The devotional below is taken from a blog post written by a gentleman named Dan Butcher. The blog is found at http://a2observeslent.com and contains daily reflections written for the Lenten season, put together by A2 Church just outside Birmingham, Alabama. While we don’t observe Lent at our church, as we look forward to Easter later this month our worship will focus us on the cross. This devotional, originally published March 16, is a great beginning.
As we approach Easter, I’ve been thinking about what the cross represents. Some time back, I ran across a t-shirt that said, “If your son was killed with a gun, would you wear one around your neck?” It’s a fair question: why do Christians wear crosses, hang crosses and crucifixes in their churches, decorate their houses with them?
I’m not sure I have the whole answer, but I do know this: Paul makes clear that the gospel is nothing without the cross. Consider these words from his first letter to Corinth:
• For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel – not with words of human wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power. (1:17)
• For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. (1:18)
• Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles. (1:22 – 23)
• For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. (2:2)
These few passages show two things: first, that the cross is central to our message, and two, that we can’t expect it be understood by those who don’t believe. This second point is clear enough; Paul explains that God purposely chose what seems foolish and weak to the world to proclaim His message so that none can boast of their wisdom (see 1 Corinthians 1:24ff).
The first point, the centrality of the cross: I know this is true, but I wonder sometimes if I really know it. It’s in my head, but has it made that all-important move to my heart? Paul seems to say that the gospel, the good news, is the cross. Jesus tells us that if we want to follow Him, we must take up our cross.
The cross represents sacrifice and hardship –why would I want to take it up daily? More importantly, I think, is that the cross and the gospel tell me there’s something wrong with me apart from God. Too often, the “good news” is presented as healing, deliverance, an abundant life (all of which are promises of God to those who believe), but that’s not what I see preached in Acts. On Pentecost, thousands responded because they were convicted of sin, not because they were excited about what they would get.
Don’t get me wrong: I deeply believe in teaching people that Christianity is more than “fire insurance” to save them from hell, that the abundant life that Jesus talks about is as much for here and now as it is for when we die and go to heaven. I believe in the power of God to heal and to deliver; I’ve seen that power at work in my own life, and I’m thankful for it.
Bottom line, though, my sickness is not my problem, my problems are not my problem, my sin is. I like to think of myself as an “all-around nice guy.” But — this nice guy would be lost because of his sins if Jesus hadn’t paid the price on the cross. And though that makes me uncomfortable — I’m confronted with my faults, with my sin — it is the truth.
And that’s at least one meaning of the cross: Dan can’t take care of his biggest problem by himself. Dan needs Jesus. And that means that I must admit to being less than able on my own.
Getting to the Heart – Questions to Consider
1. Does the cross make you uncomfortable? Why or why not?
2. What reminds you that you can’t take care of your sins on your own?