Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross (3)

As we noted here the last two Sundays, for the Lord’s Days  leading up to Good Friday and Easter (April 18 and 20 this year) we plan to do a series of meditations centered on the suffering and death of Jesus Christ. For my own devotional reading during this special season of reflection I purchased the little book Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross: Experiencing the Passion and Power of Easter, a wonderful collection of sermons and writings edited by Nancy Guthrie (Crossway, 2009).

JesusKeepMeNear-NGuthrieToday we begin quoting from chapter six of this book, which contains a sermon by Dr.J. Ligon Duncan III, titled “Betrayed, Denied, Deserted”. It is based on Matthew 26:47-56, the account of Jesus’ arrest in the garden of Gethsemane. Listen to how Duncan emphasizes the sovereignty of God in this part of our Lord’s suffering:

But again I must stress that his actions (Peter’s, in drawing his sword to defend Jesus against the mob led by Judas -cjt) were completely ignorant and uncomprehending. Jesus will say twice in this passage that he had to be arrested in order that the Scriptures would be fulfilled. Jesus was conscious that God’s plan was being worked out and nobody, not Peter, not Judas, not the mob, nor anyone else was going to keep that plan from being fulfilled.

…In this statement (about Jesus being able to ask the Father for twelve legions of angels to defend him, if he needed to be delivered – cjt), Jesus is stressing that he is not going to the cross because God lacks the power to stop it. Not does Jesus lack the ability to ask of God to spare him. Instead, Jesus is going to the cross because he has chosen to go to the cross. He is not a passive victim. He is the prime actor and has chosen to go to the cross. Jesus goes to the cross because of his desire to fulfill the word of God.

J.C.Ryle explains this beautifully, ‘We see in these words (about the Scripture being fulfilled -cjt) the secret of His voluntary submission to His foes. He came on purpose to fulfill the types and promises of the Old Testament Scriptures, and by fulfilling them to provide salvation for the world. He came intentionally to be the true Lamb of God, the Passover Lamb. He came to be the Scape-goat on whom the iniquities of the people were to be laid. His heart was set on accomplishing this great work. It could not be done without the “hiding of his power” for a time. To do it he became a willing sufferer. He was taken, tried, condemned, and crucified entirely of His own free will.’

…Notice too that Jesus does not just acquiesce to God’s sovereignty. He doesn’t just shrug his shoulders and say, ‘Well, I guess God has allowed this terrible thing to happen.’ We do that sometimes, but not Jesus. Jesus said, ‘God has caused and decreed this to happen. This is in accordance with his holy will, which he has established before the foundation of the world. I embrace it, because it is the will of my heavenly Father, and it is good. It may be horrendous for me, but I willingly embrace it, because it is good for his people, and I love his people. …Jesus reveled in the sovereignty of God, and he proclaims it even to the multitude of captors.

For this submission to the sovereign will of God on the part of our suffering Savior we must also give thanks. For by His godly will we are saved, even as we fell into sin and death of our own free will in the first garden (Eden, through Adam). And being saved by the gracious will of our mighty Savior, we are also given grace to submit to God’s will when we are called to suffer. May we have the humble spirit of our Lord and reveal His saving grace in our own afflictions, trusting in the same heavenly Father to deliver us.

Man of Sorrows – Hallelujah, What a Savior – CCHS Concert Choir

Hallelujah, What a Savior. CCHS Concert Choir – YouTube.

Since Pastor A.Begg quoted from the hymn “Man of Sorrows” (“Hallelujah, What a Savior!”) in the sermon from which I quoted in the previous post, I also post this arrangement of this hymn sung by the Concert Choir of Covenant Christian High School in Grand Rapids, MI. This was part of their November 2012 concert, with the video recording made by Nick Kleyn.

Here are the lyrics to the hymn as originally written by Philip Bliss (1875):

  1. 1. “Man of Sorrows!” what a name For the Son of God, who came Ruined sinners to reclaim. Hallelujah! What a Savior!

  2. 2. Bearing shame and scoffing rude, In my place condemned He stood; Sealed my pardon with His blood. Hallelujah! What a Savior!

