A Prayer of Confession for Good Friday

Merciful Father, we meet each other today at the foot of the cross.
We wait with each other as those who inflict wounds on one another:
Have mercy on us.

As those who spurn Your love for other loves:
Be merciful to us.

As those who put our trust in power and prestige:
Be merciful to us.

As those who pursue only our own personal interests:
Be merciful to us.

As those who put others on trial:
Be merciful to us.

As those who refuse to forgive:
Be merciful to us.

As those who are afraid of the world’s frown and displeasure:
Be merciful to us. Amen.

The Sweet Exchange of the Gospel of Jesus Christ

There is not a better prayer that beautifully speaks of the mysterious, sweet exchange that takes place when we repent and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.

Love Lustres at Calvary

519bbajnjglMy Father,

Enlarge my heart, warm my affections, open my lips,

Supply words that proclaim ‘Love lustres at Calvary.’

There grace removes my burdens and heaps them on your Son,

Made a transgressor, a curse, and sin for me;

There the sword of Your justice smote the man, Your fellow;

There Your infinite attributes were magnified,

And infinite atonement was made;

There infinite punishment was due,

And infinite punishment was endured.

Christ was all anguish that I might be all joy,

Cast off that I might be brought in,

Trodden down as an enemy

That I might be welcomed as a friend,

Surrendered to hell’s worst

That I might attain heaven’s best,

Stripped that I might be clothed

Wounded that I might be healed,

Athirst that I might drink,

Tormented that I might be comforted,

Made a shame that I might inherit glory.

Entered darkness that I might have eternal light,

My Savior wept so that all tears might be wiped from my eyes,

Groaned that I might have endless song,

Endured all pain that I might have unfading health,

Bore a thorned crown that I might have a glory-diadem,

Bowed his head that I might uplift mine,

Experienced reproach that I might receive welcome,

Closed his eyes in death that I might gaze on unclouded brightness,

Expired that I might forever live.

O Father, who spared not Your only Son that You might spare me,

All this transfer Your love designed and accomplished;

Help me to adore You by lips and life.

O that my every breath might be ecstatic praise,

My every step buoyant with delight, as I see…

My enemies crushed,

Satan baffled, defeated, destroyed,

Sin buried in the ocean of reconciling blood,

Hell’s gates closed, heaven’s portal open.

Go forth, O Conquering God, and show me the cross,

Mighty to subdue, comfort, and save.

Taken from The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers & Devotions, Banner of Truth Trust, Carlisle, PA, 1975, pp.42-43.


The Majesty of a Forgiving Father

Psalm 130:4 sets forth one of the greatest discoveries that we can ever make:
“With you (the LORD) there is forgiveness, that you may be feared.”
According to John Stott, this verse “contains a beautiful balance
because its first part brings assurance to the despairing,
while its second part sounds a warning to the presumptuous.”

How easy it is to abuse God’s grace when we lose sight
of what it cost our Lord to rescue us.
Instead, knowing how forgiven we are
should move us to to fear and stand in awe of the Lord
so that we live more and more in a way that honors and exalts Him.

The Cross is not simply a lovely example of sacrificial love.
Throwing your life away needlessly is not admirable — it is wrong.
Jesus’ death was only a good example if it was more than an example,
if it was something absolutely necessary to rescue us. And it was.
Why did Jesus have to die in order to forgive us?
There was a debt to be paid — God himself paid it.
There was a penalty to be born — God himself bore it.
Forgiveness is always a form of costly suffering.

– Timothy Keller, The Reason for God

The majesty of God’s forgiveness is lost entirely
when we lose what has to be forgiven.
What has to be forgiven is not just what we do but who we are,
not just our sinning but our sinfulness,
not just our choices
but what we have chosen in place of God. . . .
When we miss the biblical teaching,
we also miss the nature of God’s grace
in all its height and depth.
In biblical faith it is God’s grace through Christ
that does for us what we cannot do for ourselves.”

– David F. Wells, The Courage to be Protestant

The voice that spells forgiveness will say:
‘You may go: you have been let off the penalty which your sin deserves.’
But the verdict which means acceptance [justification] will say:
‘You may come; you who are welcome to all my love and my presence.’

