Writing from prison, the apostle Paul said in Galatians 6:14,
"God forbid that I should glory, save in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ,
by whom the world is crucified unto me and I unto the world."
This is the verse that inspired Isaac Watts to write this hymn in 1707:
"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 God.
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 ere' 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."
William J. Reynolds wrote about Watts and the song:
"The word 'survey' in the opening line implies more than mere looking.
Watts suggests contemplation and awareness of the REAL significance of The Cross. Rather than using an expected adjective such as cruel, tragic...or rugged, Watts describes The Cross as wondrous. Such graphic language reminds us that an instrument of cruel torture and death, became God's wondrous instrument for our salvation."
Later, while pastoring in London, Watts wrote the hymns, 'Alas and Did My Savior Bleed' and 'Come We That Love The Lord'. We, like Watts, must never lose sight of how terrible Christ's death was, but above all, how WONDROUS the results of that death, for us!
I admit that sometimes, I do not think of The Cross as often as I should.
So would you resolve with me, that we will do better concerning this?
The 'Passion' movie helped some to re-focus on The Cross,
but it takes daily commitment, Scripture and Prayer to STAY focused.
We are to die daily to self, in order to live fully for Christ.
Don't be guilty of wanting to be Christ's disciple, but wanting Him to do all of the dying!
Let's look at Luke 23. This is my favorite Scripture on The Cross, for it teaches:
1) How far a person can go in sin
2) How far God went to redeem us
3) How far we are to go for Christ...and others
The Scripture used by Dr. Baker James Cauthen when we were appointed as missionaries to Korea, was II Corinthians 12:15: 'I will most gladly spend and be spent for you, though the more abundantly I love you, the less I be loved.'
Then he said to us (and the other 19 missionaries being appointed to various countries),
"Your ministry is in terms of an Old Rugged Cross and do not ever lose sight of that!"
Dietrich Bonhoeffer (martyred by the Nazis, for his faith) said,
"When Jesus calls his disciples, he bids them 'Come and die'."
Let's see if we can identify with any of the people in Luke 23:
PILATE (vs. 3-7)
He was interested, but he was lost.
This is bad, but God hates to see the saved not interested.
Also, Pilate needed to see Christ more than a righteous man.
Jesus died because our righteousness is as filthy rags.
Pilate did not follow his convictions, which can happen in our lives.
His main problem was that he compromised with the crowd and this led to his will deciding to release Barrabas...and crucify Jesus.
In Pilate's life (and our's), the Will decides it.
"The saddest word of tongue or pen, are these four words,
'He might have been'."
So Pilate sent Jesus to Herod, to shift responsibility of 'what to do with Jesus'.
The song says: 'Neutral you cannot be, for someday your heart will be asking,
'What will He do with me?"
HEROD (vs. 8-9)
He would not get serious about Jesus...and there are millions who are like that.
He only wanted to see a miracle, not in himself, but a cheap side-show and not the REAL thing!
R.Q. Leavell told the story about the circus that came to town when he was a small boy. They turned out school and he got excited watching the parade of animals, clowns, etc. He asked his Mother if he could go to the circus and she gave him the money to get into the main show. On his way to the big tent where the main show was, he heard a barker proclaiming, "In this tent is the greatest show on earth." He paid his money and was SO disappointed, for it was only a cheap side-show and he missed the main event!
So many people miss Jesus....and He is THE main event.
Please note that Jesus did not answer Herod, for Jesus knew that he was not serious. Herod missed a great opportunity and as far as we know, he never accepted Christ.
CAIAPHAS, ANNAS AND THE RELIGIOUS FOLK (vs. 10-11)
If religion had been enough, Jesus did not need to die!
God had enough (then and now!) of religions, rituals, and habit....
without conviction and inner change!
Jesus' harshest words were against the Pharisees and Saducees.
I've shared before that an adequate religion must do 4 things:
a) It must have a high concept of God
b) It must deal with sin
c) It must bring peace to the human heart
d) It must give assurance and hope in death and beyond
Their religion was not enough....is your's?
THE CROWD (all of Luke 23)
They rejected Jesus for a thief and after all, anyone or anything that you take in the place of Jesus is a thief.
Matt. 27:36 says, "And sitting down, they watched him there."
All that you have to do to be lost (and stay that way), is to do nothing.
There were gamblers in the crowd
and the worst gamble in life, is to gamble on getting by without Jesus.
I have a conviction about gambling, for I believe that it is never right to do wrong...
and never wrong to do right....and gambling is WRONG!
THE TWO THIEVES (vs. 32-43)
One thief died as he had lived, with a lost life and a lost soul.
The other thief died with a lost life....but with a saved soul.
Jesus was right there, ready to forgive and one accepted his opportunity....
and one lost his.
Someone has well said:
"There are 3 things that never come back:
An arrow that is shot into the air....
a spoken word....
and an opportunity."
Notice that the repentant thief had no opportunity for baptism..or good works...or to earn his salvation.
Jesus gives salvation through His death and our repentance and faith in Him.
I like the words of the song that says:
'Jesus is standing at your heart's door
Standing and knocking...He's knocked before.
This is the question you face once more,
'What will you do with Jesus?'
I trust that your life and soul are in the hands of Jesus.
When measured by The Cross,
no sacrifice is too great,
no amount of suffering we endure is unbearable,
no burden we carry is too heavy,
and no assignment we receive is too difficult.
The glory of The Cross cuts man's glory down to size and reduces man's pride,
for it is not we who live, but it is Christ who lives through us!
There may be people who will wonder WHY you go through so much for your Lord.
Peter even counseled Jesus to NOT go to the Cross. (Matt. 27:40-44)
The crowd told Jesus to 'come down from the Cross.
Jesus resisted both temptations....and so must we....
as we deny self, take up our cross daily and follow Him.
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