Living beneath the Cross of Jesus

Whoever lives beneath the cross of Jesus, and has discerned in the cross of Jesus the utter ungodliness of all people and of their own hearts, will find there is no sin that can ever be unfamiliar.

Whoever has once been appalled by the horror of their own sin, which nailed Jesus to the cross, will no longer be appalled by even the most serious sin of another Christian; rather they know the human heart from the cross of Jesus.

Such persons know how totally lost is the human heart in sin and weakness, how it goes astray in the ways of sin—and know too that this same heart is accepted in grace and mercy.

Only another Christian who is under the cross can hear my confession. It is not experience with life but experience of the cross that makes one suited to hear confession. The most experienced judge of character knows infinitely less of the human heart than the simplest Christian who lives beneath the cross of Jesus.
The greatest psychological insight, ability, and experience cannot comprehend this one thing: what sin is. Psychological wisdom knows what need and weakness and failure are, but it does not know the ugliness of the human being. And so it also does not know that human beings are ruined only by their sin and are healed only by forgiveness. The Christian alone knows this. In the presence of a psychologist I can only be sick; in the presence of another Christian I can be a sinner.

The psychologist must first search my heart, and yet can never probe its innermost recesses. Another Christian recognizes just this: here comes a sinner like myself, a godless person who wants to confess and longs for God’s forgiveness.

The psychologist views me as if there were no God. Another believer views me as I am before the judging and merciful God in the cross of Jesus Christ.

When we are so pitiful and incapable of hearing the confession of one another, it is not due to a lack of psychological knowledge, but a lack of love for the crucified Jesus Christ.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together and Prayerbook of the Bible, Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works, vol. 5 (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1996), 114-16.

The Echo of the Snore from the Pulpit

A blunt sword will not cut; a dull sermon will not reach the conscience. The sword must be sharpened, and the sermon must be sharpened too. The preacher’s laziness or half-heartedness, want of earnest faith in Christ and earnest love to men, blunts the edge of his sermons. Ah! he needs to be sharpened himself; stirred up continually to fresh energy and communion with his Savior, and affectionate interest for his fellow-men. Nothing prevents dulness so effectually as energy and zeal. The snore from the pew is often only the echo of the snore from the pulpit.

Frederick R. Wynne, The Joy of the Ministry

Look at the Christ Who Abides

All the universe and its forces are being administered for purposes of redemption. The Lamb rules and He rules as the Lamb. How calming to feel this, to look up from the turmoil of this visible, flaring, and tying world—from the shows and shams and the tinted scene of the theater; from all in life that startles and appalls, to Him who sits above it all. From Him all things proceed, and to Him they return in circular flow. The shadows are all passing; the reality is behind. Nothing lasts; our trials are all hasting away to oblivion; let the wind rave as it will, we look at the Christ who abides. How small all our conflicts and ambitions seem to be, how transient and easily borne our sorrows, when we look . . . to the serene King, against whose changeless purpose all the waves of time and circumstance break in vain.

W. R. Nicoll, The Lamb of God

If Jesus Needed Prayer, Don’t We?

The great prayerfulness of Jesus arose from the human feeling of dependence, from His sense of need. Who can be at a loss to draw the inference? If Jesus felt His dependence, His need of daily stores from heaven, how much more cause have we to feel the same? If He, with His sinless nature, needed to pray, how much more we, shapen in iniquity and conceived in sin? If He needed it, in whom the prince of this world could find nothing, how much more we to whom he find access through every organ of our body — we might almost say through every pore of our skin? If He needed it, without one besetting sin, how much more we who are so troubled by the law in our members that wars against the law of our mind, and brings us into captivity to the law of sin in our members? If He needed it, who had devoted Himself heart and soul to the Father’s work and the Father’s will, how much more we who are so prone to unworthy compromises with our own inclinations, and who have such constant occasion to cry out, “Iniquities prevail against us”?

W. G. Blaikie, Glimpses of the Inner Life of Our Lord