Christ Crucified and God’s Glory

Let me confess that for years when I heard people say at the end of their sermons, or smaller stories and messages, “All glory to God!” I really did not know exactly what they meant. I understood the idea of giving God credit for something, so maybe that much I understood. But beyond that, I did not really get it. I didn’t think I could say it with them, and know what I really meant. To be honest, I feel embarrassed.

Since then, I have learned some stuff, namely, more of the Bible. While I do not think I can easily sum up what any verse is talking about when the Bible mentions God’s glory, there is one thing I have learned about God and His glory, and that is that Christ and him crucified is the blazing center of the revealed glory and beauty of God (I think John Piper may use that phraseology, “blazing center,” so lets give credit where it is due).

Galatians 1:1-5 connects, if you will, the glory of God and the cross of Jesus Christ. Verses 1-5 makes up Paul’s introduction to the churches in Galatia. He begins like this: “Paul, an apostle—not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead—and all the brothers who are with me, To the churches of Galatia: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.”

Paul gets right to the core of his letter, and the whole Bible for that matter, when he takes us to Jesus, dying on a cross for our sins, and rising from the dead. Paul immediately begins preaching the gospel to the Galatians, who had begun to doubt whether or not the grace of God was sufficient for their salvation and life with God. Paul wastes no time. He goes right where the Galatians need to go: back to the cross where Jesus shows the immense and inexhaustible love of God for broken, messed up sinners like you and me.

In verse 4, Paul says that the cross of Christ was “according to the will of our God and Father“. Who thought up putting Jesus on the cross? The Jews? Well, yes. The Romans? Well, yes. But ultimately, who thought up putting Jesus on the cross before the Jews and Romans? God. In eternity past, God made a plan, and Jesus voluntarily submitted (is that the right word?) to that plan, to die on a cross for sinners like you and me. Brilliant and beautiful.

Then Paul ends by saying, “to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.” Ok, we have made it to the point of this blog. I think there is an unmistakable connection here between the cross of Christ and the glory of God. We understand the cross as the ultimate revealing of God’s grace and love for sinners. The glory of God? We don’t understand that so much. But Paul’s words here help us understand God’s glory.

When we think of the glory of God, the immeasurable greatness of God, the inexhaustible perfections and beauties of God, our mind should go to the cross of Christ. Nowhere is God more fully revealed in his holiness, love, grace, kindness, justice, and mercy than at the cross of Jesus, where our sin was dealt with on Christ justly, and yet not on us graciously. This is the beautiful character of God revealed to us, which in one sense is the glory of God revealed to us.

The reason I relate who God is to what God’s glory is has to do with when Moses asked to see God’s glory in Exodus 33. God responded to him by saying, “I will make all my goodness pass before you“. The goodness of God is the glory of God in this case. And the goodness of God is revealed most in the cross of Jesus. 

Who thought up this plan of Jesus dying? God. Who accomplished this plan? God. Did we do anything? No, nothing but contribute the problem, our sin. Therefore, who deserves all the thanks, all the worship, all the trust, all the fame, and all the credit? God. When I look to the cross, I can’t help but know God is glorious and that all glory is to be to Him. Do you want to see God’s glory? Look to the cross of Jesus, where God saves sinners.

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Where Is Your Confidence?

C. J. Mahaney, calling us to put our confidence before God in the gospel alone, asks, “When we began the meeting [Sunday worship] and we were called to sing, what gave you confidence to sing? What gave you confidence to approach the Father? Did you do a quick assessment of your life, beginning this morning or this past week? And if you did, did your assessment include a recounting of the ways in which you have been consistently obedient…? Or did you find yourself as you conducted your quick assessment immediately aware of your sin this past week and therefore reluctant to approach the Father? It’s always a confidence issue. Where is your confidence rooted?”

Our confidence must be placed in the cross of Christ alone. Not the cross plus our good works, sincerity, willingness, obedience, spiritual disciplines, prayer life, Bible-study life, church involvement, you name it; the cross alone. The cross is sufficient for our forgiveness from and adoption by God.

On Christ the solid rock I stand,
all other ground is sinking sand. 

What I Believe About “Calvinism” (5/6)

FREE PIC CROSSWhere we have gone in this series: Before God spun out the universe he chose radically messed up, Jesus-rejecting sinners on the basis of his own free and loving will to be saved by the death of Christ and, at the right time, awakened (or called) to faith in Christ by the grace and power of his Spirit.

This is a staggering gospel that stupefies our brilliance. We can’t think this stuff up, nor do we deserve this glory from Jesus. Sit in wonderment.

You may be asking at this point, “So if God already knew whom he would save through Jesus, did Jesus only die for those people (the elect)?” That is the question, whether you have asked it or not, that I would like to address, but first must begin with a weighty preface.

