|The Sacrifice Of a Loving God|
|He Hit Rock Bottom On A Cross!||96||The Greatest Love Story||102|
|He Was Born To Die!||97||"Whosoever" Includes All!||103|
|The Cross Appeased God's Wrath||98||A New Quality Of Life||104|
|The Cross Satisfied God's Justice||99||Discussion Questions||105|
|The Cross Demonstrated God's Love||100||Discussion Questions (Continued)||106|
|The Golden Text Of Scripture||101|
2 Corinthians 5:14-21
He Hit Rock Bottom On A Cross!
When God identified with mankind, in the person of Jesus, He identified at the lowest level. Not only did Jesus identify with sinners in life, but Jesus identified with sinners in his very death. "He took man's sin as His own and died as a malefactor on a cross. The visitation meant identification, and the identification meant not identification with man at the top, becoming the best of men, but becoming the worst of men–a sinner, dying between sinners. 'He became sin for us.' That identification was gradual, beginning at inner renunciation of being equal with God, coming in a virgin's womb, and going deeper at every step until He hit rock bottom on a cross: 'My God, why hast Thou forsaken me?'" (Word Became Flesh; – E. Stanley Jones; pg. 153)
Just as mankind (in the person of Adam) freely chose to disobey the Father, so the second Adam, Jesus Christ, freely chose to obey the Father.
He freely chose to come to earth to give His life a ransom for sinners, and to destroy the devil's works (1 John 3:8). Throughout Jesus' earthly ministry, Jesus often said, "My hour has not yet come." What did He mean? He meant that God's appointed time for Him to die a redemptive death had not yet come. Just before His crucifixion, Jesus prayed, "Father, the time has come, Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you." (John 17:1)
Said Jesus, "No man takes my life from me; I lay it down of my own accord." Jesus willingly gave his life for the sins of the world.
As Jesus stood before Pilate, Pilate said to Jesus: "Don't you realize that I have the power to release you or to crucify you?" Then Jesus said, "You would have no power at all over me unless it were given to you from above." (John 19:10-11 Living Bible)
Jesus' death was not an accident of history or a mere incident of human cruelty. Rather, Jesus' death was the result of God's grace and of Jesus' free choice.
He could have called ten thousand angels to rescue Him from the cross, but instead He died alone for you and me!
The death of Christ was an absolute necessity, if mankind was to be saved from sin and from hell! Christ's death on the Cross (a) appeased God's wrath, (b) satisfied God's justice, (c) demonstrated God's love.
"O God, was ever such love manifested as on mount Calvary! You sacrificed all in order to save all! I will glory in 'the old rugged cross'!"
AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: Because Jesus willingly laid down His own life for me, I will gladly lay down my self-will for Jesus!
1 Corinthians 1:20-25
He Was Born To Die!
A painter once painted a picture of the boy Jesus in Joseph's carpenter shop. Mary is looking on as Jesus is working with Joseph. The sun is just going down over the Palestinian hills; and as Jesus is building an oxen yoke, He is crossing two boards. The crossing of the boards forms a long shadow that is in the shape of a cross. Upon seeing this shadow of a cross on the floor of the carpenter shop, a sudden look of fright and sadness comes over the face of Mary–as if Mary can see into Jesus' future destiny on a cross!
Of course, we know that this painting is only the creation of an artist's mind. There is nothing in the Gospels which indicates that Mary knew ahead of time that Jesus would die on a cross. However, the Gospels do indicate that, figuratively speaking, the shadow of the cross was cast across the pathway of Jesus, during His entire ministry before He finally died upon the Cross.
Jesus was born to die–to die a death that would enable millions to live! At the heart of Jesus' ministry was a cross! Notes William Sangster, "Those devils and weaklings who met at Calvary would have said, 'We did it.' He cries from His Cross: 'I did it! It is finished!' If they were right, the Cross would be a gibbet, a symbol of shame, something to hide and speak of only by compulsion and with bated breath. In point of fact, we placard it to all the world. No steeple so high that it will not bear it; no point of earth but is honoured to be the stump of His Cross: it lies in a cache on the summit of Everest. It is His message, not theirs, which it bears at the last. That free and evil men sought and secured His death cannot alter the fact that He knew what they were doing– and let them do it. You cannot martyr God… Hold in mind… who it was who hung and suffered there, and you will not think of it as martyrdom.
