You have, in all probability, noticed in your life, as I have in mine, that sometimes, after we have learned and known great truths for a while, we begin to take them for granted. We need to refresh our minds from time to time regarding these great truths that the Lord has been so gracious in giving to us.
Ephesians 3:14–19 says, “For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what [is] the width and length and depth and height—to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”
In this passage, Paul was contemplating the eternal purpose of God in Christ Jesus. As he was doing this, he was humbled to his knees in prayer, where he was praying for every believer. As he realized the tremendous sacrifice of Deity for the redemption of fallen man—for you and for me—he asked heaven if we could have a little comprehension of Christ’s sacrifice, so we could understand more of this immeasurable love. In our finite minds, we have no concept of the love that Jesus has for us. He wanted us to realize this love, not just for the sake of knowledge, but that we might be filled with the fullness of God.
Where do we find this immeasurable love of which Paul speaks? The following three statements may help us understand where to find it.
“There is one great central truth to be kept ever before the mind in the searching of the Scriptures—Christ and Him crucified. Every other truth is invested with influence and power corresponding to its relation to this theme.” The Faith I Live By, 50.
“The cross of Calvary challenges, and will finally vanquish, every earthly and hellish power. In the cross all influence centers, and from it all influence goes forth. It is the great center of attraction, for on it Christ gave up His life for the human race.” Sons and Daughters of God, 242.
“The sacrifice of Christ as an atonement for sin is the great truth around which all other truths cluster. In order to be rightly understood and appreciated, every truth in the Word of God, from Genesis to Revelation, must be studied in the light which streams from the cross of Calvary, and in connection with the wondrous, central truth of the Saviour’s atonement. Those who study the Redeemer’s wonderful sacrifice grow in grace and knowledge.
“I present before you the great, grand monument of mercy and regeneration, salvation and redemption—the Son of God uplifted on the cross of Calvary. This is to be the theme of every discourse. Christ declares, ‘And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto Me.’ ” “Ellen G. White Comments,” Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, vol. 5, 1137.
None of us can deny the force and the power of these statements. But in many churches this theme is preached far too little. It is merely mentioned at times. The cross of Christ is our inexhaustible source of power for the Christian walk. Do you need power in your Christian life? I do. In this article, we are going to look at four revelations that the cross will show us, if we look deeply enough.
Just a Story
I read an article some time back about a 9- or 10-year-old boy by the name of Braun who lived over 100 years ago. Braun’s parents were not Christians; they were agnostics. They thought, however, that at least once in his life their little boy needed to attend church, so they could say they had exposed their son to religion. They sent him to church with his nanny in a horse-drawn buggy.
The pastor was speaking about the cross, and for the first time in his life, Braun heard about a man by the name of Jesus Who was nailed to a cruel, old cross. He heard for the first time about the blood that dripped down this Man’s face and about the thorns that were stuck in His brow. He heard about the Roman soldiers who hammered the rough nails into this Man’s hands.
It was not long before Braun began to cry. He had never previously heard this story. Between sobs he loudly whispered, “Nanny, why don’t these men do something about this poor Man on the cross? Why don’t the people in the church take Him down? He’s innocent!”
The nanny was getting a little nervous about Braun acting up in church. He looked around at the congregation, and he was astonished. He saw the head deacon in the back of the church, sleeping. He saw some teenagers whispering, telling stories, laughing, and giggling. He saw another man with a newspaper under his Bible, pretending to read the Bible, but reading the daily news instead.
“Nanny, why don’t they do something? Take this poor Man down off the cross,” pleaded the sobbing boy.
Attempting to comfort him, the nanny said, “Herr Braun, it is just a story. Don’t worry about it. You’ll forget about it when we get home.”
Is the cross just a story for us? Is it something that we sing about once in awhile? Is it something that we hear about in sermons once in awhile, something the pastor may refer to in passing, or maybe we mention in prayer?
What is the cross to you? Has the cross reached down into your life and changed it from the core? That is what it is meant to do. What difference does the cross make in your marriage? What about the relationships between you and your children, your spouse, or the people you meet each day? Does the cross make any difference in the way you treat others? When you encounter despair and discouragement, what does the cross do for you then, if anything?
