What will you do with the crucified Christ? ~ Rev. J. Marcus

The latest issue of the Standard Bearer (March 15, 2017) contains, among other edifying articles, an instructive and inspirational meditation by Rev. John Marcus, pastor of First PRC in Edmonton, AB.

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Pastor Marcus’ meditation is on John 19:18, “Where they crucified him, and two other with him, on either side one, and Jesus in the midst.”

Below is the ending application of that meditation. As you will see, Rev. Marcus gives us good things to ponder as we reflect on the death of the Savior, Jesus Christ.

God’s word in our text is both a warning and a comfort to everyone who faces the question concerning their response to Christ.

It’s a warning to those who want a Christ and a religion according to which they can pursue their own lusts. Both sinners came face to face with Jesus and with death. They had time enough to repent. We might think to ourselves, “I can always repent when I’m older.” But, the first thief never repented. God gives us the example of this thief as a warning to everyone who pretends they will repent on their death beds.

On the other hand, Jesus in the midst of these two sinners is also an encouragement because it shows that Jesus forgives even the greatest of sinners. Though he had lived a life of violence and wickedness, the second thief found forgiveness at the cross. We must never think to ourselves, “My sins are too many or too great.” That would be to reproach Jesus and imply that His blood was not precious enough. In fact, it cleanses even the foulest of sinners. All who go to Christ and humble themselves before Him – even in the final hour of their lives – He will in no wise cast out.

Jesus Christ suffered the curse of God for all His elect. He suffered to satisfy the justice of a holy and righteous God whose anger burns against sinners.

What will you do with the crucified Christ?

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The Great Fulfillment – M. Lloyd-Jones

come-jesus-guthrie-2008For this third Sunday in December we post an excerpt from a sermon of Martin Lloyd-Jones (1899-1981) found in the book Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus: Experiencing the Peace and Promise of Christmas (ed. Nancy Guthrie; Crossway, 2008).

The title is “The Great Fulfillment” and is based on Luke 1:54-55 (an excerpt from My Soul Magnifies the Lord: Meditations on the Meaning of Christmas, Crossway, 1988). Here are a few of Lloyd-Jones’ thoughts on this passage:

The incarnation is the supreme example of fulfilled prophecy, the supreme example of God’s faithfulness to his promises. And this is surely most comforting, especially as we consider it in the setting of the world in which we find ourselves.

The great covenant promise concerning redemption was made in its most explicit manner to Abraham. You can find it prior to that, but the definition of it, as it were, the explicit statement of it, is made to Abraham when he is told that in him, in his seed, shall all the world be blessed (Gen.12:3). That is what Mary is referring to when she says, ‘He hath holpen his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy to Abraham, and to his seed for ever’ (Luke 1:54, KJV).

…Mary at once sees the significance of what is happening – the significance of the Son that is to be born out of her womb.

…Mary sees now God is going to fulfill all these promises that he as made – ‘mercy to Abraham, and his seed forever.’ But how is it happening? ‘It happens,’ she said, ‘like this: “He hath holpen his servant Israel,” and that word means to succor, to help, or, perhaps better still, to lift up.

She is referring primarily, of course, to salvation itself, and that is where her statement is so significant. God had made this promise to Abraham concerning salvation, forgiveness, and reconciliation unto himself. We tend to forget that what God said to Abraham was that this salvation that was to come was to be brought about through this descendant of his that was yet to be born into this world.

…Here now, says Mary, is the great anti-type himself. Now God is going to fulfill all this mercy that he had promised…. And this means there is only one way of salvation; it means that all salvation and every aspect of it comes in this one way – in Jesus Christ, the Son of God and him crucified, made an offering for sin.

…Here is the fulfillment of all mercies. There is no forgiveness apart from Jesus Christ and him crucified. There is no true knowledge of God apart from him. There is no blessing apart from him. As the apostle Paul puts it in 2 Corinthians 1:20 (KJV): ‘For all the promises of God in him are yea, and in him Amen, unto the glory of God by us.” “He hath holpen his servant Israel.”

Light and Time – Dr. B. Looyenga, December 1 Standard Bearer

The latest issue of the Standard Bearer (December 1, 2016) contains an interesting and edifying assortment of articles, among which is one by Dr. Brendan Looyenga (Calvin College professor in the science department) on “Light and Time” for the rubric “All Thy Works Shall Praise Thee.”

