Recent Posts
Lowell Brueckner

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner



I can't say, when the English version "We Have an Altar" will be published. It is already in Spanish. In the meantime, I would like to give you an idea of the contents and the theme. God's people need better understanding of the cross... of the substitutionary work of Christ and our identification with His work. If we want to love Him, worship Him and serve Him, there is no greater motivation, than to contemplate His cross. This chapter begins with a story of a real moving of God among young people in a camp. Then, it briefly presents the One, who went to the cross, and gives a general glimpse into His work. Please read it prayerfully with a heart and mind ready to receive the truth, which will draw you closer to Christ.                   

Chapter 1

The Cross – One Single Theme

“For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.”
1 Corinthians 2:2

I have been invited many times to speak at youth camps. What material do we generally think appropriate for challenging young people? Often, the emphasis is on particular youth problems and challenges, about the things that they confront in school, such as sex, evolution and peer pressure. We hear of the use of inspiring, professional speakers, as close to the age of the young people as possible, for camp speakers, so that they can identify with him. They are especially effective, if they can crack a lot of jokes to keep the kids entertained.

Personally, on different occasions, I have taken young people through the book of Jonah, speaking about the dangers of missing the will of God for their lives, and the first six chapters of Daniel, showing the necessity of standing uncompromisingly for God. I have talked about Samson and his supernatural strength, about David, his youth and commitment to the purposes of God. I have stressed discipleship and missionary activity.

A couple summers ago, I went to a camp that was to be over a week in length and I would be speaking at least twice a day. As the time approached for it to begin, the growing burden on my heart concerned the cross of Jesus Christ. I will have to admit that I struggled for a while, imagining myself before over a hundred energetic, life-loving, human beings, trying to convey to them a message of resignation and death. To any kind of natural thinking, such an emphasis was incongruous and destined to failure. But then, 1 Corinthians 2:2 turned me away from natural reasoning and put me in touch with eternal truth.

In the opening session of camp, I placed the subject before the campers with this question: “Do you think that Paul felt for some reason that in Corinth, above other cities such as Rome, Ephesus, or Thessalonica, that this message was particularly necessary?” The answer came back, “No.” “All right, then,” I continued to press, “Maybe this was something that was needed only in the first stages of the history of the church (again, a negative shaking of heads)… or do you think that Paul was speaking of something that should be emphasized as long as the church exists on the earth?” They seemed to think that it did, so I made this statement: “I believe, if the Apostle Paul were standing in my place today, these would likely be his words – ‘I have determined not to know anything among you young people this week at camp, except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.’ It is God’s word in every place and it is relative to every situation.” 

As the Holy Spirit led me in the direction that the teaching should take, so He had a small band of spiritually-hungry teenagers prepared to pray. Except for their faithful attendance in the meetings, they were seldom seen taking part in other activities. They came to camp to meet with God and see Him move among their peers. They were not there to conform to the whims of the majority, but were determined to stay in touch with the Lord.

Before one of the early sessions, I felt a reassuring fear, one that I frequently feel to one degree or another before speaking. I turned to the translator and said, “I’m afraid.” She looked at me slightly puzzled, so I tried to explain. “I’m not afraid of speaking before people, of course, even young people. I’m afraid to begin to expound on biblical truth and find that I’m all alone in my effort. I know then that I will come short of fulfilling the plan of God and leave hungry souls unsatisfied.”

Soon, it was reported that a boy had shut himself in his room and even refused to come out for the meetings. He was under powerful conviction of sin. In one of the next morning meetings, I frequently had to pause, because the translator’s voice cracked under emotion. Finally, she wept freely and could translate no longer, so my message came to an end. The camp director stood to pray and did so through mighty weeping, pouring out a broken heart as an offering to the Lord Jesus. He then led the young people in a tearful recitation of John 3:16. Over and over they quoted and then sang it: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him, should not perish, but have eternal life.” It seemed as if they were hearing and saying it for the first time.

The last session of camp always begins late and continues for hours. The monitors hand out awards and individual diplomas to each camper with a special word of encouragement for him or her. It is not my favorite time, so I went to bed sometime close to midnight. The following morning, I heard this report:

About 60 diplomas, half more or less, had been given out one by one, when the name of a 14-year-old boy was called. He had been a bit of a problem during camp. As he took his diploma, he asked the director, if he could say a word and the director consented. He simply said, “I want to receive the Lord Jesus…” and that was as far as he got. He broke into tears. Two hours later, his sobs were still to be heard in the dormitory. The rest of the diplomas were laid aside and an invitation was given to those, whose hearts were being stirred by the Holy Spirit. Unconverted youth responded.

