Embracing Shame

by Justin Nash

Hebrews 12:2 – “looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”

When we think of Jesus’ death on the cross, we often focus on the physical suffering and death he endured. But what about the emotional distress he bore? Without question, the physical torture and slow, painful death he suffered were horrible beyond our imagination. As awful as that was, we must not forget the emotional torture he accepted on our behalf.

Jesus, God the Son, left his place with the Father. A place of unspeakable joy, of adoration and majestic glory – a place he had known for eternity. This he traded for something completely unknown to him: shame.

I am well acquainted with shame. I know the guilt and weight of sins committed. I have experienced the ridicule of others, the disrespect and what it is to be publicly embarrassed because of my shortcomings and failings. I have earned most every second of shame I have felt. Most likely, we all know shame quite intimately. But not Jesus, he never did anything that should cause him shame. His moral perfection allowed a shame-free life. Shame was not an experience or emotion he had ever felt, until the cross. And on the cross, rather than running from shame, he embraced it.

The King of Glory surrendered his glory, was cursed, beaten, ridiculed and spat upon. The One who created all things was mercilessly mocked by a rabid mob with a fervent bloodlust. Jesus was stripped, nailed to a tree, lifted up, completely exposed and vulnerable before all men. Not a shred of dignity or mercy was given him. He who deserved nothing but glory and praise received nothing but shame and curses.

He had no shame of his own, so he embraced my shame and the shame of all who would believe in his name. He took the shame we deserved, and we received the joy he possessed from all eternity. Jesus despised our shame and he removed it forever from us on the cross.

Guilt and shame are accusers we will wrestle with until Jesus returns, but we must constantly remind ourselves that their accusations are no longer valid. Jesus embraced our shame and bore its full wrath on the cross.

Jesus has despised the shame now and cast it aside and returned to the joy and glory that were his with his Father. One day he will return in his great glory, and many will feel the immense shame of a lifetime of sin and rebellion against God, but not those who trust in Christ’s work on the cross. We will meet Jesus’ coming in great glory with the unending joy he gave us in exchange for our shame.

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The Impact of the Cross

by Jeff Walsh

“Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us – for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree.’ ” (Galatians 3:13)

I never understood how much my parents sacrificed for my benefit until I became a parent. As a kid I took thorough advantage of my mom’s home-cooked meals. But did I consider the long hours in the kitchen she had labored, all for my benefit? No. My dad often made time to go fishing with his sons. But did I consider how he had to shuffle his busy pastor’s schedule to spend that time with us? No. When it comes to Christ and what he did on the cross, I am like a child. I’ll never be able to fully comprehend what he has done for me. This verse tells me two things about Christ and the impact of the cross.

First, by dying on the cross Christ brought redemption. “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law … ” The word “redemption” means to be set free from something. I once heard a story about a missionary who was trying to explain the impact of the cross to a group of Africans. One of the Africans spoke up, “Oh, you mean he took our heads out.” Puzzled, the missionary responded, “What do you mean?” The African explained, “For many years our people were put in chains by slave traders. Iron collars were forced around their necks to keep them captive. When one was set free his head was taken out of the collar. That’s what Christ did for us!”

Second, this verse tells me how Christ achieved redemption for us. He did it by “becoming a curse for us.” Let’s be clear. There would be no freedom from the penalty, power and presence of sin if Christ had not placed himself under the curse of God the Father. The fact that he died was evidence of God’s curse. The fact that he died a criminal’s death on an instrument for criminal execution showed God’s curse. And he did it “for us.” What was our rightful due because of sin he took upon himself. Jesus became cursed by God for our sin so that we no longer have to be under God’s curse. We will never have to experience the horrific terror of God’s condemnation because Jesus experienced it for us. By putting the curse on Christ, it has been removed from us.

That’s the impact of the cross. It spans the farthest reaches of God’s judgment. No sin left unatoned for. No penalty left unpaid. Though I’ll always fall short of fully comprehending it, the redemption Christ bought on the cross is real. Glory to his name!

