When I Am Lifted Up From the Earth…
“And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.”
– John 12:32
The Heart Speaks…
Out of the heart the mouth speaks, and out of a nation’s heart its Supreme Court decides. Last week, America’s “mouth” spoke, making gay “marriage” legal in all 50 states. So, how is the Church to respond? What are lovers of Christ to do when their nations “[calls] evil good and good evil, [and puts] darkness for light and light for darkness…bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter” (Isaiah 5:20)?
First off: I recognize that I have no real authority to say “what the Church should do”. However, I believe that I know what I personally am called to do and thought sharing it might serve others.
Secondly, I want to be clear that I’m not writing out of anger or hatred or spite. I have already thought things today that would damn me if not for the forgiveness of God in Christ, and that forgiveness is available to everyone. The sin of homosexual activity (which is different from a homosexual orientation, just as an orientation to anger is different than giving in and blowing up) will be drowned in an ocean of mercy for anyone who comes to Christ in sincerity and repentance. Homosexual marriage is not the “super sin.” However, it is the sin that our culture is currently celebrating.
If people begin to put symbols for anger or murder or gossip on a flag, if they begin to celebrate adultery or identify themselves as happily practicing envy-ers, then those sins would demand their own blog posts. But, until then, this seems to be the issue of the hour and so the one Christian’s are called to thoughtfully, humbly, biblically address.
That being said….my prayer for myself and my family and the Church is not primarily that we would have the best “answers” to the sin of homosexual activity. The Church does not win hearts by winning arguments (usually). Instead, I pray that we would rally to, hide in, gather around, and lift up the Biblical Jesus Christ.
The Supremacy of Christ
The Person of Jesus Christ, as revealed in the 66 books of canonical scripture, is Light. He is the climactic Word of God to humanity and the one in whose Person and Work we see God. This is why we exist, this is what our souls were made for, this is why reality itself has being: so that God might be known in Jesus Christ by those who are not God.
Therefore, when the mountain of culture falls into the sea, it seems wise for Christians to run to the immovable Rock of Christ. May the crumbling façade of “Christian America” not drive us to despair, but to the cross, to the tomb, and to the throne of our Lord Christ, the unshakable King of our unshakable Kingdom. And may that rallying to Christ fill us with a broken-hearted love that serves, engages, impacts, and pleads with the culture around us.
The text I quoted above says that when Jesus is lifted up from the earth (implying His crucifixion), He will draw all men to Himself. Therefore, I want to very quickly look at three aspects of Christ’s being “lifted up” that should draw our hearts (and the hearts of the world) to Him.
Sin is Monstrous
The lifting up of Christ on the cross screams the horror of sin. Isaiah 53:1-8 makes it clear that what our God suffered on the cross was due to our sins. My anger tore my God’s skin. My self-pity spit in His face. My arrogance raked like shards of glass through His back. My life of rebellion burned like fire in His soul, and my damnation was borne by Him in His death….When Jesus is lifted up, my pride should be laid low….His love-fueled death displays the weight and the horror of my sin.
What dissonance it is, therefore, when I lift up Christ and cling to sin. What a damnable paradox I embody when I confess Him as Lord and cherish or even celebrate sin in my heart… The cross is a window into the furnace of God’s wrath where the wickedness of sin is put on display.
Grace is Free
However, if the cross is the furnace of wrath, it is also the fountain of grace….. Jesus does not hate those for whom He dies. Yes, “it was my sin that held Him there,” but He does not spite me for it. LOVE pours from Christ’s wounds, MERCY streams from His side, GRACE flows from His heart and FORGIVENESS breathes from His failing lungs. The wonder of the cross is that the forgiveness it purchases super-abounds over even the depths of sin that it displays.
When Christ is lifted up, so too is the sin-battered face of our soul. When Christ is lifted up, so too are the hopes of broken sinners who look to Him. When Christ is lifted up the voice of condemnation is silenced in the repentant heart, and the throne of God Himself becomes a refuge of joy and acceptance rather than a specter of fear and judgment.
God is Beautiful
Lastly, the cross shows us a beauty beyond any we can conceive of in this world. The lifting up of Christ on the cross literally saves the universe. Apart from the cross, existence itself would be a cacophony of variant cords and rebel melodies. But when Jesus is lifted up to die, God reconciles all things back to Himself (Colossians 1:20). The discord of creation’s song is drawn into harmony by the music of Christ’s love and agony.
Sin is damned (Romans 8:3)
Sinners are justified by the just God (Romans 3:25-26).
The people of God receive Him as their treasure (John 17:3, Ephesians 5:25-27).
God Himself is climatically communicated in glory to all of creation (John 8:28, 12:27-28, 17:26).
And ten thousand thousands of other implications are achieved that will take us the ages of eternity to explore (Ephesians 2:6-7).
Suffice it to say that the Beautiful One displayed on Golgotha and vindicated at the empty tomb is worth the focus and passion of every soul that has ever existed. And when He is lifted up, we declare this afresh to ourselves and to the world.
Lifting Up Christ
So – how will I respond to the Supreme Court’s decision? By rallying to and lifting up Jesus Christ, crucified and risen.
Christ’s cross declares His hatred for the sin of homosexual acts (He pulled them into His own body and dragged it into the fires of God’s wrath), 1 Peter 2:24.
Christ’s cross declares the super-abounding grace that is available to those who practice these things (and to all of us who daily do and think what is opposed to our Maker), 1 Corinthians 6:11.
Christ’s cross declares a beauty that infinitely surpasses the grotesque “beauty” of sin – whatever it may be, 2 Corinthians 4:6.
My own soul needs Christ lifted before its eyes daily. And in this dusk of our culture, it is to Christ that we ought to rally and to Christ that we ought to point. May the Lord help us to do so humbly, faithfully, and boldly.