“It’s not even Christmas, and he spoke about Jesus’ cross!”
This is what one elderly woman said after attending an evangelistic crusade that Will Graham, Billy Graham’s grandson, held in Peterhead, Scotland, in October 2016.
I scratched my head when I heard her comment. Firstly, how does she expect somebody to conduct a soul-winning service without speaking about Jesus’ cross? Secondly, Christmas is about the birth of Christ, and Good Friday is about Jesus’ cross and crucifixion. These are obviously two separate events at different times of the year in the church calendar. So how has she managed to link the cross with Christmas time?
I cannot speak for her spiritual outlook and health. Neither do I know the reason she made the comment, nor what she exactly meant by saying it. However, it made me think about my attitude to the cross and how other Christians might think about it. In doing so, I identified three negative attitudes that we must avoid.
Jesus’ cross is not relevant all year round
The old woman’s critique gave me the impression that she thought the cross was not relevant all year round. She viewed the cross as something only pertinent to a specific date within the calendar. I understand the Christian church uses the calendar to focus on different narratives from Christ’s life throughout the year. This is a good thing. Nevertheless, I do not think one narrative takes precedence over the other. If anything, what took place on the cross is not an event we should only reserve for one day a year every Good Friday.
Jesus said, “Take up your cross, and follow me.” (Mt 16.24b, NLT)
The notion of picking up our cross and following Jesus paints the picture that we are following him with the cross present with us. Nowhere does the Bible tell us to lay the cross back down. The cross is not something we have permission to part with. This is because of what it represents in our lives. It represents self-sacrifice, determination to follow Jesus, and God’s power at work inside us.
We must recognize that the cross is not something that we focus on once or twice a year. It is important for every day and every area of our lives. This is because it is through our death on the cross that we join Jesus and take part in the resurrection power. This resurrection power enables us to live new lives that are pleasing to God.
“This is it! I have arrived”
The cross is a gateway, not a destination. I use this metaphor because it often happens that a person arrives at the cross, receives Jesus as their Lord and Savior, but does not move on from that point. Sometimes a Christian will have a spiritual experience, whether it is salvation, Holy Spirit baptism, or something else, and they cut their Christian walk short. They wrongly assume they reached their destination so they do not want to move on. What I am speaking about here is the mindset that says, “That’s it. I have arrived!”
We need to set this picture firmly in our minds. The Christian life is an ongoing journey towards a final one-on-one meeting with God. The Christian life is not a camping trip punctuated by pitching our tents and staying put when we feel like it.
In John 16 Jesus explained how the Holy Spirit acts as our guide on this journey. Jesus said, “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own but will tell you what he has heard. He will tell you about the future.” (V13, NLT)
Jesus did not say that the Holy Spirit drags us into all truth. He said that the Spirit guides us into all truth. This tells us that we must follow the Holy Spirit’s guidance as he leads us into new areas of life. This is why Jesus also said that the Holy Spirit would tell us about the future. The future has not happened yet. It is something we move forward into and shall experience as we follow the Holy Spirit’s guidance.
If we are not moving forward in our spiritual walk then we are moving backward. There is no stop and pause. We must embrace the Christian life as an adventure through which we mature and grow. We will give up a lot of what the Christian life offers if we do not embrace this fact.
“I know about Jesus’ cross. What more is there?”
Hebrews 6.1-2 makes it clear that we are to grow in our knowledge and understanding of the Christian faith. It reads,
“So let us stop going over the basic teachings about Christ again and again. Let us go on instead and become mature in our understanding. Surely we do not need to start again with the fundamental importance of repenting from evil deeds and placing our faith in God. You do not need further instruction about baptisms, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead and eternal judgment. And so, God willing, we will move forward to further understanding.”
This scripture defines the salvation we experience at the cross as the “fundamental importance of repenting from evil deeds and placing our faith in God.” This scripture bundles the salvation experience together with other Christian teachings and calls them “basic teachings.” Therefore, salvation is a basic teaching of our faith that the author of Hebrews encourages us to build upon by developing our understanding and thereby growing in maturity.
We cannot assume that the cross is all there is to learn about the Christian faith. There are many other topics that we must study to show ourselves approved. We must always be open to learning and growing as believers.
In this post, we identified negative attitudes surrounding Jesus’ cross and addressed them.
- We saw how the cross is relevant all year round.
- The Christian life is a journey in which we are continuously moving forward.
- It is important to develop our understanding of other Christians areas of learning.
In basic terms, we come to the cross, pick it up, and move on in maturity. As Christians, we can never let the importance of Jesus’ cross and the surrounding events escape us. With the Holy Spirit’s guidance, we must challenge our perceptions and delve deeper into our Christian faith.