Tuesday, January 26, 2010
So what is the power of the cross?
For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.
(I Corinthians 1:17)
I remember as a kid going to a gospel meeting, that didn't have nice words or clever arguments. I remember a young man talking of what the cross was like. What the thorns were like that were twisted into Jesus head, what the nails were like that cruelly went through His hands, the spear that gashed his side open, and this was all after his cruel flogging and mutilation.
The cross has no power as a gold piece of jewelry that hangs round your neck, or as a white marble statue above a pulpit. They beautify something that should not be beautified.
The power of the cross is to kill, and keep killing, until whatever is on it is dead.
The power of the cross is it is a doorway to life. An eternal life that can only be reached by death, now, in this world. Not at your natural death, then is too late, but willingly, while you have breath now.
and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.
The power of the cross is to take away the judgment we deserve. Jesus took that hostility between God and man, that hostility that man had created, that stopped man from being all God intended him to be, and nailed it too the cross in his own body.
by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.
Imagine being in a queue at a store. You have 1 item in your basket. It's the most precious of possessions, costing all. You get to the till and realize you have no money. You can't put the item back, that is not an option. The price has to be paid, and you can't pay it. The sentence for not being able to pay is eternal imprisonment. And then Jesus comes, opens up his wallet and pays the price for you.
You would be eternally thankful, the fact that some would rather go to prison that have the price paid for them is astonishing, but true.
Jesus paid the price with His life, on the cross, and when you see the truth of it the only response is to give Him your life. And as we've seen, the way to do that is through the cross.
A couple more things on the cross. These are some random thoughts associated with other 'cross' related verses.
but standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.
The cross isn't a quiet private event. People will notice, and should notice. Your family will be the closest and most observant. They will see a great and tragic spectacle. They probably will not understand. Think your being a fool. Maybe try to coax you down, plead that you give this up so life can go back to normal. But it can't. And eventually they will see the effect the cross has had on you once you have made it through the door to the other side of death and Jesus lives in your heart on the throne and begins to make all things new in your life. The cross is a public spectacle and the more people see and know of what you have done the more will be affected. After all the Bible tells us:
because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
There is a telling, a confession that is part and parcel of salvation. It just can't be done in secret.
, As they went out, they found a man of Cyrene, Simon by name. They compelled this man to carry his cross.
Similar to the point above, but this makes me think that there are other people who get dragged into what is happening with you near the cross. There are relationships you have, people you know, or people you don't know that for some reason become satellites to you as you are going through this change to the cross. You may feel sorry for them that they see you like this, falling to bits as sin weighs heavy around your neck, as the knowledge of Heaven and Hell weighs heavy, the knowing deep down that your life is a mess with you running it and you desperately want Jesus to step in and become Lord. But God has brought these people to you for the very reason of observing you, to get a feel for how heavy and how deadly the cross is. They may never hear a skillful sermon, but to come into contact with you as the cross weighs heavy is a more sobering experience than any they will have experienced up to now.
and he went out, bearing his own cross, to the place called the place of a skull, which in Aramaic is called Golgotha.
Just to finish this point, ultimately, no one can bear the cross for you. You will carry it. It will take everything you are. Nothing left behind. But as the cross is inserted in the place of the skull, you will find that for you it is death that has been killed for you through the power of the cross.
Let the Christ, the King of Israel, come down now from the cross that we may see and believe. Those who were crucified with him also reviled him.
looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
The cross as we've seen is not a pleasant experience. Made all the harder by people who will ridicule you. People do not like an act like salvation. It's misinterpreted by them. They feel threatened by it, as well they should, because they feel you are saying; this is the right way, the only way to be saved, to be truly good, spotless and blameless in God's eyes. No one in these PC days wants anybody to draw a line in the sand as to what is right and wrong. These days everything is right, there is no wrong way to find God, in fact, we don't really need Him anyway because we are not bad. We've made up our own rules as to how we will enter heaven, and they don't involve Jesus at all. To stand up in that atmosphere and say; NO, there is only one way and His name is Jesus, will not go down well.
Despising the shame? The shame is to be seen as the sinner you are. All your faults and weaknesses. Jesus Himself took the place of a sinner and was counted with them, though He knew no sin. he endured it. He had His eyes fixed on the prize.
It is those who want to make a good showing in the flesh who would force you to be circumcised, and only in order that they may not be persecuted for the cross of Christ.
My last point. I have to stop somewhere on a topic so large or I might never finish.
When I read this scripture, the biggest thing I think of is to remember where we have come from. Remember the simple truths that set us free, and the simple but incredibly powerful life we have entered into. We have entered via the cross into friendship with the Creator of the universe. Our walk with Jesus is a simple one. As simple as Adam in the garden, walking and talking with His Lord, sharing his thoughts and feelings and listening to the great teacher as he shares His thought and feelings back. And as with any student / teacher relationship, He rubs off on us. We start to see His character and more, we start to become like Him. Amazing.
Where this goes wrong is when our eyes are diverted from this simple life. We get bogged down with people's ideas on how to worship, how to pray, 10 ways to prosperity, how to be an overcomer. And if we are not careful our attention drifts to formulas, to giftings and gifts, to ministries and people, and slowly our attention is refocused on something that is supposed to be 'deeper revelations' of Jesus, when in actual fact, the deeper revelations are already there in your simple walk, being revealed as He sees fit to reveal them. We find prayer gets harder, and shorter, worship only happens when the band is particularly on form or when it's your favourite song. You tithe, you read the Bible, you try your best, but slowly your walk with Jesus is being replaced with rules and regulations. Life is being replaced with Law.
