Recently, we have seen, in the Middle East that a number of Christians have been, martyred. Men have knelt before their persecutors and without resistance allowed their throats to be cut. Why would they do that? They were given a choice between renouncing their faith and converting to Islam, or dying.
They had to BELIEVE that Jesus was who He said He was! They had to believe that the cross, that bloodstained cross really is the instrument of their redemption. That’s the only way they could lay down their lives for what, to many has become just a symbol; a piece of jewelry.
Today, in this post I want to put that question to you. Do YOU believe? Is the cross just a symbol or is it the power of God?
1 Corinthians 2:1-5 (NKJV)
2:1 And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God. 2 For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. 3 I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. 4 And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5 that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.
The Eloquence of the Cross
This is a question that all Christians should ask themselves: Do I believe? – Do I really believe?
I know some salesmen. They’re really good salesmen; they could sell ice cubes to Eskimos. They know the right words to say to influence you to agree. I also know the key to being a good salesman. You have to believe in your product. You have to believe that what you’re selling is the very best of that type of that product. Do you want somebody to buy your product? Then make sure it’s a product that you would want to buy. The very best way though, is to demonstrate how good it is.
As Christians we want to tell people about Jesus, and we think we have to be salesmen: That we need to speak eloquently about Him: That our words need to be persuasive, but I want you to know that the cross speaks for itself. Look at what Paul said, “I did not come with excellence of speech…” Paul did have that eloquence in his words. He didn’t have his “salesman patter” down. He said, “[I came] in demonstration of the Spirit and of power.”
So, I was thinking about this. What is a demonstration of the Spirit and of power? Isn’t one of the ways we demonstrate through how our lives are led. It’s in how we live. It’s in making our lives a reflection of Jesus’ life. It’s in other people seeing how redemption works in us. That’s the eloquence of the cross.
How is redemption seen in your life? I’ve been giving this a lot of thought lately. I know what God has done in me. I’ve shared my testimony. I went from a horrible messed up life to what I have now. I’m a different person than I was. It was a dramatic change, but not everyone can relate to that. Some people, their testimony is, “Before I got saved, I was a decent, honest person, now I’m a decent, honest person who knows Jesus Christ.” So, how can you demonstrate the Spirit and power? You can do that by showing the same redemptive power that you have received to other people: through forgiveness, through selflessness and through unmerited kindness. You’re kind to people who don’t deserve your kindness. All of those things Jesus did on the cross. He forgave sin – all of us have sinned, even the decent, honest ones. He GAVE his life – His life wasn’t taken from Him – selflessly for us sinners, and enemies of God.
Romans 5:8 (NKJV)
5:8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
He did that, even though we put Him on the cross. Even though we didn’t deserve His kindness. Even though we rejected Him and put Him on the cross. He went there for us, for our redemption. That was His purpose on the earth. That was the purpose of the cross – REDEMPTION!
1 Timothy 1:15 (NKJV)
1:15 This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.
Paul said that Jesus came into the world to save sinners. That was his whole reason for being here – redemption. Paul brings that redemption down to a personal level, by saying, “of whom I’m chief,” He’s saying, He died for sinners; sinners like me!” Paul says, "Jesus died for me!"
1 Timothy 1:16 (NKJV)
1:16 However, for this reason I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show all long-suffering, as a pattern to those who are going to believe on Him for everlasting life.
I obtained mercy – As a pattern for those who come after me. That’s the pattern we should follow, “showing all long-suffering.” Like Jesus did for Paul. When we act like Jesus in all long-suffering and forgiveness others can see power of redemption. That’s the eloquence of the cross.
The Value of Human Life
Recently, a number of videos have been released about Planned Parenthood. These videos show Planned Parenthood selling the bodies of the children whom they have aborted. As I watched the videos I was struck by the callousness of the women in the videos, haggling over the price of these innocent human beings’ bodies. One woman is carelessly eating her lunch as she discusses the best way to remove the body, kill the baby and preserve the organs intact. Another woman while negotiating the price of each body, looking for the maximum financial benefit says, “I want to drive a Lamborghini.” It sickened me that they were talking about human beings' bodies as if they only had a financial value. Look at what was paid for us. Look at the ransom that had to be paid for our sin; my sin, your sin. It had to be purchased; a price had to be paid. Do you know the price that was negotiated for each aborted baby’s body? $100 USD. That was the negotiated price, but do you know what price was paid for each of us? The blood of Jesus – God – spilled on the cross.
Jesus suffered the most gruesome death ever devised by man when He suffered and died that day. The thing that’s so powerful about that is that it was personal – He died for us all – individually, like Paul said. Jesus didn’t die for an ideal, He died for you and I, personally. If you were the only person who ever lived; if you were alone on this earth, He would have come and died just for you! What’s the value of a human being? To the ghouls at Planned Parenthood its $100 USD but to Christians it is the life that was given for us.
Our lives have value, our God was willing to sacrifice for us, but what does that mean for us? When we look at other people; homeless people, people from other nations, people of other races, when we look at them what are they worth to us? Do we see a value in them? Do we feel compassion for them? That same blood was spilled for them.
What about those who’ve mistreated us? Those who have hurt us? They’ve gossiped or slandered us. They’ve cheated us in business. They’ve persecuted us. Can we be compassionate to them? Can we forgive them like Jesus did? That’s really the whole question of this post. Can WE show the long-suffering and redemptive power of Christ? We are called to be like Christ, even when it’s hard.
Matthew 5:44-45 (NKJV)
5:44 But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, 45 that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.
That's what Jesus meant when He said, "Take up your cross and follow me."
Do You Really Believe?
That brings me back to my original question, “Do you really believe?” The cross isn’t just a necklace or a pair of earrings. The cross isn’t just to mark the location of a church. These days the cross is cleaned up. It’s a hip fashion accessory. It’s just another symbol in today’s society.
And the message of the cross has been watered down: Not too much sacrifice, the prosperity doctrine, anything goes grace, but that’s not what the cross is. The cross is rough – It tore into His flesh. The cross is bloody – He spilled His blood there and the cross is the price of Redemption. It’s the work that He did to buy us back into a relationship with God. He paid that price so we don’t have to.
He left us with the work of the cross; to present it to others, so that they can be redeemed. But we can’t or won’t do that unless we truly believe it. It’s the message of God’s love for us. It’s the message of God’s grace and long-suffering. It’s the message of mercy.
We can bring that message to others if we truly believe what God did for us. If we truly believe that the sin has been taken, then we can face death without fear.
That’s how the Christians in the Middle East can face martyrdom for Jesus. That’s how a group of church leaders in North Carolina can forgive the murderer of nine of their church members. That’s how a young woman can face her classmate as he held a gun to her head and asked, “Do you believe in Jesus?” knowing what was coming, look him calmly in the face and say “Yes.” They believe; they REALLY believe.
I hope none of us will ever have to make choices like these. I pray that none of us ever has to face anything like that, but I believe that society is polarized and soon we’re going to have to make a choice. It’s prophecy. It will come to a choice. I think in America that time is close, and it will come to Taiwan, too. Now more than ever we have to be sure of what we believe.
Do you REALLY believe the message of the cross? Can you model redemption in your life? So that others will desire it? Can you reflect the mercy of Christ and demonstrate the selflessness of Christ? Can you find hope and strength in what Jesus did on the cross: The hope of a better world with Him; the hope of Eternal life; the strength to accept persecution? Do you believe in the cross – The bloodstained cross?