Saturday, March 16, 2013

Paradox of the Cross

Can you even begin to imagine agreeing to the death of your child for the good of others? Until we reach glory we will never fully understand or appreciate the mysteries of the cross – how and why God the Father gave His Son Jesus to die for our sins that we might have eternal life (John 3:16).

God is perfectly holy (1 John 1:5) and perfectly just. Although He is love (1 John 4:8), and has infinite love, He cannot allow sinners or sin to enter into His presence. We have all broken the law (Romans 3:23), and our fitting punishment is eternal death in hell (Romans 6:23). But in God’s mercy and grace, He devised a perfect plan of salvation for whosoever would accept it. He gave His only begotten Son as the perfect, sinless sacrifice, to take the punishment befitting our crimes (Isaiah 53:5-8).

Jesus is part of the Triune God, fully Divine, yet fully human in His earthly ministry and tempted in all ways as we are, yet He was without sin (Hebrews 4:15). Only He could be the perfect sacrifice – the Lamb Who takes away the sins of the world (John 1:29) -- to reconcile sinful man to Holy God.

In a transaction of infinite love, justice, holiness and perfection, Jesus took on, suffered and died for all the sins of the world, which were imputed to Him, or debited against His account. Simultaneously, His perfect righteousness and holiness were imputed to all believers, or credited to our account. (Romans 5:12-18; 2 Corinthians 5:18-21; Isaiah 53:4-11). He completely removed our sins from us, in a perfect transaction foreshadowed by the "scapegoat" in Old Testament times that carried the sins of Israel far away into the wilderness (Leviticus.16:20-22).

Therefore, when Holy God the Father, the righteous Judge, looks at believers who have repented of their sins and trusted in Jesus' finished work on the cross, He sees not us and our filthy sins, but only the perfect holiness of His Son. Therefore, as joint heirs with Christ, just as Jesus was resurrected from the dead, believers will be resurrected to eternal life in Heaven with Christ (Romans 6;8; 8:17).

Yet, here is one of the mysteries: God the Father "turned His back" on Jesus as He suffered and died for our sins, because His perfect holiness could not look on sin (Isaiah 53:4). For that reason, Jesus cried out "My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?" (Matthew 27:46; Psalm 22:1-8) because in that moment, He felt the agony of being separated from His Father with whom He had always known perfect, intimate fellowship.

At that moment, Jesus related to God not as His Father, but as the righteous Judge Who had to punish sin. The pain of separation from the Father and the shame of bearing all our sins (Hebrews 12:2) must have far outweighed even the physical torture of crucifixion.

So, the conundrum is, given that both God the Father and Jesus the Son are both perfectly divine, how could Jesus bear all our sins while God the Father could not even look at them? I believe that is one of the mysteries we will not fully understand until we reach glory. However, one clue to this might be that while all three members of the Trinity are equally divine, they are different.

God the Father always demands perfection, whether through animal sacrifice in the Old Testament (Exodus 12:5; 29:1; Leviticus 1:3), which only covered sin, and ultimately in the perfect, sinless sacrifice of His Son (1 Peter 1:18-19; Ephesians 5:2), which removed us as far away from our sins as the East is from the West (Psalm 103:12).

Jesus came to earth expressly to save sinners (Luke 19:10), and He died for us while we were yet sinners (Romans 5:8). He was the perfect fulfillment of the Old Testament law (Matthew 5:17), yet He touched lepers, He allowed Himself to be touched by diseased and sinful women, He ate with sinners, He cast out demons, and He forgave sins (Luke 7:14, 21-22, 34-39).

All three Members of the Trinity always act together to fulfill their perfect and unified will. In this case, the Holy Spirit empowered Jesus to fulfill His earthly ministry, including His suffering and death on the cross, and continues to work in the heart of every born-again believer (John 3:7-8) who places their faith in His death, burial and resurrection as the only way to Heaven (1 Corinthians 15:1-4; John 14:6).