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The Old Rugged Cross

by Matt Larkin

Written by George Bennard, “The Old Rugged Cross” finds itself in hymnals and sung by congregations all over the United States, and likely abroad. Written in 1913, this great hymn of the faith has drawn our attention toward one of Christianity’s most powerful emblems. But the emblem of this old rugged cross, as we often call it, is one who’s meaning we so often miss. The hymn writer, in the opening stanza, identifies this for us, as he writes: “On a hill far away stood an old rugged cross, the emblem of suffering and shame.”

The emblem of suffering and shame … Not just an emblem, but the emblem, he writes. So often, as believers in Jesus (Americans in particular), we have a propensity for taking all of the perceived positives of Christianity while shying away from those things that are tough. In essence, we want the prize without having to run the race.

In Mark 8, in the midst of a crowd of many who wanted the good things Jesus had to offer, he made the following declaration: “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Mar 8:34). This is important when we consider all that the cross is. It is, as George Bennard wrote, “the emblem of suffering and shame.” So, in essence, what Jesus is saying, at least in part, is that to follow him, one has to be willing to endure suffering and shame. But there’s power in that suffering and shame. There’s glory and that suffering in shame. There’s even blessing in that suffering and shame.

So as we consider the impact of the cross in light of this Prayer Emphasis observance, may we begin to re-examine our own lives in light of that cross. May we re-examine how we pray. If following Jesus means taking up the very symbol of suffering and shame, then those are things we must be willing to embrace. So as we pray for our loved ones, our fellow believers and ourselves, may our prayers not be that we would avoid all suffering and avoid all shame. But, instead, may they be that we would endure through those times of suffering and through those times of shame.

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Freedom from Slavery

by Dawn Rutan

After memorizing Romans 8 last year, this year I jumped back a couple chapters to memorize Romans 6. Verse 6 in the ESV says, “We know that our old self was crucified with Him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin.” Although we all cling to that fact that our sin is forgiven because of the cross of Christ, it is harder to grasp the idea of freedom from sin’s slavery.

This world is filled with all sorts of temptations, and sometimes they seem too powerful to resist. Just one more doughnut; just one quick glimpse at that picture; just a few minutes playing that game; just a little fib … And before long we’re exclaiming with Paul, “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (Romans 7:24). The fact is that Jesus Christ has already delivered us, but we haven’t yet learned how to live as overcomers and freed men and women.

Many of us can probably quote 1 Corinthians 10:13, “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and He will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation He will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” We want to believe that, but it seems like when temptation comes it is easier to ask for forgiveness than to look for the way of escape. Thomas Chalmers wrote of “the expulsive power of a new affection.” He explained that we won’t choose to turn from sin unless we are turning toward something better — toward the only One who can deliver us. Unfortunately, sin often appears to offer a quicker “fix” than seeking God.

So what is the solution? It is a lifelong process of 1) believing and remembering that God has delivered us from the power of sin, 2) seeking a closer relationship with him through the spiritual disciplines, 3) praying for the way of escape before temptation arrives, and 4) making no provision for the flesh to choose sin. There is no quick cure because the world, the flesh and the devil will do everything possible to derail our good intentions. Thankfully, whenever we do fail, we can turn again to the cross of Christ and the One who is ready and willing to forgive us and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

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Where are you Looking?

by Steve Lawson

In an old “Candid Camera” episode, an actor is on a busy sidewalk and begins looking at the ground. In a few minutes, the camera shows about a dozen people looking down, some even on their hands and knees! At that point, the actor, who got all this started in the first place, quietly gets up and walks away. No one else notices that he has left. They’re so intent in their search that they never even bothered to ask what it was they were looking for. People today are searching because they know there must be more to life, but they don’t know what they are looking for or missing, so they are following someone else or the world.

Paul tells us in Col. 3:1‒4: “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.”

