Friday, February 18, 2011

For the Joy set before Him Endured the Cross


“For the joy set before him endured the cross” (Hebrews 12:2)

Immanuel Kant once said: "An action is moral...only if one has no desire to perform it, but performs it out of a sense of duty and derives no benefit from it of any sort, neither material nor spiritual. A benefit destroys the moral value of an action." What the writer of Hebrews says about Jesus going to the cross with joy totally contradicts Kant’s statement. What Jesus did in displaying his great love for sinners he did with joy.

If a benefit destroys the moral value of an action than it must be true that what Jesus did upon the cross was not loving. The Bible is clear that Jesus endured the cross because of the joy that was set before him. There was joy in the heart of Jesus through the anguish of the cross he bore for sinners. To say this joy destroys the love Jesus displayed at Calvary totally contradicts God’s Word. Jesus’ death upon the cross was not only a display of love; it is the greatest act of love in all of history. “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13) but Jesus laid down his life for his enemies, “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8). This is amazing love!

I believe Kant is correct to say “A benefit destroys the moral value of an action” only if the individual is the highest valued object. For Jesus the joy was in the fact that his act upon the cross would bring glory to his Father in heaven. Similarly, Jesus tells his followers to let their light shine before others so they may see your good works and bring glory to God (Matt. 5:16). As Christians, we are satisfied in honoring God by our good works because we know it brings him glory. As Piper says it, “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him.” We worship the God of the universe who tells us, “Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart” (Ps. 37:4). If we are delighting in the LORD than the desires of our heart will natural come from joyfully submitting to his will for our lives because he is our joy. The desire of our hearts is God himself. The benefit of delighting in the LORD does not diminish the good works we are called to do. God created us, in Christ Jesus, to be his workers for good deeds (Eph. 2:10). In Titus we read that we are a people of his own possession “who are zealous to do good works” (2:14). We are zealous because of the work God has done in our lives and our whole aim is to bring him glory.

Please do not sell yourself short of the truth by buying into the philosophy of Kant. Rather look to what God has to say in his Word. See the example of Jesus who “for the joy set before him endured the cross.” May we joyful submit to the will our great God so that our lives may bring him glory. If there is only self-glory in your good works than Kant is right. But as Christians our satisfaction comes from bringing glory to our Father in heaven and that is biblical. That does not destroy the good work but is the work of grace in the life of a sinner. This honors God.

Grace upon grace,
JRL

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