Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Just Several Hours of Suffering?

I recently heard a caller on Albert Mohler's radio program pose an objection to Christianity that I often hear from critics. He asked why we should think much of Jesus' sacrifice on our behalf, since He spent so little time on the cross and in the sufferings leading up to the cross.

God doesn't owe us anything (Job 41:11). If Jesus suffered for us for several hours, that would be several hours more than He owed us.

Sometimes one specific action will define how a person is perceived. And that can be appropriate. If a person gives his life for somebody else, for example, that may be only one action, but that one action has major implications. Still, even though one action can be important, the way we live day after day, month after month, year after year also will define us. We can be perceived by one big thing we do, but also by a lot of smaller things. A parent's love for a child, for example, can be seen in thousands of small things that are done over a span of years (providing clothes, fixing meals, giving medicine, buying presents, teaching, etc.).

Jesus humbled Himself (Philippians 2:5-8) through about 30 years of human life, in a woman's womb, as a child obeying His parents, and as a carpenter earning a living. All of this occurred before He even began His public ministry. His ministry resulted in His being rejected and ridiculed by a lot of people, even His own family (John 7:5). He knew you and every other person He came into the world to save. He didn't just see your beauty and your positive characteristics. He also saw your ugliness, your weaknesses, your ignorance, stupidity, selfishness, carelessness, lust, hatred, and everything else. He knew the thoughts you would have that you don't want anybody else to know about. He knew about the sins you would commit, your bad judgments, your hypocrisy, your ingratitude, and everything else you don't want anybody to know about. He was better than you. He is better than you. He always will be better than you. He isn't dependent on you, and He's never owed you anything. He loved you anyway, and decided to give you what you could never attain yourself.

The gift of eternal life is a gift involving an eternal commitment. Christ paid an eternal price. He promises to be with those who trust Him (Matthew 28:20), to never leave them or forsake them (Hebrews 13:5), to intercede for them (Hebrews 7:25), to love them with an everlasting love (Psalm 107:1). We deserve Hell, and we're given Heaven. God has given us a redeemed, eternal relationship with Him, a commitment that involves countless thoughts, actions, kindnesses, and blessings. Calvary is the greatest example of God's love, but the preparations for it and the consequences of it involve far more than just several hours of physical suffering surrounding the cross.

"If you are indeed a believer, you are one with Jesus, and therefore you are secure. Do you not see that it must be so? You must be confirmed to the end until the day of His appearing [1 Corinthians 1:8], if you have indeed been made one with Jesus by the irrevocable act of God [Romans 11:29]. Christ and the believing sinner are in the same boat. Unless Jesus sinks, the believer will never drown. Jesus has taken His redeemed into such connection with Himself that He must first be smitten, overcome, and dishonored before the least of His purchased ones can be injured. His name is at the head of the firm, and because He cannot be dishonored, we are secure against all dread of failure. So, then, with the utmost confidence, let us go forward into the unknown future, linked eternally with Jesus. If the men of the world should cry, 'Who is this that cometh up from the wilderness, leaning upon her beloved?' (Song of Solomon 8:5), we will joyfully confess that we do lean on Jesus and that we mean to lean on Him more and more. Our faithful God is an ever-flowing well of delight, and our fellowship with the Son of God is a full river of joy. Knowing these glorious things, we cannot be discouraged. No, rather we cry with the apostle, 'Who shall separate us from the love of...God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord?' (Romans 8:35-39)." (Charles Spurgeon, All of Grace [Springdale, Pennsylvania: Whitaker House, 1983], pp. 132-133)