I believe with everything in me that all, all who believe in Jesus are made right before God, adopted by God, and will live forever with God. Jesus proclaimed, “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out” (John 6:37, emphasis mine).

Jesus rejects no one who comes to him in faith.

I gladly make the universal offer to anyone and everyone that if you come to the cross of Christ in faith, you will be saved from your sin. I gladly invite anyone and everyone to believe in Jesus for forgiveness of sins.

With that preface I ask, “Is Jesus’ cross more than just a universal offer? It is just a possible payment for sins, or is it an actual payment for sins?”

There are two general “camps” with differing answers: Arminians and Calvinists. Both camps “limit” the cross in different ways.

Arminians limit the cross by saying the cross does not go so far as the purchase faith and repentance. What this means is that they believe everyone has the ability to believe in Jesus, and if someone freely chooses to believe in Jesus, they, in a sense, make Jesus’ cross effective for themselves, receiving forgiveness of sins. The cross only becomes effective when they believe in Jesus.

Calvinists also limit the cross. They limit the cross by saying the full blessings of the cross are limited to the elect, or those whom God chose to be saved before the foundation of the world (see Eph. 1:3-11). The cross is more than just an offer for some people. Calvinists believe the cross did more than the Arminians, but for only some people (the elect). What is the “more” of the cross you ask? It is the purchase of faith and repentance. I argued that faith and repentance are a gift from God in part 3/6. They are undeserved gifts from God, given to the elect. Those gifts had to be bought for them, and Calvinism says they were bought at the cross.

Everyone limits the cross in some way. Let’s examine some texts to see what the Bible says.

Enter the Scriptures.

In John 10:1-18, Jesus says that he is the Good Shepherd of his sheep. He says in verse 4, “When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice.”

Jesus has sheep, and they follow him because they know his voice. Not everyone follows Jesus, so he is talking about a specific group of people, namely, those who follow him.

In verse 11 he proclaims, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”

Jesus says he dies for his sheep, the specific group of people that he will call and that will hear his voice and follow him.

With thunder, comforting thunder, he announces in verses 14-16, “I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.”

Jesus, again, says he has sheep that are his own, and that he lays down his life for them specifically. He then says he has sheep “not of this fold”, meaning not of Israel, the Jewish people. Jesus has sheep, chosen people, among the non-Jewish people, the Gentiles. These sheep, again, will be called and will listen to Jesus’ voice and so follow him.

Jesus is dying for a specific group of sheep that will become “one flock” under “one shepherd.”

The big idea is that in John 10:1-18 Jesus does not say that he will lay his life down for everyone, at least not in the same way for everyone. He is applying his death specifically to the sheep he calls his own; the sheep that he personally will call and that will follow him; the sheep that will be saved and known as Christians.

Some more Scriptures.

In Luke 22:19-20, the Last Supper goes down: “And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, ‘This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.”

I want to focus on what Jesus says about the new covenant. Jesus says his death, his blood is the new covenant. We need to know what he is talking about when he says “new covenant.”

Jesus is referring to the new covenant proclaimed in the Old Testament (Jer. 31:31-33, 32:38-40; Ezek. 36:26-27). We can read of it in Ezekiel 11:19, a Scripture we looked at in part 3/6. “And I will give them one heart, and put a new spirit within them. And I will take the heart of stone out of their flesh and give them a heart of flesh.”

Ezek. 11:19 says that God will remove people’s hearts of stone and give them hearts of flesh. He will remove unbelieving hearts and replace them with believing hearts. Then Jesus, at the Last Supper, says that his blood is the new covenant. His blood purchased this removal of dead hearts and replacement of living, faith-filled hearts. In short, Jesus is saying he is dying to purchase faith and repentance for sinners. Not all sinners come to faith in Jesus, so Jesus is saying his death is for those whom the Father has chosen to be saved. Jesus’ death is more for some. 

One more text.

In John 11:50-52 the high priest that year prophesies, “…it is better for you that one man should die for the people, not that the whole nation should perish.’ He did not say this of his own accord, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, and not for the nation only, but also to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad.”

Notice that two groups of people are spoken of here: “the nation” and “the children of God
who are scattered abroad.” In the Bible, there are two significant people groups: Jews and Gentiles. Jews are God’s people. Gentiles are everyone else. When the high priest said Jesus would die for the nation, he is talking about the Jews. But then he says Jesus was not just going to die for Jewish people, but Gentile people. And he says something surprising. There are “children of God” scattered all over the world that he is going to die for to gather into one.

We know not everyone is gathered into the “one” people of God, the Church. Only some. So here Jesus is said to have died for the some who will be gathered into one, the one flock of God, the one Church. He died for the “children of God”, or the elect, many of whom have yet to be gathered, but for sure will be.

The Father chooses, the Son dies, and the Spirit awakens.

