Posts Tagged ‘Calvary’

When He has come, He will convict the world of sin . . . —John 16:8

Very few of us know anything about conviction of sin. We know the experience of being disturbed because we have done wrong things. But conviction of sin by the Holy Spirit blots out every relationship on earth and makes us aware of only one— “Against You, You only, have I sinned . . .” (Psalm 51:4). When a person is convicted of sin in this way, he knows with every bit of his conscience that God would not dare to forgive him. If God did forgive him, then this person would have a stronger sense of justice than God. God does forgive, but it cost the breaking of His heart with grief in the death of Christ to enable Him to do so. The great miracle of the grace of God is that He forgives sin, and it is the death of Jesus Christ alone that enables the divine nature to forgive and to remain true to itself in doing so. It is shallow nonsense to say that God forgives us because He is love. Once we have been convicted of sin, we will never say this again. The love of God means Calvary— nothing less! The love of God is spelled out on the Cross and nowhere else. The only basis for which God can forgive me is the Cross of Christ. It is there that His conscience is satisfied.

Forgiveness doesn’t merely mean that I am saved from hell and have been made ready for heaven (no one would accept forgiveness on that level). Forgiveness means that I am forgiven into a newly created relationship which identifies me with God in Christ. The miracle of redemption is that God turns me, the unholy one, into the standard of Himself, the Holy One. He does this by putting into me a new nature, the nature of Jesus Christ.



I smelled something burning, so I hurried to the kitchen. Nothing was on the stove or in the oven. I followed my nose through the house. From room to room I went, eventually ending up downstairs. My nose led me to my office and then to my desk. I peeked beneath it and there, peering back at me with big eyes pleading for help, was Maggie, our dog, our very “fragrant” dog. What smelled like something burning when I was upstairs, now had the distinct odor of skunk. Maggie had gone to the farthest corner of our house to escape the foul smell, but she couldn’t get away from herself.

Maggie’s dilemma brought to mind the many times I have tried to run away from unpleasant circumstances only to discover that the problem was not the situation I was in but me. Since Adam and Eve hid after sinning (Gen. 3:8), we’ve all followed their example. We run away from situations thinking we can escape the unpleasantness—only to discover that the unpleasantness is us.

The only way to escape ourselves is to stop hiding, acknowledge our waywardness, and let Jesus wash us clean (Rev. 1:5). I am grateful that when we do sin, Jesus is willing to give us a brand-new start.

From the wondrous cross on Calvary Flows the stream that still avails, Cleansing hearts and bringing victory Through that love which never fails. —Elliott
Sin’s contamination requires the Savior’s cleansing.

Then is the offense of the cross ceased–Gal 5:11

Paul Longed for the Salvation of the Jews

One thing which marks the ministry of Paul is how he lovingly yearned over the Jews. With a quenchless and intense desire, he prayed that they might be brought into the fold. Never did mother so long for the saving of her son as Paul longed for the saving of his countrymen. He was willing to suffer anything or everything, if only his people Israel might be won.

It is when we remember that deep longing that we realize what the cross meant for Paul. For the great stumbling block of faith to the Jews–the offense that made the Gospel of Christ smell rank to them–was, as our text indicates, the cross. Take that away, and it would be a thousand times more easy to win the Jews to the acceptance of the Lord. Say nothing about that, just slur it over, and you would take half the difficulty out of the way of Israel. Yet in spite of his yearning to see Israel saved, that was the one theme which Paul would not ignore. God forbid, he says, that I should glory save in the cross of Jesus Christ my Lord. There is a great lesson there for Christian teachers and for all who are trying to advance Christ’s kingdom. The more earnest and eager they are to have men saved, the more willing are they to go to all lengths to meet them. And that is right, for we must be all things to all men–to the Jews as a Jew, to the Romans as a Roman; but remember there are a few great facts we cannot yield, though they run counter to the whole spirit of the age. It were better to empty a church and preach the cross than to fill it by keeping silence like a coward. It were better to fail as Paul failed with the Jews than to succeed by being a traitor to the cross. Religion can never be a pleasant entertainment. When the offense of the cross ceases, it is lost.

The Cross an Offense to the Jews

Now I want to make it a little plainer to you why the cross was an offense to the Jews and to put things in such a way that you may see at once that the same causes are operative still.

