One of the most astounding things I’ve discovered lately about God is that God was willing to expose himself to pain so that He might create and experience Love.
The greatest blessing we have in this life and in the life to come is to know, experience, and share the love of God. This happens with God personally, through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit. But we also know, experience, and share God’s love with people through relationships God blesses us with.
When God created Adam in his image and breathed his Ruwach breath of life into him, it was not just oxygen that filled him that day. Adam was constructed and brought to life by the very substance of God’s life, and that substance cannot be divorced from love. Human beings are infused with the love of God spiritually. You cannot be alive without having love, because it’s a part of who you are, having been created in the image and likeness of God. Some people, through early childhood trauma or demonic influence have been disconnected in their soul with that love, lacking now the ability to “love” and “show love”, but still nonetheless every person is born with this infusion of God’s love at conception, and every one of us is called to experience that love and give it away freely to others!
It doesn’t matter if you’re saved, if you know Christ, if you go to church…. a mother’s love for her child, whether that mother is Christian, Hindu, Muslim, whatever… that love is God’s love that He invested into that mother and that child, and when they share it, when they experience it, when they feel it,... you’re witnessing God’s unconditional love that He has given to us all. Of course, the understanding and full blessing of God’s love can never be complete without the gospel of Jesus Christ, without a personal relationship with Jesus being walked out. There is no true grace, mercy, and forgiveness (all essential aspects of God’s love), without Jesus Christ and his cross. This is why it’s a great tragedy to have millions of people everyday walking around experiencing God’s love in relationships, families, etc… but never having the love of God “perfected in them” through the knowledge of Christ. But still, nonetheless, what they’re experiencing is truly the free gift of God’s love, which like the measure of faith that is given to all, regardless of personal belief or creed (Rom.12:3).
If the love of God is going to be perfected in you, if you’re going to experience the fullness of God’s love in the fellowship of Christ you have to fully embrace the cross of Jesus Christ. The cross is the fullness of the manifestation of God’s love toward us, and when we embrace the cross we become the fullness of that manifestation of God’s love to others around us, including ourselves.
THE LOVE OF THE CROSS
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”
“But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
The cross was the cruelest of capital punishments dealt out by the Roman empire at the time. It had to be crucifixion by the Romans instead of punishment at the hands of the Sandhedrin, because the death of Christ required the greatest sacrifice. Love demanded the greatest price to be paid, and that price became the “demonstration” of God’s own love toward us (Rom.5:8). Christ paid this price before we were redeemed, before we were cleaned up and set on solid ground. He paid this price when we were “yet sinners”, which shows not only his great love and great mercy, but also our great value as his precious sons and daughters.
When you embrace the cross along with the extraordinary love of God that begins to flow through you as a result, you start to love people right where they are at, right in the middle of their sin and mess, “while they are yet sinners”. If you ever have to make someone perform before you decide to love them, then the love you carry is not the mature love of God which comes pouring through the cross. Mature love lays its life down for people that don’t deserve it. Mature love pays that price for people that are still in a mess, who may not respond to such a great gift. Mature love so loves people that it is willing to lay its life down so that those people might live. Mature love comes through the cross!
THE PAIN OF THE CROSS
3 “He is despised and rejected by men, a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.
4 Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; Yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.
5 But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed.
6 All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way; and the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.
7 He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so He opened not His mouth.
8 He was taken from prison and from judgment, and who will declare His generation? For He was cut off from the land of the living; For the transgressions of My people He was stricken.
9 And they made His grave with the wicked - But with the rich at His death, because He had done no violence, nor was any deceit in His mouth.
10 Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise Him; He has put Him to grief. When You make His soul an offering for sin, He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days,” and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in His hand.”
For Christ, the pain of the cross included:
- Being despised
- Being rejected
- Great sorrow and grief
- Shame and embarrassment
- Not being esteemed or honored
- Stricken, smitten, & afflicted
- Wounded & bruised for the crimes of another
- Bearing another’s iniquity & sin
- Oppression & affliction while being silent & not opening his mouth
- Silent slaughter
- Suffering imprisonment & judgment
- Cut off from the land of the living
- Buried with the wicked and not the righteous (dishonor in burial & death)
- God’s own bruising and grief
And that’s all just from this one scripture passage.
You can read about the sufferings of Joseph as He carried his cross in the book of Genesis.
You can read about the sufferings of Job when He carried his cross in the book of Job.
You can read about the sufferings of the Apostles as they carried their crosses through the New Testament.
You can read about the sufferings of Paul as He carried his cross through the book of Acts & the epistles.
