Facing Calvary Ocho : Ransomed or Redeemed

Lenten Reflections Anno Domini Nostri Iesu Christi 2012


For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. Mark 10:45

The word redeemed has become favored in church vernacular as we talk of our salvation. It speaks of the marketplace, a milieu of which we are familiar. Use and time have softened the edges and made it safe like the carpenter does with hard corner of a table apron. We are a redeemed people, a part of a transaction on which many of us fail to reflect these days. Redemption gives us a sense of payment changing hands, but from what and from whom we have little recollection.

It is also what we do with grocery-store discount coupons.

Ransom, on the other hand, conjures up images of zip-ties, blindfolds, panel vans and grimy, artificially darkened rooms. Sweat and fear permeate the air and the transaction forms the balance between life and death. Since that fateful day in the Garden, humanity has been held in the grips of this tableau, this shadowy existence of bondage. We feel free but our soul groans each time we bump into the boundaries of our prison, our hands unable to break free and find a way out. Trapped.

The sin that holds us in bondage is not of our making, but it is our reality. Like captives who begin to identify with their captors, we rationalize and find the sin not so difficult to abide. Many times, we like it, mistaking it for true freedom. We are tempted to try to make our own deal for release, to try to barter with our captor only to discover the price, life itself. Blood must pay the price.

Blood did pay the price.

Ransom is an ugly word but it is our reality, brothers and sisters. We were bound and headed to death until the only One who could pay the ransom did so. The price cannot be measured in dollars and cents like other transactions. The price was life for life. He give His so that you might have yours. Don’t cheapen it. Live it.

Grace and peace to you.

image ian sane

Facing Calvary Seven : Hilaskomai

Lenten Reflections Anno Domini Nostri Iesu Christi 2012

God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished—he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus. (NIV) Rom 3:25-26

imageChrist Jesus ,whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. (ESV) Rom 3:25

The question of what was accomplished on the Cross that Friday afternoon has both simple and complex answers. The simple response is, it changed everything. A more in-depth examination discovers the true magnitude of that change.

The truth of Romans 3:23 [All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God] points us to His attitude toward humankind. His holiness demands retribution, His love leads to sacrifice. The perfection of His character does not allow one or the other. Propitiation—the turning of God’s righteous wrath away from sinners—is the answer to the first, the self-sacrifice of Himself in Christ the second. No substance or creature from within the fallen world held the perfection necessary to fulfill the demand of perfect holiness. For this reason, Jesus enters the world thirty-three years previous.

Modern Christians don’t often meditate on the turning aside of God’s wrath. We have pushed into the realms of the angry-God of the Old Testament, forgetting that it demanded the life of Christ for satisfaction. The life of our buddy. The life of the Jesus of modern prom songs. The life of Jesus who has become a casual expletive.

The life of Jesus our Savior.


Grace and peace to you in the Name of the One who is over all and through all and in all.

image Fred Jackson

Facing Cavalry Six : Substitute

Lenten Reflections Anno Domini Nostri Iesu Christi 2012

imageWe all, like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. Isaiah 53:6-7

Of the array of forensic categories for understanding the atonement, it is the substitutionary idea that draws our attention. Facing Golgatha, we ask why in seeking to understand the necessity of the Savior  hanging upon the cross. The answer, it seems, is quite simple; He alone was able to do what we could never do. Jesus alone was able to take the sins of all humanity on His scourged shoulders, bearing up the weight unto death and assuaging the righteous God.

The application is more complex. As Cranfield writes in his commentary on Romans:

God, because in his mercy he willed to forgive sinful men, and, being truly merciful, willed to forgive them righteously, that is, without in any way condoning their sin, purposed to direct against his own very self in the person of his Son the full weight of that righteous wrath which they deserved.

The wrath that we deserve for our heinous sins. The wrath that we deserve for our lack of love for others. The wrath we deserve for the slightest transgression that we dismiss without a thought. The wrath demanded by the perfect holiness of the God we serve. The wrath expressed in love; the great paradox of God placing himself in our position. The love we are challenged to understand;

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8

Grace and peace to you in the Name of the One who is over all and through all and in all.

image Maurice Koop

Facing Calvary Five : Satisfaction

Lenten Reflections Anno Domini Nostri Iesu Christi 2012

imageEmil Brunner suggests a duality in God that is appropriate for our reflection during this Lenten season. We are fond of the oft-repeated aphorism God is love. It is a truth borne out in Scripture (1 John 4) but it is also a truth that seems foreign the closer our proximity to the Golgotha hill.

Why would a God of love demand such a price?

In challenging this simplistic assertion, Brunner states that “God is not simply Love. The nature of God cannot be exhaustively stated in one single word.” Our dilemma arises as we gaze upon the broken body of the savior hanging from the beam, all the while knowing that God’s wrath demands this unimaginable price. God is love and wrath, simultaneously.

Brunner continues, saying that the Cross of Christ “is the event in which God makes known his holiness and his love simultaneously, in one event, in an absolute manner.” Whatever our understanding of atonement, it must take this duality into consideration.

Emil Brunner, Mediator

Grace and peace to you in the Name of the One who is over all and through all and in all.

image Charles Stirton

Facing Calvary Four : Sin and the Need for Atonement

Lenten Reflections Anno Domini Nostri Iesu Christi 2012


Why doesn’t God just forgive everybody?

Why indeed? Why was it necessary that the Divine Lamb to die in such a horrific manner to appease the wrath of God? This question and thousands like it have been voiced by believers through the years, often with poorly formed answers and a surfeit of resulting fruit. This question and the thousands like it also reveal the inadequacy of our understanding of atonement. The direct answer to the question is jarring:

Because of your sin, its depth, severity and continued existence.

Let that sink in and your mind races with denial and justification for your personal sinfulness. Certainly, your heart tells you, your sin cannot possibly be that bad! Oh, I might do this or that every once in a while, and occasionally I slip up in this area but I’m a pretty good person. This isn’t a new attitude, though its depth sometimes appears to have historical measure. Few are the Christians who wrestle with the true nature of their fallen souls. Fewer still are the numbers who stand their sin against the absolute holiness of God.

You see, only when we fully comprehend the perfection of God’s holiness can we begin to form a theology of atonement. Only when we have heard from the Spirit how God sees any sin, large or small, as horrific can we even start to understand the answer to our initial question. Only when we understand that God Almighty cannot be in the presence of even the slightest hint of sin can we start to see why the blood sacrifice of the Son was necessary. Only then will we ask the right question,

Can God be in my presence?

Grace and peace to you in the Name of the One who is over all and through all and in all.

image pinkMoose

Facing Cavalry Three

Lenten Reflections Anno Domini Nostri Iesu Christi 2012


The late John Stott points out three truths encapsulated in the Cross:

– Our sin must be extremely horrible. The weight of our sin is revealed in the horror of the Cross.

– God’s love must be wonderful beyond comparison. He could have rightly abandoned us to our fate yet he redeems us.

– Christ’s salvation must be a free gift. It was purchased by His blood. This leaves nothing for us to “do.”

Three simple truths that form the foundation of a life in Christ. Three simple truths that highlight our true condition before God. Three simple truths that cause us to reflect on the complexity that we build into our faith in order to avoid confronting the reality of our fallen condition.

Grace and peace from the One who is over all and through all and in all.

image by photo dean