We do not need to know so much about the cross theologically as we need to know and understand how it affects our lives.
Magnitude of God’s Forgiveness
The first revelation we will consider reveals the magnitude of God’s forgiveness. “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.” Romans 5:8–10.
We were His enemies, but He is our friend. God is not the enemy of His enemies, as we sometimes are. It is hard to be a friend to our enemy, but that is what God is. We deserve death, but He gives us life. We deserve condemnation, but He acquits us. We deserve a crown of thorns; He gives us a crown of glory. You and I, my friends, deserve the cross, but He gives us a throne. What a God we serve, what a Friend!
Father, Forgive Them
As we consider the cross and the magnitude of its forgiveness, we must contemplate what Jesus went through at Pilate’s judgment hall. We can picture a Man, stripped to His waist, His hands tied above His head. When those strong, Roman soldiers came in to whip His back, they did not use just a leather strap. The Roman whips had pieces of bone and jagged metal embedded in the straps, so with every whip to the back, pieces of flesh were torn out. He took our whipping—something that we deserve—but our Friend, while we were His enemies, took it for us.
As we reflect on Calvary, we can understand why He fell three times under the great burden of carrying His cross. He was weak from loss of blood. You and I could have done no better whatsoever.
As He was stretched out on the cross and those nails were driven through His flesh, He said nothing. As the cross was taken up and thrust into its hole, His flesh was ripped again when it hit the bottom. What were the only words that we hear from Jesus at this time? “Father, forgive them.” We see forgiveness at the cross, the great magnitude of forgiveness.
Judas betrayed Him; Peter denied Him; and the Jews forsook Him. The cross is very cruel, unjust, and unfair. You do not just nail a Man to a cross who touched blind eyes and they opened. You do not nail a Man to a cross who touched people’s ears and they became unstopped; they could hear the beautiful birds singing. You do not nail a Man to a cross who touched withered arms and legs and they immediately became vibrant with new life. A Man who can give back life to the dead—you just do not nail a Man like this to a cross. But they did that to Jesus! Yet, all we hear from Him is, “Father, forgive them.”
Do Unto Others
When we come to the cross, we receive forgiveness, so we can be forgiving to people in our lives. We know that Jesus has forgiven us from all of our past sins, so when people treat us cruelly or unjustly, we can forgive them, because we have been forgiven.
When we come to the cross, we find mercy, so we can be merciful to others. We have no excuse to not forgive people when they treat us unjustly. We can hear the echo of Paul’s words as we read, “And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.” Ephesians 4:32.
Has somebody wronged you? Has somebody hurt your feelings? Someone thoughtlessly and wrongly saying something can easily hurt your feelings. They may not even realize what they said, and they do not mean to hurt your feelings. But your feelings get hurt.
Instead of going to that brother or sister to straighten things out, some people will refrain from ever coming to church again, or they will find another group with which to worship. That is not the way to do it. We must come to one another and forgive our brothers and sisters, if they have done something wrong to us. Our souls will be flooded with the peace of Jesus when we do this.
Forgiveness a Conscious Choice
All of us have things in our past lives that we remember, perhaps with anger or regret. Maybe your mother left your dad for another man. Maybe your father was an alcoholic. It may be that your parents did not raise you the way they should have (at least in your eyes)—so you have built up resentment and bitterness, and hold grudges. We must let these things go. We must come to the cross, receive forgiveness and the freedom from guilt, and then we can forgive others. It has to be done that way.
Perhaps you have read the story of Corrie ten Boom. In 1938 or 1939, she and her sister were captured by the Germans and sent to Ravens-bruck, a prison camp. It was noth-ing but a place of death. People by the thousands were brought there in train cars. They were told that they were going to be safe from the dangers of war in this retreat. They fully expected to be going back to their beautiful homes when the war was over.
When they arrived at the prison camps, they heard joyful, happy music; people were singing to them. But all too soon they learned that they had arrived at a place of death. Some would be gassed immediately upon arriving; some would be killed a month later, but as a rule, no one would live more than six months at any one of these camps. In fact, the fires of the furnaces burned for six years straight—from 1939 to 1945, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Millions and millions of innocent people were gassed to death.
