The Cross of Jesus Christ.
From its beginnings, the Cross has exemplified Christianity. Once an instrument of terror, the Cross is now a cherished symbol in many parts of the world. It tops our churches, hangs on our walls and dangles from people’s necks.
How did that happen? What was the process that turned the Cross from a sign of horror to a sign of hope? The Bible gives us the answers. The Cross was God’s plan to shower divine blessings on an undeserving race. Here are four amazing benefits that came from the self-sacrifice of Jesus:
We’ve heard the question: “Are you saved?” Some people might wonder what they’re being saved from. After all, they live on a peaceful street and sink into their pillows at night, knowing that breakfast and a job awaits them the next day. Danger seems as far away as a distant galaxy.
But we do face danger — every one of us. It’s called “sin.” I am not talking about a list of “no-nos” that a prunish Sunday school member would write down. I am talking about SIN in capital letters and red ink – the choices we make to rebel against God, harden our hearts to Christ’s call, and quench the flames of the Holy Spirit.
We cannot save ourselves, no matter how hard we try or how good we think we are. The Law condemns us, the Scripture censures us and Jesus makes it clear that unless we repent (that is, turn from our sins to trust in God for our salvation), we will perish.
That’s the Bad News. But there’s Good News – and it’s the Gospel truth. God’s Deliverer, Jesus Christ, comes to us as a lifeguard, wading into the sea of humanity with the lifeline of His blood. Those who reach out and cling to Him are rescued: “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (I Corinthians 1:18).
As a pastor and evangelist, I minister to a lot of people who ache to make peace with an estranged parent, child or friend. One of our deepest yearnings is reconciliation. God knows this and has provided the Way. The Cross of Christ is heaven’s own road to carry you from alienation to atonement. While it is good to reconcile with other human beings, it is not always possible – perhaps the other person has shut you out or passed away. However, as long as you have breath, God has made it possible for you to reconcile with Him. A relationship with God is the most important relationship you will ever have.
As Americans, we are privileged to enjoy the greatest external freedoms the world has ever known: freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, freedom to worship (or not worship) as we please. Still, many are not free in their spirits. They are in the chains of substance abuse, shackled to lust, languishing in the prison of hatred, bound to the modern idols of shopping, video games, sports and social media. In order for us to be truly free—free from the regrets of the past, free from the power of sin in the present, free from fear of the future—we must not look to the Stars ‘n Stripes but to the Old Rugged Cross:
“Our old way of life was nailed to the cross with Christ, a decisive end to that sin-miserable life—no longer at sin’s every beck and call! What we believe is this: If we get included in Christ’s sin-conquering death, we also get included in his life-saving resurrection” (Romans 6:6, The Message).
The Cross that spelled a brutal death for Jesus means life to all who embrace it: “…He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness…” (I Peter 2:24) Zoe is the biblical word for this kind of living, a vitality that is given by the Holy Spirit to an accepting heart.
In my younger years, I built my life around the approval of others, dreams of hitting it big, fun-and-games and a host of otherworldly temptations. To be sure, there is good pleasure to be found on this earth, but it cannot fill the deepest spiritual vacuum in the heart. Only God can move into that spot, and when He does, everything else orders itself under His priorities. We begin to see that life isn’t all about us; it’s about honoring God and loving others as Christ did.
“Praise the Lord, my soul, and forget not all his benefits” (Psalm 103:2). It’s hard to believe that an instrument of death could bestow anything good, but God masterfully uses strange and weak things to work His will and reveal His love.
Have you embraced the Cross? Do you daily kneel before the Lamb of God, the One who died for you and the entire world? For forgiveness of sin, peace with God, freedom of spirit and life abundant, there truly is “nothing but the blood of Jesus.”