ct: the cross as answer to futility

… “But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than angels” and because he suffered death, is “now crowned with glory and honor” (Heb. 2:9). In other words, though we on earth suffer frustration, we know that Christ has come and died for us and thus has brought about the fulfillment of the Psalm [8:4-6]. The answer to our frustrations is in the cross. We may not know the answer, for there is a “not yet” to which we must give attention. But when we look at the cross, we know that there is an answer and that the death of our Savior is instrumental in bringing it about. …

Christ has paid our penalty. Christ has shown us the love of God in such a way that we cannot but respond with an answering love that affects all our living. Christ has won the victory over all the forces of death and hell and evil. But we must also say that Christ has redeemed us from futility and frustration. (Leon Morris, The Cross of Jesus, pp.45,46)

25 days: the true light

The true light that shines on all people was coming into the world. The light was in the world, and the world came into being through the light, but the world didn’t recognize the light.The light came to his own people, and his own people didn’t welcome him. But those who did welcome him, those who believed in his name, he authorized to become God’s children,born not from blood nor from human desire or passion, but born from God. (John 1.9-13 CEB)

The true light of God shown on the world. And who knew? Who cared? Not many.

But for the few, for the trusting, for the welcoming? Well, life is good. No, amazing. Authorized to become a child of God? To be born from God? Hey, the good is so great, words don’t do it justice. It’s like the difference between talking about birth and witnessing or experiencing a birth. Huge.

Would I have recognized God’s light if I had been there then? It’s an interesting question. I want to think so, but would I have been one of the few?

What I really need to do though is leave the world of curious questions and put myself in the realm of reality. That is, I have to ask myself now: “Do I recognize God’s light now?” If so, it will show by whose I am. Who I truly belong to will be more clear than the light of day.

Born from you, a child of yours I am, God. Let me never forget this fact. May my trust in you and my welcoming embrace for You only grow all the days of my life, I pray. Amen.

ct: law, love, and victory

Despite the centrality of the cross from the earliest days of the church, there has never been agreement on the way the cross saves us. The New Testament has a great deal to say on the subject of salvation through the death of Christ, but it never explains precisely how that death works. (p.11) …

… for the most part theories of the atonement fall into one of three main groups. These are not mutually exclusive, though some have held that the whole truth is contained in one of them. It seems clear to me that there is truth in all three … the bearing of penalty (p.12) … a demonstration of love (p.19) … [and] victory. (p.22) …

Is there any possibility that the modern church could find some aspects of New Testament teaching that link the atonement to ideas congenial to us? … Perhaps just as the standard theories need to be supplemented by one another, so in modern times there are aspects of the atonement that are a little more obvious than they have been in an earlier age and which may usefully add to what we know of atonement. (Leon Morris, The Cross of Jesus, p.26)

25 days: the Christ

Jacob was the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary—of whom Jesus was born, who is called the Christ. So there were fourteen generations from Abraham to David, fourteen generations from David to the exile to Babylon, and fourteen generations from the exile to Babylon to the Christ. (Matthew 1.16-17 CEB)

Being a former tax collector (Matthew 9.9 CEB), Matthew was into numbers. Gregory M. Stevenson helps us appreciate Matthew’s math:

“The numbers three and seven represent concepts of completeness and fullness in Jewish thought. The division of the genealogy into three parts of fourteen (twice seven) generations shows the divine plan at work. Scholars also suggest that the number fourteen may have another significance or Matthew. Each letter of the Hebrew alphabet, as with Greek, has a numerical value. In Hebrew, the numerical value of the letters in the name ‘David’ adds up to fourteen. It is therefore possible that Matthew emphasizes this number [three times] as another way of identifying the Christ as ‘the son of David’ (Matt. 1.1).” (The Transforming Word; p.732)

Jesus is “called the Christ.” That is, he’s “the one anointed one” and “the anointed one” rules. Like a king; like King David. All of which evokes thoughts of Israel’s Golden Age and the high water mark of someone who was “a man after God’s own heart.” Now Jesus Christ is the one perfectly positioned, divinely directed, to steer and secure the people of God like never before. He is “the Christ.”

