Gaze on the Cross

This week is what many people have throughout the years called “Holy Week.” It isn’t that the other weeks of the year for the child of God are not “holy,” it is an emphasis on the greatness of the perfect work of our Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection.
When many people think of Christ’ suffering, they usually are thinking of the physical suffering. Certainly the suffering of Christ physically was unlike anything we could ever imagine. Yet, I think there was another suffering that Christ took upon Himself that to me, was just as crushing. He was mocked, made fun of, and laughed at to the point that our Savior, our King was made a joke.
Our Lord had already endured unbelievable scourging. Following the scourging but before the crucifixion, the scene was one of public humility. Jesus was taken to the common hall, and the whole band of soldiers was gathered around Him. This “whole band” numbered to about 600 soldiers. These soldiers were not Jews, for Jews would not serve under Roman leadership, but were most likely Syrians. They were under the leadership of Pilate. The soldiers probably new really very little about Christ and He probably looked pathetic as His swollen body shivered in it’s nakedness. They knew He claimed to be a king, but they saw Him as a fake, and a fraud, and most likely thought that He was mentally deranged and deserved mocking. He was a clown to them, a buffoon, a complete idiot.
There was physical mocking – a crown of thorns they put upon His head. They spat upon Him and took the reed in His hand and hit him over the head in a nagging, irritating manner. It was a crown–a symbol of regal nobility was replaced with tortuous ignobility and pain. Unbearable by anyone’s standard.
There was mental mocking – They belittled Him. The mental anguish was real for our Lord for I believe He struggled with the reality that these men really did not know what they were doing. Yet, it was embarrassing to be there naked, receiving the mock symbols of a kingdom and under such public mocking.
There was spiritual mocking – He really was “king of the Jews!” Only, not as they thought. If it is true that He was in all points tempted as we are, then, there had to be a spiritual battle within that dealt with truth. It must have been a fierce battle, and yet, “He opened not His mouth.
I know that I am not brave enough to physically die the death of the cross–that is unimaginable. But as bad as that is, I am one who can’t handle mocking. It is deeply crushing and our Lord was deeply crushed and did not open His mouth. He took it all for me.
Amazing love! How can it be?

Sins and Weights

The writer of Hebrews gives us instruction in chapter twelve, verse one: “let us lay aside every weight and sin which clings so closely…”. I am in the middle of being reminded just exactly what he is talking about. I continue a life-long battle with my own physical weight. I don’t think I am alone in this battle but I pretty much have to fight this battle all alone–except for God’s divine enablement to make good healthy decisions about the kind of food and just how much is enough to eat. The obvious problem is I love to eat. I especially love to eat certain things–just about all of which do not help me in my battle. It’s weird, but I think you all know exactly what I mean. Yes, I am on a diet.

For several years I thought I just couldn’t get back down to where I needed to be and I used age as my excuse. I would continue to run and because I had an extra 10-15 pounds on me, my joints began to hurt; my blood pressure kept going up and I was constantly barely eking out three miles–then two and a half…and then I just stopped.

I have now lost 23 pounds and have one more to go. I went out last week to run 5K and honestly, I thought I was flying the entire way. It was the first time in a long time since I ran and the first time since I had lost most of the weight. This verse came flooding back to my thinking. This is exactly the way sin and “weights” are.
Weights in this context are not necessarily wicked, evil, and sinful things. When you continue reading the chapter there is much talk about the need to discipline our thinking–ultimately our thinking about who Jesus is and what He has done for us. When we consider Him we begin to shed those weights and sin and we are able to run with endurance. So much of the excess weights we carry around is due to our unbelief. Our unbelief simply plays out in our pride that life is ultimately about us–our happiness, our definitions of God, our likes or our dislikes.

The writer of Hebrews has just taken us through a whole list of people who simply trusted God (see chapter 11). Their stories are varied but had one thing in common. They believed God. These weren’t super-human people but trusting people who threw off doubts of the “Godness” of God and faced fallen humanity and the fallen world around them with faith–life transforming trust in God. Doubt and unbelief always come with baggage. If Christ isn’t enough, if Christ alone is insufficient, if Christ doesn’t satisfy then something else has to. So we begin to put on weight of self-righteous acts, seemingly innocuous manipulations of life, and empty self-satisfaction. Before long we are forced to wear some bulky fig leaves of covering so no one will suspect the little extra weight we are carrying. Spiritually, we are always weary, always a bit under the weather, and fatigued in the run. Our spiritual “joints” ache. We find ourselves not getting along with others; we make excuses; and we gorge ourselves in self-pity.

Trust God about your righteousness.  Christ’s one-time death, burial, and resurrection took care of everything. We get to live out His righteousness–so trust Him! (2 Cor 5:21)

Trust God for your joy.  Stop trying to manipulate life, people, work, feelings, emotions, spouse, friends, and church (even the Word) in hopes that you will find just the right combination that will bring you joy.  Joy is always a result of trust. (1 Pet 1:8)

Trust God for your satisfaction. Discontentment, ingratitude, frustrations, fears, are all fruits of dissatisfaction in Christ alone. That I-want-more-feeling-in-the-gut comes straight from the lie that God hasn’t given to us what we need. Trust God! (Rom 8:32)

Trust God for your completeness. Insecurities (and we all have them), anger, resentment, self-comparisons all come from the lie that God hasn’t done everything quite right and so we are not as we should be. Trust the Creator. (Col 2:6-10)

Don’t fear the mirror! See what you need to see and run to the ever flowing grace of God for transformation! Every day we are changed from glory to glory (2Cor 3:18)!

