Is there any chance for change? For letting go of the bitterness, of a wounded relationship, a disappointing past? For changing the drudgery you face each day as you go to work? For changing the morals of our decadent society?
Is there any chance of turning around a marriage that's become nothing more than a cold war? Or of victoriously dealing with the loss of the affection of your child?
Is there any chance of coming out of depression or defeat and actually looking forward to the days ahead? Any chance of being assured that you're being used of God so that whenever your life is over, you'll know that it hasn't been in vain? Rather, you'll know that, whether others recognize it or not, your life has had eternal merit.
There's not only a chance but a certain assurance if you will do one thing: if you will embrace the cross. While living at the cross may not change the circumstances or the other parties involved in your situations, you will find that at the cross there will be change — change that has eternal significance and merit.
Today we are hearing so little about the cross. We hear more about the crown, and we want to wear it now. Or we look at those who seem to be wearing crowns and perhaps because they're popular, they draw crowds, or are hailed by man, we think, "Man, they've got it made! They must be doing something right. I think I'll follow them!" But before you move on those suppositions, before you start following them, check out their relationship to the cross of Jesus Christ.
In Matthew 16 just after Peter made his awesome confession that Jesus was the Christ (Messiah), the Son of the living God, Jesus told the disciples that He was going to Jerusalem to suffer many things, to be killed, and that He would be raised from the dead.
Peter replied to this statement from Jesus by proclaiming, "God forbid it, Lord! This shall never happen to You." With that Jesus turned to Peter and said, "Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God's interests, but man's." Then Jesus said to His disciples, "If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me" (Matthew 16:22-24).
If you stop to think about this passage, you see two philosophies: Satan's, and thus the world's, and then God's. Satan, who is the prince of this world, used Peter's mouth to say, "Spare yourself, take care of yourself, protect 'number one'."
Jesus says we are to do just the opposite — deny ourselves, die to self — even though it's painful. The cross was an excruciating method of death, a prolonged one.
Satan said, "Live." Jesus said, "Die." Satan appealed to the flesh and went by the logic of the world. Jesus calls us to the Spirit's resurrection power that comes only when we die. The cross flies in the face of the world's wisdom because the cross is the power of God. Even at His weakest moment on Calvary, Jesus was stronger than men. (Read 1 Corinthians 1:18-31.)
Who will you listen to? You know which one is easier to listen to and, thus, to believe — the one which offers you a temporary crown! But you also know, don't you, that Satan is a murderer, a liar, a deceiver. He doesn't abide in the truth, because there's no truth in him (John 8:44).
The life you long for, the changes you want, come only through the cross — no other way. If you will live at the cross, the cross will take care of the past. This is the message of Romans 6. This is why Paul said, "I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in Me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself up for me" (Galatians 2:20).
The cross will take care of the flesh; that ugly Goliath that threatens, torments, and taunts you. The flesh that drags you down, that wants its rights, that cries out for justice, vengeance, and recompense. The flesh that says, "When you meet my needs, I'll meet yours." The flesh that bids you to flee the cross as it convinces you it is too much to bear. The flesh that refuses reconciliation, unless it comes on its own terms. Jesus told us to take up our cross and die daily; Paul said, "Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires" (Galatians 5:24). Only in this way will you control the flesh!
The cross takes care of the world with its lusts and boastful pride. Thus, Paul would say, "But may it never be that I would boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world" (Galatians 6:14).
The cross is God's message of victory to the world that we are not only to proclaim with our lips but underline with our lives. It is the path of ministry. Listen to John 12:23-33. Read the words carefully, prayerfully. Don't just glance over them in a hurry for this is the means of change, my friend.
And Jesus answered, them, saying, "The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world shall keep it to life eternal. If anyone serves Me, he must follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also; if anyone serves Me, the father will honor him. Now My soul has become troubled; and what shall I say, 'Father save Me from this hour'? But for this purpose I came to this hour. Father, glorify Your name." Then a voice came out of heaven: "I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again." So the crowd of people who stood by and heard it were saying that it had thundered; others were saying, "An angel has spoken to Him." Jesus answered and said, "This voice has not come for My sake, but for your sakes. Now judgment is upon this world; now the ruler of this world shall be cast out. And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself." But he was saying this to indicate the kind of death by which He was to die." (John 12:23-33)
Jesus came for this hour, the hour of crucifixion. And where would we be had He chosen the crown offered by Satan, when he promised Jesus all the kingdoms of the world if He would worship him? (See Matthew 4:8) If Jesus had spared Himself, you and I would never have been able to be changed. We would have been trapped eternally in our sin and all its formidable, eternal, destructive consequences.
But because He embraced the cross, I can be changed forever.
And Beloved, if you will embrace your cross, your life will have an eternal impact, because a crucified life cannot help but change things...and people.
When you live by faith — at the cross — life with all its problems, disappointments, frustrations, and pressures takes on a whole new-glorious-perspective. Nothing is more important than pleasing Him. And when I've truly pleased Him, I can leave everything at the foot of His cross.
Host, Precepts For Life
Co-CEO, Precept Ministries International