To so many, the cross has become almost devoid of meaning. The average entertainer or sports celebrity often dons the cross as a gaudy piece of jewelry. Its image is amazingly prominent in society despite our government’s efforts to eradicate it. But its meaning has never been more obscured from the average man’s thinking. So what is the cross?
The Cross Was a Place of Death
Most are familiar with the process of crucifixion, and we must always appreciate the physical suffering our Lord endured on such a cruel instrument of torture and execution. But physical death on the cross is transcended by what Christ accomplished spiritually through that death.
Christ’s death upon the cross was substitutionary—He died in my place! In the words of the songwriter, “I should have been crucified; I should have suffered and died.” The cross was sufficient. When Jesus uttered the immortal words, “It is finished,” He was literally saying that our sin debt had been paid in full. How comforting it is to know that the cross was not merely a down payment for our salvation on which I must continue to make payment through works or religion! When Jesus died on the cross, that death was satisfying to the Father. His righteous demands for our sins were propitiated (satisfied) in the valid offer of the spotless Lamb of God.
The Cross Is the Price of Discipleship
Salvation costs the believer nothing. Although with the Spirit of God as our empowerment, discipleship will cost the follower of Christ a dear price. A true follower of Jesus will embrace it and all that comes along with it. Christ marched to the cross with an unwavering single-mindedness. From the cradle to the grave it would be His burden, focus, and compelling responsibility. It was His dedication to the Father’s business and the cup He was willing to drink.
True disciples are single-minded in their mission as well. Interestingly, Jesus instructed the disciples to take up a cross before they ever realized that their Lord would die upon one. The cross was infamous to these first century people—it was the instrument of ultimate shame. Roman citizens could not by law be crucified; such was the nature of the shame of the cross. Yet Jesus, bleeding and naked, willingly identified with us by embracing such shame. Do we as readily identify with Him?
The price of discipleship includes single-mindedness, shame, and sacrifice—yes, the sacrifice of one’s life with all of its dreams and ambitions. A disciple places himself on the proverbial altar every day. Not my will, but thine be done.
The Cross Provides a Purpose for Devotion
Paul declared that devotion in view of the cross was his only sensible alternative.
For the love of Christ constraineth us because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead. And that he died for all, that they which live should henceforth not live unto themselves, but unto Him which died for them and rose again.” 2 Corinthians 5:14–15
It just makes sense that we would be devoted to the One who died for us! Our significance is in the cross alone. Paul touted no earthly attainments and refused to glory in any personal popularity. He chose to glory only in the cross of Christ (Galatians 6:14).
Perhaps these reasons—and many others no doubt—compel us to make the cross our sermon. Its proclamation simply must be our priority!
For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.—1 Corinthians 1:18