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What Should the Cross Mean to Me?

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The following excerpt is from The Way of the Cross: A Good Friday Devotion.

What should it mean to you, all ye who pass by? Let me suggest two things it should mean—God’s wrath and God’s love.

But why God’s wrath? Because the cross confronts us like a hangman’s noose, or an electric chair; it’s a place to kill criminals. Jesus was killed on the cross as a criminal. But Jesus was innocent! Yes, He had not personally sinned, but God the Father placed on Jesus the sins of humanity, and then the Father killed Him there. The cross means punishment, wrath, death.

But why does God hate sin so much? Because God is holy, perfect, and without sin. Those who break God’s commands (as revealed in the Ten Commandments for example), are criminals and will face the wrath of God.

But I am a good person, God isn’t going to punish me, is He? One sin made Adam and Eve sinners, worthy of the death penalty. One sin, makes us guilty of breaking the whole Law (James 2:10). This is not a question of relative goodness or badness; this is a question of moral perfection or imperfection. Any sin, one sin, makes you a sinner; imperfect, guilty and facing God’s wrath, judgment, death, and hell.

But didn’t Jesus die on the cross for my sins? Yes, Jesus died on the cross to pay the death penalty for humanity, not for Himself. Someone on death row cannot die for someone else on death row. Yet, someone who is not on death row can lay down their life for a person on death row to go free. That’s what Jesus did! Jesus had never sinned and deserved nothing but His Father’s favor. On the cross, the Father laid the sins of the world on Jesus, and Jesus dies, paying the death penalty for the sins of humanity. Therefore, when we see Jesus’ suffering and dying, we need to constantly remind ourselves that He is paying our death penalty.

But how does the cross show us God’s love? Scripture says, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). Jesus didn’t have to die in our place for our sins. He chose to lay down His life as a payment for our sins. The cross is wonderful news, and stands as visual proof of Jesus’ love in saving us. If we are not saved, it is not because God didn’t reach out to us in love. The cross shows us God’s love.

But how should we respond to the cross? The Apostles preached that we should respond by repenting for our sins, believing that Jesus’ death paid for our sins, and then following Jesus as obedient disciples. The Apostle Paul responded in Philippians 3:10, “I want to know Christ and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of sharing with His sufferings, becoming like Him in his death.” If you are prepared to fellowship in His sufferings; the Lord bless you. . . .

“For any church or any reader, this devotional guide will deepen their experience of the love and sacrifice of Jesus to provide salvation. Those who use this guide for serious reflection will love the One who gave His all with greater intensity and offer greater service in His name.”

—Don Wiggins, superintendent of the Northwestern District of the C&MA

To order this Easter resource for your church, please visit NextStep Resources, send an e-mail to nextstep@efca.org or call (800) 444-2665. Larger quantities (i.e., box of 185) receive a major discount.

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