For I was determined to know nothing among you, except Christ, and Him crucified.  1 Cor. 2:12

the sign of the cross

There’s a new wave of churches taking root in America and abroad that may surprise you—the athiest mega-church.  This fascinating article about this movement starts like this:

 It looked like a typical Sunday morning at any mega-church. Several hundred people, including families with small children, packed in for more than an hour of rousing music, an inspirational talk and some quiet reflection. The only thing missing was God.

These groups of athiests gather to hear  good music,  inspirational speaking about ways to become better people, and then are sent out to fight social injustice.  Craig Parton points out that, unfortunately, they take their cues from American pop Christianity, which has been doing this same thing for years, only with a little God thrown in.  He points out that the one thing often missing from many Christian church services is Jesus and the scandal of the cross.

Martin Luther first coined this phrase, the theology of the cross, in the Heidelberg Disputation, but many descendants of the Reformation may have never heard the term.

What it means is this:  When I want to know how it is between God and me, I must look to the cross.

Everything for the christian must be viewed through the lens of this one, pivotal event.  That is our center point, the hinge of our faith.  We must know God there or we will not know Him aright.  Jesus dying on the cross is the beginning of Christian theology.  Our natural theology, a theology of glory, says that I can know how it is between God and me by looking at my life, my circumstances—in other words, a ‘me-centered’ theology.

And we do this all the time without thinking about it.

When we lost our home to fire in December of 2010,  I couldn’t help but struggle with doubt.  Why us? Why this?  Why now? Where is God in this tragedy?   It’s hauntingly similar to what Jesus uttered on the cross, when he said, “My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?”  And even though this question came from the lips of the Son of God himself, the heavens were silent.  The cross stands as God’s final answer to all our ‘why’ questions.

The cross speaks across the centuries, across every barrier, and shouts to us in our suffering.  The God who suffers unspeakable grief,  loves us  and gives Himself over to death on our behalf.    The cross gives meaning to our suffering, to our doubt.  The song of redemption rings loud and clear from the mouth of the suffering Savior as He speaks forgiveness.

But,  we are theologians of glory.  We have replaced the cross with everything under the sun. We don’t want its shame.   We want to believe that man is basically good and his faults can be overcome by  moral improvement, powerful spiritual experiences, or intellectual ascension.  Maybe we sense that God is angry with us and we believe there is something we can do to appease that anger.  We turn the Scriptures into a How-To manual and spend our lives climbing ladders to God.  The most popular ladder in the past twenty years seems to be the mystical ladder of experience-based faith and worship.  We chase spiritual worship experiences in order to feel connected to God.  We’ve become masters at the carefully tailored worship service—so much so that the athiests can copy us and have their own inspirational services, often without changing much of anything.

But, Jesus offers us all He has at the cross.  He delivers the salvation and forgiveness won for us there on Sunday morning in the preaching of the Gospel and the administration of The Lord’s Supper.  And where those two things are missing, what we’re often left with is music and teaching that is designed to inspire and motivate, or worse manipulate.  The preaching of God’s law and Gospel are not meant to inspire us, but to kill and make alive.  The law, preached in its fullness leaves us no wiggle room to justify ourselves.  We have sinned and are the enemies of God.  The Gospel rescues us with finished work of Christ on the cross.  It is finished still rings through the ages.

The theology of the cross is the theology of Scripture.

And when we forget, we live as slaves to our circumstances. We  try to figure out where we stand with God by looking all around us or by looking into our bank accounts or our 401K’s.  We want some tangible sign—hopefully in the form of health, wealth or fame, or some mountain top spiritual experience—to know that God is pleased with us.

But, there is one sure way to know where we stand with God—a signpost rooted firmly in the Scriptures that never changes.

It’s called a cross.

When you look at the cross, you can know exactly where you stand with God.  At the cross, you don’t have to wonder whether or not you’re measuring up. You don’t have to wonder if you’re “spiritual enough.” You don’t have to worry if your sin has been too great.  Your sin and your righteousness alike fall away here. You don’t have to battle the demons that rage against you and make you question whether or not God brought this suffering your way.  He has crushed your demons, your sin, your self-righteousness, and your doubt, and He has taken your suffering into His own body.  He has answered every accusation against you.  Every single one.

