Friday, May 21, 2010

Look at the Cross

"I can't believe God loves me." Although some people say this apparently thinking they're too good for God (that is, they regard Him with if-You-really-cared-You'd-do-what-I-wanted whining), probably an equal number are all too aware that God is too good for them. "How could a perfect God ever love someone who's done what I did?" is the lament of the tormented soul longing for forgiveness but afraid to ask for it. Whether the specific matter of concern is a single heinous act, a lifetime of habitual immorality, or a despairing awareness of ingrained selfishness, these people consider themselves the worst of sinners and are sure God must hate them as much as they hate themselves.

If you're in this situation and the parable of the prodigal son isn't enough to convince you that God still wants you back, consider the true account of Christ's Crucifixion. Just as the story of the prodigal has lost its emotional impact in frequent retellings (in first-century Palestine, demanding one's inheritance from a living parent was tantamount to a capital crime and the idea of welcoming such a son home without a reprimand was inconceivable), so has the story of the Cross. Crucifixion was not simply painful; it was overwhelmingly so. Try to imagine how it would feel to be whipped with metal-tipped cords that tore the skin; hung by your wrists from two sharp spikes rammed through blood vessel and nerve; provided with no physical support for your weight (and that only to prolong the agony) beyond an equally painful spike through the ankles and perhaps a tiny "seat"; and left dangling, every breath an agony of effort, until your muscles finally gave out and you died choking. Ask yourself: would anything make you go through all that voluntarily, solely for the purpose of sparing another the supreme pain?

That's exactly what Christ did to save us from being punished for the very sins we are ashamed to approach Him with. How can there be any doubt He loves us despite those sins?

You who see only the guilt of your sin,
You who are tortured by all that has been,
Doubting forgiveness could ever be given—
Look at the Cross for a message from Heaven.

You who doubt God still could love the impure,
Who live in fear condemnation is sure,
Certain God’s grace is too good to be true—
Look at the Cross, and see all He went through.

Not for the righteous who boast of their deeds,
Not for the soul that on human praise feeds,
But for the ones who their hopelessness feel,
There on the Cross, He did God’s love reveal.

Look at the Cross and see God’s deepest pain;
Look at the One Whose great loss was our gain;
Look at His love, and set all doubt aside:
It was for you that He willingly died.

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