Young souls, just as much as the old, want the truth of God’s word more than they want advice on how to cope with petty dilemmas. Before a certain youth conference, the kids of a particular denomination went on a kind of strike, because at the previous conference, the leaders had brought in speakers to address the typical teen-age conflicts. They refused to attend any future rally that would be similar to that last one. You will find Christian young people these days, who can see through the smokescreen of human reasoning and “rebel” against it. They want the word and they want it straight and true!

I wrote the preceding stories to illustrate that at any time, in any place, and among any people, however improbable it may seem that there could be results, God in heaven stands behind the preaching of the cross. It is not a message; it is the message. With the camp experience behind me and with the impact of this freshly-emphasized truth upon my heart, I write to you concerning the cross. You may notice that some of the teaching is very basic and must be understood from the beginning of the time that a human heart is exposed to the gospel.

Other lessons have been learned over the years. After a certain missionary that I knew gave a good word, one of the listeners asked him, “How long did it take you to prepare that sermon?” He answered, “This particular message has been about 20 years in the making. Others take longer – thirty years or more.”  How true! On the other hand, in order to bring the ancient truth across to contemporary hearts, it must be freshly revealed to us today through the actual teaching of the Holy Spirit, as he opens up the Scriptures and causes daily experience and circumstance to coincide with the written Word.

Jesus Christ… Who is He?

Now we will look attentively to Paul’s text. We will first notice that the preaching, concerning the work of the cross, must point to the personality, who accomplished the work - Jesus Christ and Him crucified.” What was done on the cross only has value, when we correctly identify and introduce the crucified One. If He was a mere man, however good, who suffered and died, or if it was the work of some powerful heavenly being - if it was someone less than God nailed to the tree, then we are still in our sins! If we do not teach that deity died on Calvary, then our doctrine is false, our salvation is not secured and our hope is in vain. We are nothing less than false prophets and stoning is too good for us. The punishment for the proclamation of such a lie is eternal damnation. This point is not up for debate. It is essential that we believe it. Charles Wesley wrote:

“Amazing love, how can it be,
That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?”

Paul first preached Jesus Christ and then told of His work. “God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself”, He said (2 Co.5:19). He is the eternal, uncreated Son of God. Christ is the Word of God from the beginning. He was with God and was God. It was that Word, who became flesh and dwelt among us – 100% God and 100% Man. It was that Word that went to the cross.

It cannot be the work of men or angels to provide the remedy, through one human body within a few hours time, that destroyed innumerable mountains of sin, performed against an infinitely holy God, each one of which deserved an eternity of punishment. The ransom for the sins of many, paid for by One, must be with blood of infinite value. Martin Luther saw the deed by revelation from the eternal Spirit: “One drop of the blood of Jesus Christ was enough to pay for all the sins of the entire world and 10,000 worlds besides!” That is the truth that stirs and warms the heart of every genuine child of God and that newly-created heart will be satisfied with nothing less.
This is the clear teaching of the New Testament through the writer of Hebrews. “Where a covenant (testament or will) is, there must of necessity be the death of the one who made it. For a covenant is valid only when men are dead, for it is never in force while the one who made it lives” (He.9:16-17). We believe that it is God Himself, who has brought us under the New Testament – the New Covenant. It is the title of the book that gives us the terms from Matthew to Revelation. It is the covenant between God and man and He has drawn it up. The writer is asking, “Have you ever heard of the reading of a last will and testament before the testator died?” The answer is “no” – God died in Christ!

This was the teaching of Christ on the night of his betrayal and arrest as He gave the wine to His disciples: “This cup (symbolically) which is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood” (according to Luke 22:20) or “this (symbolically) is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins” (according to Matthew 26:28).  It is the covenant that concerns eternal life and Jesus taught the Jews, “He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day” (Jn.6:54). Upon entering into the covenant through the blood of Christ, a person must have clear understanding as to whose blood they are ingesting into their spirits or it will be of no eternal value to him. “As a result of this many of His disciples withdrew and were not walking with Him anymore” (Jn.6:66). They were unwilling to give that credit to Jesus of Nazareth, so as to put complete trust in Him for eternal life.

We, as Paul, in the preaching of the gospel, must first indoctrinate, as to the person of Christ. It is not enough to say, “Christ died for you.” That is truthfully what He did, but the question is, who is this Christ? Any number of saviors may arise in the mind of the unconverted person, who is listening to an evangelist. He has been under the deception of evil spirits for a lifetime. His entire world view is false and his mentality is perverse. Only the Holy Spirit can overcome the lies that have accumulated over the years and He will instruct through the Scriptures by the anointed preaching of the gospel. Jesus must be clearly and biblically presented to the unbeliever.

