Friday, March 21, 2008

All the Vain Things That Charm Me Most...

This post was actually written seven or eight years ago as part of a book I was working on at the time.

On Easter Sunday several years ago the Spirit of God ministered to me regarding Christ's sacrifice on the Cross. During the worship service there was special music - a solo that opened up to me a new view of the resplendent and multifaceted jewel of the gospel. I saw it from a new angle. The song was “Ten-Thousand Angels”. The last line of the chorus is, "But He died alone for you and me". This really hit me.

Lately, because of conversations with my neighbor, an elderly widow, I've been thinking about the agony of dying alone, one of her fears. On a human level it is a very frightening thought. To face death abandoned, helpless, loveless, deprived of comfort, sympathy and human touch is a nightmare we cast far from our thoughts. And yet, that pain becomes negligible in comparison to Christ's aloneness at His death.

He was sinless, not deserving of death for physical death is punishment for sinful man (Gen. 2:16-17). He not only died alone, but also was rejected by loved ones in His last hours. He died a most violent, agonizingly painful and humiliating death. He died to eternally benefit those who hated Him, the same ones He created and sustains. He died a criminal's death although He had committed no crime, was innocent of even the smallest offense, and had, in fact, brought only good into an evil world. He was mocked and spat upon by sinful men, the very ones He was dying for. He knew He did not have to die; He could have called ten-thousand angels.

And finally, the anguish that was by far the most grievous to Him - to be forsaken by the One with whom He had had intimate fellowship from eternity past (Mt. 27:46). This is the same One who now promises never to leave me, never to forsake me (Heb. 13:5). He died alone for you and me. Does this cause not you to wonder at so great a love (1 Jn. 3:1)?

Isaac Watts understood the significance of the cross in his song, "When I Survey the Wondrous Cross":

When I survey the wondrous cross
Onwhich the Prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride.

Forbid it Lord that I should boast,
Save in the death of Christ my God;
All the vain things that charm me most,
I sacrifice them to his blood.

See, from His head, His hands, His feet,
Sorrow and love flow mingled down:
Did e'er such love and sorrow meet,
Or thorns compose so rich a crown?

Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were a present far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.”

What a glorious declaration of the miracle of the cross. It indeed is wondrous. And as Watts penned, it demands from us our very lives and loyalties; it calls us to sacrifice those vain things that charm us (Phil 3:7-9); and it compels us to hold in contempt the pride that robs our glorious Prince of the honor, thanks and praise that we owe Him and which is rightfully due Him.

The cross is emptied of its power when we make insignificant things our delight (I Corinthians 1:17). It is because we "forsake" Him again for mere idols or ideals. When we esteem something else as more important, of greater value than Jesus Christ and Him crucified, we forsake Him on the cross, so to speak, making the message trivial, emptying it of its power. If the cross is not of the greatest importance to us, then we make it an impotent message in our experience and in our witness to others.

"All the vain things that charm me most" can be anything good or bad. For Christian women, it almost always is one of the good gifts God has given that we then elevate to the place that only Christ should occupy in our hearts. It could be family, ministry, or husband.

Oh, Lord Jesus, what have You suffered on my behalf? I can merely glimpse it. You have not required my blood for my own transgressions against You. But You, sinless and perfect, imposed my sentence upon Yourself and bled in my place. Though I have forsaken You, You will never leave me. Now, even though I may die with no human fellowship, I will not be alone in that hour for You will be there closer than a brother to carry me through the veil to Your loving embrace.

May I always stay near to You, cling to You, never turn from You; may I never again forsake You for lesser things since I was the one who caused Your pain and justly should have received Your death sentence in my sinful flesh. Please forgive me for being captivated by things that can be understood, easily explained and produced with mere fleshly effort.

What can be more significant than the cross work of Christ? For us who are being saved it is a matter of life or death, of heaven or hell. We can never plumb the depths of it. Even in eternity the cross will continue to draw us and make us wonder. How great a Savior we serve; how indescribable His love for those whose rebellion caused His pain. It is unfathomable, too deep for me to understand, but I want to continue to ponder this supremely sacrificial act and the glorious One who willingly died for me. Now may I ask, what charms you most?

Celebrate the risen Christ by honoring Him as your most precious treasure! Have a blessed day remembering and rejoicing in His wonderous gift of love to you.

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1 comment:

  1. Hi Sharon- I am so enjoying your website- I had some time today to really look around a little more and it is such an encouraging , helpful site!!! I love what you wrote for the book you were going to do- is that still on hold? It is so good for us to really remember His sacrifice in a real way- not just in our brains, but our hearts to really feel and see what He was punished-should have been ours. Wow- words can't speak to the greatfulness I feel.