When it comes to the cross, there is a knock-off version. It looks a lot like a cross, but it really just resembles an “X”
Which stands for:
‘you aren’t allowed to’….
‘this is off-limits’…
‘the law forbids’….
…and it’s usually followed by a saying similar to:
“Oh well, Jesus forgave us anyway. Let us not worry about the law, but continue in our rebellion so that He can forgive us all the more.”
Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, "Indeed, has God said, 'You shall not eat from any tree of the garden'?" The woman said to the serpent, "From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat; but from the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said, 'You shall not eat from it or touch it, or you will die.'" The serpent said to the woman, "You surely will not die! For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." Genesis 3:1-5 NASB
God had given Adam and Eve tons of good things to choose from, but what did Satan do? At first, Satan made it seem like they were just tormented by God– that they couldn’t eat from ANY of the trees. However, when Eve corrected him, saying it was just the ONE tree, he honed in on that one forbidden fruit.
Never mind the multitudes of trees that were probably in the garden. (Knowing God, He loves to give us good gifts). But Satan doesn’t want Eve to think about all God has done for them. No, he instead makes Eve focus on the ONE thing that God said not to touch. And he was crafty–because he made her be the one to say it. Then, he attacked. He zeroed in and convinced her that it was okay to disobey God, that “you won’t surely die”.
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But the Father is Love. He told them not to touch it or partake of it because He was protecting them. Not because He hated them and felt like depriving them, mere hours after He had created them. If that is our definition of who God is, let us reexamine and search our hearts once more. No, He was protecting them.
The garden of Eden was not unique in the trial of temptation, other than it was the very first occurrence of sin. We are faced every day with a slew of choices to make. And for each decision, those who have the prompting and leading of the Holy Spirit residing within have Him to guide us into the decisions that honors not only our Father and our Lord, but also who we are as children of God and Christ followers, as vessels of the living God within us.
What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. Romans 6:1-4 NIV
This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.
1 John 1:5-7 NASB
Let us make our decisions carefully.
If it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the Lord , choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served which were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord ." Joshua 24:15 NASB
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But the Cross?
And He was saying to them all, "If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it. Luke 9:23-24 NASB
It is the point to which we come, bowing humbly before, in full surrender to Jesus Christ. It is the place where we bring our entire life’s wages—not literally money, and not literally possessions, cars and houses and boats. Yet, if He asks those things of us, we are willing to give those up, in exchange for the Life that He offers us.
But it is where we lay down the life we are so accustomed to living. The practical, the immoral, the day-to-day. The life filled with comfort, with money, with whatever has been our focus, other than Christ.
We feel His tug on our heart, and though we might be timid of what everyone else is going to think, we are ready to take that stand, to take that walk. We haven’t ever fully surrendered our life to Him, and in exchange, received the gift of eternal life. We aren’t sure what it is all about, but we want to know.
Because we realize for the first time that there is nothing good in our self. That we have neither the option to send ourselves to heaven nor pay the penalty for which we could be set free from the eternal flames of destruction and torment.
But we know that the Life that we are offered at the Cross is a Life beyond anything we could ever imagine. We’ve heard about it, we just have not succumbed, surrendered ourselves. We have held on so tightly to the things we have, afraid that He will take them. Afraid of what we might have to give up in order to receive Life Eternal.
But we realize that the older we get, the closer death comes. We are but one day closer to the end of our days on earth, and we realize that we aren’t sure in our hearts if we are truly forgiven and set free from the cords of sin and death.
Even if we’ve said a prayer once, we have to ask ourselves, was our heart really in it? Did we seek Him with our whole heart, our whole mind, with all of our soul? Or did we just repeat some words given to us, and our heart was really not yet willing to lay everything out on the line for the sake of Christ?
But if from there you seek the LORD your God, you will find him if you seek him with all your heart and with all your soul. Deuteronomy 4:29
Do we have the conviction, the reassurance in our heart that we are genuinely His? Do we look forward to seeing Jesus returning in the clouds, coming to collect His followers in the Rapture of the Church? Do we know without a doubt that we will go with Him? Do our hearts long for that day with eager anticipation?
It is in that moment of true surrender that, for the sake of the cross, I consider all things rubbish.
More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ Philippians 3:8
I come willingly to the cross, to give up what I never really had to begin with, to receive a Life I could never earn on my own. Because I realize that it is all His anyway. Everything that was created has been created by Him, and nothing was created without Him. I realize that I am but broken shards of glass on my own, but that is all I can offer Him. Myself. In full. And, I know and trust that He has the power to make a beautiful masterpiece of my life that could honor Him, something that I could never do.
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But if I come to the Cross, dragging my possessions, cars, houses, boats, relationships, wrong attitudes and desires—and I refuse to leave them there, I get–well I get what I pay for.
