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The Cross | The Story

#storychanging

The Cross | The Story

Monday …without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.  Hebrews 9:22 

Why the cross? Couldn’t God just forgive everyone without that? He’s God; can’t He do whatever He wants to? The more we learn about Jesus and His sacrifice, the more we bump into questions like these. Most people know the phrase “Jesus died for our sins.” But if pressed for a reason, a high percentage of us don’t know WHY Jesus had to die on a cross in the first place. He was so kind and good, why was He murdered? Why was it so bloody and awful? Why the cross? Do you know?

The story of the cross began in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3). When Adam and Eve committed high treason against their Creator, God killed a perfect animal to cover it. That bloody death revealed how serious sin is. It was also a picture of what God would do when He killed His perfect Son to cover OUR sin. “Wait! Stop!” we say. “God didn’t kill Jesus; Roman soldiers did. Jews did. Sin did.” And we’re right—but not completely. Isaiah 53:10 prophesied that “The Lord was pleased to crush Him…” Pleased? God was pleased to kill His own Son? Yes. He was pleased the way a mother is pleased to jump in front of a train if it means her baby will live. God was pleased the way a father might eagerly donate his own eyes if it means his son can see. God was pleased to sacrifice Jesus because it was the only way to save us. Every one of us has committed high treason against our Creator, and justice requires that sin be punished. Without the blood of Jesus covering it, there is no forgiveness.

Final Thought:  Why the cross? Because without the shedding of innocent blood, we could not be forgiven.

Prayer: Father, it is only because I’ve trusted in your Son’s blood that I can call you that. Only His blood could cover my sin and I am forever grateful. The cross is a reminder of the price of my sin. May I never abuse your grace. In Jesus’ name, amen.

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Tuesday He canceled the record of the charges against us and took it away by nailing it to the cross. Colossians 2:14

“Next!” cried the angel with the flaming sword. Kurt inched forward. His turn was coming at the judgment seat and he was sick with worry. Three people in front of him had been turned away when they presented their entrance papers, and their credentials were more impressive than his. Suddenly, he was standing face to face with Jesus Himself! Awe replaced fear and all he wanted was to fling his arms around that white robe and hold on. “Kurt,” came the voice he’d know anywhere. “May I see your entrance papers?” With shaking fingers, Kurt handed over the only paper he had. Jesus glanced at it and smiled. “Yes. All it says here is ‘Paid in full.’ Your sin debt was nailed to my cross when you trusted in me. So Kurt, welcome home.”

We’ve all got a rap sheet longer than Santa’s Naughty List. No efforts to scrub it clean will work. When we stand before God—as every one of us will—we will figuratively present our rap sheets for admittance. We will know instantly that God is perfect, heaven is perfect, and if He lets us in with a rap sheet like that, we’ll ruin perfection. Our good can never outweigh our bad because one sin disqualifies us. Only a perfect rap sheet allows us entrance into God’s presence and the only way we get one is to bow at the cross. When we place our faith in Jesus, God takes the list of charges against us and nails it to the cross. Then in a divine exchange, He takes Jesus’ spotless record and writes our name at the top. We didn’t earn that. We don’t deserve it. But if Jesus is Lord of our lives, it’s the only rap sheet we have. Our old one was canceled when He nailed it to His cross.

Final Thought: Whose rap sheet will you present when you stand before God’s judgement seat?

Prayer: Lord, this is too important for me to assume anything. I want to be sure. Have I bowed to your lordship in my life? Is my list of wrongs nailed to your cross? I receive your gift of forgiveness and surrender my life to you. In Jesus’ name, amen.

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WednesdayHe made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so… we might become the righteousness of God. 2 Corin. 5:21

Six hours. That’s how long it took for our debt to be paid in full. For six hours, Perfection itself hung suspended between heaven and earth. Flesh ripping, blood slowly draining, indescribably agony—that’s what we would feel if we were crucified. But physical torture was not Jesus’ greatest pain. He had become sin. In those six hours, the perfect Son of God was filled with every vile form of wickedness the human mind can create. God the Father could not look at His Son because God HATES sin.

