Meet Me at the Cross, and beyond…

by Sam Warren

For the past month we have been on a journey. It has been our goal to meet together both figuratively and literally around the cross. We know that the real cross of Jesus was erected many years ago, but by faith we can come to the cross and experience in a fresh, new way the impact of the cross.

I hope and pray that your time around the cross has been an enlightening and encouraging experience. It is my prayer that God has revealed to you many things about your personal walk with the Lord, whether it be things to confess or a deeper level of understanding what God has done for you because of Christ’ work on the cross.

I also pray that your movement toward the cross has been encouraging in terms of thanksgiving and praise, which comes from realizing how much Christ has accomplished for you and for me. The end result for me has been a keen awareness, like Paul, that I have nothing to boast about when it comes to my status before God. It is all about what Christ has done.

The apostle Paul put it this way, “But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world” (Galatians 6:14). And earlier in his writing Paul declared this truth, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me (Galatians 2:20).

As we prepare to close out our annual Prayer Emphasis month, may our journey toward the cross be more than a mere reflection upon what Christ has done for us, but rather, the beginning of a deeper commitment to live in light of the theological and practical implications of what Christ has done in our lives.

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Cursed

by Justin Nash

“Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us — for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree’ ” – Galatians 3:13

I was cursed. I was cursed because it was required that I keep all the law – every jot and tittle – not just in my actions, but in my thoughts, affections and motivations as well. Anything less than perfect obedience meant that I would be cursed before God. Perfection allows no exceptions, no failure of the smallest sort. To break one law in one place is to break it all.

This seems a bit unreasonable on the surface until we remember what the law is. It is not some arbitrary set of rules God gave us to test our worth. No, the law can never be isolated from God as it is a reflection of his moral nature and will. Each precept in Scripture finds its source in the person of God. So to disobey even the smallest part of the law is to reject the God who is the basis of the law. So I found myself under the curse.

The curse immersed me in the presence of sin. It was in me and I was constantly in it. Under the curse, sin was my master and I was its slave. My destruction as a just penalty for my sin was the ultimate end of the curse. I found myself in a hopeless state of condemnation in which I was not only helpless to redeem myself, but helpless to satisfy the just demands of the law and thus find acceptance with God. I could not break the curse.

I needed someone to save me, someone to pay for my freedom, release and restoration from the curse. And that is exactly what Jesus did for me – he became a curse so that I might be blessed. When Jesus died on the cross (hung on a tree) he alone satisfied the just demands of the law I broke, paying the penalty in my place, leaving a holy God free to bestow mercy on me on the basis of his justice being satisfied. Jesus became what I was, cursed, in order that I might become what he was, holy.

Paul paints a vivid picture here in the use of three expressions: “under the curse” (3:10), “made a curse for (above) us” (3:13), and “redeemed us out from under the curse” (3:13). We were under a curse. Christ became a curse over us and so between us and the overhanging curse that fell on him instead of on us.

There I was, the curse of sin dangling over my head like the sword of Damocles ready to drop on me at any moment. In steps Jesus, above me and under the curse. When the sword fell, it fell on him and not me. I was saved because he was cursed.

We are all under this curse and our sins must become Christ’s sins or we shall perish forever. Who is bearing your sins today? Are you still cursed or have you accepted Jesus’ becoming a curse for you? By faith Jesus changes place with us. He gets our sins and we get his holiness.

So let us rejoice in the wonderful truth that because of Jesus’ death on the cross, we are forgiven, accepted and loved fully, freely and forever by our heavenly Father

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The Tragedy of God

by Jeff Walsh

As followers of Christ, we are not to be of the world. However, like foreigners in a strange land, we are to live within the world (John 17:15-16). This creates an unsettling tension in the Christian life. There’s a sense in which we are to speak a different language (with our words and actions) from the world around us. Yet the world exerts a consistent gravitational pull on our hearts and minds.

