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Sunday, May 29, 2016

Jesus Christ the Sin Bearer (and other devotionals)

Jesus Christ the Sin Bearer


The cross is so common in our culture that most people don’t think twice when they see one on a church. But unfortunately, familiarity with the symbol can actually get in the way of understanding what it truly means. So let’s stop to consider how Jesus became the bearer of sin.
We begin with Scripture written long before Jesus was born. Genesis, the first book of the Bible, explains how man chose to disobey God. Because Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit, their descendants are all born under the curse of death, having inherited a sinful “flesh” nature.
In Leviticus, God’s laws for the Jewish nation included observance of Yom Kippur, the day each year when the Israelites fasted, prayed, and sacrificed an animal to atone for sin. In essence, the goat would bear the wrongs done by the people and suffer the penalty that divine justice required.
Centuries later, Isaiah prophesied that a Savior would atone for transgression once and for all (Isa. 53:5, 8; Heb. 7:27). After another 700 years, John the Baptist identified Jesus as the Lamb of God who would take away the sin of the world (John 1:29). The Messiah had come, though He was totally different from what the people expected—so much so, in fact, that they rejected Him and requested His crucifixion.
In all, God gave 613 laws through Moses. But none of us can perfectly follow even the Ten Commandments. In fact, one reason He gave us these rules is to show us our need for a Savior (Ps. 19:7; Gal. 3:24). Meditate on those commands (Ex. 20:1-17), asking God to speak to your heart.

~Dr. Charles F. Stanley~
In Touch Ministries
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Confidente in Crisis
Confident in Crisis 
Though an army besiege me, my heart will not fear; though war break out against me, even then will I be confident. Psalm 27:3

A crisis can be seen as an obstacle or an opportunity. Fear can creep into our feelings and begin to weaken our faith. An encamped enemy can instill as much dread as the actual battle. It is during interim times that we may fear the most.  A crisis has a beginning and an end, but the consequences can continue. It is in crisis mode that we reject our instinct to panic or become desperate. Instead we trump feelings with faith. God has brought us safe thus far—He is faithful.

Fear erodes our confidence in Christ and replaces it with anger and defensiveness. If we capitulate to our feelings we feel the need to be in control. We believe we have to take charge and corral the cause in our strength and ingenuity. However, “If God be with us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31). In the day of trouble He will keep us safe in His presence. In crisis, we have joyful confidence in Christ.

“For in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling; he will hide me in the shelter of his tabernacle and set me high upon a rock” (Psalm 27:5).

Confidence in crisis means we are collaborative, not combative. Confidence takes the high road of respect. There is no need to blame others or beat them down with verbal attacks. Persuasive people are prone to pride. They are forceful with their feelings. However people confident in Christ are patient. They seek the opinion of others. There is an invitation for intellectual engagement. Our past experience may not be what’s best for our future direction.

It is a confident and courageous leader who can give up control and trust the Lord and others with the process. Those who are collaborative for Christ are positioned to be more than conquerors through Christ. Where there is no confidence in Christ, there is no continuance with Christ. Overcome your fears by faith in Jesus. He is just what you need. Hold your family, job and opinions with an open hand. Trust Him and others in the process of crisis management. We can be confident in Christ in crisis. No fear by faith!

“Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6).

Prayer: Heavenly Father, my confidence is in Christ. Keep me in Your process of trust.

Application: How can I grow my confidence in Christ as I face a crisis of faith? What does it mean to have joy in Jesus?

~Wisdom Hunters Devotional~
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The "All" of Belief 

"Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth"   (Mark 9:23).
Our unbelief is the greatest hindrance in our way; in fact, there is no other real difficulty as to our spiritual progress and prosperity. The LORD can do everything; but when He makes a rule that according to our faith so shall it be unto us, our unbelief ties the hands of His omnipotence. Yes, the confederacies of evil shall be scattered if we can but believe. Despised truth shall lift its head if we will but have confidence in the God of truth. We can bear our load of trouble or pass uninjured through the waves of distress if we can gird our loins with the girdle of peace, that girdle which is buckled on by the hands of trust. What can we not believe? Is everything possible except believing in God? Yet He is always true; why do we not believe in Him? He is always faithful to His word; why can we not trust Him? When we are in a right state of heart, faith costs no effort: it is then as natural for us to rely upon God as for a child to trust his father. The worst of it is that we can believe God about everything except the present pressing trial. This is folly. Come, my soul, shake off such sinfulness, and trust thy God with the load, the labor, the longing of this present. This done, all is done.

