Members’ Thoughts

A Reflection on the Savior’s Cross

The core of Jesus’ death on the cross was not primarily that someone died, but Who died; not merely the act of self-sacrifice, but the Self that sacrificed; not just that blood was shed, but Whose blood was shed.  Two others were crucified alongside Jesus that day, countless others were crucified in the same way, and none but Jesus paid for any crimes but their own.  The wonder of the cross, then, is not in the cross itself, but in He who died on it and, in dying, destroyed the dominion of death for all who are united with Him (Romans 6:5-9).  So, when I say, “Jesus died for my sins,” I want to focus first on the subject of the sentence, Jesus, and only then on the verb and the prepositional phrase, because if any other subject was supplied, there would be no death for my sins except my own (2 Thessalonians 1:5-10, Matthew 25:46, Revelation 14:9-11).

He Stood in the Breach

The daily Bible reading plan doesn’t arrange the Old Testament, Psalms, and New Testament readings by similarity of topic, but there are times like in yesterday’s reading when the texts in different sections of the Bible inform one another.

They made a calf in Horeb

and worshiped a metal image.

They exchanged the glory of God

for the image of an ox that eats grass.

They forgot God, their Savior,

who had done great things in Egypt,

wondrous works in the land of Ham,

and awesome deeds by the Red Sea.

Therefore he said he would destroy them—

had not Moses, his chosen one,

stood in the breach before him,

to turn away his wrath from destroying them.

(Psalm 106:19-23 ESV)

Psalm 106 recapitulates in poetic form the goodness and justice of God in His dealings with Israel, even when the people had been rebellious against Him.  Verses 19-23 above retell the incident of the golden idol at Horeb, while Moses was on the mountain.  But God had already proclaimed the law that would govern the people of Israel under the covenant.

“You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.”

(Exodus 20:4-6 ESV)

The proverbial ink on the covenant was barely dry, but it was already broken.  For this rebellion, God could have destroyed the people, and would have if Moses had not “stood in the breach before him, to turn away his wrath from destroying them.” (Psalm 106:23 ESV)

But Moses implored the LORD his God and said, “O LORD, why does your wrath burn hot against your people, whom you have brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand? Why should the Egyptians say, ‘With evil intent did he bring them out, to kill them in the mountains and to consume them from the face of the earth’? Turn from your burning anger and relent from this disaster against your people. Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, your servants, to whom you swore by your own self, and said to them, ‘I will multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have promised I will give to your offspring, and they shall inherit it forever.’” And the LORD relented from the disaster that he had spoken of bringing on his people.

(Exodus 32:11-14 ESV)

Moses could not plead the people’s righteousness, and ultimately could not plead his own.  Instead, he pleaded God’s glory among the nations and His promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob to rescue the people from God’s holy wrath.

Much later, another would stand in the gap between a sinful people and God’s justice.

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

(Romans 5:6-11 ESV)

Moses’ righteousness failed at Meribah (Exodus 20:10-13), but Jesus’ unfailing righteousness, the righteousness of God Himself, was transferred to us through His sacrifice of Himself (2 Corinthians 5:21).  At the cross, Jesus stood in the breach for us, to turn away God’s wrath from destroying unworthy sinners and to obtain the church of God with His own blood (Acts 20:28).

I Lost Something on Sunday Night

I lost something Sunday night.

The day had started with great anticipation. It was a nice spring day; and my family and I hurried off to worship service to spend a wonderful time in the Lord: praying, singing hymns, and hearing the teaching and preaching of the Word. Before and after the service, we also enjoyed the fellowship of the saints. We shook hands, swapped greetings, and engaged in hearty conversation with our friends in Christ. It was a spiritually refreshing time, and one of sweet communion with God and His people.

Afterwards, we headed home and girded our loins for the busy afternoon that lay ahead. My daughter, Jordan, was flying out to Lawrence, KS in a glorified “tin can with wings” to have lunch with a friend. My wife Sheri and I, much too practical for such high-flying adventure, charted a more responsible course and stayed home to do yard work and other pressing chores.

While Sheri worked outside pulling obstinate weeds from her flower beds, I parked myself in front of my computer (as I often do) to finish some graphic work on the church’s website and then design a brochure for an upcoming Bible conference. Later on in the day, I even hoped to mow the lawn. The plan was for me to wrap up all my work by six o’clock so I could head over to the men’s fellowship being held at 6:30 pm at a church member’s home.

But I never made it.

I had every intention of attending the meeting, especially after experiencing such an encouraging and edifying time of worship and fellowship at church that morning. But by five o’clock, I knew I was in trouble. I was scrambling to make up time when I accidentally crashed the church’s website with one of my ill-advised tweaks and it cost me precious minutes trying to fix the problem. By the time I rolled back the damage and restored the site to its original state, I knew I wouldn’t have time to mow my yard. The brochure project, however, was another matter. I had a deadline that couldn’t wait.

At six o’clock, I realized there was no way I was going to finish the brochure in time to make it to the fellowship meeting. Reluctantly, I called the host to say I wouldn’t be coming, and then I hung up the phone with a sigh and went back to my computer.

And that’s when I realized that I had lost something.

What I lost was a not-so-common opportunity for precious fellowship with my brothers in Christ. For the rest of the evening, while working on the brochure project, my spirit grieved. In this fleeting life, I wondered, how many chances would I have to share the love of Christ with others in the faith? What encouragement was I failing to hear tonight? What shared burdens was I failing to bear? There was no doubt in my mind that the Holy Spirit was poking at my heart with these sharp questions.

Suddenly I understood Paul’s palpable anguish when he wrote to the church at Philippi and said, “…How I long for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus,” or when he relayed to the Thessalonians that he and his companions “were all the more eager with great desire to see your face.” Paul understood the powerful connection that is found in those who have been joined together in the bonds of Christ to be one Body and one Church.

That’s why Christian fellowship is a biblical imperative. “Let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works,” it says in Hebrews, “not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” In Acts 2:42, it says the early church was “continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” How could we not do likewise?

That night, I repented of my woeful lack of time management and my worldly, skewed sense of priorities.

Yes, I lost something Sunday night. But thanks be to God that I can find it again when I go to my church’s Wednesday night fellowship, or when I attend worship service on Sunday, or travel to the men’s fellowship next month and so on and so on.

God willing, I won’t lose it again for a long time.

Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose.  — Phillippians 2:1-2