4/8/17

Let's Not Sanitize the Cross

"A real Christian is known not by the cross he wears," Steve Lawson said, "but by the cross he bears."

I have three crosses in my jewelry box. My favorite is a black cross with a silver "X" across the cross bars. It reminds me Jesus cancelled out the ugliness of my sin, and I bear the consequences of my sin no more.

I don't wear my jewelry crosses often, but when I do, I always reflect on why the cross is so important. It's a reflection of the One who loved me enough to die for me, and also a reminder there is a "cross" Jesus expects me to carry as His disciple.

The world sees this "symbol" of Christianity without giving it much thoughtexcept for those in other religions who try to stamp out the "people of the cross."

But go back some 2,000 years ago and a cross made everyone shudder!

It was a means of execution, an ugly and repulsive symbol of death. Victims suffered during this method of capital punishment for days, eventually dying from exhaustion and asphyxiation. 

So why is the cross such a sign of faith today? 

Christ-followers understand the cross, which was so full of meaning for Christians, is the powerful first chapter of the story of what Jesus did and continues to do for us (1 Corinthians 15:3-4; Romans 8:34; Hebrews 7:25; 10:14; 1 Thessalonians 5:23Colossians 3:1-4).
  • Chapter 1: the CROSS; the death of Christ to atone for the sins of mankind
  • Chapter 2: the RESURRECTION; the empty tomb
  • Chapter 3: the RETURN. Jesus coming back for His own so they can live with Him in eternity.
Without the cross, there isn't a gospel story. 

All have sinned and the soul that sins, the Bible says, only deserves death; but God demonstrated His love toward us in the death of His Son on the cross as our holy substitute (Romans 3:23; 6:23; Ezekiel 18:4b; Romans 5:8). 

Remove the message of the cross from Christian theology and you have nothing left but an empty shell. A joyless, powerless religion.

In today's culture, Christians often reject uncomfortable topics like the sacrifice of the cross, preferring to focus on the love of Jesus. But the cross is crucial to our faith. 

People might say, "Oh, I prayed the sinner's prayer." But the sinner's prayer isn't the true basis for our salvation. There will be many "professing" Christians who never actually trusted Christ for salvation (Matthew 7:21-23). They trusted works, good feelings about God, positive thinking and countless other substitutes for God's provision.

Salvation is not about our works or even our "Christianized thoughts." It's all about what Jesus accomplished for us in paying the penalty for sin. There is no forgiveness, the scriptures say, without the shedding of blood (Hebrews 9:22). 
Bloodless Christianity is fake Christianity.
Sadly, I've noticed Christians, in the busyness of ministry, sometimes forget the power of the cross and the efficacy of the blood of the spotless Lamb (1 Peter 1:18-19). 

If you are a Christ-follower:
  • Do you recognize how estranged from God and in rebellion to Him you were before He rescued you? 
  • Do you understand the power of the gospel, not just for salvation, but for victorious daily living?
I have to admit, sometimes I act just like those who never experienced the power of the cross. I resort to old "works living" and lose the joy of trusting the Lord moment-by-moment for His plans and His strength.

But, praise God, there is power in the blood of Jesus. Remember the old hymn?

Would you be free from your burden of sin? 
There's power in the blood, power in the blood. 
Would you o'er evil a victory win? 
There's wonderful power in the blood. *
It's almost Good Friday ... a time:
  • To pause and reflect,
  • To remember, and 
  • To praise God with gratitude.
"Every time you see a cross," Dr. Charles Stanley wrote, "remember what it really was."

Let's not "sanitize" the cross. 

And remember too: unlike others who were crucified, Jesus was not a "victim" of the cross. 

While we were "yet sinners," Jesus chose to die for us (Romans 5:8). Our Lord was willing to endure the horrors of the cross, despising (disregarding) the shame" for our salvation (Hebrews 12:2; John 15:13). Five times in John 10:10-18, we learn Jesus willingly gave Himself up to the cross for our salvation. In the prophecy of the Messiah in Psalm 40, we "hear" Christ saying He delighted to do His Father's will (Psalm 40:7-8).

Your redemption was birthed in His pain 
so your new birth could abide in His joy.

Oh, I have a "cross" to bear in this life, I need to put to death my own plans and desires and commit my life fully to my Lord (Luke 9:23; 14:27). 

But my "cross" is nothing compared to the cross my Savior bore. It had eternal consequences for all humanity.

"Thank Jesus that He was willing to be crucified," Stanley wrote, "so the Father could forgive you of sin." 

Let's do that right now:

Lord Jesus, give me a fresh vision of the cross. 
Help me see it from the Father's eyes. 
Thank you, Father God. 
Thank you, Jesus.

- Charles Stanley Quotes from 
(http://www.crosswalk.com/devotionals/in-touch/in-touch-april-5-2012.html)
* Hymn: https://www.hymnal.net/en/hymn/h/1009 

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