~Charles Spurgeon~
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But if we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort that you experience in your patient endurance of the same sufferings that we also suffer. And our hope for you is steadfast because we know that as you share in our sufferings, so also you will share in our comfort.—2 Cor 1:6-7
Are there not some in your circle to whom you naturally betake yourself in times of trial and sorrow? They always seem to speak the right word, to give the very counsel you are longing for; you do not realize, however, the cost which they had to pay ere they became so skillful in binding up the gaping wounds and drying tears. But if you were to investigate their past history you would find that they have suffered more than most. They have watched the slow untwisting of some silver cord on which the lamp of life hung. They have seen the golden bowl of joy dashed to their feet, and its contents spilt. They have stood by ebbing tides, and drooping gourds, and noon sunsets; but all this has been necessary to make them the nurses, the physicians, the priests of men. The boxes that come from foreign climes are clumsy enough; but they contain spices which scent the air with the fragrance of the Orient. So suffering is rough and hard to bear; but it hides beneath it discipline, education, possibilities, which not only leave us nobler, but perfect us to help others. Do not fret, or set your teeth, or wait doggedly for the suffering to pass; but get out of it all you can, both for yourself and for your service to your generation, according to the will of God.
—Selected
Once I heard a song of sweetness,
As it cleft the morning air,
Sounding in its blest completeness,
Like a tender, pleading prayer;
And I sought to find the singer,
Whence the wondrous song was borne;
And I found a bird, sore wounded,
Pinioned by a cruel thorn.
I have seen a soul in sadness,
While its wings with pain were furl’d,
Giving hope, and cheer and gladness
That should bless a weeping world;
And I knew that life of sweetness,
Was of pain and sorrow row borne,
And a stricken soul was singing,
With its heart against a thorn.
Ye are told of One who loved you,
Of a Saviour crucified,
Ye are told of nails that pinioned,
And a spear that pierced His side;
Ye are told of cruel scourging,
Of a Saviour bearing scorn,
And He died for your salvation,
With His brow against a thorn.
Ye “are not above the Master.”
Will you breathe a sweet refrain?
And His grace will be sufficient,
When your heart is pierced with pain.
Will you live to bless His loved ones,
Tho’ your life be bruised and torn,
Like the bird that sang so sweetly,
With its heart against a thorn?

~L. B. Cowman~
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Today's ReadingHosea 1Revelation 1
Today's Thoughts: Watch Your Stubbornness
“For Israel is stubborn like a stubborn calf; Now the Lord will let them forage like a lamb in open country." - Hosea 4:16
Giving my dog a bath gives me a good glimpse at a stubborn animal. He instinctively knows when I am getting ready to bathe him. Once he is convinced that I am coming to get him, he tries to hide. At that point, talking to him will not get him to change his mind. He must be dragged by the collar to the hose outside (hot and cold water, of course). It is not like he isn't spoiled and usually gets what he wants, but a bath is what is best for him, and for those around him. When the bath is over, he is the happiest, most energetic dog I have ever seen. He seems to like the after effect much more than the process he has to go through to get there.
The Lord compared Israel to a stubborn calf. They would not listen to the Lord's commands and would not obey His Word. Regardless of how much God blessed them, they still returned to their wicked ways. Regardless of how much they saw God's hand taking care of them, rescuing them, and providing for them, they had a short memory of those things. They were constantly returning to their sinful practices of worshiping other gods and pursuing their fleshly desires. Stubborn and stiff-necked is how God referred to them as He looked upon their rebellious ways.
I wonder how often the Lord looks at us the same way. How often do we rebel against what God has for us because we do not want to go through the process (or the bath we need)? For me, even though I revel in the after effects of God's touch, I still resist that necessary cleansing of the sin in my life. If we are not careful, we will find ourselves too comfortable with being unclean. Once that begins to happen, we may also find ourselves slipping into practices that do not glorify God, just as the Israelites did. When you know the Lord is coming to get you for that special time of bathing, just let Him have His way with you. The process will go much faster and you will feel so much better when you surrender to Him. I keep giving my dog the same advice even though he is not catching on. But we should.

~Daily Disciples Devotional~

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Blasphemy Against the Holy Spirit (and other devotionals)

Matthew 12:31-32 

Blasphemy Against the Holy Spirit

Then a demon possessed man who was blind and mute brought to him, and he called him, so that the man spoke and saw. And all the other people were amazed, and said, "can this be the Son of David?" But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, "It is only by Belzebel, the prince of demons, that this man casts out demons." Knowing their thoughts, he said to them, "Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand. And if satan casts out satan, he is divided against himself. How then will his kingdom stand? And if I cast out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges. But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the "kingdom of God that comes upon you, or how can someone enter a strong man's house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man? Then indeed he may plunder his house. Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters. Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven people, but the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven. And whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age and the age to come.

