The Gospel of the Cross

Understanding Grace

The world does not understand the message of the cross. It is a mystery to them. They find it strange and incomprehensible. But to those who have received this message, it is a fountain of everlasting life and overflowing joy. It is the power of God and the wisdom of God. If you long to be free. If you long to receive cleansing and healing, you can only find it in the cross of Jesus. All other roads lead to death and destruction.

The gospel (which is the message of the cross) is so simple, a child can grasp it, yet it is so unfathomably deep that I’m not sure that we will ever fully understand all that God did in that one incredible act of love. I believe that even after thousands of years walking with Jesus in heaven, we will still be awestruck by it, even more than we were here on earth. You see, the more we know about the cross, the more profound it is to us. I believe that the work that God accomplished through His Son, far exceeds all His other works, including the majesty of creation.

There are four parts to this message, each intertwined and interdependent. Each is necessary. You need all four to fully understand this mystery: 1. Who Jesus is; 2. Who we were before we surrendered to Jesus; 3. What He did on the cross; and 4. Who we are now, because of His work on the cross.

1. WHO JESUS IS: To understand the cross, we must fully know who Jesus is. It is awe-inspiring when we hear of a person who gave up their life to save another: A firefighter who dies saving a young child. It might even happen that a person takes the punishment for a crime another person committed. It is even rarer, if it ever happened at all, that a person willingly dies for a crime they did not commit. But when you understand that Jesus, the Son of God, willingly laid down His life to take the punishment that we deserved, it is a truth that we cannot fully comprehend. Who He is makes what He did that much more incredible.

He is Emmanuel, God with us. He told His disciples that because they’d seen Him, they’d seen the Father. He is the almighty God, the God of creation, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. As amazing and incomprehensible as it sounds, Jesus is the creator of all things. When you look up at the stars at night, understand that EVERYTHING that has been made, was created by Him, by His power, by His wisdom. He didn’t just take things that existed and shape them. He started from nothing. The Bible declares that there is nothing that exists that He did not create. He designed and created everything, from the smallest atomic particles to massive galaxies, from the tiniest one-celled animals, to the mighty whales, to man himself. He created all this . . . from nothing. There are not enough pages to describe His majesty and power. The Bible expresses it this way:

“All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men.” [John 1:3-4 ESV] “but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,” [Heb 1:2-3 ESV]

When you see His majesty, His incomprehensible wisdom and understanding, His awesome power, you need to understand that he laid it all aside and became a man, weak and vulnerable like us. The world should have received Him and honored Him, but instead, we rejected Him, insulted Him, abused Him, whipped Him, spat upon Him, and crucified Him. He took it all, so that you could understand the full extent of His unchanging love for you. Even from the cross, as He died in agony, He forgave us: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”

2. WHO WE WERE. We also need to understand who we were before we came to Jesus. Not only did we not deserve His love, we deserved death.

Most people think that they are OK, not too bad. It takes a revelation from the Holy Spirit for us to understand who we really were. We were selfish and driven by our fears and pride. We can never receive or understand God’s grace until we fully understand who we were. When I was younger, the greatest events of my life were the times the Holy Spirit showed me my true self, the part of me that is not fully subject to God. Only after 40 years of walking with Him, am I beginning to acknowledge that I was the one who crucified Jesus. I am a murderer. I was the one who rejected Him, beat Him, and hung Him on that cross to die.

Most people in this world don’t believe that they could do something like that. But we are not really any different from those who drove the nails into His hands and feet. They were only doing what they were told to do and feared for their lives if they disobeyed or even questioned their orders? We are not any different from the people who watched and did nothing. They had families and jobs, hopes, fears, weaknesses and failings, like every other person. As a result, in the end, they (like us) chose to protect themselves, even if it meant killing Him. What do you call someone who lies? A liar. What do you call someone who takes something they are not entitled to? A thief. Which one of us has never lied to themself? Trying to convince ourselves that what we are doing is OK? Which one of us, when faced with the consequences of our actions has not felt trapped and defensive? Which one of us, when faced with humiliation, disgrace, or prison has not chosen themselves even though we knew that others might suffer? We hoped they wouldn’t, but knew that they might. Which one of us has ever been angry and said or done things out of anger?

The people who convicted Jesus were afraid. They believed that if Jesus continued gathering more followers that they would lose their jobs, their country, their way of life, and maybe even die. They believed that they were acting for the “greater good.”

In the end, we need to know that we are liars, thieves, and murders. We drove the nails into His hands and feet. We crucified Him because of our fears and weaknesses. This is who we were. When you understand this, you will rejoice when you hear Jesus saying that He came into the world to save sinners.

3. WHAT JESUS DID FOR US. The God who made you, who we rejected and crucified, took our punishment and forgave us. We should have been the ones on that cross, but He took our place. He was innocent, but He took the punishment that we deserved. He was God and is God, yet we crucified Him. But from the cross, He forgave us. If He can forgive us for murdering Him, there is no sin too great or shame too overpowering that He will not forgive. There is nothing we could ever do to deserve His love and forgiveness, but He gives it to us freely. On the cross, Jesus dealt with sin for all time. He was the lamb of God that took away the sin of the world. Only when you fully understand who Jesus was and what He did for us, knowing who we were and what we did, can you fully appreciate the magnitude of all He accomplished on the cross. He promises us, “[your] sins and lawless deeds, I will remember no more.”

4. WHO JESUS HAS MADE US. It is amazing to understand the breadth of all that Jesus did on the cross for us. His love is incomprehensible. Those who have given up trying to please God by our own wisdom and strength and received His gift of forgiveness have been changed forever:

a. We have been made righteous. Even though we have never done anything to please God, He sees us as having the same righteousness as His Son, Jesus.

b. God Himself has come to live in us through the gift of His Holy Spirit. He has made us His home and lives in us as a Holy Temple.

c. God Promised that He would NEVER leave us, He would defend us, and bless us.

d. We can freely come into His presence at any time to share our hearts with Him and receive His presence and thoughts.

e. As He raised Jesus from the dead and exalted Him above all other created things, He has raised up with Him and seated us with Him on His majestic throne in the heavens.

f. God has made us His sons and daughters. As such, we are co-heirs with Jesus. We are not at the end of the line, or even below Jesus, we are co-heirs with Jesus.

g. We will reign with Him forever, and share in all His thoughts, plans and purposes.

Jesus asked His disciples who they said He was. Peter answered that Jesus was the Messiah, the anointed Son of God. Jesus told Peter that the Holy Spirit revealed that to Him, that He could not understand it without special revelation. The same is true of the cross. We need the Holy Spirit to reveal these things to us. To begin, we need to ask Him to teach us. Most people never ask. But remember, we need revelation of each of these parts. If we try to focus on only some, but not all these points, we will become unbalanced and open to error.

Make it your life’s ambition, and only ambition, to know Jesus and to understand the mystery of all that He has done, and to receive it by faith.

Author: William Bell

Date: Jan. 3, 2021, 12:41 p.m.