The One Good Thing About “Good Friday”

Tomorrow Christians around the world will celebrate Good Friday, the day in which the Lord Jesus Christ was crucified.

thorns and nails
Photo by Billy Alexander, http://emboldenzine.com/

Isn’t it weird that we would call that day “good”? How can the day commemorating the betrayal, scourging and crucifixion of Jesus be considered good? History tells us that crucifixion was one of the most horrific methods of execution invented by mankind. Not only does the prisoner being crucified have to deal with the extreme pain of large metal spikes going through his wrists and feet, but he also dies slowly due to suffocation. The position of his body, with his arms outstretched, causes the person to have difficulty in breathing. Therefore he must force himself up on his pierced feet and hands to gulp in air, which results in searing pain. Not to mention that sometimes it takes days for the prisoner to die. Including dehydration, blistering temperatures, and scavenging birds pecking at his flesh and the horror story is complete. And we call it “Good Friday”? We should probably rename it “Horrific Friday”!

Wherever I look, there is brokenness, pain and sorrow all around us. Just today, my wife and I had lunch together and she shared what she read in the newspaper about a court case where four adult men raped a 14-year-old girl. There is also the international scene happening right now where Russia is taunting the West by annexing different parts of Ukraine. This is just the tip of the iceberg. Man is still as wicked as ever and it seems as if the crucifixion was nothing more but an extension of this. Hatred reigns, justice falters, and evil advances.

This despair appears in an old Christmas hymn, which has been made popular again by the Christian music group, Casting Crowns. The hymn is titled “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.” It was written during the US Civil War and has the following stanza:

“And in despair I bowed my head
‘There is no peace on earth,’ I said,
‘For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.’”[1]

How can such evil be defeated?

In the movie “The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers” (based on J.R.R. Tolkein’s classic novel of the same name), King Theoden was trapped in his own fortress of Fort Eorlingas at Helm’s Deep. The Uruk-hai – a vile, almost demonic looking army – have broken into the fort and killed most of the warriors defending it. They are now using a battering ram trying to break through the inner door and finish off the survivors.

In despair, King Theoden asks, “So much death. What can men do against such reckless hate?”

Aragorn, the future king of Gondor replies, “Ride out with me. Ride out and meet them.”[2]

This is what Jesus did! He went out and met evil, hatred and death head on, to set free those who are captive by its wicked clutches. He used HIS OWN LIFE to defeat the enemy! The apostle Paul says that, “When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners. Now, most people would not be willing to die for an upright person, though someone might perhaps be willing to die for a person who is especially good. But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. And since we have been made right in God’s sight by the blood of Christ, he will certainly save us from God’s condemnation” (Romans 5:6-9 NLT).

This is why the day is called “Good Friday”! What was a horrendous act by a vile humanity was actually the means of defeating evil and saving humanity. Life may indeed be continually broken; but this brokenness is winding down and the fulfillment of truth and righteousness is almost upon us. You see, the answer is not in a thing, or philosophy, or education; the answer is a Person, the Lord Jesus Christ. Because the final validation that the Friday is good, is Easter Sunday: “The Good News is about his Son. In his earthly life he was born into King David’s family line, and he was shown to be the Son of God when he was raised from the dead by the power of the Holy Spirit. He is Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 1:3-4 NLT).

It was for this very reason why the Christmas hymn previous mentioned ends with the following stanza:

“Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
‘God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail
With peace on earth, good will to men.’”[3]

Ravi Zacharias, a well-known Christian apologist, was invited to the UN for a breakfast meeting to discuss the following topic: Navigating with Absolutes in a Relativistic World. He agreed to speak on one condition: that he had a chance to share about Jesus. They gave him permission to do so at the end of the discussion. On that morning, before many representatives of the world, he spoke of the four areas where the world searches for absolutes: evil, justice, love and forgiveness. Near the end, Ravi then asked the audience if they knew where these four issues converged. He declared that it was on a hill called Calvary two thousand years ago where the Son of God died on a cruel cross.[4]

If you take the time tomorrow to consider what “Good Friday” represents, remember to thank Jesus for taking something that is both ugly and barbaric, and transforming it into something that is truly good for all mankind!

 

[1] Henry W. Longfellow, “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.” http://cyberhymnal.org/htm/i/h/iheardtb.htm (accessed April 17, 2014).

[2] Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers film (based on novel by J.R.R. Tolkein). http://www.tk421.net/lotr/film/ttt/29.html (accessed April 17, 2014).

[3] Longfellow, “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.”