Study: (Matthew 12:31-32)

Blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. The sin is attributing to satan what is accomplished by the power of God, and doing this through the flagrant, willful, and persistent rejection of God and His commands. This sin is committed today only by unbelievers who deliberately and unchangeably reject the ministry of the Holy Spirit in calling them to salvation.

~ESV Study Bible~
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Monday, May 23, 2016

A Time for Thanksgiving


A Time For Thanksgiving

by Samuel Logan Brengle (1860-1936)

“Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name."
—Psalm 100:4


“In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you."
—1 Thessalonians 5:18


As lilies of the valley pour forth perfume, so good hearts pour forth thanksgiving. No mercy is too small to provoke it, no trial too severe to restrain it. As Samson got honey from the carcass of the lion he slew, and as Moses got water from the flinty rock, so the pure in heart are possessed of a sort of heavenly alchemy, a divine secret by which they get blessing out of all things, and for which there is giving of thanks.

A jubilant old saint in Boston came down to hoary hairs in deepest poverty and had to live on the charity of such friends as God raised up, and He raised them up. Bless His name! He who fed Elijah in the wilderness by the brook and in the poverty-stricken home of the desolate widow, found a way to feed His child in Boston. God is not blind, nor deaf, nor indifferent, nor indigent. He is not "the silent God" that some people in their self-conceit and wayward unbelief suppose. He knows how to be silent, and how to hide Himself from the proud in heart. But He cannot hide Himself anywhere in His big universe from childlike faith and pure, obedient, long-suffering, patient love. Hallelujah!

This old saint believed, obeyed and rejoiced in God, and He raised up friends to supply her needs. Now, one day one of them went upstairs with a dinner for the old lady, and as she came to the door, she heard a voice within, and thinking there was a visitor present, and delicately wishing that her charity should not be a cause of embarrassment, she stopped and listened. It was the voice of the old Christian at her
table, and she was saying, "O Father, I do thank Thee with all my heart for Jesus and this crust!"

To her thankful heart that crust was more than a feast and a well-filled cupboard and a fat bank-account to him who has not a trustful, thankful spirit.

I heard of a rich man the other day who killed himself because he feared he might become poor. He was poor. Jesus said, "A man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth," and no more does a man's real riches, but rather in the spirit with which he possesses them.

Heaven is not parceled off into lots and estates. The angels own nothing and yet they possess all things and are eternally rich. And so with the true saint that trusts God and loves and obeys and is thankful.

The stars in their courses fight for him. He is now in harmony with the elemental and heavenly forces and the eternal laws of the universe of God, and all things work together for his good. Not a hair of his head falls without God's notice. Not a desire rises in his heart but God's great heart throbs responsive to fulfil it, for does not the Psalmist say, "He will fulfil the desires of them that fear Him"? Not simply the fervent prayer, but the timid, secret desire that has not been voiced in prayer, shall be fulfilled. And how dare God do that? Because a holy fear will not allow a desire that is not in harmony with God's character and the interests of His Kingdom.

Napoleon gave blank checks on his bank to one of his marshals. One complained to the Emperor that the drafts made were enormous and should not be allowed. "Let him alone; he trusts and honors me, and I will trust him," said Napoleon. God puts all things at the command of His saints, and trusts them while He asks them to trust Him. Why, then, should we not be thankful?

Nothing will keep the heart so young and banish carking care so quickly, and smooth the wrinkles from the brow so certainly, and fill the life with such beauty, and make one's influence so fragrant and gracious, and shed abroad such peace and gladness, as this sweet spirit of thankfulness.

This spirit can and should be cultivated. There is much in the lot of each of us to be thankful for. We should thank him for personal liberty, and for the measure of health we have. There is a good old soul up the Hudson who for thirty years or thereabout has been lying in bed, while her bones have softened, and she is utterly helpless and always in pain, but she praises and praises and praises God.

We should thank Him that we are not insane, that our poor minds are not unbalanced and rent and torn by horrid nightmares and dreads and nameless terrors and deep despair and wild and restless ravings. We should thank Him for the light and blessings of civilization, past mercies, present comforts and future prospects, food, with the appetite to eat it, and the power to digest it, raiment to wear, books to read, the Church, The Salvation Army, the open Bible, the revelation of Jesus Christ, the Fountain opened for sin and uncleanness, the glorious possibility of escape from the penalty and the power, the consequences and the character of sin, for home and friends, and heaven bending over all, with God's sweet invitation, "Come !" Truly we have much to thank God for, but if we would be thankful, we must set our hearts to do it with a will. We grumble and complain without thought, but we must think to give thanks. To murmur and repine is natural, to give thanks to really give thanks is supernatural, is gracious, is a spirit not earth-born, but comes down from God out of heaven, and yet, like all things from God, it can be cultivated.

