Do you see the work of the cross in your life? Do you see it having an effect on your life? Have you asked yourself to really see and understand what took place on Calvary? Having a greater understanding its importance and significance has everything to do with how we will grow and develop as believers in Christ. Can you see God’s will being perfected on the cross? Do you see Jesus as a martyr or do you see Him as the Son of God acting in God’s perfect will? “From then on Jesus began to point out to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders, chief priests, and scribes, be killed, and be raised the third day. Then Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, ‘Oh no, Lord! This will never happen to You!’ But He turned and told Peter, ‘Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me because you’re not thinking about God’s concerns, but man’s‘” (Matthew 16:21-23). The cross is a stumbling block to many because they are focused on the world and not on the things of God. Petty arguments and distractions take the focus off the goodness and grace of God the Father and Jesus Christ.
Do you see that Jesus Christ had made up His mind to be obedient to the Father in going to the cross? “Then an angel from heaven appeared to Him, strengthening Him. Being in anguish, He prayed more fervently, and His sweat became like drops of blood falling to the ground” (Luke 22:43-44). The angel gave Him strength to be able to go through the suffering to fulfill God’s will. Until one surrenders to the Lord, no matter what the cost, you will not receive the energy and strength required to serve Him. He knows that our bodies are weak, but when we give everything we have for the Lord, He will enable us (Matthew 27:27-31). “As they were going out, they found a Cyrenian man named Simon. They forced this man to carry His cross” (Matthew 27:32). When Simon emerged, He gave Jesus the help He needed to deal with the cross, but it started with the determination of Jesus to carry out God’s will. If there is a willingness in your heart, God will provide the help that you need.
The moment that Jesus said “not as I will, but as You will,” Jesus was enabled to carry out the sacrifice on the cross (Matthew 26:36b). God revealed to Jesus that His work was not in vain. “Then two criminals were crucified with Him, one on the right and one on the left. Those who passed by were yelling insults at Him, shaking their heads and saying, ‘The One who would demolish the sanctuary and rebuild it in three days, save Yourself! If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross!’ In the same way the chief priests, with the scribes and elders, mocked Him and said, He saved others, but He cannot save Himself! He is the King of Israel! Let Him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in Him. He has put trust in God; let God rescue Him now–if He wants Him! For He said, ‘I am God’s Son.’ In the same way even the criminals who were crucified with Him kept taunting Him‘” (Matthew 27:38-44). Yet God continued to encourage Jesus, even while He was suffering on the cross. “Then one of the criminals hanging there began to yell insults at Him: ‘Aren’t You the Messiah? Save Yourself and us!’ But the other answered, rebuking him: ‘Don’t you even fear God, since you are undergoing the same punishment? We are punished justly, because we’re getting back what we deserve for the things we did, but this man has done nothing wrong.’ Then he said, ‘Jesus, remember me when You come into Your kingdom!’ And He said to him, ‘I assure you: Today you will be with Me in paradise’” (Luke 23:39-43). We are challenged to think outside of ourselves and to think about the things of God. In the midst of trouble, naysayers will often think for themselves. Fortunately, as we trust in the Lord in the midst of our difficulties and at the height of our trials, He will provide someone to encourage you and lift you up. Your dedication to God is not in vain. God revealed to Jesus, in the midst of His suffering, the plan of salvation for all of mankind. The world sees the suffering on the cross and not the joy of the fulfillment of God’s plan and purpose! As a believer in Jesus Christ, there is an unspeakable joy in serving the Lord and pleasing the Father. God reveals to us His will as we act and serve in His will.
We see the paradox of the Christian life of the obedience to Jesus Christ on the cross. While the unbeliever sees a life of suffering and sorrow, it is the life of obedience that brings us joy–unspeakable joy–in the life of the believer. The suffering on the cross is intermingled with joy. In our lives, either suffering will overcome the joy of the Christian life, or the joy will overcome the suffering of the Christian life. When you are willing to accept the Lord as your strength, you will experience joy in your obedience to Him and to His Word. The cross reveals that suffering is not an abnormality to be avoided, but the grace of God to be accepted, for out of death comes life (to die to self is to live for Christ). To sacrifice your immediate desire is to learn to fulfill your ultimate desire. “But everything that was a gain to me, I have considered to be a loss for Christ. More than that, I also consider everything to be a loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. Because of Him I have suffered the loss of all things and consider them filth, so that I may gain Christ” (Philippians 3:7-8).
What will keep many of us from seeing God’s best work through us is that we will not let go of our immediate desires. Jesus was able to let go of the immediate desire of avoiding suffering to gain the ultimate desire of salvation for mankind, to please the Father and to fulfill His will. “…keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that lay before Him endured a cross and despised the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of God’s throne” (Hebrews 12:2). All of mankind was now able to obtain eternal life through believing in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.
We see, at the cross, that Jesus trusted the Father (Matthew 27:43; Luke 23:46; John 19:30). Who are you placing your trust in? When you are obedient to the Father, it pleases Him and brings Him great joy. At the cross, we must see the true fulfillment of the devoted life of every Christian–every believer in Jesus Christ. We are to practice self-denial and the surrendering of our own desires. “Then Jesus said to His disciples, ‘If anyone wants to come with Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of Me will find it. What will it benefit a man if he gains the whole world yet loses his life? Or what will a man give in exchange for his life? For the Son of Man is going to come with His angels in the glory of His Father, and then He will reward each according to what he has done. I assure you: There are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom” (Matthew 16:24-28). The resurrected life means living for the cross. Without Jesus going to the cross, there could never be a resurrection. The way to a resurrected life, as a believer in Jesus Christ, is through the cross (Matthew 28:5-10; John 20:1-9, 19-20; Romans 5:4-6, 10). Many of us may believe, but we need to also have understanding of what God’s Word means to us. Believing in Jesus is important, but it is not enough if we are to truly grow in Christ. Without dying to self, we cannot experience the new life. On the cross, we die to sin. To die to self frees himself or herself from sin, since it was the work on the cross by Jesus that paid for it. God is always present to help us grow and understand His Word as we are willing to listen to Him and be obedient to Him. The work was already completed for us on the cross.
As a believer, are you truly living for Christ? Your obedience to Jesus Christ and His Word ultimately will determine this. There is a certainty that following Christ means giving up something and sacrificing your own short term desires. Can you determine what you have lost in living for Christ? What have you given up for Him? Sit down and make a list as to what you have given up. At the same time, take an inventory as to what you have gained in following Christ. Compare the two lists and see where you are. As you grow in the Lord and trust in Him and His Word, you will discover that you will have gained much more than what you have lost!