The Centrality and Glory of the Cross: "Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross"
"May I never boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ....
I declare today the centrality and glory of the cross. I encourage a closer look, for the closer one gets, the better one sees. The NT focuses on the cross and resurrection as the center of the gospel (for example, Gal. 6; 1 Cor. 1, 15; and more). This is important for our study and understanding for the NT focus on the cross and resurrection is generally missing in the historical emphasis of the Restoration movement on church and unity. The Greek word for cross is crux, as in the crux of the matter. We need to restore also the crux of the matter. The core gospel is that what God did on Golgotha is a nuclear power for Christian living. It empowers all of the Christian life--relationships, church, family. Yet, as demonstrated in Bill Love's book, The Core Gospel, this has not characterized Restoration preaching. It is a part of our songs but not a part of our preaching. We sing of the cross more often than we preach about it, "When I survey the wondrous cross…."
The cross is a visible symbol of Christianity. It is a significant feature of Christian history and belief. Ancient Judaism avoided symbols because of the second commandment. The fish (Jesus-Christ-God-Son-Savior) was used and continues, but the fish would not remain the distinctly Christian sign. That sign would be the cross: central to faith, central to salvation. This is true despite the (1) horror of crucifixion among the Romans, (2) The curse of the cross among the Jews, Gal. 3:13-14; Deut. 21:23, (3) the unlikely message, Paul says that the message of salvation sounds crazy--1 Cor. 1:18,23. It was the most cruel form of execution ever practiced, for it deliberately delayed death for maximum torture. The Jews made no distinction between tree and cross--between hanging and crucifixion. They automatically applied the words of Dt. 21:23 to both.
We cannot say all we would like to say, nor all the Bible says, about the cross--but we can call attention to its importance and several aspects of the cross. Here is a major theme of the Bible.
I. Jesus Keep Me Near the Cross--There I See God's Love (Gal. 2:20, John 3:16)"Precious fountain, free to all…" When we see the cross, we can never doubt God's love.
Jesus often alluded to his death during his ministry. Apparently, he knew he would die for at least four reasons: (1) hostility of Jewish leaders, (2) because of what was written concerning the Messiah in the Scriptures, Mk. 14:21, (3) because of his own deliberate choice, Mk. 10:45; Lk. 19:10; Gal. 1:4, (4) because it was a part of God's divine purpose.
His death as part of God's divine purpose is focused in this centerpiece of the gospel Therefore, the cross is the kingpin of the gospel.
II. Jesus Keep Me Near the Cross--There I See God's PurposeThe cross is part of God's divine purpose, 1 Cor. 15:3-4; Acts 17:2-3
The cross is necessary for the forgiveness of sins, 1 Pet. 2:24, Isa. 53
The cross gives significance to the resurrection, 1 Cor. 2:1-2
Notice again this theme in our songs: I will cling to the Old Rugged Cross...."One of the saddest features of Islam is the rejection of the cross of Christ. In Islam, there is no need for a sin-bearing death of a Savior. In fact, at least five times, "no soul shall bear another's burden."
This is why Christian messengers of the cross cannot be silent. We must cling to the old rugged cross. We must see the centrality of the cross.
III. Jesus Keep Me Near the Cross--There I See My Worth (Gal. 2:20)When I see God's love and God's purpose, God's love for me in my unworthiness, his purpose for my salvation, and my own sinfulness, I understand the significance of his declaration of my worth in God's sight. This is the message of the cross. Therefore, the cross is something done for me, leading me to faith and worship.
Indeed, that God loves me in my unworthiness and sinfulness declares my worth in the sight of God. Why did Jesus die?
This death is a declaration of our worth. It was so central to Jesus' thinking about himself and his mission, he desires it be central in our mission and our lives, our worship. This is the establishment of covenant between unequals as God stoops to us. Therefore, it must be made personal.
