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THE WONDER OF THE CROSS.
The Lord Jesus died for the sin of the human race.
“Look” said John the Baptist, “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world”. He, the sinless One, who lived in the eternal sphere of holiness and peace, moved by love voluntarily became one of us, and undertook by identification with us to bear our just penalty. Here was His greatest greatness. He gathered to Himself the sin of the race and bore it to Calvary. He became the sacrifice for us all. He voluntarily laid down His life to become our ransom price. He had power to lay it down and power to take it up again, and He laid it down to obtain our full salvation. He, who knew no sin, by His own act was made sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God, in Him.
Do not be content to hear or read about the mystery of the divine self-giving. Accept your share in it and be thankful, and then unite yourself with the love of God and become a channel through which He may pour that love out upon the world. When once we understand the meaning of Calvary and not only accept it for ourself but unite ourself with it, we enter upon an absolutely new sphere of living. Old things pass away. All things become new. The love of Christ constrains us, we no longer live for ourself but for Him who loved us and gave Himself for us.
When He died, the Lord Jesus bruised the Serpent's head and broke his power for ever.
Probably there are hosts of demons, but there is only one devil. He is the prince of the power of the air. It is absurd and wrong to speak lightly of him. Our Lord spoke of him as “the Prince of this world’’, and Paul refers to him as “the god of this world”. The Saviour encountered him on the threshold of His public ministry, and in the wilderness it was settled that He would hold His supremacy, not as the vice-regent of Satan, but by the victory of the Cross. In the garden, He stood for the human race, and we dare not imagine what would have been the fate of humanity or of the universe, if our Saviour had collapsed through mortal weakness in Gethsemane. He came very near collapsing as He lifted the cup to His lips.
The peril was imminent, for we are told in Hebrews 5 v7, that “during the days of Jesus’ life on earth, He offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the One who could save Him from death”, and this surely implies that there was fear that in the extremity of that final conflict His body would collapse. His failure would have changed the destiny of our race and shrouded the heavens with the blackness of despair.
But our Saviour “destroyed him that had the power of death”, the devil, “and delivered those who, through fear of death, were all their life-time subject to bondage”. As we stand in our risen and ascended Lord, we see Satan fall as lightning from heaven. As a man in uniform is able to regulate the traffic of a crowded street because he represents the authority of the State, so the weakest child of God, who stands in the victory of Calvary, is able to resist and overcome all the power of the evil spirits that infect the air. In the risen Lord you can have victory.
Our Saviour, when dying, not only put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself, but He opened doors that none can shut and shut doors that none can open.
He wrested the keys of death from the hand of Satan, and they now hang at His belt. John heard Him say, ‘‘I am the living One; I was dead, and behold, I am alive for evermore! And I hold the keys of death and Hades”.
Clearly our Lord commands the door that opens on eternity. When we come to the end of life we shall find Him waiting for us with a smile. Stephen saw Him standing there, and as the first-born from among the dead, Jesus welcomed the first Christian martyr home. How good it will be to see Him and hear Him bid us enter into His joy! The grave shall have no terrors, neither death its sting.
The Cross also stands for separation.
It is not enough to reach out our hands to receive the blessings that Christ has won for us. We must live as those who are identified with Him. The whole New Testament rings with this thought, as we see in Romans 6 v5-11, Colossians 2 v20 & 3 v1-4 and Ephesians 4 v17-24.
Yield yourselves to God as those who have risen from the dead, and surrender your abilities to God to be used by Him. You have become one with Jesus in sharing the benefits of His death, now share His risen life. He is the vine, and we are the branches. Our old self was crucified with Christ so that we should no longer be the slaves of sin, but as we shared Christ’s death, we should also share His life. Reckon yourselves, therefore, as dead to sin, but as living to God, through union with the risen Saviour. Let His Cross stand between your past life and the present, new life in Christ.
We have to mix with others, to conduct our business, to take our place in the life around, but our behaviour must be guided by the life which comes from our risen and ascended Lord.
Let it never be said or thought, that the life hidden with Christ in God is sad or sour. He who created the song of the bird, the infectious laughter of the child, the dancing sunlight of the woodland, and loved to see the children playing in the market-place, has not brought melancholy into the world. When He came to the wedding feast, He gave the best wine. Faith in Him can never be counted a kill-joy.
Surely the Scripture tells truly that, in Christ, old things pass away and all things become new.
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