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 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

Facing Calvary Two

Lenten Reflections Anno Domini Nostri Iesu Christi 2012


Often seen only as a season of remembrance meant to enhance the meaning of Easter, Lent is also a time of association. Many vicariously associate their voluntary deprivation with the suffering of the Lord, but it need not stop there. One of the primary areas of investigation has to do with answering the question, why did Jesus die?

Some will answer quickly that He died at the hands of murders. Pilate, the Jewish authorities, the Roman soldiers who perform the act are all culpable. The soldiers are certainly not innocent but cannot be said to be guilty, since after all, they were just following orders and to disobey would have meant their own demise. Pilate bears a bit more of the guilt, though his feeble attempts to disavow any guilt by washing his bloodied hands attempt to point the accusations elsewhere. The Jewish leaders who initiated the process through their false accusations and provacative claims? They wear a bit more of Christ’s blood on their hands as it was their threatened egos that propelled him on the way to His death.

You and I are guilty as well.

We have the same desire to “get rid” of Jesus today as he interferes with out desire to exercise Lordship over our own lives. He intrudes at the most inopportune times and demands that we give Him worship we would rather slavish on ourselves. He is as much a rival to our Ego today as He was to the insecure leaders of the first century. Stott puts it this way, “There is blood on our hands. Before we can begin to see the cross as something done for us (leading us to faith and worship), we have to see it as something done by us (leading us to repentance).”

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

image 50% Chance of Rain

Facing Calvary

Lenten Reflections Anno Domini Nostri Iesu Christi 2012


Unlike the anticipation of the Advent season where the focus is on new birth and the manger, Lent leads our thoughts inexorably to the cross. The crucifix often becomes invisible to us when we see jewelry and other decorations fashioned in the cruciform shape. We take for granted that it is situated in a prominent place in our sanctuaries and often fail to register its significance as our eyes survey the space on Sunday mornings. A visitor to one of the grand cathedrals of historic Christianity would be confronted the cross adorning everything at every turn but left to wonder, why the cross? Why has the Savior’s death furnishing become symbolic of the faith of hope?

The answer to this question is simple..and complex. The death of Jesus Christ and His subsequent resurrection are the key elements of the gospel; without them one came preaching good news but left us wondering. Escaping the confinement of the tomb on that first Easter morning dismissed all doubt. Sin had extracted a terrible toll but hope brought a new radiance as the living Savior showed himself having overcome the greatest fear of humanity, death.

Reflecting on the empty cross reminds us of both the cost of redemption and the hope brought about by not having to face the debt ourselves. We have about six weeks in which to prepare ourselves spiritually for the celebration of the resurrected Christ. We will keep the cross in front of us and reflect on it in depth so that when the beauty of the draped cross confronts us on Easter morning we will never again be tempted to take it for granted.

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

image resclassic2