I have been asked by my students, Why do you always end your letters and devotionals with the phrase: “Yours in the Message of the Cross”? The question is most valid. Allow me to give you the background to this, my priority of life and ministry.
First of all, it is a biblical term in itself: “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (I Cor. 1:18 NKJ). A little later Paul says: “But we preach, (announce) Christ crucified, to the Jews, a stumbling block, and to the Greeks foolishness, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God” (vv.22,23). Later he adds: “for I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:2). This is how Paul would deal with the open carnality of those in Corinth.
Second, what is the biblical meaning of the cross? The cross in biblical language is the equivalent of the death, burial, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ. It is an all inclusive term and may include even the sending of the Holy Spirit once for all on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:23-24,32-33). The cross is not the wooden instrument of death, much less any representation of the same.
Third, Paul without apology views the preaching of the cross of Christ as the heart of the message we preach and live. Any other emphasis is “another gospel” and let such be anathema (Gal. 1:4,7-9). He answers Peter’s inconsistency by stating an aspect of the cross often forgotten but profoundly personal for him: “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I love by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal. 2:20). He concludes this impassioned epistle with: “But God forbid that I should glory except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision, nor uncircumcision avails anything, but a new creation” (Gal. 6:14,15).
Four, this message of the cross became a living reality in my personal life from the days of my first small pastorate in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada where I was born. The truths implicit and explicit in that message have redirected my life, established my priorities, broken my proud heart on many occasions and sustained me through 56 years of missionary service. Christ who lives in me and in you is more than a theory, a theological position, but a spiritual reality to be grasped by faith, not feelings.
Five, for too long the matchless truth of the death of Christ has been emphasized almost exclusively with reference to justification, my new judicial standing before God assuring me of full forgiveness and heaven. What has been seriously neglected is the accompanying truth that in Christ Jesus we died to sin (Rom. 6:2), to the Law (Rom. 7:4) that we by the Holy Spirit may live unto righteousness. Christ in my place, I in Christ; Christ for me, Christ in me.
Six, these are all biblical truths, but they need to control and govern our lives. It is only through openness to God and one another, honesty before the Lord, brokenness of heart in the presence of our pride and egotism can the Holy Spirit can do His sanctifying work of grace. “Not I but Christ” is the essence of victory over sin, self, the world and the devil.
It is a walk by faith (Rom. 1:16) in the power of the Holy Spirit. We will not arrive at perfection, but we will know maturity and Christ likeness. There can be no higher goal.
Yours in the Message of the Cross,
Gordon E. Johnson
Rio Grande Bible Institute
Used with permission of Dr. Johnson, firstname.lastname@example.org. His English and Spanish Bible studies are online at http://www.kneillfoster.com