The Cross of Christ: the Center of Scripture, Your Life and Ministry
THE CROSS OF CHRIST
The cross is vitally central
Christ’s cross looms high above the world
It is the pivotal point in all history
It is lodged in the middle of God’s heart and Word
The cross is the determining point of our destiny
And deserves to be central to all of our life and ministry (p. 1)
It is not only Christianity in general that is superficial. Individual Christians, like Las Vegas, are fifteen miles wide but one foot deep. This is because their view of the work of Christ at the cross is so shallow. (p. 1)
In short, even though I was a seminary professor for the last eleven years of this floundering, I had a superficial view of the work of Christ at the cross. As a result I had a superficial Christian life. If you too have this type of experience, it can change. It did for me!
I am now convinced that Satan, God’s arch enemy, is very pleased with the cross being put in a subordinate place. What he may not be able to accomplish by brazen lies, accusations and raillery, he has attempted through subtle substitutes hoping to cajole and trick the church into preoccupation in legalism or lethargy. (p. 2)
Only in this full message of the cross can we ensure that we see God clearly, that we have an accurate perception of Him. It is vital that we see God clearly, that our perception of Him is accurate. By telling us about the death of Christ on the cross, the Word of God gives us an undistorted and adequate view of God. Without the cross, our perception of God will be skewed and incomplete. To whatever degree our concept of God is distorted, our lives will be distorted. (p. 3)
THE CROSS: FORESHADOWED IN THE HEBREW SCRIPTURES
Indirect predictions and types
Israel’s sacrificial system clearly pictures in types (figures of a coming person or thing) the work of Messiah at the cross (John 1:29; 1 Corinthians 5:7; Hebrews 10:11-12; 1 Peter 1:18-19). The Passover of Exodus 12 foreshadowed Christ’s death, as well as the offerings of Leviticus 1—7 and the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16). (p. 4)
The essence of the gospel is that we could never, with any good we could do, come within a million miles of the great good Jesus completed at the cross both for us (substitution) and to us (causing us to die in union with Him)! (p. 15)
How different this is from what believers hear today from the pulpit and Christian literature and media: We need to be more disciplined, we are told; we have to get more serious, make sure we are accountable to others; we need to avoid sin because of its bad consequences. “If you commit that sin, think of what will happen to yourself, your family, your reputation!” Of course, sin's consequences should be a deterrent to us. But that is not the primary reason not to sin.
Paul immediately provided the primary reason to the Romans: we do not sin because it utterly contradicts who we are in Christ. (p. 23)
We can say “no” to temptation from the power of sin and know that we are being true to ourselves in doing it. It's all because of the cross. But there's even more. We are now alive to God: “Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus” (6:11). We are commanded to count on who we are. It is a call to believe our identity is what God says it is! (p. 24)
Thanks to Christ’s work in us through the cross, we have a lot in which to glory. Matthew Henry observes, “The cross of Christ is a good Christian’s chief glory…for to it we owe all our joys and hopes.” I believe with all my heart that Paul made it clear over and over that this is what is close to God's heart and to his heart. We must ask ourselves: Does our heart beat with the Apostle Paul? Or, even more, does our heart beat with our Lord Himself about the centrality and absolute necessity of the cross in uniting us to Him? (p. 29) I have the power in Christ not to just overcome, but to live in real victory. Christ in me [enables] me to admit my anger, to be honest about the way I feel…to be open to the fact that I could be wrong in my personal judgment, . . . to ask forgiveness and allow Him to work in other’s lives. (statement from Carolyn Best, p.40)
Jesus did not die and rise again to enhance a life we already had but to give us a new life, exchanging our old man (Romans 6:6) for a new creation man (2 Corinthians 5:17). All our vapid, empty efforts to change or enhance ourselves apart from union with Christ at the cross takes the focus off of Christ and onto our efforts.
When people only hear that Christ was raised for them and not that He was raised with them, they are tragically deceived, as I was, trying to change what God already has exchanged! (p. 16)
Imagine the apostle Paul was ministering to someone and that person started telling him of all the sin in his life. “I am having such trouble shaking all of this sin,” they say. “Am I just to continue living with this sin?” What would Paul say? According to Romans 6, he would say, “No, how can you, who died to sin’s power live in it anymore? Don't you know that you have been crucified with Christ? Sin is an unnatural thing to you.
THE CROSS CAN SLIP OUT OF CENTRAL PLACE
The cross of Christ was central to Christ and the focused perspective of Paul. The cross is to be personally experienced for justification, regeneration and sanctification. The previous chapters have demonstrated this.
Having these truths firmly in mind, an important safeguard is to be warned how the cross of Christ can slip out of central place in our personal lives and public ministries. Such forewarning is necessary because the history of the world and the church is strewn with the wreckage of those who have made shipwreck of the faith. They may have started their personal or public Christian journey with the cross central but have over the years departed from it slightly or entirely. (p. 42)
You cannot maintain the cause of Christ without centering on the cross of Christ. This lesson from history is a somber one! (p. 42)
Getting away from living in dependence upon the life of Christ within
If we get preoccupied with things other than our union with Christ, we are out of focus on the cross. There are so many things available for us to depend upon . . . (p. 43). . . . sophistication leads to stagnation. Instead of growing in grace (2 Peter 3:18) we are gradually growing in self dependence. (p. 43)
If this departure from dependence has happened, if the poison of self absorption has invaded your spiritual veins, may I exhort you to come back? Come back in all simplicity of mind to your union with Christ at the cross (Galatians 2:20; 2 Corinthians 11:3). (p. 43)
Seeking to bear pain unnecessarily
When we refuse the completed work of the cross (“It is finished—paid in full”) by continually beating ourselves up for sins of our past, we are departing from the cross. In our stubborn, though it may seem humble, resistance to Jesus bearing the burden of all our sin (2 Corinthians 5:21), we continue to bear it. It is as if Jesus’ work was not enough, not complete. If you have continued to let Satan and the power of sin accuse and condemn you, may I plead with you to rest in Christ’s complete payment for your sins? (Colossians 2:13-14; 1 John 2:1, 12). (p. 44)
Forgetting to live in the new covenant
Calvary is being neglected by us when we forget to live in the new covenant, initiated by the blood of Jesus at the cross (Luke 22:20 cf. 1 Corinthians 11:25 where it is applied to Gentile believers). Much that has been provided for us to walk in grace by faith comes through our being participants in the new covenant. (p. 49) The Bible is clear that all believers in Christ, Jew or Gentile, have died with Christ to that old covenant of Law (Romans 7:4; Galatians 2:20; and Hebrews 8—10)! We have been raised with Christ, married to Him and capable in the new covenant of bearing fruit in the freedom of grace and the newness of the Spirit within (Romans 7:4, 6). “The heart of the New Covenant provision for a believer’s vital relationship with God is found in a spiritual union with Christ in His death, burial, resurrection and ascension.” (p. 49)
FOR MORE INFORMATION ABOUT THIS BOOK, GO TO