The cross!

I don’t want to seem to be undermining the resurrection.  As the Bible shows, Jesus raising from the death shows the power, the wisdom, the sovereignty of God, etc. (Acts 2:24; Romans 4:24, 6:4; Colossians 2:12, etc.). But today, I want to talk about the cross.

When praying today, it came to my mind that the cross of Christ was not a reason to cry. Sometimes, Good Friday, the death of Christ is seen as a moment of mourning, a reason to be sad while it is a reason to rejoice and praise God.  The cross is, among other things:

  • the power a God (For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 1 Corinthians 1:18);
  • a reason to boast (But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. Galatians 6:14);
  • the mean of reconciliation with God (and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. Ephesians 2: 16);
  • our redemption (And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses,  by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him. Colossians 2: 13- 15);
  • God’s victory (Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. Hebrews 2: 14-15).

The cross was not a weakness of God. It was a proof that He was God, the Author of life, the One who holds all things in His hands, the Master of everything. It was a demonstration of power, mercy, love and sovereignty. As Peter said, “for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place.” (Acts 4:27-28)

I don’t understand everything about predestination, but I know something for sure: Christ dying on the cross was not a failure, a defeat. God wasn’t sitting there, crying and waiting for Sunday morning to happen. He was reigning and victorious, totally sovereign and righteous, totally merciful and God. As the song says: “My soul does magnify the Lord and my spirit praises His name for death could not hold Him captive; even in the grave Jesus is Lord; for death could not hold him captive, even in the grave Jesus is Lord”.

Yes, even on the cross, even in the grave, even dead and buried, even nailed, and mocked, even pierced, Jesus was Lord!

Without faith, we cannot please Him

 One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him,[a] saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” 42 And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” 43 And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23: 39-43 ESV)

This man was obviously an enemy of God and of men. We don’t know what he did to deserve that death, but we know he deserved it. He said it himself: they were receiving the due rewards of their deeds. So he is on the cross, receiving the due rewards for his sins and decided to ask for eternal life.

Did he think of it when beaten by soldiers? When did he start to be filled with remorse? When he saw Jesus enduring sufferings he did not deserve? We surely won’t know what happened and when it happened before reaching heaven, but one thing we know for sure is that somehow he got faith.

So Jesus was dying on the cross, being crucified unjustly, and he knew it. He was going through the same physical pain as Jesus so he knew better than to speak to Him at that moment, especially to ask for a favor. We don’t even like to be disturbed when we are simply busy, so to be disturbed when we are doing something important, especially something that costs us, would make most of us angry. Anyway, people won’t even try to speak to us in those circumstances, even less to ask for favors when we are in pain. But that criminal did it.

He understood and believed important things that made all the difference. First, he understood and believed that Jesus was King and had authority over everything, even over sins and hell, and eternity. He believed Jesus was the Christ. Secondly, he understood and believed that God was holy and righteous, which means there was nothing he could do to satisfy Him, nothing he could have done to save himself. Even without sin, he would only be a creature and to be with the Creator would mean a lot of grace and mercy given. So he understood and believed that all he needed was God’s mercy and grace, and asked for it. He boldly went before the throne of grace and asked for what he didn’t deserve: a place in Christ’s kingdom. But to be able to ask for mercy, he needed to repent. Which means he needed to acknowledge that he was a creature and Christ was the Creator; that Christ’s rules were the only ones to be followed; that he had broken those rules; and that only Christ could make things right.

His faith led him to Christ and Christ honored it by offering him salvation. So next time, you are trying to win God by being extremely spiritual, by doing many amazing deeds, think of this man and follow his example. Live to honor God not because you need to pay to be with Him, but because He deserved it and had proved Himself worthy of all honor and glory. And just go boldly before the throne of grace, as you are, at any time because you believe Him. Faith will always be the key.

 

 

 

Love, grace, and freedom!!!

One of the consequences of having a low self-esteem is the tendency to be someone else, to behave in ways you never thought of. You try to be that person people would love and appreciate and want to be with. And at the end, you don’t know who you are, what you like, and what you want. You have become a people-pleaser and have ceased to be the person God intended you to be.

But God gave a remedy for that emotional and spiritual sickness as He did for all the other ones. When He sent Jesus to earth to bear our sins and shames and sicknesses; when Jesus chose to give His life for our healing, He offered us that remedy. He offered us reconciliation with the Father, the boldness to enter the throne room with confidence, the freedom to be ourselves even at our worst. Since He paid for us and gave us His righteousness, we can just be ourselves before God as we are being changed into Christ’s likeness. Yes, we are disciplined. Yes, our actions have consequences. But yes, they work for our good. And yes, God does not discipline us out of anger, but to make us share in His holiness.

