Saturday, May 5, 2012

The Cross and the Throne: Part 1

   "Therefore... be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the Lord's work, knowing that your labor in the Lord is not in vain" (1 Cor. 15:58)

We often talk about the love that sent Jesus to the cross: His passion for humanity, demonstrated in the sacrifice of Himself, so that you and I could be reconciled in our relationship with God.
     But how often have we considered what that love looked like at the rock face in the life of Jesus, incarnate in human flesh, experiencing all the joys and sorrows of the human condition?
     As Son of Man, He poured Himself out into the lives of others constantly:
He poured new hope into ravaged hearts.
He poured new healing into deep woundedness.
He poured forgiveness into guilt-ridden spirits.
He poured new life into blighted lives.
He poured new love into those who knew rejection and abandonment.
He poured time and attention into those who were lost and hurting.
He poured Himself out in healing and redemption and restoration and care and authentic relationship, touching lives with the riches of the Kingdom of God, giving of Himself tirelessly and constantly.
     And after He had done all of this:
The mob screamed, “Crucify Him!”
His closest companions deserted Him.
His onlookers mocked Him.
His enemies reviled Him and spat on Him.
His leaders subjected Him to hours of torture followed by a long and excruciating death.
And then at the hour of His greatest suffering… the Father turned away…
     The words that Jesus spoke during the time of His arrest, trials and crucifixion resound through redemption history. Yet the words He did not speak may be just as significant:
“After all I’ve done for you…”
These are the words He never said.
Instead He said,
“Father forgive them…”
     In what ways have you poured yourself out:
Into the lives of family members and friends.
Into the lives of people under your ministry.
Into the lives of colleagues and co-workers.
Into the lives of neighbors and acquaintances,
And perhaps even complete strangers…
     And at the end it all, are there times when you feel that you have been left:
Exhausted and expended
Bereft and alone
Cast aside
Your own needs unmet
     Is it tempting at such times, to cry out, at least in your heart, “After all I’ve done…?”
     And yet… Jesus beckons us to Himself by way of the cross. Yes, it is the cross of our salvation, our redemption. But it is also…
the cross of our own surrender;
the cross of our own lives laid down;
the cross of the right to self sacrificed at the feet of the One who suffered there on your behalf and mine;
the cross we embrace not only as a one-time event but as a way of life.
     Whatever we pour into the lives of others, is given for the sake of, and in the Name of the One who gave Himself up for us. The One who said:
“If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me” (Matt. 16:24).
“… anyone who does not take his cross and follow Me is not worthy of Me” (Matt. 10:38).
     Is this painful at times? Oh yes! You cannot have a cross without having pain. But because of Jesus and the cross we have embraced, we also receive His grace and power to pour out our lives for others in self-sacrificial love in His Name, expecting nothing in return. The way of the cross is the way of love:
Love is patient
Love is kind
If does not envy
It does not boast
It is not proud
It is not rude
It is not self-seeking
It is not easily angered
It keeps no record of wrongs
It rejoices with the truth
It always protects
Always trusts
Always hopes
Always perseveres…
Love never fails
     Not human love, but love learned at the cross where the One who is Love poured Himself out: The One who beckons us now, to follow in the way of love – the way of the cross.

Lead me to the cross
Where Your love poured out
Bring me to my knees
Lord I lay me down
Rid me of myself
I belong to You
Lead me, lead me to the cross
(Hillsong United)