"If He was man, it was murder; if He was God, it was an offering.
"If He was man, it was martyrdom; if He was God, it was sacrifice.
"If He was man, they took His life from Him; if He was God, He laid down his life freely.
"If He was man, we must stand up and take our hats off; if He was God, we must fall down and give Him our hearts." (Daily Readings; pg. 253)
"In the cross of Christ I glory, Towering o'er the wrecks of time; All the light of sacred story Gathers round its head sublime."
"God, the symbol of shame has been transformed by your Son into the symbol of glory; earth's darkest day has become earth's brightest day; life's greatest tragedy has become life's greatest triumph! I will henceforth glory in the Cross! Amen."
AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: Jesus died that I might live; I will live that others might not die–spiritually!
Isaiah 53:4-12; Romans 5:9
The Cross Appeased God's Wrath
On the Cross, Jesus said, "It is finished." What did He mean? Only eternity will fully reveal the meaning of that phrase. Jesus did not mean by this phrase "the work of human cruelty is done." Jesus was saying, "The work of reconciliation and salvation has been accomplished for mankind." The death of Jesus accomplished certain important things.
First, the Cross appeased God's wrath. In speaking often of God's love, we sometimes forget the fact of God's wrath. Both the Old and New Testaments picture God as a God of love, but the Bible also speaks of God's wrath against sin and evil. Both John the Baptist and Jesus spoke of 'the wrath to come' (Matthew 3:7). John wrote in his Gospel: "He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him." (John 3:36) James declares that the one who makes himself a friend of the evil world also makes himself 'the enemy of God' (James 4:4). Those who live by the passions of their flesh are 'children of wrath,' says Paul (Ephesians 2:3). The wrath of God will come upon the 'sons of disobedience.' (Ephesians 5:5-6)
God is a God of love, but His love demands that His own holiness be honored and that sin, which offends God's holiness, be punished. However, unlike the wrath of the pagan gods, there is no irrational passion in God. God's wrath is controlled, directed, and tempered by God's love. Wrath and love are compatible in God's nature. He hates sin but He loves the child of sin. "There is a divine wrath, but if we may put it this way, it is always exercised with a certain tenderness. Even when He is angry with man's sin God loves man and is concerned for his well-being in the fullest sense. There is a divine love, but it is not a careless sentimentality indifferent to the moral integrity of the loved ones. Rather it is a love which is a purifying fire, blazing against everything that hinders the loved ones from being the very best that they can be." (The Apostolic Preaching of the Cross; Leon Mooris; pg. 176)
Jesus became sin for us. He bore our sins in His own body on the cross. On the cross Jesus cried out: "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" Jesus represented all the sins of all the world when He was on the cross. God laid on Him the iniquity of us all. Because Jesus became sin, God could not look upon Jesus, for God cannot look upon sin. "Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look on iniquity." (Habakkuk 1:13) Jesus took God's wrath against sin upon Himself, by becoming the perfect sacrifice for sin. Thus, Jesus' death saved mankind from God's just wrath.
"Jesus, thank you for honoring God's holiness and, at the same time, being my shield against God's just wrath. Thank you for bearing my sins in your body on the Cross. Amen."
AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: The more God the Father loves His children, the more He hates the sins of His children.
Romans 5:9-21; Romans 8:33,34; 1 Peter 3:18
The Cross Satisfied God's Justice
Imagine the following: Court Room Scene, You standing before Judge.
– You are guilty of a great crime. You cannot pay for it except by death, for this crime holds the death penalty.
– A friend of yours offers to take your just penalty for you–to die in your place.
Justice has been met, insofar as the law is concerned
Double punishment for one crime would be unjust (so if your friend dies, you don't need to die for your crime).