In his letter to the Galatian Christians, the apostle Paul shows the impact of the cross of Christ on this tension. Some leaders were preaching the necessity of circumcision and following the Old Testament Law for the Christian life. Paul says their motive in doing so was to avoid being persecuted for the cross of Christ (Galatians 6:12). To avoid the cross by focusing on other things is to empty the cross of its power (1 Corinthians 1:17). To Paul this is an impotent faith in Christ and amounts to really no faith at all. By contrast, Paul forcefully asserts, “But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world” (Galatians 6:14).

The cross was at the center of Paul’s life and ministry. He refused to boast about anything but the cross. To Paul the world and all its deceptive attractiveness died on the cross with Christ. The cross killed the world for Paul. Similarly, from the world’s point of view, Paul was dead. Therefore, he could say, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me” (Galatians 2:20). The cross made Paul belong to Christ. It will do the same for you and me.

All worldly self-assertion, pride, and any other sinful motive melts away when we live at the foot of the cross. Because of the cross, we belong to Christ. It is a sure indicator that we are no longer living daily at the foot of the cross when the world begins to seize us in its gravitational pull. We lose Christ’s power when we take our eyes off the cross. Oswald Chambers once wrote:

“If you want to know the power of God (that is, the resurrection life of Jesus) in your human flesh, you must dwell on the tragedy of God. Break away from your personal concern over your own spiritual condition, and with a completely open spirit consider the tragedy of God. Instantly the power of God will be in you.”

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Enduring the Cross

by Matt Larkin

Read Philippians 2:1-11

The first eleven verses of Philippians 2 represent, perhaps, my favorite passage of Scripture. Paul is encouraging the Philippian believers toward unity and humility in response to some of the problems within the church. By verse 5, Paul has turned his attention toward the example of Christ, instructing them in what Jesus actually demonstrated for us by descending from heaven to earth to walk among us.

Verse 8 is where Paul really zeroes in on the impact of the cross. In that verse, he wrote: “And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” This, to me, is one of the things that is so truly impactful about Jesus. When we’re talking about Jesus, we’re talking about God the Son stepping down, not only, to walk among us, but stepping down to be executed at our hands.

This voluntary act, one done on our behalf as those who love Him, was, without question, the single greatest act of humility the world has ever known. So, armed with that information, I return you to verse 5, where Paul instructs the Philippian believers to: “have this mind among themselves, which is theirs in Christ Jesus;” and, ultimately, ours in Christ Jesus as well. Because of our relationship with Christ we are armed, through the Holy Spirit, with the tools to walk with the same humility and selflessness we see in the One we follow. This is absolutely amazing information which should inform massive transformation in our lives.

So, with these things in mind, as we approach this prayer emphasis month, a month where we are focusing on the impact of the cross, may our prayers be focused, at least in part, on seeing the humility displayed by Christ Jesus become more present in our own lives? May this be so . . . to the glory of our God and Father.

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Ministers of Reconciliation

by Dawn Rutan

“For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that One has died for all, therefore all have died; and He died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for Him who for their sake died and was raised” (2 Corinthians 5:14-15 ESV).

I don’t know where the idea came from that our faith is solely a personal and private thing. Perhaps that is part of the Western independence that insists no one else can tell me what to do. But it is clear in Scripture that Christians are to live for God, and therefore we must be united and working together as the body of Christ. The cross of Christ means that we are not our own kings, but we belong to the One who died for us. We were bought with a price (1 Cor. 6:20).

It’s interesting how often we take 2 Corinthians 5:17 out of context, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold the new has come.” Faith in Christ isn’t just for personal transformation, but for a whole new way of relating to the world as a new entity called the body of Christ.

The result is that we are therefore ministers of reconciliation. It’s not that we “ought to be,” but we are ambassadors whether we act that way or not. We don’t receive the gift of faith just so we can be sure of our eternal destiny, although that is one benefit. We receive it so it can be worked out in daily life through our actions and words, and so that others might come to know Christ as Savior.

