Monday, October 27, 2008

The Cross For Now

Back on October 19, I heard a radio program that called into question how much clarity any of us can have about the experience of other people. When we see someone who seems unkind or cold, who is to say what is going on in their hearts and minds? When someone acts in a way that makes no sense to us, we are quick to judge.

Like most people, we Christ-followers want clarity. But, for now, our spiritual vision is muddied with sin and tears. For now we stumble through, doing the best we can. For now, all we have is God's self-giving love for sinners and the command that we love God and others in return. Sometimes we don't know what is best - except the cross.

I think that's especially true as we look forward to November 4. I hope we'll keep this in mind as we vote. It is our patriotic and civic duty to vote, so we do. But don't look for clarity in politics. Politics is necessary and important, but it's always the color of mud... whether thrown or not.

When we want clarity, we look to Jesus. When we look to Jesus, we see the cross. We see the place where God gave his life in return for ours. We see love for sinners. There we find our confidence. There we see clearly. Everything else may fade, but God's Word of Self-giving Love for Sinners endures and shines from the cross every day.

I'm thinking of this partly because someone sent me a link to a fire-and-brimstone sermon. As I listened to Paul Washer preach, I heard him say that we can see or know from the outside who is a "true" Christian or not. You know them, he says, they come to [church] but in their hearts they're as wicked as wicked can be. Well, no matter how wicked I, or they, may be, we still, always, need the cross. My spiritual vision is clear only for that.

Paul Washer is preaching something that has been labeled "Lordship Salvation." Instead of questioning whether people are saved based on their actions or attitudes, I prefer to challenge people about whether or not they are living as disciples. The only place we have to go as regards being saved is to the cross, where Jesus love is poured out for all, no matter how confused their lives may look to me.

For now, that's all we have.

We have a promise, however, that all will become clear someday. In November, as the northern hemisphere slips into cold and darkness, we point ahead to that wonderful future. Through the prophets, God gives us a glimpse of glory beyond the cross. We'll take a look that direction next month. I'd encourage you to look ahead at the coming weeks scriptures to be printed on upcoming weeks bulletins:

God will wipe away every tear from our eyes!
November 02 - Revelation 7:9-17; Psalm 34:1-10,22; 1 John 3:1-3; Matthew 5:1-12

Keep awake... for you know neither the day nor the hour.
November 09 - Amos 5:18-24; Psalm 70; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; Matthew 25:1-13

Enter into the joy of your master
November 16 - Zephaniah 1:7,12-18; Psalm 90:1-8[9-11]12; 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11; Matthew 25:14-30

Just as you did it to the one of the least of these, you did it to me
November 23 - Ezekiel 24:11-16,20-24; Psalm 95:1-7a; Ephesians 1:15-23; Matthew 25:31-46

Hope shines from beyond the cross. But don't expect clarity there either. We are given just enough hope, just enough light, for those who live today in the shadow of the cross.

One of those promises we read on November 2 goes like this:
After this I looked, and there was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and people and lanuages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, robed in white, with palm branches in their hands... saying "Salvation belongs to our God who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!" (The "Lamb" is Jesus, who takes away our sin.) "They have come out of great suffering*... but they will hunger no more, and thirst no more... the Lamb... will guide them to springs of the water of life, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes."
What a great promise. But that's about as much clarity as we get. Poetic language of a wonderful future. For now, we have the cross. Then, goodness and glory and praise to God!

* "great suffering" is my translation of τῆς θλίψεως τῆς μεγάλης.


  1. Thanks for that Pastor Steve. When I sent you and others that link, I was hoping to spur on some good conversation. I like to hear and learn from other peoples interpretations of something that I have seen. I also did not agree theologically with some of the things that he was saying, but some things I did. One thing that I agreed with 100% was his analogy of being hit by a logging truck and not being changed. How can any Christian truly be hit by the Holy Spirit and not have their life changed? Thanks for the conversation.....

  2. I agree with you about the truck analogy. We need to be careful, however, because the changes are not always immediately evident. It takes awhile for spiritual fruit (love, joy, peace, etc.) like regular agricultural fruit to set, grow and mature. And if there is a painful situation that ensues the fruit, I think, can be nipped in the bud, at least temporarily.