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Monthly Archives: March 2013

Rejoicing in the Cross

John Piper on why the death of Christ matters not just eternally, but for today:

Because for redeemed sinners, every good thing—indeed every bad thing that God turns for good—was obtained for us by the cross of Christ.  Apart from the death of Christ, there is only condemnation.  Therefore everything that you enjoy in Christ—as a Christian, as a person who trusts Christ—is owing to the death of Christ.  And all your rejoicing in all things should therefore be a rejoicing in the cross where all your blessings were purchased for you at the cost of the death of the Son of God, Jesus Christ. (Don’t Waste Your Life, p. 51)

In Christ, every circumstance of our lives is redeemed to the glory of God.  Because Jesus took the cup of wrath, our cup overflows with joy.  Every single blessing we experience comes to us through the work of Christ on the cross.  All blessings . . . purchased for us at great cost . . .

2013-03-30 21.59.47-2Piper only echoes an idea expressed over two centuries earlier by Jonathan Edwards, who spoke more emphatically about this purchase:

Our blessings are what we have by purchase; and the purchase is made of God, the blessings are purchased of him, and God gives the purchaser; and not only so, but God is the purchaser.  Yea, God is both the purchaser and the price; for Christ, who is God, purchased these blessings for us by offering up himself as the price of our salvation. (from Edwards’ 1731 sermon, “God Glorified in Man’s Dependence”)

We are not a party to this transaction, but it is settled to our favor nonetheless   . . . to our utterly undeserved favor . . . an exchange that resounds through eternity as a testament to God’s grace.  The cross towers over us and shines before us.  We live in its shadow and in its light.  It matters.  It’s really all that matters.

From Don’t Waste Your Life, Piper again:

Every enjoyment in this life and the next that is not idolatry is a tribute to the infinite value of the cross of Christ—the burning center of the glory of God.  And thus a cross-centered, cross-exalting, cross-saturated life is a God-glorifying life—the only God-glorifying life.  All others are wasted. (p. 59)

 

“The Torment of a Soul Estranged from God”

Content to simply “be saved,” we often lose sight of the price God paid to deliver us from spiritual bondage and eternal condemnation.  We reverently sing:  “I’ll never know how much it cost to see my sin upon that cross.”  But are we that curious?

In Basic Christianity, John Stott reminds us of the great cost associated with the Son’s loving obedience to the Father.  It was a cost that extended far beyond excruciating physical pain and personal humiliation.  By more fully understanding this cost, we can more clearly appreciate its worth.  Grace is free to us . . . but our debt fell upon another.

“And then in desolate spiritual abandonment that cry was wrung from his lips, ‘My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?’  It was a quotation from the first verse of Psalm 22.  No doubt he had been meditating during his agony on its description of the sufferings and glory of the Christ.  But why did he quote that verse?  Why not one of the triumphant verses at the end?  Why not, ‘You who fear the Lord, praise him!’ or ‘Dominion belongs to the Lord’?  Are we to believe that it was a cry of human weakness and despair, or that the Son of God was imagining things?

“No.  These words must be taken at their face value.  He quoted this verse of Scripture . . . because he believed he was himself fulfilling it. He was bearing our sins.  And God who is ‘of purer eyes than to behold evil’ and cannot ‘look on wrong’ turned away his face.  Our sins came between the Father and the Son.  The Lord Jesus Christ who was eternally with the Father, who enjoyed unbroken communion with him throughout his life on earth, was thus momentarily abandoned.  Our sins sent Christ to hell.  He tasted the torment of a soul estranged from God.  Bearing our sins, he died our death.  He endured instead of us the penalty of separation from God which our sins deserved.

