The Cross of Christ is the revealed truth of God’s judgment on sin. Never associate the idea of martyrdom with the Cross of Christ. It was the supreme triumph, and it shook the very foundations of hell. There is nothing in time or eternity more absolutely certain and irrefutable than what Jesus Christ accomplished on the Cross— He made it possible for the entire human race to be brought back into a right-standing relationship with God. He made redemption the foundation of human life; that is, He made a way for every person to have fellowship with God.
The Cross was not something that happened to Jesus— He came to die; the Cross was His purpose in coming. He is “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” (Revelation 13:8). The incarnation of Christ would have no meaning without the Cross. Beware of separating “God was manifested in the flesh…” from “…He made Him…to be sin for us…” (1 Timothy 3:16 ; 2 Corinthians 5:21). The purpose of the incarnation was redemption. God came in the flesh to take sin away, not to accomplish something for Himself. The Cross is the central event in time and eternity, and the answer to all the problems of both.
The Cross is not the cross of a man, but the Cross of God, and it can never be fully comprehended through human experience. The Cross is God exhibiting His nature. It is the gate through which any and every individual can enter into oneness with God. But it is not a gate we pass right through; it is one where we abide in the life that is found there.
The heart of salvation is the Cross of Christ. The reason salvation is so easy to obtain is that it cost God so much. The Cross was the place where God and sinful man merged with a tremendous collision and where the way to life was opened. But all the cost and pain of the collision was absorbed by the heart of God.
|APRIL 6, 2015
When You’re Stuck in the Middle
“Then Jesus became explicit, ‘Lazarus died. And I am glad for your sakes that I wasn’t there. You’re about to be given new grounds for believing. Now let’s go to him.’” John 11:14-15 (MSG)
The poor teacher couldn’t figure out what had gone wrong. One minute, my daughter’s face had been decorated with her signature smile; the next, her cheeks were streaked with silent tears.
My third-born is sensitive. As a baby, she cried around the clock. As a preschooler, she cried when her big brother pulled her ponytail.
And in first grade, she cried in Sunday school when she heard the tale of Lazarus bursting forth from the tomb.
Befuddled, the teacher pulled me aside after church that day and apologized for “whatever upset Hannah during story time.” I’d assured her we knew about our little girl’s tender heart.
However, later I asked Hannah about the unexplained tears. Like her teacher, I had no idea what might have prompted her sadness. After all, the resurrection recorded in the eleventh chapter of John seems more like a celebration-sparker than a tear-jerker.
“I wasn’t planning to cry, Mommy,” Hannah explained. “But that story just made me feel so sad.”
I squatted low to look my daughter in the eye. “Honey, the story of Lazarus is one of Jesus’ greatest miracles.”
“I know,” Hannah conceded. “I just felt so bad for those sisters. I kept thinking about how I’d feel if Jesus had let me down like that.”
“But, Hannah” I said, “You already know the ending to the story. Jesus shows up and makes everything right. Those sisters get their brother back, and they all have a graveside party!”
My girl exhaled an exasperated sigh, whispering, “Even if you know the ending, the middle can still hurt.”
My stomach lurched at the huge truth that hung between us, and suddenly, I understood the tears.
My little girl had gotten stuck in “the middle.”
She’d stood at the edge of the tomb where a beloved brother lay lifeless, crying right alongside those sisters.
I’ve been there. And if you’ve been traveling this world’s broken road for a while, you probably have, too.
The middle is where we call on God and wonder if He hears our cries.
The middle is where doubts rage loud, and our Savior grows quiet.
The middle is where life doesn’t make sense, faith seems foolish and hope seems lost.
When sickness strikes, when a friend betrays, when a spouse disappoints or a child rebels, we can find ourselves hoping for a better ending to our story.
Maybe you’re there now, feet planted shakily at the edge of the tomb where your hopes and dreams are buried. If you are, I’m sorry.
But listen to what Jesus told the disciples before raising Lazarus from the dead: “You’re about to be given new grounds for believing” (John 11:15).
You see, the middle isn’t just a place of pain. It’s a place of possibility. That middle ground is fertile soil for flourishing faith.
