The Cross

Above the hills of time the cross is gleaming,
Fair as the sun when night has turned to day;
And from it love’s pure light is richly streaming,
To cleanse the heart and banish sin away.
To this dear cross the eyes of men are turning,
Today as in the ages lost to sight;
And so for Thee, O Christ, men’s hearts are yearning,
As shipwrecked seamen yearn for morning light.

The cross, O Christ, Thy wondrous love revealing,
Awakes our hearts as with the light of morn,
And pardon o’er our sinful spirits stealing,
Tells us that we, in Thee, have been reborn.
Like echoes to sweet temple bells replying
Our hearts, O Lord, make answer to Thy love;
And we will love Thee with a love undying,
Till we are gathered to Thy home above.

—Words: Thomas Tiplady, 1931
Music: Londonderry Air, Irish Melody (“O Danny Boy”)

 

 

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Cosmic Explosion

The resurrection was a kind of cosmic explosion that reverberated in all directions. It gave the followers of Jesus a new understanding of the present, but also of the past and of the future. Through the resurrection (and that alone) the cross, that instrument of capital punishment by the hated Romans, ceased to be an enigmatic embarrassment and became the central symbol of the faith.

—Laurence Hill Stookey, Calendar: Christ’s Time for the Church, 37

“It is finished!”

The Savior meant that the satisfaction which He rendered to the justice of God was finished. The debt was now, to the last farthing, all discharged. The atonement and propitiation were made once and for all and forever—by the one offering made in Jesus’ body on the Tree. There was the cup, Hell was in it, the Savior drank it—not a sip and then a pause—not a draught and then a ceasing. He drained it till there is not a dreg left for any of His people. The great ten-thronged whip of the Law was worn out upon His back. There is no lash left with which to smite one for whom Jesus died. The great cannonade of God’s justice has exhausted all its ammunition—there is nothing left to be hurled against a child of God.

Sheathed is your sword, O Justice! Silenced is your thunder, O Law! There remains nothing now of all the griefs and pains and agonies which chosen sinners ought to have suffered for their sins, for Christ has endured all for His own Beloved and “it is finished.”

—Charles H. Spurgeon, “It Is Finished!” Sermon delivered at Metropolitan Tabernacle, December 1, 1861 (full sermon HERE)

The Necessity of Christ’s Death

Question 40. Why did Christ have to suffer death?
Answer. Because God’s justice and truth require it: Nothing else could pay for our sins except the death of the Son of God. (Genesis 2:17; Romans 8:3-4; Philippians 2:8; Hebrews 2:9)

Question 43. What further benefit do we receive from Christ’s sacrifice and death on the cross?
Answer. By Christ’s power our old selves are crucified, put to death, and buried with Him, so that the evil desires of the flesh may no longer rule us, but that instead we may offer ourselves as a sacrifice of gratitude to Him. (Romans 6:5-11; Colossians 2:11-12; Romans 6:12-14; 12:1; Ephesians 5:1-2)

Heidelberg Cathechism

THE POWER OF THE CROSS: Testimonies from Church History

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But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. (Galatians 6:14)

I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. (Romans 1:16)

THE POWER OF THE CROSS to open Paradise
The thief on the cross (born: ? ✜ born again: 32 A.D.)
CRIMINAL TO CHILD OF GOD

One of the criminals who were hanged railed at Jesus, saying, “Are
you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” And he said, “Jesus, remember me when You come into your kingdom.” And He said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:39-43)

 

THE POWER OF THE CROSS to convert the soul
Saul/Paul (born c. A.D. 5 ✜ born again: c. A.D. 34)
PERSECUTOR TO EVANGELIST
“If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless. But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ.”(Philippians 3:4b-9a; see also 1 Timothy 1:14-15; Acts 9)

THE POWER OF THE CROSS to give new life
Augustine (born: A.D. 354 ✜ born again: A.D. 386)
LIBERTINE TO THEOLOGIAN
“I quickly returned to the bench where . . . I had put down the apostle’s book [Paul’s Epistle to the Romans] when I had left there. I snatched it up, opened it, and in silence read the paragraph on which my eyes first fell: ‘Not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying, but put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh to fulfill the lusts thereof’ [Romans 1313-14]. I wanted to read no further, nor did I need to. For instantly, as the sentence ended, there was infused in my heart something like the light of full certainty and all the gloom of doubt vanished away.” (Confessions 8.12)
“We glimpse our goal across the sea of the present age. . . . But to enable us to go there, the One who is our goal came to us. . . . No one may cross the sea of his age, unless he be carried by the Cross of Christ. . . . So do not forsake the Cross, and the Cross will carry you.” (Tractates on the Gospel of John, 2.2)

