A short meditation for Good Friday:
For some, today looked like chaos. An angry, ugly mob finally turned on a man from Nazareth who had aspirations of something greater. Having brought Him to Pilate, this mob finally got their way. For those who were following this man, this was unthinkable. He had healed the sick, raised the dead Himself, and had been confirmed by so many signs that the idea of Him going to the cross was unthinkable. And He was crushed. And along with Him, their hopes.
God can take our chaos and crushed dreams and make something beautiful.
For one man, this day was the culmination of everything he deserved. He had spent his life stealing, swindling, and escaping the law. His life benefited no one, only took took from those who surrounded him. He deserved this day. He deserved to find himself on this cross. His sins brought him here. But next to him was a man he had never met before, gasping for the same air he was trying to swallow. Between the pain and not being able to breathe, somewhere he had a revelation that this man dying next to him was more than a man. He confronted the mocker on a third cross and called out to the One in the middle of them. He heard that One, that “more than a man” whisper to him “Today you will be with me in paradise.”
God can take the worst of us in horrible situations and change our lives.
Post the cross, first hundreds, then thousands, and then millions have accepted the reality of the cross and the man who rested on it. The meaning of this day, looked back on throughout history has become a point of both deep grief and deep relief. That Jesus lost his life on that cross was the beginning of God’s plan to liberate us from our sin and the enemy of our souls. But for the first believers and those that have followed in their steps, this day has not only become a day to celebrate but an example to follow. This became a day that not only defined our freedom from sin, but a freedom from the way this world would seek to control us.
God can take this day and not just forgive us, but define us.
Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
-Paul, Philippians 2:5-11
Yesterday I argued that uncrucified Christianity is a hot mess.
As I was writing yesterday, the Holy Spirit began to speak to me a little bit about the idea that taking up our cross is the way that we make room for the Holy Spirit.
This should be obvious: Most of Galatians 5 talks about how the flesh and the Spirit are at war with one another within us. Paul goes on to say that those who belong to Jesus “nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there,” (Galatians 5:24).
If you go back and read Galatians 5, Paul is almost circular in his reasoning: “Let the Holy Spirit lead you. Then You won’t desire the things of the flesh. But you have to have crucified your fleshly desires. So walk in the Spirit.” As you read it, you see this divine cycle where we both get help from God and we partner with God in this fight against our uncrucified selves.
My point is this: Taking up our cross opens a realm of activity for the Spirit. It’s not an accident that Jesus’ death on the cross opened up Pentecost for the early church. So if we desire greater activity of the Holy Spirit, we have to (by His help) appropriate the crucifixion in our own lives.
Friends, I am about as charismatic as they come. I desire more of the Holy Spirit moving and operating in my life. But there is some of the flesh, some self-glorification, some level of selfishness that has tainted much of the Spirit-empowered work at least in many parts of the world where I have witnessed it.
But I have also seen parts the work of the Spirit where people are laying down their lives for Jesus and the Gospel. In these places, the men and women have a purity like I haven’t seen. They aren’t flashy. The Gospel spreads. Miracles are common and Jesus is glorified. And this is what I’m hungry for in the West. Not just miracles. The fullness of the Holy Spirit that comes when we lay our lives down.
Today, I’m sort of just ranting. But I hope I’m right about this reality and I hope we all together can pursue this and encourage others, so that more and more of the church can be swept up into this reality.