Monday, February 21, 2011

The Cross

Do you realize the magnitude of what our Lord did for you? He, who was without sin, covered you with His righteousness.

When we look upon the cross as the iconic representation of our faith and the crucifixion it stands for, we have to realize it was once something quite different. It was an icon for what was, at one time, the most brutal torture ever conceived. It was a symbol of absolute terror. The Romans, who acquired the practice from the Arabians, Carthaginians, and Persians, would set these crosses up within the city limits of pre-conquered areas and randomly crucify some of their inhabitants, just to keep the others in line. Alexander the Great practiced this because it made the rest of an area to be in fear, thus easily conquerable. The Romans saw this as a good idea then took it and even improved it. Subsequently, they instituted the same practice and used it against non-Roman people accused of a crime for capital offences. It was most effective!

Cross. The cross—that symbol of torture and punishment—turned into an enduring icon of redemption and love! The cross is pivotal for the real Christian faith. Without it, there would have been no redemption or real faith, as the substance of our faith would have been absent.

The cross is central to who Jesus is and what He did for us. If you take away the cross, you no longer have a faith; you have a mere religion based on superstitions and man’s creative ingenuity. The cross represents atonement—our being forgiven of our debt of sin by our Lord’s shed blood. This is the heart and core of our faith. There is no Christianity without the cross! Jesus carried the sins of those religious leaders, the sins of those soldiers, and our sins to the cross. Such an enormous, incredible gift of grace! If only we will accept it by faith! If only we would be willing to pursue that faith into the depths of His Word and precepts in order to be better in our character, in our maturity, and in our witness (Matt. 27: 32-37; John 19)!

He dealt with our sin here and all the way to the cross; we are to receive His grace and continue to look to Him to do away with our sin—not look to ourselves or to circumstances. If not, even if pride does not get us, compromise will! It will take over our integrity and we will lose. Look to Him! Look to the acceptance of the God of the universe and the loving community of the Church, which we can enjoy so we do not need to partake of the world when we have so much more. We cannot seek virtue unless we deal with sin; we cannot grow in Him unless we deal with sin; so—deal with your sin! If you do not, pride, selfishness, and hate will win out and you will lose in your faith formation and in your testimony to others!

Jesus chose to endure through the most heinous suffering a person could experience. How does this affect you? What can you do to be appreciative of our Lord? How will this affect the way you live your life and treat others?

What does it mean to you that your debt of sin has been paid and that you no longer owe a penalty or sacrifice for your sin? Keep in mind that as Jesus did this, He did it for you! What does this mean to you?

Monday, February 14, 2011

Pilate’s Postmodernism

In John 18 and 19 we see Jesus come before Pontius Pilate the Roman governor. Pilate confronts Jesus with are you the King of the Jews? Then Jesus said, I have purpose and bring Truth to the world and if you know and love Truth you will know and love me. Pilate responds in a post-modern fashion; what is truth?

This was another sarcastic reply of cynicism that Pilate gave out, as the one to judge truth diminishes its relevance. Yet, real Truth is one of the most important ideas of God. Truth does not matter to those whose pursuits are wicked or if it goes against someone’s worldview or for one who is overly skeptical or focused on just one thing like Pilate’s time schedule.

Pilate’s statements of, what is it you have done? And what is truth? And judge him by your own law, are all defense mechanisms to avoid responsibility. He, like many people today, was a man in a hurry and not concerned with truth, just his own personal matters. He was a bit tolerant for the sideshow put on by the religious leaders, perhaps even perplexed and struck by Jesus, but not enough to go beyond his comfort zone and act truthfully with justice and mercy, something Jesus will do for us. Jesus would even forgive Pilate if he did right, just as Jesus forgives all those who seek to condemn Him. How many of us miss opportunities because we take hold of our desires, scheme and seek ourselves regardless of consequences, and refuse to deal with our sin, so sin takes us over. How often we see those who are responsible for justice overlook justice and guilt. If we do not deal with sin, it will take us out, as sin produces all of the disasters of life.

It seems that Pilate was weighing the political consequences of releasing Jesus and perhaps causing problems with his job security. Even if Pilate believed Jesus was at least a Divine messenger or a Prophet, it was not enough to sway him from the manipulation of the religious leaders.

This passage has a very interesting and responsibility-ducking response that is reminiscent of many people today, called postmodernism.

Pilate had the great opportunity to showcase Truth, yet he did not want to take responsibility. In the previous passage, he questioned what truth is and made a claim that it is all relative and unimportant; he skirted the issues and blamed others so he would not get into trouble. Then, when all that did not work, he compromised and placated the crowd instead of taking a stand to do the right thing. How many of us do that? A Judge, knowing a defendant is innocent, follows the technicalities of the law, ignoring truth and justice, and sends an innocent person to prison while a guilty person gets off because of those same technicalities. Church boards ignore a good pastoral candidate because his teaching is too relevant and convicting, choosing another who will not rock the boat or make them feel uncomfortable, even though the person whom they choose compromises truth and merely entertains. When we seek to ignore truth or Truth, blame others, and/or refuse to take responsibility, we are being more like Pilate and less like Jesus!

In contrast, when we are seeking Christ first and His work in us, then we are pursuing righteousness and all that is good as a way to glorify Christ as Lord. What we all need to be doing is applying His character into our lives and relationships, from our daily lives, our service, and our mission for His glory. This is real, authentic application of our faith development that is essential—not only in our personal Christian lives, but also in how we are to prepare ourselves to build relationships and model and make Him known. With sin, all we will have is quarreling, jealousy, anger, selfishness, envy, pride, and such, as these so-called Jewish leaders modeled. The results of these will cause chaos and strife to any situation, and hinder God’s work in us. Extreme division will be wedged into any church or relationship focusing our will and desires over His, preventing our receiving of any good or pleasing work, as well as any blessings. It will prevent God from using us to the fullest extent possible, especially in helping others. We will not be real, functioning Christians when we have pride or focus on pleasing others and not pleasing Christ. We have to be willing to counteract these rotten works by committing to the good fruit, keeping our goals, and focusing upon Christ and His Word, so we can develop them (Prov. 6:32-35; Rom. 8:29).