  3. 3. Guilty, vile, and helpless we; Spotless Lamb of God was He; “Full atonement!” can it be? Hallelujah! What a Savior!

  4. 4. Lifted up was He to die; “It is finished!” was His cry; Now in Heav’n exalted high. Hallelujah! What a Savior!

  5. 5. When He comes, our glorious King, All His ransomed home to bring, Then anew His song we’ll sing: Hallelujah! What a Savior!

Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross (2)

JesusKeepMeNear-NGuthrieAs we noted here last Sunday, for the Sundays leading up to Good Friday and Easter we plan to do a series of meditations centered on the suffering and death of Jesus Christ. For my own devotional reading during this season of reflection I recently purchased the little book Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross: Experiencing the Passion and Power of Easter, a wonderful collection of sermons and writings edited by Nancy Guthrie (Crossway, 2009).

Last week we quoted from a sermon of the Reformer Martin Luther. Today we take an excerpt from a contemporary preacher, Alistair Begg (Parkside Church, Chagrin Falls, OH).  Chapter three of Jesus Keep Me Near the Cross contains a sermon by Begg titled “An Innocent Man Crushed by God”, based on three Bible passages: Is.53:10, Romans 8:32, and 2 Cor.5:21. Below is a wonderful section from that sermon, explaining the depth of what happened on Calvary, and indeed throughout the life of Jesus Christ.

This is beyond belief. An innocent man is about to be crushed by God. An innocent man is being delivered up by God to be sacrificed. An innocent man is being made sin on behalf of others.

…Here our advocate does not simply end up in the courtroom, he ends up on the cross.

On a daily basis we see courtroom scenes on the news of people on trial for various crimes. We see the defendant accompanied by his advocate or lawyer. Can you imagine turning on CNN and the roles are reversed? Can you imagine seeing the lawyer or advocate on trial for the crime his client committed? Or even more incredible, can you imagine that a judgment of guilty is made and the death penalty is meted out and it is the attorney who dies and not the defendant? That would be bizarre. It would be immoral. It would be wrong, because the attorney didn’t do anything.

But that’s what we see in Jesus as our sinless Advocate receives the punishment we, who are guilty, deserve.

Jesus is our high priest, but what kind of priest is this who becomes the sacrifice? Priests offer sacrifices – but this priest is the sacrifice. This priest lays himself on the altar.

You see, Jesus died for sin – but not for his own sin. He had no sin. He was in every sense made sin for us. He became all of our rebellion, all of our lying, all of our cheating, all of our adultery, all of our filth, all of our ugliness. He became all of that on the cross. Otherwise, how could God crucify his Son? It wasn’t that Jesus simply stepped up and said, ‘I’ll do this for you.’ It is that Jesus became the very embodiment of all that sin is.

Without substitution the death of Jesus is unintelligible. Unless what we have here is what is being described in 2 Corinthians 5:21, that he was made sin for us – not that he was made a sinner for us – but made sin for us, then how else do you explain it? What possible justification could God have for crucifying the innocent unless in substitution he became all that we are in our sin and rebellion in order that, in the mastery and mystery of his grace, in him we might become the very righteousness of God?

And when I think that God, his Son not sparing, sent him to die, I scarce can take it in,
That on the cross, my burden gladly bearing, he bled and died to take away my sin.

He goes to the garbage heap for all my garbage. He goes to the cross for all my rebellion, for all my filthy thoughts, all my selfish preoccupation, all my pride, all my self-aggrandizement.

Bearing shame and scoffing rude
In my place condemned he stood.

There is no story in all of human history like this. There is no notion in all religions of the world that comes close to touching this. This is imponderable, mysterious, majestic, glorious. This is all about God and the wonder of his grace (pp.22-24).

May our meditation on this incomparable wonder of grace inspire us to humble and grateful worship on this Lord’s Day.

▶ How Deep the Father’s Love For Us – Covenant CHS Chamber Singers

▶ How Deep the Father’s Love For Us. CCHS Chamber Singers. – YouTube.

And for our meditation on the passion of Christ through music today we post this video of the Covenant Christian HS Chamber Choir performing “How Deep the Father’s Love for Us” at their November 2013 concert held in Calvin College’s Covenant Fine Arts Center (compliments of Nick Kleyn).

