Monday, May 21, 2012

The Glory of the Cross

The Glory of the Cross

Gal.6:14 -  But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.
And so amidst all the fists and fury and the fire and dust, it always comes down to this: What was the cross and who was that dying on it? All the issues of today fly violently around us, and the media reports them in order of the importance the world places upon them. Sensationalism and drama are the order of the day, and information packaged in arresting verbal and visual colors captures our hearts and minds. Fear, uneasiness, discomfort, as well as an abundance of alluring stories about all kinds of human generosities and valiant efforts pepper the air waves and create swelling emotions within us.

We are pawns to the world’s whims and willing prisoners to their agendas. Our eye gates manipulate us and our ear gates deceive us. From the four corners of the earth we are torn away from our first love and tortured with the spectacle of the temporal. Even inside the church we are bombarded with a variety of earthly wonders and cares, and we are challenged with the delicacies of this passing world. Like jingling keys in front of an infant’s face, we are constantly urged to look and long for that which is perishing. It is diabolical and yet quite successful.

In today’s expression of the faith commonly called “Christianity”, the cross has become an obscure doctrine which appears more frequently as human jewelry rather than a bold and unambiguous proclamation emanating from church pulpits, to say nothing of a living demonstration through the prism of a believer’s life. And whether it is palatable to the modern doctrinal palate or not, it is precisely this cross which determines the eternal destination for every human born of a woman. The cross is still God’s exclusive path for eternal life.

Millions who lightly profess the name of Jesus have no use or time for His cross. They are mesmerized by the things of this world. Whether it be material things, or political issues, or sports, or Hollywood, or any number of temporal things, these church members live without any authentic or demonstrable love for His cross. It is both beguiling as well as tragic.

The cross is not just some religious talisman which has special powers to help sinners succeed in this life. It will not aid in lottery tickets or sporting events or political elections or even earthly success. In fact, many times it can interfere with our personal plans and dreams. His cross is not of this world. It has never been of this world. And Jesus Himself was not of this world. The entire narrative that played out on Golgotha was a sacred spectacle of colossal proportions and eternal ramifications. Human words can never fully reveal it power and majesty.

But what was the cross and who was that dying upon it? It seemed like just another Jew being punished by Roman hands, and to billions today it still seems like that. Even among the pews inside evangelical churches the cross barely receives a nod except among the words of their statement of faith. The cross is treated like Christianity 101 which all of us have taken and now have moved on to bigger and more sophisticated spiritual depths. But that view is both ignorant of the glory of that cross as well as disrespecting its scope and continuing power. It remains necessary for all believers from15 year old who is a one month spiritual babe, to the eighty year old missionary who has faithfully walked with Christ for sixty years.

It is most difficult to imagine God with the mind. Just attempting to image the length and breadth of His creation is more than we can achieve, so to completely imagine the Creator Himself is beyond us. But we have been given a portrait wherein we can gain insight with our finite understanding. God has not remained hidden, and in fact, He came in the form of sinful flesh. He came as a man and walked among us and saw to it that even we who were not there received an expansive narrative of the Incarnate life of God. Again, it is beyond us to understand why the Creator went to such lengths for the likes of us, but He did. And knowing that we could never emulate Christ in our own power, and knowing that we were headed for a disastrous eternity, God came in the flesh to die. Even that very thought seems so incongruous and muddles any human logic.

As unsophisticated As it seems to today’s modern intellect, the question that will determine the eternal divide is “What was the cross and who was that dying upon it?” The wisdom of man is foolishness with God. It is inconceivable, and frankly insulting, to the natural man to suggest that a dead Jew impaled upon two Roman planks is the key to eternal life. The world is obsessed with technology, war, power, and making money and it has no time to investigate an issue about which it deems as archaic foolishness. It is a miracle of immense proportions that the Holy Spirit in these last days still can find a heart that is open to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Who is Jesus? He is both the Creator of all there is as well as the only Redeemer of mankind. Oh yes, it seems like such Greek mythology, but in reality it is the explosive and dreadful truth that will judge every human being. Imagine all creation standing before the Risen Christ as he judges His own creation with righteousness and authority. Yes, imagine the future reality. And even though many have created another Jesus and have minimized and compromised the authoritative revelation of the real Jesus, His revenge will be when He is revealed from heaven with great glory and the consuming power that emanates from His very mouth. View it as a cartoon if you must, but one day you will beg for another chance and you will experience a trembling within your being as you realize that you have lost everything and that the worst that can be imagined is now your eternal destiny.

I realize some will categorize my words as hyperbole and sensationalism, as melodramatic and metaphorical, and as chock full of histrionic literary license. But even if a small portion is true, then without Christ you are undone. God ahead and listen to the temporal sirens that draw you into earthly battles. Go ahead and incline your ears to the Rob Bell’s of this world and draw internal comfort from falsehoods. Go ahead and follow the vacuous pragmatism of Rick Warren that erases the mystery and replaces the sacred divine with the common earthly.

So what was the cross? It is everything. It is the answer everyone is searching for in all the wrong places. It is the eternal fountain of life. It is the life saving, life giving sacrifice for all who believe. Its power operates in a dimension above and beyond this time and space reality. It seems like so much religious folklore but it has transformed millions of lives for over two thousand years. It has been attacked and maligned and redefined and ignored, but still it stands undaunted. The cross is a glorious mystery that paid for our sins and purchased for us an entrance into eternal life.

There is no other way. Since Cain’s human effort, man has continued to pave his own way to eternity. But all have been miserable failures and religious shams. The cross alone is the culmination of the millions of gallons of animal blood spilled under the Mosaic law. However all that blood shed at the hands of the Aaronic priesthood could never atone for sins, it could only postpone the punishment. But this cross provided the eternal punishment that would be meted out upon the innocent Lamb of God, the Lord Jesus. And when He uttered the word, “tetelestai”, it was finished. Nothing could be added, and nothing could detract.

In this new and more modern expression of Christianity, the cross has all but been abandoned. Preachers deal with all sorts of relevant topics, however the cross seems strangely absent. The Rob Bell’s and the Rick Warren’s and the Joel Osteen’s mention it in passing but refuse to raise it up as the exclusive pinnacle of God’s redemptive plan. In its place are human efforts, human dreams, human intellect, and all things human and earthly. And when the cross is diminished and diluted and for all intensive purposes ignored, it ceases to be Christianity at all.

And again I reiterate, when time ceases to be, and when creation has run its course, and when the last person is born to a woman, then everything under the sun will be of no importance and of no significance whatsoever. The acts of Julius Caesar, the conquests of Alexander the Great, the Egyptian civilization, the discovery of Christopher Columbus, the leadership of George Washington, the courage of Abraham Lincoln, and the victory of World war II, all of these and all the acts of all men will fall to the dust when the Godhead reveals themselves and judges every single sinner born upon this earth.

Then the question will be put to each of us. What was the cross and who was that dying on it?

Beloved, the cross is not made of feathers, or lined with velvet, it is heavy and galling to disobedient shoulders; but it is not an iron cross, though your fears have painted it with iron colours, it is a wooden cross, and a man can carry it, for the Man of sorrows tried the load. Take up your cross, and by the power of the Spirit of God you will soon be so in love with it, that like Moses, you would not exchange the reproach of Christ for all the treasures of Egypt. Remember that Jesus carried it, and it will smell sweetly; remember that it will soon be followed by the crown, and the thought of the coming weight of glory will greatly lighten the present heaviness of trouble.”

Charles Haddon Spurgeon

1 comment:

Steven said...

Great Read my brother. The answer for all man's problems is found in the Cross of Christ and only the Cross of Christ.