The cross set us free. We are free. We have friendship with the Saviour. There is no deeper truth, no missed message that you have to fulfill to attain salvation.
Lets start with the big choice.
The Cross or the Throne?
The throne is where you sit now. Lord and master of your heart and mind and body. You do what you want, you say what you want. You answer to no one other than the Law of the Land.
The throne is a plush, gold covered, velvet lined, seat of luxury and power. You were born sitting on it.
The cross is a crude device, made from 2 long rough pieces of wood. No effort has been made to beautify it, no lick of paint, it's an object made for one purpose. To kill whatever comes in contact with it.
That is the big choice.
The first mention of the cross in the Bible is from Jesus. He's talking about the cost of discipleship:
And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.
and in Luke:
Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.
Jesus wants you to go on the cross, allowing Him to take the seat on your throne. You have to allow this willingly by giving up the throne and going to the cross. You go to the cross by accepting Jesus as Lord of your life. As you do this you find that Jesus takes His rightful place as Lord and you find that you are now dead on a cross, crucified with Jesus.
Something I've learned since starting this study is that the cross will not be found by the light hearted. Only those with serious mind and serious heart can find the cross. It's the narrow door, not only does it cause you to lose all as you squeeze through, but for most they don't even see it as they carry on their busy lives.
And he said to all, If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.
Jesus talks of this being a daily act. This doesn't mean you have to go through the process of salvation every day by accepting Jesus as Lord of your life. When you have done this once, He is Lord. There is a daily walking through of what you have done though. The flesh, which could maybe translated as the part that still likes sitting on the throne, will rebel at your decision to give up the seat of ruler-ship. It's been used to getting it's own way and want's no other King but itself. It is this fleshly voice that needs to be put in it's place daily. The place of death.
Pilate also wrote an inscription and put it on the cross. It read, Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.
This verse has a significance for us too. It is only in death, and death on a cross we will ever truly find out who we are. Just as all who passed could see this was Jesus, the King of the Jews, so when we are crucified with Him, we find out just who we are. Servant of the Most High, Slave to Christ, Friend of God.
He saved others; he cannot save himself. He is the King of Israel; let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him.
What was said in mockery nevertheless has truth in it. You cannot save yourself. The one place you can save yourself is on the cross, but as Paul says, this idea is foolish to some:
For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
(I Corinthians 1:18)
How many times are we told the mystery about losing your life to save it? Just a quick search gives me 6 results:
Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will keep it.
Think of all those self help Guru's, those seminars where someone promises you to become a better person in 3 easy steps. The adverts that show you by buying this product, eating this, wearing that, will improve your life. It's all a lie. It won't work. Only the cross will make it happen.
Jesus said to him, No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.
The same is true of those who go to the cross and are then fooled into thinking that another way will save them. To fall for the voice that says, 'do this thing instead, and then we will believe you are serious'. No, it's a one way journey. There is no turning back. Not ever.
I'd just like to expand on this point slightly. You have to count the cost. You have to assess the price being asked. I expect you might have been to meetings where an appeal is given. All eyes are asked to be closed, all heads bowed. It's made as easy and embarrassment free as possible for someone to shyly put their hand half way in the air, just high enough to be seen but not high enough to be noticed by anyone hopefully.
This isn't a good start. This isn't giving the person the right understanding of the cost of their decision. In some ways the decision to follow Christ should be made harder. Not a dip your toe in the water and if it's not to your liking perhaps find a different way to show your nice and good. No, it's a jumping straight in the deep end, knowing you can't swim and your not going to make it up. An abandonment of all that has gone before. No turning back.
I think the easier we make these decisions, in the long run, the harder the task to train the disciple.
You don't have to explain that your money is God's, your time is God's, every decision you make needs to be for God to a person who has given up his life to Jesus so dramatically. They understand already that they and everything they have and are is His.
Thursday, January 14, 2010
When I was a kid, I had the nack of maybe not understanding the right answer, but guessing what it should be.
For instance, I was in primary school, and the question was asked: Which is heavier, a Kilo of feathers or a Kilo of sand. Nearly the whole class said sand. I had no idea what a Kilo was but I guessed it was a trick question and said they were the same...and got a big pat on the back for being clever.
Thing is, I'm not that clever, I just could guess well.
When it came to questions on having a hero, I was pretty much the same. Knowing that the wrong answer was to say my favourite pop star, because he looked cool, or wore dark sunglasses that were trendy...I knew not to say my favourite film star, the one who killed all the bad guys with witty one liners. Those were the guys I really wanted to emulate, but I answered correctly and said Jesus...and got a nice pat on the back for answering correctly.
Now I'm older, I look at jesus and think, this man really is my Hero.
Jesus was a man (as well as being God) that was always at peace. Nothing flustered Him. He never flew off the handle, he got angry, he got sad, but it was never out of control.
He could walk into a room and everybody would know, here is someone special. They might not like Him, may take offense at Him, but they couldn't ignore Him.
In conversation, it didn't matter who he was speaking too, he had the right word for the right time, something I admire in him more and more.
He truly was, and is, someone I want to be like.