The Cross Driven Life
by Hayden Norris
The cross is a well known symbol worldwide, in and outside of the church, as a reminder of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. It appears on key chains, necklaces, Bible covers, bracelets, earrings, and is even prominently displayed in some cities across the nation (much to the chagrin of the ACLU). But is that all the cross is? Is it just a symbol, or is there a much deeper message to the cross?
To the Christian it must have a greater meaning! So what should we think about when we see the cross? Undoubtedly, the cross should remind us of redemption, and forgiveness. It represents the Gospel, the good news, of sinners being reconciled to the Father. You and I are sinners (Rom. 3:10-23; Jam. 2:10) and deserve death for our rebellion (Rom. 6:23; Jam. 1:15). Yet we can have fellowship with God who created everything and is completely holy (Gen. 1:1; 1 Pet. 1:15,16; Matt. 5:48), through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 5:21). This reality ought to bring us celebration daily.
Too often celebration ends soon after a sinner repents and embraces the Gospel. After that, the cross is often treated like a book that is placed upon a shelf and dusted off only when we witness to an unsaved friend or family member. That should not be! In his excellent book The Cross Centered Life, CJ Mahaney states:
If there is anything in life we should be passionate about, it’s the gospel. And I don’t mean passionate only about sharing it with others. I mean passionate about thinking about it, dwelling on it, rejoicing in it, allowing it to color the way we look at the world. Only one thing can be of first importance to each of us. And only the gospel ought to be.
Paul, the apostle, says in 1 Corinthians 15:3, For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures. Notice the fact that Christ died for our sins is "of first importance." Is that how you live your life? Is it of first importance to you that Christ died for your sins?
The Gospel is a message that we, as Christians, must rehearse to ourselves daily. Jerry Bridges brings this point home in his article Gospel Driven Sanctification:
To use an expression…, we must ‘preach the gospel to ourselves every day.’ For me that means I keep going back to Scriptures such as Isaiah 53:6, Galatians 2:20, and Romans 8:1. It means I frequently repeat the words from an old hymn, "My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness."
Milton Vincent in his wonderful booklet entitled A Gospel Primer for Christians echoes this when he says:
The gospel is so foolish (according to my natural wisdom- 1 Cor. 1:21, 23), so scandalous (according to my conscience- 1 Cor. 1:23), and so incredible (according to my timid heart- 1 John 3:19, 20), that it is a daily battle to believe the full scope of it as I should. There is simply no other way to compete with the forebodings of my conscience, the condemnings of my heart, and the lies of the world and the Devil (2 Cor. 4:4) than to overwhelm such things with daily rehearsings of the gospel.
The question inevitably arises, “How do I do this?” or “What about the Gospel should I rehearse?” The Scriptures have much to say in answering these queries.
First of all, if you have believed the Gospel, there are certain things that are true about you. Let’s call these Gospel truths. Just a cursory glance through Romans 5-8 tells us that:
1) We are now justified because of the cross (5:1)
2) Included in that justification is the fact that we are at peace with God (5:1)
3) We are no longer condemned by God (8:1)
4) We also have spiritual riches through the cross (8:32-37) which include security (vv. 38-39) in our relationship with God.
All these promises come just from scanning through Romans 5-8! Wow! The Scriptures are full of truths about the believer in Christ, and if we would just look we would find ample truths to rehearse daily.
Secondly, not only is the Scripture full of Gospel truths, but it is a call to action. There are actions that flow out of our embracing of the Gospel. The Gospel must affect how we live daily. Are you having a hard time forgiving? Read Ephesians 4:32: Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you. The reason, the impetus behind your ability to forgive, is the forgiveness of Christ on the cross. Are you having a hard time with sexual immorality in your life? Read 1 Corinthians 6:20: For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.
I am not suggesting that the Scripture is a “magic bullet” that upon reading it all sins will just magically disappear; that would be “Pollyannaish”. But I am saying that the Gospel ought to affect the life of every believer not only at the moment of salvation, but throughout all of life. It must be the charge that powers all of our struggles with sin!
Ultimately, when we become detached from the message of the Gospel we become cold-hearted. When the message of salvation in Jesus Christ through His shed blood upon the cross does not stir your heart, all sorts of problems exist. Charles Haddon Spurgeon (the great “Prince of Preachers”) had this wonderful reminder about the cross:
Are you content to follow Jesus from a distance? Oh let me affectionately warn you for it is a grievous thing when we can live contentedly without the present enjoyment of the Savior’s face. Let us work to feel what an evil thing this is. Little love to our own dying Savior, little joy in our precious Jesus, little fellowship with the beloved. Hold a true lent in your soul while you sorrow over your hardness of heart but don’t stop at sorrow. Remember where you first received salvation and go at once, go at once, go at once to the cross. There and there only can you get your Spirit aroused. No matter how hard, how insensible, how dead we may have become let’s go to the cross…. The more we dwell where the cries of Calvary can be heard, the nobler our lives have become. Nothing puts life into men like a dying Savior.
What a reminder for each of us as we pursue the path our Savior would have us travel. As we walk in our daily lives we must not forget to ‘rehearse the Gospel’ to ourselves daily, otherwise we will relegate the cross to a mere symbol in our lives. May you and I start off each day “dwelling where the cries of Calvary can be heard”. May we all ask ourselves, “Where is the cross in my life, front and center, or far off in the distance?”
Hayden Norris is an associate pastor at Mt. Morris Community Church in Mt. Morris, Michigan. His email is, firstname.lastname@example.org