and would face the terrible judgment ahead on their own terms.
But the story doesn’t have to end that way for you. If you want,
you can give up all the ways you try to save yourself and come
running to him. He will pull you up close, under his wing and
take for you what you could never endure.
Look how closely our choice in Christ parallels Adam and
Eve’s choice in the Garden. If they had trusted their Creator’s
love for them, they would not have had to resort to their own
means to become like God. Once they doubted his love for
them, they could only fall back on their best wisdom, which
proved woefully inadequate.
The elders in Jerusalem faced a similar choice. Would they
trust their own religious ways to save themselves, or would they
trust God’s work in Jesus? Remember these were not self-indul-
gent men fulfilling their passions by outwardly sinful acts. No, the
deception for them was much like it was for Adam and Eve. These
were men trying to be godly, or so they thought. They observed
cumbersome rituals and traditions thinking that would make them
like God. They spurned the pleasures of the world in an effort to
earn his approval. But being good wasn’t good enough.
They were still engaged in an attempt to save themselves,
and they would end up in the same mess as Adam and Eve. No
matter how righteous they could be on the outside, it would
bring them no closer to God. They were still trusting them-
selves, instead of him.
Jesus unmasked that most clearly when he called one of
their own to himself. Paul, formerly called Saul, had grown up
training to be a Pharisee. Everything about his life conformed
to their code, such that Paul could later say that no one was his
equal in zeal for God and as to legalistic righteousness, he was
faultless. With such impressive credentials, you would think him
well-placed for God’s work.
Rubbish! That’s what Paul called that way of thinking. It was
boasting in the flesh, he said, and that flesh had not saved him.
It had only driven his sin ever deeper underground. Though
he appeared to be one of the most righteous men in his day,
The Hen and Her Chicks
in reality he was full of sin. He called himself the worst of sin-
ners, because his religious exterior had only been a cover-up for
the sin that destroyed him from within. He calls himself a “blas-
phemer and a persecutor and a violent man.”
Don’t mistake his assessment here as the mere humility of
a gracious man. Paul is trying to convince all who would listen
that self-righteousness is no righteousness at all. Driven by his
desire to be one of the spiritual elite of his day, he had only
found himself in greater sin. When Jesus found him, he was in
fact killing God’s people thinking he was doing God’s work.
Why did Jesus save Paul? In Paul’s words, “I was shown mercy
so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his
unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe
on him and receive eternal life” (1 Tim. 1:16).
I’ve sat with people convinced they were far too evil for God
to want them. I’ve often referred to this passage, asking them if
they had done worse than Paul had done and haven’t ever had
someone tell me they had. God saved Paul, so the most broken,
devastated and sinful person would feel free to come running
under his wing. All they have to do is come.
A REAL COVERING
When God put Adam and Eve out of the Garden, he even
looked in mercy at their cover-up. Taking the undergarments
they had fashioned from the fig leaf collection, he made them
clothing of animal skins. It was not only an act of mercy, but
also prophetic demonstration. The blood shed to cover them
that day, testified to a future day when Jesus’ death would pro-
vide the covering we really need.
Shame craves for a covering. We’ve already seen how it can
reveal itself in blaming others, even God, for our own choices
and weaknesses. Now we see how shame can use religion to
the same end. We live in a world where everybody covers up to
protect themselves. That’s why relationships in religious environ-
ments can turn so painful when people have to tear others down
to make themselves look better.
We push to achieve beyond our peers so we can feel supe-
rior to them. We blame others so we don’t have to face our own
He Loves Me!
weaknesses. We gossip about the failures of others so we can
feel better about ourselves. We even look for religious institu-
tions to affirm us so that we can ignore the doubts that assail
It seems we are all on the relentless pursuit to hide our own
inadequacies and seek our own security. In doing so, we are
like little chickens running around the burning coop throwing
leaves over our heads hoping they will be enough.
But they won’t be. There is only one covering that will save
us from ourselves; and it is Jesus himself. He endured the fire-
storm for us so that those who crawl under his wings can dwell
in safety. He is the only covering that at once delivers us from
our shame and frees us from the bondage of sin.
Cover yourself in him. Learn to live under his wings today
and every day for the rest of your life. How do you do that? By
learning to trust him completely in every situation you face.
Of course that is far easier said than done. When difficulties
press in around us, we are most likely to doubt God’s motives
towards us. Could that be the voice of the serpent still whispering
in our ears? “If God’s not going to give you what you think you
need, maybe you should go get it yourself.”
Trusting our own wisdom is so easy we find ourselves doing
it before we ever realize it. There is only one place where we can
learn the trust in God that was shattered in Eden—at the cross of
Jesus Christ. His willingness to trade his life for ours stands as
unmistakable evidence of his love for you.
When you understand what really happened there, then you
will know how much you are loved. When you know how much
you’re loved you’ll find trusting him to be as easy as breathing.
May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus
Christ, through which the world has been crucified to
me, and I to the world.
The Hen and Her Chicks
For your personal journey
Where do you try to save yourself using your own ingenuity
to survive, rather than trusting Jesus to lead you as he desires?
Isn’t his unlimited patience amazing and that even after our
worst deeds, he stands ready to cover us with his wings and let
us abide safely in him. Ask him to show you what that specifi-
cally means for you and to teach you how to live every day and
through every circumstance trusting that he loves you.
He Loves Me!
What Really Happened
on the Cross
“What changed these very ordinary men (who were such
cowards that they did not dare stand too near the cross
in case they got involved) into heroes who would stop at
nothing? A swindle? Hallucination? Spooky nonsense
in a darkened room? Or Somebody quietly doing what
he said he’d do—walk right through death?”