The middle is where we decide what we believe about Jesus — regardless of our circumstances. Before Jesus performed a miracle, Martha made her decision: “I have always believed you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one who has come into the world from God” (John 11:27b, NLT).
And Jesus replied with a promise we can claim for ourselves: “Didn’t I tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?” (John 11:40b, MSG)
Do you see it now? We don’t survive the middle by rewriting the story; we survive it by anchoring our hope to the One who has already scripted the perfect ending.
There will come a day when no one will be stuck in the middle, with no more tears and no more pain (Revelation 21:3-5).
So, plant your feet firmly on the promises of Christ, dear friend. Because life on this side of Heaven is just the scene before the miracle. And if we believe in Jesus, we already know there’s a happy ending.
Dear Jesus, I’m stuck in the middle and it hurts. But I believe You are the resurrection and the life. Help me choose faith instead of fear. Renew my hope in Your glorious ending. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
TRUTH FOR TODAY:
Revelation 21:6a, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end.” (The Voice)
From: Streams in the Desert
I will stand upon my watch, and set me upon the tower, and will watch to see what he will say unto me (Hab. 2: 1).
–C. H. Spurgeon
From: Through the Bible
Deuteronomy 11:26-28 (NIV) 26See, I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse– 27the blessing if you obey the commands of the LORD your God that I am giving you today; 28the curse if you disobey the commands of the LORD your God and turn from the way that I command you today by following other gods, which you have not known.
Recently, the Prayer of Jabez has become quite popular. It is a wonderful prayer that asks for the Lord to change the circumstances in which we find ourselves into blessings. We do need to remember that blessings are contingent upon obedience. As New Testament saints, we emphasize grace, but that does not change the principle of these verses. We still reap what we sow. We cannot ask for blessing while walking in disobedience and expect God to wink at our disobedience.
The choice to obey is clearly laid before us. Instead of the many rules of the Old Testament Law, we have the leading of the Holy Spirit that indwells us. We choose to obey or disobey. We choose curse or blessing. It is sad that we think we can pray for God to remove this just principle. It is there to deter us from evil and guide us into life.
What are these other gods? They are ones that promise prosperity in spite of disobedience. They are lies that say that the pleasure of sin is more than momentary. They offer an alternative to the cut and dried choice of obedience and blessing or disobedience and curse. They lie! They are disobedience and curse in disguise.
Meditation: Obedience brings the blessing of God!
Matthew 27:45-46 (NIV) 45From the sixth hour until the ninth hour darkness came over all the land. 46About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?”–which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
Jesus was crucified around the time of the morning sacrifice, 9 A.M. At noon there was a strange darkness. It lasted until the afternoon sacrifice, 3 P.M. It is reminiscent of the plague of darkness that covered the land of Egypt. In the area that Israel lived, there was light, but the rest of Egypt was covered with a thick darkness. God is light. In Him is no darkness at all. Was hell unleashed upon the Savior in those three hours because our sins were laid upon Him?
Toward the end of the three hours, Jesus cried out in a loud voice the beginning of Psalm 22. It is not likely that He could have said the whole phrase at once. Each painful breath had to be drawn while pulling against the nails in His wrists and pushing against those in His ankles. These few words had to say volumes. In that psalm, David prophesied the very details of what was taking place. He predicted Jesus’ anguish, His thirst, the lots cast for His clothing, and even the nails in His hands and feet. Many have taken this to be a voice of despair. I see it more as a battle cry against the darkness. Read the rest of the psalm and you will see Jesus’ thoughts are toward the victory He is achieving for those He loves. He was turning His disciples’ minds to the Word of God. It was one way, with the limited strength He had left, He could explain that this was all predicted and would end in a glorious outcome.
I encourage you to read the whole psalm to understand the fullness of where Jesus was turning their minds. Here are the last two verses. Psalms 22:30-31 (NIV) 30Posterity will serve him; future generations will be told about the Lord. 31They will proclaim his righteousness to a people yet unborn– for he has done it.
Consider: He has done it, for you and me! We are a part of those future generations declaring the victory won on the cross.