The Gospel Storyline

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Out of the cross comes the resurrection.
Out of weakness comes real strength.
Out of repentance and admitting
you are weak comes real power.
Out of giving away and serving others
comes real strength.
Out of generosity and giving . . .
comes real wealth.
That’s the gospel storyline.

–Tim Keller

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Published in: on 04/19/2017 at 9:59  Leave a Comment  
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The Outrageous Story

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Nothing short of the extreme and strong and startling doctrine of the divinity of Christ will give that particular effect that can truly stir the popular sense like a trumpet; the idea of the king himself serving in the ranks like a common soldier. By making that figure merely human we make that story much less human. We take away the point of the story which actually pierces humanity; the point of the story which was quite literally the point of a spear…

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Any knowledge of human nature will tell us that no sufferings of the sons of men, or even of the servants of God, strike the same note as the notion of the master suffering instead of his servants… No mysterious monarch, hidden in his starry pavilion at the base of the cosmic campaign, is in the least like that celestial chivalry of the Captain who carries his five wounds in the front of battle.

–G. K. Chesterton,
The Everlasting Man

The Victorious Defeat

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GOOD FRIDAY

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AM I a stone and not a sheep
That I can stand, O Christ, beneath Thy Cross,
To number drop by drop Thy Blood’s slow loss,
And yet not weep?

Not so those women loved
Who with exceeding grief lamented Thee;
Not so fallen Peter weeping bitterly;
Not so the thief was moved;

Not so the Sun and Moon
Which hid their faces in a starless sky,
A horror of great darkness at broad noon—
I, only I.

Yet give not o’er,
But seek Thy sheep, true Shepherd of the flock;
Greater than Moses, turn and look once more
And smite a rock.

Christina Rossetti
(1830–1894)

Death, Life, and Trees

1200740_f248 copyDo you see how the devil is defeated by the very weapons of his prior victory? The devil had vanquished Adam by means of a tree. Christ vanquished the devil by means of the tree of the Cross. The tree sent Adam to hell. The tree of the Cross brought him back from there. The tree revealed Adam in his weakness, laying prostrate, naked and low. The tree of the Cross manifested to all the world the victorious Christ, naked, and nailed on high. Adam’s death sentence passed on to all who came after him. Christ’s death gave life to all his children.

–John Chrysostom,
4th century bishop

Published in: on 03/23/2016 at 8:47  Comments (1)  
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Uncommon coronation

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WHEN Christ uttered, in the judgment hall of Pilate, the remarkable words—”I am king,” he pronounced a sentiment fraught with unspeakable dignity and power. His enemies might deride his pretensions and express their mockery of his claim, by presenting him with a crown of thorns, a reed and a purple robe, and nailing him to the cross; but . . . [a] higher power presided over that derisive ceremony, and converted it into a real coronation. That crown of thorns was indeed the diadem of empire; that purple robe was the badge of royalty; that fragile reed was the symbol of unbounded power; and that cross the throne of dominion which shall never end.

–J. L. Reynolds

 

What makes God glorious?

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“Glory” is a timeworn, many-sided, vaguely understood term of rich significance. Most importantly it has to do with God, the source and sum of it. Glory is what inspires wonder and admiration. It is manifested excellence, the outward display of beauty and goodness, the visible demonstration of greatness.

The glory of God is when
God lets us see what He’s like.

It’s when His wonderfulness goes public, His awesomeness comes into view, His splendor is sighted.

We observe the glory of God in creation—an awe-inspiring, but limited view. We get a close-up view when we contemplate Jesus, the human life of God. The knowledge of the glory of God is seen partially in nature, but fully in the face of Jesus Christ.

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Great are the mysteries of creation. Greater still is the mystery of godliness, when the Architect of the galaxies was manifested in human form. The heavens display the greatness of God’s power. The Word made flesh displays the greatness of His love.

The heavens show us God’s hand;
Jesus shows us His heart.

The heavens declare the glory of God, but Jesus of Nazareth is the glory of God. He is the brightness of God’s glory, the express image of His person.

The heavens declare the glory of God in an impersonal, distant way. Jesus brings the glory of God near in a living, breathing, loving Person.

Jesus is the glory of God made human.

And never was He so glorious as when he became horribly inglorious. It happened on a cross—where the worst and the best, the highest and the lowest collided. The crucifixion of the incarnate God did not extinguish His glory, it expanded it. At Calvary the glory of God blazed forth in volcanic abundance.