I get the “X”. I think I am walking away with the Cross stuffed in my back pocket, my long laundry list of possessions dragging behind me as I walk away, not really feeling any differently in my heart. In fact, I am weighed down even more so now, with the thought of the “X”.
X = “I cannot. I am forbidden to. That is off limits now. I am not allowed to partake of…”
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But the person that comes to the cross, dragging their possessions, cars, houses, boats, relationships, wrong attitudes and desires–and LEAVES them there, in humble submission to the Lord Jesus, in humble submission to the Father, walks away with the weight of the world lifted from his shoulders.
Rest for the Weary
…"Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS. "For My yoke is easy and My burden is light."
We walk away, a beautiful blood-stained cross relished in our heart. We leave the weight of the world behind, and when we get home, we realize that He’s blessed us with all the things He wants us to keep. There sits the house (maybe smaller), the car (maybe two instead of three), the boat (maybe now it’s for sale).
In the driveway we greet our family–our kids run to us with eagerness to experience the light that we have brought back home to the family.
We are now utterly, truly grateful for the things that we have—and we realize the great cost to our families, our relationships, of having more than we need. We truly understand that things will never satisfy, but God always will.
The person that carries the Cross in his or her heart is willing to give up anything for Christ.
It no longer is about the “X”.
It is no longer about the law.
It’s about true Grace. And it’s about the transforming work of the Holy Spirit within that person’s heart. Because, through the freely-given, unmerited gift of the Holy Spirit, He enables us to overcome the sin in our lives. We no longer relish things in our heart that are dishonoring to our Lord, but rather, we take up our cross, and we submit to the working of the Holy Spirit within us to overcome the temptations and trials that lay ahead of us.
And each day brings its own slew of attacks against our faith. But, because we have the Holy Spirit to enable us, we can continue on, one step in front of the other, each step asking the Father for direction and guidance.
After the Cross, the things that have held to tightly for so long are free to be taken—because for the first time we realize that they aren’t ours anyway. They were either A) gifts from God our Father, or B) lies of the devil.
And those things that have pulled us away from the Father—the sinful desires and passions, wrong attitudes and behaviors—in their place, we find forgiveness, and healing. We find restoration, and a changed heart. We find renewed minds and powerful convictions. We find Truth. We find true love, and a love that covers a multitude of sins. We find an overflowing, true love for our brother and sister in Christ. We find peace, we find purpose. We also find love for our enemies that we never had before. We find peace with God our Father, and a love so Divine that cannot compare to anything in this world.
At the Cross, the “X” turns into:
“I was blind, but now I see.”
“My heart has been changed.”
“I have no obligation to anyone or anything other than Jesus Christ.”
“My relationship with Jesus is more important than what others think or do or say of me, when I stand up for righteousness.”
“I don’t want to participate in that any longer, because it dishonors my Father, and grieves the Spirit within me.”
“I no longer feel the desire to do that, because I now recognize it as being shameful, and evil and a trick of the devil, dragging me away from my Father.”
“I will not compromise Truth and bow my knee to Satan.”
“I will not partake in things that I know in my heart are unholy, unrighteous, and utterly sinful—because my heart has been changed by the transforming power of the Holy Spirit within me.”
and my personal favorite–because we are not perfect: “Lord, when I fall, help me back up. Convict my heart of the wrong path I’m on, and set me back on the narrow road that leads to You.”
The Narrow Gate
…And someone said to Him, "Lord, are there just a few who are being saved?" And He said to them, "Strive to enter through the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able. "Once the head of the house gets up and shuts the door, and you begin to stand outside and knock on the door, saying, 'Lord, open up to us!' then He will answer and say to you, 'I do not know where you are from.'…
The Narrow Gate
"Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. "For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.
So, let us head the warning and let us all carefully examine our hearts.
Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you-- unless indeed you fail the test?
2 Corinthians 13:5
Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray. The one who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous. The one who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work. No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in them; they cannot go on sinning, because they have been born of God. This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not God’s child, nor is anyone who does not love their brother and sister. 1 John 3:7-10 NIV
Let us return to the Cross this Easter and come humbly before Him, asking Him to search our hearts, removing any thing, any thought, any desire, that does not honor Him, and ask Him to lead us in the way everlasting.
And see if there be any hurtful way in me, And lead me in the everlasting way.
Let us come humbly to the throne of Grace and offer up ourselves, our sinful natures, our lustful eyes, our pride, our wrong thinking, wrong relationships, greed, idolatrous hearts, and evil desires.
Let us ask Him to change, and if necessary, remove, the things that we have placed upon the throne of our hearts in His place. Let us ask Him to bring us to a place where we no longer feel the weight of the world, but instead feel the easiness of His yoke, letting Him carry our burdens that we’ve drug around with us for far too long.
Let us drag everything we are, ever have been, or ever hope to be—to the foot of the cross, and lay it all down, asking humbly for Him to transform us into the person that He designed us to be.