[4] Ravi Zacharias, “Meeting at the U.N.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I3sHzXk1Q7Y (accessed April 17, 2014). Continue reading The One Good Thing About “Good Friday”

Being the Fragrance of Jesus to the World

On my way to my daughter’s babysitter, a.k.a. grandma, I drive past a store called “de Oil Shop.” The store sells aromatic body oils and incense sticks. They have a unique way of attracting people to their store. Sometimes in the morning or afternoon, they will actually light up one of the incense sticks they sell, and secure it to the wall next to their shop. Therefore, whenever you drive past, you are hit with the wonderful aromatic scent of the incense. The hope is that the smell of the incense would entice you to come in and see what else they have for sale, and maybe even make a purchase. I have to confess that many times I was tempted to park and buy some of that incense!

IncenseThis ingenious marketing ploy also reminded me of my walk with Christ; what “scent” am I giving off? No, I am not talking about body odour, or the smell of my breath; I am talking about what the apostle Paul said when he wrote, “For we are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing” (2 Corinthians 2:15).

Is my life a testimony to the work of Jesus living in me, and thus a pleasing scent to those around me; or is my life an offense to others, revealing that I am still very much living in self-reliance?

The only way an incense stick gives off its scent is when it is lit with a flame. As it smolders, it releases a wonderful aroma. It is no different with us. When we are in the flame of affliction, we too give off a “scent.” The scent we give off will depend what we are made of as well. If we are filled with selfish ambition, strife or pride, then the flame will reveal the stench of our flesh. But if we are filled with Christ Jesus and His love, then when the flames of hardship and difficulty arise, the scent is exhilarating to both believer and unbeliever. Jesus was an irresistible fragrance to God, because He was filled with a sacrificial and godly love and He is our example, as it states in Ephesians 5:1-2: Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma.

Now be aware that not everyone enjoys the spiritual scent that comes from being filled with Jesus. The same thing happened when Jesus was on earth. The next verse in the 2 Corinthians passage quoted earlier says, “to the one an aroma from death to death, to the other an aroma from life to life” (2 Corinthians 2:16). The reason why some would not enjoy the scent of Christ is because it reminds them of their rebellion against the King and is an offense against their own love for sin. Paul mentions this in his letter to the Romans: “For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened” (Romans 1:20-21 ESV).

However, those who are intrigued by that sacrificial scent unto God may just be receptive to finally come into “the store” and find out where he or she too can have that “scent.” That “scent” is only found through believing in the sacrificial work of Jesus Christ on the cross of Calvary!

 

Rekindling the Fire

Yesterday, as I was listening to a Christian radio program in the car, the guest speaker made a quote, which fascinated me. He was quoting from a French Commander in World War I named Ferdinand Foch (1851 – 1921). Ferdinand was asked what he believed to be the most powerful weapon in the world. He replied, “The most powerful weapon in the world is a soul on fire.”

This quote made me consider the state of my own soul. I asked myself: is my soul on fire? Does it show? Why or why not?

CampfireYou see fire is not a neutral element. In many ways, it’s alive without it being a living being. Fire can either be used for a person’s benefit (such as warming a home or cooking a meal) or it can become a force of destruction (like burning a house down or large areas of forest).

Fire also spreads when lit. Many of you probably remember the commercial on TV featuring Smokey the Bear, warning young viewers to make sure that they completely put out their campfires. A small smouldering ember, if not extinguished properly, could flare up again into a flame. That small flame would then spread to the surrounding vegetation and it would only be a matter of time before acres of forest are engulfed in an inferno.

Therefore, in a biblical sense, a soul on fire for God is an incredible weapon! A Christian on fire will cause decimation to the enemy’s camp; it will also revive and bring spiritual warmth to other believers, inflaming their souls to live for God with everything they have.

So I ask the question again: is my soul (or yours) on fire for God? If not, what happened to put the spark out?

I have to confess that many times my soul is just smouldering with the remnants of what once was a bright fire for God. I have allowed the muck of this world to encrust the “feet of my soul” and I have not taken the time to clean it off by communicating with my Father in heaven through the reading of the Scriptures and prayer. As time goes by, I lose my love that I had for Jesus.

So what should we do to “re-flame” the soul? Work harder at it? Try to spark the flame by our own efforts? These approaches will be as successful as trying to rub our hands to create a spark.

So what should we do then? We are to return to the source of the fire. Hebrews 12:29 mentions that “our God is a consuming fire.” Therefore, we have to go back to God and warm our soul in His presence through prayer and meditating on His word. Reach out and touch Him and watch our soul burn bright and clear once again! Love Jesus again as when we first believed in the gospel. This rekindling of our soul can only be accomplished through faith in Jesus as instructed in Colossians 2:6-7: “Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, and overflowing with gratitude.”

I remember reading an interesting story written by Leonard Ravenhill. He writes about a young maid who worked in a mansion in England many years ago. Her job every morning was to light the fireplaces in each room. This was laborious work because every stately room had fireplaces since central heating was not yet invented. As she did so, she prayed a simple prayer as she lit each fireplace. She prayed that just as she lit every fireplace, may the Lord light her soul on fire for Him. May this be our prayer as well. Let us have souls on fire for Jesus and become a powerful weapon for the cause of the gospel!