It is not easy to accept that aspect of grace. Salvation, we get it. But the rest? Our past, our experiences, sometimes our parents and siblings, people around us, circumstances, etc.  cry that it is too easy. And we live as if God would be angry at our failures, and even at our differences; as if He would be mad at us every time we don’t do what He expects us to do, the way He expects us to do it. There is no place in our lives to be trained by God’s grace to become more like Christ. We should already be perfect. And that is not the worst. The worst is all the rules and regulations we have and apply in order to please God. In our mind, God can easily be that another person who would never accept us if we don’t behave in a certain way; if we are not a certain kind of person. We forgot that Jesus died for us when we were weak; when we were enemies of His Father. We forgot that He loved us first. We forgot that He pursued us before we even thought of loving Him.

But when we remember, when we accept this incredible grace, we are free. Free to be ourselves; free to just be because we are totally and completely welcomed and accepted in Christ.  And if the Ruler of the universe, the perfect and holy One, the One who judges and provides, the only One who matters accepts us, we can begin to stop trying to belong and to be loved at any cost. We still need fellowship and love and friendship and affection, but not at any cost anymore. Yes, it is not perfect. We still struggle with low self-esteem and acceptance, but now we know the truth that sets free and, more than ever, we are becoming that amazing person God created us to be.

And if you are not there, no worries. He is already there and will bring you there because it all depends on His power that is perfected in your weakness.

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them… But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. 19So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.

(Ephesians 2: 4- 10; 13-22)

 

 

 

 

Love so high!

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation. (Romans 5: 6-11 ESV)

What a love! It is not just about being loved without reasons, it is about being loved despite all reasons. We were sinners, unrighteous. We had no desire to be with God, no desire to do His will, no desire to glorify His name, and He decided to find a way to be with us. He decided that He would fight for us and paid the price required to save us and bring us under the canopy of His love.

That is love! I confess I don’t understand God’s love most of the time. I don’t understand why and how He does what He does. My life seems to be an example of Romans 11:33, “ Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!” But when I doubt, when the ground shakes under my feet, remembering that He loved me that way, when I was against Him, quiets me.

That is what His love does. That is true love. A love despite and even if. A love that takes the initiative, always.

He carried our infirmities

He had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. (Isaiah 53:2-5 ESV)

I was reminded today that Jesus understands everything I go through emotionally because He experienced all the feelings, hurts, rejections, etc. I have ever experienced. When I feel despised, depressed, distressed, alone, tired, or abandoned by God, He understands. And because He does, I can approach God with confidence in my weakness, my brokenness, and my fears. I can cry out of despair or anger, and I will never be rejected. This is also what the cross means.

Jesus the Great High Priest Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:14-16 ESV)

 

Good Friday, Easter… What for?

So many people are commemorating Jesus’ death today and will be celebrating His resurrection on Sunday. But what for?

For me,  it is a celebration of a freedom bought at a great price by a merciful Savior.

It is a celebration of the one who died for me while I was doing all I could to resist, rebel and push Him out of my life.

Those three days are a great opportunity to thank the God who gave me the freedom to be who I was created to be.

So Good Friday, Easter, what for? To remember and say thanks and worship even through tears for the forgiveness of my sins and the reconciliation with the Holy One.

A Gracious and Holy God

Their prince shall be one of themselves; their ruler shall come out from their midst; I will make him draw near, and he shall approach me, for who would dare of himself to approach me? declares the LORD. And you shall be my people, and I will be your God.” Jeremiah 30:21-22

While I was reading through Exodus, Leviticus and Numbers, I was awestruck by God’s holiness. People could not come near Him as they wanted. There were rules, conditions, and requirements. Even when you wanted to make a sacrifice and to offer a gift, there were conditions. You could not just bring whatever you wanted, as you wanted. (Exodus 19: 10-25, Leviticus 1; 10, Numbers 4:18-20)

Those books remind me of a song verse, “Grateful that you hear us when we shout your praise.” This song verse and those books remind me that I should be grateful to approach God and to pray to Him. They remind me that God is not obliged to hear me even when I praise Him. When I praise Him, when I sacrifice to Him and for Him, it is a privilege. It is my privilege.

Paul told the Philippians that they have been given the privilege of suffering for Christ (Philippians 1:29). To be with God, to serve Him, to speak to and with Him, to read His word, to suffer and sacrifice for Him, to be persecuted in His name and to be single for his sake are privileges. Privileges acquired for us by Christ on the cross.

God gains nothing when we do those things. He is God and will always be. He will never change. Even if there was no believer in the entire universe, He will still be God. Even if all humans were to go to hell, He will still be God, good and gracious. He is holy and only through His grace can we approach Him and serve Him and suffer for Him. If Christ did not redeem me, I have no idea where I would be. And it is my privilege to say “Thank you Lord.”

Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures. James 1:16-18