We can quickly think of public figures who claim to be Christians but whose lives belie that claim. We may even think of many within our own church or family. However, none of us are perfect representatives of Christ. We try with varying degrees of effort and success to say and do what is best. Thankfully, it is not our effort that brings results, but it is “God making His appeal through us” (v. 20). His purposes will prevail, as the cross of Christ has already proven.

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The Love of God

by Steve Lawson

As we consider the “Impact of the Cross” on our lives we must realize that one of the greatest impacts is the realization of God’s great love for us even before we responded to the message of the cross. There is probably no greater summary of God’s love than that found in John 3:16. Here God expresses his love for us as “unconditional.”

The topic of God’s love is truly an overwhelming subject. There is so much that the Bible has to say about the love of God that I doubt anyone has ever come close to fully comprehending it. A.W. Tozer once said, “I can no more do justice to this awesome and wonder-filled topic than a child can grasp a star. Still, by reaching toward the star the child may call attention to it and even indicate the direction one must look to see it. And so, I stretch my heart toward the high, shining love of God so that we may be encouraged to look up and have hope.”

In John 3:16 (ESV) Jesus said, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” It is only one sentence, 24 words, but it carries such impact on our lives in how God’s love changes us, our hopes, our relationships, our future and our very being. When we experience the cross and begin a relationship with Jesus Christ that love becomes a powerful force in our lives. The fact that God loves us – period – is overwhelming. His love does not begin when we respond to the call to salvation, but he loves all the world while we’re still sinful, lost people. His love is unconditional to all of us – those alienated from God, hostile to the cause of Christ, Jews and Gentile alike – God loves us!

At a comparative religion conference the debate over what makes Christianity unique over other religions of the world was taking place among religious scholars. Many characteristics of our beliefs were brought out – the incarnation, the resurrection, our future hope in the kingdom – all were questioned and found to be present in other religions. C.S. Lewis joined the debate, and after hearing some of the conversation he simple said, “It’s Grace”! Lewis continued that Christianity uniquely claims God’s love comes free of charge, no strings attached. No other religion makes that claim.
Buddhists follow an eight-fold path to enlightenment. Hindus believe in karma, that your actions continually affect the way the world will treat you. Jewish code of the law implies God has requirements for people to be acceptable to him. Islam’s god is a god of judgment, not a god of love. Only Christianity dares to proclaim God’s love is unconditional, a love that we call grace.

So God’s love for us is unconditional. It is as Philip Yancey once wrote: “There is nothing we can do to make God love us more. There is nothing we can do to make God love us less.” As we consider the “Impact of the Cross” remember Christ’s love for us that drove him to face that cross in our place and how that love changes us!

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Meet Me at the Cross

by Pam Buchanan

Do you remember “The Pelicano?” The year was 1986. The place was Philadelphia. The problem? There was a municipal workers strike.

Because of the strike, the city’s garbage became an enormous pile. Someone decided that the solution was to burn the trash and transport it away from the city in the belly of a ship. “The Pelicano” was chosen. The good news is that the trash left Philadelphia. The bad news was that no one else wanted it. “The Pelicano” held tons and tons of smelly garbage and was adrift on the high seas, seeking some other city or country for disposal. Understandably, no one wanted it.

This true, modern-day event could be an example of our sin problem as referred to in Colossians 2:13. Before the cross, we were dead in our sins and the uncircumcision of our flesh. Just like “The Pelicano,” we had sin on board that created a problem. Sin was, and always will be, a toxic, smelly mess which no one else wants, but God has a solution. He invites us to “meet him at the cross.” Colossians 2:13-14 tells us that God forgave our sins and took them away by nailing them to the cross. The impact for us is a clean ship, no more odor from the nasty cargo, and no more drifting. It is the difference between night and day; between wanted and unwanted, between dead and alive!

In our prayers today, may we rejoice in the truth that God has become the “captain” of our ship. He has the ability to deal with our garbage and make us clean through the power of the cross.

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