Only when we see ourselves as nothing does the Glory of Jesus as our all in all become everything to us!
Have you ever been moved by the cross of Christ? Or, to word this question a little differently, have you ever sat and thought on the cross of Christ and come to a perplexing, tea- filled conclusion with the only question you have left being, “Why?” I think a lot of us would sadly answer this question: “no”. The full answer may look like this: “No, I have never had that much emotion when I think on Christ. To me, Jesus is Gods’ son from the Bible and I believe in Him, but I don’t really have any strong emotions about it.” Before you take offense to this statement and say ‘that’s not me’, search your soul and think on Jesus for a moment. What emotions are there? Is He your ever present help in times of trouble? Is He your treasure? When you get in a tough spot or fall into an old sinful habit or feel like your world is falling apart do you run to Him as a comforter or do you curse and accuse him? When your life is going great and everything seems to be going your way, do you thank Him and still do your best to honor him or do you forget about him. Or worse yet, do you keep trying to do good so that the blessings will stay with you, as if your good deeds kept the blessings flowing?
I remember the first time I heard the song Hosanna from Hillsong United. The particular line in the song that got me was “Break my heart for what breaks yours”. This was a foreign idea to me, but one very common in the Bible. Reading through any of the gospels we see how compassionate Jesus was toward the lost and sinful people who He knew would eventually crucify him. The Samaritan woman at the well, the Rich young ruler, tax collectors and prostitutes. Jesus’ heart for these people moved him to spend time with them, teach them and even die for them. On one level it is easy to be moved by the sacrifice of Jesus. Any sane person would consider a story of someone dying to save another “lesser” person a touching story at least. Hollywood makes movies like this all the time. But not until you understand where you were headed without Jesus’ sacrifice and what awaited you there does his death shine with its true intensity. Not until you see the burden of his heart for lost sinners will your heart break for them as well.
That may seem like a long, and strange, intro for a book review, but these are the thoughts that I had before I started reading Spurgeon’s book Discovering the Power of the Cross of Christ. As I started reading it I wondered why I lacked much emotion over the cross. I know what it symbolizes. I know the truth behind the words Jesus uttered with his dying breath: “it is finished”. But how did they affect me personally, and how do they act on my soul daily? As I started this book I prayed for answers to these dilemmas, and not just answers, but also for God to soften my heart of stone in this area and melt it with the love that Jesus showed on the cross.
In all my readings of Spurgeon I have found him to be an excellent communicator. From his daily devotions that can easily be two pages of heart filled mediation on a single verse, to this book which looks at the dying words of Jesus on the Cross, his thoughts are full of meaning and are chosen carefully to reach the heart of his readers with the truth of the Cross. His words touched me deeply when it came to two particular phrases that Jesus spoke on the Cross “Father forgive them”, and “It is finished”. Spurgeon spends nearly a chapter on each of these phrases and they are deserving of every word he gives them. In the first we see the compassion of Jesus who is at His darkest moments on earth and still loving sinners. We see the beauty of His plea for us when he cries out “Father”. I usually passed over this particular phrase when reading before, but now I see the power of it is truly awe inspiring. Here is Jesus, God’s only son, being brutally murdered, yet he still loves his accusers enough to cry out to His Father. Think of a small boy being hit and kicked and jeered at by bullies, and when they are just about to corner him for good, he lifts his small tear-stained face up one last time and sees behind the bullies his father! Will he not cry out with love and hope “Father help me please!” And in that same urgency and trust we hear from this boy, we hear in Jesus’ cry to his Father, yet He calls out nearly the opposite request, “Father forgive them!” He’s talking about the bullies, the ones who have hung him on a cross, who every day put their trust in one way or another in themselves, in ourselves! What a beautiful phrase for us to hear!
The second phrase is one that all Christians need to keep forever in their thoughts! “It is finished!” Spurgeon did a marvelous job in this section, bringing out the implications of this phrase for those who believe as well as for those who don’t. I will try to summarize. For those who believe this phrase is life. It is the source of the spring of eternal hope that we are accepted from God through Jesus. When His purpose on earth was finished we who believe were justified! Nothing more needed to be done and no amount of work or right actions is needed. As the song goes: Jesus paid it all! I hope you can glimpse the beauty of this phrase. His mission was complete, His faith tested and proved true, and our rescue from eternity in hell was complete! For those who don’t believe the story still ends in eternity, but it becomes an eternity of trying yourself to pay the price that only Jesus can pay. For if Jesus, who led a perfect life and died in our place, finished the work how can we who are nowhere near perfect ever expect to gain a right standing with God on our own? Can you live a perfect life? If you are reading this now, it means you can’t because our lives are fraught with pride and fear and worry, and any one moment of distrust in God separates us from Him for eternity. Far better to accept the free gift Jesus gave us when He died on the cross and “finished” off all that separated us from the Father!
I started this whole review by talking about emotion and how this book stirred some deep emotions about the cross in my heart, but I think I must also end with a warning about emotion. While emotions can be a good indicator of our heart (just ask yourself does your heart bleed like Paul’s in Romans 9, where we says he wishes he could trade places with his brothers who are cut off from Christ?) this same emotion cannot save us. Beware the Christian who cries over the cross and shows no hatred toward sin, no remorse over the lost and no repentance outside of church. Such a hypocrite need not be as obvious as we think. Going to church makes you no more a Christian than going to hear an orchestra makes you a grand pianist. No matter how good your seats are you won’t play well unless you practice! So it is with the Christian faith. No matter how much lingo you know or how often you go to church it counts for nothing if you’re not fighting sin and if you don’t believe that Jesus is Lord and that God raised Him from dead. Emotion is just one sign we can use to guide us on our journey down the straight and narrow, it can act as a compass for our faith, helping us to make our calling and election sure, like Peter commands us in 2 Peter 1:10.
So ask yourself these questions about the cross, pray often asking for a heart like Jesus, and read this book because it is a wonderfully detailed breakdown of the suffering and fulfillment that our Savior accomplished for us. I pray that if you read it, it will create a passion for Jesus and a deepened faith and understanding of His sacrifice on the cross like it did for me! I will end with a good Quote from the book as a reminder of the power of the cross.
“Take heed, I pray you, and be changed this day by the grace lest you be changed later by terror, for the heart that will not be bent by the love of Christ shall be broken by the terror of His name. If Jesus upon the cross does not save you, Christ on the throne shall damn you. If Christ on earth is not your heaven, Christ coming from heaven shall be your hell.”