David said, "I will praise Thee." He put his will into it. Daniel "prayed and gave thanks" three times a day. David outdid Daniel, for he says, "Seven times a day do I praise Thee."

Know this, that if you are not thankful your heart is yet bad, your soul unclean, for good hearts and pure souls are thankful. So go to the root of the matter and get rid of sin and get filled with the Holy Spirit. Flee to Jesus for riddance from the unholy spirit, and the subtle selfishness that possesses you.

People who live in the midst of foul odors and harsh sounds cease to smell and hear them, but if for a while they could slip away to the sweet air and holy quiet of the woods and fields, and then return to their noxious and noisy homes, their quickened senses would be shocked by the noisome surroundings. And so selfish people often live in themselves so long that they do not realize their selfishness and sin, except as light from heaven falls upon them. But when God's sweet breath blows over them and His light shines into them, then they are amazed at themselves. When some humble saint, full of faith and joy and the Holy Ghost, crosses their path, if they will but look, they may see themselves as in a glass. But especially is this so when we look at Jesus; and if we continue, the look will transform us. It is of this that the Apostle speaks when he says, "We all with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord are changed into the same image from glory to glory, as by the Spirit of the Lord.'' And when this change has taken place the joy of Jesus will be poured into the heart, and praise will well up and bubble forth in thanksgiving as an unfailing fountain of sweet waters, filling it with joy, and earth, your little corner of earth, with peace, and gladdening all who see and hear. But if that change has not fully taken place in you, do not withhold the praise that is God's due, but think of His loving kindness and tender and multiplied mercies, and begin to thank Him now, and your very giving of thanks will help to hasten the change. Begin now! Praise the Lord!

