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Archive for the ‘Cross’ Category

Dali CrossContinued from here.

Christ’s Work

“But now in Christ, you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ.” (Ephesians 2:13)

As we speak about intimacy with God we must never forget the way into divine fellowship. Ever since humanity rejected the LORD Christ and trusted Satan instead, the way back to fellowship has been blocked by fiery judgement (Genesis 3:24).  This fallen flesh and blood cannot participate in the life of God (1 Cor 15:50).  Only ‘the Man out of the Heavens’ could ever belong in the inner circle of God’s life (1 Cor 15:15:47-49).

Yet, with infinite grace and condescension, this Man came out of the heavens.  He took the very flesh and blood of our humanity and He redeemed it.  Where we had failed, He succeeded, where we had sinned, He obeyed, where we had fled, He stood tall, where we had hated, He loved, where we had erred, He taught, where we were enslaved, He set free, where we were ashamed, He gave dignity, where we grasped at glory, He gave freely, where we clung to life, He poured it out.

On the cross, God’s Man took on Himself all the sin, guilt and shame of this fallen humanity.  He endured the divine fury at sin, passing through that fiery judgement which bars the way into God.  And now, in His glorious resurrection body, Christ, the True Man, sits at the Father’s right hand.  He is beyond death and judgement.  Our Brother is now in the inner circle of the life of God.  We, in ourselves, would be swept away by God’s righteous anger at sin.  Yet Christ is the Way to the Father and in Him, Who “quenched the wrath of hostile heaven”, we have obtained access.

Why do I recount these gospel truths? A) Because they are glorious!  B) Because sometimes people (and I’m sure I’m guilty of this too), manage to speak of  “union with Christ”  as a warm ‘n’ fuzzy truth. Often the Fatherhood of God, adoption into His family, one-ness with Jesus can be articulated without the blood and fire of the Bible’s presentation.  But we desperately need the grit and grime – the sweat and tears – of Christ’s atonement if we’re going to experience true intimacy with God.  A toothless, bloodless message about a heavenly Father-figure doesn’t connect with people who live in the midst of suffering and sin.  It can’t connect, because the only real point of connection is a Bleeding Sacrifice choking to death on a cross.  But He’s who we really need if we want intimacy with God.  Because He actually meets us in the godforsakeness of life as we know it.

If all our talk of intimacy with God is not dripping in the blood of Christ we’re just holding out “a nice idea” to people who are burdened by shame and guilt and who will never connect with our words of “divine participation” – no matter how warm or inviting we sound.  More than this, if our talk of divine intimacy is not utterly cross-shaped then people will play off “taking up our cross” against enjoying life in God. Which would be absurd – yet it happens all the time!  But no, triune glory is cruciform glory. Therefore participating in God means participating in the cross. The way to God is through Christ and Him crucified.

Christ’s Priesthood

Our Great High Priest, Jesus, does not simply bring God’s life down to us. He also offers our life up to God. He is not just God-for-us, He is also Man-for-God.  Thus, from Christ’s representative humanity (for us) there is a presentation to the Father.  This is Christ’s Priestly work – again a work done for us.

By the Spirit, Christ has made the perfect offering to the Father:

‘Christ, through the eternal Spirit… offered Himself unblemished to God.’ (Hebrews 9:14)

Christ’s worship constitutes the fullness of all acceptable worship to God.  Without participation in His perfect obedience, His perfect sacrifice and His perfect Priesthood, there is no worship worthy of the name.  To offer true sacrifice to the Father we must be in Christ.  Only then do we have a share in acceptable worship.  Yet, in Him, we are pure, spotless and holy – as acceptable as Christ Himself (Colossians 1:22).

What place does our worship have?

If Christ is our Great High Priest, where does my worship fit in?

Worship is the gracious invitation which the LORD makes to us to share in His own worshipping life.  Just as Christ is the Righteous One (for us) and yet invites us to share in His holy life, just as Christ is the Great Sufferer (for us) and yet allows us to share in His sufferings, so we, His people are to share in His worship.

Hebrews 8:2 calls Christ our Leitourgos – ‘the leader of our worship’. Calvin, following Psalm 22:22, called Christ ‘the great choirmaster’, tuning our hearts to sing the Father’s praises.  Worship is the participation in Christ’s perfect worship.  As James Torrance says,

“Whatever else our worship is, it is our liturgical amen to the worship of Christ.” 

