Friday, April 6, 2007

The Love of God & The Cross of Christ

Amazing love! How can it be
That Thou, my God,
should die for me!
Charles Wesley
God shows His love for us
in that while we were still sinners,
Christ died for us.
Romans 5:8
As this Good Friday comes to a close, I want us to look at the other side of Christ's cross. You may have wondered where the love was in the last post. "How can we talk about the cross and not talk about love?!?," you might be thinking. But the reality is that you cannot understand the love of God until you first understand the wrath of God. The first side of the cross tells us what happened there on that Friday: God judged sin by pouring out His wrath on His Son. The second side of the cross, to which we now turn, tells us why that happened: God judged sin because He loves sinners! You cannot see how much God loves you until you see how much you don't deserve it.
You Didn't Deserve the Cross
I've heard it said that Jesus died for us because we are so valuable to Him. The cross, according to this view, shows how much you & I are worth to God. Is that true? Does Jesus love us because we're so valuable? No! And to say such shows a complete misunderstanding of grace. That kind of love is easy. "I love you because you mean a lot to me"...anyone can do that! The truth is that we are unworthy of this love. Read Romans 5:7-8 and you'll see exactly what I mean. The cross reveals a love for the unlovable... a love for the undeserving... a love for enemies! So get this down: The love shown on the cross isn't an EASY love.
In our society, we usually associate "love" with an emotion. So when we hear about God's love for us, we think, "How nice. God has feelings for me. Jesus likes me." If that's all it is, then that's a cheap love. It isn't simply a feeling or a word -- that junk is for teenagers! Love is costly; it sacrifices; it gives. The cross reveals this kind of love. So get this down as well: The love shown on the cross isn't a CHEAP love. It cost the Father His Son, and it cost the Son His life!
Allow me to point out two aspects (though there are millions!) of this love revealed on the cross.
1) A Forgiving Love = Luke 23:34 records that Jesus prayed, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do" as He hung on the cross. He prayed this for those soldiers who mocked Him. He prayed this for the crowd that yelled, "Crucify Him! Crucify Him!" He prayed this for those thieves beside Him. He prayed this even for Pilate who presided over His unjust trial. God's love is a forgiving love! It can pardon a selfish governor, a dirty crook, an angry crowd, a cruel soldier, and even a ______ you. What are your sins? Is it lying, cheating, stealing, murder, adultery, gossip, disobeying parents, lustful thoughts? No matter what the sin, the love of God in the cross of Christ offers you forgiveness. "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9).
2) An Everlasting Love = Luke 23:39-43 zooms in on the conversation between Jesus and the two thieves on their crosses. One crimnal is hateful, devoting some of his last breathes to cursing Christ. The other criminal is respectful and repentant. Jesus offered both forgiveness, but only one received it. Here's how he received it:
>a. He Admitted He Was a Sinner: Admit that you are the one who deserved the cross. Understand that it was you who deserved God's wrath.
>b. He Confessed Jesus Was Sinless: Examine Jesus' life & death and confess that He did no wrong, He perfectly kept the Law of God, and He did not deserve the cross. He was killed so that we, the guilty, might go free!
>c. Ask for Salvation: If you admit that you need a Savior and then confess that Jesus can save you, then ask Jesus to do it! It is really that simple.
I need to warn you here that both criminals asked Jesus for salvation but only one received it (Luke 23:39 & 40). That is scary. That means that you can see Jesus on the cross and ask Him for salvation and still not get it! That truth should terrify you. How can you meet Jesus at the cross, ask Him for salvation, & still not get it?!
First, this criminal wasn't repentant. He wasn't truly sorry for his sin. He didn't hate his sin. Maybe you have asked Christ to save you, but you never received it because you love your sins. You have no desire to give them up and follow Jesus. You are in a very dangerous position, friend.
Second, this criminal wasn't asking for the salvation that Jesus was offering. He just wanted physical deliverance. "Jesus, get me down from this cross. Get me out of the mess I'm in." He wanted salvation for his body & not for his soul. Maybe you've asked for the wrong salvation! You want Jesus to fix your problems. You want Jesus to make you look better in front of friends & family. You want Jesus as a ticket to heaven. That IS NOT what Jesus offers. He offers to save your soul from the wickedness of sin. He offers to deliver you from the kingdom of darkness to His kingdom of light.
The second thief got it. He, by the work of the Holy Spirit, understood this stuff. (If you have absolutely no idea what I'm talking about, that should scare you.) The second thief saw that he deserved God's wrath, saw that Jesus was offering love, and he asked to be a part of this glorious kingdom! That thief is still experiencing God's precious love this very moment because it isn't just for today, it's for all eternity! The love that is offered to you by Jesus' cross today is a love that will never end. During this life, Christ's love will sustain and strengthen you. And when this life is over, Christ's love will carry you from death's final pains to heaven's blissful shore!
That hideous, blood-stained cross reveals God's amazing love to you. Can you see it? If you can, then you recognize that this kind of love demands your soul, your life, your ALL. Anything short of that is asking for the wrong salvation.
I love Thee because Thou hast first loved me,
And purchased my pardon on Calvary's tree;
I love Thee for wearing the thorns on Thy brow;
If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, 'tis now.

No comments: