Today we look to the cross of Christ and his sacrifice on it as the cornerstone of Jesus’ ministry and the essence of the gospel. And indeed it is an essential component of Jesus’ work and the gospel. But it is not the end of the story. It is only the beginning. But unfortunately we all too often stop at the cross and fail to follow through on the life that should come afterwards.
The Role of the Cross
The cross of Christ is rightly held in high regard within Christianity. It is on the cross that Jesus died as a propitiation for our sins. His death paid the penalty for my sin. Because of that I can have forgiveness of sin. Christ’s righteousness is imputed to me. And I can stand before God as justified.
Without the cross I could never have standing before God. I would be lost in my own sin. Facing an eternal destruction. Separated from the life of God. It is impossible to over estimate the importance of what Jesus did on the cross.
The Cross Is Followed by Resurrection
But Jesus came to do much more than be a sacrifice for sin. He came to give us new life. Three days after the cross came his resurrection; his victory over death. And that resurrection was not significant just for Jesus. It has great significance for me as well.
I have a new life in Christ. The old man is dead and gone, replaced by a new person (2 Cor. 5:17). The cross put to death the old man. But the resurrection makes possible the new man.
Living the New Life
All too often today as Christians we are satisfied with being forgiven. And we ignore the implications of the new life in Christ. We are content to continue to live as we did before, but free from the eternal consequences of that life.
But that is not what the New Testament teaches us. We are expected to be transformed and renewed (Rom. 12:2). To put to death the old man and all that it was (Col. 3:5). Nowhere is this taught more explicitly than in Ephesians 4:20-24.
That, however, is not the way of life you learned when you heard about Christ and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.Ephesians 4:20-24 NIV
We should not be satisfied with anything less that a complete makeover of our lives. Putting on the new self that God has made for. And letting go of who we were before the cross. That is what Christ came for. Not just forgiveness of sin. But the transformation of our entire being.
The Danger of Ending At the Cross
What about the person who is satisfied with forgiveness. Who then goes on with their life. Maybe even a good life. Are they in any danger?
I believe they are. There is nothing in Scripture that would indicate that coming to the cross to receive forgiveness is adequate. It is a start. And a necessary start. But not enough by itself. We might call Jesus savior at the cross. But we cannot call him Lord if we do not follow his teachings (Matt. 7:21-23). If we do not take up our own cross and follow after him (Matt. 10:38; 16:24).
The life of a true disciple of Jesus will be challenging. It is one of self sacrifice. But it is also one of reward. Both now, in relationship with Jesus, and for eternity with him. Do not be satisfied with anything less than true discipleship.
The views expressed here are solely mine and do not necessarily reflect those of any other person, group, or organization. While I believe they reflect the teachings of the Bible, I am a fallible human and subject to misunderstanding. Please feel free to leave any comments or questions about this post in the comments section below. I am always interested in your feedback.
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