This is an excerpt from The Cross of Christ by John R. W. Stott:
…the cross enforces three truths—about ourselves, about God and about Jesus Christ.
First, our sin must be extremely horrible. Nothing reveals the gravity of sin like the cross. For ultimately what sent Christ there was neither the greed of Judas, nor the envy of the priests, nor the vacillating cowardice of Pilate, but our own greed, envy, cowardice and other sins, and Christ’s resolve in love and mercy to bear their judgment and so put them away. It is impossible for us to face Christ’s cross with integrity and not to feel ashamed of ourselves. Apathy, selfishness and complacency blossom everywhere in the world except at the cross. There these noxious weeds shrivel and die. They are seen for the tatty, poisonous things they are. For if there was no way by which the righteous God could righteously forgive our unrighteousness, except that he should bear it himself in Christ, it must be serious indeed. It is only when we see this that, stripped of our self-righteousness and self-satisfaction, we are ready to put our trust in Jesus Christ as the Savior we urgently need.
Secondly, God’s love must be wonderful beyond comprehension. God could quite justly have abandoned us to our fate. He could have left us alone to reap the fruit of our wrongdoing and to perish in our sins. It is what we deserved. But he did not. Because he loved us, he came after us in Christ. He pursued us even to the desolate anguish of the cross, where he bore our sin, guilt, judgment and death. It takes a hard and stony heart to remain unmoved by love like that. It is more than love. Its proper name is “grace”, which is love to the undeserving.
Thirdly, Christ’s salvation must be a free gift. He “purchased” it for us at the high price of his own life-blood. So what is there left for us to pay? Nothing! Since he claimed that all was now “finished”, there is nothing for us to contribute. Not of course that we now have a license to sin and can always count on God’s forgiveness. On the contrary, the same cross of Christ, which is the ground of a free salvation, is also the most powerful incentive to a holy life. Continue reading
This excerpt is from “What’s His Is Ours” by Sarah Hinlicky Wilson, Christianity Today, September 2012:
Picture this: a bride and groom dashing out of the church, through the showers of birdseed and into the limo, all aglow with the light of love from the vows they’ve just taken. In the backseat of the car, en route to the reception, they embrace and kiss. Then the groom announces that he has something to say.
“Now you realize, my dear,” he begins, “that, as far as I’m concerned, we can’t really say we’re married, because I don’t know yet what kind of wife you’ll turn out to be. I hope for the best, of course. And I’ll help you all I can. But only at the end of our lives will I be able to tell if you’ve lived up to my expectations. If you have—then, and only then, I’ll agree that we truly got married today. But if you don’t, then as far as I’m concerned we were never married at all. After all, how can I call you my wife if you fail to be a wife to me?”…
But it would be just as awful a misunderstanding if the bride were to recite to her new husband the following speech: “I’m glad you married me. I’ve always wanted to be married. But mainly what I wanted was the status; I was tired of being a single girl. I’ll stick by you and never seek a divorce, so I can go on calling myself married, but don’t expect any closeness, friendship, or desire from me. I’ve already gotten everything I want out of you and I’ve already given everything I intend to give to you.”…
Comparing our relationship with God to a marriage is an age-old theological device. Hosea, the Gospels, Ephesians, and Revelation all use bride and bridegroom metaphors to illustrate divine-human relations…. Continue reading
This is an excerpt from Just Walk Across the Room by Bill Hybels:
The simplest illustration I’ve come across to articulate what sets Christianity apart from other religions is called “Do versus Done.” I tell people who are on the Earning-Grace Plan that “religion is spelled D-O. At the end of the day, it’s all about whether you do enough right things to earn God’s favor. To get in God’s good graces, the thinking goes, you have to do this and do that and strive and sacrifice and clean up your act and make all sorts of promises.”
“But Christianity, on the other hand,” I say to people, “is spelled D-O-N-E. The Bible says that what Christ did on the cross is enough. He did what you could never do—he uniquely satisfied God’s requirement for a perfect sacrifice to take care of our past, present, and future sin—and if you receive what he accomplished, then not only will you be ‘in God’s good graces’ but your life will be made brand new. Because of what Christ did on the cross, your sins can be forgiven and you can find favor in God’s eyes right here, right now.”
Writing those two little words on a slip of paper cements this powerful truth on a person’s heart and mind. Whether or not they make a decision for Christ at that moment, they will never forget what sets Christianity apart. The work that must occur to pay for sin and grant eternal access to God—it’s already been done.
This is an excerpt from the message “It’s No Mistake” by Andy Stanley:
Sin. It’s such a pesky word. We don’t use it anymore….I mean, sin makes me think of God. Sin makes me think of judgment. Sin would mean there’s some giant moral absolute or absolutes out there, and I’m accountable and if I’ve broken those laws or those rules that God has set up, then I’m in big trouble and I’m accountable….. In fact, if I have sins, then after a while I think I’m kind of a bad person. So, we don’t use that word.
We like this word: “I didn’t sin. I just made a mistake. I made a mistake.” … See, this is a lot better word, because when you catch me, I can say, “Ah, my bad! My mistake.”… …You see, if everything I do wrong can kind of be dumbed down to where it’s just a mistake, then that makes me a mistaker, which means I don’t have sin. If I don’t have sin, I’m not a sinner. If I’m not a sinner, I don’t have any need for a Savior. You see, if you’re just a mistaker, then all you have to do is do better. Mistakers just have to try harder….
The problem is that we know ourselves. The problem is that we know better. Continue reading
This is an excerpt from Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis:
…God selected one particular people and spent several centuries hammering into their heads the sort of God He was—that there was only one of Him and that He cared about right conduct. Those people were the Jews, and the Old Testament gives an account of the hammering process.
Then comes the real shock. Among these Jews there suddenly turns up a man who goes about talking as if He was God. He claims to forgive sins. He says he has always existed. He says he is coming to judge the world at the end of time. Now let us get this clear. Among Pantheists, like the Indians, anyone might say that he was a part of God, or one with God: there would be nothing very odd about it. But this man, since He was a Jew, could not mean that kind of God. God, in their language, meant the Being outside the world, who had made it and was infinitely different from anything else. And when you have grasped that, you will see that what this man said was, quite simply, the most shocking thing that has ever been uttered by human lips.
One part of the claim tends to slip past us unnoticed because we have heard it so often that we no longer see what it amounts to. I mean the claim to forgive sins: any sins. Now unless the speaker is God this is really so preposterous as to be comic. Continue reading