THE CRUCIALITY OF THE CROSS

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Came across some reflections I had written on the importance of the Cross, thought they might be worth posting.

14For Christ’s love compels us,
because we are convinced that one died for all,
and therefore all died.
15And he died for all,
that those who live
should no longer live for themselves
but for him
who died for them and was raised again.
16So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view.
Though we once regarded Christ in this way,
we do so no longer.
17Therefore, if anyone is in Christ,
he is a new creation;
the old has gone,
the new has come!
2 Corinthians 5

`
Introduction

You may not have heard it before but the word “Cruciality” is not a word I have just made up, it’s a word that gained prominence from an important book written by another Scot. Last century Scottish preacher and theologian PT Forsyth was worried about the direction of Christianity. Specifically he was worried that the Cross, that is the significance and role of Jesus’ sacrificial death, was being marginalised in the church and so he published a groundbreaking book called `The Cruciality of the Cross’ It emphasised how “crucial” the cross, the sacrificial death of Jesus was to Christian faith.

At the moment I confess that I am worried that today almost a century after Forsyth’s book that the cross is once more in danger of being marginalised, of losing its cruciality. I wonder whether the cross is playing the role it should be in our lives as Christians? My worry stems from the fact that it seems to me that the moment that the cross is either
Neglected …. Little is being said about the cross in all the missional literature that is being published today, despite the fact it dominates the NT.
Disputed … When the cross is discussed it tends to be in the context of a dispute about its theological meaning. Does the NT teach penal substitution? Etc The atonement has become a source of controversy even in the evangelical church where it was once a unifying force.

Paul in the passage from 2 Corinthians above focuses on the cross because he see it as the source of transformation among God’s people. How? Paul tells us that the death of Jesus transforms us because the …

CROSS CONVINCES US

“we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died.
Sadly probably tens of thousands of people were crucified by the Romans, and since then tens perhaps hundreds of millions of people have died equally cruel deaths. So the significance of Jesus death does not lie so much just in the manner of his death but in the purpose of his death. Paul draws our attention to that purpose, Jesus died for all, he died for us. Paul goes on to draw out the meaning of saying that Jesus died “for us” explaining that “God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them.” It seems clear to me from those words that Jesus died in our place, he died our death, his death dealt with the problem of our sin that alienated us from God and each other, and he died to set us free. Ultimately for all of those reasons Jesus died to bring us back into relationship with God. I don’t fully understand why or how but I understand clearly there could be no reconciliation between us as sinful human beings and God without Jesus’ death dealing decisively with the problem that broke our relationship in the first place.

When we are really convinced that Jesus died for all, and that that includes us, in order to bring us back to God, we will find something happens, that the …

CROSS COMPELS US

14“For Christ’s love compels us …”

Paul says what we believe about Jesus death exerts a transforming effect on our lives. He explains that because of what we are convinced to be true about Jesus’ death we experience a new inspiration and motivation in life. This new inspiration, motivation and driving force which is unleashed in and through our lives is the love of Christ. When we really become convinced about the reality that, “God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them,” we will find a new power, a new motivation which powerfully and compellingly influences the decisions we make and the actions we take. When we understand the significance of the cross there will be things we will do that when people ask us to explain our actions the only explanation we will be able to give is that “Christ’s love compelled me.” When we understand the cross Christ’s love will become the only possible explanation for our lives.

CROSS CHANGES US

When we become convinced of the significance of the cross and compelled by the love we see in and experience from the cross what happens is that the cross changes us. Paul says it changes us in two significant ways

a. The cross changes the way we see our own life ... “those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.” If we are really convinced and compelled by the cross living for us, a self focused and self serving outlook on life is simply no longer an option. The cross changes us because it means we no longer see our own life as our own. Our purpose in life, our number one priority and deepest desire becomes, to use Paul’s words, to “live for him who died for us and was raised”

a. The cross changes the way we see others … 16”So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view.” Understanding the significance of the cross that Jesus was dying for all that he therefore valued every single human being enough to die in their, changes our outlook in another life altering way. That perspective means that we can never again see any fellow human being as worthless or useless. The cross causes us to have a completely new perspective on those around us, even our enemies. The cross shapes our attitudes to others until we come to share Christ’s love for them which it embodies. No wonder Forsyth said the cross was crucial because it transforms our worldview and changes our understanding of what makes human beings significant. We simply cannot have an authentic Christian worldview without seeing the world through the lenses of the Cross.

CONCLUSION

These words from Paul remind why I need to join him and Forsyth in guarding the cruciality of the cross in Christianity. A Christianity that ignores or neglects the significance of Jesus’ sacrificial death to me loses its essence and power. It is only when we are convinced about the significance of the Cross and compelled by the love of Cross that our lives will be changed by the power the Cross exerts by the Holy Spirit over our lives.

Paul sees this change as so dramatic he describes it like this, 17”Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” Paul is telling us that the cross is the antidote to Adam, that through cross we experience nothing less than the reversal of the Fall.
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