Tuesday, May 07, 2013

The Victory Over Ravensbrook


“This darkness is very deep, but our God has gone deeper still. When you have been to Calvary, even Ravensbrook [Concentration Camp] looks small.”

Corrie Ten Boom

Corrie Ten Boom was a Dutch Christian who helped Jews hide from the German SS. But after she and her family were turned in by an informant, they were arrested and sent to a concentration camp. After her father and beloved sister died, she ended up in a camp called Ravensbrook. That is quite a name for such a place.

After WW II ended and Corrie was released she was used of God to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ. And in a stunning display of God’s forgiveness she actually shook hands with an SS officer and forgave him. Many believers have been able to forgive others because of her example. But I want to focus in on her profound statement.

Just reading that sentence sends chills up my spine. It disarms me from all my pretentions and my neat and tidy doctrinal assertions. No, it does not change the foundational truths of God’s Word, but it breaks up the fallow ground that can so easily harden our theology. I mean how can I present Calvary with dry eyes and any hint of doctrinal hubris? These keys on my keyboard can pound out these truths, but where is its heart? Where is its passion? Is there any depth of feeling? And yes, when I read the words of a wonderful saint who has been so faithful to her Lord I do not read them like reading a newspaper. They are sharp and they filet my heart open before Him. And I have written many times on the cross, and yet again God opens another door of revelation and gently guides me through it and beckons my heart to speak once again.

Speak, Lord, you servant listens.

So once again I approach Calvary, Golgotha. Yes I have seen it many times before and I have wept at the foot of that cross. It was there where I found life, and it was there that I was forgiven and set free. I have studied it in Bible college and I have read about it from many faithful saints. But as I read those words from Corrie ten Boom my spirit was suddenly drawn to the cross again with a freshness that illuminates corners I had not seen in all their fullness. It speaks to the eternal mystery that not only surrounds the cross but is the cross.

Corrie references the darkness of a Nazi prison camp which by all reports had ovens as well. The accounts in her book are devastating and reveal the depths of human depravity. The darkness in that situation must have been palpable and permeating into the very soul of its victims. The smell of death and evil itself must have been overwhelming. And all the time while living in death you keep your faith and your relationship with Christ? After Corrie is released she recognizes that compared with the cross the agony and darkness in Ravensbrook is nothing. That she could discern such a thing is astounding!

The cross is an amazing enigma. Something so wretched, so unjust, and so gruesome could be the source of life for millions? In fact this barbaric act of human treachery is the only and exclusive source of life? This is where most people resist it with human logic and reasoning. This is where most people miss it because it is so archaic and unsophisticated and so much foolishness that their minds reject it as either religious nonsense or some symbolic act. You see, the cross is not a starting point for sinners to turn over a new leaf and recapture their lives. No, this cross is both the beginning and the end for any sinner who by faith trusts in the One who hung upon it.

So we have not the luxury of believing the Scriptural narrative of the crucifixion but rejecting the words of Christ which define its essence and meaning. To say the eternal implications of this cross are amazing is to diminish its glory. This was God in the flesh taking upon Himself the punishment and payment for the sins of the world. Yes, we are in sacred and unimaginable territory. I mean what can pay for sins? And if that is possible what can pay for one such sin? A hundred? A million? And what pays for a small lie and what pays for murder? You see, like blind men we reach out to touch some familiar walls in order to steady ourselves and yet when it comes to the cross there are none.

One of the reasons that the cross is no longer a stumbling block anymore is because it gets very little “play time” in our preaching, teaching, and among believers. How could this have happened? I mean that which rescued us with unfathomable sacrifice and pain and agony and yet we have left our first love for a mess of temporal pottage? And along the way we have lost it essence, its majesty, its glory, and even its life. But oh the darkness He suffered for us. Unthinkable. Unimaginable. Can you imagine all the demons of hell taunting Him? Can you imagine the weight of all of our sin? Can you imagine the abject and profound loneliness He experienced even to the point of calling for His Father’s company? So great a mystery!

