Life In View of the Cross
In our faith practices we often look at the resurrection, and rightfully so! The resurrection is the reminder of the victory over death, a promise for the followers of Jesus that there is life beyond this present world and much, much more! However, the resurrection has fuller meaning in light of the cross of Jesus! I find myself singing and contemplating a line from the hymn, Old Rugged Cross! The line is “that old rugged cross, so despised by the world, has a wondrous attraction for me.” It’s the last phrase that I want to focus on, “…has a wondrous attraction for me.”
There are a variety of faith practices, spiritual disciplines and behavior that help us to walk nearer to Christ. An example may be our daily devotions. Daily devotions are where we spend time in the Bible, studying the Word and praying. This is a very helpful faith practice for the believer to calibrate their day and prepare for God’s plan. Fasting may be a spiritual discipline that allows for many things not the least of which is to put our body under control of the Spirit (denying the body’s natural urges to submit to spiritual authority). There is another faith practice, and that practice is found in living a life in view of the cross.
I grew up in a church that practiced “crossing themselves”. I never knew why. I just knew that when you walked into the church you crossed yourself. Occasionally, in the worship service we would “cross ourselves”. I just did it. Years later I finally figured out why. That practice was a great reminder of the cross and living a life in view of the cross.
I have had a condition called “Chronic Sinusitis” that creeps into my life once or twice a year. Several years ago, I was able to get it under control. I thought those days were behind me. Then I woke up in the middle of the night with pressure on my eye and ear. Chronic Sinusitis was back! It’s very frustrating as it only allows me to sleep for a little while then the pressure in my eye and ear are overwhelming and won’t allow for continued sleep. I have thrown up from the pain and sometimes will shake from the pressure.
I have found myself in days past begging God to heal me, to relieve the pressure, etc. Sometimes God has answered those requests immediately! Sometimes, He has used medicine to heal me and sometimes… I just hurt! Through my most recent episode I have been remembering a lesson that I’ve experienced, preached on, and taught others. The lesson is found at the cross!
The Cross teaches some lessons that we constantly and consistently need to remember AND practice. The cross is also for the believer. In good times and bad, we should always look at the cross! Recently, as I was staring at the dark wall during another sleepless night, I thought of the cross! As I considered the cross and the many passages that speak on this matter, I found hope in my suffering.
- We do not suffer alone.
Hallelujah! God is with us! My suffering is not a unique or isolated experience. The mass of humanity before and after me has and will suffer. Unlike those who suffer and do not know the LORD we have hope! The Creator of the universe, the One who fashioned us into His image bearers is with us! He is present! (Joshua 1:9; Isaiah 41:10; Romans 3:38-39; Matthew 28:20)
- Our suffering is compared to the cross.
When I consider Jesus on the cross, I quickly come to the conclusion that my suffering and hurt is no where near that. That does not discount or trivialize my suffering. That does, however, remind me that the way of Jesus goes to the cross. I am a follower of that way! Jesus’ suffering was intense and painful and He offered that suffering to His Father. My hurt is more endurable when compared to the cross. My hurt is more meaningful compared to the cross. My hurt allows me to offer it when compared to the cross.
- Our suffering brings us closer to the LORD.
Paul reminds us that he wanted “to know Him (Christ), and the power of His resurrection” which is to “fellowship in sufferings.” That suffering is not more clearly demonstrated than at the cross. Salvation is found at the cross (1 Cor 1:18). That literally brings us closer to the LORD. The cross allows me to live; righteousness (1 Peter 2:24). Again, this righteousness literally brings us closer to the LORD. The cross must be viewed!
- Our suffering is momentary.
For the follower of Jesus, the cross is a reminder that this suffering will end. It is also a reminder that for the non-believer it is going to get worse. There is a story from church history that Lazarus (the one who Jesus rose from the grave in John 11) went on to become a bishop. He also had a dominating trait, he never smiled (one time he did but that is another blog). He was worried by the unredeemed souls. According to history, Lazarus constantly was reminded of the eternal fate of those who did not follow Jesus and that suffering was eternal.
- Our suffering is a mark of Christ.
Jesus, Himself, reminds us to carry our own cross. Those who do, are His disciples (Luke 14:27). Embrace the cross! Suffering is a part of the experience. The resurrection comes after the cross and perhaps this is a spiritual reality that must be formed in the Christ-follower. Pick up the cross, die to self, to live to Christ and experience His resurrection.
Please do not misunderstand me. We absolutely should keep the resurrection in front of us. However, we cannot overlook the cross. For the believer, the cross has a “wondrous attraction”. As we consider a life lived in full view of the cross, what are some additional insights that you have? What are some things that we could do to help remind ourselves of the cross and Jesus’ sacrifice?