Categories
Theology

The Father’s Cup

This is a sobering post about Jesus’ crucifixion by Rick Gamache. I would highly encourage you to make this a part of your Good Friday today. You can also listen to Rick narrate it.

Then Jesus is startled by a foul odor. It isn’t the stench of open wounds. It’s something else. And it crawls inside him. He looks up to his Father. His Father looks back, but Jesus doesn’t recognize these eyes. They pierce the invisible world with fire and darken the visible sky. And Jesus feels dirty. He hangs between earth and heaven filthy with human discharge on the outside and, now, filthy with human wickedness on the inside.

The Father speaks:

Son of Man! Why have you sinned against me and heaped scorn on my great glory?

You are self-sufficient and self-righteous — consumed with yourself and puffed up and selfishly ambitious.

You rob me of my glory and worship what’s inside of you instead of looking out to the One who created you.

You are a greedy, lazy, gluttonous slanderer and gossip.

You are a lying, conceited, ungrateful, cruel adulterer.

You practice sexual immorality; you make pornography, and fill you mind with vulgarity.

You exchange my truth for a lie and worship the creature instead of the Creator. And so you are given up to your homosexual passions, dressing immodestly, and lusting after what is forbidden.

With all your heart you love perverse pleasure.

You hate your brother and murder him with the bullets of anger fired from your own heart.

You kill babies for your convenience.

You oppress the poor and deal slaves and ignore the needy.

You persecute my people.

You love money and prestige and honor.

You put on a cloak of outward piety, but inside you are filled with dead men’s bones — you hypocrite!

You are lukewarm and easily enticed by the world.

You covet and can’t have so you murder.

You are filled with envy and rage and bitterness and unforgiveness.

You blame others for your sin and are too proud to even call it sin.

You are never slow to speak.

And you have a razor tongue that lashes and cuts with its criticism and sinful judgment.

Your words do not impart grace. Instead your mouth is a fountain of condemnation and guilt and obscene talk.

You are a false prophet leading people astray.

You mock your parents.

You have no self-control.

You are a betrayer who stirs up division and factions.

You’re a drunkard and a thief.

You’re an anxious coward.

You do not trust me.

You blaspheme against me.

You are an un-submissive wife.

And you are a lazy, disengaged husband.

You file for divorce and crush the parable of my love for the church.

You’re a pimp and a drug dealer.

You practice divination and worship demons.

The list of your sins goes on and on and on and on. And I hate these things inside of you. I’m filled with disgust, and indignation for your sin consumes me.

Now, drink my cup!

And Jesus does. He drinks for hours. He downs every drop of the scalding liquid of God’s own hatred of sin mingled with his white-hot wrath against that sin. This is the Father’s cup: omnipotent hatred and anger for the sins of every generation past, present, and future — omnipotent wrath directed at one naked man hanging on a cross.

The Father can no longer look at his beloved Son, his heart’s treasure, the mirror-image of himself. He looks away.

Jesus pushes himself upward and howls to heaven, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

Read the whole thing.

Categories
Life

When I Survey the Wondrous Cross

By Isaac Watts, 1707

When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride.

Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast,
Save in the death of Christ my God!
All the vain things that charm me most,
I sacrifice them to His blood.

See from His head, His hands, His feet,
Sorrow and love flow mingled down!
Did e’er such love and sorrow meet,
Or thorns compose so rich a crown?

His dying crimson, like a robe,
Spreads o’er His body on the tree;
Then I am dead to all the globe,
And all the globe is dead to me.

Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were a present far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.

Categories
Life Theology

The Lord’s Table on Good Friday

For the Christian, the Lord’s Supper is about covenant renewal. When we partake of the Table together, we are dramatizing the gospel: Jesus body and blood given for us. It is a reminder of what Jesus has done for us–a means of grace to reinforce our faith in him.

Often times, before communion (another name for the Lord’s Supper) Christians try to “get right with God” and confess every known sin. We beat ourselves up, feeling that if we wash our conscience, then we will be “worthy” to approach the Table. We think that Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 11:27-24, when he says not partake in an “unworthy manner,” mean that we need to clean up before showing up. But Paul isn’t writing about cleaning ourselves up; he is writing to people who are making a mockery of the Supper. The Lord’s Super is about Christ’s humble, self-sacrifice for us. The Corinthians were cutting in line for more bread and getting drunk on the wine (vv.20-21). Put simply: the Corinthians were making the supper about them, instead of making it about what Jesus has done and using it as an opportunity to serve others in the church.

When Paul says each person should “examine himself” (v. 28) he is essentially saying, “Realize that this is about the unselfish, atoning death of Jesus. If you get this, it changes your life. It makes you more humble, more serving, more loving, more others-oriented and less narcissistic. Come to the Table in this manner.”

Therefore, when you are ready to partake tonight, do not beat yourself up. Do not try to confess every known sin. Do not stay back until you “feel good” about your status with God. Do not try to “clean up” before showing up.

