Monday, September 7, 2015

The Cross: A Morbid Fetish?

Do evangelicals have a morbid fetish over the cross? Why do we keep emphasizing the crucifixion of Jesus Christ?
Shame vs. Glory
If you wanted to understand the glory of God, where would you look? You could look at His creation. You could look in the Bible for descriptions of His glory and power. But any idea of the glory of God is deficient and incomplete if the cross is not at the center of it.
But the cross was a shameful thing, an instrument of torture and death created by depraved minds! And remember who died on the cross? Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God made man. Totally sinless, completely righteous. He deserves all worship, devotion, and love. Yet, humanity crucified Him.
Even the physical pain and the people's ridicule, though, were not the worst of it. They were nothing compared to the Father's wrath upon the Son (Isaiah 53:10). All of the punishment for sins that the elect would have suffered for eternity in hell, the Father poured out on the Son in a mere three hours! And all the while, the Son was separated from the Father so that He died completely alone (Mark 15:34).
What we see on the cross is the King of Glory, abandoned, bleeding out, suffocating, being ridiculed, separated from the Father and suffering His wrath. How in the world can the cross tell us anything about God's glory?
The Greatest Display of God's Glory
First, it shows us God's holy anger, coming from His perfect righteousness and justice. He cannot tolerate evil. That means He must punish sin, even if it meant that the Son had to (willingly) go to the cross for it. (Nahum 1:3)
Second, we see God's glory in the cross because God triumphed supremely over evil and displayed His absolute sovereignty. Christ intended to be crucified. In eternity past, the Triune God agreed to do this in order to display His glory through the salvation of undeserving sinners (cf. Revelation 13:8). And so, we see at the cross God's taking the most evil act imaginable – the execution of God! – and using it to display His righteousness. God takes the darkest hour in the history of the world, and uses it to prove that He can conquer any enemy, any obstacle and make it serve His purposes. And so, the Lord said the night before His death, “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in Him.” (John 13:31)
Third, we see God's glory in the cross because the sinfulness of our sin is exposed, and therefore, the graciousness of grace becomes unmistakeable. We're forced to deal with the fact that, as one popular songs says, “it was my sin that held Him there!” How bad is our sin? So bad that Jesus Christ had to die for it so we could be forgiven. Now, if God could love us even if we're that sinful and evil in heart, then how gracious He is! He even loved us even to the point of Christ taking the punishment for all our sins, so that we could be forgiven and adopted into His family. “In this is love,” says the Apostle John, “not that we have loved God, but that He loved us, and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” (1 John 4:10)
So, why the fixation on the crucifixion? One reason is that it is the greatest display of God's glory this side of heaven... and perhaps for all eternity!

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