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Dr. Looyenga writes about God’s amazing creation of light and time, showing the close relation between these two creatures. At the end of his article, he makes some points in answer to the question, How does the knowledge of these creatures bring glory to the Creator?

Here are two of his significant points:

Secondly, it is notable that the very first creative act we read of in the Bible is God’s creation of light (Gen. 1).  Remarkable!  Why?  Because as we discussed above, the central constant in our cosmos is this very creature!  No matter where you are, no matter how fast you move, no matter when you observe it,  light moves at a constant speed.  And as such, though we do not read that time was God’s first creation, He in effect made that creature too when he fashioned light as His first creature.  And so, while Einstein’s work may have pointed to the primacy of light as a constant, it was our heavenly Father who fashioned it to be His standard for the physical laws governing the creation.  A mere coincidence, says the scoffer.  No, say we, a providential work of the Creator!

In the third place, I would point out that God’s omnipotence over time is not only key to our understanding His creative power, but also to understanding the possibility of the cross.  It was there that our Lord Jesus Christ suffered for sin, conquering it completely and atoning for sin such that we may have fellowship with God.  But the puzzling thing about that atonement is that our Lord accomplished it in the space of just three hours.  Stop and think about that.  Complete atonement for an eternity of punishment for sin—in just three hours.  No mere man could do this, regardless of his perfection, because no man could bear eternity in the space of time, regardless of its length.  But we confess that Christ is not only man; He is God incarnate!  As fully divine, He was able to bear an eternity’s worth of suffering for all His people, compressed into a temporal space of three hours.  No man could do this; but “with God nothing shall be impossible.” (Luke 1:37).

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“Let us consider well this price.” M. Luther

Luther&LearningWherefore Paul saith here that Christ first began and not we. ‘He loved me, and gave Himself for me.’ As if he said, although He found in me no good will, or right understanding, this good Lord had mercy on me. He saw me to be nothing else but wicked, going astray, contemning God, and flying from Him more and more, carried away and led captive of the devil. Thus of His mere mercy… He loved me, and so loved me that He gave Himself for me, to the end that I might be freed from the law, sin, the devil and death.

Again, these words, ‘the Son of God loved me, and gave Himself for me,’ are mighty thunderings and lightnings from heaven against the righteousness of the law and all the works thereof. So great and horrible wickedness, error, darkness was in my will and understanding, that it was impossible for me to be ransomed by any other means than by such an inestimable price.

Let us consider well this price, and let us behold… the Son of God, …and we shall see Him, without all comparison, to exceed and excel for creatures.

…If thou couldst rightly consider this incomparable price, thou shouldst hold as accursed all other ceremonies, vows, works, and merits before grace and after, and throw them all down to hell. For it is a horrible blasphemy to imagine that there is any work whereby thou shouldst presume to pacify God, since thou seest that there is nothing which is able to pacify Him but this inestimable price, even the death and the blood of the Son of God, one drop whereof is more precious than the whole world.

Martin Luther on Galatians 2:20 in Commentary on Galatians (Kregel, 1979), 94-95.

A True Love Story – Grace Gems

Romans8-39This “Grace Gems” devotional was sent yesterday (July 16, 2016) and is fitting for our contemplation on this Lord’s Day. It contains not the fictions of human love stories, but the facts of God’s gospel love story.

The journey which our Divine Lover took

(Thomas Guthrie, 1803-1873)

The story of Christ’s redeeming love surpasses anything related in the pages of the wildest romances. These tell of a prince, who, enamored with a humble maiden, assumed a disguise. Doffing his crown and royal state for the dress of common life, he left his palace, traveled far, faced danger, and fared hard–to win the heart of a peasant’s daughter, and raise her from obscurity to the position of a queen!

Facts are more wonderful than fables. The journey which our Divine Lover took was from Heaven to earth. To win His bride, He exchanged the bosom of the eternal Father–to lie, a feeble infant, on a woman’s bosom. The Son of God left the throne of the universe, and assumed the guise of humanity–to be cradled in a feeding trough and murdered on a cross!

In His people, He found His bride deep in debt–and paid it all. Herself under sentence of death–He died in her place. A lost creature, clad in rags–He took off His own royal robes to cover her. To wash her–He shed His blood! To win her–He shed His tears! Finding her poor and miserable and naked, He endowed her with all His goods–and heir of all things. Everything that He possessed as His Father’s Son–she was to forever enjoy and share with Himself!

