March 28, 2013
I have been reading through a book by Byron Yawn with my future son-in-law, John. In Byron’s book “What Every Man Wishes His Father Had Told Him” (Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers, 2012) pp. 113-114, he reflects upon the CROSS. I think his comments are appropriate as we approach Resurrection Sunday!
It’s so hard to rat ourselves out. “It’s me. I’m the way I am because of me. I’m a sinner. I hate discipline. It’s my fault. I’m discontent. I’m a failure as a husband. I’ve mailed it in for years. I love Little Debbie and all her products.” As hard as it is to understand, there’s unequalled freedom in a brutally honest self-appraisal. Whitefield was on to something. Death to self presents us with a liberty that comes only from the gospel and the cross.
The cross simultaneously declares two indispensable realities. First, it proclaims the unbelievable news about the grace of God. God loves sinners and sent His son to redeem them. It is unconditional and radical love on display. Every time we behold it we rejoice. Second, the cross communicates the most brutal assessment of man’s condition we will ever face. We’re worse than we let on. We’ll never be as honest about ourselves as the cross is.
The cross tells us straight up that we are vicious rebels who deserve a vicious death. If you believe Jesus died for you, you already hold this. Did Jesus deserve such a horrible death? No. Well then who did? “Me! That’s my death!” we declare. At the cross we reach out for the truth. We’re worse than we can imagine. Why else would Christ die? Every time we consider this reality we rejoice in the first one.
To truly appreciate the gospel, we must come to terms with who we are. The more we face the sinfulness of our heart, the more we will relish grace. At the core of all our unresolved conflicts and dishonesty about who we are lies an unwillingness to admit what the cross is screaming. Deep down, we’re messed up. All our superficial explanations don’t even get close to the truth. The smell of our “smoke” rises above them all. The mishaps on the surface of our life are the symptoms of the real problems below.
When we face the truth of the cross head on, it makes our self-preservation appear foolish. The person who defends self when God gave Himself to save us from His wrath doesn’t understand grace. The man who offers excuses for his sin when God offered His son to pay for it has no real apprehension of the gospel. The individual who diminishes the offense of his sin before others also treats the cross like a poignant gesture of a well-meaning God. The man who won’t admit the truth about his life can’t truly enjoy the benefits of Christ’s. None of this will make sense unless the cross is in view.
But, we can come clean. What Jesus has done for us on the cross relieves us of the need to defend self. Clearly, there’s nothing worth defending. We no longer have to offer excuses because Jesus has dealt with all our failures. There are no real excuses anyway. We don’t have to dodge the severity of our sin because He forgave it. To acknowledge this draws more attention to His grace than it does to our sin. I can tell people the hard truth about my actions because they already know. Most importantly, God was aware of all my sin when he redeemed me. It’s what He saved me from.
Have a Blessed Easter!