Friday, June 30, 2017

Book Review: The Cross

The Cross: God's Way of Salvation. Martyn Lloyd-Jones. 1986. Crossway. 224 pages. [Source: Bought]

First sentence from the introduction: Can you remember what you were doing when you heard the news that President Kennedy had been assassinated?

Premise/plot: In the fall of 1963, Martyn Lloyd-Jones was preaching a sermon series on Galatians 6:14 which reads, ‘God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me and I unto the world.’ These sermons have been published in book form as The Cross. Lloyd-Jones did not interrupt his sermon series to address the assassination of President Kennedy, but, it did trouble him and he incorporated it into his next sermon.

The Cross features nine sermons: "The Wondrous Cross," "The Acid Test," "The Wisdom of God," "Love Not the World," "The Triumph of the Cross," "He Is Our Peace," "The Cross of Christ Speaks," "A New Nature," and "Bought Out and Set Free." All nine sermons share a single Scripture verse as their basis. All nine sermons are Christ-centered. All nine sermons include an invitation to unbelievers.

My thoughts: I LOVED, LOVED, LOVED this collection of sermons. Martyn Lloyd-Jones has yet to disappoint. He was quite the preacher. His sermons were never me, me, me but always Christ, Christ, Christ. I believe that this book would be a great book for new believers. I believe that it would be a great book for those new to Martyn Lloyd-Jones' work. I think this one would give you a very solid impression of who he was, what he taught, and what he saw as essential. Would I go so far as to say this book is an essential must-read? I think I would! I don't say that lightly. I know that not every believer reads as a hobby. I know that not every believer has an interest in theology. But this book is what it's all about--these sermons explain the gospel and explain it in such a simple yet passionate way that it invites you to be a part of God's family. These are compelling sermons. They are not apologetic in nature. That's not what I mean. Nor are they packed with long hard-to-pronounce words proving in every paragraph that he was a scholar and that Christianity is for intellectuals. The sermons are practical and the very stuff of life.

From "The Wondrous Cross"

  • How do you differentiate between the true and the false? The Apostle has answered the question in this epistle, as he has answered it in other epistles. As indeed the whole of the Bible answers it. What then is the true message? What is the Christian gospel? What is it about? What does it proclaim? What has it got to say to us? How can a man be right with God? How can I sow to the Spirit? How can I reap life everlasting? What have I got to do in this life and in this world which will render me immune to what may happen round and about me, which would enable me to smile in the face of death, which already assures me that I have nothing to fear when I come to the judgement of God, and which guarantees me everlasting and eternal bliss in the glory indescribable? What have I got to do? How can I get to that position? Here, very fortunately for us, the great apostle answers the question.
  • The preaching of the cross, the preaching of the death of the Lord Jesus Christ on that cross is the very heart and centre of the Christian gospel and the Christian message. 
  • What is the message of the Christian gospel, and of the Christian church? Now at the risk of being misunderstood I will put it like this. It is not primarily the teaching of our Lord. I say that, of course, because there are so many today who think that this is Christianity. They say: ‘What we need is Jesus’s teaching. He is the greatest religious genius of all times. He is above all the philosophers. Let us have a look at his teaching, at the Sermon on the Mount and so on. That is what we want. What the world needs today,’ they say, ‘is a dose of the Sermon on the Mount. A dose of his ethical teaching. We must preach this to people and teach them how to live.’ But according to the apostle Paul, that is not their first need. And I will go further. If you only preach the teaching of the Lord Jesus Christ, not only do you not solve the problem of mankind, in a sense you even aggravate it. You are preaching nothing but utter condemnation, because nobody can ever carry it out.
  • If he had not died upon the cross, nobody would ever have been saved. There would be no gospel to preach. It is the saving event. It is the act whereby our salvation is accomplished.
  • So the cross is the centre of apostolic preaching because it is the thing that saves us. It does not ask us to save ourselves, it does not tell us to do something that will save us, it says it is done, it has happened, it was happening there. That is the gospel. There is the event which saves us. It is a saving event, that is why he glories in it and that is why he preached it. 
  • You will never understand the significance of what happened there until you are clear about who it was that was dying there. Who is this person in the middle nailed to a tree?
  • My friends, the Son of God is there dying on that cross because he came from heaven into this world in order to die. That is why he came. He was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death. He took on human nature in order that he might die. It is not an accident. It is not something to be explained away. It is essential. He came to give his life a ransom for many.
  • But why did he do this? The answer is here in the whole of the Bible, from beginning to end. It is here in this one verse. He came because you and I and all mankind are guilty and under the condemnation of a Holy God. He came to deliver us from this world which is doomed to disaster and final destruction, ‘by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.’ We all belong to the world. We are men of the world, we are born in the world, and we will bear the world’s fate, unless he can deliver us. That is why he did it.
  • ‘For God so loved the world, that he gave ...’; ‘... the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.’ This is the preaching of the cross. It is the cross that saves me. What am I to do? You and I have only one thing to do. I have nothing to do but to believe this message. Nothing else. Do not tell me you are going to live a better life. You have not seen the truth if you say that. Do not tell me you are going to be a better man, or a better woman. Do not tell me that you are going to stop this or that. You have not seen it. You have only one thing to do.
  • I know the most important thing about every single one of you, and that is that each of you is a vile sinner. I do not care who you are, because all have sinned and come short of the glory of God. I do not care what particular form your sin takes. There is a great deal of attention paid to that today. The preacher is not interested in that. I do not want a catalogue of your sins. I do not care what your sins are. They can be very respectable or they can be heinous, vile, foul, filthy. It does not matter, thank God. But what I have authority to tell you is this. Though you may be the vilest man or woman ever known, and though you may until this moment have lived your life in the gutters and the brothels of sin in every shape and form, I say this to you: be it known unto you that through this man, this Lord Jesus Christ, is preached unto you the forgiveness of sin. And by him all who believe, you included, are at this very moment justified entirely and completely from everything you have ever done—if you believe that this is the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and that he died there on the cross, for your sins and to bear your punishment.

