Monday, April 5, 2010

Seven Lessons from the Cross (Part two)

Lesson 4: Direct the hard questions to God. At Calvary Jesus asks one of the most heart-wrenching questions ever recorded, "God, why have You forsaken Me?" These words are also found in Psalm 22:1-3 (TM), where David poured out his soul in despair, asking God, "Why did you dump me… Are you indifferent?" Ever felt like that?

The Bible says that at Calvary God made Jesus "who knew no sin, to be sin… so… we might become the righteousness of God in Him" (2 Corinthians 5:21 NASB). In order to break sin's hold on us and make salvation possible, Jesus underwent a temporary separation from His Father. At that precise moment He felt "Godforsaken."

If you've ever felt overwhelmed and abandoned, you know from experience that there's not another living soul who has a satisfactory answer to your "Why?" With the best of intentions our loved ones can only go so far. Only God can pour His healing balm into your breaking heart and help you make sense (or at least accept) what's happening.

That's why you need to go to Him for your answers.But here's the flip side to directing the tough questions to God - you must be willing to accept His answer and do what He says. The Bible says, "God has given us… His promise and His oath" (Hebrews 6:18 NLT), so even if you don't get the answer you want, you can rest assured He hears you. You can also be certain of something else: the One who makes "everything… work together for… good" (Romans 8:28 NLT) always sends the answer that's in your best interests. So you can trust Him!

Lesson 5:
Acknowledge your humanity. Combine the torment of being crucified in the intense Judean heat with the loss of bodily fluids, and you can understand why Jesus was thirsty. However, the Bible says that when they offered Him water containing "a mild painkiller… He wouldn't take it" (Mark 15:23 TM). Why? Because it would have dulled His senses and He wanted to stay alert.

Make no mistake, Jesus could have summoned a host of angels to deliver Him. But He chose to die for our sins. He said, "No one takes My life… I give it up willingly!" (John 10;18 CEV). This also explains why John wrote: "Jesus, seeing… everything had been completed" (He fulfilled every prophesy concerning His crucifixion) said "I'm thirsty!" His next statement would be so history changing, that He wanted His voice to be loud and clear: "It is finished!" When you're in a dark valley like Jesus was that day, it can cloud your thinking and make you lose perspective - unless you voice your needs to those around you. By acknowledging His physical thirst, Jesus reminded each of us that there are times when we're not self-sufficient; when we need help from others. Why else would Paul write: "Bear one another's burdens, and… fulfill the law of Christ" (Galatians 6:2 NASB)?

David writes: "As a father has compassion on his children… the Lord… remembers that we are dust" (Psalm 103:13-14 NIV). God remembers we are just human - we're the ones who forget! The bottom line is, Jesus was humble enough to acknowledge His humanity, and we need to learn to do the same.

Lesson 6: You can add nothing to it. In the Old Testament tabernacle there were different items of furniture, such as the table of showbread representing our need for fellowship, the lampstand representing our need for light and understanding, etc. But there were no chairs. Why? The priest's work was never finished! He couldn't sit down.

But after Jesus cried, "It is finished," He returned to heaven and sat down at the right hand of His Father - the work of redemption was complete! The Greek words for "It is finished" literally mean "paid in full." It's what folks in those days wrote across a receipt when the bill was paid in full. Christ's death covers your every sin - from the cradle to the grave. And to offer your good works as partial payment, insults God.You can't add to a finished work!

Imagine seeing a finely crafted coffee table sitting in a carpentry shop ready for delivery. You reach for a wood plane and say, "It's good, but not good enough, let me show you." The master carpenter immediately steps in and says, "No, you'll ruin it!" Or imagine receiving a very expensive gift from a loved one. Immediately you pull out a $5 bill and say, "Here, let me help you with the cost." No, the smaller the gift the greater the offense. You're robbing the giver of his joy and the sacrifice of its worth. "This is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God - not by works, so that no one can boast" (Ephesians 2:8-9 NIV).

Saving faith simply means trusting only in a finished work of Christ!

Lesson 7: Release it to God. Some of the issues we struggle with seem to be never-ending; like money worries, family problems and health concerns. Even when we get a break and should be resting, we sit up anticipating the worst, wondering, "How long, Lord?"

The only way to have real peace is to commit the outcome to God. When Jesus cried, "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit," it wasn't a cry of defeat or resignation. No, it was an act of trust that meant surrendering control to the Father. The atoning blood had been shed, salvation's work was finally complete.

But before Jesus could pray that prayer, He first had to pray, "Not My will, but Yours be done" Luke 22:42 NIV). In other words, "Father, I release the outcome to You! "In Philippians 3:10 Paul wrote, "I want… to know Christ and the power that raised Him to life… to suffer and die as He did… that… I… may be raised to life" (CEV).

We all want to rule and reign with Christ some day, we just don't want to submit our will to His today. But it doesn't work like that. Jack Hayford writes: "The charted course… always has been… 'the way of the cross.' The cross not only calls us to Jesus, it also calls us to a life, to the wisdom of God's ways in all our relationships and pursuits… to the pattern of Jesus… in the face of our deepest struggles." So whatever you're wrestling with today, release it to God once and for all. When you do you'll experience His peace, and you won't be disappointed with the outcome.