The greatest event in history: Look and marvel at Jesus and his death
From John Piper, talking about the two paradoxes in the death of Christ:
The death of Christ was the curse of God and the wrath of God; and yet, at the same time, it was pleasing to God and a sweet fragrance. While turning from his Son and giving him up to die laden with our sin, he delighted in the obedience and love and perfection of the Son.
Therefore, let us stand in awe and look with trembling joy on the death of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. There is no greater event in history. There is no greater thing for our minds to ponder or our hearts to admire. Stay close to this. Everything important and good gathers here. It is a wise and weighty and happy place to be.
What is the good news of the gospel?
Greg Gilbert has written a new book, “What Is The Gospel?” in which he tries to clear up some misconceptions about what the gospel is and present it clearly. As Kevin DeYoung says, “Greg Gilbert, with a sharp mind and a pastor’s heart, has written a book that will be helpful for seekers, new Christians, and anyone who wants to understand the gospel with greater clarity. … As a sure-footed guide to a surprisingly controversial subject, it clears up misconceptions about the gospel, the kingdom, and the meaning of the cross.”
Gilbert explains why he wrote the book in this interview:
Here is a portion of sample chapter that you can read for free online:
Since the very beginning of time, people have been trying to save themselves in ways that make sense to them, rather than listening and submitting to God. They have been trying to figure out how to get salvation to work—how to get the gospel to work—apart from the Wicket Gate, that is, apart from the cross of Jesus Christ.
That is no less true in our own day. Indeed I believe one of the greatest dangers the body of Christ faces today is the temptation to rethink and rearticulate the gospel in a way that makes its center something other than the death of Jesus on the cross in the place of sinners.
The pressure to do that is enormous, and it seems to come from several directions. One of the main sources of pressure is the increasingly common idea that the gospel of forgiveness of sin through Christ’s death is somehow not “big” enough—that it doesn’t address problems like war, oppression, poverty, and injustice, and really “isn’t terribly important,” as one writer put it, when it comes to the real problems of this world.
Especially now, when we are in the Easter season, this is a good book to consider. But since it is small (124 pages) it would be a great book to read at any time and to give to others as well for good, sound advice.
A love story with a happy ending for those who believe
[He] loved me and gave himself for me. — Galatians 2:20
I love the blessing God has given me in that I have two females in my house who love romances. More than once I have been persuaded to sit with them and watch a movie (usually something based on a Jane Austen novel, the favorite around here) about a young woman who struggles in a relationship with a man. At first, she thinks he is rude or cold or something unattractive like that. But, as the movie progresses, we see that he has been working — usually without her knowing it — on her behalf out of his deep love for her. When she comes to this realization she swoons, her heart melts and they end up marrying. The movie ends there and my women are pleased.
The idea that someone does something for us not just out of duty but out of love is something that is hard for any of us to resist. We know that God demonstrated his great love for us in sacrificing the most precious person to him for our sins. (Romans 5:7-8). But it wasn’t just God who showed an incredible love. Time and again the Bible points to the great love Jesus himself showed on our behalf. It certainly wasn’t because we deserved his love. After all, we are the ones who have rebelled against God. We are ones with a heart of stone, doomed to a just punishment for our sin. (Romans 3:23) But the Bible tells us that Jesus “loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galations 2:20), that he “loved the church and gave himself up for her.” (Ephesians 5:25) and that he “(laid) down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13).
Is that you, or me? Are we his friend, the church?
And I hear the answer, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31). “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Romans 10:13). “Everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name” (Acts 10:43). “To all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12). “Whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). (from Fifty Reasons Jesus Came to Die by John Piper, p. 31)
The story is moving along. We are being wooed by the perfect suitor. If we look, we can see it unfolding before us. Will you let Jesus melt your heart with his love? Jesus died because of his great love for you and prayed, near the end of his life: “Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me.” (John 17:24) There is a glorious future with Jesus for those who see and believe.
Getting a grip on how much we’re not worth it: You’re looking the wrong way.
For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. – Romans 5:7-8
The other day I saw a portion of a new book by D.A. Carson called “Scandalous.” In it, he says “Those who draw really close to Jesus think of themselves, first and foremost, as those loved by him rather than those who profess their love for him.” He is talking about the instances in the New Testament where writers described themselves as being loved by Jesus. The point is is that the attention is focused not on them and their efforts but on Christ and what he has done. This is a good thing to think about because we — me, you, all of us — have a tendancy to inflate our self-worth when talking about our salvation.