THE POWER OF THE CROSS to free from guilt
Martin Luther (born: 1483 ✜ born again: 1516)
FEARER TO REFORMER
“Though I lived as a monk without reproach, I felt that I was a sinner before God with an extremely disturbed conscience. . . . I did not love, yes, I hated the righteous God who punishes sinners. Thus I raged with a fierce and troubled conscience. . . . At last, by the mercy of God, meditating day and night, I gave heed to the context of the words, namely, ‘In it [the gospel] the righteousness of God is revealed, as it is written, “He who through faith is righteous shall live”’ [Romans 1:17]. There I began to understand that the righteousness of God is that by which the righteous lives by a gift of God, namely by faith. . . . Here I felt that I was altogether born again and had entered paradise itself through open gates.” (Works, volume 34, pp. 336-7)

THE POWER OF THE CROSS to amaze with grace
John Newton (born: 1725 ✜ born again: 1747)
SLAVE TRADER TO PREACHER
“I hope it will always be a subject of humiliating reflection to me that I was once an active instrument in a business at which my heart now shudders. ‘O to grace how great a debtor . . .’ [from “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing” by Robert Robinson, 1758].” (“Thoughts upon the African Slave Trade,” 1788)
“To be inscribed upon my death: ‘John Newton, Clerk, once an infidel and libertine, a servant of slaves in Africa, was, by the rich mercy of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, preserved, restored, pardoned, and appointed to preach the faith he had long labored to destroy.’” (Self-epitaph, on his gravestone in Olney, England)

THE POWER OF THE CROSS to convert the mind
C.S. Lewis (born: 1898 ✜ born again: 1929)
ATHEIST TO APOLOGIST
“Really, a young Atheist cannot guard his faith too carefully. Dangers lie in wait for him on every side. . . .You must picture me alone in that room at Magdalen [College, Oxford University], night after night, feeling, whenever my mind lifted even for a second from my work, the steady, unrelenting approach of Him whom I so earnestly desired not to meet. That which I greatly feared had at last come upon me. In the Trinity Term of 1929 I gave in, and admitted that God was God, and knelt and prayed: perhaps, that night, the most dejected and reluctant convert in all England. . . . I did not then see what is now the most shining and obvious thing: the Divine humility which will accept a convert even on such terms. The Prodigal Son at least walked home on his own feet. But who can duly adore that Love which will open the high gates to a prodigal who is brought in kicking, struggling, resentful, and darting his eyes in every direction for a chance of escape? . . . The hardness of God is kinder than the softness of men, and His compulsion is our liberation.” (Surprised by Joy, chapter 14)
“It costs God nothing, so far as we know, to create nice things: but to convert rebellious wills cost him crucifixion.” (Mere Christianity, chapter 32) 

THE POWER OF THE CROSS to lead us home
Mary Ann Frazier (born: 1923   ✜   born again: c. 1929)

“I was a fortunate little girl. I had a mother and daddy that loved the Lord Jesus, and wonderful Sunday School teachers. And they would keep telling me about God, who made this whole world, became a Person to take my place on the cross; and would talk to me about the Lord Jesus, and how He shed His precious blood that cleanses me from all of my sin. And because of this, when I asked Jesus to be my Savior, God forgave me my sin, He made me His child, He brought me into His family, covered me with His righteousness, and gave me His precious Holy Spirit. And all these years the joy of my life has been experiencing the Lord Jesus with me every day. One of my wonderful Sunday School teachers, Mrs. Fanny King, loved the Lord. (You’ll meet her when you go to heaven.) She would talk to us about heaven every Sunday and teach us how the Lord Jesus was preparing a place in His glorious home in heaven for all who loved Him. And I’ve been looking forward to going and being with Him ever since. In fact, I can hardly wait!”

THE POWER OF THE CROSS to give a new beginning
Hunter Acosta (born: 1989   ✜   born again: 2011)
“I wore rage like a blanket, like a suit of armor that could be put on at any point to deflect relationships and to keep from people getting too close to me. I shunned relationships and I pushed others away, not knowing how it affected them, and definitely not knowing how it affected me. Luckily, I had a group of friends that persevered with me and continually pushed, in a good way, the Word of Christ into my life; continually asking me to come to a youth group and to experience something else. Eventually, I felt comfortable enough with them and the people around me to share my story and the fact that I had such rage and such contempt and such anger. And one night I felt it being lifted off of me. I felt it was okay to take down this suit of armor. I felt Christ take it off. With this new beginning, I am able to grow. I am able to foster relationships and love those that had been loving me all along. I am able to persevere through hardship with Him at my side; and with those people around me in Christ, I feel like I have become what God wants me to be or continually to grow as God wants me to.”


For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. (1 Corinthians 1:18)

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The last two people quoted are members of First Evangelical Church in Memphis, Tennessee. A worship service featuring all of the above testimonies, with musical commentary by the First Evan Worship Choir with orchestra, may be viewed HERE.