What are we to make of Good Friday? Why is it called “good”? And why are we to celebrate a death? These are some of the questions we need to ask ourselves as we approach this day. Heritage is committed to remembering the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ and the tremendous price He paid, once for all, for our sins. On Friday night, April the 6th, Heritage will be having a Good Friday Service. We would love for you to join us in remembering the Body and the Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. The Service will last approximately one hour starting at 7pm.
Spurgeon from his sermon, “Sad Fasts Changed to Glad Feasts,” on the significance of celebrating Good Friday.
The Lord of life and glory was nailed to the accursed tree. He died by the act of guilty men. We, by our sins, crucified the Son of God.
We might have expected that, in remembrance of his death, we should have been called to a long, sad, rigorous fast. Do not many men think so even today? See how they observe Good Friday, a sad, sad day to many; yet our Lord has never enjoined our keeping such a day, or bidden us to look back upon his death under such a melancholy aspect.
Instead of that, having passed out from under the old covenant into the new, and resting in our risen Lord, who once was slain, we commemorate his death by a festival most joyous. It came over the Passover, which was a feast of the Jews; but unlike that feast, which was kept by unleavened bread, this feast is brimful of joy and gladness. It is composed of bread and of wine, without a trace of bitter herbs, or anything that suggests sorrow and grief. …
The memorial of Christ’s death is a festival, not a funeral; and we are to come to the table with gladsome hearts and go away from it with praises, for “after supper they sang a hymn” [Matt 26:30, Mark 14:26].
Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” And having said this he breathed his last. (Luke 23:46)
Pastor James Montgomery Boice pointed out in Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross: Experiencing the Passion and Power of Easter, (pp. 99-100):
From very early in the history of the church, preachers have noted that Jesus’ last words show that he was in total control of the situation, as he had been in every moment of his life. For these are not the words of an exhausted man, as if Jesus merely died from dehydration, loss of blood, shock, extreme fatigue, or suffocation. Not at all. They record a deliberate act of dismissing his spirit…
This shows what Jesus was doing on the cross, particularly in these last moments. He was reflecting on Scripture… Four of the seven last words were from the Old Testament. Only Jesus’ direct addresses to God on behalf of the soldiers, to the dying thief, and to his mother and the beloved disciple were not. This means that Jesus was filling his mind and strengthening his spirit not by trying to keep a stiff upper lip or look for a silver lining, as we might say, but by an act of deliberately remembering and consciously clinging to the great prophecies and promises of God. If Jesus did that, don’t you think you should do it too? And not only when you come to die.
You need to fill your head with Scripture and think of your life in terms of the promises of Scripture now. If you do not do it now, how will you ever find strength to do it when you come to die? You must live by Scripture, committing your spirit into the hands of God day by day if you are to yield your spirit into God’s loving hands trustingly at the last.
Our message is not you can do it.
It’s not you’re good enough, smart enough, and people like you.
What we preach is that you are a glorious creature gone tragically bad, that you have rebelled against the God who made you, but that he did the most difficult thing imaginable to win you back and lavish you with his eternal goodness.
It is wondrously good news. But unavoidable is the offense, that insulting supposition, that bad news that sets up the good. Did you catch it? You’ve gone tragically bad. You’re a foolhardy rebel against the most powerful person in the universe. There’s nothing you can do to save yourself, earn God’s favor, or get yourself out of the cosmic pit you’re in — the pit you dug and can’t climb out of.
The offense is that the magnitude of God’s solution — the slaughter of his own Son — shows the magnitude of our wickedness and frailty and utter inability. Yes, the gospel says you’re more loved than you ever could have dreamed, but as Jack Miller and Tim Keller have noted, at the same time it says you’re more sinful than you ever imagined. And that’s repugnant to the natural palate.
If you’ve never tasted the cross as offensive, you’ve missed something essential.
Why the Cross Offends
Talking about the cross as an “offense” comes from Galatians 5:11: “If I, brothers, still preach circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? In that case the offense of the cross has been removed.” Why it is that the cross would be seen as an offense? What’s offensive about the crucifixion?
The cross declares how dire is our condition apart from Jesus. It announces how deep the sin goes, how profound the rebellion is, how impossible is our plight apart from Help from the outside. There’s nothing we can do, no effort we can exert, no law we can follow.
The message of Christ crucified says you’re an absolute failure in relation to what’s most important. The horror of killing the Son of God points to the horror of our condition. The badness of Good Friday is a tribute to the badness in us.
The cross embodies some of the most offensive things possible you could say about someone in relation to God and eternity. This gruesome death Jesus died, you earned it. The hell Jesus endured, you deserved it, forever. The shame he underwent, the scorn, the disrespect, the hurt — all these are as suitable to us sinners as they’re unsuitable to the sinless one.
God’s Offensive Plan
And it’s not that it just turned out this way, but God planned it. He designed the offense. Seven hundred years before Jesus, the prophet Isaiah called it — he will be “a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense” (Isaiah 8:14). And such he was, and continues to be. Both Peter and Paul pick up on the theme (Romans 9:32–33; 1 Peter 2:7–8).
Jesus himself, in John 6, challenges his disciples with the offense. “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him” (John 6:44). You can’t do it. You’re not good enough or smart enough. And perhaps most offensive of all: You are lifeless. “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you” (John 6:53).
The offense is not mainly his mention of eating flesh and drinking blood, but the accusation of deep depravity and spiritual inability. As the crowds retreat at his forthrightness, Jesus asks his disciples, “Do you take offense at this?” (John 6:61). More unnerving than taking his plainly figurative language in a literal sense is hearing that you are powerless and lifeless where it matters most. This is as offensive as it gets.
Remember the Right Offense
Typically we get antsy about speaking the gospel to someone who doesn’t already believe. Some of our fear, of course, is unwarranted. But some of it is for good reason. In communicating the gospel, one of the essential things we must at least imply, if not make explicit, is the most offensive truth possible: you are powerless precisely where it matters most. You are dead to what truly is life.
Don’t take it too far. We don’t gloat in giving offense. We labor to remove every possible barrier. May the offense not be our personality or carelessness or quirkiness or arrogance. Like Paul, let’s “endure anything rather than put an obstacle in the way of the gospel of Christ” (1 Corinthians 9:12). Let’s strain to “become all things to all people, that by all means [we] might save some” (1 Corinthians 9:22). Let’s do everything in our power to “give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God” (1 Corinthians 10:32).
But this one offense — the offense of the cross — we cannot remove. We dare not.
It is not an idle life that we live as believers in Christ. Matt Chandler writes on five components all our grace-driven efforts should have.
There are essentially five components to a right understanding of grace-driven effort, and what they all revolve around is not our religious performance but Christ’s saving performance on our behalf. These components are focused Christ’s cross, not our bootstraps.
1. The three weapons of grace
A man who understands Jesus’ gospel and cross will instead fight sin with the weapons that grace gives us. There are three such weapons:
The first weapon is the blood of Christ. Ephesians 2:13 tells us, “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.”
We have been brought near by the blood and sacrifice of Jesus alone, not by our behavior. The marker of those who understand the gospel of Jesus Christ is that, when they stumble and fall, when they screw up, they run to God and not from him, because they clearly understand that their acceptance before God is not predicated upon their behavior but on the righteous life of Jesus Christ and his sacrificial death.
The second weapon of grace is the Word of God. In 2 Timothy 3:16–17, Paul writes, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”
When we begin to know the Scriptures well, we can identify what is true and what is a lie. Here is one truth about truth to think about: the Holy Spirit and the accusations of the Devil can do the same thing. Both can make us aware of our shortcomings and the impossibility of earning favor with God.
