Julian Freeman

Freed to live through the death of another.

Tag: cross

The Foot of the Cross

cross redIt seems chaotic. Crowds moving, people hollering. Some are mocking and laughing. Others simply shake their heads as they pass by. For many there, vicious — almost indescribable — anger is thinly veiled beneath jeering and taunting. Never has laughter been so spiteful.

And then there are a few — just a few — who stand still. Silently, mournfully, disbelievingly, gazing upward at a bloodied and broken man, still hoping that any moment now they will awake to find this has been a horrific dream. But it’s not. It won’t go away. Nothing has ever been more real. Nothing has ever seared the eyes of his loved ones and friends like this sight. And nothing will ever look the same.

The crowd itself is diverse. There are young and old, male and female, rich and poor. Some people just happened to be passing by on the way into town, some are there for the show, and others are there to make sure that death truly transpires. There are many Jews, but also Romans. Soldiers and government officials, to be precise.

Everything about the moment seems wrong. A man who had been righteous, merciful, gracious, and kind is now maligned. He who had preached love is hated. The one who had claimed to be a king is strung up as a criminal. The one who was supposed to save the Jews from their oppressors has been handed over by the Jews to their oppressors to be killed. The only human who has ever tasted true innocence or breathed true righteousness is condemned and suffering death for sin.

It is as if nature can’t bear the burden. People who died long ago are raised. The earth quakes. The day becomes dark. The holy place of the temple is exposed as the curtain tears in two from top to bottom.

Here, in this moment, the most bizarre convergence of wills of all time takes place: the will of man for the death of God and the will of God for the life of man. Death approaches for Jesus as life draws near for us.
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How Could I Sin?

A prayer for growth in holiness:

Father, how could I sin?

Having seen your hatred for sin and your love for righteousness, how could I sin?

I have seen the fullness of your just anger borne by Christ for me. How could I be speak angrily to others?

I have seen your patience with me through decades of rebellion. How could I be impatient with others?

I have seen how you work the evil of others for good. How could I be bitter?

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We Killed the One Who Gives Life

They exalted him on a cross. They crowned him with insults. They mocked him in the very moment that Jesus mourned for them.

The Creator appears weak. The creation claims his power.

He is silent as a lamb before its shearers. The foolish sheep slay the Shepherd who feeds them.

They cried out to him, calling on him to pray to God to save him. But Jesus prayed to God to save them, crying out to his Father as he gave his soul for theirs.

They told him if he was God to come down from the cross. He proved he was God by staying on.

They laughed at his death. He lamented their sin.

He breathed life into them. They cheered his last sigh.

He is living water. They made his blood flow.

He loved them to the end. They didn’t know who he was.

The darkness of death spread across the land so that the brightness of the light of life might fully boast its blinding beauty when it overcomes. With the dawn, the resurrection.

He is alive. I live.

‘Good Friday’

Imagine knowing you’re right, but having no one believe you. Imagine having the power to stop something evil from happening, but the wisdom to let it happen.

Imagine knowing that you are about to undergo indescribable pain and eternal torment, but you cannot express it; no one understands. Imagine needing your friends in an hour of great distress and having every single one of the people you have trusted and loved and helped abandon you.

Imagine being utterly alone and misunderstood. Imagine enduring the mocking of people who are blind, but mock you, the only one who can see. Imagine standing trial, accused by liars while embodying truth.

Imagine being rejected by your own people—the very ones you came to help. Imagine being falsely judged guilty by a ruler desperate to keep his authority, all the while realizing that you are the one who gives him his authority.

Imagine being condemned for your claim to kingship when you actually are the King. Imagine being whipped and beaten, crowned with thorns, and mocked by soldiers while the armies of heaven stand, awaiting their orders from you, their Great Commander.

Imagine having the power to uphold the universe, but not the strength to carry a cross because you’ve been wounded so badly by your own creation. Imagine seeing your mother weeping and your ‘believers’ not believing as you approach the hill of your imminent death.

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Getting to the Cross When Hurt

In the nine years of Grace Fellowship Church, we have enjoyed real and genuine peace between brothers and sisters. Conflicts and divisions have not been an issue for us, by the grace of God.

That being said, I’m sure that day will come. Like suffering, conflict is one of those areas of life where Christians need to be taught ahead of time so that when the hardships come, we’ve already got truth instilled in our hearts that we are ready to apply.

This past Wednesday night, I was able to address the men about how to respond when we are offended by other Christians. I suggested that Christian men typically think of two things when there is conflict. Either (1) we go to Matthew 18 and feel the need to ‘fix it’ right away, or, (2) we go to 1 Pet 4.8 and think that by ignoring offence we’re exercising a love that covers a multitude of sins.

In reality, however, I think that the Scriptures call us to a balanced approach when we are sinned against. Before determining how to approach a brother about the speck in his eye that has offended us so much, we need to be sure to deal with the log in our own eye first.