J. B. Phillips, Is God at Home?
he events on earth have been well-documented. All of the
writers of the gospels tell of his inquisition before the religious
leaders of Jerusalem, his trial before Pilate, his scourging by
Roman soldiers, and his crucifixion on a cross. The humilia-
tion and physical torture of death by crucifixion has been the
subject of many sermons and books. We know well the agony
he endured by being nailed to a cross with a crown of thorns
pressed into his scalp and we also know how his agony inten-
sified over the three hours he hung exposed in public view,
mocked by his detractors.
The significance of that moment, however, is not so easy
to understand. The appeasement-based view of the cross that
most of us have understood goes something like this: Because
Jesus lived a sinless life he did not deserve to die. However, he
submitted himself to his Father’s desire and as a sacrifice the
guilt of our sins was laid upon him. Therefore God gave him
the punishment our sins deserved. Our sentence has been satis-
fied with God so that we are now absolved for our sins and can
stand justified before Almighty God.
Though this scenario may satisfy our inherent sense of shame
for our own sins and failures, it only tells part of the story. If
we go no further, this appeasement-based view of the cross
describes Father and Son playing a divine version of good cop/
bad cop. To keep the demanding judge of the universe from
executing the full weight of his wrath on us, Jesus rushed onto
the scene and threw himself in the way. God’s wrath destroyed
him and thus mollified his anger.
But that is only an earthly view of that incredible event.
Scripture is laced with glimpses at a far fuller perspective. Here
we see what happened in God—the work a Father and Son
accomplished together, not to appease God’s anger, but to
cleanse us of sin. Their plan was not to punish sin, but destroy
its power and offer a way for humanity to be rescued from the
dregs of sin and recapture the relationship God had always
wanted with his people.
What we see from his vantage point is not the story of a pun-
ished victim, but something far more magnificent.
NOT JUST A VICTIM
Yes, Jesus was brutally tortured and it was certainly the intent
of the Roman guard that the extreme tortures used against
him would end his life. That, however, is not the whole story.
Nothing they could do would have been sufficient to kill the
Son of God.
Jesus was neither a victim of the lies of the religious rulers nor
of Rome’s corrupt political posturing. No amount of torture
He Loves Me!
would have been sufficient to kill him. Death would only come
when he surrendered to it. “The reason my Father loves me is that
I lay down my life… No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of
my own accord” (John 10:17-18).
Only the soul that sins, dies. Since Jesus knew no sin, death
could not overpower him. Instead he submitted to it for a
greater good. He didn’t just submit to the events of the cross,
but even at its end he yielded his spirit into God’s hands and
gave himself over to death.
Neither Adam and Eve in the Garden, nor Christ on the cross
were victims of other people’s choices. In the pristine beauty of
the undefiled Creation, Adam and Eve couldn’t find it in their
hearts to trust God and walk away from their own desires. But
in the agonizing atrocity of the cross and the utter darkness that
overwhelmed him there, Jesus consciously and continuously
yielded to his Father’s desire.
At any point in the process he could have stopped the tor-
ture, called for a legion of angels and wiped out those who were
killing him. What an amazing act! I don’t know that I have ever
willingly submitted to the darkest tragedies of my life. I rarely
feel in control when circumstances turn desperate or when
people with evil motives take advantage of me. If I could have
called a legion of angels to fix any of my painful circumstances,
I would have. I have endured the painful seasons of my life, not
because I chose to, but because I couldn’t do otherwise. The
only choice I had was whether to respond to them in a Godly
way or a selfish way.
That he would endure such hostility against himself with the
full freedom to end it at any weak moment, makes me appre-
ciate the cross that much more. As free choice got us into this
bondage of sin, so Jesus’ free choice would walk us out of it.
His example also reminds us that we are not victims either.
Even though disgusting things might be done to us by others,
we still have the freedom to overcome evil by putting our trust
in him. He still redeems the darkest moments of life with the
wonder of his grace.
What Really Happened on the Cross
NOT JUST JESUS...
I’ll be the first to admit that the relationship between Father,
Son and Spirit is a mystery beyond our ability to define with
absolute certainty. But I am deeply bothered by the thought that
in some way God was able to separate himself at the cross. The
popular understanding of the cross seems to be that God the
Father executed wrath on God the Son while standing at some
Such thinking not only denies the essence of God’s nature
but then distorts what happened at the cross. Paul wrote that
“God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ…” God was
no distant observer, but a participant. He didn’t send Jesus to
do what he would not do; but God himself acted through Jesus
to bring about our redemption.
Some have taken Jesus’ cry that his Father had forsaken him
to mean that at the darkest moment, the Father had to turn his
back on the Son. God cannot bear to look on sin, they argue, so
that when our sins were laid on him, God had to turn his face
away from his Son.
God has never run from sinful humanity. He didn’t hide from
Adam and Even in the Garden. They hid from him as he sought
them out. It is not God who cannot bear to look on sin, but that
we in our sin can’t bear to look on God. He’s not the one who
hides. We are. God is powerful enough to look on sin and be
untainted by it. He has always done so. He did so at the cross.
In Chapter 16 we’ll take a closer look at why Jesus cried out,
“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me!” The point here
is that all of God was fully involved in all aspects of this incred-
ible plan. The anguish that ripped through the Godhead that
day cannot even be fathomed by our limited perspective.
But it is important that we see them working together,
enduring the process necessary to destroy sin and liberate
those they loved. Jesus was not the victim and his Father the
victimizer. They were executing a plan they—the Father, Son
and Spirit—had devised on the day they first decided to create
a man and a woman. They would pay the price together for the
relationship they so deeply desired to share.
He Loves Me!
Documents you may be interested
Documents you may be interested