Every act of worship or devotion that we perform is grounded in and surrounded by Christ’s prior and perfect offering.  Thus we do not worship as those attempting to gain intimacy with God, but as those who have been gifted it. And the ‘direction’ of the activity is the gracious movement of God coming to us in Christ.  Any ‘upward’ movement is that done by Christ and we participate by faith.  Thus, the focus of all worship must be on the LORD Jesus.  In other words:

I am the Way, the Truth and the Life, no-one comes to the Father except by me. (John 14:6)

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This is my favourite Gethsemane hymn and perhaps even my favourite hymn of all time.

Pity about the singing (and the finger picking). But I made this one because I couldn’t find another version set to “Kelvingrove”. If you can find one, let me know.

When you prayed beneath the trees, it was for me, O Lord;
When you cried upon your knees, how could it be, O Lord?
When in blood and sweat and tears, you dismissed your final fears,
When you faced the soldier’s spears, you stood for me, O Lord.

When their triumph looked complete, it was for me, O Lord,
When it seemed like your defeat, they could not see, O Lord!
When you faced the mob alone, you were silent as a stone,
And a tree became your throne; you came for me, O Lord.

When you stumbled up the road, you walked for me, O Lord,
When you took your deadly load, that heavy tree, O Lord;
When they lifted you on high, and they nailed you up to die,
And when darkness filled the sky, it was for me, O Lord.

When you spoke with kingly power it was for me O Lord
in that dread and destined hour you made me free O Lord
Earth and heaven heard you shout, death and hell were put to rout
For the grave could not hold out; you are for me O Lord.

Words: Christopher Idle
Music: Scottish Traditional melody (Kelvingrove)

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Luke 22-23 sermon

Dali CrucifixionIt was a privilege to preach at the Crowded House on Sunday where two folks were baptised.

AUDIO

The sermon begins at about 10 minutes. (If you’ve heard me on Christ’s baptism before, you might want to skip to the 19 minute mark).

POWERPOINT

TEXT

Excerpt:

Here we have an artist’s dream. If you’re a film-maker, a writer, a playwright – you would love to depict this scene: Humanity putting its Maker on trial.  What a scenario! All the Gospels tell us about this in some detail – these show trials with trumped up charges. Because the bible makes it clear: the so called judges in these trials are the guilty ones. The one in the dock is the only innocent one. Nonetheless He stoops into the dock, to be tried by His creatures.  This is the Judge of the world, judged.

And what we see in Jesus is the most incredible stillness and poise. He is like a mirror, reflecting back the accusations of His prosecutors. At every stage of His cross-examination, He manages to get confessions out of His prosecutors! Ingenius!

The brilliance of Jesus is to allow their judgements of Him to judge them.  Their accusations only end up accusing them.  This is true any time you try to judge a great one.

If you call Shakespeare hackneyed and cliched, it doesn’t reflect badly on Shakespeare, it reflects badly on you.  If you call the Grand Canyon “a glorified ditch”, or the Great Wall of China “shoddy workmanship”, or Lionel Messi “a Sunday-league amateur” – that tells you nothing about Shakespeare or the Grand Canyon or the Great Wall or Lionel Messi.  It tells you everything about you.  

When we judge the Judge it tells us nothing about Him it tells us everything about ourselves.  Do you want to know what you’re like?  Think about this judgement scene.  The Judge of the world condescends into the dock and submits to these kangaroo courts.  And we – the judges – find Him guilty of a capital offence.  What is His crime?  To be the Son of God.

When our Maker goes on trial we find Him worthy of death?  Why? For being who He is.

In Luke 23 we see everyone making this verdict: the powerful, the weak, the Jews, the non-Jews, the rich, the poor –  everyone deems Him worthy of death.  And what is Jesus’ response?

He goes to the cross.  And as He is hoisted up He prays “Father forgive them, they don’t know what they’re doing.” (v34)

The Judge is judged. He does not protect Himself or justify Himself.  He exposes Himself to every accusation, every insult, every blow – both judicial and physical.  And He retaliates with mercy: “Father, forgive.”  This is the heart of God for you.

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If you wanted to play it in church 5:22 might be a bit long but there’s a very natural break at 2:53.

