We have looked at the God-centered foundation of encouragement as well as the first pillar of creation. In this post we explore the cross as the ultimate source of encouragement.
Martin Luther famously said, “the cross alone is our theology.” It must be at the center of our thinking on all theological topics. Everything must be threaded through the cross if we would understand things correctly. The cross of Jesus Christ is the climactic moment of God’s self-disclosure. It is the Mount Everest of his self-revelation, it is here we see the heart of God.
It is here where we see the salvation of God. There is no greater encouragement than the gospel. Check out these verses in 1 Thessalonians.
In the context Paul is reminding the church that they are children of light and not darkness, that they are to live sober lives ready for the return of Christ.
“For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him. Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.”
There are two dimensions of gospel encouragement here. 1) Encouragement in the face of judgment and wrath. Dear reader, the greatest problem you and I face in this world is the wrath and judgment of God. The devil is not my greatest problem, not even my sin. It is God’s just response to my sin that is my greatest problem.
The God of Encouragement is a pure God, holy and high above. He is one who cannot and will not tolerate evil. He is grieved to his heart about the sin of man and he is furious about it. His fury is not capricious or unpredictable like our anger. David Peterson says it well, God’s wrath is a “fixed and determined response to all that is unholy and evil.” It is the right response to wickedness. Were he to engage otherwise, it would call into question his integrity, his goodness, his justice.
Hell is real. It is not a place where Satan rules, it is a place where God judges and pours out wrath for eternity. This truth speaks to the depths of our sin. It shouts of the offensive nature of our rebellion. We have to understand the depths of our sin and God’s judgment before we can grasp the greatness of his love for us in the gospel. The text says that those who have trusted Christ are not destined for wrath, but salvation.
Jesus came and took our place. He is our wrath quencher. On his shoulders he bore the full judgment of God. At Calvary, wave after wave of God’s just wrath swept over him and he absorbed and exhausted every drop. At the cross the judgment of God is finished, it is done.
Like a fireman who rushes into a blazing house as the flames are pressing down on you about to end you, he jumps in front of the flame, pulls of his fireproof jacket, casts it over you and takes the flames for you. The word in Scripture for this gospel truth is propitiation, the wrath quenching love of Christ. This means that there is no wrath for those who are hidden in Christ, there is no judgment any more!
This leads us to the second aspect of gospel encouragement in this text: 2) We have encouragement for all of life and in the face of death. Whether we live or whether we die, we belong to him, we are his. This is a fixed reality. He is propitious toward us and favorably disposed for all eternity.
The text says that the gospel insures that we will “always live with him.” We belong to him, he dwells with us under our roof now and we will dwell under his roof with him when we experience death. The gospel is the only hope in the face of death, it is the sure and steady confidence that your Creator is for you and will carry you in life and in death.
The text says that we are to encourage one another with these words. Lift up your head Christian. Let your hearts soar! Our judgment is no more!