MYSTERY AND UNIQUENESS OF THE CROSS
P. Samuel Manoharam
Many thoughts flash into my mind whenever I have a heart-breaking glance of the rugged cross of Christ and try to know what it tells me. The cross is dear to my heart and it means so much to me. It touched my own life deeply and brought remarkable change in me. In this message I want to share these sublime thoughts with others for their edification.
Christ Is Hope
If it were not for the reality of the coming of Christ from heaven, as Son of God, into our earthly world, what would have happened to all of us? How awfully sinful we would continue to be forever, before the awesome holiness of God? There would have been no hope of our deliverance from sin and its terrible consequences, and the severe judgement that awaits us. There would have been no hope of God's assurance and His mighty presence in our dismal, dark, difficult times. There would have been no hope for our future life in eternal heaven, making us to be eternally lost. There will be despair, despondency, darkness, helplessness in us. How vital it is to lodge these spiritual thoughts in our hearts always? If there is no cross, there is no hope. How horrible it is to assume such a possibility?
When God created us, He wanted to make us free moral beings capable of choice. He did not want to make us human puppets. He could have made us persons without the possibility of sinning. He chose, on the contrary, to make the great adventure and to create moral beings, capable of good and of evil. This shows that God took a great risk in creating us, because in the end it may break His heart, when He sees the mess that we are most likely to make by going astray from Him and disobeying Him, thereby sinning against Himself. God knew that this would result in much pain and suffering to Him. God knew that all this would greatly grieve Him, making it a cross for Him to bear.
God prepared for all this and assumed responsibility for all eventualities, at the time of creation of mankind. Thereafter at the cross He acknowledged and discharged that responsibility. God created us and bore all our punishments on our behalf. When God knew all this beforehand, why did He let it happen? This is a great riddle and mystery to comprehend by our finite minds. It can only be God's supreme and fathomless love for us, who are humans, whom He created for His fellowship and enjoyment. God's ultimate plan for us, to make us like His Son, Jesus Christ, is also at work now, through re-creation of the world into the kingdom of God. How inscrutable are the ways of God!
God's Master Plan
The way the creation of the world took place, and the way the entire universe is being controlled by God show God's master plan for the world. God created the world and sin devastated it. God's Son, Jesus Christ, redeemed and restored the world by His death and resurrection, restoring our relationship with God after our separation from Him due to disobedience. Finally, the Holy Spirit is now re-creating the world into God's kingdom. This, in essence, is what Christianity is all about.
Someone has well said that the answer to the riddle of the world is God, the answer to the riddle of God is Christ, and the answer to the riddle of Christ is His cross where His sacrificial love and spirit culminated. The cross becomes the crown of Christ, which is the noblest, the greatest and the highest in the spiritual realm. The crown of all creation is man (human race), the crown of man is Christ and the crown of Christ is the cross, which is the highest peak of sacrificial love of God.
Self And Selfless
The cross is the key of life giving the meaning of life itself. The highest man is the man of noblest character, willing to sacrifice for others. The lowest man is the man in whom such sacrificial love and spirit are absent. This lowest life is the most selfish life, which is dangerous, as it deadens the soul, cutting us off from God. The most miserable man is he who is self-centred, and the most blessed man is he who is selfless, helping others through self-sacrifice.
So the cross shows the pathway to a life which alone can please God and glorify Him by adopting Christ-like qualities. These are self-sacrifice, sacrificial love and selfless service which we should adopt as we live in this out-and-out selfish world. Christ Himself exemplified this in His life. This alone can lead us to eternal heaven ultimately.
The cross alone can transform us by its power from self-centred life to Christ-centred life. Nothing else can accomplish this task. As Christ commanded us, we have to deny ourselves, take up the cross and follow Him. The power of the cross works to detach us from worldly attachments. It makes us not to live after the lustful fleshly desires. This demonstrates how revolutionary the cross is.
Significance Of The Cross
As mentioned earlier, the cross on which Christ died constitutes a very vital event planned by God before the very creation of the world by Him. It works out the eternal purpose of God through divine salvaging, by dealing with the evil in the world. At the cross we can witness a delightful exchange between the sinner and Christ. The sinner transfers his sins to Christ in exchange for Christ's own righteousness. Through this imputed righteousness, the sinner is fit enough to stand before the blazing purity of God, the Heavenly Father. Without this righteousness imputed through faith in what Christ had done on the cross, the sinner can never stand with his unrighteousness before God at the time of judgement.
This was made possible by Christ's reconciliation work on the cross, on which He died for the sins of the entire mankind, for its redemption and salvation. To achieve this, Christ who was totally sinless and holy was made to be sin for us, so that sinners might be made the righteousness of God in Him. This is because of God's unfathomable love towards mankind. Christ's death on the cross granted us grace to live in this world, grace to die and grace to reach our heavenly home above. The work of the cross has effectively dealt with evil, sin and suffering, which are deeply intertwined and which are all-pervasive in the fabric of human existence. Satan who is the prince of this world has, in principle, been judged and doomed forever. Such is the uniqueness of the rugged cross.
The cross, as the supreme symbol of suffering, reveals two basic facts, the depth of man's depravity and the immensity of God's sacrificial love. The cross contradicts our pride, our sinful human nature, our wisdom, our fleshly desires, our wills and finally our 'self' itself. So the cross must be at the heart of Christian life.
Christ's work on the cross enables us to live in contradiction of our selfish, corrupt nature. It tears us away, through its power, from the fallen unspiritual human nature and makes us to focus our lives on the spiritual nature and to partake of Christ's divine nature. This is our inner crucifixion, which happens through the inner dynamics of the cross when the crucified Christ lives in us. By this, God wants to change us into new creatures of such splendid moral and spiritual beauty that those around us will marvel looking at us. How mysterious and amazing to ponder this!
The Early Church was completely separated from the world, making Christianity most victorious through self-renunciation (self-denial). If the present day church merely followed the example of the Early Church, the Christian world would have been very much different from what it is today with so much materialism in it. Self-sacrifice and sacrificial love are not being practised by us in actual life. How can we practise the Christian faith without them? This is the cause of degeneration of the modern church.
Looking at the terribly disturbing events taking place every day around us we can see that the Second Coming of our Lord Jesus is not far off. Are we not sitting on the brink of a great catastrophe and at the edge of terrible chaos that would spell doom to this world? The Lord is lovingly calling us to wake up at once and to repent for preparing to meet Him when He comes. I believe He is coming soon to take us home in heaven, which is the only hope for many of us living in this world. Our immediate response to God's call should be true repentance with remorse and penitence without postponing it any longer, turning to God and changing our entire focus in life to grow closer to Him. We should prove our repentance by actual deeds and the kind of life that would glorify Him.
Finally, we have to play the role of a catalyst for people to be drawn to Jesus through our Christian fragrance, by the way we live in this world, and not by mere preaching. The cross reveals God's heart for the lost and perishing souls. So let our life be a battle for bringing the lost souls back to godly path.
What Christ had done, through the amazing victory on the cross, is the boundless measure of His mercy and grace, which gives us the eternal gift of salvation in His plan of salvation.
So I will cherish the old rugged cross,
Till my trophies at last I lay down;
I will cling to the old rugged cross,
And exchange it some day for a crown.