Tag Archives: The Cross

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.

The Place of Healing . . .

 . . . Is Found at the Foot of the Cross

Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.

Healing from the Cross is a deep and abiding restoration of the soul which transforms our emotions, brings joy to our hearts, and renews our minds. Cross-healing frees us from the penalty of sin, the tragedy of sin, the power of sin, and the pain of sin.

Psalm 51: 10

The way to resurrection is ever through brokenness of the cross; and the place of healing is the place that David found–which foreshadowed the eternal place of healing for all men: the place of of brokenness of heart, at the foot of the cross. And the cross is the answer to the psalm and to the need of David’s heart, and to the need of my heart and your heart. It is through death and brokenness that a resurrection into healing and health and newness of life comes. And God seeks to lead us to that place.

Eric J. Alexander, “A Heart-Cry Concerning Sin,” Daily Thoughts from Keswick: A Year’s Daily Readings, ed., Herbert F. Stevenson (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1980), 293.

The Tree of Life

Living in the Realm Where God Lives

On either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him.

Revelation 22:2-3

Eternal life is life and life more abundantly—it is being alive in the realm where God lives (John 10:10). Life is walking with God in unending communion, enjoying his unlimited blessing, experiencing his unconditional love, and receiving his undeserved grace. The opposite of eternal life is not finite life, but eternal death. The eternal life that Christ offers is entire salvation of the whole being including conversion and new birth as well as final glorification (John 3:16).

Why can we have the tree of life? Because Jesus Christ climbed the cross, the tree of death. And because Jesus climbed the tree of death you can have the tree of life.

Tim Keller, “The Garden: City of God,” Pastor, Redeemer Presbyterian Church, Manhattan, N.Y.

HT: Of First Importance

Theological Liberalism

You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.

James 4:4 ESV

Theological Liberalism attempts to reconcile Christianity with the values of the modern world: cultural positivism, human goodness, and individual autonomy. Liberalism tends to emphasize personal ethics over theological certainty, individual experience over Scriptural authority, and temporal values over eternal absolutes. H. Richard Niebuhr (September 3, 1894 – July 5, 1962) described theological liberalism as . . .

A God without wrath brought men without sin into a world without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a cross.

H. Richard Niebuhr, The Kingdom of God in America (Wesleyan, 1988).

Divine Grief

O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!

Matt. 23:37

Grief involves deep and intense sorrow or distress over the death of someone or the loss of a close and important relationship. Grief is a reaction to a major loss: mourning, hurt, pain, anger are all apart of the grieving process.

God grieves for us, his children, when we refuse his help, ignore his will, and reject his explicit commands. He suffers with us and yearns to help, he died for our sins that we might be free to enjoy his love and companionship. Because God loves, he understands us, thus he suffers with us and for us.

This is just what I meant when I spoke of the grief or the tragedy of God on our account. All of us have experienced the fact that our grief for someone whom we cannot help because he will not let us help him is all the greater the more we love him. You grasp how great is God’s sorrow for you only when you realize how much you are loved and to what extent God is thinking about you . . . .

I have said that the suffering of God is so great because He loves us so much. Anyone who has a dear friend going to the dogs, and is unable to help us as he rushes step by step to destruction, knows that this is like death for himself, too. For loving means complete sharing, and the misfortune of the other means pain for oneself.

This is the meaning of Good Friday for the Son of God. He bears the guilt of the world. Perhaps this sounds very dogmatic. But we can understand it clearly enough, as men, if we only see that the heart of the Saviour beats with burning love for His lost and and unhappy children. And because He understands, he suffers with them.

Helmut Thielicke, The Silence of God, trans., G.W. Bromiley (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1962), 70.

Jesus Gave It All Away

The Son of God . . . loved me and gave himself for me (Gal 2:20-21 ESV). 

The Keswick Movement has almost been forgotten. The annual conference began in the mid-19th century for the “promotion of scriptural holiness.” The Holy Spirit’s work in and through the Keswick Conference has changed lives for Christ for over a century and a half. Such notables as Andrew Murray, Amy Carmichael, Watchman Nee, Major Ian Thomas, and F. B. Meyer have all either taught at the yearly conference or were influenced by its teaching.

The sermons, devotionals, and books written Keswick authors and speakers have drawn me into the experience of Christ in a manner no other Christian literature can or does. In their instruction, I have found intimacy with Christ, experienced his constant, conscious presence, and discovered freedom from past pain and persistent sin.

The passage below is one of my favorite selections from a Keswick sermon. Charles Fox declares the greatness of the love of Christ: while suffering inextricable pain, Jesus is thinking about the needs of others. Jesus is carrying the sin of the world on his shoulders, yet he is giving away his inheritance for the benefit of others. Jesus was thinking of others’ needs when you and I would have been self-consumed by our suffering.