It Blighted All Their Hopes

First then, the cross was offensive to the Jews just because it blighted all their hopes. It shattered every dream they ever dreamed, every ideal that ever glimmered on them. No telegram of news full of disaster, plunging a man into unlooked-for poverty–no sudden death of one to whom the heart clings, laying a man’s life in ruins at his feet–not these more certainly shatter a man’s hopes than did the cross the vision of the Jews. They had prayed for and had dreamed of their Messiah, and He was to come in power as a conqueror. “Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight”–you can almost hear the tramp of victorious feet. That was the light which burned in the Jewish darkness; that was the song which made music in their hearts. Then in the place of that triumph, there comes Calvary. In place of the Christ victorious, Christ crucified. And was this the Messiah who was to trample Rome, pierced in hands and feet by Roman nails? To the Jews a stumbling block: you cannot wonder at it when every hope they had formed was contradicted. Yet in spite of it all Paul preached Christ crucified, and that was the offense of the cross.

Now I venture to say that that offense of Calvary is just as powerful now as it was then. If I know anything about the ideals men cherish now and about the hopes that are regnant in ten thousand hearts, they are as antagonistic to the cross as was the Jewish ideal of Messiah. Written across Calvary is sacrifice; written across this age of ours is pleasure. On the lips of Christ are the stem words, I must die. On the lips of this age of ours, I must enjoy. And it is when I think of the passion to be rich and the judgment of everything by money standards; of the feverish desire at all costs to be happy, of the frivolity, of the worship of success; it is when I think of that and then contrast it with the “pale and solemn scene” upon that hill that I know that the offense of Calvary is not ceased. Unto the Jews a stumbling block–unto far more than the Jews: unto a pleasure-loving world and a dead church. Therefore say nothing about it; let it be; make everything interesting, pleasant, easy. Then is the offense of the cross ceased–and with it the power of the Gospel.

Second, the cross was an offense to the Jews because it swept away much that they took pride in. If there was any meaning in Calvary at all, some of their most cherished things were valueless. The Jews were preeminently a religious people, and this is always one peril of religious people. It is to take the things that lead to God and let the heart grow centered upon them. There was the ceremonial law for instance, with its scrupulous abhorrence of defilements. No one who has not studied the whole matter can ever know what that meant to the Jew. And there were the sacrifices smoking upon their altars, and the feasts and festivals and journeys to Jerusalem. And there was the temple, that magnificent building, sign of their hope and symbol of their unity. At least let this be said of that old people, that if they were proud, they were proud of worthy things. It is better to be proud of law and temple than to be proud of battleship and millionaire. Yet all that pride, religious though it was–that pride, deep-rooted as the people’s life–all that was swept away like autumn leaves if there was any meaning in the cross. No more would the eyes of men turn to Jerusalem, no more would sacrifices fill the altars, no more was there room for ceremonial law if the Son of God had died upon the tree. And it was this crushing into the very dust of all that was dearest to the Jewish heart that was so bitter an offense of Calvary.

A Man Must Come with Empty Hands

And today has that offense of the cross ceased? Has that stumbling block been removed out of the way? I say that this is still the offense of Calvary, that it cuts at the root of so much that we are proud of. Here is a woman who strives to do her duty. God bless her, she does it very bravely. Here is a student proud of his high gifts. God prosper him that he may use them well. But over against reliance upon duty and all attempts of the reason to give peace, there hangs the crucified Redeemer saying, “No man cometh unto the Father but by me.” Here is the offense of the cross in cultured ages. It is that a man must come with empty hands. He must come as one who knows his utter need of the pardoning mercy of Almighty God; and in an age like ours that leans upon its heritage and is proud of its magnificent achievement, that call to unconditional surrender is the offense of evangelical religion. We are all tempted to despise what we get freely. We like a little toil and sweat and travail. We measure the value of most things not by their own worth, but by all that it has cost us to procure them. And Calvary costs us nothing though it cost God everything; the love and the life of it are freely offered; and to a commercial age and a commercial city there is something suspicious and offensive there. Ah sirs, if I preached salvation by good works what an appreciative audience I could have. How it would appeal to many an eager heart! But I trample that temptation under foot, not that I love you less but that I love Christ more, and I pray that where the gospel is proclaimed, the offense of the cross of Christ may never cease. I do not believe that if you scratch a man you will find underneath his skin a Christian. I do not believe that if you do your best, all is well for time and for eternity. But I do believe–

Not the labors of my hands

Can fulfil Thy law’s demands;

Could my zeal no respite know,

Could my tears forever flow,

All for sin could not atone:

Thou must save, and Thou alone.

