The Centrality of the Cross

The Centrality of the Cross
JOHN 19:17-22

In Jesus' day, the cross was used by the Roman government to execute criminals. God transformed it into a symbol that unites Christians everywhere. It stands at the heart of what we believe and serves as a central focus of the gospel message.

When we consider the cross, we will think about . . .

Jesus and His perfect life. Our Savior left heaven to dwell on earth and become one of us. While here, He obediently accomplished the work His Father had given Him (John 5:19). Because of His perfect life, He alone was qualified to be our substitute and bear God's judgment for our sins.

Crucifixion. Christ went willingly to the cross in order to reconcile us to God. He suffered a painful death on our behalf, and through His sacrifice, our sin debt has been paid. God's justice was completely satisfied at Calvary. No further action is required.

Resurrection and ascension. Three days after Jesus was buried, God raised Him from the dead. The Savior's sacrifice on the cross was accepted as payment for our sins, and the way to heaven was opened for all who trust in Jesus. Our resurrected Lord, having appeared on earth to many people, ascended to live forever with His Father. Jesus conquered death and made it possible for us to dwell in heaven with Him someday.

Each time I expound the Word I invite people to place their faith in Jesus Christ. Because of the cross and what happened there, such an invitation has great value to the hearer. In fact, the events of Calvary continue to be relevant to Christians of all ages. Take time today to thank the Lord for the cross.


When Faith Wavers

When Faith Wavers

JAMES 1:5-8

If we believe that God is who He says He is and will do what He has promised, why do so many of us habitually waver in our prayers? Instead of exercising bold faith, we come to the Lord "hoping" He will hear us and answer our requests, but we're just not sure He will. With this kind of thinking, we cannot expect to receive anything from Him.

One reason we are so prone to doubt is that we fail to see God at work in our circumstances. We asked, and nothing happened. But the Lord is not some cosmic bellhop who jumps in response to our requests. He sees past, present, and future and knows the right time for every answer. His invisible hand is already at work on our behalf—arranging situations to accomplish His will, opening hearts, and preparing us to receive what He wants to give.

Another cause for uncertainty is ignorance. If we don't know God's ways, we will be disappointed in His response. All too often our prayers are accompanied by expectations of how He will work. When He fails to intervene according to our timetable or anticipated method, we start to doubt. But placing our faith in the Lord and trusting in His good and perfect ways gives us stability as we wait for His answer.

To overcome doubts, spend time in the Word to learn God's principles and ways. Then you'll begin to grasp what He wants to achieve in your life and how He goes about it. Examine your past from a biblical perspective—faith will grow as you see the unexpected ways He answered your prayers.


Why Waiting is Really Trusting

Everyone hates waiting. I am aware of only a few others that have patience shorter than I do. Waiting has seemingly plagued my life as it is the one thing that exacerbates every ounce of energy I have. I tend to not do well when I have to wait on others to follow through on a promise they've made or when I must wait in a tremendously long line at the post office. The worst though, is waiting in line at the drive through of the bank. The whole time I am waiting for my simple transaction to transpire, I am thinking, "now shouldn't you have been ready before you drove up to the window?"... I know what you're thinking- selfish and bigoted attitude. Thankfully the Holy Spirit convicts me of these thoughts so that they are quickly repented over and not produced into hurtful verbal assemblies.

So you can understand that I have an especially tough time waiting on God. He just doesn't seem to fit His plans into my rushed, hurried, panicked world. And in reading the Scriptures, I've learned that He hasn't changed.

In fact, almost all of the great men in the Bible had to wait. Some agonizingly long. Let's look at three examples.

Your Prince is Ready

Though Moses grew up in the house of Pharaoh and was groomed to be the next in line for the throne, I believe he saw all of this as God raising him up to deliver his people, Israel. His mother probably had something to do with that.

As the years passed and Moses looked from the window of his stately palace and saw the oppression of his brethren, he grew more and more impatient. Finally, he acted on impulse and killed an Egyptian taskmaster.

So that meant 40 years in the wilderness. Here God's people were suffering and their future deliverer is leading sheep in the backside of the desert. Yet God wasn't delaying. He wasn't stalling. He wasn't anxious.

Finally, when Moses was broken and humble enough to be used as an instrument by God, God sent the 80-year old prince-turned-shepherd back to Egypt.

But do you see what is happening? The headlines wouldn't read, "Prince leads coup. Prince leads revolt. Prince overtakes Pharaoh." No, it wouldn't be about Moses anymore. It would be about God. How about, "God Miraculously Delivers His People"?

Dreams of Greatness

As a young man, God spoke to Joseph through dreams. In these dreams, Joseph was leading and his brothers and even world leaders were bowing at his feet. Kind of heady stuff for a teenager, don't you think? And it didn't play too well with his brothers.

Joseph knew God was calling him to a special place. God was calling him to a place of impact, leadership, and power.

So that's why Joseph was probably stunned and shocked when he found himself in the bottom of a pit, praying that his brothers wouldn't kill him. Times slavery in a strange country or imprisonment for rape charges were probably the furthest from Joseph’s conceivable thoughts of what Gods manifestation of His will for the young ruler would look like.

Didn't seem like those dreams were panning out too well, did it? Didn't seem like God was working out His plan?

Oh, but God was working out his plan. And Joseph, while he didn't know a lot, He knew He could trust God.

Running for King

Okay, so this prophet comes to his house, dumps some oil on his head, and then whispers in his ear, "Oh by the way, you're going to be Israel's next king." But then it was back to the shepherd's fields, back to being the forgotten son and brother, back to obscurity.

David was anointed king as a teenager, but he waited 14 long years to assume the throne. And those 14 years were hard years. He was Israel's next king, but there was his madman, Saul, who was determined to see David dead and buried.

If you read the psalms you can experience David's angst. He scratched his head in wonder, "Why is God allowing Saul to do this?" "Why doesn't God just move Saul out of the way?"

But again, like Moses, like Joseph, David had to learn to trust God. And waiting is trusting. David had to be broken, humble, and read to lead God's people.

Do you see a pattern developing here? God often gives his people a dream, a desire, a calling and then puts them through a period of waiting.

It is in this waiting where your real courage and character are forged. It is in this period of uncertainty that you're life takes on a whole new dimension. You learn how to trust God. You learn to lean on God. You learn what's important and what's not important.

So if you're like me and you really don’t like to wait, know that waiting is trusting. Isaiah 55:8-10.

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