Published March 20, 2018
Could there be any more universal and significant symbol for Christianity than the Cross? The Cross is absolutely central to Christian belief. Without what Christ did for us on the Cross without His atoning death there we would have no hope of having our sins forgiven.
Indeed, part of LifeWay Research's definition of evangelicals (Barna uses similar wording) is that such a person believes that "Jesus Christ's death on the Cross is the only sacrifice that could remove the penalty of my sin." That penalty, of course, would be eternal torment in hell.
Despite this, some churches have been removing Crosses from their buildings and sanctuaries. And, no, I don't mean in China where the government has forcefully removed thousands of Crosses from churches. I'm talking about right here in our society and, even worse, I'm talking about churches doing it voluntarily, of their own volition.
Elliott McCoy of the trio Three Bridges told me, "We're in a culture today where we get into churches that don't even have a Cross on the church or in the church." Other singers, who get into many churches to sing, have told me for years that even some traditional congregations no longer choose to sing hymns about the blood of Christ, shed on the Cross.
Unfortunately, this mindset has found its way into many "mainstream" or "emergent" churches.
Such churches have the misguided idea that the Cross is a symbol of intolerance and even racism and might be a "turnoff" in efforts to attract new attenders. So why not simply eliminate it? Movements to this end are being spearheaded by groups with high-sounding religious names, but which have gotten away entirely from the true significance of the Cross. They claim the Cross is a barrier to reconciliation with other faiths, such as Islam.
Such people find the Cross to be "offensive." Well, that should come as no surprise. Paul, writing in Galatians 5:11, referred to "the offense of the Cross..." Peter, quoting Isaiah, referred to the "rock of offense" (1 Peter 2:8). To whom is the Cross offensive?
- To anyone who is against the Cross of Christ and what was accomplished there.
- To anyone for whom "sin" is no big deal.
- To anyone who thinks physical death is final and there is no eternal punishment (or anything else).
- To anyone who is, by definition, anti-Christian or, at least, unChristian. That includes, unfortunately, most of today's secular society. And, even more unfortunately, far too many of today's so-called Christian churches.
Why is this being allowed to happen? Ravi Zacharias, a noted Christian apologist, recently told a symposium that far too many Christians no longer know what they believe. He told of meeting with a very prominent preacher a man whose church draws about 20 thousand each Sunday and whose services are telecast worldwide to, as the preacher claims, more people each week than anyone else. This preacher whom Zacharias didn't identify by name (but you can figure out who it is) is also a bestselling author. But Zacharias said he reviewed this man's very popular books and found something shocking. "In his entire book there is not one mention of the Cross in it." The book, designed to make people feel good, is "deficient" because "there is no Gospel there."
As Zacharias noted at another time, "Outside the Cross of Jesus Christ, there is no hope in this world. That Cross and [Christ's] resurrection [is] at the core of the Gospel [and] is the only hope for humanity."
Are we forgetting the Cross? Are we forgetting or ignoring or diminishing its significance? Are we I hate to say it ashamed of the Cross?
As Bill & Gloria Gaither wrote in their song, "It Is Finished,"
There's a line that's been drawn through the ages;
On that line stands the old rugged Cross...
The Cross is simply that central to our belief as Christians. The Cross was where sin was defeated Jesus' work was accomplished. Indeed, about to die, Christ proclaimed, "It is finished" (John 19:30). The Lord's resurrection on the third day was simply to prove, beyond a doubt, Who He was and is.
The Apostle Paul said he would never boast or take glory in anything other than the Cross of Christ. We, too, should glory in the Cross. Can we in good conscience do anything less?
In the words of the familiar old hymn,
"Lest I forget Gethsemane,
Lest I forget Thine agony,
Lest I forget Thy love for me,
Lead me to Calvary."*
- Paul Heil
* "Lead Me To Calvary," Jennie Hussey, William Kirkpatrick, 1921
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