But, if that’s the case, then how do we read and understand the verse above? When it says God loved us “while we were yet sinners” it doesn’t mean that we were especially valuable. Rather, it points to the depth of his grace and love. We have a tendancy to get it backwards because we are so intent on protecting our self esteem. In Fifty Ways Jesus Came To Die, John Piper addresses this kind of thinking:
I have heard it said, “God didn’t die for frogs. So he was responding to our value as humans.” This turns grace on its head. We are worse off than frogs. They have not sinned. They have not rebelled and treated God with the contempt of being inconsequential in their lives. God did not have to die for frogs. They aren’t bad enough. We are. Our debt is so great, only a divine sacrifice could pay it.
There is only one explanation for God’s sacrifice for us. It is not us. It is “the riches of his grace” (Ephesians 1:7). It is all free. It is not a response to our worth. It is the overflow of his infinite worth. In fact, that is what divine love is in the end: a passion to enthrall undeserving sinners, at great cost, with what will make us supremely happy forever, namely, his infinite beauty.
Christ’s death on the cross is a magnificent event. We should all look at it and marvel. But if we come away thinking it’s a lesson about our worth, then we’ve tragically missed the point.
What does the resurrection of Jesus prove?
If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. — I Corintians 15:17
In Fifty Ways Jesus Came to Die, John Piper says that Jesus’ resurrection didn’t merely follow His death, it was the seal of God’s approval:
Now what is the relationship between this shedding of Jesus’ blood and the resurrection? The Bible says he was raised not just after the blood-shedding, but by it. This means that what the death of Christ accomplished was so full and so perfect that the resurrection was the reward and vindication of Christ’s achievement in death.
Jesus’ death so satisfied God’s wrath that his resurrection was not the final payment but the reward for and vindication of that death. We can rest assured knowing that the shedding of Jesus’ blood fully covers our sins and that now he lives forever on our behalf.
Why the obedience of Jesus matters for us
Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. — Hebrews 5:8
Obedience gets a bad rap in some corners in this age. After all, if you are an assertive, goal-oriented person in the Western World, obedience is not one of the virtues that ranks high on your list. A quick search with Google of news stories about obedience brings up warnings to avoid “blind obedience” when it comes to the president or else a series of stories regarding pets.
Yet, when we look at Jesus and his death, we are told in verses like the one above that he learned obedience through his sufferings. Does that mean he had to learn to stop disobeying? No, because the Bible again and again teaches that he was sinless. In I Peter 2:22 it says Jesus “committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth.” He wasn’t getting rid of some imperfections. Instead, Hebrews 2:10 gives some insight behind what his sufferings were accomplishing:
For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering.
Rather than making Jesus into a more perfect person, God was making Jesus into a more perfect sacrifice for us through the things he suffered. Even though Jesus was perfect and God, he still was human. And we can see that he experienced everything as we do when he lived on earth: hunger (Matthew 21:18) anger and grief (Mark 3:5) and pain (Matthew 17:12). The ESV Study Bible concurs on this view: In saying that Jesus was made perfect, the author is not suggesting that Jesus was sinful but that as he lived his life, his maturity and experience deepened, yet always with full obedience to the Father. As a human being, he needed to live his life and obey God (which he did perfectly) to become the perfect sacrifice for sins.
In Fifty Reasons Jesus Came To Die, John Piper puts the perfect obedience of Jesus into perspective:
If the Son of God had gone from incarnation to the cross without a life of temptation and pain to test his righteousness and his love, he would not be a suitable Savior for fallen man. His suffering not only absorbed the wrath of God. It also fulfilled his true humanity and made him able to call us brothers and sisters (Hebrews 2:17). (Page 25)
So, we can rejoice in the obedience of Jesus to His Father. Through it, we were not only given a perfect sacrifice for our sins, but we were also given a special closeness to him that goes beyond advocate. He can understand and sympathize with our situation like no one else can.
