Monday, December 04, 2006

The all sufficiency of Christ (3)


Christ's penal substitutionary death on the cross achieved many, many, many great things. Everything good we see in the world in fact. Every lovely sunset, every good moment with our friends, every answered prayer, every spiritual all comes from the cross. Jesus' work was all satusfying, all encompassing, and all sufficient.

Man to man.

Christ was born that 'man no more may die', as the carol goes. He was born to conquer the ultimate weapon of the devil, the ultimate prison in which we dwell on the cross. Born to give us freedom. More of that soon, but He died that we would know Him. There are no foothills around Calvary, as someone wise once said (It might have been John Stott), no hierachy around the cross. Just the earth, where the blood of the Lord dripped, and the cross, from where it came. And thats it. My parents live next door to a fairly typical small parish CofE church, it's normally fairly pretty inside, without being ostentatious, but on Good Friday they strip it bare of all that makes it pretty, and prop a cross up on the steps that lead to the choir stalls. And there lays the cross, all alone, until sunday. There is nothing around the cross, there is nothing that gets us closer to it, apart from the mercy of Christ. And this, this great distance that God has from us, this all powerful work should reconcile man to man.

Why are people divided? By ambition? Ambition for a better job or a nicer car looks pretty outrageous when compared with Christ, dieing under the weight of my sins. By jealousy? Wanting what someone else has is foolish when you have every spritual blessing in Christ. By fear? If people knew the Lord there would be nothing to fear, His plan would run their lives...there would be no need to kill, or maim or frustrate. Christ has liberated believers from fear. Luther says that each of us carry the nails that went through the Lord's hands in our pockets. Most days i hear them clinking together as i sin in thought and word and deed. The days when i don't are simply the days where i am drowing in my sin. All of us...all of us have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. The end. All of us, all of us are saved by grace through faith so that no one may boast. The end. Are we divided by hatred? In Christ there is no male or female, jew or greek slave or free. The Arsenal fan and the Spurs fan can crowd around eachothers phones trying to find out the derby score, the Englishman and the Aussie can worship together on Christmas day before going to the MCG the next day. There is no division. “The cross unites believers, it gives us fellowship, family, peace...all that good stuff. It destroys all the things that provoke disunity between men like pride, jealousy and anger. It humbles us, and brings us together in praise.

Man to God

This is what makes the good news good. We were made to live in the enjoyment and glory of a perfect relationship with God. And we sin, and we break that relationship. It's gone, ot's over, and we are born into it. Slaves to sin. But here's the good bit. That Jesus Christ came to die and put to death all the things that get in the way of us and God. That stop us being in relatioship with the Father. This is what the cross achieved, this is the apex of the work of Christ, that He restored our relationship with the Father. John Piper puts it like this:
'the critical question for this and every generation is this. If you could have Heaven, with no pain or suffereing, and with all your friends, and all the leisure activities you like to persue, and all the good food you ever ate, but no Christ...would you be happy? Would you be happy in Heaven if Christ wasn't there?' The answer, is no. No one would be happy in a 'Heaven' without Christ, because in Christ is all blessings and joy and comfort and peace we ever ever have. No Christ, no God, means none of those things. The cross satisfied the wrath of God so that He can bear our presence, and we will not be burned up like leaves in the bonfire in His presence. Thats pretty good news. And now we have Heaven to look forward to, in perfect, joyful, worshipful relationship with God. All because of Christ on the cross. How the cross shines like a diamond, how it gleams with the glory of being the centre of redemtive history, how it calls us, entices us...'repent and believe, repent and believe...'

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