March 18, 2015

Christian Manifesto IX: Crucifixion - Crossing the Threshold of Eternity

“And they led Him out to crucify Him.” ~ Mark 15:20

I believe Jesus Christ was crucified for your sins and my sins. Because of this fact, if we believe this is true, it requires that we die to self. The focal point of the Christian faith is the Cross. It acts as an “X” marks the spot target in the grandiose sweep of history. It was salvation’s bull’s-eye to which Christ would be nailed. It is the hinge point of eternity.

Paul boasts in the cross. It is in the preaching of the Cross, in the preaching of the Gospel that the power to bring people back from the dead lies. It does not lie dormant either, it is alive and active. The word of the Cross is foolishness to those that are dying in their sins but those that are being saved see it for what is...the true power of God. Then the concise statement of surgical precision about the Gospel from Paul dispels any further doubt and levels all that will stand in the way of what Jesus did.

1 Corinthians 2:1-2 ~ “And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.

Christians are a people of the Crucifixion. We both turn to the Cross for salvation and we turn to a Cross that we nail our lives to everyday. We take up the Cross or burdens of our lives and follow Jesus’ example in the Bible.

The Cross is the stumbling block of our Faith. In Greek the stumbling block is actually σκάνδαλον/skandalon from which we get the words scandal/scandalous. The Cross is scandalous to those that are dying in their sins. It is shocking, it is outrageous, it is reprehensible and appalling to them. It is the same reason you will not see a Cross in places like Joel Osteen’s “church”. The Cross is a theology of suffering and this is repulsive to people who would rather be exalted, people who feel they deserve things…people who feel entitled. Sorry, this sounds like too many people in our society. God doesn't necessarily want you happy (sorry Victoria O.), He wants you holy. Suffering doesn’t sell in today’s world. So, only a few will be chosen. It really isn’t an issue of buying but rather selecting. Specifically, it is your election by God.

The Cross is an offense both in its cruel bloody nature but it is also offensive because of what it asks people to divest themselves of. It’s really not human nature to give things up without a fight. It is a divine nature though as we saw in Jesus Christ’s selfless act in the Crucifixion. That is exactly why we are told in Philippians 2:6-9 that…

“…although he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross." 

It is the divine nature to be willing to take the role of a servant and suffer for those that the One who suffers loves. Suffer gruesomely. This just defies the comprehension of those that are not believers. Jesus took upon Himself the outward expression of a servant/slave and did not relinquish His deity. He was a representation of glorified humanity. In Jesus we see a fully divine and fully human union of love in divine and servant form. When we look at the Bible text we realize that we are to “have this mind in us” in our relationships with one another in the Body of Christ. We are to have the mind of Christ (a slave) in our relationships to others (the body). 

Jesus, who was and has always been (even now) in a form or “being” which outwardly expresses His very core nature…which is/was and always will be Deity. Even having known this and after “weighing His options” considered it of infinite value to be equal with Deity but emptied Himself anyway of this expression and took on the expression of a slave instead which was truly representative of His inward nature when He took on the attribute of human existence. If we believe Jesus therefore died for us the weight of what this tells us and tells believers is staggering. It tells us we must be willing to sacrifice everything. Not all will have to, but many will. This is incredibly offensive to a naturally selfish sinful person.

Why? Because it exposes our sin for what it is: Wretched. It isn’t just the “slaughterhouse” aspect of the Crucifixion that disgusts people so much as it is the slaughter of an innocent on our behalf and what it tells us about our character and our sin. We are forced to accept that in many cases we cannot and would not do what Jesus did for others with unconditional love. We hate what the Cross tells us about ourselves. We are stinking selfish rotting upright corpses too flawed to fight our way out of the wet paper bag of our own sin. It speaks of judgment for an offense that we can commit but cannot gain atonement for on our own.  The only thing more offensive to humans than being told we are wrong or in error is to be told that we cannot do something. This is especially true when we want to do it for ourselves because we believe works will save us. Sadly, at our base level, we are still seeking self-preservation and frankly, we are selfish. Jesus on the other hand died not for Himself but for us and for the glory of the Father.

Divinity is where the second half of the crucifixion narrative needs to be viewed from. We are sinful and deserving of punishment and condemnation and on the other side we have God, Who is holy and just. He is also merciful and loving and that is why he sent His Son in our stead to take the punishment we deserved. 

He knew we couldn’t fight our way out of the sinful wet paper bag I spoke of earlier. We the elect are saved by the very Son Jesus Christ who fulfilled the Old Testament pronouncements about atonement for sin. He was cursed at the cross for our sins (Gal. 3:10-14). He was both the sacrificial lamb and the scapegoat on the Day of Atonement (Lev. 16). He became sin to be put to death that sinners might come to new, eternal life (2 Cor. 5:21). Without the historical fact and theological truth that Jesus was crucified, men cannot be saved. “And without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins” (Leviticus 17:11, Heb. 9:22).

The Cross is the exact threshold where holy God and sinful man touch and man is reconciled to holy God for eternity. It is where man’s sins stops and God’s holiness reigns supreme for all humanity to see. By God sending His Son to save us from our sins He also sent a piece of the Kingdom here to us on this side because wherever the King has been, so there is the Kingdom. The is the threshold to the Kingdom, it is the threshold of eternity.

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