Voices of Victory Introduce New CD – “Cherish the Cross”

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On this holiday Monday here in the U.S., the Voices of Victory quartet, of which I have been a part for two years now following the retirement of long-time first tenor Mr. Jerry Kuiper, is pleased to announce the arrival of their new CD – “Cherish the Cross”.

This has been a special project for us, and it has been a privilege and blessing to work with fellow quartet members, Jim Daling, Rick Noorman, and Dan Van Dyke, as well as pianist Karen Daling on this great collection of songs. We worked very hard for many months on these songs, fine-tuning them until we were ready to do this recording. If you saw any of our Facebook pictures and comments during the process, you will know how challenging and taxing this was!

The title of the new album comes from the song “More Than Ever”, a duet featuring Jim Daling and Dan Van Dyke, and is one that we believe captures the heart of the message of these gospel songs. If you look at the titles of the collection below and listen to the words of each one, you will see that we personally “cherish the cross” of our Lord Jesus Christ and seek our listeners to do the same (cf. Gal.6:14).

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You will find sample tracks of the CD on our Facebook page and you may order one from any of the quartet members (cost is $12). You can also find copies for sale at Covenant Christian High School, Heritage Christian School, the PRC Seminary Bookstore, or the Reformed Book Outlet.

And if you prefer to purchase the digital version of the album, visit this special website, where you may also listen to the tracks.

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Jesus, “the Conqueror of Death”, Buried – J. Calvin

The burial of Christ is now added, as an intermediate transition from the ignominy of the cross to the glory of the resurrection. True, indeed, God determined, for another reason that Christ should be buried, that it might be more fully attested that he suffered real death on our account.

But yet it ought to be regarded as the principal design, that in this manner the cursing which he had endured for a short time began to be removed; for his body was not thrown into a ditch in the ordinary way, but honorably laid in a hewn sepulchre.

Although at that time the weakness of the flesh was still visible and the divine power of the Spirit was not clearly seen before his resurrection; yet God determined by this, as a sort of preparation, to shadow out what he was shortly afterwards to do, that he might exalt gloriously above the heavens his Son, the conqueror of death.

JCalvin1Taken from John Calvin’s Commentary on a Harmony of the Evangelists, Matthew, Mark, and Luke (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1979), XVII: 330-331.

Jesus and the Cup – F. Leahy

The apparently innocent cup offered to Christ had a sinister origin. Even as he tasted the sedative he recognized the hand of the Tempter. Mocked, scourged, worn out as he staggered to Golgotha beneath the burning sun, he craved a cool draught to quench his raging thirst. The Tempter said, ‘Drink! This will cool your tongue.’ Satan knew that the One about to be crucified was the Messiah.

…Christ saw the situation in a flash. He refused Satan’s cup. He was about to descend into even greater depths of suffering as he experienced the unmitigated wrath of a holy God against sin and as he grappled with the legions of darkness that were hurled against him. In that hell not so much as a drop of water may cool his tongue, nor relieve in the smallest degree his agony.

What if Christ had accepted that cup…? Then, with a befuddled brain, he could not have prayed for the soldiers who were waiting to nail him to the cross. Then those seven great sayings on the cross would not have been uttered. Then his disobedience would at last have been broken and all would have been lost. How much was at stake as they pushed the rim of that cup towards the Saviour’s lips! Everything! All of the divine decree, all of prophecy, all of redemption was at stake as that appealing cup was offered to the Suffering One again and again.

…The Great High Priest, offering the once-for-all sacrifice for sin, must know what he does, must in no way be insensible or inattentive. In this crucial encounter with Satan the Saviour must not be doped, nor must he allow the emphasis to shift from the realm of the spirit to that if the body. The body must serve the spirit, not vice versa. Viewed from every conceivable angle, this was Satan’s cup. His fingermarks were all over it. The fetid stench of his breath clung to it. Christ pushed it away. He spurned it with all his being. He drank only from the Father’s cup and now he hands to each one of his redeemed that precious cup that overflows with the sweet wine of his love, the cup of salvation.

CrossHeBore-LeahyTaken from chapter 11, “Satan’s Cup Refused” (based on Mark 15:23) by Frederick S. Leahy in The Cross He Bore: Meditations on the Sufferings of the Redeemer (Banner of Truth, 1996), pp.64-66.