From "The Acid Test"

  • My dear friends, there never can be a more important question than this: what does this cross do to you? Where do you find yourself as you think of it and face it? It is one of these two, it is either an offence or else you glory in it. Are we all clear about our position? Do we know exactly where we stand?
  • The test of whether someone is teaching the cross rightly or wrongly is whether it is an offence to the natural man or not. If my preaching of this cross is not an offence to the natural man, I am misrepresenting it. If it is something that makes him say how beautiful, how wonderful, what a tragedy, what a shame, I have not been preaching the cross truly.
  • There is nobody born a Christian into this world. We have to be born again to become Christians, and while we are natural men and women, the cross is an offense.

From "The Wisdom of God"

  • All our troubles ultimately emanate from our ignorance of God. That is the real trouble in the world today. Men and women do not know God. There are some who say they are not interested. There are others, and this is equally bad, who simply put up their own ideas of God. The men who speculate philosophically about God, these are the popular writers of today. They have no authority whatsoever. It is simply what they think. That is sheer ignorance of God. No, we cannot know God unless he reveals himself to us, because God is who and what he is. And what do we know? Do we know ourselves? Does your psychology really explain you to yourself? Does all your modern knowledge really help you to know yourself and your neighbour? Does it really give you an understanding of life and of death? Of course it does not! Our ignorance is appalling, and the more we learn, the more we see our own ignorance. How can a man know God?
  • If you think you deserve heaven, take it from me you are not a Christian. But for any man who knows that he deserves hell, there is hope.
  • What the cross tells us is that God hates sin. God is the eternal antithesis to sin. God abominates sin with the whole intensity of his divine and perfect and holy nature. And God not only hates sin, he cannot tolerate it. God cannot compromise with sin. That is what we want, of course. We want God to compromise with sin. We want a God who says: ‘All right, I know you have done this or that, but it is all right. Slip into heaven.’ God cannot do that. God cannot compromise. There is no compromise between light and darkness, good and evil. They are eternal opposites, and God, because he is God hates sin. God must therefore punish sin. That is what the Bible means when it tells us that the wrath of God is against all sin and unrighteousness. ‘For the wrath of God,’ says the apostle Paul in his letter to the Romans, ‘is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness’ (1:18). My friend, God is holy. Who can imagine this? We are so imperfect, so impure. Our minds are so polluted. You and I cannot think of absolute purity, absolute righteousness, absolute holiness. We may talk about these things, but we cannot imagine them. But God is all that.
  • Sin is a matter of attitude. And what makes sin sin, is that it is rebellion against God. It is to disobey God; it is to trample upon the sanctities of God. It is unrighteousness; it is transgression of God’s law. Indeed, it is worse. It is a hatred of God.
  • We are all naturally God-haters, and if you have not realized that, you have not known these things very deeply. Do not come and tell me that you have always loved God. You have not. You were born in sin, shapen in iniquity. And if you think you have always believed in God, it is because you have had a God of your own creation, not the God of the Bible. This is a universal statement, and so we have the problem. How can this holy, righteous God possibly forgive anybody at all, and remain what he is? What I see in the cross is God’s way of solving the problem. So I see the wisdom of God. If you want to know anything about the wisdom of God, look at the cross.
  • How can God be just and at the same time forgive anybody? How can he bring these things together—righteousness and mercy, holiness and love? Is it possible? And the answer is on the cross.
  • That, my friend, is the love of God to you, a sinner. Not that he looks on passively and says: I forgive you though you have done this to my Son. No, he himself smites the Son. He does to the Son what you and I could never do. He pours out his eternal wrath upon him, and hides his face from him. His own dearly beloved, only begotten Son. And he did it in order that we should not receive that punishment and go to hell and spend there an eternity in misery, torment and unhappiness. That is the love of God. And that is the wonder and the marvel and the glory of the cross, God punishing his own Son, in order that he might not have to punish you and me. It was also done in order that the message of the cross might be preached, and it is this: ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved’ (Acts 16:31). Believe that he died your death, bore your punishment, suffered in your place, that the chastisement of your peace was upon him. Believe, and you are immediately forgiven. That is the glory of the cross. God’s wisdom devising the way, God’s love carrying it out, in spite of what it meant to him, and the Son, willingly and readily submitting himself to it, in order that you and I might be forgiven and might become the children of God.