Judged on the basis of my thoughts, words, and ways, as well as my use of time, talents, and treasure, who has the actual, ultimate rule in my life?

King Jesus, rule over me completely. Bring whatever you will into my life that I might completely bow to you and remain so forever. Amen.

ct: the cross at the center

“… the cross is crucial to Christianity … The Gospels all lead up to it and find their climax there, Acts tells how the first preachers proclaimed what God had done in the cross of Christ, while the epistles with greater or less emphasis bring out the meaning of this great act of atonement. Through the centuries the greatest minds in the church have turned their attention  to what God has done in the cross and have written their profound treatises on it, while on another level the worship of the humblest believers has centered on the cross. Their baptism has been a baptism into Christ’s death (Rom. 6:3), and their sacrament of Holy Communion has been a service in which as often as they eat the bread and drink the cup they proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes (1 Cor. 11:26). In the study or in the pew the cross has been central.

Indeed so central is it that this fact has made its mark on our language. Whenever we say ‘The crucial point is this -‘ or ‘The crux of the matter is that -“, we are saying in effect ‘Just as the cross is central to Christianity, so is this point central to my argument’, for ‘crux’ is the Latin word for ‘cross’ and ‘crucial’ is derived from it.” (Leon Morris, The Cross of Jesus, p.1)

ct: quotes from Stott’s ‘The Cross of Christ’ (1)

“It seems certain that, at least from the second century onwards, Christians not only drew, painted and engraved the cross as a pictorial symbol of their faith, but also made the sign of the cross on themselves or others.” (pp.20-21)

“The Christian’s choice of a cross as the symbol of their faith is the more surprising when we remember the horror with which crucifixion was regarded in the ancient world.” (p.23)

“… [Jesus knew] he would meet a violent, premature, yet purposive death. More than that, he gives three intertwining reasons for its inevitability. First, he knew he would die because of the hostility of the Jewish national leaders. … Secondly, he knew he would die because that is what stood written of the Messiah in the Scriptures. … [and] third … he knew he would die was because of his own deliberate choice.” (pp.29,30,31)

“When we turn from the apostles’ early sermons recorded in the Acts to the maturer utterances of their letters, the prominent place they give to the cross is even more marked. … the three major letter-writers of the New Testament – Paul, Peter and John – are unanimous in witnessing to its centrality …” (p.35)

“There is no greater cleavage between faith and unbelief than their respective attitudes to the cross.” (p.40)

“One of the saddest features of Islam is that it rejects the cross declaring it inappropriate that a major prophet of God should come to such an ignominious end. The Koran sees no need for the sin-bearing death of a Savior. … Denying the need for the cross, the Koran goes on to deny the fact.” (pp.40-41)

“Christ is to us just what his cross is. All that Christ was in heaven or on earth was put into what he did there. … You do not understand Christ till you understand his cross.” (p.43, quoting P.T. Forsyth)

25 days: the one who is coming

“I baptize with water those of you who have changed your hearts and lives. The one who is coming after me is stronger than I am. I’m not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. The shovel he uses to sift the wheat from the husks is in his hands. He will clean out his threshing area and bring the wheat into his barn. But he will burn the husks with a fire that can’t be put out.” (Matthew 3.11-12 CEB)

The one who is coming is …

Strong; stronger than any others. Worthy; unlike any others. Generous; in ways beyond comprehension. Active; as in hard-working. Gathering; bringing together what is his. Separating; putting an end to whatever is worthless.

And we are to be …

Changed; on the inside and out. Aware; understanding his power and place. Receptive; to whatever he would give us.

His arrival, like our existence, has purpose and meaning. As our responsibilities to him are great, so are the consequences of our response to his coming.

God, am I ready for you?

Lord, make me ready for you, inside and out. Make me useful and count me yours. Amen.