Just before He died, Jesus made an inventory of all He had, and then gave it all away. Hear Him: ‘My peace I give you'(John 14:27). ‘That my joy might remain in you (John 15:11).’ He gave His body-‘given for you’ (Luke 22:19). He gave His blood-‘shed for you’ (Luke 22:20). Then He gave what He thought a great deal of-His words. Twice He repeats this legacy, ‘I have given them the words which Thou gavest me’ (John 17:8). ‘I have given them Thy word’ (John 17:14). All He had He gave away. ‘The glory which Thou gavest me I have given them’ (John 17:22).

Then, when He was on the cross-for He was never so rich as when He was on the cross!-He gives away pardon. He gives home-‘Woman behold thy son!’ (John 19:26). He links two of His own together for ever. There are no such friendships as those which are made by the cross of Christ. Then, on the cross, He gives paradise away-paradise, never heard of between Genesis and Revelation, except only at the cross: ‘Today thou shalt be with me in paradise’ (Luke 23:43). Yes, today-immediate transition when you take Christ.

His very clothing was given. ‘They cast lots for His vesture’ (Matt. 27:35). I wonder what that soldier thought as he put on that seamless vesture: a picture of us murderers clothed in the stainless robe of righteousness of Christ.

Then His very dead body was given away. Nobody cared for it, until one disciple came and begged it, and was allowed to have it for the asking (John 19:38).

Is He not rich, my Master? ‘My peace, my joy, my words, my glory!’ All given away! This is indeed the Master. Is He yours?

Charles A. Fox, “The Gifts of Jesus” in Daily Thoughts From Keswick: A Year’s Daily Readings, ed., Herbert F. Stevenson (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1980), 178.

If We Seek . . .

If We Seek , We Will Find Christ 

And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name [i.e., Jesus Christ] under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.

Acts 4:12

Scripture reveals that our whole salvation and all its benefits are obtained in Christ. If we seek victory over sin: freedom from fleshly oppression is found in Christ. If we seek to fill our empty longing: fullness of life is found in Christ. If we seek love, a love that is enduring, gracious, and abiding: a true lasting love is found in Christ. If we seek healing in the midst of the fallout of the Fall: Christ is our balm of Gilead, the true healer of our souls. Christ is our all in all for what we seek.

If we seek salvation, we are taught by the very name of Jesus that it is ‘of him.’ If we seek any other gifts of the Spirit, they will be found in his anointing.

If we seek strength, it lies in his dominion; if purity, in his conception; if gentleness, it appears in his birth. For by his birth he was made like us in all respects that he might learn to feel our pain.

If we seek redemption, it lies in his passion; if acquittal, in his condemnation; if remission of the curse, in his cross; if satisfaction, in his sacrifice; if purification, in his blood; if reconciliation, in his descent into hell; if mortification of the flesh, in his tomb; if newness of life, in his resurrection; if immortality, in the same; if inheritance of the Heavenly Kingdom, in his entrance into heaven; if protection, if security, if abundant supply of all blessings, in his Kingdom; if untroubled expectation of judgment, in the power given to him to judge.

In short, since rich store of every kind of good abounds in him, let us drink our fill from this fountain and from no other.

John Calvin, Preface to Pierre-Robert Olivétan’s 1535 translation of the Bible.

HT: Between Two Worlds Blog

Seven Images of the Cross

Images of Salvation in the Cross

He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.

1 Peter 2:24 ESV

Q. How does the death of Jesus Christ upon the Cross deliver us from the world, the flesh, sin, death, and the devil?

A. The Cross was not a defeat, but the astonishing victory of God over the world, the flesh, sin, death, and the devil.  Seven images (metaphors) are used in scripture to describe the finished work of Christ on the Cross:

  1. Propitiation is taken from Temple worship: God satisfies his own wrath by offering himself to suffer the just punishment for our sins (Rom 3:25; Heb. 2:17; 1 John 2:2, 4:10 NASB).
  2. Redemption is taken from the marketplace: Jesus becomes our ransom paying the debt of sin we could never repay (Matt. 20:28; Mark 10:45; 1 Tim. 2:6).
  3. Justification is taken from the law court: God’s declaration that by faith in Christ we are declared righteous before him (Rom. 3:21-26; Gal. 2:15-16).
  4. Reconciliation is taken from the home: the Cross restores our broken relationship with the Father (Rom. 5:10-11; 2 Cor. 5:16-21).
  5. Victory is taken from the military: Christ has conquered Satan and his oppression, our sin and its enslavement, and death and its control (1 Cor. 15:57; Heb. 2:14-15).
  6. Adoption is taken from the family: we are granted legal status as sons of God and heirs of the Kingdom (Rom. 8:17, 23; Gal. 4:1-7).
  7. Healing is taken from the hospital: we are restored and all creation from the brokenness created by our sin (Isa. 53:5; 1 Peter 2:24-25).