 

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Perhaps one of these might be helpful to you:

An all age teaching on Gethsemane:

It’s a game of pass the parcel where the parcel is a poisoned cup. There’s a song to go with it:

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Little Fish! (Jesus is bigger than death)

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Seed Song (Jesus is the Seed who dies and rises to bring life)

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cross-as-tree-of-life-2What’s the first promise of the Bible?

You could well make a case for Genesis 2:17: “You will surely die”.

Death is the judgement promised for sin.  And through Christ, death becomes the way of salvation too!  There is just no escaping death.  We live in the Lamb’s world and we will surely die.  We either die apart from the LORD Jesus or we die in the LORD Jesus. But everyone dies.

I emphasize the point because sometimes we forget this when we speak of Christ’s death for us.  We must never tire of proclaiming Christ’s death for us – it is the blazing epicentre of the gospel! (e.g. 1 Cor 15:3). But we misconstrue this truth if we imagine that Christ dies over there so that I remain unaffected over here.  No, Christ hides me in Himself and includes me in His death. In other words, His death is not only substitutionary. It is substitutionary because it is inclusive.

See how Paul teaches this over and over in his letters:

All of us who were baptised into Christ Jesus were baptised into his death. We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.  (Romans 6:3-4)

Our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with.  (Romans 6:6)

In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin… (Romans 6:11)

You died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to Another.  (Romans 7:4)

I was crucified with Christ and I no longer live.  (Galatians 2:20)

[I belong to Christ and thusmy flesh has been crucified.  (Galatians 5:24)

I am crucified to the world.  (Galatians 6:14)

 In Christ you were also circumcised with a circumcision not performed by human hands. Your whole self ruled by the flesh was put off when you were circumcised by Christ, having been buried with him in baptism.  (Colossians 2:11-12)

You died with Christ to the elemental spiritual forces of this world (Colossians 2:20)

You died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. (Colossians 3:3)

Christ indeed died for us. He bore the wrathful brunt of the Father’s condemnation.  But He did so in order to carry me with Him through that death sentence and out into His risen life.  Christ died for me but – just as important to say – I died in Him.

If we speak of Christ dying for us without being clear that we died in Him, we can get into trouble. Let me briefly outline two potential problems (there are others, but these will do for now):

Firstly, the Romans 6 problem: We think of grace as licence.  If we just speak of Christ over there paying for my sins over here, it makes no sense for me over here to live in connection with Christ over there.  Basically we imagine that Jesus over there underwrites my sinful existence over here and therefore anyone calling me to live beyond sin, death and judgement sounds absurd.

But Paul’s argument is that we died in Jesus. The old self is crucified and the new self is risen in Christ. The cross was not the underwriter for my sin, it was the undertaker!

Secondly, we might imagine that Christ’s sufferings for us mean that we shouldn’t suffer ourselves.  It’s ironic, but the cross is sometimes used to prop up a theology of glory!

Here’s how it usually happens… Someone prays for healing and invokes Isaiah 53: “By Christ’s wounds Susan IS HEALED, we claim this healing paid for in full by the cross.”  Well there’s great Scriptural precedence for linking Isaiah 53 with healing (Matthew 8:17). I’m all for it.  And I’m all for praying earnestly for healing.  Jesus is kind and He may want to give us a picture of new creation glory even here in the midst of this old dying world.  BUT… Jesus did not die so that we won’t. Jesus died so that we might die in Him.

The path to new creation restoration is through death.  The cross does not eliminate that pathway, it is the pathway to glory.  The cross proves once and for all that Jesus is not committed to prettying up this old world. He is committed to summing it up and plunging it into the fiery death it deserves. Only through that furnace will it be reborn.

Jesus has not promised to prolong this old world of Adam’s, He has promised “You will surely die!”  But through that death comes a new heavens and a new earth.  That’s where we must set our hopes.

Just imagine if Jesus kept on healing our old bodies.  At what point should He let us die? At 90? 100? 150?  When can He say ‘enough is enough’ and bring us through death into resurrection life?  That’s His purpose.

The cross does not mean we will avoid suffering and death.  It means we will go through it – but hidden with Christ. And – yes indeed – by His wounds we are healed.  But that healing is not the prolonging of the old man – it’s the resurrection of the new.

Can you think of other errors we fall into if we speak of Christ’s substitutionary death for us without it being inclusive of us?