It was in the moment of greatest ugliness that His beauty shone most brightly. It was in the place of utmost shame that His splendor burst forth. Violence brought virtue to light, as the crushing of a rose releases its fragrance.

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Glory was nailed to a cross and lifted up for all to see. The veil in the temple was ripped open—God’s glory had been revealed. It was the glory of His irrepressible, self-giving, self-sacrificing, redeeming, restoring love. It was the glory of His grace.

The heavens declare a piece of His glory.
The cross declares it all.

Here is the final unveiling of glory. It is a revelation, an earthquake, a feast, a waterfall, a love story, a symphony, a tsunami, a game changer, a thirst quencher, an explosion of hope, a healing balm for the wounds of our broken and flawed lives.

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“Cross” and “glory” are as far apart as two words can possibly be. They are polar opposites. Crucifixion was not just about torture—it was about shame. It was the ultimate disgrace. For Hebrews it meant being cursed. No one ever dreamed a Roman cross could be glorious.

Until God got on one.

He makes all things glorious.

Even a shameful cross.

Even unworthy sinners.

Such is the greatness of His glory.

–Jurgen O. Schulz

Light out of darkness

awakening-light-meditation copyWe find God continually at work turning evil into good. Not, as a rule, by irrelevant miracles and theatrically effective judgments–Christ was seldom very encouraging to those who demanded signs, or lightnings from Heaven, and God is too subtle and too economical a craftsman to make very much use of those methods. But He takes our sins and errors and turns them into victories, as He made the crime of the crucifixion to be the salvation of the world.

–Dorothy Leigh Sayers
Creed Or Chaos?

Unstoppable love

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Through the cross,
God showed that
even killing God
cannot put God off
from relating to
and loving us.
He rose again to tell us.

–John Goldingay

Not a sword but nails

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Jesus did not come with a sword
in his hands; he came
with nails in his hands.
He did not come to bring judgment;
he came to bear judgment.

–Tim Keller

The “folly” of following Jesus

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If the world is sane, then Jesus is mad as a hatter and the Last Supper is the Mad Tea Party. The world says, Mind your own business, and Jesus says, There is no such thing as your own business. The world says, Follow the wisest course and be a success, and Jesus says, Follow me and be crucified. The world says, Drive carefully — the life you save may be your own — and Jesus says, Whoever would save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. The world says, Law and order, and Jesus says, Love. The world says, Get and Jesus says, Give. In terms of the world’s sanity, Jesus is crazy as a coot, and anybody who thinks he can follow him without being a little crazy too is laboring less under a cross than under a delusion.

—Frederick Buechner
Listening to Your Life

Did the Lamb succeed?

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Try this one on for size..read all of it. Under the old covenant when a man sinned he could have his sins taken care of by taking a lamb to the temple to be sacrificed. The priest representing God would inspect the lamb to make sure it was spotless and without fault. HE WOULD NEVER EXAMINE OR SCRUTINIZE THE SINNER ONLY THE LAMB.

If the lamb was perfect it would be sacrificed in place of the sinner to pay for the sin of the man who was guilty. The man would go away from God with a clear conscience….In the book of John, JESUS IS CALLED THE LAMB OF GOD WHO TAKES AWAY THE SIN OF THE WORLD. I guess the only question that remains is: did the Lamb do what He was sent to do or did He fail?

–Don Keathley

Other orientation

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Christianity asserts that God is triune — that is, three persons within one God. From John 17 we learn that from all eternity, each person—Father, Son and Holy Spirit—has glorified, honoured, and loved the other two. So there is an ‘other-orientation’ within the very being of God. When Jesus went to the cross, he was simply acting in character. As C. S. Lewis wrote, when Jesus sacrificed himself for us, he did “in the wild weather of his outlying provinces” that which from all eternity “he had done at home in glory and gladness.”

–Tim Keller

A God with wounds

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The other gods were strong;
but Thou wast weak;
They rode, but Thou
didst stumble to a throne;
But to our wounds
only God’s wounds can speak,
And not a god has wounds,
but Thou alone.

–Edward Shillito
Jesus of the Scars

Astonishing cross

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The Cross never finds
its rightful place
in a man’s heart
until it takes his breath away.
It becomes life’s supreme
and most bewildering
astonishment.

–F. W. Boreham
The Drums of Dawn

Countercultural Cross

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The cross of Christ stands
as a mystery because it is foreign
to everything we exalt —
self over principle,
power over meekness,
the quick fix over the long haul,
cover-up over confession,
escapism over confrontation,
comfort over sacrifice,
feeling over commitment,
legality over justice,
the body over the spirit,
anger over forgiveness,
man over God.