– Sir Marcus Loane, quoted by John Stott, The Message of Romans

Grace, she takes the blame. She covers the shame, removes the stain.
Grace makes beauty out of ugly things!

– Bono

What a mercy that our Heavenly Father does not leave His wandering child
to the hardening tendency and effect of his backslidings;
but, sooner or later, His Spirit, by the word,
or through some afflictive discipline of love,
recalls the wanderer to His feet, with the confession and the prayer-
“O Lord, pardon my iniquity; for it is great.”
“Heal me, O Lord, and I shall be healed.”

– Octavius Winslow

And now, when the question returns with personal force,
“Should God mark my iniquities, how can I stand?”
Let faith, resting upon the divine word, answer,
“Jesus is my Substitute: Jesus stood in my place: Jesus bore my sins:
Jesus did all, suffered all, and paid all in my stead, and here I rest.”

– John Owen

The forgiveness of God that delivers from the depths of despair,
guilt, and anxiety is not an end in itself
but it makes it possible for us to fulfill the chief goal of our lives:
To glorify God and enjoy Him forever.

– Patrick Miller

Don’t fool and fancy yourself that you must pay your own debt of sin.
George Bernard Shaw  once wrote:
“Forgiveness is a beggar’s refuge… we must pay our debts.”
It is true: The debt of sin must be paid
and that forgiveness is indeed a beggar’s refuge.
However, we will sing King Jesus’ praise throughout eternity
because has paid the debt of sin of beggars like us.

Owning Our Share in the Guilt and Grace of the Cross of Jesus Christ

The cross of Jesus Christ was not something that frustrated God’s
plan but served as the ultimate fulfillment of His plan. For who was it that
ultimately delivered Jesus to die?

Not Judas for money, not Pilate for fear, not the Jews for envy, but the Father for love.  The Apostle Peter preaching at Pentecost says, “This Man, delivered up by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death. (Acts 2:2)

The old spiritual calls us to reflect on the question: “Were you there when they crucified my Lord?” “Yes, we were there. Not as spectators only but as participants, guilty participants, plotting, scheming, betraying, bargaining, and handing him over to be crucified…There is blood on our hands.

Before we can begin to see the cross as something done for us (leading us to
faith and worship), we have to see it as something done by us (leading us to
repentance). Only the one who is prepared to own his share in the guilt of
the cross may claim his share in its grace.” (John Stott, The Cross of Christ,

As we prepare to celebrate Reformation Sunday, let us heed John Stott’s counsel which I have adapted below:
Own our share in the guilt of the cross by regularly repenting of our sin and remembering how profound our need. of God’s continual supply of grace. Also, let us claim our share in its grace by continually preaching the gospel  to our hearts! One will keep us humble. The other will make us bold.

Good Friday and The Mystery of the Cross

On Good Friday, it is important to meditate on all that is happening at the cross. We especially need to reflect on the mystery of the cross. Here’s one practical lesson on the mystery of the cross from the British theologian, Alister McGrath:

“Experience cannot be allowed to have the final word–it must be judged and shown up as deceptive and misleading.  The theology of the Cross draws our attention to the sheer unreliability of experience as a guide to the presence and activity of God.  God is active and present in His world, quite independently of whether we experience Him as being so.  Experience declared that God was absent from Calvary, only to have its verdict humiliatingly overturned on the third day.”

Good Friday – Finding Hope in Suffering

Psalm 129 sets forth one notable feature of our journey of faith that we’d rather not talk about – suffering. In fact, many religions say that it’s an illusion. For some who profess faith in Christ, it causes them to abandon their journey of faith entirely. Where do we find hope when we suffer?

Hear the Word of God from Psalm 129:

1 “Greatly have they afflicted me from my youth” – let Israel now say—

2 “Greatly have they afflicted me from my youth, yet they have not prevailed against me.