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Here’s a reboot of an older post…

Mike Reeves talks about Adam and Christ in these great audios on sin and evil.  Once we frame creation and salvation as the story of two men we see things much clearer.

For one thing we’re able to honour Christ not only as Substitute but also as Representative.  And we need both.

You see Christ drinks the cup so that – in one sense – we don’t have to (Mark 10:38).  But in another sense we do drink the cup He drinks and are baptised with the baptism with which He is baptised (Mark 10:39).  He does die for us so that we do not face that same judging fire – this is His substitution.  But we also die in Him, hidden in our Head and taken through the flames – this is His representation.

We tend to be good at ‘substitution’ talk but not so good at ‘representation’ talk.

I can think of a very prominent preacher who I greatly admire. Ordinarily he’s excellent at preaching Paul.  But I’ve noticed that every time Paul speaks of “us being crucified with Christ”, this preacher translates it as “Christ pays off our sins for us so completely, it’s as if we ourselves died on the cross.”

Do you hear what’s happened?  Paul uses representation language, the preacher translates it into substitution language. Paul says “We died in him”, the preacher doesn’t seem to have a category for that, so he simply re-iterates the substitution motif: “He died for us.”

Those two things are not the same.  And our lack of a category for “representation” thinking is a great loss.

Consider this fairly common way of conceiving salvation and judgement…

salvation-judgement1

Here the key players are the saved and the damned.  Christ is not in the picture.  But of course once we’ve set things up like this, Christ becomes extremely necessary.  Yet He’s necessary in that the cross becomes the accounting tool required to balance the justice books.  Without the cross the system doesn’t work.  So in that sense Christ is central.  But in effect, He’s a peripheral figure only required because other factors are calling the shots.

When things are viewed like this, Christ is very much thought of as ‘substitute’ but not really ‘representative’.  And, when the details are pressed, even His substitution will start to look very unlike the biblical portrait.

We need a better formulation.  We’ll think of 1 Peter 4 and then tie this back to Adam and Christ.

In 1 Peter 4:17 it says that judgement begins with the house of God.  It doesn’t say ‘Judgement avoids the house of God.’  It begins there.  It begins with Christ, the true Temple of God.  It continues with the church, the temple of God in another sense.  But then it flows out to the world – God’s house in yet another sense.

salvation-judgement2

Here humanity is judged.  And this is where Adam and Christ will be so helpful for us.

The LORD pronounces His curse on Adam.  And all humanity is in him.  “Sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned.” (Rom 5:12)  It is a universal judgement.  No exceptions.  The only path to salvation is the path through judgement.

But Adam is a type of the One to come (Rom 5:14).  He was only ever setting the scene for Christ to take centre stage.  And He does so, assuming the very humanity of Adam as substitute and representative.

salvation-judgement31

Here centre stage is not occupied by the two groups of people (the damned and the saved).  What’s driving everything is the two humanities (Adam and Christ).  The former is expressly a type of the Latter.  And the Latter expressly assumes the fate of the former.  So that in all things Christ will have the preeminence! (Col 1:18)

These diagrams were originally used in a blog post on judgement and salvation in Isaiah and for a sermon on Isaiah 2:6-22 (listen here).

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Below I’ve listed 10 verses on union with Christ in His death.  Meditate on these verses – and reckon yourself dead to Adam, to the flesh, to sin, to wrath, to the law, the principalities and powers and to the world.  For the living, those powers exact a terrible penalty.  But you know what a corpse owes these things?  Absolutely jack squat.

#EnjoyYourDay:

All of us who were baptised into Christ Jesus were baptised into his death We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.  (Romans 6:3-4)

In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin… (Romans 6:11)

Our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with.  (Romans 6:6)

You died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to Another.  (Romans 7:4)

I was crucified with Christ and I no longer live.  (Galatians 2:20)

I belong to Christ and thus my flesh has been crucified.  (Galatians 5:24)

The world has been crucified to me and I to the world.  (Galatians 6:14)

 In Christ you were also circumcised with a circumcision not performed by human hands. Your whole self ruled by the flesh was put off when you were circumcised by Christ, having been buried with him in baptism.  (Colossians 2:11-12)

You died with Christ to the elemental spiritual forces of this world (Colossians 2:20)

You died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. (Colossians 3:3)

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