Thank God that Jesus does not demand perfection from us, but that He died for us while we were yet sinners, and that He freely gives salvation to all who repent and trust Him, taking us just as we are in our lowly and sinful state. Thank God that through the perfect, sinless sacrifice of Jesus (Hebrews 9), His righteousness is imputed to our account (1 Peter 2:21-25), and when God the Father looks at us, He sees not our sins, but only the perfect holiness of His Son!

Not the least of the mysteries of the cross is that it pleased God to sacrifice His only Son in this cruel and torturous way (Isaiah 53:10), and that Jesus faced the ordeal with joy for our sakes (Hebrews 12:2). My limited mind cannot begin to wrap itself around a love so perfect, so pure that it not only allowed the agony of the cross, but that it rejoiced in it.

None of us earthly parents can begin to imagine agreeing to the death of our child for the good of others, let alone planning and orchestrating it. I have heard a sermon illustration of a child with rare antibodies in his blood, capable of curing all diseases known to all mankind. The catch is that the cure requires every drop of that precious blood.  How many parents would step forward magnanimously to sacrifice their child’s life, even for such a supremely noble cause? How many children would find joy in giving up their own life, even to heal others?

Now add to the scenario the fact that those whose lives will be saved are not friends, but mortal enemies of the parent and child. The child’s suffering and death will be prolonged and excruciatingly painful as the blood is shed drop by drop. The parent cannot be present to comfort the child during their suffering.

Far from being thankful and honoring the parent and child for their sacrifice, the vast majority of people will mock, despise and shame them. When the sacrifice is complete, and the cure available to anyone who wants it, most will shake their heads in disbelief, walk away in scorn, and refuse the freely offered, life-saving gift.

Yet that is exactly how the world reacts to the perfect, completely self-sacrificing gift of God the Father and Jesus Christ the Son. His blood was painfully and completely shed for the remission of all our sins (Romans 3:25; Hebrews 9), while we were still His enemies (Romans 5:10), yet most people mock God and refuse His precious, freely given gift of eternal life in Heaven. God is omniscient, and knew from the beginning of time that all this would occur. Yet He sacrificed for us not only willingly, but joyfully, that whosoever believes will have eternal life in His presence!

Don’t refuse His cure for sin and death! Be washed in His life-saving blood today!

© 2013 Laurie Collett
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Denise said...

Praying for you.

Brenda said...

We can not understand the love of God with the natural mind, it is a love that transcends any human love. Jesus is the perfect mediator between God and man because He was made to be sin, though He had no sin, even to the point of being separated from God.

Nadwra┼╝liwiec said...

I always thank God, that He is so patient to me.
One day I promised myself, that I will not lie anymore. But life very quickly showed me, how fragile was my word.
Thanks Lord for His grace!
Greetings for You dear Laurie.

Frank E. Blasi said...

What a great post, so edifying.
The truth of the love of God through the sacrifice of his dear Son makes me want to cry out:
Thankyou for such blogs! God bless,

Melanie Wilson said...

Laurie, we are doing the study 24 Hours That Changed the World right now, so your post is very appropriate. I'm overwhelmed by what Christ did for all of us! You obviously have many giftings. It's great how you're using them all for the glory of God.

BARBIE said...

It's hard to understand that the God of the Universe found me worthy enough of His love and saving grace. I am truly thankful!

Laurie Collett said...

Thanks, Denise -- praying for you too!

Laurie Collett said...

Amen, Brenda! His love is infinite and incomprehensible until we reach glory. 2 Cor. 5:20 states that Jesus was "made to be sin for us," which Jamieson Fausset BRown commentary describes as "the representative Sin-bearer (vicariously) of the aggregate sin of all men past, present, and future." He was sinless but bore all our sin and the punishment for it, just as the scapegoat in Old Testament times was sinless yet carried away (temporarily) the sins of the people laid on its head.

Thanks for your thought provoking comment, & God bless,

Laurie Collett said...

Dear Zim,
Praise God for His patience, forgiveness, grace and mercy. Even the apostle Paul fought the battle between his sin nature and the Holy Spirit every day, so each of must fight this same battle until the day we reach glory and become as He is.
Blessings and greetings to you!

