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Friday, March 25, 2005

Good Friday Reflections

Charles asked me a penetrating question today about the whole Good Friday thing: Is it really that big of a deal? Should Christians really be bummed by the whole thing? After all, he rose from the dead, didn't he? Should we rejoice? Or should we mourn?

This is a great question because it captures the tension of the Christian experience. On the one hand, yeah, we should mourn! A real man, who was just as truly the sinless son of God, was wrongly executed in my place. Take all the outrage you feel over Terri Schiavo and multiply it by a gazillion. Darn right we ought to mourn.

And at this point I start to beat myself up because I don't really mourn very well at all. I have been extremely busy with work and school all day long. I have been peeved that I have so much work to do, that I don't get to spend time with my kids, that a good friend hasn't responded to my emails this week. I have hardly thought about Christ at all. Its all about me, me, me.

But look - even my mourning can become a form of idol worship. God doesn't love me any more because I beat myself up and feel real bad about my sin. He really has risen. He really has forgiven me (and if you look in the NT after the resurrection, its amazing how the message is almost always positive: rejoice! good news!).

So there is another sense where even in the gravity of Good Friday, we should still be exuberant in our praise, in our confidence in God. I have a feeling the angels in heaven are NOT mourning today. Why? Because the risen Christ is right there on the throne in front of them, seated at the right hand of the Father - he's WON, gosh darnit! How can we NOT rejoice!

And that's what I mean by tension. Yes, should mourn, but that mourning must never be allowed to rest on me - I really do need to look squarely at my sin, and yet, just as quickly I should find myself turning to gaze at God's grace, at what he has done, on how I have been pardoned! Because we live on this side of Calvary, on this side of the tomb. But the only way I can know that favor is through faith in Christ.

So as I reflect on my own weakness, I find it helpful to recall Sinclair Ferguson's description of something John Owen used to say:
At the end of the day there really are only two pastoral problems...

Pastoral Problem No. 1 is persuading those who are under the dominion of sin
[the unconverted] that they are under the dominion of sin;

Pastoral Problem No. 2 is persuading those who are no longer under the dominion of sin
[Christians] that they are no longer under the dominion of sin, but that they are the first fruits of God’s new creation.
Maybe this is why Paul says, "rejoice with those who rejoice, mourn with those who mourn" (Rom 12:15).

If you don't know Christ, you really do need to mourn your sin and turn to him; if you do know Christ, you need to rejoice that nothing can separate you from the love of Christ, not even your own weakness and failures (Rom 12:38-39).

And that makes this a really Good Friday.

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