"But for be it from me to glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world hath been crucified unto me, and I unto the world" (Gal. 6:14). It is only in the cross of Jesus Christ that any man has the right to glory. Man's own accomplishments can never, in and of themselves, give him a right to glory, for "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Rom. 3:23), and at his best, man can never atone for his own sins. Thus, we can glory only in what God has done for us in Jesus Christ.
We need folk today who will listen to the words of the apostle Paul and glory in the cross of Christ, instead of trying to find reason for glorying in their own feeble triumphs and frail victories. In and of ourselves, we can do nothing. Our entire strength stems from that which God has bestowed upon us. If we would look to the cross of Christ to evaluate its worth to us, then we would more fully understand why Paul was willing to glory only in it! The cross of Christ should be the focal point of our interest, for it reveals everything we need.
The Cross Of Christ Reveals Sin: -- It is in the cross of Jesus tht sin is held forth in such bold relief. The terrible darkness that settled over the crucifixion scene indicates the blackness of sin which necessitated the death of God's only begotten Son. We cannot fail to see the awfulness of sin, as we hear the merciless mob which cried out for the life of Christ. This mob succeeded in their clamor for innocent blood, but later had to face the indictment: "Him, being delivered up by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye by the hand of lawless men did crucify and slay" (Acts 2:23).
It was on the cross that He died for us, and thereby changed our pattern of life: "For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that one died for all, therefore all died and He died for all, that they that live should no longer live unto themselves, but unto Him who for their sakes died and rose again" (2 Cor. 5:14,15). It was while we were, "At that time separate from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of the promise, having no hope and without God in the world" (Eph. 2:12), that Christ died for us. This opened the way for us to return to the fellowship of God, "Might reconcile them both in one body unto God through the cross, having slain the enmity thereby" (vs. 16). Yes, when Jesus went to the cross, He carried our sins with Him there (Isa. 53:6). As the Scriptures say, "Him who knew no sin He made to be sin on our behalf; that we might become the righteousness of God in Him" (2 Cor. 5:21).
His Cross Reveals God's Love: -- Nothing reveals the infinite love of God any better than the giving of His only begotten Son to die for our sins. "For while we were yet weak, in due season Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: for peradventure for the good man some one would even dare to die. But God commendeth His own love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" (Rom. 5:6-8). God did this for us that we might be spared the wrath that comes upon the wicked. Surely this shows how much God loves us: "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on Him should not perish, but have eternal life" (Jno. 3:16).
The cross is a tender love story that portrays the infinite love of God. Some may ignore the lavish blessings which God daily pours out upon us, but none who believe can remain unmoved by the story of the cross. It is the story that makes us sorry for our sins committed against Him that made such a gift necessary. "For godly sorrow worketh repentance unto salvation, a repentance which bringeth no regret: but the sorrow of the world worketh death" (2 Cor. 7:10). Many hearts which had become calloused by sin have been melted by the sweet story of the cross, and then turned back to God through the cross.
His Cross Is God's Appeal To Us: -- God's strongest appeal unto man is made by the cross. God wanted to touch the hearts of impenitent sinners, and it is in the cross that this was accomplished. "For if, while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, being reconciled, shall we be saved by His life" (Rom. 5:10). Not only did God appeal to us by showing His divine love for us, He also presented, in the cross, a great lesson on giving and sacrifice. The example of Jesus, in giving Himself for us, lifts our sights to a higher plane of nobler living. "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends" (Jno. 15:13).
But if God was to appeal to the world by the cross of Jesus, that story had to be told. As the apostle Paul wrote, "For the word of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us who are saved it is the power of God...Seeing that Jews ask for signs, and Greeks seek after wisdom: but we preach Christ crucified, unto Jews a stumblingblock, and unto Gentiles foolishness; but unto them that are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God" (1 Cor. 1:18-24). That is why Paul said of his preaching and what he preached, "For I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ, and Him crucified" (1 Cor. 2:2).
