This is a companion-piece with today's Pyro post
Anselm wrote his famous Cur Deus Homo, "Why Did God Become Man" — or perhaps "Why the God-Man" — grappling with the reason for the incarnation of Christ. Talking with two Mormons yesterday has made me think that a new book might be called for: "Why the God-Man's Cross?"
They two handsome, shiny, fit young men caught me by surprise (and inconveniently) yesterday afternoon, full of friendliness and the Book of Mormon. For well over thirty years, I have taken every ring at the door as a God-given opportunity. As I told my boys later, here God has brought someone to your door wanting to talk about religion. How dare we say "No?"
Now, to my shame, I can't say I'm eager, and I can't say I've never punted. I've done it again and again, and never seen fruit. I've approached it from a half-dozen, a dozen different angles. Listening to Walter Martin and reading testimonies in the seventies, I had the impression: no Christian ever talks to these people, ever tells them the Gospel. They're yearning to hear it. Tell them, and they'll leap at it.
Well, that's half-right. Apparently I was the first to talk to just about every cultist who comes to my door, if their reaction is any indication. Yet they walk away, uninterested, unmoved, just as enslaved as they came. I've had Jehovah's Witnesses in a complete corner, unable to deny the deity of Christ Biblically — yet they do.
The problem clearly is not merely intellectual, nor lack of information.
But that isn't my job. Conversion is God's work; He has entrusted to us the work of bearing testimony, which provides His means (Romans 10:17). Don Whitney points to Romans 1;16, and says that preaching the Gospel is like handing out lightning rods in a thunderstorm: you don't know who the lightning will strike, but you know what it strikes.
So I talked to these young men, and bore witness to Christ and His salvation. And they wanted to talk about their book and their church.
But it struck me yet again. I asked the Evangelism Explosion question ("If you were to die and stand before God, and He asked you why He should let you into His Heaven, what would you say?"). They answer was "Because I repented and believed in Jesus... and lived a good life, was baptized, was taught the truth, treated people well, obeyed His commandments." Which led us to a reading of Romans 4:1-6, and a repetition of and dwelling on verse 6.
So here's my Good Friday question: Why the Cross? Why such an ugly death? Why a death at all?
If I can contribute to my salvation, if I have something I can give; if all I need is some assistance, but I really finish the job — why did God have to become a man and die so horridly?
This is the nightmare dilemma of all cults: Mormonism, Roman Catholicism, Islam, Jehovah's Witnesses. Their works negate the Cross. Any law-works negate the Cross.
Paul tells the Galatians, "If righteousness were through the law" — the God-given law of Moses, therefore any law — "then Christ died for no purpose" (Galatians 2:21).
And then in the next verse, he cries out in exasperation, "O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified" (Galatians 3:1). You see, to his mind, the death of Christ eloquently, finally, and thunderously DAMNED any system of works-righteousness. He could not conceive how they could miss that lesson. If we contribute to our salvation by what we do, then the Cross is an absurd, gratuitous mockery.
The Cross that saves us, damns us. The Cross that damns us, saves us.
The Cross says you are lost and helpless. The Cross says you and I can do nothing — nothing! at any point! — to commend ourselves to God. The Cross says we are lost and helpless, and only the most extreme means can bring us hope and life and forgiveness.
If you have not, I urge you, I plead with you: repent of your good works and your bad. Put your trust and hope in nothing, and no one, other than Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.
(For more, see here.)