Monday, April 14, 2014
The basis of our faith
Song that says it all: Stuart Townend is one of the leading songwriters of our generation and his song “How Deep the Father’s Love For Us” is an enduring favourite – not least because it encapsulates such a clear picture of the Cross and what it is all about.
Isaiah 53:6 and 12
We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to his own way;
and the Lord has laid on Him
the iniquity of us all…
…For He bore the sin of many,
and made intercession for the transgressors.
THIS WEEK we are going to talk about sin. A gripping subject? Well, having been delivered from the effect of our wrongdoing by another person is the basis of our faith, and at the end of this week all over the world – even among the Eastern Orthodox who follow the old calendar – well over a billion people will be focusing on the death of Jesus on the cross and celebrating the Resurrection of Jesus from the dead.
Only English-speaking countries name this time of year after a Saxon goddess of spring, Eostre, but there you go.
The Cross and the Resurrection is actually what we are all about. Christianity is a strange ‘religion’, if you insist on calling it that. Any other religion involves people in self-effort and improvement, to achieve the hoped-for better state, and usually following the example of a long-dead guru.
We have a God who sent His Son to avert wrath due to us by taking punishment, also due to us, dying agonisingly and conclusively in our place – and then being raised to life again, to confer on us who believe in Him and trust Him, a new life and new nature, where He positively helps us to live above ourselves.
In other words, we haven’t done it. Jesus, Son of God has done it for us, invites us to to have a personal relationship with God the Father through Him and then helps us and even empowers us to live His way at every twist and turn.
A couple of verses from Stuart Townend’s brilliantly crafted song “How Deep the Father’s Love For Us” express this succinctly:
Behold the Man upon a cross,
My sin upon His shoulders
Ashamed I hear my mocking voice,
Call out among the scoffers
It was my sin that left Him there
Until it was accomplished
His dying breath has brought me life
I know that it is finished.
Sin is when we don’t live His way – “any failure to conform to the moral law of God in acts, attitude or nature” as theologian and leading evangelical scholar Wayne Grudem puts it.
And we do fail. It’s a moral law. The standard is for us to “Love the Lord your God with all our heart and with all our soul and with all our mind and with all our strength” and also to “Love our neighbour as ourselves” (Mark 12:30-31). Put like that, the bar is high and failure is, well, probably going to occur quite often.
However, Jesus is alive, and actively and helpfully our case. For our part, we are either creative, or boringly repetitive, in the ways we cause offence to a loving but holy God by our attitudes of rebellion, insistence on going our own way, not doing what we know to do, disagreeing with what God clearly says (including about ourselves) and, perhaps worst of all, insisting on our own ego and self-reliance. It’s a bit more subtle, and easier to deny, than drunkenness, debauchery and violence.
So as we prepare to look again at the horror of the Cross, it is good to look again at the stuff that makes us part of that horror – that put Jesus there, as the song says. We do it with the deepest thankfulness that in this terrible scene, we are made right and free from guilt and bondage.