But Corrie ten Boom was mistakenly released from this death sentence. She was accidentally let go—one of the very few people who got out of the camp alive. Corrie ten Boom set up a home in her native Holland for people as they were released from the prison camps. After the war, she spoke to many people in Germany and other countries about God’s forgiveness.
Do you know what she saw in the survivors of the ravages of war and the horrible things that were done to them? She saw that the people who were able to forgive were those who could go on living and functioning normally. Those who could not forgive were mentally unbalanced, and many suffered nervous breakdowns, which affected the rest of their lives. Forgiveness made the difference!
One night, in Munich, as she was speaking on God’s forgiveness, she noticed a man in the crowd; a man she would never forget. He was about 5 feet 10 inches tall, with deep-set eyes, a stocky build, and a square face. After her eloquent speech on forgiveness, this man came up to her, extended his hand, and asked, “Can you forgive me?” This man had been one of the cruelest guards in the Ravensbruck prison camp. She remembered how, when she and her sister walked in front of this guard, he had reached out and pulled her sister’s blouse off just to embarrass her. She remembered how this guard hit her sister in the face with his fist, knocking her to the ground and crushing her ribs with his leather boot heel. She remembered how her sister withered away to 90 pounds and died in this camp—this was one of the men responsible. Here he was, standing in front of her asking, “Can you forgive me?”
Corrie ten Boom wanted to spit in his face. She wanted to reach out and slap him across his face. Every emotion in her cried out for revenge, but she knew that unless she forgave him, every ounce of love in her would dry up. She knew that the bitterness, the resentment, and the unwillingness to forgive would eat out her spiritual heart. Contrary to her feelings, she reached out her hand and said, “Brother, I forgive you.” She wrote that immediately a new peace flooded through her.
Forgiveness is a conscious choice on your part and on mine—a choice to release someone from your condemnation because Christ has released you from His condemnation. We have to make that choice.
Is there someone to whom you need to express your forgiveness? There may be. Do you need to make a phone call to someone and say, “Brother (or sister), I forgive you; there may be a wall of separation between us, but I forgive you”?
When we come to the cross and see how Jesus forgives us of all the things that we have done, He will pour that forgiveness into our lives, so we can forgive others. Do you see now how the cross reveals the magnitude of God’s forgiveness?
Depth of God’s Love
The cross also reveals the enormity of the depth of God’s love. It leads us to a deeper message of His love than we have ever known before. This is the way Paul expresses it: “For He [God] made Him [Christ] who knew no sin [to be] sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” 11 Corinthians 5:21. What a statement! Did Jesus ever sin? The Bible tells us that He never sinned. (See Hebrews 4:15.) He was tempted, just like you and I are tempted, but He never sinned. Did He ever think an evil thought? No! We are told He never sinned even by a thought. (See Review and Herald, November 8, 1887.) He never committed an unselfish act, but He who knew no sin became sin for us.
What are these deeper lessons we need to learn that, once we understand, our whole being, our whole way of thinking will be transformed? The cross must do this for us, or we are not taking full advantage of the power of Christianity. What is the power behind the cross that breaks the habits of sin in our lives? What is it that makes a dishonest man honest, that makes an impure woman pure, that makes an angry man patient? The cross breaks the grip of sin in our lives. We do not need a fancy theological definition here. What we need to understand are the practical realities of the cross. We need not only to know and to understand but also to experience the transforming power of the cross. It has to be experienced in our lives or it is of no avail.
Paul reveals the depth for which we are looking: “Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree’).” Galatians 3:13. What is the curse of the law from which He has redeemed us? Death! Death is the major curse of the law.
Jesus voluntarily accepted and bore the corporate guilt of all humanity. As He hung on the cross, the Father turned away from Him, because of the sins for humanity that He bore. It was too much for Jesus to have this happen, because He had always been with the Father. This broke His heart. (See John 8:19; 10:30; The Great Controversy, 539.)
Jesus did not know whether He would ever be resurrected. He did not see through the portals of the tomb during those hours He was on the cross. He did not see Himself coming forth a victor. But He was willing to go to the grave and never, ever come up—if that meant that you and I could have hope of eternal life. Praise the Lord!