Sunday, May 22, 2016

The Surety's Cross

The Surety's Cross
By Horatius Bonar, 1867

"The cross of our Lord Jesus Christ."
 Galatians 6:14

The death of the cross has always been, above every other, reckoned the death of shame. The fire, the sword, the axe, the stone, the hemlock, have in their turns been used by law, as its executioners; but these have, in so many cases, been associated with honor, that death by means of them has not been reckoned either cursed or shameful. Not so the cross. Its victim, nailed in agony to the rough wood, suspended naked and torn to the gaze of multitudes, has always been reckoned a specimen of disgraced and degraded humanity; rather to be mocked than pitied. With Jew and Gentile alike—evil and not good, the curse and not the blessing—have been connected with the cross. In men's thoughts and symbols it has been treated as synonymous with ignominy, and weakness, and crime. God had allowed this idea to root itself universally, in order that there might be provided a place of shame, lower than all others, for the great Substitute who, in the fullness of time was to take the sinner's place, and be himself the great outcast from man and God, despised and rejected, deemed unworthy even to die within the gates of the holy city.
When the fullness of time had come, it begin to be rumored that the cross was not what men thought it, the place of the curse and shame—but of strength and honor and life and blessing. Then it was, that there burst upon the astonished world the bold announcement, "As for me, God forbid that I should boast about anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ." Greek and Roman, Jew and Gentile, prince, priest, philosopher, Rabbi, Stoic, Epicurean, Pharisee, barbarian, Scythian, bond and free, North, South, East and West—looked to one another with contemptuous impatience, indignant at the audacity of a few humble Christians, thus affronting and defying the "public opinion" of nations and ages; assailing the religions of earth with the cross as their only sword; striking down the idols with this as their only hammer; and with this, as their one lever, proposing to turn the world upside down.
From that day the cross became "a power" in the earth; a power which went forth, like the light, noiselessly yet irresistibly, smiting down all religions alike, all shrines alike, all altars alike; sparing no superstition nor philosophy; neither flattering priesthood, nor succumbing to politics; tolerating no error, yet refusing to draw the sword for truth; a superhuman power, yet wielded by human, not angelic hands; "the power of God unto salvation."
This power remains—in its mystery, its silence, its influence—it remains. The cross has not become obsolete; the preaching of the cross has not ceased to be powerful and effectual! There are men among us who would persuade us that, in this modern age, the cross is out of date and out of fashion, time-worn, not time-honored; that Golgotha witnessed only a common martyr scene; that the great sepulcher is but a Hebrew tomb; that the Christ of the future and the Christ of the past are widely different. But this shakes us not. It only leads us to clasp the cross more fervently, and to study it more profoundly, as embodying in itself that gospel which is at once the wisdom and the power of God.
The secret of its power lies in the amount of divine truth which it embodies. It is the summary of all the Bible; the epitome of Revelation. It is pre-eminently the voice of God; and, as such, conveying his power as well as uttering his wisdom. "The voice of the Lord is powerful; the voice of the Lord is full of majesty."
Yet is the cross not without its mysteries, or, as men would say, its puzzles, its contradictions. It illuminates, yet it darkens; it interprets, yet it confounds. It raises questions—but refuses to answer all that it has raised. It solves difficulties—but it creates them too. It locks as well as unlocks. It opens, and no man shuts; it shuts, and no man opens. It is life, yet it is death. It is honor, yet it is shame. It is wisdom—but also foolishness. It is both gain and loss; both pardon and condemnation; both strength and weakness; both joy and sorrow; both love and hatred; both medicine and poison; both hope and despair. It is grace, yet it is righteousness; it is law, yet it is deliverance from law; it is Christ's humiliation, yet it is Christ's exaltation; it is Satan's victory, yet it is Satan's defeat; it is the gate of heaven and the gate of hell.
Let us look at the cross as the divine proclamation and interpretation of the things of God; the key to his character, his word, his ways, his purposes; the clue to the intricacies of the world's and the Church's history.
I. The cross is the interpreter of MAN. By means of it God has brought out to view—what is in man. In the cross man has spoken out. He has exhibited himself, and made unconscious confession of his feelings, especially in reference to God—to his Being, his authority, his character, his law, his love. Though "the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God" (Acts 2:23) were at work in the dreadful transaction—yet it was man who erected the cross, and nailed the Son of God to it. Permitted by God to give vent to the feelings of his heart, and placed in circumstances the least likely to call forth anything but love, he thus expressed them—in hatred of God and of his incarnate Son. Reckoning the death of the cross the worst of all deaths—man deems it the fittest for the Son of God. Thus, the enmity of the natural heart speaks out, and man not only confesses publicly that he is a hater of God—but he takes pains to show the intensity of his hatred. No, he glories in his shame, crying aloud, "Crucify him! Crucify him!" "This is the heir, come let us kill him!" "Not this man—but Barabbas!" The cross thus interpreted man; drew the mask of pretended religion from his face; and exhibited a soul overflowing with the malignity of hell.
You say, "I don't hate God. I may be indifferent to him; he may not be in all my thoughts; but I don't hate him." Then, what does that cross mean?—Love, hatred, indifference—which? Does love demand the death of the loved One? Does indifference crucify its objects? Look at your hands! Are they not red with blood? Whose blood is that? The blood of God's own Son! No—neither love nor indifference shed that blood. It was hatred that did it! Enmity—the enmity of the carnal mind. You say that I have no right to judge you. I am not judging you. It is yon cross which judges you, and I am asking you to judge yourselves by it. It is yon cross that interprets your purposes, and reveals the thoughts and intents of your heart. Oh, what a revelation! Man hating God—and hating most, when God is loving most! Man acting as a devil! And taking the devil's side against God!
