Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Meeting God at the Cross

Image result for the shack

The Shack
After reading several reviews of The Shack, by Paul Young, including a review by Jack Cottrell, I am compelled to make some remarks about God's Love.  God's love is balanced by His holiness, and His absolute commitment to justice.  The God who loves us is the same God who overwhelmed the world with water in the time of Noah, and Who has promised to destroy this world with fire in the future.  Love, justice, and mercy find their balance in Jesus Christ dying on a cross on a hill outside the city walls of Jerusalem, by the side of the major road from Jerusalem to Jericho.

Often people are crushed by life events that cause us to question the love of God, and even to question the reality of His existence. If God is infinitely powerful, and merciful, how do we explain the world around us?  How can we explain the brutality of evil that exists in the world today, the crushing of innocent lives in West Mosul?

Perhaps the modern celebration of diversity of faith and culture has missed an important element. There is a way (many ways) that seems ok to men and women, but the outcome of mankind following his inclinations is death.

The way to righteousness and joy must travel the way of the Cross. God's love is revealed by something terrible; an innocent man is beaten, spit upon, reviled, brutalized, scourged, ridiculed, and nailed to a cross to die, on a hill by the roadside. Why? To satisfy the justice and righteousness of God. 

Isaiah 53

English Standard Version (ESV)

53:1 Who has believed what he has heard from us?[a]
And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
2 For he grew up before him like a young plant,
and like a root out of dry ground;
he had no form or majesty that we should look at him,
and no beauty that we should desire him.
3 He was despised and rejected[b] by men,
a man of sorrows[c] and acquainted with[d] grief;[e]
and as one from whom men hide their faces[f]
he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

4 Surely he has borne our griefs
and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
smitten by God, and afflicted.
5 But he was pierced for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his wounds we are healed.
6 All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned—every one—to his own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.

7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,
yet he opened not his mouth;
like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,
and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,
so he opened not his mouth.
8 By oppression and judgment he was taken away;
and as for his generation, who considered
that he was cut off out of the land of the living,
stricken for the transgression of my people?
9 And they made his grave with the wicked
and with a rich man in his death,
although he had done no violence,
and there was no deceit in his mouth.

10 Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him;
he has put him to grief;[g]
when his soul makes[h] an offering for guilt,
he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days;
the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.
11 Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see[i] and be satisfied;
by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant,
make many to be accounted righteous,
and he shall bear their iniquities.
12 Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many,[j]
and he shall divide the spoil with the strong,[k]
because he poured out his soul to death
and was numbered with the transgressors;
yet he bore the sin of many,
and makes intercession for the transgressors.

Yes, the wages of sin is death, and a sinner cannot be with God. So Yeshua, the very Son of God, gave His sinless human life as an offering for sins, so that we can have life instead of death. 

John 3:5 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.[c] 7 Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You[d] must be born again.’ 8 The wind[e]blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

9 Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?” 10 Jesus answered him, “Are you the teacher of Israel and yet you do not understand these things? 11 Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen, but you[f] do not receive our testimony.12 If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things? 13 No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man.[g] 14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.[h]
For God So Loved the World

16 “For God so loved the world,[i] that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. 19 And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. 20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. 21 But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.”

So if it does not matter what people believe, and if everyone is going to be delivered by God's love regardless of their faith, then Jesus suffered for nothing. Yes, God loves every person, but He also holds them responsible for having faith in Him.  As Jesus said, 

John 14 English Standard Version (ESV)
I Am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life

14:1 “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God;[a] believe also in me. 2 In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?[b] 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. 4 And you know the way to where I am going.”[c] 5 Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” 6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

So it does matter what people believe and practice.  We need to be kind and helpful to all people, but we also need to speak the truth. I cannot pretend that Islam is good.  I believe there are many good people who are Muslim, and many good people who are atheists, but their goodness will not take away their sins.  

So the story of The Shack may encourage a lot of people who are hurt, but in the end those who are hurting must come to the cross or go back to the cross.  Love does not promote acceptance of evil. Love leads people to the cross, not to the shack.

Image result for jesus on cross

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