Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Cross of Christ

Why is the cross of Christ and offense? It's an offense for several reasons. First because it shows us the ugliness of sin. There is nothing pretty about a bloodied and grossly disfigured Man hanging from nails driven through His hands and feet on a wooden cross. That's not the kind of image we like to think about when we engage in sinful pleasures. The cross of Christ then is an offense because it confronts us head on about our sins and says this is the consequences of what you are doing. Somebody is going to have to pay and this what it is going to cost. For where there is sin, there must be punishment of it. That is an eternal principal that runs throughout the Word of God. Sin has consequences and the consequence of our sins is death, either ours eternally, or Jesus Christ's once and for all on the Cross to redeem us all from it. That is why the Bible say's "For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." Rom. 6:23 Those then who downplay the seriousness of their sins, or don't like what God required to atone for it, don't like the cross of Christ. Yet "... according to the law almost all things are purified with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no remission." Heb. 9:22

The cross of Christ is an offense for an other reason in that it destroys all of our self righteous pretenses. Jesus Christ wasn’t crucified because you and I were so good in the sight of God. Both by choice and by nature we are all sinners condemed by the law as such in the sight of God. Though we all exemplify this differently, at different stages of our lives, to different degrees and in different ways. The Scripture is clear "...All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God" Rom. 3:23 Therefore you cannot look to Bible as a means of being justifed before God unless your eyes are squarly focused on Jesus Christ crucified for your sins forgivness. For the Bible justifies no one apart from Christ in God's sight (John 5:39-47). The cross of Christ then is an offense because it overthrows all of our notions about our own goodness or deservedness. As well as all of our own notions of self redemption. Whether individuals or so called "evolving" mankind collectively, Jesus Christ crucified and risen from the dead and our faith in Him is the sole means by which we are made right in God's sight. For God will accpet nothing less than the His Son's Atonement for us all. Therefore the cross of Christ is an offense to those who would like to think otherwise. Nonetheless the Scriptures declare: "Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt. 5 But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness" Rom. 4:4-5 Therefore the only solution for our sins is first atonement by Someone who is themself Sinless to handle the judicial aspect of our transgressions. Then regeneration by which God changes us on the inside to make us accpetable to Himself. Two things we cannot do ourselves. Yet it is these two things God acomplishes in Jesus Christ. Sending His Sinless Son to suffer and die in our place. Then raising Him from the dead as proof of His Lordship over all, and willingness to heal everyone by His Spirit who repents and believes in Him.
The cross of Christ then is an offense in a third sense because it confronts our self-sufficiant pride head on (Hab. 2:4). In the gospels there is a brief encounter between the Jesus and a rich young man who sought him out inquiring about eternal life. When this young man approached Jesus he said to Him: “Good Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?” Matt. 19:16 Now Jesus didn’t say to him good man go and do this or do that and you will have eternal life by doing some good deed. Making salvation into something an individual earns for themselves by their own efforts. Instead Jesus responds to his greeting Him in such a way by saying: “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments.” 18 He said to Him, “Which ones?” Jesus said, “ ‘You shall not murder,’ ‘You shall not commit adultery,’ ‘You shall not steal,’ ‘You shall not bear false witness,’ 19 ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ ” 20 The young man said to Him, “All these things I have kept from my youth. What do I still lack?” 21 Jesus said to him, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” 22 But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. Matt. 19:17-22

Now there's a lot to think about there. But at the heart of it all is mans righteousness or God's. That is the eternal question that each person must ask themselves, and one day answer to God. Did you trust in your own "goodness" or "good deeds" to balance out the bad things you did as some people like to say. Or did you open your heart to God and acknowledge your own sinfulness, as the Apostle Peter did when Jesus called him by the sea (See Luke 5:8), and put all your trust in the Lord Jesus Christ looking to Him crucified for your sins forgivness and the redemption of your soul from hell. Knowing that was the only way for you to be forgiven and find new and everlasting life (John 3:15-16). For throughout the gospels it is clear that only repentant sinners find the grace of God. Therefore through their brief interchange I believe Jesus was trying to get that man to see his own need for salvation, for there is no greater need for anyone than that. Therefore though he had lived a morally sound life; he had like all men fallen short of the glory of God, and thus he was incapable of self redemption (See Rom. 3:19-28). As well Jesus wanted the man to not only see His need for salvation, but also to follow Him in discipleship. Therefore whatever hinders us in that process we must forsake. And clearly that man was not willing to part with his wealth as a requirement of discipleship.

Christ's cross is an offense in a fourth sense then in that it brings salvation freely to us,"For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast." Eph. 2:8-9 but it also requires from us an undivided loyalty that cuts through our hearts deepest desires. Even family loyalty must not come before Jesus Christ's call to us who believe in Him, to pick our cross and follow Him daily (Luke 14:25-33). Therefore the cross of Christ is an offense to those who'd like to keep their lives just the way they are, whether steeped in sin or steeped in earthly ease, comfort and pleasure. Or maybe just pursuing their own lives dreams and ambitions as this rich young man was doing. He was willing to do a good work for God but was unwilling to give his life to God which is what God requires.
... “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. 25 “For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. 26 “For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? 27 “For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works. 28 “Assuredly, I say to you, there are some standing here who shall not taste death till they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom.” Matt. 16:24-28

Scripture Quotations
The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982. 

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