Glory In The Cross

But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.” (Gal. 6:14).

In the world in which the apostle Paul lived, this statement was both absurd and shocking. The cross was an instrument of execution and control and would not be spoken of in polite society. The cross was a place of shame, disgrace, humiliation, indignity and degradation. Those executed this way were beaten, stripped of their clothing and with arms spread nailed to a cross beam, feet nailed to a vertical beam.

The cross was then hoisted above the ground for the world to see. Spread eagled, naked, helpless…the scene was designed to humiliate. Who would make his ultimate boast in such a thing? In Mark 9:30-32, when Jesus’ told His disciples that He would be crucified, they fought the idea. Messiahs were victors, not victims. To the very end in the upper room and garden they were thinking about which of them would sit in the most honored positions when He came into power. They were thinking of swords, battles, and heroic feats. In the garden, Peter even pulled a sword against overwhelming odds, as Judas gave Jesus up. Peter was not going to accept the idea of the Messiah being crucified as a criminal. When Jesus told his disciples that he would be numbered with the transgressors, his major point was not that He would carry the sin of the world (Luke 22:37-39; Isaiah 53:12). He was saying to the disciples that he would die a dishonorable death, between two thieves.

The disciples resisted that idea to the end. Is the reaction of the world today so much different than that of Peter and the disciples? In the world of the university…in the world of the intellectual elite…in the world of the self-sufficient moralist, the cross of Christ is an embarrassing place to stand. The world will always laugh at the gospel of the cross. The world will always scoff at the idea that God became flesh. The theology which teaches that men are sinners before God and need a sacrifice to die and atone for their sins is counted as primitive in our culture. "For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.” (1 Cor. 1:18).

But friends, you can’t take the cross away without also denying its power. Yet many evangelicals take the emphasis away from the cross as we present the gospel to the world. If we deny the truth that God offered up His Son to die on a tree and that His Son willing did God’s will by going to the cross, what do we have? We are left with a caricature of the gospel. A Jesus who is easy to like and easy to follow. It is easy to stand in the world (without bringing up the cross) and be proud to say, “Come drink coffee and hang out with Jesus. Be comfortable with Him. Kick back with Him. He is anti-institutional. He is anti-authority. Living with Him is cool.” If we want to preach the gospel that saves, we must return to the shameful cross. The writer of Hebrews makes this clear: “For the bodies of those beasts, whose blood is brought into the sanctuary by the high priest for sin, are burned without the camp."

 So, Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood. "Let us go forth therefore unto him without the camp, bearing his reproach.” (Hebrews 13:11-13) It was a reproach to dwell outside the camp. The Hebrew writer uses that analogy to say, “Jesus was crucified outside of Jerusalem. He was crucified on the city’s garbage dump--a place of refuse. It was a place where criminals were executed. Just so, let’s go outside the camp, “and bear the reproach he endured." I think I know what Paul meant when he said, “But God forbid that I should glory (or boast), save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.” He counted it an honor to suffer in the world for the cause of the cross. A couple of sentences after he wrote of boasting in the cross, he closed the paragraph by saying, “From henceforth let no man trouble me: for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.”

To be sure, taking up our cross daily will not be easy. When we pitch our tent under His cross, our lives in some way will bear the marks of His suffering. But our reward will be to share in His glory when He returns.

Credit: Ron Kelley 

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