Reforming church, culture and our city

Reforming church, culture and our city

Posts Tagged ‘substitution

A Portrait Of Dorian Gray … in each one of us

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The Picture of Dorian Gray is a novel by Oscar Wilde. It’s the story of Dorian Gray, a young man so physically attractive that he draws the attention of an artist who desires to make him the subject of his portrait. He tells Dorian that he’s never seen a face more attractive and pure. And when the painting is finished, as Dorian looks at his portrait, he’s taken in and deceived by the attractiveness and beauty of his own looks. So taken in and so deceived by his external appearance, that he begins to live a life of secret pursuits and self-indulgence. His external appearance remains untainted and pure, hiding a life of wickedness. Even murder leaves his physical appearance untouched. The years of hidden wickedness pass and one day, alone and suspicious, he uncovers the portrait he had kept hidden for so many years. And as he looks upon his portrait, he’s shocked by the ugly and hideous face that he now sees. The portrait now bears the scars of a life of hidden wickedness. Afraid of being found out, he hides the portrait, but his act comes to an end as the artist enters.

Seeing Dorian’s portrait, he realizes what has happened in Dorian’s life. He is overcome with grief and pleads with Dorian to turn his life around and seek God’s forgiveness. “Does it not say somewhere” he pleads, “Come now let us reason together. Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow. Though they are red as crimson, they shall be as white as wool.” But Dorian will not listen and in a fit of rage and anger he silences that voice with a knife. Reaching for the knife once again Dorian decides once and for all to destroy his portrait – removing the only visible sign and evidence of secret life of wickedness. The moment he plunges the knife into his portrait, the portrait returns to its beauty, and a disfigured and unrecognisable Dorian Gray lies stabbed to death on the floor.

The Picture of Dorian Gray you could say is a parable highlighting our problem. Many of us are deceived by our external appearance, that hides a darkness within. On the surface beauty, religion, morality, good works but beneath the surface, a deep seated self-centeredness and independence that has rejected our creator and God. We look alright, but we’re rebels in God’s world, choosing to live our way only for ourselves. Beauty on the outside that hides an ugliness within. And that’s the reason why Jesus died. He died to pay the penalty for our rebellion. He died to take the punishment for our rebellion. He was punished so that we might be forgiven. At the cross a great exchange takes place, where the innocent (Jesus) takes the place of the guilty (you and me) so that we might be right with our creator and God. God made Jesus who had no sin to take our sin for us, so that in him we might be right with God (2 Cor.5:21).

Appearances can be deceiving, and sometimes we deceive ourselves thinking that we’re good people. We think we don’t need God, and we certainly don’t think we need Jesus.  We’re not when you look at what lies within. You and I need Jesus to save us from ourselves and from the judgment we deserve for rejecting our creator and God.

Easter in Sydney

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Three things come to mind when people in our city think of Easter – the long weekend, chocolate easter eggs and the Easter show. On the odd occasion people will connect Easter with Jesus. If pushed they might even say that it’s about the death of Jesus. Easter was originally celebrated as a one of two ‘holy’ days that Christians observed i.e. days that Christians set aside to remember, reflect and celebrate aspects of Jesus life and work. What in our day is a public holiday to kick back, relax and have a barbeque, was actually a ‘holyday’ set aside to remember Jesus’ life and work. In fact, Easter was not necessarily a joyful or festive celebration. Beginning on Friday you recall Jesus’ suffering and death on the cross, before you celebrate his resurrection on Sunday. Easter was an opportunity to remember the death and resurrection of Jesus.

That should be no surprise as the death and resurrection of Jesus is at the heart of what Christians have always believed. Christianity is not about learning to be a morally good person; it’s not about doing good works to earn your way into heaven; it’s not about what we do. Authentic Christianity is all about what Jesus has done, in particular, his death and resurrection for me.

At Easter we remind ourselves of very important news, good news that saves: that Jesus died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, and that he was raised to life on the third day according to the Scriptures (1 Cor.15:3-4). We’re reminded that there is nothing we can do to pay or to make up for or to take away our sins. We are sinful and rebellious people i.e. we are people who have lived our lives ignoring our creator, choosing to live lives our own way, with no regard for what God thinks and says. That is at the heart of our sin and rebellion, which puts us under God’s right and fair judgment. If you’re living life apart from God, you are condemned, under his judgment and in danger of hell. And that’s the reason why Jesus died. He died as our substitute taking our place on the cross, bearing our judgment and punishment for us. He died in my place and your place, for our sin and rebellion. A great exchange takes place at the cross where Jesus died.

But Jesus’ death wouldn’t be very significant if he remained in the grave would he. There would be nothing special about someone who died and remained buried. Jesus was buried, but he also rose from the dead three days after, a demonstration of not just his power over death itself, but of God’s approval of Jesus’ death for our sin. The resurrection of Jesus is the guarantee that our sin and rebellion are forgiven; that our judgment has been dealt with; that we are no longer condemned; and that death will not be the last word for us. He is alive and risen, and is the man God has chosen to rule and judge our city and our world.

Authentic Christianity celebrates and remembers what Jesus has done, in particular, his death for our sin and his resurrection from the dead. We are reminded at Easter that we are sinful and rebellious people who cannot do anything to save ourselves. We are reminded at Easter that we are under God’s judgment and in danger of hell. We are reminded at Easter that Jesus died as a substitute for our sin and rebellion, taking on himself God’s judgment to save us. We are reminded at Easter that without Jesus we are condemned. We are reminded at Easter that Jesus has risen from the dead and is now the ruler and judge of our city and our world. We are reminded at Easter that not only do we need Jesus, our city needs Jesus.

The great tragedy this Easter, is that in our city the vast majority of people will remain under God’s judgment, condemned and destined for hell because they have never heard an authentic Christian message; they have never acknowledged their sin; and they have never acknowledged their need for Jesus.

How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!

Rom.10:15

Written by eugenehor

March 19, 2008 at 2:33 pm