You say, "What have I to do with that cross, and what right have you to identify me with the crucifiers?" I say, "You are the man." Do not say, "Pilate did it, Caiaphas did it, the Jews did it, the Romans did it; I did not crucify Jesus." No—but you did, you did! You did it in your representatives—the civilized Roman and the religious Jew; and until you come out from the crucifying crowd, disown your representatives, and protest against the deed—you are truly guilty of that blood. But how am I to sever myself from these crucifiers, and protest against their crime? By believing in the name of the crucified One! For all unbelief is approval of the deed and identification with the murderers. Faith is man's protest against the deed; and the identification of himself, not only with the friends and disciples of the crucified One—but with the crucified One himself.
The cross, then, was the public declaration of man's hatred of God, man's rejection of his Son, and man's avowal of his belief that he needs no Savior. If anyone, then, denies the ungodliness of humanity, and pleads for the native goodness of the race, I ask, what means yon cross? Of what is it the revealer and interpreter? Of hatred or of love? Of good or of evil? Besides, in thisrejection of the Son of God, we have also man's estimate of him. He had been for thirty years despised and rejected; he had been valued and sold for thirty pieces of silver; a robber had been preferred to him; but at the cross, this estimate comes out more awfully; and there we see how man undervalued his person, his life, his blood, his word, his whole errand from the Father. "What do you think of Christ?" was God's question. Man's answer was, "Crucify Him!" Was not that as explicit as it was appalling?
As the cross reveals man's depravity, so does it exhibit his foolishness. His condemnation of him, in whom God delighted, shows this. His erection of the cross shows it still more. As if he could set at nothing Jehovah, and clear the earth of him who had come down as the Doer of his will! His attempt to cast shame upon the Lord of glory is like a child's effort to blot out the sun. And as his erection of the cross was the revelation of his folly, so has been his subsequent estimate of it, and of the gospel which has issued from it. He sees in it no wisdom—but only foolishness; and this ascription of foolishness to the cross is but the more decided proof of his own foolishness. He stumbles at this stumbling-stone. The cross is an offence to him, and the preaching of it folly.
My friend, what is that cross to you? Is it folly or wisdom? Do you see, in the way of salvation which it reveals, the excellency of wisdom, as well as the excellency of power and love? Has the cross, interpreted to you by the Holy Spirit, revealed your own heart as a hell of darkness and evil? Have you accepted its exposition of your character, and welcomed it also as salvation for the lost—reconciliation between you and God?
II. The cross is the interpreter of GOD. That "the Word was made flesh" is a blessed fact, fraught with grace to us. But incarnation is not the whole of the Bible; no, not half of it. It is not at Bethlehem—but at Golgotha, that we get the full interpretation of God's character. "Unto us a child is born" is the dawn. "It is finished" is the noon. The cross carries out and completes what the cradle began.
It is as the God of GRACE, that the cross reveals him. It is love, free-love, that shines out in its fullness there. "Hereby we perceive the love of God, because he laid down his life for us" (1 John 3:16). It is as "the Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious," that he shows himself. Nor could any demonstration of the sincerity of the divine love equal this. It is love stronger than shame, and suffering, and death—love immeasurable—love unquenchable. Truly, "God is love." In his treatment of the Son of God, man was putting that love to the test. In the cross he was putting it to the extremest test to which love could be put. But it stands them all. Man's most terrible tests but draws it forth the more copiously, and gives it new opportunities of displaying its riches. What more extreme test can man ask, or God give, than this?
But RIGHTEOUSNESS as well as grace is here. The God who spared not his own Son is "the righteous Lord who loves righteousness," and who "will by no means clear the guilty." We learn God's righteous character from the cross of Christ. For here is the righteous Son of God bearing the unrighteousness of men. How shall God both reward and punish at once; reward the righteous one, yet punish the substitute of the unrighteous? Surely righteousness will deal mildly with sin, when found laid on one so righteous, and so beloved for his righteousness? Will it mitigate the penalty, and spare the beloved one? No; it does not. It will not admit of the principle that sin is less sin, or less punishable, in such circumstances. Even when found lying on the most righteous and the most beloved of all, upon the very highest person in the universe—it must be dealt with as sin, and punished as truly as when found upon the common sinner. There must be no exemption, and no mitigation. How terrible is the righteousness of God, as interpreted by the cross of Christ! How infinitely holy, how gloriously perfect, how inexorably just—is the God who gave his Son! His love is no weakness, no good nature, no easy indifference to wrong and right. It is righteous love; and, as such, the cross proclaims it with loud and most unambiguous utterance. All the divine perfections are seen here in harmonious glory—mercy and truth—grace and justice—the perfection of holiness combined with the perfection of love. A righteous Judge and a righteous pardon! Righteousness forgiving, saving, justifying, glorifying; taking the side of law in condemning sin, yet taking the side of love in delivering the sinner himself!
O wondrous, glorious cross! Blessed interpreter of God to us! Scene of the great self-manifestation, the great revelation of the mind and heart of God! O cross of Christ, tell us more and more of this grace of God! Preach reconciliation to the alien, pardon to the guilty, assurance of God's free yet holy love to the dark and foolish soul! Speak to our hearts; speak to our consciences; pour in light; break our bonds; heal our wounds—all by means of your interpretation of the divine character, your revelation of the righteous love of God!
