A great frustration of a minister is feeling like you are not touching others with the truth of God’s word. I have watched the reactions of others from the pulpit while preaching as well as looked into their eyes as the invitation was extended. Many times, I can’t help but wonder what stops people from turning their lives to God. It is the greatest decision that we will make in life. It is a decision that is based on life and death consequences. Our eternal destination is in the balance. God has extended His grace and love through Jesus Christ. The scales can only be brought into balance for hope of eternal life based on our decision to be obedient. This decision of obedience is in all things pertaining to life from our baptism through a faithful end when death comes. Why do more not come to the cross of Christ?
I have heard numerous excuses of hesitation and delay. I wonder sometimes if others believe that I can offer forgiveness or if my approval is needed for justification. This is a thought that scares me to death. I have no way to remove sin. I have no way to offer justification or forgiveness on behalf of God. I can only preach the truth and encourage others to make right decisions. I can help and aid a brother or sister in need. I can live my life in a way that the scriptures demand and pray that God will fully let light shine. I cannot bear the cross of others or give answer to God for their actions. I know however, that each day I must make that conscientious decision to bear my own cross. “Then Jesus said to His disciples, ‘If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world and loses his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul’” (Matthew 16:24-26). Figuratively speaking, I have a cross I must bear every day. Jesus had a great cross to bear as His included so great a sacrifice for the remission of sins for all that would obey him.
I hope and pray that no one must endure death as Jesus experienced it, the death of crucifixion. Crucifixion is one of the most torturous and humiliating ways to die. However, as a Christian, I must be willing to sacrifice in my life and serve Him at any cost. Jesus asks very clearly asks a question that we all must consider. What are we willing to lose our soul over? Do we have commitments in our life that hinder us from carrying our cross? Are there materialistic desires that hinder us from being the light of the world (Matthew 5:14-16)? Are there other people or places or things that hinder us from coming to the cross? A faithful servant of God can’t meet the morning with the thought, “I can’t come to the cross today”. Rather, the thought should be to do all that is pleasing in His sight. We should be mindful to go to that cross as an example, as a servant trying to avoid sin, and as a child desiring to grow in nurture, wisdom and His will.
I don’t write as a perfect example. I have fallen short of carrying my cross on many occasions. It is not a credit to my life. It is not something I am proud of. To be honest, as I look at those times that I have not carried my cross, those times that I have had a soul that was hidden in the corner, those times that I was silent when I should have spoken; those times when I was engaged in behavior that was not Christ-like. I am ashamed. I could blame it on immaturity. I could blame it on growing pains. I could blame it on my friends. I could blame it on the way of the world. True blame, however, has come for the one that has not gone to the cross. ME! I have repented in tears and great distress. I have grown old enough to know that nothing is permanent except God and His word. It is enough for me to carry my cross and not care for the ways and riches of the world. It is enough for me to be willing to die for the name and cause of Christ. It is because the glorious gospel makes it all worth it. The gospel is what gives me strength. It gives me hope. I can know that in obedience I will one day witness the glory of God and Jesus throughout all the ages. I am a man that will meet my death. It cannot be avoided. As long as this earth stands, we will all face that time. If my soul is not prepared, all this life will not have been worth it. All things that are in this life will come to an end. We often look for ways to live longer. How do I stay younger? How can I keep my physique from when I was younger? How many treasures can we gain? Though all this, it is our soul that needs the most care. Through all our search for “THE GREAT QUESTIONS OF LIFE”, have we come to the cross today?
We often find many reasons to not come to the cross. Thankful are we that Jesus came to this earth with this end in mind. He came to earth to do the will of His father. His dying on the cross was the end in some ways and the beginning in others. He died and so did the Old Law. He arose and so did our hope for eternal life. Could you imagine for one moment if Jesus on that day could not go to the cross? It would be easy to make excuses. “I am not going to Jerusalem. People there are trying to hurt me”. “I am not going to the cross. I didn’t do anything to deserve it”. I am not going to the cross. I am physically unable”. How greatly He must have hurt. How the nerves in His back must have felt like they were on fire. How angry He must have been for being mocked and spit on. All of this, and He did the will of the Father. He went to the cross. He endured a hurt beyond what I can imagine. He endured mockery beyond what I can comprehend. Yet despite it all, He hung there on the cross and died so that I may have hope. Jesus, without excuse and without delay, went to the cross.
Have you ever considered why you don’t go to the cross? Have you ever considered why the thought may run through your mind on any given day, “I can’t go to the cross today”. In sports, we often hear that cliché, “No excuse”. What if Christians lived that type of life? What if we as Christians were strengthened by the desire to go to the cross rather that the mindset to avoid it. “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friend”. Jesus went to the cross with love and desire. Neither the cruelties of this world nor the glory of it kept Him from suffering and sacrificing so greatly. I pray that each day that you wake, you declare in heart, mind and soul, “Today, I will go to the cross.”
Scott is the minister at the Elm Grove Church of Christ. Meeting times are Sunday at 9:30 a.m. for Bible class and 10:30 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. for worship. Mid-week Bible study is on Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. Please visit our website at elmgrovechurchofchrist.org. Scott invites any questions or comments and would love to sit down and study. He can be reached at the Elm Grove Church of Christ at 740-493-2451.