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Friday, October 28, 2011

The Cross of Christ - Chapter 10

Stott enters the final section of The Cross of Christ by examining the benefits available to those who are "Living Under the Cross." Chapter 10 looks at the first advantage of being "in Christ" as a result of personal repentance and having trusted in God's work through Christ on the cross - becoming a member of "The Community of Celebration," i.e. the church, the body of Christ. 
"Jesus Christ 'gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good'. (Gal.2:20; Titus 2:14; Acts 2:40-42) Thus the very purpose of his self-giving on the cross was not just to save isolated individuals ... but to create a new community whose members would belong to him, love one another and eagerly serve the world." (2Cor.5:19-21; Rev.7:9)
"The Community of Celebration"

Our reconciliation includes the concepts of 'access' and 'nearness', which are aspects of our dynamic knowledge of God or 'eternal life' (Jn.17:3).  This intimate relationship to God, which has replaced the old and painful estrangement, has several characteristics.

First, it is marked by boldness. 
The word the apostles loved to use for it is parresia, which means 'outspokenness, frankness, plainness of speech' both in our witness to the world and in our prayers to God. Through Christ we are now able to 'approach God with freedom (parresia) and confidence'. We have parresia because of Christ's high priesthood to come to God's 'throne of grace', and parresia by Christ's blood 'to enter the Most Holy Place' of God's very presence. (Eph.3:11-12; Heb.4:16, 10:19-22)  ... due entirely to Christ's merit, not ours.

The second characteristic of our new relationship with God is love.
Indeed, 'we love because he first loved us'.  Previously we were afraid of him. But now love has driven out fear. Love begets love. God's love in Christ, which has in one sense liberated us, in another hems us in, because it leaves us no alternative but to live the rest of our lives for him, in adoring and grateful service. (1Jn.4:18-19; 2Cor.5:14-15)

Joy is a third mark of those who have been redeemed by the cross.
When the Babylonian exiles returned to Jerusalem, their 'mouths were filled with laughter' and their 'tongues with songs of joy'. The old alienation and humiliation were over; God had rescued and restored them. They likened their exhilaration to the revelries of harvest: 'Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy. He who goes out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with him.' How much more should we rejoice in the Lord, who have been redeemed from a much more oppressive slavery? The early Christians could hardly contain themselves: they shared their meals together 'with unaffected joy'.  (Ps.126:1-6; Acts 2:46, agalliasis (translated 'gladness') means 'exultation')

Boldness, love and joy are not to be thought of as purely private and interior experiences, however; they are to distinguish our public worship. The brief time we spend together on the Lord's Day, far from being divorced from the rest of our life, is intended to bring it into sharp focus. Humbly (as sinners), yet boldly (as forgiven sinners), we press into God's presence, responding to his loving initiative with an answering love of our own. ...The Christian community is a community of celebration. ...Holiness is to mark the Christian celebration, for Christ's ultimate purpose through the cross is 'to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation' (Col.1:22).

The cross is not just a badge to identify us and the banner under which we march; it is also the compass that gives us our bearings in a disoriented world.

[Excerpts: Chapter 1; Chapter 11]

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