Laurie Collett said...

Dear Frank,
Let's shout the Gospel from the rooftops and praise the Lord continually!
Thanks so much for your encouraging comment. You are truly a blessing!
God bless,

Laurie Collett said...

Thanks so much, Melanie, for your visit and lovely comment! You are too kind!

I am blessed to hear that the timing of this post fits well with your study. It is amazing to consider that the Creator of all suffered and died that we might have eternal life.

May you have a blessed week in Him,

Laurie Collett said...

Dear Barbie,
Amazing grace indeed, to save a wretch like me!
God bless,

Donald Fishgrab said...

I'm so thankful that he didn't base salvation on what we would do but on his perfect Son's gift for us. So many are as Romans 10:3 says, "For they being ignorant of God's righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God." It is a gift available to any who will accept it.

mail4rosey said...

There are passages in the Bible that leave me in awe too. The selflessness of a parent is comprehensible but it always has limits (as well it should on Earth). The unlimited selflessness of God has no limits and that is beyond amazing to me.

Laurie Collett said...

Amen, Donald! Pride and unbelief keep so many from salvation -- unfounded faith in their own "goodness," and unbelief in His perfect holiness and justice. His grace is the only gift of any eternal consequence, yet so many pass it by.
Blessings to you,

Laurie Collett said...

So true, Rosey, His grace, love and self-sacrifice are beyond amazing.
God bless,

A Few Pennies said...

When you bring the Word to others, you will be blessed; right now, so many, many of us need to be inspired and find our way; His way. I'm glad you are blogging His work/word. Blessings to you.

Laurie Collett said...

Thank you so much, A Few Pennies, for your sweet words of encouragement! It is my prayer that this blog would help others grow closer to Him.
Thanks also for following -- I'm following you back!
Many blessings to you,

Court D said...

I always had such a hard time with the part where Abraham is to sacrifice Isaac but then I remember that he stopped that, and provided the sacrifice of the ram but when it came to his own son he was a brave father who did what needed to be done. But no, I can't imagine sacrificing my own child. It's been hard enough trying to even glimpse being able to survive losing one this week.

Cindy Swanson said...

The love that sent Christ to the cross is simply incomprehensible to me...incredible. I'm so thankful for it!

Thanks for being a blessing.

Cindy at Notes in the Key of Life

Laurie Collett said...

Abraham showed amazing faith by obeying God in preparing to sacrifice Isaac, perhaps because of his faith in God's promise that from Isaac would come a great nation. This would not be possible if the sacrifice had been carried out. He also told those who accompanied him part of the way that "they," i.e. Abraham and Isaac, would return. Still, that faith is amazing enough to even prepare the sacrifice, and what God did in giving His Son is leagues beyond.
Praying for you and your family, dear one.
Love in Him,

Laurie Collett said...

Amen, Cindy -- may we always be thankful and in awe of His infinite love, His unspeakable gift!
Thank you so much for your kind words, & God bless,

Unknown said...

Thanks for such a wonderful post. I am visiting with LWML blog hop. I followed you on GFC.

Laurie Collett said...

Thanks, Betty, for your sweet comment & for following! I'm following you back!

Katherines Corner said...

thank you for another beautiful post and Thank you for sharing and joining in the fun at the Thursday Favorite Things blog hop xo

Laurie Collett said...

Thank you, Katherine, for your sweet comment & for hosting!
God bless,

Pamela said...

I think that has always amazed me--how God could give His Son, knowing He would have to die. What amazing love.

Adorned From Above said...

This is so beautiful. I am always so grateful for God's gift of his only son for our sins.

Thanks so much for sharing with Wednesday's Adorned From Above Blog Hop. Have a great week.
Debi, Charly, Marci, and Suzan

Laurie Collett said...

Amen, Pamela! His love is beyond amazing, and we won't begin to understand it until we reach glory.
May you have a blessed Easter,

Laurie Collett said...

Thanks so much for your sweet comment and for hosting! We have so much to be thankful for in God's amazing gift!
May you have a blessed Easter!