I want to examine the spiritual phenomena of the power of Jesus' cross to draw all men to Himself and keep them there. Because, when it comes to Christianity, we need to understand that:
- It isn't the church
- It isn't our good lives
- It isn't even the Bible
that draws people to Jesus. These things point the way but they in themselves do not have drawing power. What draws people to Christ is His cross:
- The church proclaims it
- Our good lives confirm it
- The Bible records it
In the end, people come to God because of the cross of Jesus. It is the magnetic force within Christianity that has the power to pull people toward God. In this Mini Book I will try to explain what it is about the cross that attracts people to Jesus.
1. The Cross has the Power to Set Men Free
Whether they admit it or not, people carry in their hearts an incredible load of anxiety and fear because of guilt. This is normal because all men are guilty of sin, and this fact has been well documented in the Bible. The universality of sin is a core Bible doctrine.
What then? Are we better than they? Not at all; for we have already charged that both Jews and Greeks are all under sin; as it is written, "THERE IS NONE RIGHTEOUS, NOT EVEN ONE; THERE IS NONE WHO UNDERSTANDS, THERE IS NONE WHO SEEKS FOR GOD; ALL HAVE TURNED ASIDE, TOGETHER THEY HAVE BECOME USELESS; THERE IS NONE WHO DOES GOOD, THERE IS NOT EVEN ONE."
For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
- Romans 3:9-12; 23
All are guilty, and this problem has moved people to seek relief from the mental, emotional, and physical ravages caused by the effects of sin. Social reform, new philosophies, escape through drugs, magic, even denial ("I have no sin"), all of these and more have been tried to no avail. No avail because none of these so-called solutions can do what the cross does: remove the cause of guilt, which is sin. These other things deal with the symptoms of sin but the cross effectively eliminates the root cause: sin itself.
And He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness for by His wounds you were healed
- I Peter 2:24
What Peter is saying here is that Jesus heals us of the effects of sin by removing our actual sins from us and taking them on to Himself. He doesn't excuse them, justify them or hide them. He removes them through a process of transference, a process that was previewed for centuries by the Jewish sacrificial system.
In the Old Testament when the priest would offer up an animal as sacrifice for someone's sins, he would first lay hands upon the animal as a symbol that a transfer was taking place (Leviticus 4:13-21). The sins of the individual were being transferred to the animal, and the animal was being slain in order to symbolize that the payment for the moral price of sin, which is death, was paid (Genesis 2:15-17). With the sin symbolically transferred to the animal, and the animal then sacrificed (sacrificed because death was the way something was transferred from the physical realm to the spiritual realm) the person was thus cleansed from the burden of guilt caused by sin.
Of course we know today that this was a preview of what was to come. Jesus, the perfect and innocent lamb, taking on the sins of all men (not symbolically, but literally), and then offering up His sinless and eternal being in a sacrifice on the cross in order to make moral payment for all sin, for all time. I say an innocent and perfect life because the sacrifice had to be without sin in order to atone for sin. Not to have a perfect life would contaminate the sacrifice. I say an "eternal," "divine" life because Jesus was the Son of God and as such the value of His life made His sacrifice adequate for all men not just one or two. His divine nature makes His sacrifice good enough and valuable enough to exchange for not only one person - its value is enough to exchange for all men. (I could exchange my perfect human life for only one other human life. Jesus is perfect and divine; His life is worth all other human life.)
People are attracted to the cross because they see in it the place where they can transfer all of their sins and be released from their guilt. When people hear how Jesus died in order to pay the moral debt they have before God, they are attracted because they have found the only way of dealing with their guilt that removes it forever: forgiveness! The most compelling words to a sinner in the New Testament are those of Peter and Paul. Peter said,
Repent and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.
- Acts 2:38
Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
- Romans 8:1
Sins are transferred to the cross - forgiveness comes from the cross - guilty sinners are drawn by the cross.
2. The Cross has the Power to Create in Me a Desire for Righteousness
The cross has the power to create in a person the love and desire for what is good, right, true, and pure. Even though a person cannot achieve perfection on this earth, the cross of Christ gives him a thirst for it. No law can produce this in one's heart. No threats of punishments can make me want what is right and good (I'll do it out of fear but you can't force me to want to obey.) No amount of self-discipline or will power can make a person love righteousness. However, the cross of Christ has attraction because it has the power to create this desire in the human heart. How?
