Our confidence is not in the ability we have to keep God’s law but rather in the life-giving and heart-transforming grace of the one who has drawn us to himself and has the power to draw us to one another. When we live with this confidence, we look at the difficulties of our relationships not so much as hassles to be endured, but as opportunities to enter into an even deeper experience of the rescuing, transforming, forgiving, empowering grace of Jesus, the one who died for us and is always with us.
One of the primary laws of human life is that you become like what you worship; what’s more, you reflect what you worship not only back to the object itself but also outward to the world around. Those who worship money increasingly define themselves in terms of it and increasingly treat other people as creditors, debtors, partners, or customers rather than as human beings. Those who worship sex define themselves in terms of it ( their preferences, their practices, their past histories) and increasingly treat other people as actual or potential sexual objects. Those who worship power define themselves in terms of it and treat other people as collaborators, competitors,or pawns. these and many other forms of idolatry combine in a thousand ways, all of them damaging to the image bearing quality of the people concerned and of those whose lives they touch. My suggestion is that it is possible for human beings so to continue down this road, so to refuse all whispering of good news, all glimmers of the true light, all promptings to turn and go the other way, all signposts to the love of god, that after death, they become at last, by their own effective choice, beings that once were human but now are not, creatures that have ceased to bear the divine image at all.
The gospel tells me that there is not only hope in my trials, but purpose to them- This is because the gospel teaches me that God’s great goal is not superficial, circumstantial happiness, but joyful holiness. So I can trust that He is using my trials and struggles to change and transform me, to grow my faith, and sanctify my heart. Trials are not the absence of His love, but a great display of His love. And because the gospel reminds me of this devastating love of God, I know that it is impossible for him to allow anything in my life that is not an aspect of His love. So I can pray for God to do the miraculous, but be absolutely at ease if he doesn’t, because I trust that His plan for my life is brought in love. Only the gospel allows me to go through difficulties and still be a rest in my soul.
Dear Heavenly Father,
Give me grace to trust you more.
Help me to see how good your will is even when it conflicts with mine.
Use my life to advance your Kingdom and bring you glory.
Increase my faith.
Create in me a pure heart and a contrite spirit.
Teach me to submit to your providence in all things.
In Jesus’ name,
Lord, high and holy, meek and lowly,
Thou has brought me to the valley of vision,
where I live in the depths but see thee in the heights;
hemmed in by mountains of sin I behold
Let me learn by paradox
that the way down is the way up,
that to be low is to be high,
that the broken heart is the healed heart,
that the contrite spirit is the rejoicing spirit,
that the repenting soul is the victorious soul,
that to have nothing is to possess all,
that to bear the cross is to wear the crown,
that to give is to receive,
that the valley is the place of vision.
Lord, in the daytime stars can be seen from deepest wells,
and the deeper the wells the brighter
thy stars shine;
Let me find thy light in my darkness,
Thy life in my death,
that every good work or thought found in me
thy joy in my sorrow,
thy grace in my sin,
thy riches in my poverty
thy glory in my valley.
I’ve been asking the wrong question. It wasn’t “Why?” It was “Who?” It’s to pursue God and not pursue answers. God’s presence is enough to sustain us.
Sanctification is the work of God’s free grace, whereby we are renewed in the whole man after the image of God, and are enabled more and more to die unto sin, and live unto righteousness.
God initiated the impossible (salvation for sinners) through the impossible (pregnant virgin) confirming that nothing is impossible for Him.
The Deepest Level of Jesus’ Suffering on the Cross
This is the best sermon I have heard on the cross and I have written my notes for you to read. It’s incredibly powerful and please listen to it. Why are there four gospel accounts of the crucifixion with four different focuses? What would we be missing if Mark wasn’t in the Bible? So many preachers talk about the physical aspects of the crucifixion. It is painful but nothing as excruciating as the separation from God on the cross. There is a shock value of violence but here Mark is restrained from talking about violence. As awful as the physical suffering of Jesus was, it was the least of Jesus’ pain. The other ways that Jesus suffered were described in much more detail, thus making it much more severe. He suffers at the hands of his friends, his enemies, his God, and our hands.
The deepest level of his suffering was at the hands of His God. He could have broken the ropes that bound him at any time. He could have brought down fire from the sky or demanded that God would rescue Him and send angels down.
The darkness that descends is the judgment of God (ex. plague of darkness in Egypt). There is also the cry “My God, my God why have you forsaken me?” Of all the things that Jesus was experiencing, that Jesus was enduring, which was the worst? The one that made him finally cry out in agony? Not the betrayal, the abandonment, the insults, the injustice, the physical pain. It was being forsaken by God. As terrible as the other things were, they pale into insignificance.
If a classmate came up and said to me, I never want to see you again or talk to you again, it would bother me. But if my parents said that, I would be devastated. I’ve known my parents for 20 years. Some of you reading this are around the same age bracket. This is a mere couple decades compared to an eternity. God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit have loved each other from eternity. Imagine your parents turning their face away and saying I don’t know you. The longer the love is the deeper the love, the greater the pain is at its love. Jesus and the father have loved each other from eternity, infinitely long. Jesus and the father have loved each other from eternity, infinitely long. They made the world together. Jesus lost an absolutely perfect love. His highest prayer for his disciples was that they might be one as He and the father are one. That oneness was gone when God turned his face away. This is the worst possible experience a human being can have. Jesus was willing to be separated from the love that He has known for us…so that we will never be separated from the love of God.
Jesus endured all of this for us. He was cursed by God to free us from the curse of God. He entered into the darkness so we would never have to know hell from the inside. He was forsaken by God so that God will never forsake us. He was despised, humiliated, beaten. He endured all the dimensions of hell on that cross. Everything he endured in Mark 14-15 is what we deserve for our rebellion. Jesus endured it so that we would never have to. The cross teaches us that we are so sinful, lost, broken, disobedient, and evil that Jesus had to endure this for us. It was our sin that held him there. It is only when you understand the magnitude of Jesus’ suffering, when you understand the magnitude of your sin. Even more, the cross teaches us that we are so loved and cherished by God that Jesus willingly died for you. Even more than our sin, it was the love of Jesus that held him to the cross. The love that has now come into our live, fills us, and consumes us.