The Cross, the Resurrection, and a New Affection Among Old Afflictions

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One of the deep-rooted issues in our churches and nations is pornography. You could call it the great leveler. It has leveled many. Of course, it is deeply interwoven with other issues at stake: dating, marriage, issues of abuse, and of course lust. But there are many authors and blogs where you can read more about the details of this issue: Heath Lambert, Tim Challies, Douglas Wilson, the TGC blog, the Desiring God blog etc.

The focus on this blog post is on Jesus Christ, recognizing that this is the theme that runs through all the best writings. Jesus is our only hope: for both forgiveness and change. The Church is helpless without her bridegroom. He is jealous, and will fight for His blood-bought bride.

One image that this issue has brought to mind over the years is the story in Numbers 21: 4-9, where Israel is wandering through the wilderness. They have no food or water and they complain bitterly: “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness?” Then the Lord sends fiery serpents which start biting the people and killing them. Israel repents and comes to Moses and asks that he would pray for them that the plague would be taken away. The passage concludes in this way: “And the LORD said to Moses, ‘Make a fiery serpent and set it on a pole, and everyone who is bitten, when he sees it, shall live.’ So Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on a pole. And if a serpent bit anyone, he would look at the bronze serpent and live.” That was the Lord’s response to the epidemic of snakes biting His beloved people.

In the 21st century, the application of this story happens in the church. As members of the church we confess that we have been brought out of slavery to sin, into the light of freedom. And yet, we still fall into sin. It’s everywhere. All have sinned and have fallen short of the glory of God. But sometimes it is so bad, that it becomes an epidemic. When it becomes an epidemic we might ask if there is any hope. We are awash in guilt and shame. People might question their salvation. And we all know that even those who have not been hit by a specific epidemic have the same sin in their hearts. We all fight a deep-rooted sin nature. We may as well fess up and admit it. As Jesus says in the Sermon on the Mount: lust is at the core of this epidemic. And who is free from lust?

Even deeper than lust is unbelief. Because of that unbelief we are all left without hope. Unless we encounter Jesus Christ on the cross. It is the cross that will burst apart that unbelief. Rosaria Butterfield struggled with a very distinct issue, but the principle is the same: “My new affection was not heterosexuality, but Jesus. . . . I was converted not out of homosexuality, but out of unbelief.” To put it even more bluntly and beautifully, Jesus tells us in John 3:14-15: “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.”

Our new affection is not pornography, but Jesus. Our new affection is not our old lusts, but Jesus. We must encounter Jesus and His power. Jesus is that bronze serpent. He has been lifted up so that we might believe and have eternal life. Look up and live. In His name, we flee that sin. He washes away shame and guilt. He heals the epidemic. Go to war. Put on the armour of God. But remember, the only way to live is by gazing on the cross of Jesus Christ. Without that cross, it is all moralism and insanity that is rotten to the core. Without the cross it is like desperately scrubbing a dead man’s bones. That cross is the most beautiful thing you will ever behold. When you behold it, it will begin to take over the very moral DNA of your being. When you gaze on the cross, you will begin to know the power of His resurrection. And that life of the resurrection will begin its work in you. And Jesus is reigning in heaven. And He is on the war path. The call is to put on the armour of God and to follow Him to the death. There is no other response for what He has done. There is no better world. There is no better life than fighting boldly for the mercy and the love of God to take over this world.

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