Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Reality of the Cross

What is the cross to you? When you see it in your church or in your minds eye what do you see? As a child in my former religion the cross always had a "Jesus" hanging on it looking tortured and grim. When I became a Christian I learned that Protestant churches typically don't have a "Jesus" hanging on the cross because we believe that He rose again and that is our focus.

Historically, the cross was a horrific instrument of torture designed to prolong suffering and death. The intention of the crucifixion was to keep a person alive and in agony while they slowly suffocated due to the pressure on the diaphragm from the crucifixion position, and bled to death from their wounds.

The cross was a shameful thing to a Jew (Deuteronomy 21:23) so to read the words of Paul as he centralizes the death of the Lord Jesus Christ on the cross and determines to "know nothing among you except Christ Jesus and Him crucified" (1 Cor. 2:2)is simply amazing.

In the little book, Living the Cross Centered Life author C.J.Mahaney says: " For Paul, the gospel- this "word of the cross"- was no cold theological formula. Paul lived a cross centered life because the cross had saved and transformed his own life." I can completely agree with Paul on this! Like Paul, I was also a blasphemer, persecutor of Christians, insolent, rebellious, prideful and wicked. I never forget who I once was because it reminds me of the wonderful cross that brought grace to a wretch like me.

Not too long ago, I was speaking with a Catholic woman who is "religious" but also very liberal. She told me she hates the song Amazing Grace because of the line in the song that says that grace "saved a wretch like me." She proudly proclaimed to me that she was no wretch! Once I got over the shock of her statement I wondered, what need is there for the cross when you think you have eternity already in the bag?

When my children were small, the whole idea of promoting and enhancing self-esteem was all the rage in parenting. We were taught to prop them up at every opportunity and to tell them how good they were. When I began to learn about Biblical Counseling and the condition of the heart of man, I stopped doing that. In fact, to my husbands horror I started telling our son what a sinner he was!

How else will they know they need the Savior? Too often I think we seek to spare the feelings of those we love and we are not honest with them about their abject depravity. We seek to soften the blow, and gently tell them about Jesus and this salvation we are offering them is often false! We are on some level ashamed of the cross and our need for it, so we present a warm and fuzzy Jesus who loves them and has a wonderful plan for their lives.

It amazes me that we withhold the truth of our sinful condition from those we love. Only when we realize the depths of our sinful condition we can see that we need to be saved from it. Only when we understand that we have been judged as guilty before God can we understand we see we need redemption. Only when we conclude that we cannot save ourselves can we gratefully take hold of the One who has taken hold of us. We then appreciate forgiveness of all our sins - past, present and even those we have not thought of yet! We comprehend grace and mercy and see them as God's lavish gift to us.

None of this is possible without that wonderful cross. Don't shy away from it beloved, run to it, cling to it, and worship the Lord who died on it for you.

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