We need to look up, set your hearts and minds on things above. Since we died with Christ we do not follow the ways or philosophies of the world. We strive to set our hearts on things above, experiencing the power and freedom of our new life. In this we have both forgiveness from our sins in relationship to Christ and freedom to forgive in our horizontal relationship with each other in this life. To set our minds on things above not on earthly things (literally translated, “keep on thinking, as a matter of habit, on things above, not on things on the earth”) requires great intentional effort on our part because we tend to look around at our current situation. We must constantly battle with fixing our gaze on things above, and God will change our heart’s desire.
Our focus should be on those things as laid out in Philippians 4:8, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things.” By seeking what Christ desires, we break our obsession with worldly focus of past hurts, anger and offenses and seek to glorify God with our hearts and minds in all we do in our lives!

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The Impact of the Cross

by Sam Warren

I love to watch the show called, “The Amazing Race.” It is fun to see couples and/or individuals tackle the various challenges along this 5 – 7 continent, 30 – 50,000-mile race to win a million dollars. As they make their way, exhaustion and frustration sets in and sometimes, to the point of wanting to quit. Most of the participants carry their belongings in a loaded down backpack. Perhaps, they’re like me in that they bring things with them, not because they need it, but out of fear that they will need it and not have it. Nevertheless, this makes for a heavy backpack.

The trouble with this approach is the fact that you have to carry this load with you as you run the race. You can see the relief when a team reaches the point where they let go of the pack and run to the finish line. At this point, they seem as “light as a feather!”

This seems to be a spiritual principal as well. The writer of Hebrews challenges the believers with this simple thought: “Run the race with endurance that is set before you” (Hebrews 12:1b). The way to do that is made clear, “ … lay aside every weight and sin which clings so closely” (12:1).

Like the runner in “The Amazing Race,” we must get rid of our physical, emotional, mental and spiritual backpacks that weigh us down and prevent us from living our lives as God intended. In Paul’s letter to the believers in Colossae he proclaims that Christ has achieved our victory over these sins. Therefore, we are free to run the race (Colossians 2:13-14).

The impact of the cross is felt and experienced through the victory of Christ on the cross. He set all our burdens aside, by “ … nailing it to the cross” (Col. 2:14), and disarming anything that would seek to overcome us and keep us from serving Christ fully.

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Meet Me at the Cross

Another year is upon us and it is time to share with you our plans for observing this year’s Prayer Emphasis during the month of May. I am excited to do so, because I believe that this year’s theme is one that will impact all of us for the good of the kingdom.

A few months ago the Lord brought to my attention the apostle Paul’s words in Colossians 2:13-14 about the role of the cross in our lives. The impact of the cross cannot be underestimated. Hear Paul’s words:

And you … God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.

As a result of Christ’s work on the cross, we are set free to live our lives fully unto him and the agenda of the kingdom of God. The impact of the cross is at the heart of this year’s Prayer Emphasis theme, which is “Meet Me at the Cross.”

During the month of May, we will focus on exactly what it means to experience the impact of the cross through the reading of blog posts on the subject provided by members of the ACGC staff, sample sermons on various biblical texts that emphasize some aspect of the Bible’s teaching on the cross (written by AC pastors) and weekly bulletin inserts that will guide all of us to think about the impact of the cross in our lives.

The climatic event during the month will be held on May 22, 2016, when we will encourage pastors to preach on the impact of the cross in the morning service (using their own text of choice) and conduct a worship celebration at 6 p.m., which we are calling a “Meet Me at the Cross” Celebration.

One of the really exciting features of this year’s program and the Meet Me at the Cross Celebration on May 22, is our attempt to have Advent Christians around the world celebrating together at 6 p.m., no matter where they are in the world. I have included with this mailing a chart created by Jeff Walsh that will visually explain how this will happen and shows how there could almost be a 24-hour concert of prayer across the globe. This will truly be an amazing time for us as we come together to celebrate the goodness of God.

I would suggest that you begin now to make this a wonderful time for your church body by organizing a team of people to plan out the details of the Prayer Emphasis material. If you have any questions, we would encourage you to contact our office at any time.

This is going to be a great experience for all of us as we come together to examine our lives before the Lord and to consider the impact of the cross on our ministry together. Please join with Advent Christians everywhere as we celebrate God’s blessings through the cross.

Until then, be faithful in all things and Meet Me at the Cross!

Blessings,

Dr. Thomas S. Warren II
Director of Nurture

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