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Sunday, January 6, 2013

The Cross

Most of us, as the Lord's people, would probably agree that there is at the present day a very great need for the Lord to show His power. That might be a personal confession: we would each say, individually. 'There is a great need for the Lord to do something in my life - to do some new new thing, some mighty thing, in me personally, and perhaps in my ministry.' Further, many of us would confess that such a need exists in the circle of believers with whom we are connected and related - a need for the Lord to move in power in a new way. But could we not widen the field to the farthest limit, and say that there is a very great need for the Lord to do something mighty in the whole Church and in the whole world?

To whom, then, is the Arm of the Lord revealed in this way? Before going further with that matter, let me present a hypothetical situation.

An Imaginary Situation

Suppose that a very complicated and serious malady has afflicted a patient - let that patient be ourselves, or a company, or the Church, or the world - and a doctor is consulted, who, after serious and careful consideration, with some considerable experience and knowledge, and no small amount of good authority, comes to a quite definite conclusion about this matter, and says he knows he has the remedy. He has no questions about it at all. But certain factors present him with considerable difficulty in his desire to help.

Firstly, he has to explain that his remedy is not going to be pleasant - indeed, it is going to be painful; it will go against all the  predisposition of the patient; and it will demand real cooperation and persistence, perhaps over an extended period, calling for much patience and faith. Then, he meets another thing. The patient has heard about the remedy before, perhaps many times, and the reaction is: 'I have heard such a lot about that cure; there has been so much talk about it. I think you are a one-track man, who has nothing but that one thing; perhaps you are even a crank. Can't you vary it a bit? Can't you introduce some other line a little more palatable? Must we be tied down to this one course?' A further objection is: 'You know, this is not a very popular thing. Public opinion has got criticisms about this; there are many different minds on the matter.'

These are things with which he is confronted. What should he do? Should he give way to these determining factors, and abandon the case, or should h get on with the job? Let us look at the matter from another angle - from the standpoint of the patient. What should be the logical attitude of the patient in this matter? Should it not be -'Well, the situation is serious, there is no doubt about that, and it is very complicated. What are the alternatives? Do I know of any alternatives? Are there prospects or ways and means in other directions? Ought I not to be fair and honest, and give this a thorough trial? Do I sense the seriousness of my condition sufficiently to make me brush aside all public opinion, all personal feelings and reactions, likes and dislikes, and really give myself to this matter?'

Now, that is exactly the position in which we are. The great need in the spiritual life of God's people is widely acknowledged. And yet there are all these arguments flying about that there is so much talk about this particular thing - we have heard it again and again; that public opinion is so greatly divided on this matter; and that this is something that goes altogether against our grain. But does not the crux of the matter lie, firstly, in whether we realize that the situation is serious enough to warrant our brushing aside all secondary considerations, and really giving the remedy a thorough chance and test; and, secondly, in whether we have any alternatives - whether there are prospects of this whole thing being bettered along any line other than this?

The Only Remedy

Of course, you are saying: What is the line? what is the remedy? what is it that you are talking about? Perhaps you have already drawn your conclusion. The remedy, the only remedy, but the sure remedy, for the whole of our spiritual maladies, is the Cross - the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is not pleasant to our flesh; it runs counter to all our likes and predispositions; it is not popular; Christian opinion is greatly divided on this matter of the work of the Cross. And so on ... But, after all, we are left with our condition; we are left with our need; we are left with the situation; and whether you realize it or not, the situation in Christianity, among Christians, is a very critical one. Take, for instance, the whole matter of divisions among the Lord's people. It is a blight; it is an evil thing; it is the working of a deep-seated disease; it is undermining the constitution of the whole Church of God. So we could go around the need, facing it from many standpoints; and we should find that, without exaggeration, the situation is a serious one.

The Word of God offers us this one remedy. It is fully and thoroughly documented; it has the most established authority behind it. Again and again, both in individual life and in collective life, it has proved itself to be the answer. The Word of God offers us no alternatives, no prospect along any other line. The Cross is the answer.

Let us look again for a moment at the prophecies of Isaiah. This section that we have been considering, from verse 13 of chapter 52 to the end of chapter 53, shows the Cross to be the remedy for a many-sided and most complicated situation in this world. You see here all the things that go to make up the situation. Sin! sin! "He bare the sin of many" - the word there is 'error,' 'failure.' Transgressions! - a stronger word still, meaning 'rebellions' - "He was wounded for our transgressions." Iniquity! - which means 'our perversity' - "The Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all." Errors and failures and rebellions and perversities - these are the beginning of the malady. Sicknesses, griefs, sorrows - so you can fill in more and more details of the case from the words of this chapter; and when you put them all together, you say: 'That patient is in a very poor state; that indeed is a serious outlook!' And the chapter as a whole has just one object: to show that the Cross of the Lord Jesus is the remedy for it all, the answer to it all. The whole thing is dealt with and cleared up by the Cross.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 2 - "The Exaltation and Vindication of Christ")

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