From "Love Not The World"

  • There are only two types of people in the world: there are those who belong to the world and who are men of the world, and who glory in that fact, and there are those who glory in the fact that they are no longer of the world. Though they are still in it, they glory that they are only strangers and pilgrims, travellers and journeymen, passing through this world of time.
  • The world is that view of life and death, and of man and of time, and of everything else entirely apart from God and his revelation as given in the Bible. That is the world. The world is that collection of people who think about all these things entirely apart from God and without God.
  • Well there is our definition of the world, and I can sum it up by putting it like this. It is that outlook which puts man at the centre, and makes man the ultimate authority. It is the view which says there is nothing but this world. What we have now is all that we will have. That is the worldly outlook, the mind of the world. That is the mind that is controlling the masses of the people, that controls all who are not Christians.
  • And that is what the worldly outlook always leads to. Every man becomes his own authority and his defence is, Why shouldn’t I? Is that not our great problem in this country today? Is that not why morality is breaking down round and about us? Why not, says the world, why shouldn’t I? I couldn’t care less. What does it matter what the Bible says?
  • Why did he die? He died for the souls of men, not for our material welfare, not to reform this world, but to save our souls. ‘The Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost’ (Lk 19:10). And it is the soul that is lost. The thing that the world knows nothing about, but it is in you, and in all of us—this imperishable thing in us that goes on beyond death and the end. No, he exposed the lie of this world for what it really.

From "The Triumph of the Cross"

  • The power of the devil, the power of evil, is so great that every human being ever born into this world has been defeated by it. Read the Old Testament. There are some very great men there. Abraham and the patriarchs, the prophets and godly people like them, but every one of them sinned. Every one of them fell down before the devil. The Bible puts it as strongly as this. Man, even when he was perfect—Adam, a perfect man, made in the image of God—was defeated by the devil. The devil was so powerful, so subtle. His ingenuity is such that no man has ever been able to stand against him, even a perfect man. The apostle Paul sums it all up by saying, ‘There is none righteous, no, not one .... For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God’ (Rom 3:10, 23). There has never been a human being in this world that has lived a wholly righteous life and has satisfied God, not one. The whole world, therefore, lieth guilty before God. Why is this? It is because of the terrible power of the devil, who dominates and who controls, and who masters. He does so, firstly, through the mind. He hates God, and so he persuades the human race to hate him too. I have already quoted 2 Corinthians 4:3 ‘But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost.’ The devil does not want anybody to believe in God and in the Son of God, so he blinds their minds. There is nothing new about unbelief. You are not being particularly modern or clever by not being a Christian. There has always been opposition to the gospel. The Bible is full of examples of it. It does not conceal it. No, the gospel has never been believed by men and women en masse in this world. ‘Few there be that find it’, says our Lord. ‘Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it’ (Mt 7:13–14). The devil dominates the bulk of the life of mankind. He has always done it, and you know you are not being anything new or different by rejecting this gospel and this preaching and teaching of the Bible. Mankind has always been doing that. The devil has been dominant and he governs the mind.
  • Our Lord came, then, into this world in order to rid us from the tyranny and from the power of the devil. But it was on the cross that he did it supremely and finally. 

