Man running to embrace the cross

Embrace the Cross

One of the things the Cross is for man is a perfect sacrifice for his sin. We are hopelessly unable to atone for our sin, yet Jesus offered himself as a perfect sacrifice on our behalf. What should our response be when we see the wonder and beauty of such love? Ed Buch uses Colossians 1 to show us in this brief talk given to the men in our Residential Program.

Tonight I’ve been thinking about the Cross and there was a line in one of the songs we were singing during worship earlier that says, “Spotless Lamb of God was He.” That just had me thinking about how the Cross represents different things Scripturally, and one of those things is the perfect sacrifice for sin. When we think about the Cross, it was our sin that required the Cross as a sacrifice. According to Hebrews 9:22 without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness and no remission of sin. We see in the Old Testament that life of an animal was is in the blood. And what is the wages of sin? Death. Sin brought death and the life is in the blood. So in order to bring life, it required the shedding of blood. And if you look at the Old Testament system, God accepted animal sacrifices for a season, but even in that, it tells us over 100 times in Scripture that the sacrifice had to be blameless or perfect or unblemished.
       The emphasis was on this perfect sacrifice because we couldn't do it. We had to choose perfect animals. They were closer than anything we could have come up with ourselves as a sacrifice. But then God of course, sent the perfect one, right? The spotless Lamb of God who could become that sacrifice for us. And if we go to Colossians 1, there's a passage there that is just worth spending a moment on. Colossians 1, verse 19:
       “For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell, and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross.” (Colossians 1:19-20, NKJV)
       That peace is real. It's deliberate and it's more than just an emotion. It's the peace of God. Like Jesus said, it's a peace that the world can't take away. The passage continues on to say:
       “And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight.” (Colossians 1:21-22, NKJV)
       He was the perfect sacrifice. And what's it saying there? He's saying he’s going to make you perfect. He’s going to make you the blameless one, the perfect one. And that's what we can become in Him. Because of Him and because of His sacrifice. None of us are going to live sinless lives, but we are going to stand before God one day and we’re going to be in a wholly blameless situation if we have really committed our lives to loving and worshiping and surrendering to the Lord. But notice the very next word after all that. A lot of times we want to stop reading at a place like that. But what's the very next word?
       "If indeed you continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast, and are not moved away from the hope of the gospel which you heard, which was preached to every creature under heaven, of which I, Paul, became a minister.” (Colossians 1:23, NKJV)
       So, there is something we must do. We must respond to all of this message, and responding to it is not just the act of mentally accepting it. A true response to the Lord is grounded in being steadfast in the faith and continuing to endure in the faith. That's what's required. Jesus did make the perfect sacrifice in our place because of our inability to do so. But there is a right and a wrong response to the sacrifice He offered up for us. And I hear in some of the worship that is going on in our services here at Pure Life that the right response is in many of you, but I want it to be there in all of you. I want you all to have a true sight of the Cross. I'm may not be able to convey the excitement of it very well, but the Cross should excite you. The Cross should be a symbol of gratitude to us. A symbol of hope to us. A symbol of perfect sacrifice to us. It should also be a symbol of Jesus's perfect obedience.
       Philippians 2 says that He obeyed even to the death of the Cross. You and I struggle with rules. I struggle with following rules as simple as driving the speed limit. But Jesus laid down all of His self-will and obeyed perfectly. When we don't have a will of our own, we don't struggle when it comes to obeying. And the less of our will that we have the better. But that's what the Cross is. It is perfect sacrifice and it is perfect obedience, and we need to come into an understanding and a responding to that. Here at Pure Life Ministries, we talk about having encounters with the Cross or getting a sight of the Cross or even a revelation of the Cross. Yes, you should be seeking to have all of that happen for you, but I also want you to embrace the Cross. I want you to make it yours. The Bible tells us that we need to pick up our cross and carry it daily, so that's what I want us to be able to do as well.
       Let me just mention one other thing. The Cross was an instrument of death. But just contemplate for a moment what Jesus went through for you. He had spikes driven through His hands and His feet. He was nailed to the Cross with His limbs stretched out and He was suspended so that his body weight was pulling on all of His wounds. He had to actually push himself up to be able to take a breath because His insides were being pressed in tight and it's hard to even breathe in that position for very long.
       Imagine you're hanging out there in the middle of the day in a place where there's no shade and no rain and no cloud cover to speak of. If you've been to Israel, you know it's hot most of the time. So, you'd be just hanging out there with that sun scorching you as you're trying to push yourself up. But every time you push, you're like pushing against gaping wounds in your flesh where you've been nailed. It was the cruelest form of punishment known to man. And maybe it still is even, but certainly in that day it was the cruelest form of execution known and it was so bad that Roman citizens were automatically exempt from it. It was considered cruel even to them.
       They would only put their enemies through that punishment. That should tell us something about how much suffering Jesus went through. It was meant to inflict the most pain possible for the longest period of time possible. That's why they used it as a deterrent against criminal behavior because you were going to hang on a cross in incredible pain for an incredibly long time. And then even as Jesus was hanging there everybody was reviling Him. If you remember from Scripture, it says that even the thieves on either side of Him were reviling Him. The people walking by or standing there at the foot of the Cross were mocking Him.
       He didn't get any sympathy or respect even while He was on the Cross and even all of his friends had fled and deserted Him. This was a horrible thing. I don't think you or I could write a script that would be more horrible than that. And what was Jesus’ attitude like? His attitude was, “not my will but yours be done Father. I want to do this. If this is the way it has to be, this is what I want to do. I want to lay down my life. I want to give my life up for the sake of others. I want people to have hope. I want people to have a way out of their sin. I want people to have a cleansing for their sin that they can't have otherwise. I want to give them this.”
So, there should be a lot of gratitude in our hearts as a result of that kind of love. Don't cheapen the Cross.

Ed Buch is Vice President for Counseling Programs at Pure Life Ministries. He previously worked as a counselor in a nationally known drug & alcohol addiction ministry, and holds a Master’s in Religion from Evangelical Theological Seminary. He has served at the Ministry since 2005.

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