Confession is Good for the Soul

I am often reminded of my own sinfulness. I live with it everyday. I wake up and immediately begin to think about me and how life needs to revolve around me. My feelings are important. What I think is more important than what anyone else thinks. My views on things are the best views because I see them, I know them, I study to bring myself to them, and frankly, I’m right.

I hate it that these thoughts are often my default. I don’t see anywhere in Scripture where Christ once had those thoughts–even for a single moment.

Here’s the good news. By Christ’s propitiating death, I am no longer bound to those thoughts. Those thoughts no longer have rule in my life. Paul says in Romans 6:18 “and, having been set free from sin, [we] have become slaves of righteousness!” What joy that brings to my heart. What hope that brings to my soul. What peace that brings to my mind! This sends my heart then to confession.

Confession is not just “good” for the soul–it is vital! It is vital for life–real abundant life that only Christ gives!

Confession is to say the same thing that God says about my sin. I can freely do this, now that I am set free. I can freely bathe myself in the showers of slavery to Christ’s righteousness. What a cleansing this is. How absolutely refreshing this is to the deepest parts of the soul! Here and only here is where the fountain of His mighty grace shows itself flowing rivers of living water.

I love the prayers from Valley of Vision. I resort to them often when I am so overwhelmed and I need words to speak to my Lord.

This one is called “Continual Repentance.” Here are some parts of it that really spoke to me this morning:

I need to repent of my repentance;

I need my tears to be washed;

I have no robe to bring to cover my sins,

no loom to weave my own righteousness;

I am always standing clothed in filthy garments,

and by grace am always receiving change of raiment,

for thou dost always justify the ungodly;

Every morning let me wear it,

every evening return in it,

go out to the day’s work in it,

enter heaven in it shining as the sun.

Grant me never to lose sight of

the exceeding sinfulness of my sin,

the exceeding righteouness of salvation,

the exceeding glory of Christ,

the exceeding beauty of holiness,

the exceeding wonder of grace!

How Much Do You Actually Talk about Christ?

As a pastor, I often have opportunities to talk to people. I actually love that about my “job.” Because I am a pastor, I often talk to other pastors, missionaries, and Christian leaders and believers from all walks of life. While in these conversations it is often puzzling to me how many followers of Jesus rarely talk about Him.
I see it on Facebook/Twitter as well. So much of life seems to be lived as if Jesus plays no part of our lives. Honestly, I am not saying that absolutely every conversation has to include Jesus, God, or some other Bible-connected word. Really! I love life like everyone else but if speaking of the person and work of Jesus rarely if ever comes up in conversations among proclaiming disciples of Jesus, I really do wonder how much we are even thinking of Jesus in every day life.
What should be the distinction of a “Christian?” What should be the definitive mark of a child of the living God? Christ–all He is and all He has done, right? That actually is what makes a “Christian” a “Christian,” I think. I believe this is true and I think that most believers would echo this sentiment.
However, it seems to be often the case that we just don’t talk about Him much. It may be as simple as we just don’t really think of Him much either. Take a brief tour of your Facebook News Feed and just see if you see what I see.
It may be no big deal in Facebook or Twitter, really, but it may give us just a hint why the passion and devotion to Christ in the church is as weak as it seems to be. I read an article discussing “Tebow-mania” and I like how he put it. He listed several reasons why he likes what “Tebow-mania” is doing right now. He also mentions his concerns.  You can read the whole article here. One of his concerns is:

The Perception That Christianity Consists of Clichés. Walk into just about any Christian bookstore and you’ll quickly see that popular American evangelicalism loves clichés: pithy little slogans of feel-good spirituality. They are printed on t-shirts, bumper stickers, and motivational posters. They litter the pages of bestselling Christian books and are permanently etched into trinkets like key-chains and money clips. The roadside marquis of the average evangelical church contains new editions of these short little sayings every week — from messages like “Need a Faith Lift?” to “C H _ _ C H. What’s Missing? U R.”
I fear Tebow-Mania highlights this sappy side of mainstream evangelicalism more than it showcases the arresting truth of the biblical gospel. When discussing the Tebow phenomenon, media outlets often talk about faith in a cheesy “just-believe-in-yourself-and-make-your-dreams-come-true” kind of way. Numerous pundits have suggested that the Broncos’ sudden success should be made into a movie. One article joked that, if it were a screen play, the Tebow story would be too sentimental even for Disney.”

I get what he is saying. If we talk at all about “Christianity,” Jesus Himself–all that He is and all that He has done–is often missing.  Sad. So, today, speak to someone of Jesus. Go ahead…He’s God!