Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.
- John 15:13
Later, knowing that everything had now been finished, and so that Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I am thirsty.” A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus’ lips. When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
- John 19:28-30
Now I rejoice in what I am suffering for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church.
- Colossians 1:24
“Christianity is the only religious faith that says that God himself actually suffered, actually cried out in suffering. Now What good is that? To Jesus’s followers assembled around the cross, it certainly seemed senseless: that there was no good in it at all. But in fact they came to realize that Jesus’s suffering was of immense good to them, as can we. Why? Because they would eventually see that they had been looking right at the greatest act of God’s love, power, and justice in history. God came into the world and suffered and died on the cross in order to save us. It is the ultimate proof of his love for us.
“And when you suffer, you may be completely in the dark about the reason for your own suffering. It may seem as senseless to you as Jesus’s suffering seemed to the disciples. But the cross tells you what the reason isn’t. It can’t be that God doesn’t love you; it can’t be that he has no plan for you. It can’t be that he has abandoned you. Jesus was abandoned, and paid for our sins, so that God the Father would never abandon you. The cross proves that he loves you and understands What it means to suffer. It also demonstrates that God can be working in your life even when it seems like there is no rhyme or reason to what is happening.
“Even Albert Camus, the famous existentialist, realized that if you look at the cross, you could no longer go through suffering in the same way. Camus said this:
“ ‘The God-man also suffers, and does so with patience. … he too is shattered and dies. The night on Golgotha only has so much signiﬁcance for man because in its darkness the Godhead, visibly renouncing all inherited privileges, endures to the end the anguish of death, including the depths of despair.’
“Jesus Christ not only died the death we should have died—he also lived the life we should have lived but can’t. His was perfect obedience, in our place. It doesn’t matter who you are—centurion, prostitute, hit man, minister. The curtain has been ripped from top to bottom. The barrier is gone. There is forgiveness and grace for you.”
- Timothy Keller, King’s Cross
When I first read this quote from Rev. Tim Keller, I was brought to tears. It was all things that I knew, but beautifully said. But maybe my emotions are still on edge after someone told my wife that she was going to hell because “Christians do not suffer.” I know what the person said was wrong, heresy in fact, but others that I love are influenced by this person who chooses verses of the Bible out of context.
Jesus has paid the penalty. We all have access to God, but some try to create a god that looks sort of like Jesus, but is sweet and fluffy.
I do not wish to have a sweet and fluffy Jesus. I want the Jesus who said that laying down one’s life for his friends was the greatest expression of love and then He went out and did just that. The thought is sweet, but the action was not fluffy at all. And with us already having all the Bible to read, we know what is coming when Jesus said it. That loses the sweetness. Jesus came to earth for one thing and He accomplished that thing. He defeated Satan once and for all. That does not mean that Satan cannot cause trouble, but Satan knows His days are numbered. He simply wants to take as many people with him as is possible.
We need to know that we will suffer, and as Rev. Keller says, it is not because God does not love us. This world is a fallen world, but even as we see suffering all around us, we see beautiful flowers grow and we hear songbirds sing.
I have had a lifetime of suffering. It has made me stronger. Someone who does not think Christians suffer will lose their faith the first time they get a hangnail. And that is what Satan wants. It is why these strange ideas come to the surface.
To fight such ideas, we need to read the Bible and we need to pray. We need a church family.
My wife went back to church today, as of writing this, for the first time in over two months. She had Shingles. She had something like pneumonia, not ever saying what it was, although she had fluid in her lungs. She had IBSD issues, and the cause has never been discovered. That irritable bowel issue led to a GI bleed and a few days in the hospital. So, when she has not been to church in over two months, she was not simply “sleeping in” or ignoring God.
When we went home, she cried. It was so good to see our Sunday school class. She had gotten cards from them while she was sick. She had gotten presents. She had gotten phone calls. They were and are family.
Without the suffering, sometimes we do not see the family that is right before our eyes.
Lord, we praise You for our suffering. We could never suffer as much as Your Son, but in His suffering, we have access to You. And in our suffering, we are strengthened and reminded of the love You show us. In Thy name we pray. Amen.
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.
I have been thinking about the gravity of this fact, that Jesus is indeed is God. It’s a scary thing to think about considering that the people rejected Him and that He is coming back for judgment. God Himself suffered for us.
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Yes. It shows how much God loves us and to what lengths He will go to save us, and yet, He gives us the choice to accept Him or not.
Yes. It shows how much God loves us and to what lengths He will go to save us, and yet, He gives us the choice to accept Him or not. Thank you for your comments.
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