Is the Cross Plan A?

plan-1Is the cross plan A? It is a simple question and yet a deeply profound question. Did God always plan to die on the cross or was it simply a response to our failings? Is God’s divine plan playing out in the theatre of the cosmos or is he frantically attempting respond to our bumbling use of independence?

The theologians Gregory Boyd and John Sanders advocate for the later. John Sanders writes, “The path of the cross comes about only through God’s interactions with humans in history. Until this moment in history other routes were, perhaps open.”

Commenting on Judas’ betrayal Boyd adds,

If Judas had gone down a different path, he wouldn’t have fulfilled the prophecy of the Lord’s betrayal…perhaps no one would have betrayed Jesus, and the passages that are now read as predicting his betrayal wouldn’t be read as such.

In short, God does not control the universe and the destiny of men and women. There is no ‘blue print’ as Boyd likes to say. Rather, God is responding to our failures out of love, working as best he can through the broken vessels of humanity to accomplish good.

This view easily connects with our hearts. We very much like the thought that God loved us enough to radically change his plan for the universe. We love thinking that God changed to redeem us. But is such a thought biblical? Jesus says no.

In Mark 9:9, we read “And as they were coming down the mountain, he charged them to tell no one what they had seen, until the Son of Man had risen from the dead.” Christ did not think his death, burial and resurrection were in doubt. He was not responding to the plans of men and women.

No, he had planned to die from the beginning of time. He knew Judas would betray him. He knew he would hang on a tree and die. He knew it because he had decreed it. Three times in the gospel of Mark, Jesus foretells and prophecies his death (8:31-33;9:30-32;10:32-34).

And, we should not be surprised that God can know the future. In Isaiah 48:9-10, we read

Remember the former things of old, For I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like Me, Declaring the end from the beginning, And from ancient times things that are not yet done, Saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, And I will do all My pleasure,

We are not constantly taking away from and adding to God’s plans. Rather, we are moving within God’s ordained will.

In Revelation 13:8, we read of the “lamb slain from the foundation of the world.” Before Adam and Eve took a breathe, God knew they would sin. And even better, God had planned to rescue them and us. He had planned to send his son to pay for the sins of the world, so that Jesus might be the first of many brothers (Rom. 8:29).

And here is the great news for you and for me and for our children. God can be trusted. God is not simply bungling through life like some Greek god who has to manipulate men to get what he wants. We do not pray and call out to him hoping that God might somehow be able to overcome the odds and help us.

No, we call out to the God of the universe who rules all. What makes God so amazing is not that he makes much of us. What makes God amazing is that he redeems us to make much of him. God saves us so that we can experience the glory of the divine.

And this has always been his plan. He is not responding to us. He is doing what he always planned. “He does as he pleases with the powers of heaven and the peoples of the other.” (Dan 4:35).

Such knowledge should excite all Christians. Because God rules, we can cry out to God with confidence.  As the Pastor Paul David Tripp wrote,

Your world is not a world of constant chaos controlled by impersonal forces. Your destiny is not in your hands or the hands of other people. You are held in the hands of your Father, who rules everything…Because he rules heaven and earth according to his wise plan, I need not live in anxiety and fear.

We can trust God’s promise to grow our faith. We can trust God’s promise to care for us when we get cancer and when family members hate us. We can trust his promise that sting of death has been removed. We can trust God because he rules.

There is no plan B,C,D. Yes, God reacts to us within the narrative of human history. Yet, ultimately that narrative is of his creation. He planned it, he guarantees it, and he accomplishes it. Because plan A was at work in Genesis 1, we can be sure it is at work in Revelation 1. We can trust God with all our worries and concerns. Do you believe in the cross is plan A?

Take Up Your Cross

crossWhen we think of taking up a cross, we often think of Mrs. Martha saying that her recent battle with the flu is her cross. Or perhaps, we think of musicians peddling snazzy shirts and necklaces of the symbol of death. But is this what Jesus meant when he commanded us in Mark 8:34  to “take up our cross.” Is taking up our cross nothing more than patiently bearing with life’s disappointment while engaging in some Christian marketing?

