What does it mean to ‘live the cross and resurrection of Jesus’? This is the question Tim Chester sets out to answer in ‘The Ordinary Hero’, and it’s a great one! He makes a fascinating observation in the introduction:
‘Perhaps rather surprisingly, when the New Testament writers tell us how we should live, they don’t often point back to the life of Jesus. Instead they take us to the cross and resurrection.’
Tim goes on to say that to really know how to live as a Christian, we need to understand how the cross and the resurrection should shape our lives. As I read this, I found myself nodding in agreement. Of course! The cross and resurrection is fundamental to my theology. But, now that I think about it, how does it shape my life? And how would a life shaped by Jesus’ death and resurrection look different from a life shaped by Jesus’ life?
Tim begins his answer by setting out the assurance of God’s love that Christians have because of the cross. We can know that God loves us by how God loved us in giving his son for us. The cross is central to understanding God’s love because the cross is where God’s love was ultimately displayed. On the one hand, there was nothing new for me here; but on the other – it is so good to remind myself again and again of this truth! Especially because the love shown on the cross isn’t just a lavish display – although it certainly is lavish! The love shown to me in Jesus’ death on the cross makes me right with God. It establishes something that couldn’t be accomplished any other way. Tim walks us through Paul’s argument in Romans, showing how every other reason we could offer for why God should accept us is insufficient.
Reading chapter 3, I was really forced to look at myself. The title, ‘Humility’ indicated to me that I may well have some repenting to do on finishing this chapter. I sometimes find it really hard to know the difference between putting myself down and being genuinely humble. Being a woman, working with young women, I am constantly battling between teaching humility but boosting self-esteem! I felt like Tim grasped that ‘humility’ is pretty complex. I also felt as though he got to the heart of the issue – my heart.
At the cross, I see my rebellion. I see that, given the chance, I would murder my creator. I also see the penalty that I deserve for my rebellion meted out on Jesus. I see that I can’t possibly save myself. I see the ugliness of my sin and the helplessness of my situation. But then I see God’s great love for me as Jesus takes my punishment and saves me from the wrath I deserve. Isn’t that amazing? In the same place we can see the depths of our own disgrace and the overwhelming grace that loves and values and forgives us!
Tim wrote something in this chapter that really clarified my thinking. He points out that the life of Jesus furnishes us with a wonderful model of humility. But he draws the following distinction: ‘[Jesus’] life shows us humility; his cross humbles us.’
He goes on to explain that
‘the cross gives us a proper estimation of ourselves. Our righteousness is unmerited. Our status is unearned. What we bring is our sin and shame. What we receive is an inheritance of glory. Everything we have and everything we are is the result of God’s grace. So the cross keeps us humble.’
Three chapters in and I am humbled.