Six hours. For the first and last time, God the Father was separated from His own beloved Son. For six hours, all the wrath God feels toward our treason, our evil, our rebellion, was poured out on Jesus. “How could you rape babies! How could you lie, kill, and manipulate! How could you cheat on your wife, ignore your children, steal from your boss! I can’t look at you!” And God the Father turned away. Jesus cried out from the cross, “My God! Why have you forsaken me!” God turned His back on His Son because that’s what Hell is. Jesus experienced the Hell we should experience—separation from God. From beauty. From everything good, kind, pleasurable. But because Jesus took our Hell, we don’t have to go there. God counts the cross as sufficient payment for anyone who will come to Him through His Son. Those six hours are the wall between Heaven and Hell.

Final Thought:  God sees you as either condemned or righteous based on your response to His Son’s sacrifice.

Prayer: Lord God, it’s hard for me to understand why you let your Son be tortured for a bunch of ungrateful sinners. But you did, and I thank you. May my life be a walking testimony of your transforming power. In His precious name, amen.

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ThursdayThe world has been crucified to me through the cross, and I to the world.  Galatians 6:14

“Why don’t you hang out at the clubs with us anymore,” Charlene asked. “You don’t even drink! You get religion or something?”

Becky smiled. “Not really. I just don’t want to. Since I met Jesus, He’s changing me for the better. I’m so caught up in learning about Him and the Bible…I-I can’t explain it. I just don’t like the same things I used to like, and I’m actually glad about that.”

Charlene lifted a brow. “Weird,” she said. “Sounds like religion to me.” Becky shook her head. “It’s like when you married Zac. You’re crazy about him so you don’t even want to date other guys. You died to your old life so you could have a new one.”

When the Bible talks about being crucified, it’s not trying to be gory. It’s showing us in vivid detail what it means to follow Jesus. When He went willingly to the cross, He demonstrated the difference between God’s kingdom and Satan’s kingdom. In Satan’s kingdom, it’s every person for themselves. Do what feels good. Follow your own path. In God’s kingdom, we follow the example of Jesus. He died to His own will so He could embrace God’s plan. We, too, die to our own will so that we can embrace God’s plan. The world’s opinions carry no weight in our decisions. Charlene knew that when she married Zac, she wouldn’t keep dating other men. Marriage changed her status. And salvation changes our status. We exit Satan’s domain and become children of God. “Crucified to the world” means that our decision of whether or not to sin has already been made.

Final Thought:  We don’t have to wring our hands over every temptation because sin is no longer an option. We died to it.

Prayer: Father, am I living as someone who is “crucified to the world?” Sometimes I still act like I’m playing by Satan’s rules. Help me learn what it means to crucify my old life so I can discover the joy of being dead to sin. In Jesus’ name, amen.

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Friday“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.”  Luke 9:23

The sun was warm, the air clear as the grassy hillside filled with people. They’d walked for miles to hear this amazing Rabbi talk about God in a way they’d never heard before. They buzzed with excitement, swapping details about Him, bragging about how long they’d been His followers. Then, there He was! They’d loved everything He’d said so far, but a hush fell over the crowd at His next words: “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself, take up His cross, and follow me.” A cross? 

In first-century Judea, crosses were not jewelry worn by rock stars. The cross was a torture tool introduced to the Jews by the conquering Romans. It was meant to terrorize the populace so that no one spoke against Caesar. Now, this new Rabbi was saying that if they wanted what He offered, they had to carry a cross! No one seen dragging a cross through town would come back alive. Crosses always represented death. At those words, many former followers began packing up to slip away. This wasn’t what they’d come to hear. They loved the free food and miracles. But if Jesus was going to upset their lives, never mind. Most people still feel that way, but Jesus’ words haven’t changed. Unless we dethrone Self as god, we can’t have Him.

Final Thought: Jesus never offered to be Savior but not Lord. Receiving Him means we crucify our right to be our own boss.

Prayer: Jesus, I want all you are and all you offer. But I realize I have to do it on your terms. So I gladly pick up my cross, die to my own will, and strive to obey you in everything. This cross means I no longer serve sin, I serve you.  In your name, amen.