Jesus’ cross is mesmerizing because it actually did something. It is a universal offer to everyone, that if anyone believes in him, they will be saved. What grace! And it is more. It is actually the purchase of the very faith of all who do believe. If you come to the cross, you will find in the Scriptures that even your faith was a gift bought by that very cross! Jesus came on a rescue mission to truly pay the price for sin that many, many people might be saved and live forever enjoying God.

*I attribute and credit much of this blog to John Piper’s seminar that can be found here. If you watch/read it, you may wonder in this blog where his studies stop and mine begin.

The Wonders of Christ’s Love

Have you ever heard anyone say something like, “You just gotta have faith!”? “Just believe in God!”? “Trust the Lord!”? If you grew up in the Bible-belt, you probably have heard that kinda lingo a lot. And if you have been in similar situations as me, sometimes I’m not so sure I know what is meant by those statements.

“I just gotta have faith? Have faith in what?” “Just believe in God? What ‘God’ are you talking about? And what exactly am I supposed to be believing about him?”

Sometimes jargon like that can seem so true but remain so vague and obscure. “Is this person talking about the God of the Bible? The Lord of the Bible? Jesus? And what exactly is faith?” As a Christian, I fill in the gaps for people when they say things like that, but I don’t always know if they have filled in the gaps, or if they are just reciting something that sounds biblical.

In Galatians 2 Paul gives not vague, but crystal clear truth about what is means to believe. To have faith. And to believe and have faith on a daily basis in the most mundane circumstances.

Gal. 2:20 “…I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

Paul says every moment of his life was governed, determined, and shaped by his “faith”. And what was his faith in? What was he trusting? Jesus, “the Son of God”. And why does he believe in and trust Jesus? Because Jesus “loved” him and “gave himself” for him. Paul’s daily faith was beholding the God who became a man (Jesus), and died on a cross out of love for sinners.

Matthew Henry explains what Paul is saying like this: Paul lived “…eyeing the wonders of his love in giving himself for him.”

He goes on…”Note, Those who have true faith live by that faith; and the great thing which faith fastens upon is Christ’s loving us and giving himself for us. The great evidence of Christ’s loving us is his giving himself for us; and this is that which we are chiefly concerned to mix faith with, in order to our living to him.”

On a day-to-day basis, what does it mean for you to have faith? What do you have faith in? As a Christian, the right answer is, obviously, Jesus. As Christians we believe in Jesus. But we should get more specific, because the Bible teaches us to. If you asked me, I wouldn’t say, “I believe in Jesus as a miracle worker, or good teacher, or prophet,” though all of those things are true about him. I would ultimately go to the cross. “I believe in Jesus who died for me; who loved me and gave himself for me. I trust who Jesus is and what Jesus did on the cross.”

The cross should be that which your faith “fastens” upon. Our faith should be chiefly concerned with Christ’s loving us and giving himself for us. This is our great joy and comfort, to behold the wonders of his love.

The Epic Centerpiece

Years ago I heard a sermon on Gal. 6:15 and something in me was solidified. I had been reading the Scriptures the year I heard that sermon as though I had never read them before, and if nothing else, one thing was unmistakably clear: the epic centerpiece of the Bible is the cross of Christ.

1 Cor. 2:2 For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.

Gal. 2:20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

Gal. 6:14 But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.

Col. 1:19-20 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.

There is nothing more fascinating and comforting than the cross of Christ. “The cross of Christ is a good Christian’s chief glory, and there is the greatest reason why we should glory in it, for to it we owe all our joys and hopes” (Matthew Henry). All of our joys, and all of our hopes, spring from the cross of Christ.

The cross is comforting because at the cross I find salvation. I am saved from God’s just wrath against sin and sinners. At the cross the fury of God was poured out in full upon the sinless God-man, Jesus Christ, who took the place of all who would believe in him. I’m obsessed with the comfort of the cross.

The cross is fascinating because at the cross God’s glory is blazing. The righteousness of God is blazing as we see him deal with sin justly. He dealt with sin by crushing the sinless Christ. He didn’t overlook sin. The grace of God is blazing because we see God forgive sinners. It is not me on the cross. It is someone else in my place. That is grace amazing. That is grace inexpressible. That is fascinating. I’m obsessed with the glory of the cross.

Have you come to the cross for comfort and fascination? For joy and hope? Have you been freed from the guilt and power of sin? Have you found what your eyes and heart were made to behold: the glory of God? It is all free at the cross.

Did God Die on the Cross?

“If God had died on the cross, every living thing, not only in Jerusalem but in the whole world, would have died that same moment, because without the life of God, there is no life possible. No, the God-man died, and the divine nature that had been perfectly united to a living, breathing human nature was then united to a corpse. The deity of Christ did not perish on the cross, because all of life is in God.” – R.C. Sproul

For “In him we live and move and have our being” (see Acts 17:28).