A few weekends ago, I had the absolute honor of leading worship at a women’s conference called Wildfire, all about encountering God and realizing that you can’t be too on fire for Him. The leaders weren’t messing around because during the first session we dove headfirst into watching the scene in the movie The Passion of the Christ when Jesus was being nailed to the cross, and they encouraged us to not shield our eyes from looking at any part of what He went through. My honest first thought was: “I know what Jesus did for me, and I’ve seen this movie before,” but my heart was open and I wanted to hear Him speak. Sure enough, as I watched this representation of His crucifixion, He began speaking to me so clearly…
- As I watched the nails being hammered into His hands, He reminded me that He restrained Himself for me. He did not have to stay on the cross. He is the King of the Universe and no one and nothing can restrain Him – especially inanimate objects as simple and powerless as wood and nails. Yet, the One Who created the world was held and restrained by two wooden beams and three nails for me. With all the power in and outside of the world at His disposal, with all of heaven and hell waiting to see what He would do, with all those to whom He showed Himself to, and who saw the miracles He could perform, waiting to see how and why He would allow Himself to be brutally murdered in this way though innocent, He allowed Himself to be restrained out of love for me.
- As I watched the centurions curse Him, mock Him, and look on Him with disdain, I became angry towards the ones who historically did this to the King of the Universe. However, He spoke to me that He formed them and knit them in their mother’s womb just like me. He loved them just as much as He loves me. And the hardest word of all? I am as bad as they are. The Lord spoke kindly and gently to me: “You are as bad as they are, and you need a Savior as much as they do.” My sins are just as horrible and dark as physically nailing Jesus to a cross – as spitting on, flogging Him, mocking Him, piercing Him. He chose to die a horrible and brutal death for MY sins just as much as anyone else’s. I was as bad as the worst sinner in history due to the blackness of my heart and my inability to purify myself to come near Him Who is Pure. I needed a Savior, and He came for me. If I was the only person who ever lived on this earth, He still would have chosen to give His life for me because that still would have been the only way I could be saved. I am that bad. I am that sinful. I am that in need of a Savior, and I am truly that loved by Him.
- As I watched (and imagined) the horrific shame of my King hanging weak, beaten, and bleeding on a cross with my eyes wide open, Jesus spoke to me that there is a reason why I would have shielded my eyes if the leaders of the conference hadn’t encouraged me not to. Violence is hideously ugly and it is not a part of what God said was “very good” when He made man. I was not made to enjoy it or to take part in it. However, because of the severe violence of my sin, the violence of a perfect sacrifice was necessary. Because of the gruesome, evil, dark, and detestable things that happen in this world, and that originate from our hearts, He Who is the Light chose to take the darkness on Himself in order to eradicate it once and for all. We were incapable of doing this on our own, and we can’t do anything to earn it because it is already done. If we believe He did this for us and receive His salvation, we don’t have to rack up good deeds in order to be saved, although we will want to do good for Him and others. We also don’t have to fear losing our salvation, although we will not want to do anything that displeases Him because we love Him. We can know we are saved because He has purchased us with His love by a violent sacrifice that cannot be taken back. It is His perfection that makes us holy, not our own; otherwise, this violent sacrifice would not have been necessary. He chose to come and die for us in our imperfection, before we believed Him, chose Him, loved Him, or even heard of Him. We were – I was – full of sin, and yet He believed in us, chose us, and loved us at our worst.
After watching this part of the movie, we then each went outside one at a time to pray and confess our sins to Jesus, as well as to place our hands on a wooden cross wet with red paint, and reflect on the personal nature of His sacrifice.
As I went out on this cold night, I placed my hands on the face of the cross now wet and red with paint, and stood there praying and praising Him until out of nowhere, I began to hear the song Pieces by Amanda Cook quietly playing in the background. The second I heard this song, my mind was instantly flooded with memories of the fall that it came out, and how God taught me through it that He doesn’t give His heart in pieces when I didn’t know I was worthy of a love like that. He put back together the pieces of my broken heart and healed me in my past, but as I listened to the song with gratitude, He then began to reveal to me the greater significance of the moment. I was standing and worshiping Him at the foot of a cross that symbolized the love sacrifice He made for me 2,000 years ago…and He was with me singing this song and declaring His love to me at that very moment! He was showing me that His love didn’t stop short for me back then. He is still passionately and personally pursuing me today! He has never given His heart in pieces!
Jesus doesn’t want the cross to become commonplace to us. He wants us to know that His sacrifice was and still is personal for Him. He is the One who died on the cross for my salvation 2,000 years ago, and yet He is still full of love and willing to show His intimate kindness to me DAILY in hundreds of ways. He longs to give us endless, personal encounters with Him, and I for one, can’t get enough…
The Lord showed me the week after this in Exodus 15:26 that His Name is Jehovah Rapha – the Lord Who heals you. This is what makes the cross personal. Jesus loves YOU so much that He would stop at nothing for YOU to be healed by Him. He never intended for darkness, or pain, or suffering to enter into your life, but when we inherited sin and chose it ourselves, there was nothing He could do except choose to take the required punishment on the cross for us. That alone was enough, but His sacrifice didn’t just take our punishment…it gave us healing.
“He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed.” – Isaiah 53:5
If you have been through pain, no matter how large or small, believing in His act on the cross for you not only guarantees your salvation, but it also guarantees your healing. God spoke to me through this verse and experience: “You live to be healed by Me.” That’s what His death on the cross means. It is not just a spiritual symbol that Christians carry, or a cliché thing that we talk about in church. The cross is truly the proof of His love, and the proof of our healing. Because of His death on the cross and His resurrection, we never have to give into despair. We are promised resurrection from death, and full and total healing, no matter what happens to us in this life.
We live to be healed by Him.
Do you have a memory of encountering the Lord like this? Do you recall when His sacrifice became personal to you? If you don’t know Him in this way yet but desire to, as long as you’re alive, it’s not too late. Stir up your heart to ask questions and seek Him. You will find Him because He did not die to not be found by you! And for those of you who have experienced Him in this way, don’t minimize or forget what He’s done. His sacrifice on the cross means everything. To think that we are chosen by Him…that we are special enough that the God of the Universe would come down to claim us, and continue to prove His love for us in the most personal of ways every day. May we never get over it. 🙂