November 8, 2017
Why the Cross?
The New Smooth Cross
Luke 9:51; Isaiah 50:7 (NASB)
When the days were approaching for His ascension, He was determined to go to Jerusalem;
For the Lord God helps Me,
Therefore, I am not disgraced;
Therefore, I have set My face like flint,
And I know that I will not be ashamed.
One of the great hymns of all time is “The Old Rugged Cross.” Listen to the words:
On a hill far away, stood an old rugged Cross
The emblem of suff'ring and shame
And I love that old Cross where the dearest and best
For a world of lost sinners was slain
In the old rugged Cross, stain'd with blood so divine
A wondrous beauty I see
For the dear Lamb of God, left His Glory above
Do people see “beauty” in a blood-stained cross today? The answer to that question will determine how much you have determined “to know nothing save Christ and Him crucified” (I Corinthians). The emerging church has coined a phrase and/or concept that is not only fashionable in that camp but has been picked up by liberals and secularists alike. It is now in vogue to refer to the cross of Christ as “cosmic child abuse.” Brian McClaren and Steve Chalke speak freely in such terms. But is this true? I propose that you will NEVER fully comprehend the love of God until you embrace the cross of Jesus Christ.
Six months before crucifixion, Jesus "determined to go to Jerusalem" (Luke 9:51 NAS) to die. In the original Greek, the word determined is literally "set His face" to go to Jerusalem. I imagine Dr. Luke is intentionally referencing a Messianic prophecy from Isaiah 50:7 - "Because the Sovereign Lord helps me, I will not be disgraced. Therefore I have set my face like flint, and I know I will not be put to shame."
When Jesus went to the cross to die for us, He demonstrated real love. "But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8). If you wish to know real love, you must look at Jesus' love for us, for "in this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins" (I John 4:10).
When I think of Christ's love for me, I consider it to be:
- Intentional - "I have set My face like flint" to die for Wade Burleson.
- Unconditional - "I have set My face like flint" to deliver Wade Burleson.
- Sacrificial - "I have set My face like flint" to draw Wade Burleson.
I am convinced about two faults with the modern church. First, we spend so much time talking about our love for God, that we lose the proper perspective of real love. Love, as it is to be, is seen in Christ's love for us, not our love for God. Second, we lack love for one another because we've never been captivated and enthralled with an understanding of His love for us.
Intentional love comes from within the One loving. Christ's love is like an artesian spring; it is not pulled out of Him because of my loveliness, but flows from within Him because He is love.
Unconditional love thinks nothing of the weakness of the one being loved, or expects reciprocating love, for the One loving recognizes that real love is an action of worth, never an attitude of want.
Sacrificial love is the kind of love that endures pain, burrows through suffering, endures all things for the ones being loved. Christ's love for me is intentional, unconditional and sacrificial.
God's love is always and only given to those not worthy of His love (read Romans 5:6-9).
Romans 5:6-9 makes clear that God loves, and gave His Son, for those who see themselves as:
- Without strength... this means with complete inability to obtain God's favor.
Your obedience to the law and all efforts to be righteous are fruitless and vain.
- Ungodly... literally, "without God." Sometimes, the most impious people are the most religious people. The Pharisees loved religion but not Christ who said, "I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth His life for the sheep... but ye believe not because ye are not My sheep; My sheep hear My voice" (John 10:11, 26-27).
- Sinners... those who have "missed the mark" and as a result, have failed in life. God demonstrates His love and died for only those who freely confess the above.
- God's love is therefore always selfless, as opposed to human love (v.7).
In v. 7 Paul begins to describe and compare human love versus divine love.
- Humans need a very good reason to die for another person.
- You more than likely will not die for a stranger (even if he is "approved").
- You might die for someone you know to be kind or good to you.
- Humans would never willingly "dare to die" in the place of their enemies.
"The design of this verse is to show that Christ's dying for the ungodly person is an instance of kindness and love that is matchless and unparalleled" (John Gill). The love of God is not perceived by the absence of affliction, but by the cross. "Hereby perceive we the love of God, because He laid down His life for us" I John 3:16. The love of God for the believer was present before conversion. It was before the death of Christ. It was from everlasting (Jeremiah 31:3). It did not arise because of any loveliness in you, not because of anything you have done, but from His own sovereign will and pleasure to love you; and His love drew you out of sin. "The love of Christ constrains us" (II Corinthians 5:14).
- Humans need a very good reason to die for another person.
- God's love in our hearts produces the same kind of love for others.
Jesus told His disciples "By this shall all men know that you are My disciples, if you have love one for another" (John 13:35). Love is the mark of atonement for you.
- Christian husbands, love your wives as Christ loved you... (Ephesians 5:22-33).
- Christian people, love your enemies... (Romans 12:20).
- Christian church members, love each other... (I John 4:7-11).
"That God should pity me I understand, because when I walk down a hospital and see a sick child, I pity the child . . . but that God should love me—the more I think about it, the more staggered I am." (FB Meyer)
Let’s keep the “Old Rugged Cross” of blood, sacrifice and death – for in it we see the love of God for us.