Third, the cross was an offense to the Jews because it obliterated national distinctions. It leveled at one blow those social barriers that were of such untold worth in Jewish eyes. It was supremely important that the Jews should stand apart; through their isolation God had educated them. They had had the bitter-sweet privilege of being lonely, and being lonely they had been ennobled. Unto them were committed the oracles of God; they were a chosen nation, a peculiar people. The covenants were theirs, theirs were the promises, the knowledge of the one true God was theirs; until at last, almost inevitably, there rose in the Jewish mind a certain separateness and a certain contempt, continually deepening, for all the other nations of mankind. They had no envy of the art of Greece. They were not awed by the majesty of Rome. Grecians and Romans, Persians and Assyrians –powerful, cultured, victorious –were but Gentiles. There is something almost sublime in the contempt with which that little nation viewed the world. Then came the cross and leveled all distinctions; it burst through all barriers of nationality. There was neither Jew nor Gentile, Greek nor barbarian, but Christ was all and in all. Let some wild savage from the farthest west come to the cross of Christ pleading for mercy, and he had nothing less to do and nothing more than the proudest Jew who was a child of Abraham. One feels in an instant the insult of it all, how it left the Jew defenseless in the wild. All he had clung to was gone; his vineyard-wall was shattered: he must live or die now in the windswept world. And this tremendous leveling of distinctions–this striking out Jew and writing in humanity–this, to the proud, reserved, and lonely people, was no small part of the offense of Calvary.

At the Cross, All Distinctions Are Obliterated

Now I would not have you imagine for a moment that Christ disregards all personal distinctions. If I sent you away harboring the thought that all who come to Christ get the same treatment, I should have done Him an unutterable wrong. In everything He did Christ was original because He was fresh from God into the world, but in no sphere was He so strikingly original as in the way in which He handled those who came to Him. So was it when He was on the earth; so is it now when He is hid with God. There is always some touch, some word, some discipline, that tells of an individual understanding. But in spite of all that and recognizing that, I say that this is the “scandal” of the cross, that there every distinction is obliterated, and men must be saved as lost or not at all. You remember the lady from a gentle home who went to hear the preaching of George Whitefield? And she listened in disgust to a great sermon and then, like Naaman, went away in a rage. “For it is perfectly intolerable,” she said, “that ladies like me should be spoken to just like a creature from the streets.” Quite so: it is perfectly intolerable–and that is the stumbling block of Calvary. Are you who may be cultured to your fingertips to be classed with the savage who cannot read or write ? It would be very pleasant to say No–but then were the offense of the cross ceased. A friend of mine who is a busy doctor in a thriving village not ten miles from Glasgow was called in the other day to see a patient who, as was plain at the first glance, was dying. And the doctor, a good Christian, said, “Friend, the best service I can do you is to ask, Have you made your peace with God?” Whereon the man, raising his wasted arm and piercing the questioner with awe-filled eyes, said, “Doctor, is it as bad as that?” I want to say it is always as bad as that. I want to say it to the brightest heart here. You do need pardon and peace with God in Christ as much as the wildest prodigal. Accept it. It is freely offered you. Say, “Thou, O Christ, art all I want.” And then, just as the wilderness will blossom, so will the offense of the cross become its glory.


“And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.” Luke 22:19

When my wife Martie says, “Could you run to the grocery store for me?” I always want to know what it is she wants me to get. After asking the question, my mind is usually already off to something else as she tells me the list: “Bananas, bread, bacon, milk, and butter.” Inevitably, I get to the store and pick up the bananas, bread, and bacon, but end up forgetting the other two things. When I get home, I’ve got to go all the way back to the store because I forgot the milk and butter.

Tell me I’m not alone! It’s easy to forget to pick up the clothes at the drycleaners, or even the kids at daycare. The point is, in our humanness we’re all prone to forget. And it gets worse with age! We get preoccupied and distracted.

Unfortunately it’s not just the little, everyday things that we forget. It’s easy to overlook the big things, like the peace in the midst of stress and the power against great odds that are both available to us through prayer. When we’re not having a good day, it’s easy to forget the joy of our salvation. We even forget the death of Jesus for us—the very reason that we can live with undefeatable hope and assurance. Which means that forgetting about Jesus may open the door of your heart to the tormentors of hopelessness and insecurity.

It’s hard to believe that Christians could ever forget Christ and Calvary. It’s at the heart of everything we have and believe. And yet, in the hours before the crucifixion at the Last Supper, Jesus warned the disciples that they might forget Him and His work on the cross for them. This seems remarkable to me, because the disciples watched Him do all sorts of miracles like restoring sight to the blind and even raising Lazarus from the dead! How could they ever forget Christ after seeing those events firsthand? Still, in Luke’s account of the Last Supper, he quotes Jesus as saying: “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me” (Luke 22:19 ESV). In essence: Don’t forget Me! In Greek, the word remember means to deliberate—to keep it on your mind. And it is often used in the sense of remembering something for your good.

So, why is it good for us to remember Jesus and His work on the cross? Jesus knew that if we were to forget, we might lose our love for Him and be seduced into loving lesser and even harmful things. Without the cross continually before us, we might become bitter or angry when He allows suffering to come into our lives. We might forget that He suffered for us to accomplish great things and that deep in our suffering the hand of God is busy doing great things through our pain. Forgetting the agony of His death, we might begin to take sin lightly and think more of ourselves than we should!

