Monday, November 29, 2010

A Righteous Death

“And coming to a place called Golgotha, which is called, Place of a Skull, they gave Him vinegar mixed with gall to drink. And when He had tasted, He would not drink.” Matthew 27:33-34

As was the custom, Jesus was offered vinegar mixed with gall, a bitter poison, to ease His unthinkable suffering. He stood exhausted, spat upon, profusely bleeding after being beaten nearly to death, thorns piercing his head, and facing a barbaric death. And yet He refused the cup.

He refused to have his suffering eased and his senses dulled by the narcotic.

He refused to take in the bitterness of spirit, the deep resentment that can come, if allowed, when one has faced suffering.

He loved His Father and He loved us. To Him, obedience and the salvation of our souls was infinitely more important to Him than His own momentary comfort.

We, too, are called to die to ourselves. Just a few chapters before, in Matthew 10:38, Jesus said, “And he who does not take up his cross and follow Me is not worthy of Me.”

We cannot follow Christ unless we daily nail our own sins and yes, even our dreams, our worries and our own agendas to our own personal, figurative cross. How can we follow Him if we are busy following ourselves? How can we allow Christ to fulfill the unimaginable dreams and plans He has for our lives if we are busy following our own small, finite dreams? How can we live in righteousness if we are busy following worldliness?

And even the death of our old man, our carnality, the selfishness and pride that manifests itself in our mortal flesh, is painful. Sometimes that death has to come through suffering—an illness, a financial blow, a strained relationship. If we allow resentment to take hold of our hearts in a season of suffering, it will cause a root of bitterness to grow that is not easily removed. And that bitterness will dull our spiritual senses to the point that God will seem afar off.

And some will look to the poison of sin to ease their suffering. And when I say “sin,” don’t be tempted to think only of something obvious, like adultery or drug or alcohol abuse. Whatever we put before God in our lives, whatever we depend on more than Him, whatever we go to for comfort when we are in the middle of a painful trial instead of going to Christ, that is sin.

The comfort of sin is a façade, and when it has reached its end will swallow us in bitterness of soul.

Like Christ, we must refuse the cup of bitterness in whatever form it presents itself. Our suffering is for righteousness’ sake, for our own spiritual growth, to work into us the image of Christ our Lord. Suffering in the Name of Christ is a good and noble thing and will produce much fruit in the loving and skillful hands of the Father—fruit that will remain pure and unspoiled as we refuse the poison of bitterness.

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Thanks for sharing!