What Do You Know About the Cross?
by Ted Schroder
One of the biggest differences between Islam and Christianity is the Cross of Christ. The Koran denies that Jesus died upon the Cross. Instead it teaches that God rescued Jesus before death and took him up to heaven. Who then died upon the Cross? One of the most common explanations given by Muslims is that Judas took the place of Jesus! But the fact that Jesus died upon the Cross for our sins is central to Christianity. Why is this so?
If you were asked to explain to a non-Christian what you believed about the Cross, what would you say? Each of us probably has a slightly different appreciation of the Cross. Different aspects of it appeal to us according to our need. The New Testament is filled with references to the Cross and its relevance to us. It is mentioned in every book in the New Testament except Philemon, 2 and 3 John. “Take the cross out of our preaching is like taking heat out of fire, melody out of music, numbers out of mathematics, fact out of history, mind out of metaphysics, and words out of vocabularies.” (R.G.Lee) So what did Jesus achieve by dying on the Cross? Let me give you some ideas from the New Testament and
see which one of them is important to you.
1. The Cross Destroys the Fear of Death.
Hebrews 2:14,15 states “Since the children [of God] are made of flesh and blood, it’s logical that the Savior took on flesh and blood in order to rescue them by his death. By embracing death, taking it into himself, he destroyed the Devil’s hold of death and freed all who cower through life, scared to death of death.” (The Message) We need no longer be paralyzed by fear of death because Jesus has nullified death’s master. “As our champion he has stormed the very gates of the enemy and laid hold of his stronghold, opening wide the doors of our captivity and pointing us to the path of freedom.” (George H. Guthrie) Through our faith-union with him, we may share in the fruits of that victory over death.
Anxiety over death afflicts everyone. There is the fear of the unknown, the fear of loss of control, and the fear of separation from our loved ones. By his death, Jesus has gone before us to make it possible for us to die in hope. We can be victorious in the face of death.
2. The Cross Purchases Forgiveness and Acceptance with God.
1 Peter 3:18 “For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God.” By taking upon himself our sins he has paid the penalty for them, and obtained pardon and forgiveness for all sinners. We are washed clean of our sins, and made acceptable to God. We are acquitted of our just punishment and given the status of being beloved children of God. We who were formerly alienated from God are reconciled by the sacrifice of the Cross. God comes near to us and offers us the hand of friendship through his Son. Jesus is the Mediator of a new relationship we can enjoy with the Father. He welcomes us home.
The Koran promises that the compassionate and merciful Allah will forgive the sins of the meritorious, whose merits out-weigh their failings in his scales of justice. The gospel is the good news of mercy to the undeserving.
Oswald Chambers wrote, God does forgive, but it cost the rending of His heart in the Death of Christ to enable him to do so. The great miracle of the grace of God is that He forgives sin, and it is the death of Jesus Christ alone that enables the Divine nature to forgive and to remain true to itself in doing so. It is shallow nonsense to say that God forgives us because He is love. When we have been convicted of sin we will never say this again. The love of God means Calvary, and nothing less; the love of God is spelt on the Cross and nowhere else. The only ground on which God can forgive me is through the Cross of my Lord. There, His conscience is satisfied.”
3. The Cross Conveys the Power of a New Life.
Romans 6:6 “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!” (The Message) The Cross liberates us from the oppressive forces of evil and sin. Just as Jesus broke free from the prison of death, so believers can, by faith, break free from the bonds of whatever seeks to control us, and come to life in all its fullness. We need no longer be trapped in our addictions or compulsions by our own powerlessness or enslavement to attitudes and actions beyond our control. The Cross and Resurrection offer the hope of liberation, spiritual freedom. We can kick codependency, the habit of addictions, domination by dark powers, and fight against depression and whatever would debilitate us and make us less than what we are meant to be.
4. The Cross Brings Healing and Wholeness.
1 Peter 2:24 “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.” Jesus is the wounded Physician of Calvary. Through his Cross and Resurrection, Jesus is able to bind up our wounds and heal us, restoring us to wholeness and spiritual health. People who are wounded by the sufferings of life, and their own sins, can be made whole again. The conflicts that hurt us and divided relationships are resolved in the Cross. He made peace with God and with each other by his death on the Cross. “Christ brought us together through his death on the Cross. The Cross got us to embrace, and that was the end of hostility.” (Ephesians 2:16)
5. The Cross Reveals the Nature of Love.
1 John 3:16 “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.” The Cross shows us the love of God – how much God loves us. The Cross shows us an example of love for us to emulate. At the heart of God is love – love that would suffer and die for us in our need. It shows us that God is a suffering God who enters into the suffering of the world so that he might redeem it. We too are called to deny ourselves and take up our cross and follow Jesus in loving our neighbor as ourselves. We are called to show forth God’s love in compassion and service to others. The answer to the problem of suffering in the world is the Cross of Christ.
David Watson said of the Cross. “It is the picture of violence, yet the key to peace. It is a picture of suffering, yet the key to healing. It is a picture of death, yet the key to life. It is a picture of utter weakness, yet the key to power. It is a picture of capital punishment, yet the key to mercy and forgiveness. It is a picture of vicious hatred, yet the key to love. It is a picture of supreme shame, yet the Christian’s supreme boast.”
Oswald Chambers again, “Very few of us have any understanding of the reason why Jesus Christ died. If sympathy is all that human beings need, then the Cross of Christ is a farce, there is no need for it. What the world needs is not ‘a little bit of love,’ but a surgical operation. The calling of a New Testament worker is to uncover sin and to reveal Jesus Christ as Savior, consequently he cannot be poetical, he must be sternly surgical. We are sent by God to lift up Jesus Christ, not to give wonderfully beautiful discourses.”
(c) Ted Schroder
September 21, 2008
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