Friday, April 18, 2014

Let Us Fix Our Eyes On Jesus

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Every year I take Good Friday to focus on the work of Jesus Christ here on the blog. The last couple of years I've posted an article called The Battle Won. But today I want to update. When I originally wrote that article, it was after seeing someone we knew walk away from the Lord. That hurt, and I haven't forgotten it. But in the last few months, things have changed--and the battle between good and evil has gotten a lot more intense.
For instance, just last month my state voted to allow homosexual unions. We're still fighting to the bloody end on it, but we know it's coming. Two significant Christian ministries just caved on the gay marriage issue. Other ministries have crumbled, and some of the very tools we used to fight against evil have now turned double-edged and disintegrated in our hands. I've watched good Christians pass away in the last couple of months, friends move, families hurt--it seems to be a time of the changing of the guard, both in Christian and secular circles.
And I think not just in my own family, but in the Church at large, faithful followers are feeling just a little overwhelmed at how fast things are progressing. We trust that God is sovereign, but still deep down we wonder what's going to happen, and what it all means for our future.
When I see darkness in the culture, I for one am tempted to hide from it--to push it down and lock it up, and make sure that it doesn't come back to my remembrance. Because, deep down, if I admitted it, I'm afraid of being swallowed by the darkness.
But that's not what Jesus did. And today we celebrate the fact that he faced the darkness and overcame it.  
And he withdrew from them about a stone's throw, and knelt down and prayed, saying, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him. And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.
~Luke 22:41-44
He went out and faced the darkness in the full knowledge of what he was facing-and even though he pleaded that the cup might pass from him, he did not hide or quail--he offered himself up willingly. And he told us that we would face it someday as his followers.
 Very truly I tell you, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy. A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world. So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy. ~John 16:20-22
Jesus took on every bit of our human frailty, and was tempted in every way as we are, and even with that he conquered a greater darkness than we will ever face. But lately it's sure hard to admit that anyone but Jesus can finish the race victoriously. There are so many stories of compromise that are reaching the headlines, it's easy to focus on the people who stumbled in their race instead of so many stories of faithfulness that nobody ever hears about.
That finishing the race stuff? Surely that's just for the apostles. How can we fight the good fight, and win the prize in today's culture? How are we assured of the victory that Paul seems to promise so freely to those who love Christ?
Is it just by chance that some finish well and some don't?
It's when I'm wrestling with this question that I love to turn to Hebrews chapter 11. It's a most encouraging, yet mind-boggling chapter about the people that God holds up to be our example of faith. The men in there, they were all counted as victors, even though they bedded down with prostitutes and killed faithful followers, embezzled money and abdicated leadership to women. The people in the hall of faith couldn't lead their sons, and told God they were too weak, and sacrificed their daughters, and went about in public spectacles of disgrace and torture--but they were still counted.
Just look at the nation of Israel--they couldn't keep to the law God gave them if their life depended on it. They spend more time in apostasy than they spend following the Lord, and yet He loved them and redeemed them again and again, even when they were sawing his prophets in two and stoning them to death, and putting up detestable man-made images. Our age of apostasy is starting to look more and more like theirs.
Why are these people even counted as victors at all?
For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord." ~1 Corinthians 1:26-31
Maybe our perception of 'winning the race' is a little different than God's.  Maybe we think that if we just run that race then we'll get the glory, just like Jesus Christ did. But in reality, every race is won when Jesus' name is exalted, not ours. Jesus Christ gets the glory that these people won in Hebrews 11, even though they were so faulty and broken. It wasn't so much that each of these men were perfect--though they overcame, true--but that God won through them. He was glorified through them. If we had lived in their time, we would have said they lost the race before they even started. But they won the race--because they desired to exalt their Lord rather than themselves.
It's only those who face Satan's darkness in their own strength and pride that fall. They have to. God will not abide anyone trying to take His glory. But those who go out in humility, not because they know they can do it (for oftentimes it seems they can't) but in the knowledge that they have been called, and they must obey one step after another, until the Lord calls them home--those who trust that God is working through them, and rely on His grace, and cling to His ability to see them through all perils--they are the ones that will stand firm in the day of Jesus Christ.
Because when God has someone finish a race, he wants Jesus Christ to get the glory, not the person running. And he can use faulty messengers to bring him glory, because of Jesus' redeeming blood. He looks on the Church, and sees a blood-bought bride for his son, and the sin that we are so frightened about already conquered by her Bridegroom.
Soli Christus. Soli Deo Gloria.
Maybe in the last few months as we've seen people fail, we're still looking to them just as much in our sadness as we were in our hero-worship when they were on top of the world. Despair turns inward. Manward. But hope--enduring, unconquerable hope--looks to Jesus, because today we celebrate the fact that by his death He crushed Satan with his heel.
The devil thought Jesus had lost the race, too, on that day. But praise God, He won, so that we too might be conquerors of sin and death.
 "I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” ~John 16:33
Christ is victorious, and he shall be glorified in today's Church just as much as in the time when his physical body was here on earth. Jesus' victory over sin, even with the ministry closings and ministry compromises, has not diminished one jot since the moment he first achieved it. Jesus' victory over death is still just as true, just as effective, and just as relevant, and shall be forevermore.
That's what we commemorate today. So today when you think of Good Friday, think not just of the God-man who died to cleanse your  individual sins, but the one who came that all sin might be conquered. Finished. Annihilated. We do not need to deny the darkness we see in our culture today. We can acknowledge it--as long as we lean deeper and deeper into the victory that was purchased, and know that our victory is in the Christ who died for us.
That being said, even though Christ won the victory, he's still given us a battle to fight. Because Satan hasn't acknowledged Jesus as victor yet, and he is attacking Christ's glory by seeking to crumble his Church.
Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.
~Ephesians 6:11-13
So friends, arise and put on the armor of Christ. For we are fighting. And we'll be wounded, and we'll be facing darkness that is bigger than any one of us individually. Jesus had to bear wounds, too. Jesus had his dark night when he had to look into the face of utter terror. Jesus had his moment of despair when he cried out "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"
What happened after that?
Well, what did happen?
If the One who bore every sin that we are seeing played out in our culture today, paid for them, and conquered them--all the gay marriage compromises and leader failures, and the consequences of death that invade our world--if he paid for them--then we his people look to our Lord who won the victory, and we do not quail in the present darkness.
Every darkness we face now was conquered 2,000 years ago. And though we still face them--though the world is breaking more and more, and we still have to bear the consequences and sadness of the effects of sin--yet we hope. We should not expect to escape the darkness Jesus faced, for if we share in the glory of our Lord, then we must also share in His sufferings.
We can expect to reach the light after the darkness. Because Jesus rose again, and in that security we press on. We do not give up. We do not lose heart. We do not break faith--because Jesus himself kept faith, and if we abide in him, then He will grant to us His abundant victory.
Blessings,
Lady Bibliophile