- He died for us, Rom. 5:8
- He died to bring us to God, 1 Pet. 3:18
- He died for our sins, 1 Cor. 15:1-4
- He died our death, Rom. 6:23
IV. Jesus Keep Me Near the Cross--There I See Sin's CurseFree to all a healing stream…." Gal. 3:13-14
When I am near the cross, I will not fall in love with sin, 2 Cor. 5:21. The cross declares what is done for me, what is done by me. In the cross, I also die, leading to repentance, separation from sin. Here I own my share in the guilt of the cross so that I may claim my share in the grace of the cross. This is the meaning of the cross. The curse-death-separation I deserved was taken by another. This is the only basis for forgiveness. This is the majesty of God.
V. Jesus Keep Me Near the Cross--There I See God's MajestyThe basis for forgiveness is in God, not us—this is grace. To insist that the cross is the only ground on which God forgives sins bewilders many. Try to understand. To think God can simply forgive as we forgive (1) fails to see the seriousness of sin, (2) fails to consider the majesty of God. When our perception of God and man, of holiness and sin, is askew, our understanding of the price required for atonement is also askew.
The question is not why God finds it difficult to forgive us, but how he finds it possible. This is the inevitable collision between divine perfection and human rebellion--God as he is and us as we are.
This is where the curse of sin, the offense and stench of the cross becomes most obvious, in contrast to the majesty of God, Gal. 5:11, 24. God who hates evil, disgusted and angered, refuses ever to come to terms with it. We must never forget that. We have an inadequate appreciation of the offense of the cross due to our inadequate understanding of God and humanity's lostness.
In the world is an inadequate understanding of God's nature and humanity's lostness. If we bring God to our level, we can never be raised to his! If there is no radical atonement necessary, no radical salvation can be in view. No radical lifestyle will be demanded. No offensive, distinct Christianity will be practiced.
VI. Jesus Keep Me Near the Cross--There I See The Power of the Cross
Now I see the power of the cross, 1 Cor. 1:18-26
Here is an interesting question: Who is Responsible for the Cross?
- Judas gave Jesus to the priests
- The priests gave Jesus to Pilate
- Pilate gave Jesus to the mob
- The mob let the soldiers have their way
- God gave him us
- Jesus gave himself up
- I did it, my sins sent him there
- This is the POWER of the cross!
VII. Jesus Keep Me Near the Cross--There I See My Salvation (Gal. 6:14-18)
My death to world, my separation from world, world's separation from me, my newness, my glory
God's way of forgiving sinners, reconciling to himself, must first of all be consistent with who he is. Certainly he must overthrow and disarm the devil, satisfy his law, honor, justice, moral order. But he must satisfy himself. His love, mercy, justice cannot be compromised.
VIII. Jesus Keep Me Near the Cross--There I See God's Ultimate PlanAt the cross, God achieved three things, all of which are a part of his eternal plan:
I conclude with three questions: A general question: what does it mean to live under the cross, that is, what are the practical results of living under the cross? For all, what are the benefits of the cross? For those outside of Christ, how can the cross be mine, how can I live under the cross?
What does it mean for me to live under the cross?
- The revelation of himself, his nature, giving and forgiving
- The salvation of sinners was made possible; the redemption price was paid
- The ultimate and final conquest of evil was secured, no doubt remains
What is the benefit of the cross?
- The church is a community of the cross
- The cross alters all of life
- We worship God in continuous celebration
- We give ourselves in service to others
- We love our enemies
- We seek to overcome evil with good
- We face the perplexing problem of suffering in this world in light of the cross
Help me walk day to day with its shadow o'er me…"
- The cross is the ground of my justification, Gal. 1:3; 3:13
- The cross is the source of my sanctification, 2:20, 5:24
- The cross is the text our testimony, 3:1, 5:11, 6:12
- The cross is the object of our boasting, 6:14
How can I begin to live under the cross?
- With faith in Christ, accept and admit the redeeming power of the cross to deal with sin
- In what the Bible calls repentance, let the cross change your life as you renew your thinking
- Experience the death of the cross in baptism
- Experience the resurrection in daily life, living a new and changed life
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Last updated January 27, 2016