His Cross Reveals Perfection: -- It was by the cross that the perfect character was presented to the world. "But we behold Him Who hat been made a little lower than the angels, even Jesus, because of the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that by the grace of God He should taste of death for every man. For it became Him, for Whom all things, and through Whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the Author of their salvation perfect through sufferings...Though He was a Son, yet learned obedience by the things which He suffered; and having been made perfect, He bacame unto all them that obey Him the Author of eternal salvation" (Heb. 2:9,10; 5:8,9).
The perfection of the character of Jesus is shown also in that He willingly accepted the road to the cross to become our Savior. "Being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself, becoming obedient even unto death, yea, the death of the cross" (Phil. 2:8). Jesus knew the price to be paid. But He paid it, anyway. It was written of Him later, "Looking unto Jesus the Author and Perfecter of our faith, Who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising shame, and hath sat down at the right hand of the throne of God" (Heb. 12:2).
His Cross Reveals The End Of The Law: -- The cross of Christ also reveals the end of the law of Moses. It was by the cross that Jesus "Blotted out the bond written in ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us: and He hath taken it out of the way, nailing it to the cross" (Col. 2:14). That law -- with clean and unclean meats, various feast days, the sabbath day, and other such (vss. 15-17) -- was taken away when the Lord Jesus died on the cross. By His cross, Jesus is "the Mediator of the New Testament" (Heb. 9:15), which took the place of the Old Covenant (Heb. 8:8-13; 10:9, 10).
By His death on the cross, and the removing of the old law, Christ made it possible for all men to be reconciled to God in one body. Whereas the old law kept Jew and Gentile apart, the cross binds them together. "But now in Christ Jesus ye that once were afar off are made nigh in the blood of Christ. For He is our peace, Who made both one, and brake down the middle wall of partition, having abolished in the flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; that He might create in Himself of the two one new man, so making peace; and might reconcile them both in one body unto God through the cross, having slain the enmity thereby" (Eph. 2:13-16).
The Cross Reveals A Separation: -- Remember that Paul wrote of the cross, "Through which the world hath been crucified unto me, and I unto the world" (Gal. 6:14). That should characterize our lives in Christ, as well. We are called to, "Come ye out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, And touch no unclean thing" (2 Cor. 6:17). In fact, the Greek word for "church" means "called out." The cross calls us out from the world. The apostle Peter wrote, "But ye are an elect race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God's Own possession, that ye may show forth the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light" (1 Pet. 2:9). The cross calls us out of the darkness of sin and into the light of God (1 Jno. 1:5-7).
The Bible shows that we are to "put to death" our sinful lives in order to live for Christ (Rom. 8:13; Col. 3:5). The cross enables us to do that. The apostle Paul writes of our dying to sin, being buried in baptism, then being raised to "walk in newness of life" (Rom. 6:4). Then he adds, "Our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away, that so we should no longer be in bondage to sin" (vs. 6). It is by the cross of Jesus Christ that we are empowered to leave the world of sin behind and enter into the life of righteousness which the Lord intends for us to live.
His Cross Reveals A Cross For Me: -- Jesus said, "If any man would come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me" (Lk. 9:23). Just as Jesus bore the cross for us, we msut also bear a cross for Him. As a grand old hymn expresses it:
Must Jesus bear the cross alone,
And all the world go free?
No, there's a cross for every one,
And there a cross for me.
But as we contemplate the cross to be borne, let us also visualize the great joy that shall be ours, when we are permitted to lay down our cross for an eternal crown. Another grand old hymn expresses our hope:
Look away from the cross
To the glittering crown,
From your cares weary one look away;
There's a home for the soul
Where no sorrow can come
And where pleasures will never decay.
May we, with Paul, always glory in the cross of Christ, and never glory in ourselves nor our own accomplishments.
By Clem Thurman in Gospel Minutes, Vol. 50, No. 50, Dec. 14, 2001.
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