Thorns Will Never Overcome

Understanding the Difference

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…the essence of sin
is man substituting himself for God,
while the essence of salvation
is God substituting himself for man.

~John Stott from The Cross of Christ

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Try as we might
to make things in our image,
no matter what discontent we feel,
we fail to understand
we are not God
and never can be.

Try as we might
to pick ourselves up when we fall,
no matter the anguish we feel,
we struggle to understand
He fell to earth to catch us:
bled our blood,
shed our tears.

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Prepare for Joy: Substitution Allowed

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For the essence of sin is
man substituting himself for God,
while the essence of salvation is
God substituting Himself for man.

Man asserts himself against God and puts himself
where only God deserves to be;
God sacrifices Himself for man and puts Himself
where only man deserves to be.

Man claims prerogatives that belong to God alone;
God accepts penalties that belong to man alone.
~John Stott, The Cross of Christ

Our struggle with God, from our first breath,
is wanting to forget we are made from dust, molded from mud,
and will return to the ground, no matter what.
Between the womb and the tomb is the choice of acting
as though we own the earth and somehow it owes us everything because we exist,
or whether we tread lightly, knowing each breath, each morsel, each day
is an undeserved gift granted by Him taking our place.
When we acknowledge that His heart on earth bled
so that ours will continue to beat,
so that we may laugh, cry, love and worship–
only then we are right with God,
instead of insisting we be God.

His heart for ours. A substitution made perfect.

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Lenten Reflection–Substitutions Allowed

photo by Josh Scholten

For the essence of sin is
man substituting himself for God,
while the essence of salvation is
God substituting Himself for man.

Man asserts himself against God and puts himself
where only God deserves to be;
God sacrifices Himself for man and puts Himself
where only man deserves to be.

Man claims prerogatives that belong to God alone;
God accepts penalties that belong to man alone.

John Stott, The Cross of Christ

Our struggle with God, from our first breath, is wanting to forget we are made from dust, molded from mud, and will return to the ground, no matter what. Between the womb and the tomb is the choice of acting as though we own the earth and somehow it owes us everything because we exist, or whether we tread lightly, knowing each breath, each morsel, each day is an undeserved gift granted by Him taking our place. When we acknowledge that His heart on earth bled so that ours will continue to beat, so that we may laugh, cry, love and worship–only then we are right with God, instead of insisting we be God.

His heart for ours. A substitution made perfect.

Lenten Meditation–Hid Not From Shame

Rembrandt Head of Christ

I offered my back to those who beat me,
my cheeks to those who pulled out my beard;
I did not hide my face from mocking and spitting.
Isaiah 50:6

So this is how humanity treats God.  Still.  He does not turn His face from us, but we continually turn from Him.  We only add to His suffering.

“In the real world of pain, how could one worship a God who was immune to it?  He entered our world of flesh and blood, tears and death.  He suffered for us.” John Stott

“No matter how deep our darkness, he is deeper still.” Corrie ten Boom

“…even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.” Psalm 139:12

Lenten Meditation: The God For Me!

The Crucified Christ by Rubens

“I could never myself believe in God, if it were not for the cross… In the real world of pain, how could one worship a God who was immune to it? I have entered many Buddhist temples in different Asian countries and stood respectfully before the statue of Buddha, his legs crossed, arms folded, eyes closed, the ghost of a smile playing round his mouth, a remote look on his face, detached from the agonies of the world.

But each time after a while I have to turn away. And in imagination I have turned instead to that lonely, twisted, tortured figure on the cross, nails through hands and feet, back lacerated, limbs wrenched, brow bleeding from thorn-pricks, mouth dry and intolerably thirsty, plunged in Godforsaken darkness.

That is the God for me! He laid aside His immunity to pain. He entered our world of flesh and blood, tears and death. He suffered for us. Our sufferings become more manageable in light of His.”

—John Stott, The Cross of Christ

It is interesting to read of Pastor Stott’s turning toward the image of the crucified Christ, away from the smiling but detached Buddha.  As I did not grow up with images of the crucified Christ, I find it very difficult to see paintings, statues, or watch movies depicting the Crucifixion.  I want to turn away in discomfort at the agony portrayed. It is too overwhelming to behold.

But I must turn back and face Him. I cannot look away in horror.

He is not detached.  He is completely and unutterably attached to me–by His grace–by His will–by His giving of Himself–indeed by the nails themselves.   That is my God hanging there.