My daily Bible reading took me to a passage this morning that I needed so much to read. I needed the reminder. There were two major polarizing events that occurred in the short passage I was reading in Matthew 26: The Last Supper, with Jesus demonstrating that His body and blood were about to save the world, but before that, the fact that someone was going to betray him.
One of our Life University classes on Sunday night this semester was a class entitled “Walk with Christ.” It was taught by Paul Smeltzer and was an in depth study of the last three days of Jesus’ life. I can tell you, though I’ve studied the Gospels extensively, it was eye opening.
Last Sunday’s class wrapped up Jesus’ actual death along with the last three hours of his life. At the conclusion of the class we were asked to write a letter to Jesus in order to tell Him how his last three days impacted us. It was difficult to begin, actually. Where do you start in writing such a letter to such a person? But, once I got started….. We were given a limited amount of time to write it. For me, that was probably a good thing. But, I felt my emotions welling up as I reflected upon what Jesus had done, not just on the cross, but through His determination that brought Him there. So, here’s my short letter to Jesus:Dear Jesus, I noticed many things about your walk to the cross and what it said about you. Here are some of the things that have great impact upon me. First, that you were deliberate. I’ve never witnessed a person live such a deliberate life. You came with a purpose and plan and never let anything distract you from it. The most amazing thing is that your plan, of which you were so incredibly deliberate, included me. Second was the cost you were willing to pay. I will never understand the price because I’m unable, in my humanity, to pay it. Yet, through my inability you chose to pay it for me anyway. Third was your sacrifice. You came, completely settled in your own mind to sacrifice yourself and not require anyone else to do that with you. And you sacrificed yourself for me! How can I not live for you? Finally, I’m amazed by your resurrection. You left no doubt that your substitution and sacrifice were enough. You have given me such amazing reason to place my faith in you as you have demonstrated such amazing grace and power! How can I not live for you? I love you because you first loved me. Your child, Jeff
What would you say to Jesus today?
This is part two of a blog series in which I intend to investigate, biblically, the marks of a Christian. I want to encourage you to join the conversation in the comments area at the bottom of each post.
The reason I want to take some time with this discussion is simply because I’m a pastor in the Bible Belt which is a culture in which the definition of a Christian is very confused. So may believe that a Christian is simply a person who goes to church or a person raised by people who go to church. (Christians do, and should, go to church but church attendance and worship is a fruit, not a cause.)
I was inspired by some thoughts as I read Oswald Chambers’, My Utmost for His Highest, this morning which led me to make a second defining statement. Here’s what He spoke:
“It is possible to take the forgiveness of sin, the gift of the Holy Ghost, and our sanctification with the simplicity of faith, and to forget at what enormous cost to God it was all made ours.”
This statement caused my mind to go to Philippians 2:5-10 immediately. The cost of God’s ability to forgive us was extremely high. No greater example of Jesus’ sacrifice can be found than Paul’s words, “And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” What sacrifice! God’s holiness, righteousness and justice made it so He could not forgive us for our sin and sinful nature. But, God’s inexpressible love made it so He would take the punishment for our sin on Himself so He could forgive us. Can you imagine begin the perfect, creating God of the universe and placing yourself in the kind of pain, embarrassment and death that Jesus did? Your answer to that question is actually the same as mine; no, none of us can. No one, who sees forgiveness in the light of Philippians 2:8 views it with a the flippant attitude of the modern American church.
Here, then, is my second definition of a Christian:
A Christian is one who understands that forgiveness is easy to accept but it only comes in light of the inexpressible tragedy of the cross.
Forgiveness is easy to accept but it was not easy to bring about. Though Jesus is the God of the universe, I don’t know of any way to make Philippians 2:5-10 easy for Him and I’m sure we should not make it too easy either. As I like to say when I preach, no one truly sees Jesus for who He is and walks away like He’s no big deal. The same is true for forgiveness. It’s a very big deal!
Yet another reminder of something of which I should be so thankful! What a great God is He who came after us!