From "He Is Our Peace"

  • It is the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ that alone can produce true unity and a real peace among men. Now it is to that I want to call your attention, and what a time it is to consider this, because everybody’s mind is engaged on the whole question of how to produce unity in the world. The assassination of the late President Kennedy pinpoints that in a very acute manner for us. Now I am not going to preach on President Kennedy, but it would be madness not to see what that terrible event, that awful event, should make us all think about. He was a man who was struggling and striving in various ways to bring men and women together. There are those who would say that he met his death because he was trying to solve the problem of integration in the United States. Black and white and coloured—how to bring them together. How to bring an end to segregation, and how to produce integration. It was certainly one of the problems with which he was struggling. He went to Texas because he was concerned about that. Then he faced the problem of the two groupings of the nations of the world, the Iron Curtain between them. He was striving, he was struggling with this problem of how to bring together these two warring factions of human nature and of humankind. Here was a man who gave his life and his activity to that very question, to that very matter. And I have no doubt that it is true to say that in many ways he met his death because of these things.
  • We are born creatures of conflict, within and without, in every realm and department of life. And what I want to try to demonstrate is that there is only one thing in the whole world at this moment that can deal with this warfare and tension and strife. It is the cross of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.
  • The Bible is an honest book, a realistic one which tells you the truth. It shows human nature as it is and it conceals nothing.
  • Peace, I say, is something positive. Peace means a new attitude, a new understanding. Peace means a love. But the world, even at its best, is incapable of producing it.
  • Do you know what the gospel does? What the cross does? It shows you to yourself.
  • The cross also reveals to us the truth about others. It makes of twain one new man, it deals with both of us, which is why it is so wonderful. The cross shows me that these other people also are souls, that it does not matter what the colour of their skin is, or whether they are wealthy or poor, whether they are very learned or very ignorant. It does not matter whether they are very powerful or very weak, they are souls. They are men and women, like me, made originally in the image of God, and standing before God in all the dignity of human nature. But why do they behave as they do? That is the question, and, before I myself was humbled, I never went beyond that. I said, ‘It is because they are wrong. I am right and they are wrong.’ I have now seen that I am wrong, altogether wrong, but what of them? Ah, now I am enabled to see them in a new way. They are the victims of the devil even as I was. It is that the devil is controlling them, and as I see this I begin to pity them. In other words, what the cross does is to make us both see ourselves exactly as we are and the moment that happens we see that there is no difference at all between us and other people.
  • Now the cross does that, it shows us that we are all exactly the same. We are one in sin. We are one in failure. We are one in misery. We are one in helplessness and hopelessness. What is the point of boasting that you are a Jew when you are as much a failure as the Gentile? What is the point of boasting that you have got the law, if you cannot keep it? What is the point of boasting about your great brain, if you do not know how to live? What is the point of boasting about your money and your wealth, if you are miserable in your own heart and soul, and filled with jealousy and envy and malice and spite? What is the use of anything? What is the value of anything? What is the point of everything? The cross humbles us. My richest gain I count but loss, And pour contempt on all my pride. It is the cross of Christ that brings us all down to the same place.
  • I wish in many ways that I could believe that the assassination of John F. Kennedy is going to bring the nations of the world together. I know it will not. It cannot. It will probably produce more strife and bitter hatred. But there is a death, there is a murder that once took place, that can reconcile because it reconciles men to God. It reconciles them to one another. Stop thinking in terms of nations, think of yourself first. Is that old pride there, is this the thing that governs you? I pray that God may show us to ourselves in the light of the cross of Christ, that all our ugly pride may go, and that we may see our utter hopelessness and helplessness. 