The words to this contemporary hymn are as follows:

“How Deep The Father’s Love For Us” was written by Stuart Christopher Townend.

How deep the Father’s love for us
How vast beyond all measure
That He should give His only Son
And make a wretch His treasure

How great the pain of searing loss
The Father turns His face away
As wounds which mar the chosen One
Bring many sons to glory

Behold the Man upon a cross
My sin upon His shoulders
Ashamed I hear my mocking voice
Call out among the scoffers

It was my sin that held Him there
Until it was accomplished
His dying breath has brought me life
I know that it is finished

I will not boast in anything
No gifts, no power, no wisdom
But I will boast in Jesus Christ
His death and resurrection

Why should I gain from His reward?
I cannot give an answer
But this I know with all my heart
His wounds have paid my ransom

Read more: Owl City – How Deep The Father’s Love For Us Lyrics | MetroLyrics 

Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross (1)

JesusKeepMeNear-NGuthrieFor the Sundays leading up to Good Friday and Easter we plan to do a series of meditations centered on the suffering and death of Jesus Christ. For my own devotional reading during this time of reflection I recently purchased the little book Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross: Experiencing the Passion and Power of Easter, a wonderful collection of sermons and writings edited by Nancy Guthrie (Crossway, 2009). I plan to use this book as a guide, pulling quotations from it.

This is how the author introduces this collection:

In the pages that follow, gifted theologians and Bible teachers will help us to stop and longer at the cross. I’ve drawn from the writings and sermons of classic and contemporary writers and teachers to create meditations that will draw us into an experience of the passion of the cross and the power of the resurrection.

How we need to have our hearts broken again by our sin that put Jesus on the cross. How we need to have our confidence grounded by what Jesus accomplished on the cross. And how we need to have our hope anchored in the promise of resurrection. I pray that is what you will experience as you read this book. May Jesus draw you and keep you near his cross (“Preface”, p.10).

MLuther-preaching-1The first meditation Guthrie has in her book is an excerpt from a sermon of Martin Luther titled “True Contemplation of the Cross”. From this I pull a few paragraphs today.

Let us meditate a moment on the passion of Christ. Some do so falsely in that they merely rail against Judas and the Jews. Some carry crucifixes to protect themselves from water, fire, and sword, and turn the suffering of Jesus into an amulet against suffering. Some weep, and that is the end of it. The true contemplation is that in which the heart is crushed and the conscience smitten. You must be overwhelmed by the frightful wrath of God who so hated sin that he spared not his only begotten Son. What can the sinner expect if the beloved Son was so afflicted? It must be an inexpressible and unendurable yearning that causes God’s Son Himself so to suffer. Ponder this and you will tremble, and the more you ponder, the deeper you will tremble.

The whole value of the meditation of the suffering of Christ lies in this, that man should come to the knowledge of himself and sink and tremble. If you are so hardened that you do not tremble, then you have reason to tremble. Pray to God that he may soften your heart and make fruitful your meditation upon the suffering of Christ, for we of ourselves are incapable of proper reflection unless God instills its.

…The greater and more wonderful is the excellence of his love by contrast with the lowliness of his form, the hate and pain of passion. Herein we come to know both God and ourselves. His beauty is his own, and through it we learn to know him. His uncomeliness and passion are ours, and in them we know ourselves, for what he suffered in the flesh, we must inwardly suffer in the spirit. He has in truth borne our stripes. Here, then, in an unspeakably clear mirror you see yourself. You must know that through your sins you are as uncomely and mangled as you see him here (pp.11-14).

Also for our meditation I include this beautiful poem written by Thelma Westra, a member of our Faith PRC (Jenison, MI), found in the collection of her poetry titled Poems of Praise (self-published). This one is titled “He Who Was Sinless” (p.131):

‘He Who was sinless was made sin for us:’
Turning depravity into salvation
For sinners deserving only damnation.
Who but Jehovah could plan such a thing?
Jehovah of hosts, the conquering King.
It pleased Him to sacrifice His only Son
Because of His love for the wholly undone;
He loved us and changed us by mercy and grace
Into sanctified children – His chosen race.
We now glorify Him, exalting His name,
And into eternity, still will proclaim
The wonder He wrought, and the joy that He brought:
With the blood of His Son, His people He bought!
‘He Who was sinless was made sin for us!’


