This week, a disturbing video surfaced showing what CNN calls the “largest and most dangerous gathering of al Qaeda in years.” The terrorist leader proclaimed to hundreds of gunmen, “We must eliminate the cross.”
I am here to declare that they will fail. No man can eliminate the cross of Calvary. Terrorists can demolish physical crosses and activists can remove them from public view, but the landscape of eternity changed when Christ conquered His cross and that will never be undone.
My longtime friend and founder of Kerygma Ventures, Dudley Hall, wrote about the power of the cross. It is fitting to share it with you on this Easter weekend.
Every viable religious system in the world admits that there is something that needs fixing in mankind’s existence. The Polytheists try to appease gods. The Pantheists try to lose individuality in order to emerge into the oneness of reality. The Naturalists believe that time will eventually produce a better species. Monotheists seek to align with the god they worship. All operate from the proposition that there is a problem on earth. We have tried attacking ignorance, but end up trying to fix with information that which cannot be fixed without transformation. We have addressed victimization with reparations and therapy with little temporary and no permanent change. We have sought to change behavior with laws. We have confronted irresponsibility with accountability only to discover that the human heart is deceitful enough to evade such tactics. Finally some have concluded that since we can’t solve the problem we should just redefine normal and declare the broken state to be unbroken. “This is the way it is and the way it is supposed to be.”
The gospel gives the only solution to the problem, but it is controversial.
“For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written,
‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
And the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.’
…Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and the Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to the Jews and folly to Gentiles.” (I Corinthians 1:18-23)
The diagnosis is dire. Mankind is born in a state of enmity with God. When confronted with God as creator and sovereign, everyone chose to rebel by yielding to the deception of spiritual darkness and its master. This creates a problem that cannot be solved without outside divine help. The modern religious cocktail of “moralistic therapeutic deism” cannot begin to rectify this dilemma.
As children of Adam we were born into a perpetual state of enmity against God. Our problem is much bigger than the various sins we have committed since we arrived. In the famous feud between the Hatfields and McCoys children were born into the feud. The enmity was there before there was a choice. It didn’t matter to the McCoys how good or badly a Hatfield behaved in his own home. He was the enemy. Likewise we were born children of Adam who was enslaved to Satan’s deception. No matter how much we tried to be good, we were in the wrong family.
The cross changes that.
Jesus died as the second Adam and destroyed the enmity between God and Adam’s race. He was raised from the dead as a new race and those who are in Him are part of the family who inherit the status of Jesus the Son. We are reconciled to God and are thereby invited to share in full fellowship with Him. Now we can resume our calling and purpose to partner with God on earth in discovering the treasures of creation and developing them as offerings of worship to Him.
There is more. Not only did our status have to be addressed, but also our hearts needed to be changed. Adam’s children had his heart. He and Eve had chosen to yield to the serpent’s lies and therefore suffered separation from God. Their awareness of his glory was diminished and they were self-conscious rather than God-conscious. They died as God had promised. They hid behind a bush out of fear and shame, and were placed outside the Garden for their own protection. Since then all of humankind has inherited a heart of suspicion toward God, being harassed by fear and hounded by shame. Unsure of his nature and feeling condemned by failure, we have all lived in dread of judgment and defiant toward the God we couldn’t control.
The cross changes that.
As our representative, Jesus through His death crucified that heart. We died with Him and were raised with Him to live His life. Fulfilling previous prophecies of Jeremiah and Ezekiel, God gave us a new heart that not only is alive to God, but also desires to know and please Him. We have experienced regeneration by the grace of God who did for us what we couldn’t do ourselves. Our new heart is capable of trusting Him for whatever His death procured for us.
There is still more. We can’t forget our enslavement. Living in enmity against God we were under the power of the deceiver. We know that we are slaves to the one we obey and knowingly or unknowingly, we lived in disobedience toward God and in obedience to Satan. He is perfectly content for us to be fairly good people promoting religions of man’s own making. This gives him adequate cover for his operation. Generally he does not promote himself, but pushes mankind to trust in his own self. He gets great delight in watching God’s creations squirm in guilt, condemnation, fear, shame, and defiance. His constantly shoots arrows of doubt and suspicion toward all humans. Those without a shield of faith are sitting ducks. Mankind struggles with addictions, compulsions, and perversions trying to find techniques to curb them, all the while neglecting the reality of spiritual battle.
The cross changes that.
When Jesus lived the perfect life, died the sacrificial death, and defeated death, He also exposed Satan.
“And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them him it.” (Colossians 2:13-15)
Satan’s legal rights to prosecute us were stripped from him. He is now an illegal accuser. He still lies and those who are not dressed in the armor of Jesus will feel the sharp pain of his deceptive arrows. But we are no longer in his family. We are not under the kingdom of darkness. We have been transported into the kingdom (authority) of light (truth). We are now instructed to submit to God and resist the devil. The promise is that he will flee. As we submit to God’s gospel, we are under His authority and thereby have His authority to resist the devil. He must flee because it is not we that speak, but God.
Now we can live as God designed us to live—in fellowship with Him and working with Him on this earth. Since all of creation was affected by the fall into sin, much of our assignment now is to proclaim the message of the cross to all humankind. No one has escaped the effects of Adam’s fall. All need the only solution that has been provided to nullify it. We can see clearly why Jesus’ declaration that He is the only way to the Father is good news. He is the only one who could be a qualified new Adam. Only Jesus could make an exchange of life that would restore us to God. Only His sacrificial death could atone for our sins. Only His resurrection makes it possible for us to live unafraid of death and judgment.
Those who scoff at Jesus’ “exclusivity” obviously think the problem is different and therefore the solution can be altered. It is a mark of defiance. We as deceived people believe we are independent and we want many options. We defy God to limit us to one way. But to those who have experienced the liberating dynamic of the cross, it is good news. We were tired of trying to figure ways to get back into the Garden. To the tired and confused, the message of “one way” is fantastic. We have tried the many options and they are all dead ends.
Through the cross our past has been settled. Our present life is empowered by the Spirit who was sent from heaven when Jesus sat down on the throne ruling His kingdom. Our future is secure because Jesus has gone before us and we are in Him. The revered hymn says it best. “Our hope built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.” We are in a new family with a new identity fulfilling a new purpose as we operate with a new power. There is no cure to ailments of creation but the cross of Jesus the Christ.
This weekend we celebrate Jesus’ resurrection. If there were no cross, there would be no resurrection. He is alive forever more and we live in Him!