4 comments:

  1. Very good post! It reminded me of these verses:
    "Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
    In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And have you completely forgotten this word of encouragement that addresses you as a father addresses his son? It says,
    “My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline,
    and do not lose heart when he rebukes you,
    because the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
    and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.”
    Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness.No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.
    Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. 'Make level paths for your feet,' so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed."

    ~Hebrews 12: 3-13

    Christ has conquered. He has won the battle that we are fighting by paying the ultimate price and rising from the dead.

    Thank-you for this encouragement today. <3
    Love,
    Sister

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    Replies
    1. "Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart."--exactly. The whole of my heart on this article in one sentence, already written in Scripture! :)

      Thank-you for your faithful comments, Sister! I love every one of them, and you are a big encouragement to me. :)

      Love,
      Sister

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  2. An encouraging post, Schuyler. I think, more and more I see (also our family has been seeing and realizing this in our own personal struggles and in what we see through the sufferings of believers), is that the Church - God's people - are going through a very difficult time, of refining and testing... a time when individual Christians have to daily do battle and struggle against the world's slough of Dispond's and the fiery arrows and darts that Satan throws to cast down the followers of Christ... like Satan is aware that his days are numbered and hurling hell at the Bride of Christ. I cannot think but say... that in the midst of this painful, bitter War, we can only cling to the Captain of our Salvation - and proclaim that our Saviour, Jesus, is Victor! The Cross is so hated and all who bear the name of the Crucified and Risen Christ are hated and buffeted so by Satan and the World, because of the Victory that our Lord Jesus accomplished at Calvary and of His Resurrection. Oh, we do have such hope! Such hope and joy and peace.... but it can only be, as you said, in looking unto Him!!

    I loved how you shared passages from Hebrews 11 too, about those who ran the race before us. A dear and very godly pastor we know passed away last Easter; how grieved we all were! I was touched and challenged, uplifted by seeing how God was glorified and magnified even in the death of his servant, in praising our Saviour for His great love and in the glory of Heaven. And so, many of that dear pastor's words came rushing back to me, during the service,... one of the things I vividly remember him saying was 'He will see His Bride through... somehow!'
    :)

    I am reminded of the words of the Apostle Paul when he wrote to the Romans,

    'Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written: “For Your sake we are killed all day long;
    We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.” Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.'


    Dearest Schuyler, I pray you had a blessed Good Friday, and may the Lord encourage your heart and fill you with His hope, thanksgiving and joy this Easter <3.

    Much love <3 :)

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  3. A time of refining--indeed it is. It's painful to take away the dross, but it leaves the Church as gold. And nothing shall separate us from the love of Christ. How very comforting those words are, and I'm sure many Christians are clinging to them right now.

    I hope you and your family have a blessed Easter service tomorrow! <3

    Love,
    Schuyler

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