If the truly guilty one is willing to accept the substitutionary offering of the friend, then the punishment for the crime has been met and the guilty one is free and declared henceforth clear and innocent (as far as the just requirements of the law are concerned).
Of course, in real life, such a thing would not likely take place. But this simple analogy speaks to the issue of God's justice.
So serious is sin that, in the process of punishing sin, the sinner would also be destroyed. The wage of sin is death for the sinner. The Cross is not only the answer to appeasing God's wrath toward sin, but also the answer to saving the sinner from suffering the just penalty for sin which is death.
This is a moral universe, where right must be rewarded and wrong must be punished. If God could forgive the guilty one by a mere 'wink of the eye,' then God would no longer be just and the universe would no longer be a moral, safe, and reliable place to live. All basis for morality (right and wrong) would then be destroyed.
God wanted to save mankind, but a universe run by justice and by a just God must appropriately punish sin. The wage of sin is death; therefore, the sinning one must die. If God were to remain just in His character, He could not allow sin to go unpunished. The Cross is the answer to this moral dilemma. If God should die on a cross, then sin would be justly punished through that substitutionary death, and yet the sinner himself could be saved. The Cross allowed God–the great Judge of the universe–to remain just in his punishment of sin and yet merciful and loving in his treatment of the sinner himself. God, because of the Cross, can be both just and the justifier of the ungodly. Jesus took the penalty for man's sins so that man could be forgiven justly.
"Jesus, thank you for dying on the Cross, thus allowing God to maintain justice in His character, and, at the same time, allowing God to exercise kindness in His treatment towards sinners like me. Amen."
AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: I am free from the penalty of sin, not free to continue sinning, but free to serve the Saviour!
John 3:16; Romans 15:13; Romans 5:8
The Cross Demonstrated God's Love
We have noted that the cross appeased God's wrath and satisfied God's justice. Concerning the latter, it is important to realize that one cannot make himself just before God by any good thing that he can do (any more than a murderer can do anything to justify or clear himself from his crime). Wrote the famous Charles Spurgeon: "Christ has made a complete atonement; and there is none other plan by which sinners can be made at one with God, except by Jesus' precious blood. I may make sacrifices; I may mortify my body; I may be baptized; I may receive sacraments; I may pray until my knees grow hard with kneeling; I may read devout words until I know them by heart; I may celebrate masses; I may worship in one language or in fifty languages; but I can never be at one with God, except by blood; and that blood, 'the precious blood of Christ.'" (The Passion and Death of Christ; pg. 36)
Thirdly, the cross demonstrated God's love. The cross on Calvary is the unveiling of the cross which has eternally been on the heart of God! The cross is the greatest of all revelations concerning God. For the revealed cross in history is the result of the hidden cross on the heart of God! The cross shows that at the heart of the universe is self-giving, sacrificial love. God is love and the cross on Mount Calvary gives concrete expression to that truth. Because God is suffering love, the cross is an absolute necessity. Only as man could see Jesus on the cross of Calvary could man see the Christ of the ages who has always borne a cross in His heart!
Jesus reveals the nature of God. Everything Jesus was, God has always been. When Jesus was suffering on the cross, God was suffering on the cross!
Jesus' suffering on the cross for sin shows that God suffers for sin. God hurts in our hurts, He bleeds when we bleed, He shares our guilt. "Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows." (Isaiah 53:4)
Jesus I love for humanity was supremely expressed when He suffered for man's sin. "But God commendeth His love for us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." (Romans 5:8)
John 3:16 condenses the deep and marvelous truths of redemption (as someone pointed out):
"God"……………………………. greatest lover
"So loved"……………………….. greatest degree
"The world"………………………. greatest number
"That He gave"……………………. greatest act
"His only begotten Son"……………. greatest gift
"That whosoever"………………….. greatest invitation
"Believeth"………………………. greatest simplicity
"In Him"…………………………. greatest person
"Should not perish"……………….. greatest deliverance
"But"……………………………. greatest difference
"Have"…………………………… greatest certainty
"Everlasting life"………………… greatest possession
"'Jesus, lover of my soul, let me to thy bosom fly.' Looking at the Cross, I am looking at the very heart of God! Jesus, the Cross is thy magnet to draw me to God!"
AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: The 'precious blood of Christ' is God's most precious gift to mankind–and to me!
John 15:13; Galatians 6:14
The Golden Text Of Scripture
There are many great love stories, but the greatest love story of all– the most dramatic, and the most unbelievable–is the love story which is summarized in 25 words, John 3:16! It is the golden text of Scripture! It is the Gospel 'in a nutshell.'
But the greatest love story of history is not appreciated as it should be, because of our familiarity with it. Dr. Roland Bainton, famous historian and former professor at Yale Divinity school, notes: "When I was in the divinity school, a student from the English Department used to come over and chat with me on Saturday nights. He had been brought up in such a secular atmosphere, that he had never heard the story of the Crucifixion. I read it to him for the first time in his life. He wept. I was ashamed that I did not weep. Because I suffered from the secularism of familiarity."
Although we can never plumb the depths of its meaning, let us again look at the heart of the Gospel as revealed in the most familiar verse in the Bible, John 3:16. Let us move into a simple exposition of this verse during the next few days.
"FOR GOD"–Divine Initiative. This Divine Initiative is what shows clearly the great contrast between Christianity and the other world religions. For instance, Hinduism has Scriptures showing men's austerities in storming heaven's gates to disturb God's calm aloftness through human persistence. But Christianity declares the startling fact that God always takes the first step–the initiating step. It is not God's reluctance, but man's reluctance, that must be overcome. It is not man searching for God, but God searching for man! It is not man climbing up the ladder to find God, but God climbing down the ladder to find man! In India, there is a picture of an armless God. But the God of Christianity is not armless. Jesus is God's arm reaching out to lost humanity!
"GOD SO LOVED THE WORLD"–Divine Redemption. Make no mistake about it. God hates sin, the actions and attitudes that degrade men, but God loves men. It is man that God came to love, to redeem. Jesus came not to destroy but to save, not to condemn but to forgive, not to subtract but to add. "I am come that they (mankind) might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly," said Jesus. Saint Augustine said, "God loves each one of us as if there was only one of us to love."
"God, I thank you that I don't have to storm heaven's gates to get your attention. You loved me when I was loveless! You sought me when I was indifferent! Let me never 'get over' such love!"
AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: I will allow Calvary Love to break my heart anew!
Romans 5:6-11; John 15:13
The Greatest Love Story
We are looking at the golden text of Scripture, John 3:16. This verse describes the greatest love story known to mankind!
"THAT HE GAVE HIS ONLY BEGOTTEN SON"–Divine Substitution. Jesus is God. Therefore, when Jesus died, God died! Jesus took man's penalty. God is righteous and just. God must be consistent in His actions if He is to be consistent and reliable in His character. "The soul that sinneth it shall die"–that is the righteous law of God. For God to remain consistent in His character requires God to exact the penalty for sin which is death. Sin must be penalized.
But God is not only just; He is by nature Love. God's just character requires the death penalty for sin; God's loving character desires the saving of mankind. How can mankind be both saved for heaven and justly punished for sin? How can the apparent contradiction and requirements of God's justice and God's love be reconciled? There is only one answer and that answer was hidden in God for generations, 'until these last days.' The "mystery which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God" has been revealed. How can God remain just and at the same time justify the ungodly and redeem a race of men? Only by Divine Substitution! God must take the penalty of sin upon Himself, justly punishing sin in his own body and fulfilling the law's demand for the death penalty. Such sacrifice –and such love!