There’s an old song that goes something like this: “The cross before me, the world behind me . . . No turning back, no turning back.” What are you doing to keep the cross of Christ on your mind? Make a list of the stuff you might forget, and check it twice. Are Jesus and His wonderful work for you on the top of the list?


  • Pray and thank Christ that He knows what it is to suffer. Ask Him for His supernatural strength and peace to see you through trials you currently face.
  • Set aside time each day this week to journal about what the cross of Christ means to you. Share some of your thoughts with at least one person.
  • Read 1 Corinthians 11:17-34. Why is it important for Christians to participate in Communion?
  • Visualize how your life would be different if you lived with Calvary at the forefront of your mind. What is the connection between your sin and Christ’s work on the cross?

Daily Following

A strange thing under the sun is crossless Christianity. The cross of Christendom is a no-cross, an ecclesiastical symbol. The cross of Christ is a place of death. Let each one be careful which cross he carries. And follow me. Now the glory begins to break in upon the soul that has just returned from Calvary. Follow me is an invitation, and a challenge, and a promise. The cross has been the end of a life and the beginning of a life. The life that ended there was a life of sin and slavery; the life that began there is a life of holiness and spiritual freedom. And follow me, He says, and faith runs on tiptoe to keep pace with the advancing light. Until we know the program of our risen Lord for all the years to come we can never know everything He meant when He invited us to follow Him. Each heart can have its own dream of fair worlds and new revelations, of the odyssey of the ransomed soul in the ages to come, but whoever follows Jesus will find at last that He has made the reality to outrun the dream.

[In love] he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will–to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.

Three times in Ephesians 1:3-14 we find language that connects praise of God with God’s glory: “to the praise of his glorious grace” (1:6); “for the praise of his glory” (1:12); and “to the praise of his glory” (1:14). Verse 6 is distinctive because it refers to praise, not just of God’s glory, but of “the glory of his grace” (as the Greek might be translated more literally). What is God’s grace? And how is it glorious?

The grace of God is his unmerited favor. It is similar to God’s love, though grace emphasizes the fact that God’s goodness to us is not something we earn or deserve. It is given in light of God’s own grace-full nature.

God’s glory is that which makes God uniquely wonderful and exceptional. In Scripture, the glory of God is frequently revealed through brilliant light (for example, 1 Kings 8:10-11; Isa 60:1; Ezek 10:4; Luke 2:9; Heb 1:3). Yet God’s glory is also revealed through his saving actions. According to Ephesians 1:4-6, God’s glory is “seen” in the fact that he chose us and predestined us to be his children. Thus, God’s grace is glorious, not only because it is wonderful for us, but also because it reveals God’s own character as a giving and forgiving God.

Thus, as we meditate upon God’s grace, we are drawn to worship. We yearn to praise the glory of his grace. We lift up our words and songs of praise as a thankful and humble response to the God who has made us his own because he loves us and delights to be in relationship with us.

QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: As you consider the glory of God’s grace, what thoughts or images come to mind? How can we experience God’s glorious grace?


Marvelous grace of our loving Lord, Grace that exceeds our sin and our guilt! Yonder on Calvary’s mount outpoured, There where the blood of the Lamb was spilled.

Grace, grace, God’s grace,   Grace that will pardon and cleanse within;   Grace, grace, God’s grace,   Grace that is greater than all our sin.

Sin and despair, like the sea waves cold, Threaten the soul with infinite loss; Grace that is greater, yes, grace untold, Points to the refuge, the mighty cross.

Dark is the stain that we cannot hide. What can avail to wash it away? Look! There is flowing a crimson tide, Brighter than snow you may be today.

Marvelous, infinite, matchless grace, Freely bestowed on all who believe! You that are longing to see His face, Will you this moment His grace receive?

Grace, grace, God’s grace,   Grace that will pardon and cleanse within;   Grace, grace, God’s grace,   Grace that is greater than all our sin. Amen.

The Christian women of the world have it in their power, by a very little sacrifice, to add millions to the treasury of the Lord.

Beloved sisters, have you found the joy of sacrifice for Jesus? Have you given up something that you might give it to Him? Are you giving your substance to Jesus? He will take it, and He will give you a thousandfold more.

I should rather be connected with a work founded on great sacrifice than on enormous endowments.

The reason God loved the place where His ancient temple rose in majesty was because there Abraham offered his son and David his treasure. The reason redemption is so dear to the Father and the heavenly world is because its foundation-stone is the Cross of Calvary.

And the Christian life that is dearest to the heart of God, and will rise to the highest glory and usefulness, is the one whose foundation principle is sacrifice and self-renunciation. This is why the Master teaches us to give, because giving means loving, and love is but another name for life.