III. The cross is the interpreter of LAW. It tells us that the law is holy, and just, and good; that not one jot or tittle of it can pass away. The perfection of the law is the message from Calvary, even more awfully than from Sinai. The power of law, thevengeance of law, the inexorable tenacity of law, the grandeur of law, the unchangeable and absolute sternness of law—these are the announcements of the cross. Never was there so terrible a proclamation of law, and so vivid a commentary upon it, as from the cross of Christ. In the crosses of the two thieves there was the declaration of law—but not half so explicit as in the cross of the righteous Son of God. He who has most honored the law is the one whom the law refuses to let go; no, whom it compels to suffer most. All his life-time's honor of the law seems to go for nothing. It stands him in no stead, now that he has undertaken to answer for the sinner. There is no relaxation of law in his behalf. Law—unpitying, relentless, remorseless law—demands from him the double debt; first, the fulfillment of all its precepts, and then, the endurance of its penalties as if he had fulfilled not one of its statutes—but had broken them all.
Thus by the cross does God interpret the law to us; showing us, with divine expressiveness, what it is, and what it can do. It was law that condemned the Son of God. It was law that erected the cross, and nailed the Sin-bearer to it. It was law that afflicted him and put him to grief. It was law that shed his innocent blood. Surely, of all the many illustrations and interpretations which law has received in the world's history, there is none like this.
By the cross does God protest against all attempts to destroy or dilute, to mutilate or modify the law. Man thinks it too strict, too broad; no, affirms that Christ came to mitigate it, and to give us a salvation founded on a modified law, and obtained by our obedience to such a law. God, in the cross of Christ, says, I do not think so. See yon cross, and my Son upon it, bearing the law's penalty. Would I have made him to do so, had it been too strict? Did he obey too much? Did he suffer too heavily? Thus in the cross God upholds the law as well as expounds it; protesting against the idea that the gospel is only the law lowered and relaxed, so as to suit our fallen state of being; and proclaiming to us a gospel founded upon a fulfilled, an unmodified, an unchangeable law.
O man, read the divine comment on the law as given on the cross, and learn what sin is, and what righteousness is. Man, in erecting that cross, was no doubt making a mock both at law and at sin; he was refusing the love of God as well as the law of God; he was, like Cain, rejecting the sin-offering, and saying, "I need it not." But God was exhibiting to us the reality and the darkness of sin. In the cross God was condemning sin, and showing how different his estimate of it was from that of man. And there is nothing so fitted to convince, to overawe, to overwhelm the sinner as the sight of that cross. "They shall look on me whom they have pierced, and mourn." It is the sight of the cross that brings a man down to the dust; that produces genuine repentance—godly sorrow, such as law alone could not accomplish. Look, then, and be smitten to the heart by the spectacle of the Lamb of God on the tree, wounded for our transgressions, bruised for our iniquities; "made under the law;" enduring the curse of the law, that from that curse we might be redeemed.
IV. The cross interprets SIN. As the interpreter of law, it is necessarily the interpreter of sin; for as "by the law is the knowledge of sin," so that which expounds the law must also discover sin. The cross took up the ten commandments, and on each of their "You shalls" and "You shall nots," flung such a new and divine light, that sin, in all its hideousness of nature, and minuteness of detail, stood out to view, as it never did before, "the abominable thing" which Jehovah hates. Sin was on the earth before Sinai's thunder awoke the desert and shook the camp of Israel. But it was hidden, or but dimly seen. As the flare sent up at midnight shows the whole ground and camp—so did the blaze of Sinai light up the law and discover sin. There was sin upon the earth before Christ died. But it was, with all the illumination of Sinai—but imperfectly known. As the lightning of heaven, more potent and penetrating than the most brilliant flare, bursting down at midnight on some plain or valley, lights up the landscape, far and near—so did the heavenly glory of the cross unfold, in dreadful vividness and infinite detail, "the exceeding sinfulness of sin."
It showed that sin was no trifle which God would overlook; that the curse was no mere threat which God could depart from, when it suited him. It showed that the standard of sin was no sliding scale, to be raised or lowered at pleasure; that the punishment of sin was no arbitrary infliction; and that its pardon was not the expression of divine indifference to its evil. It showed that sin was no variable or uncertain thing; but fixed and precise; a thing to which God was pointing his finger and saying, I hate that, and that, and that. It showed that the wages of sin is death; that the soul that sins must die; that sin and its fruits and penalties are certainties, absolute certainties, before which heaven and earth must pass away. It showed that sin is no mere misfortune, or disease; but guilt, which must go before the Judge, and receive judicial doom at his hand. It showed all these, when it showed us our divine Substitute, dying the Just for the unjust; God lowering none of his demands, nor abating anything of his wrath, even in the case of his beloved Son.
The cross showed us, moreover, that, the essence of sin is hatred of God; and that man is, by nature, just what the apostle calls him—a "hater of God" (Romans 1:30). The law had told us but the one half of this. In saying, 'You shall love the Lord your God', it pointed to sin as the lack of love. But that was all. The cross goes farther than this, and shows us sin as enmity to God, and man as a murderer of the Lord of glory. Is not this a discovery of the malignity of sin, such as had never been imagined before? O what must man be, when he can hate, condemn, mock, scourge, spit upon, crucify, the Lamb of God—when coming to him clothed in love, and with the garments of salvation? And what must sin be, when, in order to expiate it, the Lord of glory must die upon the tree—an outcast, a criminal, a curse, before God and man, before earth and heaven!