"During the Civil War a company of irregulars known as 'bushwhackers' were arrested by the Union soldiers. Because they were guerrilla fighters and not in uniform, they were sentenced to be shot. A courageous young boy in the Union army touched his commanding officer on the arm and pleaded, 'Won't you allow me to take the place of one of the men you have just condemned? I know him well; he has a large family who needs him badly. My parents are dead and I have few friends. No one will miss me. Please let me take his punishment!' The officer hesitated but finally gave his consent. Pulling the husband and father to one side, the young man filled his position in the death line. On the stone that marks his grave in a little southern town are these words: 'Sacred to the memory of Willy Lear. He took my place.'" (Daily Bread; Jan. 1971; Jan. 28)
"God, you took my place on the Cross! I should have been there, suffering justly for my own sins, but instead, you were there shedding your own blood. Your perfect sacrifice means that I can be perfectly forgiven! A thousand 'Thank Yous'!"
AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: The Cross is the perfect solution to maintaining God's justice and at the same time revealing God's saving love!
Acts 2:21; Acts 10:34-43; Romans 10:11-13
"Whosoever" Includes All!
Jesus died for all. Therefore, all can be saved, if they will!
"WHOSOEVER"–Universal Offer. "Whosoever" includes all the little children of the world. Children are tragically neglected and abused too often, but Jesus is the lover of children. Jesus said that one must express childlike simplicity and faith if he enters the kingdom of heaven! In contrast to the ancient world which mistreated children and used them as mere human tools, Jesus introduced a new standard into the world when "He took them (children) up into His lap and loved them."
Jesus loves the exploited people of the world. The exploited in Jesus' day were the slaves. The vast majority of the ancient world was composed of slaves. Many of Christianity's converts were slaves!
Jesus favors the unfavored. The unfavored in Jesus' day were women! Jesus is the greatest champion of women! He liberates women without destroying either their personhood or their womanhood–a far cry from the results of the modern women's liberation movement! Women in the ancient world were treated simply as objects to use and to possess. Jesus treated women as persons. Note the number of women in the New Testament who were loyal followers of the Lord. Jesus came to break down the artificial walls of division. "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female; for ye are all one in Christ Jesus." (Galatians 3:28)
"Whosoever" includes the rich and poor alike. James, the blood brother of Jesus, wrote: "Let the brother in humble circumstances glory in his elevation (as a Christian, called to the true riches and to be an heir of God); and the rich (person ought to glory) in being humbled (by being shown his human frailty), because like the flower of the grass he will pass away." (James 1:9-10) (Amplified Version)
"Whosoever" includes both the moral and the immoral. "Celsus, an early opponent of Christianity, objected to this attitude, saying that other faiths invited in the respectable, the moral, the upright, but this faith scandalously invites in the riffraff, the immoral, the drunken, the dishonest, and welcomes them! It does! But the riffraff become respectable, the immoral become the moral, and the drunken become the sober, and the dishonest become the honest, and live and die for it!" (How To Be a Transformed Person; E. Stanley Jones; pg. 124)
"God, I see that 'Whosoever' includes the young and the old, male and female, free and slave, black and white, rich and poor, moral and immoral, learned and illiterate. You are not willing that any should perish!"
AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: Because Jesus died for all, all can be saved–and that includes me!
A New Quality Of Life
We continue to mine the wealth of John 3:16, perhaps the greatest verse in the Bible!
"BELIEVETH IN"–Individual Appropriation. Belief is the key to appropriation of God's salvation. What is belief? To believe, according to the Amplified Bible, is to "trust in, rely upon, adhere to." It is releasing one's weight upon God! It is commitment of one's heart and mind and life to the all-sufficient power of Christ. It is transferring one's trust from self to Christ!
"Believeth" is in the present tense in the Greek New Testament (John 3:16). The present tense is the continuous tense. This means that it is the person who persistently, habitually, and continuously believes in the Son who will not perish but who will have eternal life. Eternal life is not a deposit which God gives a person who momentarily believes, but eternal life is a relationship of love, maintained with God through obedience and faith. God's faithfulness and power to save and to keep are never in question. It is a question of the continuance of the believer's commitment, trust, and belief. Can faithfulness of God avail for unfaithful men? Indeed not!
