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Friday, 7 October 2016

The way of the cross.

While speaking with a friend, earlier this week, he made the point that too many in the church today don't preach the Gospel of salvation.  "All that I hear", he stated, "is that we should 'love one another' and be nice, kind, people.  That," he said,"is not the Gospel."!

He certainly had a point!  We may learn a number of things about the Gospel of salvation by observing the actions of the two who were crucified with Jesus.   For example, it is possible to want salvation, and yet not experience it.  Luke provides the record: "One of the criminals who were hanged railed at Him, saying, 'Are you not the Christ? Save Yourself and us!'" (Luke 23:39).  

Paul assures us, in his letter to the infant church in Rome, that "every one who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved." (Rom 10:13). Why, then, was this particular man lost?  We may see three reasons:
1. he was thinking only about physical deliverance;
2. his plea was not genuine.  Luke informs us that he "railed" at the Lord Jesus. That's a word that may be defined as "reviled or scolded in harsh, insolent, or abusive language."  Some other translations use terms such as "scoffed" (NLT); "hurled insults" (NIV); "spoke insultingly" (Darby).
3. he didn't want salvation by the way of the cross.  He cried out: "Save Yourself and us!'".  What he didn't realise was that if the Lord Jesus had come down from the cross, He could not have rescued others!  

Again, writing to the Roman believers, Paul assures them that "... God shows His love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us." (Rom 5:8; emphasis added).  The anonymous writer of the Letter to Hebrew disciples of Jesus tells us that "... without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins." (Heb 9:22; emphasis added).

Yet, in spite of these clear instructions in the written Word of God, many appear not to want anything to do with the message of the needed sacrificial work of the Christ. They call it a "bloody" Gospel - and it is!  They would rather talk about Jesus' life, teachings, and example.  Now, it is true that the Saviour's life is important; His teachings are an absolute storehouse of wisdom and truth; His example is worthy of being followed by all.  However, it is not only through His life, but also His death and resurrection, that salvation and forgiveness can be offered to a guilty world.

The other malefactor came as we all must come - in humility and faith.  Luke continues the record: "But the other rebuked him, saying, 'Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly; for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.'  And he said, 'Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.'" (Luke 23:40-42).  What a difference in attitude!  And he received a response from the Saviour: "Truly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise." (Luke 23:42).

If you wish to reach heaven, you cannot avoid the way of the cross.  It's the place where, as Graham Kendrick reminds us in one of his songs, "wrath and mercy meet" - where the sins of the world, and the love of Almighty God, met in the redemptive encounter.  It is only "... the blood of Jesus, His Son ...", John reminds us, that "... cleanses us from all sin." (1 John 1:7).

Have you been "washed in the blood of the Lamb?"  Have you come by the way of the cross?!

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