The Cross: Expressing The Holy Love of God
Read Exodus 34:6-7
God and man are fundamentally different. How’s that for a profound statement. Here is what I mean. Humanity is infected by sin in every aspect of our being. The major expression of that sin is self centeredness, the human attribute that largely contributed to the fall. However, the person who is a Christ follower, whose heart of stone has been replaced by a heart of flesh, who has partaken of the divine nature, who has been born again and filled with the Holy Spirit, also has the nature of Jesus living within (Gal 2:20). Consequently, as a behavior of discipleship, a Christian can, and should on a daily basis, deny himself. (Luke 9:23). Instead of being self centered we are to be Christ centered. We can deny self. Not so with God. God cannot deny himself (2 Tim 2:13) So what does this have to do with the cross?
The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, 7 maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; (Exodus 34:6-7 NIV)
Here we have a dual expression of God’s attributes. God is compassionate, gracious, loving, and forgiving, yet he punishes the guilty. Doesn’t it seem proper that if the nature of God is rightly expressed in those “loving” attributes that he would just overlook sin and let the guilty off the hook. Not for a moment. For God is at the same time holy, and he cannot deny himself. Sin offends God, it provokes God, and in response he burns with righteous anger and is obligated to pour out his wrath against sin.
In the cross of Christ there is a collision of the holiness and love of God. And after the smoke clears, the holy love of God is satisfied. Listen to several statements that have been suggested over the years:
“In the cross of Christ, God’s justice and love are simultaneously revealed” – G.C. Berkouwer
God, “in a marvelous and divine way loved us even when he hated us.” – John Calvin
“The wrath of God is the love of God.” – Emil Brunner
God is both the “Judge who must punish evil-doers and the Lover who must find a way to forgive them.” – John Stott
If you read my most recent post that outlined the nature of Jesus being both God and man, you will remember that I suggested that it was God in Christ who died on the cross. As such, the cross is the perfect expression of God’s holiness and his love in that God poured out his wrath on himself in order to satisfy himself, and he did it in order to express his love for us.
On Good Friday, when you have occasion to reflect on the cross, marvel at the wonderful truth that in the cross of Jesus, God expresses his holy love.
Beneath the cross of Jesus
I fain would take my stand-
The shadow of a mighty rock
Within a weary land…
O safe and happy shelter!
O refuge tried and sweet!
O trysting-place where heaven’s love
And heaven’s justice meet!
Much of the material in this post is a summary from The Cross of Christ by John R.W. Stott