“Then at once, emerging from that outer darkness, he cried in triumph, ‘It is finished,’ and finally, ‘Father, into thy hands I commit my spirit.’  And so he died.  The work he had come to do was completed.  The salvation he had come to win was accomplished.  The sins of the world were borne.  Reconciliation to God was available to all who would trust this Savior for themselves, and receive him as their own.  Immediately, as if to demonstrate this truth publicly, the unseen hand of God tore down the curtain of the Temple, and hurled it aside.  It was needed no longer.  The way into God’s holy presence was no longer barred.  Christ had ‘opened the gate of heaven to all believers.’  And thirty-six hours later he was raised from death, to prove that he had not died in vain.” (pp. 92-93)

“God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”      —2 Corinthians 5:21

 
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Posted by on March 27, 2013 in Book Comments, Cross of Christ

 

A “Hunger” Satisfied by Grace

In the fictional world of Suzanne Collins’s The Hunger Games, the only real authority is one without mercy.  The Capitol revels in the exercise of absolute power, perversely instituting an annual tragedy and calling it entertainment.  Katniss Everdeen, the indomitable heroine of Collins’s dystopian novel, describes the hopeless plight of the subjugated, whose necks strain under the heavy boots of heartless taskmasters:

Selecting the Tribute“Taking the kids from our districts, forcing them to kill one another while we watch—this is the Capitol’s way of reminding us how totally we are at their mercy.  How little chance we would stand of surviving another rebellion.  Whatever words they use, the real message is clear.  ‘Look how we take your children and sacrifice them and there’s nothing you can do.  If you lift a finger, we will destroy every last one of you.  Just as we did in District Thirteen.’” (p. 18)

At the yearly “harvest” preceding this sacrifice, Katniss stands amid the throng of potential tributes and listens to an official commemorating the ritual as “both a time for repentance and a time for thanks.” (p. 19)

That the narrator recognizes these words as a sham seems realistic enough, given the godless world in which she dwells.  The Capitol rules.  There can be no genuine repentance or thankfulness when the only known authority is wholly incapable of grace or mercy.

Repentance in simple theological terms entails a “turning away” from sin, but it requires much more than a determined act of the will . . . much more and, in a certain sense, much less (from us).  In The Christian Life, Sinclair Ferguson explains how adopting an attitude of repentance depends entirely on the character of God—the One with ultimate authority, both now and for all eternity:

“Only when we turn away from looking at our own sin to look at the face of God, to find his pardoning grace, do we begin to repent.  Only by seeing that there is grace and forgiveness with himwould we ever dare to repent and thus return to the fellowship and presence of the Father. . . . The law may lead to conviction, exposing a sense of guilt and need, as it did also in [the Apostle] Paul’s experience.  But only when grace appears on the horizon offering forgiveness will the sunshine of the love of God melt our hearts and draw us back to him.” (p. 75)

In the darkened world where the Capitol is god, we should not expect to see the warming thaw of repentance.  The hardhearted do not feel their chest tighten with the knotting pang of guilt.  They do not crumple in moral exhaustion at the feet of cruel authority, seeking forgiveness from what they know to be hopelessly merciless through and through.

But in the real world, God the Creator and Redeemer enables true repentance by revealing Himself as merciful . . . reaching down and extending grace that not only enlightens but also calls us home.

“. . . in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth.”—2 Timothy 2:25

 

A Gallop with the King

In our efforts to live faithfully as disciples of Christ in the here and now, we often lose sight of the work in store for us when the King returns. In Miracles, C. S. Lewis gives us a glimpse of the resurrection life:

There is in our present pilgrim condition plenty of room . . . for abstinence and renunciation and mortifying our natural desires. But behind all asceticism the thought should be, “Who will trust us with the true wealth if we cannot be trusted even with the wealth that perishes?” Who will trust me with a spiritual body if I cannot control even an earthly body? These small and perishable bodies we now have were given to us as ponies are given to schoolboys. We must learn to manage: not that we may some day be free of horses altogether but that some day we may ride bare-back, confident and rejoicing, those greater mounts, those winged, shining and world-shaking horses which perhaps even now expect us with impatience, pawing and snorting in the King’s stables. Not that the gallop would be of any value unless it were a gallop with the King; but how else—since He has retained His own charger—should we accompany Him? (p. 266)

We do not use ourselves up for the sake of Christ, day in, day out, only to cross over into a state of dull relaxation. We should instead expect to be lifted up in a colorful, quickening breath to experience “true wealth”    . . . the exhilaration of newness . . . the comfort of vague familiarity . . . the joy of utter completeness.

This earthly life is not a race to the finish line so much as it is practice in preparation for eternity, when we will know rest to be sure . . . but not inactivity. Get ready for “a gallop with the King!”