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The Cross

Jeremy Riddle – Sweetly Broken
From the album Sweetly Broken

To the cross I look, to the cross I cling
Of its suffering I do drink
Of its work I do sing

For on it my Savior both bruised and crushed
Showed that God is love
And God is just

At the cross You beckon me
You draw me gently to my knees, and I am
Lost for words, so lost in love,
I’m sweetly broken, wholly surrendered

What a priceless gift, undeserved life
Have I been given
Through Christ crucified

You’ve called me out of death
You’ve called me into life
And I was under Your wrath
Now through the cross I’m reconciled

In awe of the cross I must confess
How wondrous Your redeeming love and
How great is Your faithfulness

On my way to take my boys to school this morning, I heard this song on K-Love for probably the hundredth time since it was released. I began thinking about how things can so easily get trapped into idleness. You know, when we hear something, see something, experience something, feel something, smell something, or even taste something so often that we become desensitized to it. It doesn’t really matter what it is either. It may be an awful odor or the sweetest savor ever known. It may be the “miracle” of life coming into the world or the tragedy of lives leaving. The things we know and understand just seem to be cataloged into our brain and become normal or common, often to the point of becoming very mechanical and static.

I think this is where most of what I have known as Christianity resides. Mechanical. Religious. A system to plug people into like little drones. I heard Reggie McNeal refer to it as something akin to assimilating people into the Borg.

But this morning, this song of the cross seemed to leap from the speakers in my car and penetrate the deepest part of my soul and being. Oh, the cross. Paul said,

“The message of the cross is foolish to those who are headed for destruction! But we who are being saved know it is the very power of God.”

(1 Corinthians 1:18, NLT)

The cross of Jesus Christ is the watershed for all of humanity and eternity. Everything points either forward or back to that moment in history when God gave Himself for the creation He created and loved. What have we done to the cross? We wear it like a trinket, worship it like a god, and avoid it like a plague. Yet, in reality, the God of the Universe embraced it in love and bore it in pain, all while being mocked and ridiculed.

Fundamentalism emphasizes the cross as a place to die to our sins. The demand is to give up our foolishness and rebellion, learn the right set of facts and doctrines, and live as good, moral folks who demand the same from others around them. But where is the grace, mercy, and forgiveness for our lives today? Jesus didn’t just die for those sins we deem most horrible, but also for our pride, self-preservation, our search for approval and significance. He died to end our empty systems of religion and replace them with a relationship with the Father. Often it seems as though, one score card (OT Law) has simply been traded for another score card (NT Law) and given the same recognition and preeminence.

Evangelicalism emphasizes the cross as an act of grace and mercy for the salvation of our eternal souls. The emphasis tends to be on what will happen after Jesus returns to wipe the tears of those who are “in” away, and rip apart those who are “out”. A simple prayer, a decision card, and faithful church attendance are the goals of the insiders. But what about the fact that Jesus triumphs over death, hell, ourselves, and our very own sin, and now reigns as King Jesus over EVERY aspect of life and creation? The truth is, Jesus is the reigning King of our lives today and forever, whether we acknowledge this fact and live in it or not. This certainly includes our hearts, minds, checkbooks, computers, TVs, stomachs, eyes, and mouths. It’s not just about heaven in our future, but about making His Kingdom real and alive on the earth today!

Liberalism is offended by the brutality of the cross. They, in some circles, even question the validity of the scene. After all, why would “god” need to die? The way they see it we are all really good at our core, and just need someone to come along and help us work that goodness out of our real selves that have been oppressed by what ever they happen to deem evil at that moment. Their message of love, acceptance, grace, and all around feel good platitudes offer a gross substitute of the love and truth Jesus offers the world through the cross. Why would Paul describe the cross as “the very power of God” if it were so irrelevant?

Oh, the cross. It is an act of devotion, love, grace, and mercy. It is the place where mortality meets immortality giving way to eternal life in Christ. It is the place where sin is judged and the wrath of God is satisfied. It is the place where God demonstrated the power of His love for humanity and the justice of His holiness. Both His judgement and forgiveness mingled into one pool of blood at the foot of the cross. Yes, the cross is both scandalously awful and undeniably beautiful. Therefore, in a moment of transparent confession, we must come and bow at the foot of the cross in recognition that our ways don’t and can’t get “it” done, while in the very same instance stand in the triumph Jesus imparts to us as victors over the very same death, hell, and sin He conquered.

We must begin to lean into the fullness of what happened on the cross. How can you do this? What is your understanding of the cross? What has your church or religious background emphasized about the cross?




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