The difference between what the Holy Spirit does and what the Devil does is the Spirit’s deliverance of the gospel. The Devil brings up gospel truths to accuse and condemn, whereas the Spirit brings up these truths to convict and to comfort.
Christian, if you are looking at your sins and shortcomings and constantly feeling condemned—not convicted, but condemned—you need to use the Word of God to rebuke the Devil’s accusations. You need to use the Word of God to remind yourself over and over again that the gospel is true.
The third weapon of grace is the promise of the new covenant. Hebrews 9:15 says, “He is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant.”
2. The roots, not the branches
Second, grace-driven effort attacks the roots of our sin, not just the branches. Grace is a heart changer, because the heart is where behavior comes from. Wherever our heart is, that is where our actions will follow. We can manage our behavior until the cows come home and never have a God-loving heart, which is how the Pharisees lived. . . . Grace-driven effort not only uses the weapons of grace, but it also attacks the roots, not just the branches, whereas moralism tries just to subdue behavior.
3. Fear of God
Grace-driven effort fights for a reason that goes beyond a clear conscience and an emotional peace. One of the things I run into over and over again in my counseling role is people who are broken over sin in their life, but as I begin to dig around in there, most of the time, they’re not broken up because they have sinned against a holy God—they are broken up because their sin is costing them something. They see their sin as making life difficult for themselves, but they are not appalled at all at how they have slandered the God of the universe. We must understand that when we sin, we sin against God (Ps. 51:4).
4. Dead to sin
Grace-driven effort doesn’t just forsake sin but is absolutely dead to it (Rom. 6:11). The believer pursuing holiness by grace-driven effort is not going to serve sin, because he is alive to God. What ends up happening to so many of us is that we spend so much time trying to put sin to death that we don’t spend enough time striving to know God deeply, trying to gaze upon the wonder of Jesus Christ and have that transform our affections to the point where our love and hope are steadfastly on Christ. The goal is this: Christ would become more beautiful and desirable than the allure of sin.
5. Gospel violence
Here’s the fifth and last component of grace-driven effort: distinguishing the gospel from moralism. Grace-driven effort is violent. It is aggressive. The person who understands the gospel understands that, as a new creation, his spiritual nature is in opposition to sin now, and he seeks not just to weaken sin in his life, but to outright destroy it.
This post is excerpted and adapted from The Explicit Gospel by Matt Chandler.
“How do you pray?”
Ahmed and I had been sitting at a little teashop talking about various things when he asked this question. Like many other Muslims, he was curious about how Christians pray. I began to explain how our hearts need to be purified in order for us to approach God in prayer. He agreed and wanted to know more. “What do you say when you pray?” he asked. I told him that we can speak to God as a loving father. I then went on to show him the Lord’s Prayer from Matthew 6.
“Is that from the Bible?” he asked. “Yes it is,” I answered. He responded, “That’s beautiful! Can I get one?” From the beginning, it was obvious that God was working in Ahmed’s life to draw him to Jesus. It was a blessing to introduce him to Jesus the savior—whom he had only known as Jesus the prophet.
As we talk about Insider Movements and how we should or shouldn’t be sharing Christ with Muslims, two dangers can emerge. First, people can become a leery of Muslim evangelism out of fear of doing so incorrectly. We should have no fear in sharing the gospel with Muslims. It is the gospel that we are sharing, after all. It is powerful to save!
Second, we must remember that Muslim evangelism should not be merely talked about and debated on blogs or in academic circles. It is something that should be done wherever we find Muslims. In that endeavor let me offer some words of counsel to all who seek to make Christ supreme among Muslims.
Ground yourself in the fact that God is sovereign in salvation.