From "The Cross of Christ Speaks"

  • Has the cross of Christ ever spoken to you? Have you heard its message? The cross of Christ preaches. The cross of Christ speaks. The blood of the cross speaks. It has something to say. Have you heard it?
  • The blood speaks, and it speaks the best things that the world has ever heard.
  • But I would say that it is the business of the gospel to say that it is the soul of man that matters, that part of us that goes on even when we die—something imperishable, something which goes on into eternity. The cross puts tremendous emphasis upon that. He came there, not in order that our bodies might be healed, not in order that we might be better fed or clothed or have more information and knowledge, no, he came to save the soul. ‘The Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost’, and what is lost is man’s soul. Here is this tremendous statement, therefore, coming from the cross to us. Have you heard it, have you realized, that the most important thing about you is this soul of yours?
  • Sin is the most serious matter that has ever entered into the whole universe.
  • So the question that I ask is not what sort of a life you are living. It is not that I am not interested, but that is not the first question. The question the Bible asks us all, the question that the cross puts to us, is not that, or how you spent last night; or whether you are moral or immoral; or what your thoughts are. No, its first question is: what is your relationship to God?
  • The first great question in the shorter catechism of the Presbyterian Church, which I am never tired of quoting, is ‘What is the chief end of man?’ And here is the answer: ‘The chief end of man is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.’ God made us for that, and if you are not doing it, you are a terrible sinner. You say you have never committed adultery. I am not interested. You say you have never committed murder. That is not the first thing. The question is, are you living to the glory of God? Is God the chief end and object of your life? Is God the centre of your interest? Are you submitting yourself in obedience to him? That is the question.
  • The cross speaks of benediction, of pardon, joy and peace with God. It tells you that God is ready to forgive you, the blood of sprinkling tells you that. It says, listen to me, your sin has been punished. I am here because this is the punishment of sin. Listen to me, says the blood of sprinkling, I have been shed that you might be forgiven, pardoned, at peace with God. Oh, thank God, there is also cleansing here.

From "A New Nature"

  • It is impossible for anyone to be blessed by God in any way ultimately, apart from the cross. The cross is the key that opens, if I may so put it, the heart of God. And without the cross we know no blessings at all.
  • Justified by faith means that the moment you believe in what happened on the cross, and see that that is God’s way of reconciling you unto himself, you are immediately regarded as just, your sins are all forgiven and blotted out, and you are clothed in the righteousness of Christ.
  • You are in an entirely new position and the cross puts you there. You are under grace, and you do not tremble before God with a craven fear. You know that though you are unworthy, he is your Father, and you say, ‘My Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come.’ And you know that he looks upon you with a smile. You know that he is patient, that he is long-suffering. You know that he is determined to bring you back to the perfection in which he originally made you, and that all the forces of his love and grace and compassion are working in your favour.
  • We have all known what it is to turn to God in prayer, but the vital question is this: Can we pray? Have we any right to pray? What is prayer? Now prayer means entering into the presence of God. It means addressing that almighty holy God who is in heaven while we are on earth, the God we have ignored and spurned, and reviled and rejected. How can we go into his presence? The answer is that we cannot go into his presence as we are. ‘God heareth not sinners’ (Jn 9:31). There is only one way whereby a man can pray with any confidence and assurance, and it is in believing in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. Listen to the Apostle: ‘Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: by whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand ....’ But he is fond of saying this, we find it everywhere. ‘For through him,’ says Paul to the Ephesians—by Christ—‘we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father’ (2:18). You cannot go to God except through Jesus Christ. He said it himself: ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me’ (Jn 14:6). You may address ‘whatever Gods may be’, you may shout out in the dark hoping that some god will hear you. That is not prayer. Prayer means speaking to God who is in heaven, who is all powerful to bless. How can you do that? There is only one way.

 From "Bought Out and Set Free"

  • What most of us need above everything else is to get away from ourselves, to forget ourselves. But we revolve around ourselves. We are the centre of our universe and we are always looking at ourselves, and everything is judged and evaluated in terms of us—what it means to me, what it does to me.
  • Once a man sees himself in the light of the cross, he sees the horror of that self-centred view in its every aspect. It is all wrong; it is not true. It is because that view is not true of any of us, that the world is as it is, with all the strife and tension and the animosity, the unhappiness and the misery. Self is the cause of all these things.
  • Have you ever thought of the amount of time you waste in thinking about yourself—looking at yourself, preening yourself, examining yourself, awarding marks, afraid of others? A sheer waste of time, and an abomination. 
  • So the cross not only teaches me how to live, it teaches me how to suffer, how I should follow in his steps. And it also teaches me how to die, that we have all got to die. And it is only the cross that really can teach me how to die.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

No comments: