Monday, April 9, 2012

Husbands, Go Ahead

Plenty of great stuff in Piper's This Momentary Marriage - just one quote here I sent on to a friend...

“So, husbands, your headship means:  Go ahead.  Take the lead.  It does not matter if it is her fault.  That didn’t stop Christ.  Who will break the icy silence first?  Who will choke out the words, “I’m sorry, I want it to be better”?  Or “Can we talk?  I’d like things to be better.”  She might beat you to it.  Sometimes that’s okay.  But woe to you if you think that since it’s her fault, she’s obliged to say the first reconciling word.  Headship is not easy.  It is the hardest, most humbling work in the world.  Protect your family.  Strive, as much as it lies within you, to make peace before the sun goes down.” – Piper, This Momentary Marriage, p91

Saturday, April 7, 2012

A Cross on the Right and a Cross on the Left

Good Friday 2012 - A Cross on the Right and a Cross on the Left

On the day that Jesus Christ died, the world for the most part, went about its business in its usual way.  The vast majority of the world, and even the majority of the people in Jerusalem, were not distracted from their normal lives by the events of the crucifixion that we read and meditate on each Good Friday.  For most of the world, this was a non-event – or so it seemed.

For some, even being at the cross didn’t change things.  We hear of one soldier who wondered or even confessed that “certainly this was a righteous Man,” but others just shook their heads and went on their way.  For the most part, it was just another day’s work for the soldiers and for everyone else.  It was a day like any other.  Throughout the world that day, men were born and lived, and throughout the world that day, men’s lives came to an end and there was death.

We do know of the death of two men other than Jesus that Good Friday.  Two criminals crucified with Jesus, one on his right and one on his left.  Crucified alongside Christ.  Crucified with Christ.  Both men were criminals, both men knew they were going to die a slow, painful, tortuous death.  That day must have been filled with hatred and fear, with anger and doubt and despair.  There may have been moments of self-righteous resolution; surely there were hours of unimaginable pain, horror, disgrace and dread.

The Gospel of Luke records for us that at one moment, one of the criminals blasphemed Jesus, cursing Him, sneering at Him, “If you are the Christ, save Yourself and us.”  This wasn’t a cry for help and salvation – this was a mocking of a useless savior, a so-called messiah.  In other words, he might as well have said, “How dare you claim to be God and find yourself in this impotent, worthless place.  How dare you claim to be a Savior, a Good-Shepherd and leave me in this circumstance.  What kind of God would do that – what kind of Savior would that be.”

Now, you don’t have to be hanging on a cross, literally, slowly tortured to death, to find yourself saying those kinds of words to Jesus, do you?  “If you are God, if you have come to save this world, if you love me, why have you allowed my life’s circumstances to come to this place in which I find myself?  If you are not going to save me from this situation, if you are going to leave my life in such misery, then You are useless to me.  You are a loser.  You are not God.  You are not a Savior.”

Isn’t that what many say, think, feel towards God?  Either their life is going on right now and they are oblivious to the fact that a Savior is being crucified for the sins of the world, or, through God’s hard providences, they are brought face to face with this Savior in the midst of their difficulties, their sins, the consequences of their own sins, the results of others’ sins upon them, the results of a fallen world groaning under the weight of judgment – and they hate Him, they sneer at the thought that He could be a Savior – a help to them even now in their hour of need.

But look at the other criminal.  He is in the same circumstances – he is under the same condemnation, the same slow, tortuous death.  He also looks and sees a so-called Messiah hanging on a cross of shame and humiliation –but what does he see? – Luke records these words, “Do you not even fear God, seeing you are under the same condemnation?  And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds; but this Man has done nothing wrong.”

Think carefully for a moment about what this man says.  He is saying, “I am hanging on a cross, about to die – and this is what I deserve.  Jesus is hanging on a cross, and He has done nothing wrong.”  Now I want you to consider this very carefully – what about you?  What about your life?  Do you deserve to be hanging on a cross?  We shudder and step back from such an insinuating comment – “how dare you even consider for a moment that I deserve to be crucified.  I am no criminal.  I am an upstanding, tax-paying citizen of this country, a model neighbor for our culture, a decent husband, wife, student.  How dare you even consider such a thing.”

Well, just a moment, consider with me – if you haven’t sinned “like that criminal,” if you haven’t done anything, said anything, thought anything, omitted anything worthy of crucifixion and beyond, eternal separation from the presence and blessing of God – then what you are saying is there is no need, as far as your life is concerned, for Jesus to be crucified, undergo the wrath of God and the separation from His presence and blessing.

But wait, some of you say that you are Christians, that you have placed your faith in Jesus Christ.  Well, what does that mean?  It means that the second criminal was right, we should justly receive the due reward of our deeds –and our rebellious nature – from God.  And then, with the criminal, we see Jesus, as Savior, hanging on the cross – and we see the Way, the Truth, the Life – there – and we cry out to Jesus, “Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.”  We see our situation, our just condemnation, our fair indictment and penalty declared – and we cry out for one thing and one thing only – mercy.

And then we hear the Master, the Shepherd, the Messiah and Savior Jesus say, “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.”

Crucified alongside Christ.  Crucified with Christ.  Paul said those words.  He said, “I have been crucified with Christ, it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me, and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me.”  Paul didn’t write those words because his life this side of the grave had become perfect – not with his own soul-struggles, not with his circumstances which of which he had little control.  He wrote them because he knew what death and resurrection were about – what they brought in this life – and what they promised forever.

Crucified with Christ.  Jesus Himself said to those who wished to follow Him, “Deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow me.”

So much of this sorry world still ignores the memorial and meaning of Good Friday – their lives have gone on today just as any other day.  So much of the world has scorned the cross and the claims of Jesus the anointed Son of God – declared him impotent, unimportant, irrelevant – useless, when it comes to their own lives – they’ll take care of themselves thank you very much.  God be merciful to them, God open their eyes.

God, in His kindness, has made sure that it is not so for you – He has brought you to the cross – again.  There is no sin He cannot recompense.  There is no life He cannot redeem.  There is no situation in life, no wrong done to you, that He cannot or will not make right in the resurrection.  There is no strength, no grace, no need for help He cannot or will not give to those who cry out to Him even now.

One criminal was crucified alongside Christ and went on to His eternal judgment.  One criminal was crucified alongside Christ and found that by faith he was crucified with Christ and went on to be with Him in Paradise.  One criminal was crucified alongside Christ shaking his fists at God.  One criminal was crucified with Christ and found mercy hanging beside him.  Our sins are going to be dealt with one way or another, on the right or on the left of Christ crucified.  The unbelieving world looks from one side and sees impotence.  Look from the other side and see the power of God to save.  Amen.