Friday, July 22, 2011

The Ultimate Lens on Life

When he invited me to have dinner with him and his wife, I knew it wasn’t going to be a social occasion. The man on the phone seemed frustrated, exhausted and overwhelmed. As I looked across the table at him after a long dinner of tough conversation about a marriage gone bad, he had the look of a beaten man. I asked him to tell me what he was thinking and he said, “People are so complicated, it seems impossible for relationships to work. I can’t figure out why I do the things I do, let alone understand my wife. It’s hard for me to sit here and find any reason for hope.”
He was right. People are complicated and not always easy to understand. Relationships are difficult and sometimes seem like a minefield of potential explosions. There are moments when life, this side of eternity, seems hopeless. Perhaps there are many more exhausted and overwhelmed people around us than we think. I didn’t seek to comfort my friend by telling him his view of life was inaccurate, but by helping him understand that it was incomplete. I drove home that night deeply thankful for the cross of Jesus Christ. Perhaps you’re thinking, “The cross? Paul, I thought the cross was about forgiveness and eternal life. What, on that evening, made you thankful for the cross?” The answer is that I was hit once again how the cross of Jesus is the ultimate, most accurate lens on human life. There is nothing that understands, defines and explains the human struggle like the cross. Let me explain.

The Cross Tells Us What’s Wrong with Us

The cross tells us that our biggest, deepest and most abiding problem is to be found inside us, not outside us. Yes, the people in our lives have had a significant impact on us, the experiences of our lives have helped shape the way we see our world, and the locations of our lives have been formative as well. People, locations and the situations of life all influence what we think and what we do; but they're not determinative. No, the most powerful life-complicating problem for us all is to be found deep inside each one of us. It’s the reason for the cross of Jesus Christ. It’s the thing that the cross was ordained to defeat. It’s the thing that distorts our thoughts, desires, emotions, choices, words and actions. It’s the universal human dilemma, the inescapable pathology. It’s the one disease from which we all suffer. It’s the problem that none of us has the wisdom or power to solve. What is it? Sin. It’s the condition of the heart that’s the fundamental reason for a vast array of personal and interpersonal brokenness. The cross requires us to admit that we too have been infected with the virus and are people in desperate need of help. We’ve not just been afflicted with a fallen world and flawed people. No, we’ve all been infected with sin.

The Cross Tells How What’s Wrong Will Get Fixed

You simply can’t decry the value of knowledge, personal insight, accurate perspective, self-awareness and careful analysis. They’re all very helpful; they just happen not to be curative. If what’s broken inside us could have been cured by a body of knowledge or a system of insights, Jesus wouldn’t have needed to come and the cross wouldn’t have been necessary. A cross-shaped view of peoples’ problems requires us to say something radical. For lasting change to take place in us we need more than a system; we need a Redeemer. Only the grace of a Redeemer, who on the cross defeated our deepest problem, is able to rescue us from us and give us the power to live in brand new ways. If sin is the universal human pathology, then the person and work of the Redeemer, the Lord Jesus Christ, is our only hope of lasting healing. The cross not only provides for us the only truly accurate diagnosis, but also the only reliable cure.


At 8:07 AM, Anonymous Chad Davis said...

Wonderful - helpful for remembering how the gospel actually does connect to every issue of life.

As I was reading, I was also struck by the reality that the cross shows us that the problem (sin) will be taken care of (by a Redeemer) through suffering. The cross reminds us of the true problem. And the cross shows us how that problem is fixed. And the cross shows us that the process involves suffering and pain and difficulty.

Thanks so much for your ministry, Dr. Tripp. It has been a balm to my soul on multiple occasions.

At 8:41 AM, Anonymous Steve said...

Excellent article, and I am hopeful for having read it. I have been suffering terrible anxiety the last few days or so and it all started after falling into sin. I will pray for repentance and forgiveness. Thank you, you have shown me what my problem likely is.

At 1:27 PM, Blogger NewKidontheBlogg said...

And the cross is such a visible image for humans. Christ didn't just come to give us a philosophy of culture such as pluralism, humanism, realtivism, etc. Beyond TRUTH of a system, He is LIFE and the WAY.

Yes, people and self are confusing. But HE gives strength to navigate our situations and grace to endure.

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