Muslims come to faith by a supernatural work of God, by which the Holy Spirit opens their hearts (Acts 16:14) and grants them the gift of repentance (2 Tim. 2:25). We believe that a Muslim coming to faith is not intrinsically connected to our form of contextualization, but rests solely on God’s divine intervention (Dan. 4:35; Ps. 115:3; John 6:64-65) and our humble obedience to proclaim the gospel (Acts 1:8; Matt. 9:38, 28:19-20). God is not concerned with glorifying a method; he is concerned with glorifying his Son. Strategies are useful and necessary, but none of them offers the “key” to Muslim evangelism.
Be diligent in working to understand the local culture and determine the best way to present the gospel.
God’s sovereignty is not meant to make us lazy, careless, or vague in our evangelism. It gives us hope, because our finite attempts to share the gospel are backed by an infinitely powerful Savior who has “ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation” (Rev. 5:9). Wanting to present the gospel clearly and knowing that God’s grace is irresistible are not mutually exclusive.
When it comes to understanding the local culture, we should seek to do two things:
- Know Islam. We need to ask ourselves, What are Muslims longing for? What keeps Muslims from attaining this? Don’t be afraid to read the Qur’an or other religious sources. These things will give you great insight into Muslims hearts and minds.
- Use their language. When I say “language” I’m referring to two things. First, speak their actual language. If you want to see a church planted among Arabic-speaking Muslims, learn Arabic. If you’re working among Pakistanis, learn Urdu. If among Bengalis, learn Bengali. Second, speak the language (figuratively) that communicates to them. My wife and I lived and worked among Arabic speakers. We learned early on that we could not get people to listen by presenting a beautiful apologetic syllogism proving Jesus is God. We had to use stories, parables, and passages from their religious books.
Center your gospel presentation on Jesus and the Bible.
The degree to which Muslim-background believers seek to retain their previous religion correlates with how we present the gospel to them. In other words, if we use the Qur’an extensively in our evangelism, we risk encouraging a sentimental attachment to it. Muslim-background believers may see the Qur’an as the means by which they understood the gospel and therefore have a harder time letting it go. If we present the gospel as fulfilling their previous religion, we open ourselves up to future problems.
I am not against the proper use of the Qur’an in evangelism. I am concerned with how much we use it. We should not give it center place in our gospel presentation. Jesus is the only way to the Father. Muslims must believe Jesus is their savior, and this belief can only come from the Scriptures. The story of redemption cannot be told from the Qur’an.
Don’t force your ideas on them.
Muslim evangelism can be messy; discipleship can be even worse. Each convert I worked with was different. I made it a point to preach the gospel and let it linger, giving them the time and freedom to think through the implications and determine how they should be applied in that particular culture. We should not attempt to impose our ideas or forms on Muslim-background believers. This means we shouldn’t impose either Western or Islamic expressions of Christianity on them. This is where much of the tension comes from.
We all have an idea of what we hope to see, and how we do Muslim ministry will be determined by our desired outcome. Insider Movement advocates envision implanting the gospel in a Muslim culture with the hopes that it will grow like yeast and lead to transformation from the inside out. In order to do this, they believe, the message must take on Islamic form. Anything less will be viewed as foreign and suspect. Others argue that Muslims need to be called out of Islam and gathered into a separate body with a clear Christ-centered identity. Anything less, they claim, would be viewed as syncretistic.
I would argue that both are correct. The gospel will take on a form of the culture that it is speaking to; if it doesn’t, it will not be understood. But the gospel will also speak with a prophetic voice within the culture that calls for transformation. It goes in and calls out. Our goal is to preach the gospel of Christ from the Scriptures and let the Spirit transform lives and communities.
In the end, expressions of the church or faith communities among Muslims may challenge all our views at some point. However, if these expressions are orthodox in their beliefs, Christ-centered in their view of the gospel, and not deceptive in their practices, we have cause for rejoicing. May God give us wisdom, grace, patience, and boldness as we seek to share the gospel with Muslims.
This article originally appeared on the TGC Blog on May 15, 2012. It was written by J. T. Smith. You can read the post in it’s entirety here.