The beautiful and perfect obedience of Christ
who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began. — 2 Timothy 1:9
A truly amazing part of the death of Jesus Christ was that it was done willingly, out of perfect obedience to His Father. Returning once again to Fifty Reasons Jesus Came To Die, we see John Piper put it this way (my emphasis):
Jesus did not wrestle his angry Father to the floor of heaven and take the whip out of his hand. He did not force him to be mer- ciful to humanity. His death was not the begrudging consent of God to be lenient to sinners. No, what Jesus did when he suffered and died was the Father’s idea. It was a breathtaking strategy, conceived even before creation, as God saw and planned the history of the world. That is why the Bible speaks of God’s “purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began” (2 Timothy 1:9).
The idea that God had planned for the death of Jesus to satisfy justice before any history took place is astounding and shows God’s great love. As we have talked about, it is a high standard that God sets, but it is an equally great love He shows in providing a way for us who fall way short of that standard. The fact that it says in Ephesians 5:2 that “Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” shows that not only was the death of Jesus a willing act of love, but that it pleased His Father at the same time.
We have been saved not by some begrudging arm twisting, but by a beautiful act of obedience. It is well worth our time to consider this and worship the one who has not only planned this by done it for us out of love.
For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father. — the words of Jesus in John 10:17-18
The purpose in the passion of Jesus Christ: Why one man’s death matters
This month, like every other month, christianaudio.com is offering a free download of an audiobook. In fact, this month’s deal is even better than in past months because they are offering not one but two free downloads: Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s “The Cost of Discipleship” is free along with John Piper’s “Fifty Reasons Why Jesus Came To Die.” If these books are not in your library, then this is a great time to add them. To get them for free, all you have to do is go to the page for each audiobook, add it to your cart and then when asked for add coupons or promotion codes enter MAR2010 for the Bonhoeffer audiobook and MAR2010B for the Piper audiobook. After that you will be given a page with the files to download.
Since we are in the lenten season and Easter is just over a month away, I thought it would be good to look through “Fifty Reasons” and see why it matters — not just for Christians, but for all of humanity — why Jesus came to die. It has been said that there is no one who has anyone against Jesus. After all, he is viewed by people of all stripes favorably depending on your world view and what you seek to advance. His death by crucifixion brings the most important question of that time or any time in history: Why did Jesus have to die?
Beyond the human cause, which some would point to, there is a deeper cause if you explore the Bible. John Piper explains in the introduction of “Fifty Reasons”:
The Hebrew prophet Isaiah said, “It was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief” (Isaiah 53:10). The Christian New Testament says, “[God] did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all” (Romans 8:32). “God put [Christ] forward . . . by his blood, to be received by faith” (Romans 3:25).
But how does this divine act relate to the horribly sinful actions of the men who killed Jesus? The answer given in the Bible is expressed in an early prayer: “There were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus . . . both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place” (Acts 4:27-28). The depth and scope of this divine sovereignty takes our breath away. But it is also the key to our salvation. God planned it, and by the means of wicked men, great good has come to the world. To paraphrase a word of the Jewish Torah: They meant it for evil, but God meant it for good (Genesis 50:20).
And since God meant it for good, we must move beyond the question of human cause to divine purpose. The central issue of Jesus’ death is not the cause, but the purpose—the meaning. Man may have his reasons for wanting Jesus out of the way. But only God can design it for the good of the world. In fact, God’s pur- poses for the world in the death of Jesus are unfathomable. I am scraping the surface in this little book as I introduce you to fifty of them. My aim is to let the Bible speak. This is where we hear the word of God. I hope that these pointers will set you on an endless quest to know more and more of God’s great design in the death of his Son.
There is so much to learn from the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is my hope that we will spend less time thinking about meals, clothes, candy and gatherings at Easter and more about what the Jesus Christ accomplished not only in history but for our lives. In the coming days I will be going through the chapters of this little book. If you are not a big reader (and it is not a big book at all to read), you can go download the audiobook for free so you can follow along. If you do like to read, Desiring God offers the book for free online as a PDF download. Either way, take some time to think about the death of the most important man in history and what purpose it served.
Easter: Is this resurrection for real?
Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.
— I Corinthians 15:12-17
Some questions surrounding this death and resurrection of Jesus Christ:
- Did Jesus really die?
- Wasn’t his resurrection a made up story?
- Wasn’t Jesus’ resurrection merely spiritual?
As he says in the video, the Bible makes massive claims. But much is at stake. Don’t you think it’s worth investigating further?
Thanks to the people at St. Helen’s Bishopsgate for making these videos.
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