The Cross On Good Friday Was and Is Enough!

(Writing has been hard for me lately. There’s been so much going on in my heart and my head that words just don’t seem enough to express it all. It seems like God has me in a season of reflection on where I have been in my Faith, where I am now, and where I am going. It’s all good, just hard to sort through at times. Part of these reflections are what I am writing today. )

Filipino in Pampanga Province allowing self to be crucified for penance

There’s an image from years ago that’s been on my mind. I usually remember it during Holy Week. This year it has some particular meaning, because when I look at the pictures I see how I have often done myself. The province of Pampanga in the Philippines has an annual reenactment of Jesus’s crucifixion every Good Friday. It’s not the kind of reenactment of symbolism alone. It is literal reenactment where devotees are nailed to wooden crosses with 4 inch nails in their wrists and feet. They also beat themselves with whips and crawl on the ground for great lengths to pay homage at the local church. They believe in paying penance to God this way, their prayers for healing and blessing will be answered.

How often I have found myself more or less doing the same thing. If I do “x, y, z”, then God will … Performance based Chrisitianity… once installed inside of you it is hard to shake. Whether through a legalistic church or an outright cult, it is easy to fall into it’s clutches and the damage done can affect your view of God for years. The events on Good Friday that happened 2000 years ago were not meant to be repeated. Jesus said it Himself when He hung on the cross, “It is finished”. The sacrifice that gives the right for us to stand in right standing with God was completed and done on that day. Often we are the ones convinced it isn’t enough, a lie conveniently placed by our enemy, the devil. If he can keep us busy trying to measure up and do all the right stuff, something we cannot do on our own, he has us distracted from doing the one thing that Jesus, Himself, said was the work that God has for us, “to believe”. (John 6:29) and in all of our wallowing in our unworthiness, the devil paralyzes us with the “I have to fix myself” cycle. God’s full intention was for us to enjoy being His childrren, holy and dearly loved. (Colossians 3:12) Living a life given by Him that is abundant. (John 10:10)

Every time I feel that I need to do something more for God to approve of me, I am no different than the poor Filapino devote who goes to the extreme of being nailed to a cross. Every time I wallow in unforgiveness to myself for past mistakes, I too have taken a handmade whip and beat myself as those in Pampanga do. Every time I think if I muster up a little more kindness, give a little more time, sacrifice a little more of myself…, I too am crawling in to the presence of God looking for a crumb to fall from His table of grace. Grace that is freely given and freely received in abundance if I only open my heart to it.

That is what makes the Holy week so special and Good Friday so Good. Jesus did what I could not do so I could be with Him, a place I do not deserve to be. We are not meant for a “to do” list of Christianity. We are meant for a transforming relationship, where God takes what was broken and stained by sin, us, and washes it clean in the blood of Jesus poured out for us years ago and healed by the very stripes that broke Him on that day. I can stop trying to do it all… and let Him do it all in me, the very things He had planned from the beginning. (Ephesians 2:10)

Filipinos self flagellating with whips on Good Friday

I can drop my four inch nails and my whip for self-flagellation. The Sacrificial Cross on Good Friday was and is Enough.

Big Head/ Low Self Esteem/ Beloved- That’s Just Right

My Grandma used to say I should be careful bragging on my kids too much. She’d say, “You’re going to give them the big head”. I didn’t pay any attention to her concern, because the way I saw it, in our world a kid needs all the praise, encouraging, and bragging they could get. BUT, I do get it. Pride is an awful thing, and being a conceited little snot is not what a young mother is aiming for in her sweet little child either. Somewhere in the middle between the proud person and the person with very low self esteem is where God created us to be. Jesus called that “the meek”. Someone humble enough to yield themselves to God and understanding enough to give Him glory for all good things.

I’ve been thinking alot about Performance Based religion and true Christianity lately. It may have taken me almost 50 years, but I’ve been seeing things a lot more clearly as of late. Performance Based Religion has many roots and fruits that have been on display for Years in our world. I’ve spent my time exhibiting both the roots and the fruits in my journey with God. Spiritual pride can be one of the fruits. I’ve spent time in religious groups that thought they had it all together. You know, they were all that and a bag of chips. “Our doctrine is the most Biblically accurate, our fellowship is the closest to the Acts church. Other churches don’t get the truth like we do…” and on and on and on. Those attitudes and beliefs isolate you from a lot of Brothers and Sisters in the Church (God’s family) that may not agree with you on every little detail of doctrine, yet they still have a precious walk with God. They also set up a standard that noone can live by. “We have this truth… So we must walk in a manner more spiritual than those around us. We have to NEVER let the other ones see us sweat… or they won’t ever see how superior our walk is to theirs.” Once again, Performance Based… Noone can be that good.

Romans 12:3 has alot to say about these things. “For by the grace [of God] given to me I say to everyone of you not to think more highly of himself [and of his importance and ability] than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has apportioned to each a degree of faith [and a purpose designed for service].” Amplified. or as the Message puts it “…The only accurate way to understand ourselves is by what God is and by what he does for us, not by what we are what we do for him.”

Understanding ourselves according to who God is and what He has done and continues to do Is HUGE. Whether you suffer from spiritual pride or from extremely low self esteem. Ultimately our relationship with God and our purpose within the church has nothing to do with US. It is all about glorifying God, and we can’t even do that rightly without God’s grace giving us the ability and the faith to do so. Let that take the pressure off. We don’t have to worry about having the Spiritual Big Head when we are always pointing to Jesus, and we don’t have to worry about not ever being enough when our goal is to have all eyes off of us and on Him.

The details of our awesome attributes we think we have to bring to the table or the knowledge of everything we lack both vanish when we see God right. It is true “our righteousness is like filthy rags.” We can’t “DO” enough. Good news for the one who feels like, and rightfully so, that they can’t measure up. You can’t… But God can. It’s also true that if we think we are all that we need, we should watch our step, “lest we fall”. Because we simply cannot be good enough on our own. We need Jesus. Understanding this makes our relationship with God real. We don’t have to be a show off and we don’t have to be a slave. We just have to be HIS… His Beloved and That is just right.