–Ravi Zacharias

Published in: on 09/25/2014 at 23:36  Leave a Comment  
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The magnificent defeat

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He compelled their dark achievements to subserve His end, not theirs. They nailed Him to the tree, not knowing that by that very act they were bringing the world to His feet.

They gave Him a cross,
not guessing that
He would make it
a throne.

They flung Him outside the gates to die, not knowing that in that very moment they were lifting up all the gates of the universe, to let the King come in. They thought to root out His doctrines, not understanding that they were implanting imperishably in the hearts of men the very name they intended to destroy. They thought they had defeated God with His back to the wall, pinned and helpless and defeated: they did not know that it was God Himself who had tracked them down. He did not conquer in spite of the dark mystery of evil. He conquered through it.

James S. Stewart
(1896–1990)

Published in: on 06/24/2014 at 19:09  Leave a Comment  
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Only by Dying

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IF DEATH WAS TO be truly defeated, it was only by dying himself that Jesus believed he could defeat it. If he was to reach the hearts of men, it was only by suffering his own heart to be broken on their behalf that he believed he could reach them. To heal the sick and restore sight to the blind; to preach good news to the poor and liberty to the captives; to wear himself out with his endless teaching and traveling the whole length and breadth of the land—it had not worked because it was not enough. There had to be more. “He set his face to go to Jerusalem,” the Gospel says, and it was a journey from which he seems to have known that he would both never return and return always even unto the end of time and beyond.

–Frederick Buechner

Published in: on 04/17/2014 at 6:22  Leave a Comment  
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Heaven in pursuit

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He pursued humanity
to such an extent that
His feet landed on earth . . .
and he chased after us
until He rescued us
at the cross.

–Mary DeMuth

Published in: on 12/12/2013 at 5:09  Leave a Comment  
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God came near

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And look, now this distant God has come near to you in incomprehensible love. When you could not take hold of him, he has taken hold of you. When you could not seek him, he found you. When you were persecuting him, he loved you.

–Helmut Thielicke
Between God and Satan

Published in: on 10/09/2013 at 6:36  Leave a Comment  
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The pleasure and the pain

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There is nothing life-denying or teetotaling or pleasure-eschewing about authentic Christianity; it embraces the joys of human existence with great enthusiasm. However, let me make at least a nod in the direction of the Puritans. Since pleasure – like all good created things – can become an attachment, it too must be disciplined if we are to stay rooted in the center.

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To stand with Christ is hardly to embrace a hedonistic campaign of marching from delight to delight; rather it is to do the will of the Father even when that costs dearly, even when it conduces to the cross. Therefore the centered person must be ready for pain as well as pleasure, for deep sadness as well as contentment, clinging neither to one nor the other.

–Robert Barron
The Strangest Way

A kingdom of paradox

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It’s not what we do that matters, but what a sovereign God chooses to do through us.

God doesn’t want our success. He wants us.

He doesn’t demand our achievements; He demands our obedience.

The kingdom of God is a kingdom of paradox, where through the ugly defeat of a cross, a holy God is utterly glorified.

Victory comes through defeat; healing through brokeness; finding self through losing self.

–Charles Colson
Loving God

Credibility

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Love alone is credible,
nothing else can be believed,
and nothing else ought
to be believed.

–Hans Urs von Balthasar
(1905 – 1988)

When God says, “Me too”

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Our tendency in the midst of suffering is to turn on God. To get angry and bitter and shake our fist at the sky and say, “God, you don’t know what it’s like! You don’t understand! You have no idea what I’m going through. You don’t have a clue how much this hurts.”

The cross is God’s way of taking away all
of our accusations, excuses, and arguments.

The cross is God taking on flesh and blood and saying, “Me too.”

–Rob Bell
(emphasis added)

 

Published in: on 05/11/2013 at 4:39  Leave a Comment  
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Impossible to nail down

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We can never nail him down,
not even if the nails we use
are real ones and the thing
we nail him to is a cross.

–Frederick Buechner
The Magnificent Defeat

Published in: on 04/04/2013 at 3:35  Comments (2)  
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At the Kingdom’s center

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In the center of the kingdom of God, you do not find a gargantuan palace inhabited by an unapproachable king. No, in the center of the kingdom of God is a bloody cross, on which hung a broken King, who welcomes us as we are.