"SHOULD NOT PERISH"–Individual Protection. Those who appropriate the grace of God through a continuing commitment to Christ are those who are continually renewed inwardly and outwardly, and thus saved from disintegration and degeneration. Those who don't believe are those who are gradually perishing–in attitudes, in relationships, and in physical constitution. To persist in unbelief is ultimately to perish eternally!
"BUT HAVE EVERLASTING LIFE"–Individual Assurance. Eternal life is not a mere duration of existence, but it is a new quality of life! When I asked a 27 year old alcoholic, a son of a medical doctor, if he wished to have eternal life, he answered, "If I have to live forever like the h– of the life I have lived the last 27 years, then I don't want eternal life!" But he failed to realize that eternal life is a present and new relationship with Christ! It is not confined to time, and it is not limited by physical death. Physical death becomes merely a 'bridge' releasing one into the nearer presence of God, where one can express his new life without the confining limitations of time! Christ is the object of your faith, and new life is the result of your faith!
"God, help me to believe in you, not momentarily, but continuously, in order that I may continue to enjoy a new relationship of love and life! Amen."
AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: I am saved by believing, and I remain saved by believing–believing in the Son!
Discussion Questions On 'The Sacrifice Of A Loving God'
How was Jesus' ultimate and deepest identification with mankind manifested?
Throughout Jesus' earthly ministry, when He often said, 'My hour has not yet come,' what did He mean?
Do you agree or disagree with the following statements: "Jesus' death was not an accident of history or a mere incident of human cruelty. Rather, Jesus' death was the result of God's grace and of Jesus' own free choice. If Jesus had not chosen to come to earth to die, He still would have been holy and sinless. He was under no obligation (except the obligation of 'Love') to come to earth to give His life as a sacrifice for sinners."
Describe what is meant by the statement: "Jesus was born to die."
Was the death of Christ an absolute necessity, if mankind was to be saved from sin and from hell? Why or why not?
Describe what you think Jesus meant when He said (while He was dying on the cross), "It is finished."
In what ways did the Cross (death) of Jesus both appease the wrath of God and, at the same time, demonstrate the love of God?
How is the wrath of God unlike the wrath of the pagan gods?
What are the two contrasting attitudes which God has toward sin and toward sinners?
Do you agree or disagree with the following statement: "The more God the Father loves His children, the more He hates the sins of His children."
Why did Jesus, while He was dying on the cross, cry out, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"
The Cross (Death) of Christ is the answer to a great 'moral dilemma' which God faced. What was that 'moral dilemma,' and how did the Cross (Death) of Christ resolve it?
Describe what is meant by the statement: "The cross on Calvary is the unveiling of the cross which has eternally been on the heart of God!"
What did Dr. Roland Bainton mean when he said that he suffered from 'the secularism of familiarity'?
In terms of 'Initiative,' how is Christianity so different from other world religions?
Discussion Questions On 'The Sacrifice Of A Loving God'
Do you agree or disagree with Saint Augustine's statement: "God loves each one of us as if there was only one of us to love." What evidence is there that God loves you so personally and intensely?
How can God remain just in His character and, at the same time, justify the ungodly and redeem a race of men?
What evidence is there from a study of the New Testament (and especially from a study of the Gospels) that Jesus' love is universal rather than exclusive, that Jesus wants to save all persons instead of only a select few?
If belief is the key to appropriation of God's salvation, what is the Biblical meaning of 'belief'?
Do you agree or disagree with the following statement: "Eternal life is not a deposit which God gives a person who momentarily believes, but eternal life is a relationship of love, maintained with God through obedience and personal faith."
Can the faithfulness of God avail for unfaithful persons who drift away from God? Are believers ultimately saved without meeting any moral conditions other than the conditions of initial repentance and faith in Jesus Christ? What is the final condition that believers must meet if they are ultimately to enjoy eternal life in heaven? (Does the use of the Greek 'present tense' for 'believe' in John 3:16 help answer the above questions?)
Is 'eternal life' only a future life to be enjoyed in heaven, or is 'eternal life' a present life to be experienced by sincere believers here on earth? Give a scriptural basis for your answer.
What is the basis of your personal assurance of salvation?