonishing victory of God over the world, the flesh, sin, death, and the devil.

A number of metaphors are used in scripture to describe the finished work of Christ on the Cross: victory over the oppression and enslavement of sin (1 Cor. 15:57), justification that satisfies the penalty of sin (Rom. 4:25), adoption which grants me the legal status of a son of God and an heir of the kingdom (Rom. 8:17, 23), reconciliation which restores my broken relationship with God (2 Cor. 5:19), forgiveness of our offenses as a result of his pain and suffering on Calvary, redemption  and ransom paid to free me from the captivity of sin(1 Cor. 6:19), healing from brokenness created by my sin (Isa.53:5), representative bringing us all the privileges of the new covenant (Rom. 5:17), participation in all the benefits of his death, burial, and resurrection (Rom. 6), and substitution for he took upon himself our punishment, guilt, and shame (Rom. 4:25).

The Cross accomplished all these things and more.

The whole story in the New Testament is written, as I have said, from the point of view of the Resurrection, and the Christian faith is inexplicable otherwise. Another point to be made is that the story of the Resurrection is not told in the New Testament as the story of a victory which wipes out the defeat of the Cross.

On the contrary, there is great emphasis laid on the fact that the risen Lord is the crucified one. It is said that when, he showed himself to his disciples, he showed them his hands and his side. In other words he identified himself deliberately to them as the one who had been crucified. And according to the records that we have, in his teaching of them, he emphasised the fact that it was necessary for the Messiah to suffer in this way.

Above all in Paul, whose life as a Christian began with a meeting with the risen Lord, it is nevertheless the Cross which is the centre of his message. The Cross, in other words, is not put before us a defeat overruled by God; on the contrary, the Cross is put before us as a victory which was acknowledged and ratified by God.

Bishop Lesslie Newbigin, Journey Into Joy (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1972), 45.