The Power of the Cross

Kneeling at the crossI recently read about the effects of an electromagnetic pulse from a solar flare or a nuclear weapon. It can cause a power surge that would wipe out the power grid, computers, cars, airplanes, basically anything with wires and a chip. The result would be widespread power failures, fried computers and car electronics, planes falling from the sky, etc. It’s a pretty apocalyptic picture. I wasn’t so much struck by the destructiveness of such an event as I was struck with the realization that the cross was more powerful against sin through all generations. I am incapable of meeting the requirements of God’s justice for one jealous thought yet Jesus took on the punishment for all of man’s sins: past, present and future.

Colossians 2:14 (NLT) says, “He canceled the record of the charges against us and took it away by nailing it to the cross.” God’s Word translation puts it this way: “He did this by erasing the charges that were brought against us by the written laws God had established. He took the charges away by nailing them to the cross.”

The record of sin that stood between me and heaven was taken away. Sin stood between me and God the Father. The devil was saying, “You’re not qualified for heaven. Look at this list of sins.” “OK, let’s have a look.” And when he unrolled it, it was blank. “Where’d it go?” “Over there, on the cross.”

When our daughter and her family visited recently, they wanted to order pizza and asked if we had any coupons for local pizza parlors. We said, “Sure”, but as we went through the stack: expired, expired, expired. When we leave our condemnation and guilt at the cross, God stamps them “Expired.” Isaiah 44:22 (NIV) promises, “I have swept away your offenses like a cloud, your sins like the morning mist. Return to me, for I have redeemed you.”

Made alive! I was dead in sin, helpless and hopeless, but God made a way through the cross that we can come into new life. It should’ve been me hanging on that cross, but instead He took my place. Colossians 2:12-13 (NLT) says, “For you were buried with Christ when you were baptized. And with him you were raised to new life because you trusted the mighty power of God, who raised Christ from the dead. You were dead because of your sins and because your sinful nature was not yet cut away. Then God made you alive with Christ, for he forgave all our sins.” Read this verse often. Get ahold of the hope that is infused in those two words: Made Alive!

The ceremonial cleansing for someone healed of leprosy is prescribed in Leviticus 14:4-7. The priest takes two birds, kills one draining the blood into a clay pot of water. The second bird is washed in the blood of the first bird and then released. One bird died so the other could go free. This was a picture of what Christ would do on the cross.  We may not have a skin disease but we all have a sin disease. Jesus died so that we can be washed in His blood and we are set free.

Psalm 103:12 promises, “As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.” Many schools and businesses today use the dry erasure boards. Write anything on them in an array of colors then wipe it clean as though it was never there. The record of our lives was covered in the red stain of our sin. Through the substitutionary work of the cross, “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall be as wool.” (Isaiah 1:18 NIV) Just like that dry erasure board, our sins are wiped clean.

We bought a car a few months ago. Actually the credit union bought the car and lets us drive it around. But I better pay them each month or I will lose that privilege. What can I do to pay my debt to God? Clearly it is impossible. Only the cross.

Such an action on God’s part demands a response from us. Acts 3:19 (NLT) says, “Now repent of your sins and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped away.” Faced with the truth of the cross how will we respond? (Matthew 13:18-23)

  • “Ho hum. What time is dinner?” Apathy. It comes from not truly understanding the power of the cross. They have the hardened soil of a closed mind. “The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” (2Corinthians 4:4 NIV).
  • “Yea, yea. I know that’s important but I’m super busy now. Can we talk about this later?” Skimping on our time with God leads to a life that becomes more and more shallow. We may listen to God’s Word, and maybe even get emotionally moved, but we never in fact do anything about it. We become seed on rocky soil with no moisture and no root. This is where a small group can give you encouragement and accountability.
  • “That’s too good to be true.” This attitude shows that we are still in bondage to religion and the belief that we must earn our way to heaven by good works. The Bible is clear: “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9 NKJV) If we don’t live or grow in the forgiveness and mercy of the Lord, we tend to fill our spiritual lives up with works and religion. Those works may look good but they can be the thorns that choke out the true power of God in our lives. Our good works are simply not enough to save our souls. But the work that Christ has done for us on the cross is enough.
  • “I surrender my life.” We are called to step into the freedom that comes from forgiveness and right standing before God, that comes when we pursue relationship with the living God who is pursuing us with His infinite and eternal love. Here is where we will see our lives bear fruit. “So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.” (Hebrews 4:16 NLT) Our lives have been restored from the destruction of our sinful past by God’s free gift.

Those of us who have been Christians for some time can easily become complacent about the Cross. We keep rethinking and reliving those old sins that happened years ago. We start all over again with the accusations, the guilt and the condemnation. 2Corinthians 5:21 is key: “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” Even though He had never sinned, Jesus took upon Himself my sins and your sins and the sins of the whole world. If the Gospel were to ever be condensed down into only one verse, it would be 2Corinthians 5:21. Charles Spurgeon said this verse is the “Heart of the Gospel”. In this verse is the heart of who we are in Christ.

If we don’t stand amazed at the foot of the cross we have missed its meaning and power. Without the blood of Jesus, every act of disobedience would add to the debt. Every moment of every day we are in need of God’s grace and forgiveness. The last entry on our record was not the day before our conversion. We are in need of forgiveness even on our best day.

Stepping into that forgiveness is what brings freedom. I really need to clean out my garage. There are empty paint cans, smelly rags and parts to long forgotten projects. There is all sorts of stuff there that hasn’t been touched in the six years we have lived there. More importantly I need to clean out the guilt I continue to carry. I will never experience the freedom of the Gospel until I do.

As we shed the guilt and condemnation, we step into a new way of thinking and living that demonstrates to the world the victory that is ours through the cross. As we understand our identity in Christ, as we go through the transformation of mind renewal, we develop the spiritual strength to live free from the bondage of sin.

In an old Roadrunner cartoon, Wiley Coyote sends Roadrunner a package containing a bomb. It is returned to him “Postage Due”. Forgetting what is inside, he rips it open only to have it explode in his face. At the cross, the devil was dancing in victory not realizing the truth of what had happened. Three days later, it blew up in his face. 1Corinthians 2:8 (NIV) tells us, “None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.”

What do you think of when you hear the words “public spectacle”? Jesus did that to demonic powers. Colossians 2:15 declares, “And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.” The devil lost his power. I no longer have to live in condemnation and shame when I understand who I am in Christ. Romans 8:1 (NLT) promises, “So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.”

Jesus calls us to be a light to the world (Matthew 5:14). We are to “shine like stars lighting up the sky.” (Philippians 2:15) We can’t do that if we look like the world. Then we would just fade into the background. The power of the cross makes us different, makes us shine with a light that penetrates the darkness of this age. To some the light will be welcome as they embrace the hope and promise it brings; to others it will generate anger as the light exposes their deeds. But it is God’s plan and purpose to give each one that choice.

Won’t you join me in that journey?