Hymns on the Passion and Death of Christ – A.Toplady

ATopladyFor our reflection on the sufferings and death of Christ today we post these two poems by Augustus M. Toplady, one set to music in a familiar hymn, the other perhaps not as well known but also edifying and comforting. Both of these are taken from the website poemhunter.com.

Rock Of Ages, Cleft For Me

Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee!
Let the Water and the Blood,
From thy riven Side which flow’d,
Be of Sin the double Cure,
Cleanse me from its Guilt and Pow’r.

Not the Labours of my Hands
Can fulfil thy Law’s demands:
Could my Zeal no respite know,
Could my Tears for ever flow,
All for Sin could not atone:
Thou must save, and Thou alone!

Nothing in my Hand I bring;
Simply to thy Cross I cling;
Naked, come to Thee for Dress;
Helpless, look to Thee for Grace;
Foul, I to the Fountain fly:
Wash me, SAVIOUR, or I die!

Whilst I draw this fleeting Breath–
When my Eye-strings break in Death–
When I soar through tracts unknown–
See Thee on thy Judgment-Throne–
ROCK of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in THEE!

Fountain Of Never-Ceasing Grace

Fountain of never ceasing grace,
Thy saints’ exhaustless theme,
Great object of immortal praise,
Essentially supreme;
We bless Thee for the glorious fruits
Thine incarnation gives;
The righteousness which grace imputes,
And faith alone receives.

Whom heaven’s angelic host adores,
Was slaughtered for our sin;
The guilt, O Lord was wholly ours,
The punishment was Thine:
Our God in the flesh, to set us free,
Was manifested here;
And meekly bare our sins, that we
His righteousness might wear.

Imputatively guilty then
Our substitute was made,
That we the blessings might obtain
For which His blood was shed:
Himself He offered on the cross,
Our sorrows to remove;
And all He suffered was for us,
And all He did was love.

In Him we have a righteousness,
By God Himself approved;
Our rock, our sure foundation this,
Which never can be moved.
Our ransom by His death He paid,
For all His people giv’n,
The law He perfectly obeyed,
That they might enter heav’n.

As all, when Adam sinned alone,
In his transgression died,
So by the righteousness of One,
Are sinners justified,
We to Thy merit, gracious Lord,
With humblest joy submit,
Again to Paradise restored,
In Thee alone complete.

Our souls His watchful love retrieves,
Nor lets them go astray,
His righteousness to us He gives,
And takes our sins away:
We claim salvation in His right,
Adopted and forgiv’n,
His merit is our robe of light,
His death the gate of heav’n.

Caiaphas and Christ: One for All!

Caiaphas has followed his declared policy – one for all. There is a strange irony here, for unwittingly the high priest was enunciating a principle that lay at the very heart of redemption. ‘The Son of man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many’ (Matt.20:28). The Apostle Paul elaborates on this principle. ‘For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by one man’s obedience many will be made righteous’ (Rom.5:19). One for all!

So another voice has spoken in Caiaphas’ court. That word was spoken in the eternal counsels of the Godhead, and Christ had accepted it on behalf of those whom the Father had given to him. One for all! Did he hear that voice again as he stood condemned by the Sanhedrin? He certainly had not forgotten it.

Ultimately two voices have spoken in that courtroom, the voice of God and the voice of Satan: both said, ‘one for all.’ But there is fundamental disagreement between them. God speaks in terms of redemptive substitution, substitutionary atonement; Caiaphas, who is Satan’s tool as much as Judas, speaks in terms of elimination. God would have his Son die for his people so that they might live; Caiaphas would have Christ die in order to be rid of him, and so he sticks by his policy that it was expedient that one man should die for the people rather than that the whole nation should perish.

Thus predestination and human responsibility meet as Christ is condemned. He was ‘delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God,’ yet ‘crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men’ (Acts 2:23). God’s eternal purpose was realized in the death of his Son. The one for the many!

So the believer can say, ‘Christ embraced me with all my sin and guilt that I might embrace him in all his righteousness.’ That is what Luther had in mind when he said, ‘He died for me; he made his righteousness mine and made my sin his own; and if he made my sin his own, then I do not have it, and I am free.’

CrossHeBore-LeahyTaken from chapter 7, “Sentenced to Death” (based on Matt.26:65,66) by Frederick S. Leahy in The Cross He Bore: Meditations on the Sufferings of the Redeemer (Banner of Truth, 1996), pp.41-42.