V. The cross interprets the GOSPEL. That good news was on its way to us, was evident from the moment that Mary brought forth her first-born, and, by divine premonition, called his name "Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins." Good will to men was then proclaimed. But the Substitute had then only commenced his mission of grace. Step by step the good news was unfolded, as he passed over our earth, doing the deeds and speaking the words of love. But not until the cross is erected, and the blood is shed, and the life is taken, do we fully learn how it is that his work is so precious, and that the tidings concerning it furnish so glorious a gospel.
The gospel is good news concerning a divine Sin-bearer; concerning that death which is everlasting life to us; concerning that blood which purges the conscience from dead works, cleansing sin, and reconciling us to God. The cross is reconciliation between us and God, and that is good news. The cross is the bruising of the heel of the woman's seed, and the bruising of the serpent's head; and that is good news. The cross is the solution of every question raised by law and righteousness, by God or by conscience—the righteous and honorable settlement of every claim that can be made against the sinner. And that is good news. The cross is the appointed meeting-place between the sinner and God, where the ambassadors of peace take their stand, beseeching the wanderer to turn and live, the rebel to be reconciled to God! There the covenant of reconciliation was sealed; there peace was made; there the debt was paid; there the ransom was given. And are not these glad tidings of great joy?
VI. The cross interprets SERVICE. We are redeemed that we may obey. We are set free that we may serve—even as God spoke to Pharaoh, "Let my people go, that they may serve me." But the cross defines the service, and shows us its nature. It is the service of love and liberty; yet it is also the service of reproach, and shame, and tribulation. We are crucified with Christ! And this brings out our position as saints. We are crucified followers of a crucified Lord. We are crucified to the world, and the world to us, by the cross of Christ. But besides this, we have to take up our cross, and bear it. It is not his cross we bear. None but he could bear it. It is a cross of our own; calling us to self-denial, flesh-denial, and world-denial; pointing out to us a path of humiliation, trial, toil, weakness, reproach, such as our Master trod. Yes; it is a cross of our own that we are to bear; not, indeed, of our own making or seeking—for self-made, self-sought crosses are evil, not good—but still a cross of our own. There is a personal cross for each Christian, which we are to take up and bear; a cross which is the true badge of discipleship, the genuine mark of authentic service. What he bore for us is done; it cannot be borne over again; the cross of Christ is not for any but himself to carry. But as he had a cross to bear for us, so have we a cross to bear for him, and "for his body's sake, which is the Church."
"Follow me," Jesus says; and we cannot but yield to the almighty voice. He draws us out of the world—and we follow him. He leads us in at the strait gate—and we follow him. He guides us along the narrow way—and we follow him—our cross upon our shoulder and the crown before our eye. Smoothness, and brightness, and greenness, are not the features of the narrow way; but rather thorns and briars, darkness and dust, and ruggedness, all along; fightings without, and fears within. The road to Heaven is not so pleasant, and comfortable, and easy, and flowery—as many dream. It is not a bright, sunny, flowery path. It is not paved with triumph—though it is to end in victory. The termination is glory, honor, and immortality; but on the way there is the thorn in the flesh, the sackcloth, and the cross. Recompense yonder—but labor here! Rest yonder—but weariness here! Joy and security yonder—but here endurance and watchfulness—the race, the battle, the burden, the stumbling-block, and ofttimes the heavy heart.
In entering Christ's service, let us, then, count the cost. In following him, let us not shrink from the cross. It was his badge of service for us; let us accept it as ours for him.
To the world the cross is an offence and a stumbling-block. It is so in two ways. It makes those, who have taken it up, objects of dislike to others; and it is itself an object of dislike to these others. Thus while it unites the saints—it divides them from the world. It is the banner round which the former rally and gather it is the mark against which the arrows of the latter are turned. For there are "enemies of the cross of Christ," and enemies of Christ himself. Of them the apostle says, "their end is destruction." Thus the cross is both life and death, salvation and destruction. It is the golden scepter; it is the iron rod. It is the Shepherd's staff of love; it is the Avenger's sword of fire. It is the tree of life and cup of blessing; it is the cup of the wine of the wrath of God.

O enemy of the cross of Christ, know your dreadful doom. Do not take refuge in fancied neutrality; reasoning with yourself that because you are not a scoffer, nor a profligate, you are not an enemy of Christ. Remember that it is written, "He who is not for me, is against me;" and that, "The friendship of the world is enmity with God." That cross shall be a witness against you, in the day when the crucified One returns as Judge and King! The early Christians had a tradition among themselves, that the cross was to be the sign of his coming; appearing in the heavens, as the herald of his advent. Whether this is to be the case or not—the cross in that day will be the object of terror to its enemies. They would not be saved by it—and they shall perish by it! They would not take its pardon—they must bear its condemnation. The love, which it so long proclaimed—shall then be turned into wrath. The glorious light beaming forth from it, to light them to the kingdom of light, shall then become darkness; their sun shall set, no more to rise; their night shall begin—the long, eternal night, which has no dawn in prospect, and no star to break its gloom.