Jesus taught about Himself, beginning in Moses (Genesis through Deuteronomy) and continued through the prophets (Lk.24:27). The four evangelists showed clearly that Jesus of Nazareth was the promised Messiah of the Old Testament. They quoted continually from it concerning Him, as they recorded his life. So did the apostles in the book of Acts. We can do no less. Jesus said that many Christs and false prophets would come and deceive many. As true “prophets”, we must declare the true Christ, not through personal testimony alone, but through the sure word – the Bible. 

Him crucified

I remember driving into Romania one time during the heat of a political campaign. Along the roads in the countryside, political parties displayed newly-hung advertisements on the billboards.  Posters were stuck to many light posts in the towns and banners streamed across the streets. On them all were the faces of candidates for various local, provincial and federal offices. They looked their very best, wearing the most pleasant expressions, and bedecked with fine suits and ties. Every effort was taken to give the impression that these men and women were intelligent, friendly and compassionate human beings, worthy of the votes of the populace. “This is our candidate,” the parties declared, “Vote for this person!”

My mind went back to the Gospels and the central event of all human history. It took place outside the capital city of the little country of Israel. Between heaven and earth a body was hung for public display on a Roman cross. His robe was stripped from him. His face was swollen beyond recognition, disfigured from the multiple blows of fists and palms, and from a rod, with which He was beaten over the head. Blood flowed from the wounds of thorns pressed into his forehead and from gaping holes in his hands and feet, where soldiers had driven nails. On the beam just above His head, the Roman governor had commanded that a sign in Latin, Greek and Hebrew should present the charge, for which He was executed. It read: “This is Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews”.  God Almighty looked down upon the scene from His throne room in Heaven and declared, “This is My Candidate! Vote for Him!”

Since that day, the writing has been translated into hundreds of other languages throughout the world. The cross gives us a startling revelation of God’s way of publicity. Make no mistake about it, God’s way is always the right and wise way. Ever since the fall, man’s ways are perverted and twisted 180 degrees away from the divine perception that he was given in creation. His general means of publicity is nothing less than a deception. But Jesus said, “And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself” (Jn.12:32). He was speaking of His crucifixion as an attraction, through which, and only through which, people would be drawn to Him. All humanistic religion aside, no one comes to Christ except through the cross.

Besides seeing this principle of attraction, which befuddles the human mind, we want to see two other vital attributes of God, graphically depicted by the cross, after I ask this question: What fundamental quality of God’s personality would you think should immediately be impressed upon your mind as you view the scene of Christ upon the cross? Did you answer love? I suggest this, because I know it is the answer that would commonly be given to the question. However, if it is your answer, I am obligated to correct you, because the right answer to this question is essential. The cross intends to weigh heavily upon the human soul the perfect righteousness of a holy God.

The world has a major controversy with the sacrificial death of Christ and His shed blood. “Why this bloody religion?” they ask, “What kind of a bloodthirsty God would demand such torture and suffering from His Son? If God is love, why does He deal with our sins in so violent a manner? Why can’t he simply say, ‘I love you and I forgive you? We will just forget about what you have done and start over.’”

Ah, but the love of God is subject to His righteousness and cannot be put in force until something is done about those sins. It must be so. God is just and must remain just, if He is to forgive our sins, and His kingdom must stand eternally as a kingdom of perfect righteousness. The truth is that God never overlooks the smallest offenses; He never has and never will forgive unconditionally. Each offender will be brought to justice along with each offense.

Every civilized country has a department of justice and the better the judicial system, the more peaceful and safe are its people. Police officials, who do not arrest criminals, and judges, who do not strictly deal out punishment to lawbreakers, are a bane to society. People look to them for safety and for an existence without fear. Of course, in this world we know nothing of perfect righteousness. A small percentage of crimes and misdemeanors are actually punished. But the Kingdom of God is one of perfect safety and peace, because it is a kingdom of perfect righteousness. Nothing will enter His domain, which will in any way contaminate, and thereby, God secures it eternally.

That is why Jesus was on that cross! Nothing happened there, which was not absolutely necessary. In order to begin to understand the severity of the penalty, we must again allow our thinking to run crosscurrent against that of the world’s people, who have adopted the philosophy of humanism. Humanism maintains that everything that happens must be done for the benefit of mankind. Touched as we are by its permeating influence, we may find this morsel difficult to digest:  The Bible teaches us that man was not the sole beneficiary of the work of the cross; as a matter of fact, he was not even the chief beneficiary.