Sunday Worship Preparation – Psalm 130

Psalm130For this first Lord’s Day in March we focus on Psalm 130 for our worship preparation of the one, true Triune God, our Father in Jesus Christ. This is the eleventh “song of ascents”, another part of those songs the pilgrim saints sang as they sojourned “up” to Jerusalem for her special worship services. Let’s put this Word of God before us so that we may meditate on it and pray from it as we go up to God’s house today:

Psalm 130

Out of the depths have I cried unto thee, O Lord.

2 Lord, hear my voice: let thine ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications.

3 If thou, Lord, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand?

4 But there is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared.

5 I wait for the Lord, my soul doth wait, and in his word do I hope.

6 My soul waiteth for the Lord more than they that watch for the morning: I say, more than they that watch for the morning.

7 Let Israel hope in the Lord: for with the Lord there is mercy, and with him isplenteous redemption.

8 And he shall redeem Israel from all his iniquities.

We sense right away that this is a crucial song for spiritual pilgrims to sing as they come before God in worship. This is a song of confession of sin and it is a song of confidence in a merciful, forgiving Lord. As such it is fitting for our special services too, such as holy communion or preparatory.

Yet, Psalm 130 is a song that we must sing (and pray!) every time we prepare to enter the Lord’s house and every time we stand before the holy and righteous God. For we are sinners, objectively, according to the law and testimony of the supreme Judge of heaven and earth. Not one of us is righteous, no, not one. Not one of us has done good. We are guilty, vile, rebellious people, and proud of it too. And therefore, not one of us fears God and desires to give Him one ounce of thanks and praise. Not one of us is worthy to or seeks to enter God’s presence and worship Him (Go back and read Psalm 14 again, and then Romans 1:18ff., and chaps. 2-3). All we deserve is God’s condemning wrath and fierce, everlasting judgment: “Depart from Me and go to hell!” Yes, He is the only One Who may say that.

But knowing this truth of God’s Word objectively, we must confess this subjectively. With repentant hearts and cleansed mouths (by God’s sovereign grace and Spirit alone!) we must personally acknowledge God’s righteous judgment of ourselves and confess “out of the depths” with a sincere cry, “If thou, LORD, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand?” Indeed, looking at ourselves in the light of God’s law again today, who of us can stand before the Holy One?! He knows your sin and mine. He sees far more than you or I see. And only one of our vile sins is worthy to banish me from His presence.

What hope do we have then?! What are we doing taking one step toward Jerusalem and the house of God?! Why start a pilgrimage to the holy city of God?! If we go and appear before this God, we are only damned and doomed!

O, no, fellow confessing sinners, get up and get going to Zion, for we have hope! Don’t stop your reading of Psalm 130 at v.3. Go on to the gospel in vss.4-8! In fact, there was hope expressed already in vss. 1-3 in the name of God the psalmist used: “LORD” – Jehovah God, the faithful, covenant-making, covenant-keeping God! The God of our salvation in Jesus Christ, the Mediator and Redeemer of the covenant! The Lord Who gave the Lamb slain for us sinners! The Lamb Who bore our sins, our curse, our wrath, our hell and took it all away! The Lord of boundless and endless mercy!

That’s why there is forgiveness with Him! Full pardon for guilty, putrid, proud sinners such as ourselves. Full dismissal of all charges against us stiff-necked, law-breaking rebels! Full removal of all stains of guilt and corruption! And perfect righteousness and holiness in the place of these filthy rags besides. O, wonderful God and wonderful gift! Blessed Lamb of God!

What shall we do then, as we prepare for worship? Wait for this Lord, v.5-6. Hope in this God of mercy, v.7. For, yes, He shall redeem Israel from all his iniquities. We know that and can sing that because He has redeemed Israel. That’s Calvary. The proof is in the empty tomb, which we commemorate every Lord’s Day. Christ is risen and we are redeemed! Hallelujah! Get up and get going to Zion, pilgrims! The Lord of mercy waits to receive us and our praise-giving thanks!

