19 April 2014

When I Survey . . .



When I survey the wondrous cross on which the Prince of Glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss, and pour contempt on all my pride.

Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast save in the death of Christ, my Lord; 
All the vain things that charm me most, I sacrifice them to His blood.

See, from His head, His hands, His feet, sorrow and love flow mingled down;
Did e'er such love and sorrow meet, or thorns compose so rich a crown?

Were the whole realm of nature mine, that were a present far too small; 
Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all.


How do these words strike you as you read them? Perhaps you immediately put them to a tune in your head. Perhaps you skimmed down to this point because you know the words so well. Perhaps you paused to reflect on the occasion the hymn describes. Perhaps you cringed at the thought of the pain Christ must have endured. Perhaps you even wondered why it was necessary. 

This week of the year brings with it much meaning, much reflection, and even much controversy, but the events that we recall this week really came about to bring one primary thing. The death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ were necessary for sinful people like us to have eternal life with Him. It's like this . . .

All have sinned, and fall short of God's glory. There is no one that has ever come close to pleasing God on his or her own merit. As self-sufficient as we all like to think we are, there is no means of gaining access to God because of who we are or what we've done. Our inherent desire to please ourselves rather than God only drives us further from God's standard of holiness and toward a very real place called Hell. And that place is far worse than any human being can possibly imagine. Before we can really even think about why Christ's death is significant, we must accept the fact that we are utterly hopeless to achieve God's standard of holiness to enter His Heaven.
"As it is written: 'There is none righteous, no, not one;' . . . for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." -Ro. 3.10, 23

That could be the end of the story, but it doesn't have to be. You see, God loved us in spite of ourselves. He loved us so much that He sent Jesus Christ, His Son, in an act of love to take upon Himself the penalty of our sin--death. Because He was sinless, He was the only possible candidate. Jesus allowed Himself to be run through a mockery of a trial, beaten beyond recognition, and crucified on a cross--a death of ultimate shame in that culture. A Roman soldier ensured that He was dead. He was laid in a borrowed tomb, and guards were placed around the tomb to ensure that nothing happened to the body. On the third day, Jesus returned to life. Not His ghost, but His human body. He proved His power to deliver from death by delivering Himself! If there is no resurrection, there is no Good News!

"He humbled Himself and became obedient to death, even the death of the cross" -Php 2.8
"For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins acording to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures . . ." -1 Co. 15.3-4

And here's one of the most beautiful parts of the Gospel--its simplicity! God knew that if we were left to figure this out for ourselves it would quickly become so complicated as to become unintelligible (just look at our idea of a tax code!). So He offers us an exchange--Our sin for His righteousness. He offers to free us from bondage to sin that condemns us to Hell, by accepting Jesus' sacrifice on our behalf. 
"For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." -Ro. 6.23
  
Once we have accepted the fact of our sin and chosen to turn from the sin that has characterized our life (that's repentance), we are in a place to ask God to forgive our sin, accepting His gift on our behalf through Jesus Christ. God's Word, the Bible, offers a standing invitation to all who will simply turn from their sin and call upon Him. We do this through prayer. 
". . . that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved." -Ro. 10.9

I was 6 years old in the living room of my home when I trusted Christ for my salvation. My wife came to Him in a parking garage at 23. Location doesn't really matter. Age doesn't matter. What you've done with your life up to that point doesn't even matter! The one thing that really matters in this life is whether you choose to continue to live for yourself for this short life and spend eternity in Hell, or whether you turn from your sin and pursue Him and spend eternity with Him in Heaven. 

So if you've wondered what Easter is really all about, or maybe if you've lost sight of it amid the bunnies and busy-ness, there it is in a nutshell. It's really about the completion of the first ever Christmas gift--Jesus Christ and our eternal life through His death and resurrection. Kind of gives fresh perspective when we "survey the wondrous cross, doesn't it?! If you'd like to know more about Jesus Christ and His offer of salvation, you can contact me through my family's website.


 

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