Faith is about Jesus and the cross. Our Christian lives begin at the cross, which is something you can’t get around. Either we die on the cross metaphorically and accept being lost in a world of sin, or we put down our lives at the cross, die to ourselves and allow Jesus to accept our conviction – therein us living His life and not our own. So there is life either on the cross or at the cross. The problem many Christians face today is that the Gospel is no longer about Jesus and the cross, but rather belief in God. It’s all about believing in God and in doing so, everything will be OK. But the cross is about far more than belief in God alone. It’s about living a life that reflects Jesus daily and being disciples who are actively committed to redeeming the world.
We see the cross in churches and steeples, hanging in homes and, worn around the necks of many people; however, many don’t know what the cross means. In order to understand what role the cross plays in our lives, we have to understand what the cross really means, particularly in our own lives. First, the cross shows the depth of our sins. We don’t realize what sin is in the sight of God, how deeply it offends Him and how it separates us from Him. Before Jesus went to the cross, He prayed in Gethsemane. At this time, Jesus was agonizing and sorrowful. He prayed to God, “If it is possible, let this cup pass from Me nevertheless, not as I will but as You will” (Matthew 26:39). He looked into the cup and saw the sins of the whole world. The cross is pardon; it’s a reprieve of death for people who don’t deserve it. None of us deserves to be saved. None of us deserves to go to Heaven. But God is love (1 John 4:8) and God is grace and mercy. Grace means something that you don’t deserve, but God gives you. God offers you pardon and forgiveness. He offers you assurance of heaven if you die. The Bible tells us, “God commanded His love towards us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). We are called as believers of the cross to spread that message of the Gospel to those around us; however, the church has lost touch with the cross and its revolutionary call to spread that message through missional life.
Leading Bible scholar, Anglican bishop and bestselling author N.T. Wright argues that the church has lost touch with the revolutionary nature of the cross. Most Christians have been taught a reduced message that the death of Jesus was all about “God saving me from my ‘sin’ so that I could go to heaven.” According to Wright, this version misconstrues why Jesus had to die, the nature of sin, and what Christians’ mission is in the world today. What we discover is that the Bible’s message is not that heaven is where we go in the future; rather the Bible sees the primary movement as Heaven coming down to earth, redeeming the world, beginning now. Christianity’s central story tells how the revolution began on a Friday afternoon two thousand years ago and continues now through the church’s work today.
God desires that we live a life that is abundant in every way imaginable. Not only does He want us to enjoy the treasures of eternal life in heaven, He wants us to enjoy a portion of heaven here on earth. Jesus says, “Truly I tell you, no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the Gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as such in this present age: homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields – along with persecutions – and in the age to come eternal life” (Mark 10:29-30). It is clear that Jesus distinguishes between what we will inherit when we pass away. In this life, we have the ability to receive a hundred fold in material wealth (lands and houses) and be awash in enriching and meaningful relationships (family and friends). But because we live in a fallen world, we are to increase a hundred fold in persecutions in this life as well. Even so, God tells us that He will deliver us from all negativity that comes our way for He has overcome the world through death on a cross. Moreover, great is our reward in heaven for enduring these persecutions. Therefore, persecutions are simply opportunities for us to be victorious in this life and store up treasures in this life to come.
The primary mission field for most of us is not far away. It’s in the routine of our daily lives. God doesn’t save us to be passive spectators. He saves us to send us out into the world to tell other people about Jesus. Each of us is called to play a part in God’s mission to save sinners – the same sinners we meet on a daily basis. Wake up and join in Jesus’ work of redeeming the world by joining His revolution and reminding others of the cross daily, not only in what you say but how you live.