One Scripture?

Recently, a blogger asked me a great question in the comments on his blog. When I offered to help answer his questions about the Bible, he asked me if there was one Scripture that I considered “gold” or thought about every day. What a great question!

But it made me pause. One Scripture? I love every book of the Bible. My favorite one is always the one I am studying at the moment. There is so much depth, beauty, insight, inspiration, and joy in the Scriptures. Could I pick just one? I am not one who has chosen a “life verse” that encapsulates my faith or purpose. God has always provided the right Scripture at the right time for my situation. One Scripture? I decided to dig back into the bedrock foundations of my faith. What is essential? What do I know is true? What do I depend on?

I thought back to one of the great turning points in my life – a literal choice between life or death. I was just a young teen, probably finishing 8th or 9th grade. I had chosen to follow Jesus with my life a year or two earlier. I was on a youth retreat with my church at Lake Junaluska, North Carolina. My life was just not going the way I wanted. I wasn’t athletic or popular. I wasn’t funny or attractive. I wasn’t talented in anything anyone noticed. I was believing Satan’s lie that no one loved me. One night I just sat out in the open air hallway outside my room. I looked down two or more stories to the ground and rocks below. A voice inside whispered, “no one will care if you just fall off of here and die…” I didn’t know the term “spiritual warfare,” but I knew this was a spiritual attack. I went back inside to get away from the immediate temptation. However, I was still wallowing in the self-pity and the lie. Later, I went back outside, letting the tears, at least, fall to the ground below.

One of our college age counselors, Keith, came and sat with me. He tried to offer advice and wisdom and comfort. It was nice to have someone notice my struggle, but it wasn’t enough. I did come in for the night, but my despair continued. However, during that week, God got my attention through the speaker. My memory isn’t clear on exactly what the speaker said, but God clearly revealed to me that He loved me. No matter what anyone else thought, He loved me. God loves me just the way I am! It sounds like such a simple truth, but it gripped me with a real power. I have value and worth. I have a purpose and a destiny. It isn’t because of anything that I am, except that I am loved by the King!

So here is that one scripture that, upon reflection, is the bedrock of my faith. When my faith wavers, looking for a foundation, this Scripture calls me back to the love that changed my life that week.¬†Romans 5:8: “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (NASB)

 

Administrative note: Over the weekend, this blog received its 1000th all-time view. People from 17 countries have stopped by (unbelievable). Durt on the Bible isn’t taking the internet by storm, but I am thankful for all who take time to read. If it has value to you, please share it with someone else who might be encouraged.

The Power of the Cross

Atheists make me laugh sometimes. Did you know that they are organizing efforts to remove roadside memorials? You know, the on-site memorials that people create when a loved one has died in a car accident. Apparently, they are a menace to society. Who knew how dangerous they were? While the atheists claim it is about safety and convenience, they are most perturbed by the religious nature of the displays. If a cross appears on a public right of way, someone might think the government is sponsoring religion. Yeah, the reasoning makes me laugh.

However, I think they are actually pointing out something that we Christians often forget. There is power behind the symbols of our faith. Why did early Christians choose the cross as its most frequent symbol? Why not the empty tomb, the manger, loaves of bread, a servant’s basin, or a shepherd’s staff? Why choose the crude instrument of execution? It would be like us choosing to wear little electric chairs or a guillotine or a noose. Why the cross? It is because the cross is the ultimate demonstration of both God’s holiness and His love.

First – God’s holiness. It is the only characteristic of God that is compounded three times with the recognition “holy, holy, holy” (see Isaiah 6). It is His essential nature, and we know nothing of God until we glimpse His holiness. But when we glimpse it, we instantly feel our own wretchedness. We cannot stand in the presence of one so holy. Isaiah said, “woe is me, for I am ruined.” God does not allow sin into His presence, yet we choose to embrace it every day. Yikes!

God’s settled opposition to sin is His wrath. It isn’t explosive and irrational like man’s anger. He will not abide evil because He is good and holy. Most people agree that we are sinful, but they won’t agree that it is as serious as God says it is. We blow it off as “mistakes,” or not as bad as someone else. But God will not just overlook sin. We are really no different than those who crucified Jesus:

Like Judas, we choose personal gain over faithfulness and loyalty

Like Pilate, we reject truth and try to shift the blame

Like the Pharisees, we resent Jesus’ claim of authority over our lives

Like the Roman soldiers, we are just carrying out orders

Like the disciples, we abandon Him when it seems dangerous or unpopular to follow

Like the crowds, we will shout, “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” but pardon the guilty

But as He is crucified, Jesus shouts, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.” It is a cry of love from the One we would kill. The cross is God’s ultimate demonstration of love. Romans 5:8-9 “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him.”¬† But instead of marveling at this love, we are still mad about His holiness.

Because of His love for us, Jesus became one of us, took on all God’s wrath, and died for us. His death was not the death of a martyr or a good man unjustly accused. It was the death of God for His creation. It was the death of the Lamb of God for the sins of the world. It was the ultimate demonstration of God’s sacrificial love.

Can we really be that loved and not respond? If God never did anything else, He has shown His great love in the cross. He wants us to be with Him forever, and He paid the ultimate price for it to be possible. Stand at the foot of that cross; consider his consuming holiness and his stunning love. It cannot leave us unchanged. I never want to forget or walk away unchanged when I look at the cross. How about you?