3 The plowers plowed upon my back; they made long their furrows.”

4 The LORD is righteous; he has cut the cords of the wicked.

5 May all who hate Zion be put to shame and turned backward!

6 Let them be like the grass on the housetops, which withers before it grows up,

7 with which the reaper does not fill his hand nor the binder of sheaves his arms,

8 nor do those who pass by say, “The blessing of the LORD be upon you!

We bless you in the name of the LORD!”

How do you tend to respond when you suffer? Have you ever said or thought something like the words of Teresa of Avila: “Lord, if this is the way you treat your friends, it’s no wonder you have so few!” Some of us are prone to get angry with God at his apparent indifference to our plight. We tend to charge Him with wrongdoing. We doubt His goodness and question His love and power. Some of us sulk and wallow in self-pity. Others of us take vengeance on our pain with the unrelenting pursuit of illicit pleasure. Others of us blame and shame others. Psalm 129 reminds us where to find hope in the midst of our suffering?

We generally need to recall God’s Pattern. It was his pattern with Israel, Jesus, and with us. Cross and crown … tragedy and triumph… sufferings and glories to follow.
Israel – Israel suffered at the hands of the Egyptians, the Babylonians, The Syrians, the Greeks, and the Romans, the Muslim crusaders, and the Nazis. Why such persistent antisemitism? Satan absolutely hates Israel as the people through whom God promised to send the Messiah. Why is this? The Apostle John declares that “the Son of God appeared  to destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8).

Listen to how the Psalmist describes Israel’s suffering: They “plowed upon my back.” This is a powerful metaphor combining the idea of a vicious, painful scourging with the painstaking and thorough effort a farmer would make to plow a field.
But they have “not prevailed against me” (v. 2). They did not gain the victory. Persecutors never completely prevail over God’s people. For the Lord cuts the cords of the wicked.

Have you ever wondered why God persist in using this pattern of suffering before the glories that follow? This pattern can easily be traced in the life of Israel, in the life of Christ, and in the lives of Christ’s followers. One reason He does this is so that the world might know that the power is not from ourselves but from God.

But what would life be like in our fallen world if God eliminated suffering? Malcolm Muggeridge, a noted British author and journalist answers: “Supposing you eliminated suffering, what a dreadful place the world would be. The world would be the most ghastly place because everything that corrects the tendency of this unspeakable little creature, man, to feel over-important and over-pleased with himself would disappear. He’s bad enough now, but he would be absolutely intolerable if he never suffered” (Jesus Rediscovered, 1969. pp. 199-200).

We need to specifically remember Good Friday. Indeed, the Psalmist laments the repeated and frequent afflictions of his people, but this Psalm has its ultimate fulfillment in the Messiah on the day that we call Good Friday. For Jesus is the ultimate sufferer whose back is plowed to bring healing to us… His sin-sick people.

What do we do on Good Friday? We worship our suffering Messiah who willingly dies on our behalf. We recall His cross, we take time to relive the anguish, and renew our vows to live as His followers.

Why did He suffer so? Our salvation was contingent upon Jesus’ suffering. One of the things we remember on Good Friday is that the Messiah had to suffer. He suffered to ultimately end all suffering.

But notice that it doesn’t end with suffering. Paul spells out Jesus’ exaltation to the church at Philippi: “He humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name” (Philippians 2:8-10). 

For Jesus, He endured the cross before He received the crown. The way of humiliation and suffering prepared and led Him to great glory.   God uses this same pattern with us. 2 Corinthians 4:17-18 reminds us: “For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.

May you find on this Good Friday renewed hope to persevere in your own suffering as you remember the One who suffered and died for you.

Why are we people of the cross?

We cherish the cross of Jesus for many reasons, but one of the fundamental reasons is because of what the cross accomplishes. It saves sinners like us. It reveals the true and living God. It overcomes evil.

God’s Word paints a vivid, beautiful picture of  the salvation we enjoy because of the cross of Jesus Christ.

This link contains the outline of a lecture I gave this week that summarizes chapter 7 of the book The Cross of Christ by the beloved pastor and author John Stott. May the Lord use it to ignite renewed devotion in your heart to Jesus as you prepare for Holy Week.

Click Here: The Cross and Salvation of Sinners