For the word [message] of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.1 Corinthians 1:18
In today’s world we are inundated with religious imagery, but all meaning seems to be lost in presentation. And no imagery is more powerful, yet so misrepresented as the image of the cross. Gold jewely. Bumper stickers. Pious sayings. But the cross is more than an image. It’s more than a symbol. It’s a message for the entire world to hear. It’s a warning that must be heeded. It’s a gift yearning to be received. But what is this message? What is it about the cross that we get so confused about. We cling to a symbol, but we shy away from its truth. We proudly wear it on around our neck or on our lapel and even tatoo it on our skin, but so rarely do we brand it upon our hearts. The word of the cross is simple proclamation of 5 essential truths that you simply cannot live without.
The Word of Holiness
Let’s get this clear right up front. God is real. Whether you believe that He exists or not does not change the reality of His existence. In fact, His very name declares “I am!” He is self-existent. Self-aware. Self-contained. More importantly, He is holy. He is separate from His creation. As Creator He is over all and reserves the right as Creator to dictate the terms of His creation and standards for His creation.
The imagery of Isaiah 6:3 is perhaps the clearest depiction of the holiness of our Creator:
“Holy, Holy, Holy, is the LORD of hosts,
The whole earth is full of His glory.”
The whole earth, as far as the east is from the west, is full of His glory. Full. Complete. Incomparable. Matchless. He is different from anything you have ever known or ever will know. Yet He wants you to know Him.
The Word of Lowliness
Because He is Holy, by comparison, we are lowly. Romans 3:23 declares “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Because He is so different from humanity, we are incapable of achieving His standard of perfection. His glory will forever outshine our feeble attempts to impress the world. Romans 3:10-12 also declares:
“None is righteous, no, not one;
No one understands;
No one seeks God.
All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
No one does good,
Not even one.”
Those words read like a damning condemnation, as well they should. Our sin is what separates us from the holiness of God. Our sin separates us from a relationship with the only One capable of making us whole. And He has made a way. Isaiah 57:15 proclaims:
“For thus says the high and exalted One
Who lives forever, whose name is Holy,
“I dwell on a high and holy place,
And also with the contrite and lowly of spirit
In order to revive the spirit of the lowly
And to revive the heart of the contrite.”
The Word of Grace
The only way we can enter into the presence of the Holy One is by His grace. There is no other way. Let me say that again for the people in the back: “THERE IS NO OTHER WAY!”
But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it – the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by His grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation [atoning sacrifice] by His blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in His divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.Romans 3:21-26
As a result of our sin, we have earned death and eternal punishment cut off from the presence of God. God’s word is clear when it states “the wages of sin is death.” (Romans 6:23a) However, the second part of that verse proclaims “the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 6:23b). By God’s grace through our faith, He provides that which we do not not deserve. Augustine defines grace as God doing for us that which we are incapable of doing for ourselves. An alternative definition would also be God giving us what we do not deserve.
The Word of Mercy
If grace is God giving us that which we do not deserve, mercy is the other side of the same coin whereas He does not give us that which we do deserve. While we have earned death due to our sin, apart from faith in Christ we have earned eternal separation in Hell. Because of our sin, it is impossible to for us to enter into the presence of our holy God. The Scriptures call this the “second death” and it’s a death from which there is only one means of escape.
But because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.Ephesians 2:4-5
The Word of Love
His great love for His creation is what drives the Father to be born as a man, to live amongst us in frail flesh, and to give His life as a ransom for our sin. He loves you so much that He endured what has been described by historians and physicians as the most horrific and suffering induced form of capital punishment ever devised in order to pay the price for the sins of the entire world.
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.John 3:16
Salvation is available to everyone, but not everyone will receive salvation. Salvation requires something of you – faith in Jesus Christ as the one and ONLY Son of God. Faith that His death paid your sin debt. Faith that His resurrection secured your future. Faith that His Lordship will provide meaning for your life here and now. Abiding with Jesus doesn’t mean we are perfect, but it does mean that we are being transformed into the image of Christ.
Ultimately the message of the cross is simply this: The cross is where the stake of God’s judgement from His holiness to our lowliness intersects with His outstretched arms of grace in one hand and mercy on the other. And in the center of it all hangs Jesus, the Christ, the Son of the Living God, the embodiment of divine love broken and poured out for you. If you want to know more about what this message means for you, please reach out. Find a Christian pastor in your local area and plea for more information about what the message of cross means for you and how it can transform your life. Or you can reach out to me directly. I will gladly set aside time to talk with you.