When I contemplate Jesus' sacrifice for me, I see for the first time the essence of God's deepest goodness and purest justice. I see, by the cross, that I worship a God who took upon Himself a human nature and entered into human history in order to suffer the punishment for the sins that I committed and for which I truly deserved punishment. In other words, God transferred my sins onto Himself! This knowledge awakens in me the desire to have and do what He did. Paul explains this:
For while we were in the flesh, the sinful passions, which were aroused by the Law, were at work in the members of our body to bear fruit for death. But now we have been released from the Law, having died to that by which we were bound, so that we serve in newness of the Spirit and not in oldness of the letter.
- Romans 7:5-6
In the same way that I craved after evil and the pleasures of sin, after the cross I hunger and thirst after righteousness, now that I've seen what perfect righteousness does. Because of the Law, the sin in me was aroused. Because of the Cross, the spirit in me is aroused. Moreover, the cross makes me want to abandon forever my weak attempts at goodness and self-justification through works, and desire to be good and righteous as He is good and righteous; a goodness and righteousness that totally eclipses my own!
There are many things in the world that will change a person's appearance, even his state of mind, but only the cross of Christ has the power to change a person's heart. Before the cross I desired only what served me, after seeing the cross all I desire is what will serve God.
3. The Cross has the Power to Convince Me that I am Loved
One of the common issues found in diverse problems such as teen suicide, depression, alcohol and drug abuse, and marriage breakdown is the problem of low self-esteem. Sometimes we just don't like ourselves very much. We worry about our value as human beings, and we have trouble liking others because we have a poor estimate of ourselves. Sometimes it begins in youth when in different ways we get "messages" that tell us that we're not ok, names other kids call us, failure in school, trouble between our parents. Whether these messages are accurate or not is not the problem; the problem is that we think they are true and begin to store them away in our subconscious minds. In many ways these kinds of thoughts motivate us as we grow older; we try to improve, to quiet the inner voice that says, you're not worthy, you're no good, you'll never be good enough.
Children who grow up believing they're not ok become angry, depressed, frightened and insecure adults who often end up raising the same kind of kids. But the cross of Jesus Christ has the power to finally break this cycle because it loudly and clearly says, "I love you," "you're ok now." When nobody cares about you, even when you don't care about yourself, the cross says, "I care."
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.
- John 3:16
For while we were still helpless, at the right time God died for the ungodly. For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us."
- Romans 5:6-8
The cross convinces me that I am loved because in it I see that:
- God loved me; even when I ignored, ridiculed and even hated Him, He was planning my salvation.
- The innocent died for guilty me.
- My friend gave His life up for me.
No longer do I call you slaves for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father, I have made known to you.
- John 15:15
The cross draws men because it has the power to convince them that no one has ever loved them in this way before or ever again. Even if our personal history is filled with people and events that have told us that we're not worthy of love, the cross of Christ stands as an eternal witness that no matter what: God loves us. So long as we keep our focus on the cross we'll never doubt that we're ok with Him.
In Romans 1:16 Paul says that the gospel is the power of God unto salvation, and this is true, but the power of the gospel is the cross of Jesus Christ. Why?
- It draws me because of its power to release me from the crushing burden of guilt that I carry because of my sins.
- It redirects the attention of my heart. Once I craved for my own glory and independence from God, now I desire to glorify Him and know His will for my life.
- The cross has the power to reestablish my worth as a person. I tried to be important and loved by manipulating people, using money, and competing with others. Now my importance is based on the fact that God has noticed me and sacrificed Himself for me. I can honestly say that the power that the cross has is the power to completely change my life. This is my witness, not just my sermon.
Have you experienced the power of the cross?
- To release you from guilt
- To create a new heart in you
- To convince you that you are loved
You can! Here's how it works. In order for the cross to begin to have any power at all, Jesus had to first die on it and resurrect from it. This is what gives the cross its power: the death, burial, and glorious resurrection of Jesus. In the same way, for the cross to have power in our lives we must also die and resurrect from it. Jesus actually did this on a wooden cross some 2,000 years ago; our death and resurrection are carried out in the waters of baptism as we confess our faith in Jesus and repent of our sins.
Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.
- Romans 6:3-4
Those who have not experienced a personal death and resurrection in the waters of baptism will never experience the regenerating power of the cross in their lives either. And that power is not a secret thing either. You can see it:
- As believers hang on the cross with Jesus through repentance and baptism.
- As Christians carry the cross every day through patience in suffering and temptation.
- As disciples preach the foolishness of the cross to a skeptical and sinful world.
- As saints show their love for one another in sacrificial service.
The power of the cross is made evident to the world in us. I pray that the power of the cross will draw you to obey the gospel this very day if you haven't yet done so, and that its power will be evident in your lives from this day forward.