—Paul David Tripp

Published in: on 03/28/2013 at 19:48  Leave a Comment  
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God, explain yourself

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How is faith to endure, O God, when you allow all this scraping and tearing on us? You have allowed rivers of blood to flow, mountains of suffering to pile up, sobs to become humanity’s song–all without lifting a finger that we could see. You have allowed bonds of love beyond number to be painfully snapped. If you have not abandoned us, explain yourself.

We strain to hear. But instead of hearing an answer we catch sight of God himself scraped and torn. Through our tears we see the tears of God.

―Nicholas Wolterstorff
Lament for a Son

The blunder of bookkeeping

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In heaven, there are only forgiven sinners. There are no good guys, no uptight, successful types who, by dint of their own integrity, have been accepted into the great country club in the sky. There are only failures, only those who have accepted their deaths in their sins and who have been raised up by the King who himself died that they might live.

But in hell, too, there are only forgiven sinners. Jesus on the cross does not sort out certain exceptionally recalcitrant parties and cut them off from the pardon of his death.

He forgives the badness of even the worst of us,
willy-nilly; and he never takes back that
forgiveness, not even at the bottom
of the bottomless pit.

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The sole difference, therefore,
between hell and heaven is that in heaven
the forgiveness is accepted and passed along,
while in hell it is rejected and blocked.

In heaven, the death of the king is welcomed and becomes the doorway to new life in the resurrection. In hell, the old life of the bookkeeping world is insisted on and becomes, forever, the pointless torture it always was.

–Robert Farrar Capon
Kingdom, Grace, Judgment
(emphasis added)

He could have but He didn’t

He’s in Gethsemane and it’s becoming increasingly obvious that he’s not going to fight. There was a skirmish there when he was arrested but he was not involved in it and he did not approve of it. In fact, he disapproved of it and, according to Luke, healed the one who was wounded and reprimanded his friend, “Put your sword away. That’s not how we do it.”

He’s not going to fight apparently. He could have, oh, he could have. Matthew has absolutely no doubt he could have. In fact he said, “Don’t you know I could ask God right now for twelve legions of angels and they would be here to fight for me?” He could have, says Matthew, but he doesn’t…

When he’s on the cross, there was a good time for him to do it. With all the taunting, just reading the taunting makes me want to do something. “If you’re the Messiah, why don’t you jump down? Everybody will believe in you. If you’re the king, come down. If you’re the Son of God, God would surely love you and get you down.”

That would have been my cue to act. Pull a little whammy. Motivate and energize the crowds and they would take care of it with garden tools and everything else and we’d be on our way. But it’s obvious that he’s not going to fight, although he could…

Matthew, more than anyone else, likes to call Jesus the King. He could have done it, but he didn’t. And I don’t know why I’m always surprised when I read this because I know better. Matthew has told us all along that he’s not going to. Is he the King? He’s the King. Is he going to fight? No. The title for every chapter in Matthew is this: “He Could Have but He Didn’t.

–Fred B. Craddock

Left-handed power

There is one effect that cannot be
the result of a direct application of force,
and that is the maintenance of
a relationship between free persons.

If my child chooses not to cooperate with me, if my wife chooses not to live with me, there is no right-handed power on earth that can make them toe the line of relationship I have chosen to draw in the sand. I can dock my son’s allowance, for example, or chain him to a radiator; or in anger at my wife, I can punch holes in the Sheetrock or beat her senseless with a shovel. In short, I can use any force that comes to hand or mind, and yet I cannot cause either of them, at the core of their being, to stop their wrongs and conform to my right. The only power I have by which to do that is left-handed power – which for all practical purposes will be indistinguishable from weakness on my part. It is the power of my patience with them, of my letting their wrong be – even if that costs me my rightness or my life – so that they, for whose reconciliation I long, may live for a better day of their own choosing.

My point here is twofold. The power of God that saves the world was revealed in Jesus as left-handed power; and therefore any power that the church may use in its God-given role as the sacrament of Jesus must also be left-handed. Despite the fact that God’s Old Testament forays into the thicket of fallen human nature were decided right-handed (plagues, might acts, stretched-out-arm exercises, and thunderous threats) – and despite Jesus’ occasional use of similar tactics in the Gospels – the final act by which God reconciles the world to himself consists of his simply dropping dead on the cross and shutting up on the subject of sin.

He declares the whole
power game won by losing,
and he invites the world just to believe
that absurd proposition.

–Robert F. Capon
(emphasis added)

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