Christ’s substitution is the foundation for all these images for he took our place, and paid the price for our salvation by absorbing the just judgment we deserved. Christ’s death was penal in that he bore our penalty. Christ’s death was substitutionary in that he took our place when he suffered for our self-absorption, self-centeredness, and self-conceit (Isa. 53; 2 Cor. 5:21; 1 Pet. 2:24, 3:18).

Again throughout his theology, (Thomas F.) Torrance emphasises that in Jesus Christ we have the act of God and of man, of God as man in his one person. Justification, reconciliation and redemption therefore must be thought of not simply as the act of God for our salvation, but also as the real act of man, of God as man for us. the importance of this for Torrance’s theology and for understanding it cannot be overstated.

Justification is not simply the act of God judging sin, atoning for it himself and declaring us righteous in his beloved Son, it is man saying amen to the righteous judgement of God and at the same time fulfilling all righteousness in his own perfect life and humanity.

Reconciliation is thus not simply God reconciling the world to himself in Christ, but reconciliation worked out, achieved and realised by Christ as man within his own person, in his own mind, life, heart and soul.

Redemption is the mighty act of God in which mankind is liberated from bondage and decay into the new creation through the resurrection of the man Jesus Christ from the dead in the fullness of physical existence.

Thomas F. Torrance, Atonement: The Person and Work of Christ, ed., Robert T. Walker (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2009), xlv. (paragraphing mine)

HT: The Evangelical Calvinist 

 

 

The Shadow of Death

A Painting With a Story

She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.

Matt. 1:21-22 ESV

Do you know the painting by Holman Hunt, the leader of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, entitled ‘The Shadow of Death’? It depicts the inside of the carpenter’s shop in Nazareth. Stripped to the waist, Jesus stands by a wooden trestle on which he has put down his saw. He lifts his eyes towards heaven, and the look on his face is one of either pain or ecstasy or both. He also stretches, raising both arms above his head. As he does so, the evening sunlight streaming through the open door casts a dark shadow in the form of a cross on the wall behind him, where his tool-rack looks like a horizontal bar on which his hands have been crucified. The tools themselves remind us of the fateful hammer and nails.

In the left foreground a woman kneels among the wood chippings, her hands resting on the chest in which the rich gifts of the Magi are kept. We cannot see her face because she has averted it. But we know that she is Mary She looks startled (or so it seems) at her son’s crosslike shadow on the wall.

The Pre-Raphaelites have a reputation for sentimentality. Yet they were serious and sincere artists, and Holman Hunt himself was determined, as he put it, to ‘do battle with the frivolous art of the day’, its superficial treatment of trite themes. So he spent 1870-73 in the Holy Land, and painted ‘The Shadow of Death’ in Jerusalem, as he sat on the roof of his house. Though the idea is historically fictitious, it is also theologically true. From Jesus’ youth, indeed even from his birth, the cross cast its shadow ahead of him. His death was central to his mission. Moreover, the church has always recognized this.

John Stott, The Cross of Christ: 20th Anniversary Edition (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1989), 17.

 

Find It! Find It in Christ.

All Our Needs Are Met in Him 

And because of him [God] you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption,

1 Cor. 1:30 ESV

Every emptiness we feel, every struggle we face, every setback we endure: all our needs are met in Christ. All spiritual warfare that we face, all sin that we fight, all the approval for which we yearn: all our burdens are freed at the foot of the Cross. All the victory we desire, all the fulfillment for which we long, all the love we desire to impart: all are released through an intimate love relationship with Jesus.

Apply to yourself all that your Savior is, or has done. Do you wish for all the graces of God’s Spirit? You will find them in His anointing. Do you wish for power against spiritual enemies? You will find it in his sovereignty. Is it redemption you seek? You will find it in His passion. Is it absolution you need? You will find it is His perfect innocence. Freedom from the curse? Find it as His Cross. Satisfaction? See it in His sacrifice. Cleansing from sin? Find it in His blood. Mortification? It is yours in His grave. Newness of Life? Find it in His resurrection. The right to heaven? It is insured for you by His intercession. Do you seek salvation? It is yours because He is seated at the right hand of the Majesty on high. Do you desire all? Then find it in Him Who is “One Lord, one God, and Father of all, Who is above all, through all, and in all.”

Bishop Joseph Hall quoted in His Victorious Indwelling, ed., Nick Harrison (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1998), 186.