I think it is more. I think being a Christian, having true faith, and being a real follower entails more than the above definition.  To take up our cross, we must be willing to radically and to practically live our life for Christ joyfully bearing all the reproaches, condemnation, and attacks of men.

To understand more about what taking up our cross means, we need to peak back a few verses. In Mark 8:31 Jesus says he will die on the cross because, “the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the scribes.” Jesus’ death was a direct result of his obedience to God. Jesus was not talking about all the aches and pains that all experience in this life. He was talking about the persecution that we would face if we deny ourselves.

If we deny ourselves and pursue Christ, we too will suffer. As Jesus said in John 15:20:

Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours.

We may miss great job promotion because we desire to honor our marriage vows. We may not be invited to the family summer vacation because we want to obey God by avoiding drunkenness. And our kids may get benched because we value hearing the word of God preached more than the 3 spot in the order. Bearing a cross means that we embrace the cost of following Jesus. Bearing the cross means we are willing to be rejected and mocked by our peers. Bearing the cross means we are willing to live radically obedient lives even if we may lose our life in the process.

And Jesus’ initially hearers clearly grasped this reality. They saw the cross not as an ordinary part of life. They did not view it as an accessory. The saw it for what it was: a vile instrument of torture and death. The crowds had seen the Romans execute thousands upon thousands of Jews with the long nails and wooden planks. Jesus’ hears had watched their fellow Jews slowly die from affixation after days of agony. They knew Jesus was not calling them to endure the normal hardships of life well. They knew Jesus was calling them to deny themselves up to the point of death. They knew Jesus demanding their all.

Are we willing to radically follow Jesus? Are we willing to daily die to ourselves? Are we willing to sacrifice earthly comfort, our success, and our worldly hopes for the gospel? Are we persecuted for our faith?

Again, I do not think that every day of our life will be marked by suffering for the gospel. Our lives could be this way. We have many brothers and sisters who daily face death because of their commitment to Christ. The persecution we may come our sister, our fellow PTA members, or from a recreational softball team.  The question is this: Do we face any persecution or is our life so in line with the world that we never stand out?

God Never Dials The Wrong Number

Can anything feel more hopeless than being rejected by God. John Bunyan, the author of Pilgrim’s ProGod-never-dials-the-wrong-numbergress, felt this way. He desperately wanted to come to Jesus, but he did not feel that God wanted him. He knew that he was a great sinner. He knew he deserved hell. And he knew the gospel. But he felt that God would not accept him. He felt that he had not been called. Oh the horror of wanting God and yet not being able to get to him. You could almost hear John saying, “Curse those stink’n Calvinist and their doctrines of God’s sovereignty.”

Perhaps some of you can relate. Perhaps some of you have kids in this spot. They claim that they want to repent but do not feel that they can. They feel hopeless. So what do we do? We remind them of God’s character.

It is true that only those called by God can and will repent. But it is also true that everyone who truly wants to repent is called. Notice what happens in Mark 3:13 “And he went up on the mountain and called to him those whom he desired, and they came to him.” Everyone whom Jesus calls comes to him.

IPilgrimsProgress_038729f someone is under conviction, if they desperately want to repent, if they are eager to embrace and to follow God, all they have to do is come. The Holy Spirit never convicts someone only to leave them languishing in hopelessness. God never dials the wrong number. When He calls someone, he will save them. There is not one person in the Bible who desired to be right with God and was rejected. Everyone from Adam on who wanted to believe in God did. As Jesus said in John 6:40 “For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”

All who feel God’s call will be saved. If your kids truly feel God calling them to faith, simply tell them to repent. Encourage them to embrace the cross. Salvation can be attained because Christ has died for them. Regardless of how great their sins are, Christ has paid for them all.  As II Corinthians 5:21 boldly declares:

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Ultimately the truth that God saves all whom he calls, comforted John Bunyan’s soul. He saw that Christ could and would accept him. Christ has already died to pay for Bunyan’s sin. And he has already died for our sins and the sins of our kids. If you or your kids feel God’s call, go to Jesus. What are you waiting for?