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Cross Glory

A half century ago, A.W. Tozer warned that the church was abandoning the old rugged cross for a modern smooth cross. Instead of a cross that killed the man, Tozer warned of a cross that accommodated him.

“The new cross does not slay the sinner, it redirects him. It gears him into cleaner and jollier way of living and saves his self-respect. To the self-assertive it says, “Come and assert yourself for Christ.” To the egoist, it says, “Come and do your boasting in the Lord.” To the thrill seekers it says, “Come and enjoy the thrill of Christian fellowship.” The modern message is slanted in the direction of the current vogue, thereby catering to human taste and reasoning.”

Tozer merely saw the tip of the iceberg. We need not catalog the ways that the church has accommodated the world. By the mid 1990’s, as I recall, a secular journalist was lamenting the coarsening of culture. He said that when they look to the church for some guidance, “It is just like us.” So much for the old rugged cross!

When Jesus was ministering with His disciples, He emphasized that if one would truly be His man, he must “take up his cross daily, and follow me” (Lk. 9:23b). The cross in those days was not a nice symbol. It was the last thing that the convicted criminal remembered. Carrying the cross meant going to the place of death.

Saul of Tarsus found out that taking up the cross was tantamount to dying to the old self. He found a completely new life. His name was even changed. We call him Paul the Apostle. Saul had been a feared Pharisee. He had been a stickler for the law. But when He met Jesus his focus changed. He no longer boasted in how well he measured up to the expectations of his former religious comrades. Now his boasting was 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).

Paul’s glorying was not in any cross. He was not merely suicidal. His glory was in the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ. When Paul preached the cross he preached Jesus. He preached His Person, His mission, His passion, His death, and His resurrection. When he preached the cross of Christ, he contrasted it with the worldly concept that by physical things a person could somehow merit favor with God. Circumcision was not efficacious in obtaining righteousness. The law could not make a person righteous. That was worldly thinking. The cross brought Paul to die to that thinking, and as far as those who proposed it, he was dead to them. (For context, see Galatians 6.)

The cross of Jesus of Nazareth was where a person would find death to the old life. But that cross led to resurrection! There is new life after the cross. It is not merely a rearranged life or a modified life. It is a new life, patterned after the Christ of the cross. “That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death” (Phil. 3:10).

Paul had fallen in love with Christ. He could not preach without preaching Jesus and His cross. He could not write very long in any epistle without bringing the solutions to men’s problems to the Lord and the cross. Jesus was never an afterthought for the great apostle, but was ever at the center. Read the letters Paul wrote to the churches and notice how Paul cannot stray far from the cross.

I have noticed that the men people revere as great preachers are the men who are like Paul. They cannot get far from Christ or the cross. When Spurgeon was asked about his preaching method, he said, “I take a text and make a beeline for the cross.” Is it any wonder that he is remembered as “the prince of preachers”? I have also noticed that when the gospel of Christ and His cross are exalted, people come away with hope. The opposite is true. If the cross is an afterthought, people may be affected but not toward godliness. They may slip into the old way of the world, thinking that by doing more works they can become more holy. Paul called it foolishness.

When I was young and did such things, some friends and I decided to count the number of times a camp meeting preacher mentioned the word “Jesus” or “Christ” in his message. As I recall, it was less than a dozen times. We did not think that was a very Christ-centered message. A couple of us heard that a rather well-known preacher from Great Britain was preaching in the area the next day. We went to hear him and we decided to count the number of times he used “Jesus” or “Christ” in his message. We were barely through the introduction and stopped counting after about number seventy-five.

Our glorying must be in the cross of Christ. It is central to the gospel. It is the heart of where the power is to change sinners into believers and believers into saints. It is where there is victory over sin. It is where there is help for the journey. It is where there is aid for the helpless. It is where there is comfort to the grieving and where there is hope for the dying.

Several months ago I was in a rather depressed condition, considering the loss of my voice and my deteriorating health circumstance. After the comings and goings of doctors and nurses left me with a sense of gloom, I began considering the cross. There was hope! There was help! I took my ipad and typed the following prayer.

At the foot of the cross of salvation,
Sinful, tired, ashamed,
Bowing before you in faith,
It is me, Lord,
I trust you to take me, wash me, re-make me.

At the foot of the cross of cleansing,
Selfish, ambitious, prideful,
Bowing beneath you by faith,
It is me, Lord,
I trust you to cleanse me, own me, break me.

At the foot of the cross of healing,
Ailing, aching, afraid,
Bowing before you in faith,
It is me, Lord,
I trust you to make me whole, touch me, heal me.

At the foot of the cross of my Savior,
Mortal, aging, weak,
Bowing before you in faith,
It is me, Lord,
I trust you to lift me, carry me, raise me.

Comments(2)

  1. Reply
    J. R. Hutchinson says

    Thanks for the great article on a subject we hear very little about these days.
    Today, we have the assertion of self rather than a death to self. May we Glory in Gal. 6:14

  2. Reply
    Donna Tyler says

    Thank you for sharing. Sometimes the worst times yield beautiful fruit. Please keep writing, for your well-thought out essays on truth speaks to hearts and minds in our truth-starved world.

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