Dealing with our hearts means looking to and applying truths from the cross. That’s what I’ve attempted to help us learn how to do with the handout that I gave. There’s an extract below, along with a link to the full article.

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There is a profound sense in which the saddest of all evils are those which are committed by Christians against Christians.

When enemies arose against David, he could rejoice in the justice of God. He knew that whatever enemies came against him, no matter what they did, they would have their evil returned upon their heads. They would pay for their crimes. He could delight that since he was the leader of God’s people, if someone arose against him, they had really arisen against God. David’s cause was just; the cause of his enemies was not. There was a black and white, a good and a bad, a right and a wrong.

When Christians sin against Christians, how can we find comfort? In just about every Christian-Christian conflict, there is no clear right and wrong. It is rare that one party is 100% right and the other absolutely wrong. Who can claim perfectly pure mo-tives when the Spirit of the Lord searches hearts? Where, then, is justice that vindicates the innocent and condemns the guilty?

More than that, when a brother or a sister sins against me, even the justice of God becomes sad. Every sin will be paid for. If it is an unbeliever who unjustly attacks, we know they will be called to give an account for their actions. If, however, it is a Christian who sins against me, how can I rejoice in that justice? Now the sin which they have committed not only hurts me, not only grieves the Spirit as sin against grace, but even (in some sense) adds to the wounds of my beloved Saviour. It is sad.

Where, then, is comfort to be found?

I know that there is comfort nowhere if not in the cross, so my hope must somehow be fixed there. But how can I genuinely find comfort in knowing that I’ve been sinned against, hurt, alienated, distanced from those I love, and that Christ is the one who must suffer as a result?

I suppose there is comfort here in several ways. I’ve thought of 1o, but I know there are more. Any to add to the list?

Click here to read the pdf version with full explanations of each point.

  1. I must remember that my debt is paid.
  2. I must know that this, like the cross, pleases God.
  3. I must look to get insight into the Father’s heart.
  4. I must remember that Jesus identifies.
  5. I must remember that I’m not Jesus.
  6. I must remember that this is better than I deserve.
  7. I must remember that my identity is not tied up in what others think of me or how others treat me.
  8. I must look to the cross to learn patience.
  9. I must remember that God is more just than me.
  10. I must use this so that I might serve.

For the Christian, the cross is a place of forgiveness of sins and reconciliation with God. It is the place where we are justified and made right with God. But that right standing with God is the foundation of so much more.

For the Christian, the cross must become a place of refuge in any and every situation in life. We must learn to be intentional to interpret all of life through the cross. Life-changing truth and reality are displayed at the cross as nowhere else. The cross is the most ultimately-applicable reality ever, in all of human history. Are you being faithful to remember it in your circumstances? Are you being changed by it?

Remembering: A Means of Grace

Last night I was blessed to be able to open the word of God from Psalm 77 to the saints at Grace Fellowship Church. The message was titled ‘Remembering God.‘ As I reflected on Asaph’s experience in battling with discouragement and despair, this one thought overwhelmed me: Rememrance is a means of grace.

God knows our frame. He knows that we are weak and prone to forget the most important things in the most important times. In his grace, he gives the church rites of remembrance so that we will always be forced to remember the most important things.

In the OT, they celebrated Passover once per year. Each year the Israelites were to ‘act out’ that fateful night again. By taking the Passover in the prescribed way, they were to participate in the greatest event of God’s deliverance all over again. They were to remind themselves and their children of the reality of God’s deliverance.

In Psalm 77, Asaph displays the fruit of this type of Exodus-centred worldview. When he faced discouragement, doubt, and despair, he reminded himself of who God is by reminding himself of What God has done. The despair of the first nine verses disappears once he encourages his heart with the ‘years of the right hand of the Most High’ and all his works.

In the NT–as is always the case–it only gets better. Where the OT saints remembered once per year, the Christian is called to use the Lord’s Supper to remember all the time (at GFC we do it every two weeks).

More than just increased quantity of remembrance, the Christian has increased quality of remembrance. We don’t look back on a physical deliverance from a physical enemy, that never finally delivered the people (they left Egypt to die in the desert!). The Christian looks back to God’s greatest work of deliverance: the cross. At the cross we see an eternal deliverance from the greatest enemy, which has finally and completely delivered all God’s people for eternity.

Just like the Israelites were to look back at God’s work to behold God’s character, the Christian looks back to Christ’s work to remember God’s character in the hardest times of life. That’s what it means to be ‘cross-centred’ in our lives.

When we are weak, uncertain of the future, despairing of hope, doubting God’s goodness, or whatever our trials, we must remember. We must remember the cross and see a God who is holy, who has an eternal wise plan, who loves sinners, is strong enough to accomplish whatever he wants, and who is ultimately committed to the good of those he loves.

This gives my soul good comfort! Remembering God and his work is a wonderful and merciful means of grace.

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