If He had fought against that—if He would have said, “No, there are not enough people who are going to accept this sacrifice; I want down; I want to go back to heaven; let these folks do what they want”—we would have no hope of heaven nor any hope of eternal life. I am so thankful that we serve a God who was willing to endure going through with the plan of redemption for you and me.
What He Experienced
I would like to share the following quotations:
“Bodily pain was but a small part of the agony of God’s dear Son. The sins of the world were upon Him, also the sense of His Father’s wrath as He suffered the penalty of the law transgressed. It was these that crushed His divine soul. It was the hiding of His Father’s face—a sense that His own dear Father had forsaken Him—which brought despair. The separation that sin makes between God and man was fully realized and keenly felt by the innocent, suffering Man of Calvary. He was oppressed by the powers of darkness. He had not one ray of light to brighten the future.” Testimonies, vol. 2, 214. Jesus experienced a lot of bodily pain, but we are told that His mental anguish of being separated from His Father was so much greater that He hardly felt the physical torture. It hurt Him more to have His Father turn away from Him.
“He could not see through the portals of the tomb. Bright hope did not present to Him His coming forth from the tomb a conqueror and His Father’s acceptance of His sacrifice. The sin of the world, with all its terribleness, was felt to the utmost by the Son of God. The displeasure of the Father for sin, and its penalty, which is death, were all that He could realize through this amazing darkness.” Ibid., 209, 210.
But, do you know what is beautiful? The Desire of Ages, 693, says, “His decision is made. He will save man at any cost to Himself.” Praise the Lord for His decision.
We need to make the decision to follow Him at any cost. We must! Can you imagine Jesus, the Creator of the universe, dying on that cross and saying that it was all worth it if you and I will be in heaven with His—with our—Father, even if it meant He might never be there again? He wants you and me to be there so much that He was willing to give up everything for us. This is the Man who created the worlds with His mouth; He spoke a word and this earth came into existence. He carpeted the earth with beautiful green. He is the one who caused the streams to flow and the brooks to babble. He caused the fruit trees to blossom. He gave the birds their songs so that we may enjoy their beautiful tunes. When His name is spoken in heaven, angels sing, “Holy, Holy, Holy.” They long to fulfill His every command. This is the Man who died on the cross for you and me. He was willing to go to the tomb so that you and I could sit upon a throne in heaven. For Jesus, the knowledge that some day we could be in heaven, made His death worth it all.
We have seen that the cross revealed the magnitude of God’s forgiveness and the enormity and depth of His love. We will now see that the cross reveals our worth.
We are definitely worth something; we are not just merely cosmic dust in this vast universe God created. We are not just skin coverings over bones and muscles. We are worth something in the sight of God. Sometimes that is hard to understand. With approximately six billion people in this world, we wonder how we could make a difference. How can God actually know about us individually when there are so many people? But it is true. He has a place in His heart just for you and just for me. I am so thankful that our God is able to love more than just a few people. He is able to love and to have a place in His heart for each one of us. His heart is so big—He is omnipotent and omniscient; He is omnipresent—He has a big, big heart.
Paul put it so personally when he said, “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me.” Galatians 2:20. We can understand this a little better by using a very crude illustration. Parents may have eight, nine, or ten children. Let us say that one of the children dies from a disease or an accident. That would be a terrible tragedy. You would not say to that couple: “Well, don’t worry about it, because you have all those other children. Won’t they take the place of the one who died?” No, there would still be a place in the parents’ hearts for the one child who died.
We have an infinite God—can He not love more than just eight children? He has billions and billions of children, and He loves every one of them just as though he or she were the only one upon this earth. He would have died for only one. That is how much He loves us!
“The value of a soul, who can estimate? Would you know its worth, go to Gethsemane, and there watch with Christ through those hours of anguish, when He sweat as it were great drops of blood. Look upon the Saviour uplifted on the cross. Hear that despairing cry, ‘My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?’ Mark 15:34. Look upon the wounded head, the pierced side, the marred feet. Remember that Christ risked all. For our redemption, heaven itself was imperiled. At the foot of the cross, remembering that for one sinner Christ would have laid down His life, you may estimate the value of a soul.” Christ’s Object Lessons, 196.
