Sunday, September 24, 2006

Why the Cross is important...

I have been thinking about the cross lately and want to put up some posts regarding this issue. I know for some this may be an old topic or one that is a bit repetitive, at least perhaps not as interesting as getting high in end-times discussions. So here is a snippet from somewhere on the net:

Why do we cling to the old rugged cross?

Just a few thoughts here:

We preach the cross because it is the central message about Jesus who repeatedly spoke to his closest disciples about his death ... Mk. 8:31-32; 9:31; 10:45. Despite the greatness of his teaching and example and all his miracles, none of these were central to his mission of dying for our sins. What dominated his mind was not the living but the giving of his life. This was 'the hour' for which he had come into the world.

Paul defined the gospel as 'the message of the cross', his ministry as 'we preach Christ crucified', baptism as initiation 'into his death', and the Lord's Supper as a proclamation of his death. And though the cross seemed either foolishness or a stumbling block to the self-righteous, it was in fact the very essence of God's wisdom and power. So he writes to the Corinthians that he preached nothing among them except Jesus Christ and him crucified. Read 2 Cor. 2:2.

The cross (and only the cross) is the answer to a guilty conscience. Hebrews 9:9, 14; 10:19-21. The message of the cross is irresistible because it is the only message that effectively cleanses the conscience.

There is hope in the message of the cross. What did the world look like the day Jesus died on the cross, the day the son of God dangled from a cross like some kind of ragged scarecrow? It looked like evil had won the war. It looked like the forces of darkness had completely taken over. The disciples had totally lost hope.
But here is what really happened! What Satan intended for evil, God worked for good. Jesus death bridged the eternal gap between a perfect God and a spoiled creation. On the day Jesus died, God defeated sin, routed death, won the victory over Satan and got his family back. That is what really happened on the darkest day in history! God transformed the worst deed in human history into the greatest victory ever.

So the cross gives you and me hope. If God can wrest such triumph out of the jaws of apparent defeat, and can bring such strength from a moment of ultimate weakness, what might He do with the apparent failures and hardships of my own life? The cross teaches me that even when someone is crucified, or punished unjustly , even when my world is coming down upon me, even when I am at the end of my rope, even when it looks like I have completely blown it, even when I feel the weakest and the most helpless, even when things look the most hopeless, when God seems most distant, when God almost seems dead...

God can transform all of this and accomplish his work. "My strength is made perfect IN weakness!" Just look at the cross. Glory comes through and even especially IN the midst of suffering. Just look at the cross.

There is power in the cross. "I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ for it is the power of God unto salvation." Romans 1:16 "... If I be lifted up from the Earth, I will draw all men unto me." (John 12:32)

There is a drawing power in the the story of the cross that appeals to my sense of logic and rationality. The cross explains to me why I die (it is the penalty for sin) and tells me a logical way by which I can be delivered from death (through the substionary death of God's son).

The cross draws me emotionally - the idea that the Creator God loves me such as to send his son in human flesh to suffer and die in my place in order to deliver me from sin and death. There is something about that story that naturally and powerfully draws people.

The power of the cross makes Jesus unique among all the world leaders and religious teachers. One third of Matthew and Mark and one fourth of Luke and one half of John are devoted to describing the last hours of Jesus. By contrast, the biographies of other notable men are not written with such an emphasis on his death. But the biography of Jesus was written that way because his death was the climax of his life and his stated means of world conquest.

There have been many "messiahs" and other individuals who have tried to gain a world following, who have tried to attract others to them - Nebuchadnezzar, Alexander the Great, Caesar, Mohammed, Napoleon, Lenin, Hitler and Stalin. All of them but Jesus sought power by military might or by the force of their teachings. How different is the Christ whose plan was to draw all men unto himself through his death, the most humiliating and detested and ignominious death of his day! Jesus' plan for world conquest is the most unique and novel plan in all history. This fact alone draws me as the fact of Jesus' death itself draws me.

And it is in the story of the cross that WE find power and incentive and inspiration to seek reconciliation, to confess OUR sins, to ask forgiveness, to change OUR attitudes, to change pride into humility, to suffer for the good of others, to sacrifice our wants and desires for the good of our family and our fellow man, to learn the skills needed to get along well with people...


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