You'll remember, friends, that when I first came to you to let you in on God's master stroke, I didn't try to impress you with polished speeches and the latest philosophy. I deliberately kept it plain and simple: first Jesus and who he is; then Jesus and what he did — Jesus crucified. I was unsure of how to go about this, and felt totally inadequate — I was scared to death, if you want the truth of it — and so nothing I said could have impressed you or anyone else. But the Message came through anyway. God's Spirit and God's power did it, which made it clear that your life of faith is a response to God's power, not to some fancy mental or emotional footwork by me or anyone else.
(1 Corinthians 2:1-5, The Message)
In a message a few weeks ago, our passionate associate pastor Micah gave us more than a little to think about on the subject of the cross. As I looked across the translations in my Bible, my eyes fell on the highlighted phrases above from The Message. Based on my current line of thought that God's revealed Word to us is a continuous story, I came to the conclusion that Paul was so passionate about the cross of Christ (as was Micah) because it was the climax or turning point of the entire plot. It was, as Peterson puts it "God's master stroke". And it is a stroke of passionate genius, if you ask me. Oh, by the way, I'm writing this entry on Resurrection Weekend ...
Right from the beginning (at least what we know as the beginning), God's holiness demanded a sacrifice. The model He had Moses write down was an intricate system of works and behaviors that demanded a perfection we could not possibly achieve. But behind and through it all, there was the promise of a Messiah who would come and rewrite the whole script. And so, Jesus fulfilled that need, ultimately giving up His own life on the cross that first Good Friday. God's master stroke had been played - Jesus was crucified as the ultimate sacrifice.
Immediately after that, the prideful self tried to take over once again. Early Christians separated into factions, aligning themselves with Peter, or Paul, or Apollos, or the party of the circumcision. God's master stroke was still there, but the power of the cross was diminished by the reintroduction of works-based doctrines. And in attempting to add to the cross, they took away from it and changed the message entirely.
But we don't do anything like that, do we? We're not guilty of draining the power of the cross, are we? We never add in our own rules and standards, nor do we attempt to make our way equal to (or even higher than) the cross ... oh but how many times we drift that way. Somehow, we want to claim that we believe the cross was enough, but our actions and attitude speak something vastly different. And just like those early Christians, we run into the same kind of trouble. God's master stroke is diminished.
As we reflect on Christ on the cross this Easter weekend, I would ask that God remind us of several things:
- The cross kills our self-reliance. Our self-reliant acts are, in essence "anti-cross" - they attempt to drain its power.
- The cross makes alive our God-reliance. He alone is the one who has provided the way to avoid His judgment.
- The cross matures body-reliance. Our Christian brothers and sisters are to be our constant traveling companions. We were never meant to go at this alone.
- The cross is the only source of hope to restore our severed relationship with God. He remains holy and nothing we can do on our own will overcome the gap.
The Crooked Path always begins at the cross. I need to remember that constantly so I don't lose sight of what was done for me there. I am instructed to carry my part of the cross with me as a reminder, not of my current problems, but of what Christ did. And as I walk the path from the cross through an empty tomb, I am reminded that God's master stroke was done for me. Easter isn't just a once a year event ... it's the very essence of life today and every day. Christ is risen ... He is risen indeed!
- Are you adding to the cross in any way? Can you see how that actually attempts to drain its power rather than enhance it?
- What are you boasting in today? Is it in God's master stroke - the cross of Christ alone?
- Is Easter just an annual thing for you, or do you keep it in your heart all the time? Are you willing to change the way you think about the cross one final time and accept it as all you ever need?