We cannot comprehend it, can we? When we look up at Him, when we gaze upon those outstretched arms, He says, “I care for you. You are personal to Me, and I want you to be in heaven with Me forever.”
Hope in Despair
The cross also reveals hope in despair. What are some of the things that took place on that dark, crucifixion Friday? Jesus was nailed to a cross. A crown of thorns was placed on His head. A spear was stuck in His side. The sun quit shining. The birds stopped singing. Judas betrayed Him; Peter denied Him; the disciples fled.
A lot of terrible things happened on that Friday, and worst of all, the Son of God died on that dark Friday. But what was about to happen on resurrection morning? Joy was to be found on that Sunday morning resurrection! The sun rose; the birds sang; and most of all, the voice of God spoke, “Son, I call Thee.” That big, heavy stone that sealed up the tomb of God could no longer hold Him; it rolled away like a little pebble. Praise the Lord! And He came out, a victor! Conqueror! There is hope in despair.
You may be going through a crucifixion, but friend, there is a resurrection in the morning. Just stay with it; hold to your Christian walk; contemplate the cross and all of these things that it reveals. It can change your life! And it will, if you will let it.
We may each be going through some terrible heartaches right now. Heartache is worse than physical pain, much worse. We know that to be true because of what we are told regarding Jesus—His heart was aching more than the physical torture done to His body.
Maybe you are going through the agony of divorce. That can be worse than death itself. Maybe you are having economic problems. Something in your life can be hurting you to the extent that you must have the cross experience, and you must see and understand that there is a resurrection morning coming; there is joy! There is joy in the morning! We do have hope.
Christ is the Gospel
“Hanging upon the cross Christ was the gospel. . . . This is our message, our argument, our doctrine, our warning to the impenitent, our encouragement for the sorrowing, the hope for every believer.” “Ellen G. White Comments,” Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, vol. 6, 1113.
This is our hope, friend. At the cross, you find forgiveness, and you find deliverance from guilt. At the cross, you find mercy, so you can be merciful to other people. At the cross, the love of God will break the habits of sin in your life, and believe me, sin is a hard habit to break. The only thing that will break it is the love of God, when you fall at the foot of the cross. That is where you can give yourself away to Jesus. Give yourself away! What can you do on your own? Nothing! You can do nothing without Him. (See John 15:5.) At the cross, Jesus says, “I care for you. You are more than a speck of dust in this vast universe.” At the cross, you will draw nearer and nearer to God. Is that not what you want? There is hope in despair.
The Master Artist
There is a beautiful, Muslim mosque in Teheran, Iran. While building the mosque, the workers had waited for an order of expensive mirrors to be shipped from Italy. These mirrors had cost tens of thousands of dollars. The mirrors finally arrived at the airport in Teheran, and the workers then shipped them to the work site, but when the crates were opened, they found that all of the mirrors were broken. Many of the workers were so discouraged that they just wanted to throw the broken pieces away and forget about it. But a master artist, seeing the dilemma, took a hammer and began breaking the pieces even more. He broke them all. The other workers thought he had lost his mind. What was he thinking, breaking these expensive mirrors? But then he took the jagged pieces of mirrors and set them in wet cement in the walls of the mosque. Today, the sun, shining down through the translucent roof, is reflected from the broken pieces. It looks as though the room is filled with millions of diamonds. The broken mirrors became more beautiful than they were before they were broken.
Bring your brokenness to the cross. You will become more beautiful than you have ever been before. The Master Artist of the cross can touch you—and your brokenness will become beautiful.
“In every true disciple this love, like sacred fire, burns on the altar of the heart. It was on the earth that the love of God was revealed through Christ. It is on the earth that His children are to reflect this love through blameless lives. Thus sinners will be led to the cross to behold the Lamb of God.” The Acts of the Apostles, 334.
I pray that this love will be manifested to everyone we meet.
Jerry Timmons was a Steps to Life staff member when he was fatally injured in an automobile accident, January 11, 2003.