Good Friday

A couple of years ago I helped plan the Good Friday service at the church where I worked. We attempted to make the entire service focus solely on the somberness of the crucifixion of Christ - which meant leaving out Scripture passages that talked about His resurrection and ending songs a couple of verses before we got to the "up from the grave He arose" parts. The whole service was meditative, contemplative, dark, and serious, following the theme of Bob Sorge's quote that "resurrection is glorious, but worship is empowered primarily by the cross." It took months to plan, and it was one of my favorite church services ever.

It's easy to focus on the cross when your job is focusing on the cross.

This year I forgot about Easter till last week, when someone at work told me we had Good Friday off. Then I admit that I was more excited that I had Good Friday off than that it was Good Friday. I even proclaimed to my coworker, "I'm so glad Jesus rose from the dead!" Because I get a day off work.

I also admit that, on a daily basis, I think more about God as someone who offers direction and guidance and comfort than a God who came to earth as a human and went to the cross to make me whole. When I thank God it's usually for providing for my daily needs and giving me good friends and parents and a job and my cat.

So this morning I was thinking about the Good Friday service I will attend tonight, and how we'll most likely take communion, and I'll think about the sacrifice He made 2,000 years ago and try to focus on the gravity and weightiness of the situation before moving on to my next thought (which will most likely be something about what I should eat for dinner).

But here's where I think a lot of us Christians are getting it very wrong. We take a moment out of our week, out of our month, out of our year, to remember Christ on the cross, and then we move on. I want to please God, so I spend most of my time asking Him how I may please Him, what I should do to please Him, where I should go and who I should marry and how I should use my talents to please Him. As a result, I live most of my life feeling like I'm never doing enough and never quite achieving the status of "Christ-follower" that I should be.

Because I am spending most of my time thinking about me.

A.W. Tozer addresses this very thought in his book I Talk Back to the Devil:
"In most cases it is a kind of plodding along, without the inward life of blessing and victory and resurrection joy and overcoming in Jesus' name. Why is this? It is largely because we are looking at what we are, rather than responding to who Jesus is! We have often failed and have not been overcomers because our trying and striving have been in our own strength. That leaves us very little to sing about!"
He goes on to say that "no one will make progress with God until he lifts up his eyes and stops looking at himself."

Oh, me.

My prayers are so much, "Help me trust you," "Help me love you," "Help me obey you," "Show me where to go," but my eyes are always cast on the "me" part. I am looking at what I am, rather than responding to who Jesus is. And who Jesus is is displayed, for all to see, on the cross.

The cross.

There is no question we can ask that is not answered in the cross.

When I wonder, "Am I loved?" I am reminded that God purchased me on the cross, and He would not purchase what he does not want.
"You were bought, not with something that ruins like gold or silver, but with the precious blood of Christ, who was like a pure and perfect lamb." - 1 Peter 1:18b-19
When I think, "How could I possibly forgive?" I am reminded that Jesus paid all debts - those I owe and those others owe me - on the cross.
"In the shadow of my hurt, forgiveness feels like a decision to reward my enemy. But in the shadow of the cross, forgiveness is merely a gift from one undeserving soul to another." - Andy Stanley, Enemies of the Heart
"Forgiveness does not demand repayment. 'But where is the justice?' ask the victims. It is in the crucifixion of Christ." - Neil T. Anderson, The Bondage Breaker
And most of all, when I wonder what to do with the countless voices all around me, telling me daily who I am and what I am and what I do and how I measure up, I am reminded that God declared who I am - once and for eternity - on the cross.
"Identity in Christ starts with believing something about Jesus and then believing something about ourselves in light of what we believe about Jesus." - David Lomas, The Truest Thing About You
Tonight is a night we Christians have specifically picked out of the year to focus our hearts and minds on the cross, but the cross is not meant for a once-a-year reflection time. It is the foundation of our hope, our identity, how we love others, how we love ourselves, how we face trials, how we respond to opposition, how we react to success, how we move on, how we grow up, how we stay grounded.

And it is how we know Jesus.
"He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross." - Colossians 1:15, 19-20
That is my prayer for us: As we press on to know Him, may we keep our eyes fixed on the cross. Not just tonight, or this weekend, but every day for the rest of our lives till we're finally with Him face-to-face in heaven. In Jesus' name, amen.