THE GLORY OF THE CROSS
Who in this modern, enlightened day and age can believe such a thing? I mean what kind of ancient superstitious nonsense actually believes a man who died on a cross almost two thousand years ago is the path to eternal life? Let us be reasonable here. People long ago proclaimed that this Jesus died for the sins of the world, but since then we have come a long way baby. We live now in a technologically sophisticated world where we know much more than did they who lived before the Industrial Revolution. Yes, some of us believe there is a higher power, maybe even a higher being, but the story of the cross has been long since abandoned and is now only a source for ridicule. It is little more than barbarism.
Yes, this is the unspoken and even spoken view in this world. In fact, by its tepid approach to the cross and many times by its silence, the church which claims to be Christian practices a cross-less form of religion. Take inventory of the many sermon series posted around town and very few if any will be on the cross. Why? The cross is an insult to our intelligence. And the church so desires to have the approval of the world that it downplays the cross so as not to offend. In fact the church seeks to draw people to its doors without the gospel and it has been most successful in so doing.
People want something new and different. They seek something intellectual that makes them feel smart and “with it”. New is the synonym for truth. And somehow the cross does not fit into this new kind of Christianity. Men would much rather hear a “how to” message that gives them steps to their own success than to hear about Jesus dying on the cross. They have heard that story before and it is now stale and out of touch with today’s issues.
But the cross is the greatest event to ever occur in time and space. This is no fairy tale or some medieval talisman. This cross where Jesus died is the totality of God’s redemptive love and power displayed openly in the space of 6 grueling hours. Yes, this bloody spectacle is God speaking through His death. And just what is God saying? Well, He is saying many things which I may touch on, but taken as a whole God is saying, “I love you”. And please do not process that word love in human terms. This kind of love goes much deeper than any human love can. This kind of love offers life through death. This is love which soars above our own reality; this is love which gives everything; this is love which suffers for its enemies; this is love which will not diminish for eternity.
If you do not recognize the presence and power of sin then this cross will be meaningless. It will only be one of many martyrdoms throughout history. And if you do not see your sin you cannot see His redemption. I do not mean that you must fully grasp the totality of your sin, but you must see a need for your own soul. And this need cannot be met by another mortal. You and I will need someone who is above a mere man, someone who has no sin. And if and when that someone comes forth, we will need him to voluntarily pay for our sins in order that we may know God. You see, because of sin we can only know there is a god, but we cannot actually know God.
This question of sin is no light matter. Sin is the destructive force that not only entered the world through Adam, but placed the death sentence upon ever human born. I know it seems like so much Dungeons and Dragons, but do not be deceived. It is the ultimate war which is either won at the cross or lost in hell. And the cross, although seemingly a nondescript and ordinary crucifixion not unlike thousands of others, is the only source of eternal redemption for any and all of mankind. It is the place where God the Father offered up His Son as a sacrifice for our sins. And although we can never know the depth of the sacrifice as it pertains to the Triune God and that mysterious relationship, we can glean some understanding by just the terms “Father” and “Son”. Even in an earthly setting that would be almost unthinkable.
And then to imagine that only through death can we find life is a mystery, however this was not just “a” death. It was THE death. You see our fallen nature desires to earn our redemption, and even if we accept the premise that Christ died for our sins, we still desire to have some part. But the cross was the absolute completeness of God’s requirement. He, Christ Jesus, took our punishment upon Himself. And now instead of the futility of attempting to earn favor with God, we only have to believe. It is still the greatest miracle of God’s limitless love ever offered.
As the days go by and as the fallen nature of mankind finds wide venues of exhibition, it will become increasingly difficult for we as believers to cling to the cross. The western evangelical church has by and large discarded it as it pertains to following Jesus. Instead professing believers now follow capitalism, democracy, and many forms of conservatism while the cross may find some insignificant place in a statement of faith. But it is only in the cross where a sinner can find life. Everything else is just dead religion regardless of how exciting, innovative, and relevant.
I have tasted of almost all kinds of sin. I have been thrilled by some things in this world. I have had more money than I needed and I have had less money than I needed. I have loved and I have been and am loved. I have been healthy and I have been sick. I have been happy and I have been sad. I have been praised and I have been ill spoken of. I have wept while watching people die on television, and I have held the hands of people who have died before my eyes, including my own mother. I have had goosebumps as I watched the birth of my own children. I have baptized my own children and I have baptized many more children of others. I have seen sinners respond to my very incomplete messages. I rejoice that many who came to Christ through this poor instrument are still serving Jesus.
But I will never get over, nor can I ever compare, the glory that I have found in the cross of my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Before we were born again the cross was a story. It was jewelry. It was a picture. I cannot remember even giving it a second thought before I was saved. But now people consider us unbalanced and religious fanatics, not because we wear the cross or rub it for good luck, but because we believe it is the source of our redemption and because He who hung there is our very life. And since that is eternally true, the word “fanatic” does not apply. In fact, in the truest sense of the word, we are not fanatics…we are dead, and the life we now lead we live by the faith of the Son of God who gave Himself for us. And that surpasses any fanaticism known to mankind.