It happened on July 16, 1945 in small town of New Mexico. Something occurred on that date that affects us to this very day. It probably changed the nature of the human race for the rest of time. On that day, the first atomic bomb was detonated. Beginning then, until now, we live in the shadow of nuclear weapons. That shadow is cast across our foreign policy, our government spending, and our military. It is actually cast across the world. No matter where we go on the planet, we can’t really escape the shadow of nuclear weapons. There is another shadow under which the world lives, even though many people may not realize it. It is the shadow that every follower of Jesus Christ treasures and embraces. It is the shadow of the cross. No matter where you go, you can’t escape that shadow. From the time Jesus was born, he lived in the shadow of the cross. One of the first things Jesus taught his disciples was about the cross. Mark 8:31 says, “And he began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again.” When Jesus awakened every morning, it was in the shadow of the cross. When he went to sleep every night, it was in the shadow of the cross. Everywhere he went and everything he said was in the shadow of the cross. Now since his resurrection, we as his followers live in the shadow of the cross. It was so important to the Apostle Paul that he said in 1 Corinthians 2:2, “For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” The cross is the summary symbol of what Jesus has done for us. Buddhists have a lotus flower, which symbolizes the cycle of birth, death and reincarnation. Modern-day Jews have the Star of David, whose descendant will one day come as a political Messiah. Muslims have the crescent, which symbolizes the power and sovereignty of their god Allah. As followers of Jesus Christ, we have the cross. The cross however, is not just symbol of our relationship with Jesus, but it is also the key to our life with him. Paul says in Galatians 6:14, “But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” Now Paul had a lot of which he could boast. In his time he was the greatest preacher, the greatest missionary, the greatest church leader, the greatest theologian, and the greatest author. He wrote nearly half of the New Testament. Paul had many things in his Christian life about which he could boast. Still, despite all those things, there was only thing in which he took pride. The only thing that really made his chest swell was the cross of Jesus, and all Jesus had accomplished in his life because of it. It is difficult for us in our day and age to understand the irony of what Paul is saying. To all three cultures of his day, Jewish, Roman and Grecian, the cross was something offensive. To the Romans, the cross was disgusting. To the Jews, it was a curse. To the Greeks, it was barbaric and made no sense, it was stupid. Nevertheless, Paul said he was essentially living in the shadow of the cross. We all choose to live in the shadow of someone or something. It may be the shadow of money, it may be the shadow of losing your job, it may be the shadow of physical illness. It may be the shadow of a boyfriend/girlfriend, or of college. In this Bible verse this morning, Paul calls you to live in the shadow of the cross. Living in the shadow of the cross provides you with at least four things.
First of all, living in the shadow of the cross gives praise. Listen to the first part of Scripture passage closely, “But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ,…”
The cross by itself is nothing special. Crosses were common in NT times, they were a means of execution, and they were used often. Crosses could be seen scattered the hillsides. They served as examples not to defy Roman law. Over 30,000 Jews were killed on crosses. Each one of them had a name, but only one name is remembered, the name of Jesus. Jesus makes the cross special. He makes it a point of praise for us today. Regardless of what you are suffering, regardless of the challenges you face, regardless of people in your life who may not like you or believe in you, regardless of whether you have many friends or you are alone, Jesus died for you. The cross symbolizes his self-sacrificing love for you. Nothing can change what he did for you. Nothing can separate you from his love. Living in the shadow of the cross gives praise.
Then, living in the shadow of the cross also gives purpose. Acts 2:23 says, “This Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.” God had a clear purpose in mind with the cross. He proved his love to the world. We look around today at all the tragedy, all the suffering, all the injustice, and we may think, “Where is a loving God when all these things are occurring? Surely a loving God couldn’t side idly and watch all these and do nothing.” He has done something – he gave his only Son to die to save us from our sin, which is the root of all the problems we face. 1 John 4:10 says, “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” Romans 5:8 also says, “But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” God’s purpose in the cross was love. So our purpose in living in the shadow of the cross is love. My number one purpose in life is to love the Lord my God with all my heart, mind, soul and strength. My number two purpose in life is to love others as I love myself. It all revolves around love – that is our purpose. 2 Corinthians 5:15 tells us, “and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.” Your purpose now as a follower of Jesus is not to live for yourself, but to live a life of love toward God and others. Living in the shadow of the cross gives purpose.
Then, living in the shadow of the cross gives power. The power found in the cross is greater than nuclear power, political power, financial power, or military power. Paul says again in our verse for this morning, But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. When Jesus was crucified, all the sinfulness of the world was also crucified. So because of what Jesus did on the cross, you have power to overcome the world, your sin, your temptations, and the devil. The next time you are faced with a common temptation, try an experiment. Call to your mind the image of Jesus dying on the cross. Then ask yourself three questions: Who is on that cross? Why is he on that cross? What has he done on the cross for me? The cross has the power to change our perspective on sin. Listen to what Paul says about the power of the cross in Romans 6:6-11. I’m going to read it from the Message paraphrase to give you a fresh perspective.
Could it be any clearer? Our old way of life was nailed to the cross with Christ, a decisive end to that sin-miserable life—no longer at sin’s every beck and call! What we believe is this: If we get included in Christ’s sin-conquering death, we also get included in his life-saving resurrection. We know that when Jesus was raised from the dead it was a signal of the end of death-as-the-end. Never again will death have the last word. When Jesus died, he took sin down with him, but alive he brings God down to us. From now on, think of it this way: Sin speaks a dead language that means nothing to you; God speaks your mother tongue, and you hang on every word. You are dead to sin and alive to God. That’s what Jesus did.
Living in the shadow of the cross gives power.
Then, living in the shadow of the cross gives passion. Paul says, “…the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” When you realize all Jesus has provided you through the cross, you are naturally passionate about it. If it seems your Christian life is getting a little dull, if you feel a little bored and ho-hum, start thinking about the cross and all that Jesus did there for you. That will get you going. The cross of Jesus also points us to everything about which God is passionate. He wants you to be free from your sins so much that he died for you. He wants you to live a life in intimate relationship with him so much that he gave his life for you. He wants you to be with him throughout eternity so much that he entered time and space and offered his son for you. So because of what Jesus has done for us no sacrifice is too great for us to make, no price is too high for us to pay, no suffering is too intense for us to endure. Living in the light of the cross gives passion and brings your soul alive.
Each of you doesn’t have to look far to see a cross today. In this church, at home, on a car, in a jewelry box, on a Bible – the cross is everywhere. Do you see just a common religious symbol and think nothing else, or do you see more? Do you see the praise, the purpose, the power and the passion? Jesus is calling you not just to wear a cross, but to live a cross. Will you follow him for the first time today? Will you pick up the cross again and continue your journey of following him? Will you join others here as we seek to follow Jesus?