But wait! What about all the dirt left behind? Sure, we have idols. Brokenness. Wounds. But that is why we joyfully acknowledge that the Lord’s Supper is about the unselfish, atoning death of Jesus. He took all of our sin and shame on the cross and washed it away.  He removed the wrath of God and brought everlasting favor. Now daily he is washing us–because we are already washed.

Confess, yes. Repent, yes. Preach to your heart that Jesus has paid it all, yes. If you are entangled in grievous sin, pray with the elders (James 5:14-16). But you cannot get more right with God than you are in Christ. Hebrews 10:14 tells us, “For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.” Ephesians 2:6 says, “[God] raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” You are already perfect in Christ. God can’t love you more than he already does if you are connected to him by faith in Jesus. Lay hold of God’s grace by faith and rejoice!

So how do we approach the Lord’s Supper? The same way we approach God daily: “Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water” (Heb. 10:22). God has washed our consciences clean with the blood of his Son. We can’t get cleaner than we are now.

If you are not a Christian, and you attend a service tonight, then sit back and watch the live-action drama of the gospel. Watch people eat and drink and cherish the fact that Jesus gave up his very life so that they might never taste eternal death. If you partake of the Supper but are not connected to God by faith in Jesus, you will be guilty of eating and drinking in an unworthy manner because you would be doing something with your body that you don’t believe with your heart.

But you don’t have to be guilty. Jesus said, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst…All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out” (John 6:35, 37).

Christians and non-Christian need the same thing. Communion doesn’t save us; Jesus does. Christians must confess that Jesus is our only hope and he has washed us clean. Non-Christians must confess that Jesus is their only hope and only he can wash them clean. Feast on him as your supreme Treasure. Come with all your warts, all your wounds, all your dirt. Acknowledge that he paid it all on the cross and that you don’t need to clean up before you show up. Then partake of the Supper in order to proclaim and rejoice with all the saints that the Lord’s death is our only hope until he comes back (1 Cor. 11:26).

Categories
Ministry Theology

Lent 2012

Ash Wednesday begins the season the church has historically called Lent. Lent comes from an Old English term simply meaning “spring.” The church has employed the word to serve as the forty day preparation before Easter (Lent lasts for 46 days but Sundays are not a part of the 40 day observance).

I am a member of an evangelical church in the Midwest, and I am probably not too far off base when I say that many evangelicals think Lent is “too Catholic for us to celebrate.” Let us remember, however, that Lent only has meaning for those who trust in the finished work of Christ for them, and not their work for God. Lent, Holy Week, Good Friday, and Easter are all about Jesus Christ’s sacrificial death to remove the wrath of God that was upon sinners and provide a way for them to be justified before him so they might be reconciled to him. The Lenten season a one of preparation. Not fish fry Fridays or boycotting bon-bons. Fasting for fasting’s sake is not the issue. Fasting is good, if it propels you toward Christ. God desires a repentant heart that is earnestly desperate for his grace (see Ps. 51:17-18). Lent is a prime season to cultivate, by God’s grace, repentance to and faith in Jesus.

As a 27-year-old evangelical, I am concerned that American evangelicals, particularly those in the 40+ generation, have little regard for church history or the great community of saints spanning the last 2,000 years. Our evangelicalism does not exist in a vacuum. We tend to lean toward the modern and contemporary and think that new is always better. There is a rich, deep tradition that we can learn from, enjoy, be rebuked by, and praise God for. I don’t claim to know the history as well as I should, but I continue to learn and relish what God has done in times past.

Our gospel is not new. It is not contemporary. It is not modern. It is ancient. In a culture inundated with gadgets and toys that have new additions and updates before we learned how to use the originals, we are boring ourselves to death. Perhaps we need a breath of fresh air, one that can only come from the Ancient of Days (Dan. 7:13-14).

Some resources to help you during Lent:

Categories
Theology

The Self-Substitution of God

From the Desiring God blog:

We strongly reject, therefore, every explanation of the death of Christ which does not have at its centre the principle of ‘satisfaction through substitution’, indeed divine self-satisfaction through divine self-substitution.

The cross was not:

a commercial bargain with the devil, let alone one which tricked and trapped him;

nor an exact equivalent, a quid pro quo to satisfy a code of honour or technical point of law;

nor a compulsory submission by God to some moral authority above him from which he could not otherwise escape;

nor a punishment of a meek Christ by a harsh and punitive Father;

nor a procurement of salvation by a loving Christ from a mean and reluctant Father;

nor an action of the Father which bypassed Christ as Mediator.

Instead, the righteous, loving Father humbled himself to become in and through his only Son flesh, sin and a curse for us, in order to redeem us without compromising his own character.

The theological words ‘satisfaction’ and ‘substitution’ need to be carefully defined and safeguarded, but they cannot in any circumstance be given up. The biblical gospel of atonement is of God satisfying himself by substituting himself for us.

John Stott, The Cross of Christ (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1986), 159-160.