To truly follow Christ is to pick up your cross and follow him. There is no following Christ without that heavy beam draped over your shoulder, but remember, it is so much more than an old rugged cross! It is the very power of God. It is the very instrument which releases the resurrection power of Christ in the lives of those who willingly take it up and follow their Master!
Those who truly follow Christ and take up their cross will have to give everything, one way or another. The cross life will consume everything they try to hold back for themselves. One’s dreams and desires that are not fully yielded to God will be consumed. One’s loved ones, one’s marriage, and one’s family will be consumed by the God that is an all consuming fire (Heb.12:29). Nothing is off limits for God in the life of the one who takes up their cross and follows Jesus. This is the price: everything given to God to do with according to his good pleasure.
The pain of the cross is the most intense pain imaginable, because one’s life is truly joined to the Lord in this experience and they end up walking through all the stages of the cross of Christ throughout their life, one way or another. Everything of self, everything of sin and selfishness, everything that hinders love will be targeted by the power of the old rugged beam. The cross will search out the things that hinder love in a son or daughter’s life, and the cross will eradicate those things from their life, no matter how painful or costly it is.
LOVE OPENS YOU UP TO BETRAYAL & PAIN
47 And while He was still speaking, behold, Judas, one of the twelve, with a great multitude with swords and clubs, came from the chief priests and elders of the people.
48 Now His betrayer had given them a sign, saying, “Whomever I kiss, He is the One; seize Him.”
49 Immediately he went up to Jesus and said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” and kissed Him.
50 But Jesus said to him, “Friend, why have you come?” Then they came and laid hands on Jesus and took Him.”
When Judas came to Jesus in this story Jesus called him, “friend”. Consider that there was nothing that came out of Jesus’ mouth ever that was insincere, that lacked meaning, that was not fully truth. The bible says there was no guile (or deceit) found in his mouth (1 Pet.2:22). There was no deceit, no personal ambition or greed bleeding through his soul causing him to say manipulative things to people for personal gain or to gain leverage over them. No, when Jesus called Judas his friend He meant it. Jesus had opened up his heart to Judas, to befriend him, to develop a relationship with him. He elevated him, gave him respect and honor, made him part of His Team A of disciples, the revered hand-picked “twelve apostles of the Lamb”, and look what happened. Judas betrayed Jesus and violated that bond of love and trust that they had created. Nothing hurts more than this when it comes to love. Nothing hurts more than being betrayed by the ones you love and open yourself up to.
“A man who has friends must himself be friendly, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.”
“Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.”
People think that the cross experience began the moment Jesus took up his cross or started receiving the beatings. But in fact, the cross began for Jesus the moment that his love and vulnerability were exploited by his friend; the moment his close friend betrayed him. Do you find yourself in a place today where you experienced this aspect of the cross; where you opened yourself up to someone in love, in friendship, in relationship, and they violated your trust and betrayed you? Are you still in that place of pain where you’ve shut yourself down from ever loving in that way again because you don’t want to get hurt again? I want to encourage you that the death of the cross, the pain of the cross, is only the beginning. Pain is unto power, death is unto resurrection. Violated love is unto perfected love. Press on dear saint. Don’t stay in the grave. Loose yourself from that past rejection, that past hurt, that past trauma. Leave the grave clothes of that broken relationship behind, and step into the light of God’s perfected love and renewal!
Jesus didn’t stop loving after He was betrayed by Judas and crucified by his own people that He came to save. Jesus didn’t stop loving because being brave enough and courageous enough to love in the first place was what got him hurt. Jesus kept loving despite the risk it continued to be, and that’s what He’s calling you and I to. To keep loving, to keep being vulnerable, to keep being willing to open up our hearts to receive God’s love and give it away freely!
If you choose to love you are taking a risk. The greatest love incurs with it the greatest risk. But it’s all part of not just the human experience, but the experience of the cross of Jesus Christ & walking intimately with God. Pain that comes with love is how love is tested, it’s how love is perfected. The pain and trials you experience in your marriage, for instance, are designed by God to perfect love in you. What are you doing that’s causing pain? What are you doing to your spouse that lacks love? How can you love better, more like Jesus, more like love looks in the bible? This is the greatest journey and gift that God has given us, to experience the pain and power of the cross in our lives and see love perfected in our hearts, for God and for people. Don’t shut yourself down to this miracle of life! Embrace the pain and the power of the cross and let the love of God be perfected in and through you!
I pray this has been a blessing for you. We’ll pick it next week where we left it off today with part two of the “Pain & Power of the Cross”.
In His Service,