And what if you were the only human alive? What if God had only created you and you alone had fallen? Think on this: Jesus would have come and died for you alone. In fact, now hold on to your spiritual seats, I am convinced that God’s love for us is so intense, so deep, and so strong that even if the Father knew that no one would accept Christ He STILL would have died. I have no inside information on that but I just wanted to have you meditate on the power of His eternal love. And the Spirit makes it clear that very few people would die for their friends, and no one gives their lives for their enemies…ALL their enemies.

So if we stop our minds and submit fully to the Spirit and are drawn to gaze at that wondrous cross what exactly does your heart see. Not your eyes but your heart. Look at Him. I don’t mean look at Him just like He has been painted or portrayed. Really look at Him with your heart. Cast aside for a moment any church doctrine or any thoughts of limited or unlimited. Just gaze fully with your heart and in the midst of the lashes and wounds and blood open your heart and see…you. How often have we seen Jesus in the collective and yes He deserves all of that. But how often have you fixated your being and allowed your heart to see His inconceivable love for you. Yes, for you. You know who you are and what you have done and how far you fall short even this very day.

And with all your past and present shortcomings and sin fully before you, look at Him who knows those things much better than you do and yet, and yet, and yet look at Him. Why oh why? How can this be? And when we stand on the truth of who He is and what He has done, and then press in further, is our heart not broken with worship? We cannot help but bow before Him and worship. And although it is true the Son no longer hangs on that cross, its power and glory will live on forever.

We worship Him now in temporal jars of clay which are limited by time and attention and even sin, but His exquisite plan will one day provide for us a new body with which to worship Him. And what more can we desire? Yes we will enjoy the absence of sickness and pain and sorrow and sin, but we did not come to heaven just to bask in an impersonal paradise. We came to and for Him. We may recognize loved ones and other saints and Biblical figures, but we came for Him. We may even be granted some time to communicate with others, but we came for Him.

This is no syrupy sentimentality. This will be our reason for being in all eternity. To be with Him and to see Him and to worship Him. Oh my. How my heart longs for that day. And if I desire to trace the road back to where this privilege was purchased I once again find myself at Golgotha. And please allow me some further imagery which I hope can further illuminate Him and how we feel about Him.

The cross is much greater than a necklace or bracelet. It is a reality that no symbol can even attempt to capture. Oh if we could have been there and known. Can you imagine watching Him bleed and suffer and die and with the knowledge of who He was and what was happening? We would have bowed before the scene and all around us people would think us mad. But we were there. Oh we were not watching at a distance or standing beside Mary and John. No, we were there in those wounds. The mystery of all eternity. We were there. And one day when we had walked our own way and were oblivious to all of it, He drew us to Himself. And we realized the horror and the glory of it all. We were there.

So go ahead Auschwitz and Treblinka and Ravensbrook. Go ahead and present your darkness as some insurmountable evil which can remain some diabolical trophy. But it wasn’t British or American soldiers who caused your defeat. They may have been used to set the earthly captives free, but the victory over that kind of evil was won at Calvary. Yes, the evil fowler has been captured in His own snare and the prey has been set free forever. And even on this side of eternity and not yet seeing the Victor, we still are undone in His matchless grace. But one day, either by death or by His catching away together, we will be set free and be transported into His presence forever. And why can we be so certain of this implausible and unmerited destination?
The cross…simply the cross. Selah.


Teresa said...

This is the kind of truth that stops me in my tracks. I have no words, only tears and shame but He's even wiped those away. The wondrous cross...I can't even begin to wrap my brain around what it cost Him to die for me and give me newness of life. This is gut wrenching stuff, and I need to meditate on it further and pray. Thank you Brother Rick, may God bless those who read this with a renewed wonder.

Anonymous said...

Last night, on Hannity, I was watching him interview a father of one of the Benghazi attack victims' father. They were discssing the tragedy and determining how it could have been prevented. The father said that he had "forgiven" those those responsible for the oversight. Hannity said (unless my ears betrayed me) that he could never forgive them.

It's so obvious that the message of the cross is lost. He died for the remission of our sins. He forgave us, and commanded us to forgive those as He would forgive us.

I recall my mother saying that she would 'forgive' but would never forget. Yet she harbored resentments and grudges that, if she had given to the Lord, would have given her peace and joy. We have no excuse to hang on to being victims and harboring hatred against others if we take the cross very seriously. No grudge can stand being in the presence of the Lamb of God. Anon. J.