Many in our society today question, not so much the person of Jesus – who is too widely accepted as a leading historical figure in one form or another; but questioning – even attacking – the cross. Its function and value declared grotesque and insulting to today’s sensitivities. After all, doesn’t God condemn violence? (Leviticus 19:18; Romans 12:17-19) How can a loving God then condemn anyone, let alone his own son, to death as a result of sin? (Not realizing it is the depth of his love for us that motivated him to do so. John 3:16)
It’s an ideal way to devalue Christ without appearing to do so. The cross, the empty cross of the resurrected Christ – being central to the gospel. (Romans 1:16 & 1 Corinthians 1:18) It represents Christianity, being a powerful symbol – not of hate and condemnation – but of love and regeneration. It identifies us and our mission to the world, declaring the love of Christ and the mercy of God, for through the Christ of the cross we are saved. Without the cross, who is Jesus but another good, moral, idealistic man who ran afoul of the authorities of his time and paid for it with his life?
Likewise heaven and hell. Heaven isn’t questioned nearly as much as it is too central to our way of thinking, too accepted – too wanted – by most everyone. So we just minimize evil and sin so Hell isn’t necessary. (Again protested as an unacceptable example of the church being insensitive and God practicing violence.) But without something to be saved from – us from sin and because of sin hell – “Why Did Jesus Have To Die?”1 For if you do away with Hell and the notion of rebellious sin that puts us there, you have no need of a cross (the penalty for sin), or a Savior, (the substitute for sin).2 If you do away with Jesus as Savior, you minimize his life and words as the Son of God (which He no longer needs to be), denying the authority he claimed to have (exactly the unstated intent), leaving us accountable to no one but ourselves in deciding right from wrong. (Eliminating one aspect of the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives, that of convicting us of our sin, turning us to Christ in sorrow, repentance and a new direction in life.)
A common theme running throughout the Bible is of man’s need and God’s provision. The central premise of our gospel being Jesus Christ and him crucified. (1 Corinthians 1:22-24) The message of the New Testament church must continue then to be one of the salvation to be gained through the Christ of the cross, now our resurrected Lord and King.
1 A question posed several years ago by Time Magazine
2An issue dealt with as well in Time asking, “What If There Is No Hell?”
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