Psalter1912If you wish to meditate on Psalm 130 through the music of the Psalter, I encourage you to make use of this versification, Ps.#363. Below are the lyrics; at the link is piano accompaniment for you to use in singing these words.

1. From the depths do I invoke Thee,
Lord, to me incline Thy ear;
To my voice be Thou attentive,
And my supplication hear.

2. Lord, if Thou shouldst mark transgressions,
In Thy presence who shall stand?
But with Thee there is forgiveness,
That Thy Name may fear command.

3. For Jehovah I am waiting,
And my hope is in His word,
In His word of promise given;
Yea, my soul waits for the Lord.

4. For the Lord my soul is waiting
More than watchers in the night,
More than they for morning watching,
Watching for the morning light.

5. Hope in God, ye waiting people;
Mercies great with Him abound;
With the Lord a full redemption
From the guilt of sin is found.

More Free (Review) Books for You!

I will admit that the above heading is intended to grab your attention and make you read this post. Because, while I truly do have some free print books for you, they come with a catch. Yes, these are review books for The Standard Bearer and the “catch” is that you may have the book if you agree to write a brief review for this Reformed magazine. Call this unfair, conditional, etc., but that is the deal.

SpiritualWarfare-Borgman&VenturaIf you are intimidated by writing a review for the “SB”, don’t be. Many others have gone before you and have done well – yes, pastors and elders, but also many ordinary believers (They are extra-ordinary in my book!), including some young people! So, put away your fears, contact me if you would like one of these books and I will help guide you through the book review process. I also have some leftover titles from previous posts offering books, so look those up as well and feel free to speak for one of these.

The two new books I received recently are both published by Reformation Heritage Books here in Grand Rapids, MI. Here are the titles and links to more information on them:

Captivated-TAnyabwileP.S. Just today (Tuesday, Feb.4, 2014) I received another review book in the mail from Reformation Heritage. It is a small paperback (95 pp.) that will be of interest to our readers, especially with the season of remembering Christ’s suffering, death, and resurrection coming soon. The book is titled Captivated: Beholding the Mystery of Jesus’ Death and Resurrection by Thabiti Anyabwile, pastor of First Baptist Church, Grand Cayman, the Cayman Islands. If you want to have this book and are willing to write a brief review, let me know.

Comforts When Grief Overwhelms

AndrewGSchipper-2013Our sources of comfort on a heavy-hearted day, as we grieve the death of our dear nephew Andrew Schipper (age 29). [Read the obituary for Andy by his family at the VanderLaan Funeral Home site.]

Isaiah 43:1-3a: But now thus saith the LORD that created thee, O Jacob, and he that formed thee, O Israel, Fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine. When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee; when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee. For I am the LORD thy God, the Holy One of Israel, thy Saviour.”

Heidelberg Catechism, Q.1.  What is thy only comfort in life and death? A.  That I with body and soul,1 both in life and death, am not my own,2 but belong unto my faithful Savior Jesus Christ;3 who, with His precious blood,4 hath fully satisfied for all my sins,5 and delivered me from all the power of the devil;6 and so preserves me7that without the will of my heavenly Father, not a hair can fall from my head;8 yea, that all things must be subservient to my salvation,9 and therefore, by His Holy Spirit, He also assures me of eternal life,10 and makes me sincerely willing and ready, henceforth, to live unto Him.11

Calvary’s Anthem

Heavenly Father,
Thou hast led me singing to the cross,
where I fling down all my burdens and see them vanish,
where my mountains of guilt are levelled to a plain,
where my sins disappear, though they are the greatest that exist,
and are more in number than the grains of fine sand;

For there is power in the blood of Calvary
to destroy sins more than can be counted
even by one from the choir of heaven.

Thou hast given me a hill-side spring
that washes clear and white,
and I go as a sinner to its waters,
bathing without hindrance in its crystal streams.