In order to get our thinking turned right side up, we must understand simple logic, which has been rejected by a rebellious world. We must come to recognize who is the Creator and who is the creature, and which one of the two it is that exists for the other. Since the answer is too plain to deny, we can easily see why mutinous man has accepted the theory of evolution. By doing so, he attempts to reject the fact that he has a Creator and consequently he thinks that he can live for himself.

On the cross, a work was done for the benefit of the Creator rather than for His creatures. Jesus died principally to appease the wrath of a holy God! It was to fulfill the will of God that Christ went to the cross. The punishment is horribly infinite, because the sin is infinite, against a personality, who is infinitely holy and worthy of infinite obedience, service and worship. That is why the infinite sacrifice went to the cross, paying an infinite price. In this way, Jesus pleased God and satisfied His justice.

There are precedents to that act in the Old Testament. When Israel made and worshiped a golden calf, Moses stood between God and the people and turned “away His wrath from destroying them” (Ps.106:23).

In Numbers 25, the Israelite men committed fornication with Moabite women and went on from immorality to idolatry. God instructed Moses to execute the leaders of Israel and besides he unleashed a plague that destroyed 24,000 people. In the midst of it all, one of the Israelite leaders blatantly, before Moses and the entire congregation, brought a Midianite woman into his tent. Phinehas, the priest saw them and “took a spear in his hand, and he went after the man of Israel into the tent and pierced both of them through… So the plague on the sons of Israel was checked.” As a result, God said, “Phinehas… has turned away My wrath from the sons of Israel in that he was jealous with My jealousy among them…” (Nu.25:1-11). He did it for God’s sake.

Then, when Joshua led Israel into the Promised Land, “Achan… took some of the things under the ban, therefore the anger of the Lord burned against the sons of Israel.” As a result Israel lost the next battle and 26 soldiers died, endangering their reputation among the Canaanites as a God-led and empowered people. All of Israel stoned him and “the Lord turned from the fierceness of His anger” (Joshua, chapter 7).

However, it is in the New Testament that the beloved apostle John records, “He who does not believe the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him” (Jn.3:36). Paul teaches that the sons of disobedience are “by nature children of wrath” (Ep.2:3) and that believers are “saved from the wrath of God” (Ro.5:9). The book of Revelation gives us one horrible glimpse into the fiery punishment of each idolater: “He will be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb” (14:10).

We must first face God’s righteousness, when we come before the cross. It is where the hymn writer, John Newton, began his spiritual journey. Feel his pain, as his soul stands naked before the dying Lamb, and understands that it was his sin that put Him there to fulfill the righteous judgment of God against it:

“In evil long I took delight,
Unawed by shame or fear;
‘Til a new object struck my sight,
And stopped my wild career.

I saw one hanging on a tree
In agony and blood;
He fixed His languid eyes on me,
 As near His cross I stood;

Sure, never till my latest breath,
Can I forget that look;
It seemed to charge me with His death,
Though not a word He spoke.

My conscience felt and owned the guilt,
And plunged me in despair;
I saw my sins His blood had spilt,
And helped to hang Him there;

Alas! I knew not what I did!
But now my tears are vain;
Where shall my trembling soul be hid,
For I the Lord have slain?”

When we begin to understand the righteousness of God, then we can also grasp the glorious truth that follows. Once God has been satisfied, because of His Son’s death, now He turns in love and pardon to the sinner. The Psalmist set it to poetry beautifully: “Lovingkindness and truth have met together; Righteousness and peace have kissed each other” (Ps.85:10). Truth and righteousness have been upheld, so that mercy and peace can be outpoured. At that point and not before, we see the love of God for us in the cross. Read as Newton receives a second look from the cross:

“A second look He gave, which said,
‘I freely all forgive.
This blood is for your ransom paid;
I died that you may live.

Thus while His death my sin displays
In all its blackest hue,
Such is the mystery of grace,
It seals my pardon too.

O, can it be, upon a tree
The Savior died for me?
My soul is thrilled, my heart is filled,
To think He died for me!”

It may be fitting for us to sing the preceding song as a prelude to his most famous hymn…

“Amazing grace, how sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me,
I once was lost, but now am found,
‘Twas blind, but now I see.”

Jesus Christ is the sole Person that Paul determined to see exalted in the church and the cross is the sole message that he determined to hear preached. This is our one and only altar, before which we do obeisance to the One who hung there…


Post a Comment