Being Formed By The Cross
Dear Redeemer Spiritual Family,Martin Luther’s words remind us that, as Christians, the cross of Jesus Christ is at the very center of our theology and of our community. Over the Lent season, you are invited to engage in an intentional and sustained exploration of the Cross of Jesus Christ. This letter is meant to guide you in engaging this season.
Themes of Lent
On March 13th, the first Sunday of Lent, I will complete the three sermons on church unity from John 17. From there my pace of preaching will slow down as we consider the last day of Jesus and “the meaning of the cross.”
- March 20th: The Meaning of the Cross: Jesus’ Cup – John 18:1-11
- March 27th: The Meaning of the Cross: Peter’s Denial – John 18:12-40
- April 3rd: The Meaning of the Cross: Jesus’ Purple Robes – John 19:1-24
- April 10th: The Meaning of the Cross: Jesus’ Last Words – John 19:25-30
- April 17th: The Meaning of the Cross: Jesus’ Broken Heart – John 19:31-37
Over Lent we will are calling the Redeemer congregation to three important themes. I encourage you to prayerfully consider these themes and ways that you might engage them.
Theme #1: Separation from the World
As Christians we are “in” the world but not “of” the world. We are not to love the world or anything in the world (I John 2:15). We are not to be conformed any longer to the pattern of this world, but to be transformed by the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:2). So during Lent take time to pray this prayer:
“Search me, O god, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” (Psalm 139:23-24)
Ask yourself: Where am I compromising with the world? What idols am I striving for? How am I being conformed to the pattern of the world (its ways of thinking and acting, its values)? What do I need to repent of and turn from?
Consider fasting during Lent. Consider turning away from a good thing, to seek the face of the Holy God who is your eternal good, who alone can satisfy your soul. A very helpful book in regards to fasting is A Hunger for God, by John Piper. Take some time to read through this book and ask Christ to reveal to you an appropriate “fast” during Lent.
Theme #2: Sanctified by the Word
In his High Priestly prayer to his Father, Jesus prayed that his followers would be sanctified by the truth. Then he added “your Word is truth” (John 17:17). Romans 12:2 teaches that we are transformed by the renewing of our mind.
As Christians, a critical spiritual discipline is that we read God’s word, that we gnaw of God’s Word, that we meditate on God’s Word. Ask God to grant you “godly sorrow” for your apathy to God’s Word, and use the season of Lent to intentionally and systematically read God’s Word. You might read systematically through the Gospel of John, or Paul’s epistles to the Romans and Galatians.
I also encourage you to prayerfully read through the Scripture I will be preaching on before Sunday morning. Ask Christ to reveal God’s love for you in the cross of Jesus. Ask your Heavenly Father to show you that Jesus suffered and died not for the world in general but for you in particular. Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal areas in your life that you need to repent of and be reformed in.
During Holy Week, I invite you to come to our morning and evening prayers, Monday through Friday, in the sanctuary, 7am and 7pm. In the evenings we will be reading through entire books of the Bible (like we did when we read through Revelation). This is just another way we want to immerse ourselves in the Word of God.
Theme #3: Sent into the World
We are not separated out of the world as a counter-cultural community and sanctified by the Word of God for ourselves. Not at all! We are separated and sanctified for God’s mission of bringing his love, grace, mercy, justice, compassion – His very gospel – to the world. In John 17:18 Jesus prays, “As you have sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world.”
Following Lent we will be consider how being formed by the Cross we are “sent” into the world. Our call as believers is to “faithful presence” – to be people and a community that embodies God’s love and holiness, truth and grace, mercy and justice. In the spring sermon series we will be considering “faithful presence” as it relates to our call to mercy, justice and social healing. In the summer sermon series we will be considering “faithful presence” - a term coined by James Davidson Hunter - as it concerns our identity, work, and vocation in the book of Esther. In the fall sermon series we will be considering “faithful presence” as it concerns godly sexuality – what it means to live with sexual integrity and wholeness in a broken world.
Our “sentness” and call to “faithful presence” goes back to the cross. It is rooted in the cross. It is only when we are mesmerized and captivated by God’s love for us in Christ that we are set free to live with joy and creativity and “faithful presence” in the world. So, in a sense, this Lent season is incredibly vital to all that we will be talking about the rest of the year.