At the cross there is free forgiveness for poor and meek ones,
and ample blessings that last for ever;
The blood of the Lamb is like a great river of infinite grace
with never any diminishing of its fullness
as thirsty ones without number drink of it.

O Lord, for ever will thy free forgiveness live
that was gained on the mount of blood;
In the midst of a world of pain
it is a subject of praise in every place,
a song on earth, an anthem in heaven,
its love and virtue knowing no end.

I have a longing for the world above
where multitudes sing the great song,
for my soul was never created to love the dust of earth.
Though here my spiritual state is frail and poor,
I shall go on singing Calvary’s anthem.

May I always know
that a clean heart full of goodness
is more beautiful than the lily,
that only a clean heart can sing by night and by day,
that such a heart is mine when I abide at Calvary.

Arthur Bennett, ed. The Valley of Vision (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth Trust, 1975), 173.

The Hope Heralds – “It is Well with My Soul”

In Christ Alone, S.Ferguson – Free eBook from Reformation Trust

In Christ Alone: Living the Gospel Centered Life — Free eBook by Nathan W. Bingham | Ligonier Ministries Blog.

InChristAlone-SFergusonA simple reminder that Reformation Trust’s free Ebook of the month is Sinclair Ferguson’s In Christ Alone. Below is their note with the information. Visit the link above to download the free book in multiple formats.

During the month of August, Reformation Trust is giving away the eBook edition of Sinclair Ferguson’s In Christ Alone. This book explores various aspects of the person and work of Jesus. It has been written to help believers gain a better understanding of their Savior and the Christian faith, and to live out that faith in their day-to-day lives. In Christ Alone is packed full of nuggets of Scriptural truth that will spark and fan the flames of the believer’s love for the Savior who is so beautiful in His person and so faithful in His work on behalf of His beloved sheep.

J.Calvin on Psalm 118: “…Pray fervently and constantly for the prosperity and progress of this spiritual kingdom.”

Also for our meditation on Psalm 118 today, I post these words of John Calvin on vss.25-26. May they too point us to Christ and to our calling to “pray fervently and constantly for the prosperity and progress” of Christ’s spiritual kingdom.

JCalvin1…The clause, blessed is he that cometh, may be viewed as a form of congratulation; but seeing that the benediction of the priests is immediately annexed, I am disposed rather to believe that the people wished for David God’s grace and favor. To induce them to present this petition with more alacrity, and thus be encouraged to receive the king whom God appointed them, this promise is added in the person of the priests, We bless you out of the house of the Lord.

They speak in this manner agreeably with the nature of their office, which enjoined on them the duty of blessing the people, as appears from several passages in the books of Moses, and particularly from Numbers 6:23. It is not without reason that they connect the welfare of the Church with the prosperity of the kingdom, it being their desire to throw out the suggestion, and to represent that the safety of the people would remain as long as that kingdom continued to flourish, and that they would all share in the blessings which would be conferred upon their king, because of the indissoluble connection which exists between the head and members.

Knowing, as we now do, that when David was constituted king, the foundation of that everlasting kingdom, which was eventually manifested in the advent of Christ, was then laid, and that the temporal throne upon which the descendants of David were placed was a type of the eternal kingdom given to Christ by God his Father, in consequence of which he obtained all power, both in heaven and on earth, there can be no question that the prophet calls upon the faithful to pray fervently and constantly for the prosperity and progress of this spiritual kingdom; for it was incumbent on those who lived during the shadowy dispensation to pray for David and his successors; but after all the grandeur of that kingdom was overthrown, it behooved them to entreat the more ardently that God, in fulfillment of his promise, would re-establish it.

In short, all that is here stated properly relates to the person of Christ; and that which was dimly adumbrated in David was brightly represented and fulfilled in Christ. The election of David was secret; and after he was anointed by Samuel to be king, he was rejected by Saul, and by all the heads of the people, and all abhorred him as if he had been a person deserving of a hundred deaths. Thus disfigured and dishonored, he did not appear to be a fit stone for occupying a place in the building. Similar to this was the beginning of the kingdom of Christ, who, being sent by his Father for the redemption of the Church, not only was despised by the world, but also hated and execrated, both by the common people and the dignitaries of the Church.


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