Here, at the foot of this cross, the God of the universe has crawled into your skin, into your suffering, into your doubt and has rescued you from death, hell, and every snare of the Enemy.  This is the place where you must learn to take refuge.  Here, at the cross, you know you are loved with a love that will never fail.  This is the perfect love of God on display for you.

This is your sign.

We can go almost anywhere and hear good music and inspirational speeches.  We can venture out into nature and know there is a God.   God may, indeed, be everywhere, at all times. He is certainly the author of all good things.  But only here, at Calvary, can you know Him in love and mercy.

Only at the cross—where Jesus stretches out His arms forever, to the ends of the earth, in love for all mankind—do you know that God is for you.

Beautiful are the feet of those who bring us this good news.

I remember when our pastor made the sign of the cross on my little one’s forehead and on her heart when she was baptized, to mark her as one redeemed.

He has marked us with His cross forever—the sign from heaven that all has been renewed and all is well.

the sign of the cross

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45 comments on “When You’re Desperate For a Sign”

  1. This was an absolutely refreshing piece of truth. Just loved it and was incredibly blessed this morning by you allowing God to speak through you to the rest of us on the other side of these screens.

  2. Thank you, thank you for this. You have managed to use mere words to sum up a tragic misunderstanding so many have in their minds. And the scary part is that this misunderstanding, this glory theology where we look at our circumstances, is what dictates how SO many people feel about the Lord. Don’t ever doubt that writing isn’t one of your callings. It is.

  3. Amen and amen. I also found the article of the atheist movement very fascinating. Isn’t it interesting that they want to distance themselves from organized religion because they do not believe in religion yet they meet on Sunday and follow a similar order of service?!

  4. No truer words… without the cross, Christ Jesus giving his life freely, shedding his blood to wash away our sin, we. are. nothing. with no hope.

    So thankful for the plan of salvation. For the conviction I feel when I’ve wronged. And the advocate we have with the Father, to make it right.
    Preach on!

  5. beautiful. I just read an article about a large atheist church in CA….like a search for joy love,and connection, not knowing the Source….not wanting to lose freedom to submit to religion but only in Christ are we free. It makes me all the more want to be a Light for those who are apart from God. Nothing but the cross can heal and give true hope true joy. Thanks Edie for the beautiful reminder.

  6. Well, I’m typically a lurker…not a commenter…but this is great.

    “When you look at the cross, you can know exactly where you stand with God.”

    Thank you for sharing.

  7. Thank you, Edie – so beautifully written and a reminder that is not about us, but Christ living in us! I think, though, there are many more layers to this discussion. Jesus and the Cross have done it all for us – but many live as though this means that they can do whatever they want and continue in sin without consequence because of Christ’s lavish forgiveness. We must choose to pick up our own cross and follow Him. It is a narrow way and he never said it would be easy – in fact, quite the opposite. However, only in Christ we have freedom and joy, which we know seems contradictory but is true! An infant baptism cannot grant salvation. Salvation is a gift, but we must choose of our own will to receive it (John 1:12).

  8. Your gifted writing is your vessel that God is using to spread the word of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen and God Bless you and yours!

  9. Dear Edie and friends, would you be so kind to pray for me? That I will see the cross as wisdom and be so glad to receive the grace gift? That no pride or hardness will keep me from loving and seeing and tasting the goodness? Thank you.

  10. So, so true! We would have nothing if not for the cross. No hope, no peace, no purpose. So I am forever grateful for the price He paid on that cross. We’ve been listening to some of Billy Graham’s earlier messages this past week since we saw the Hope for America message online. I love how he always brought it back to the cross. I pray we never forget that. God bless.

  11. You nailed it again sweet Edie. I attend a “mega” church and love the fact that we do communion every single week to remember the cross, the sacrifice, the only bridge necessary to our salvation. Without the cross we are nothing more than good music and a feel good experience. Beautifully written.

  12. The cross reminds me there is nothing I can do to make Jesus love me more. And nothing I can do to make him love me less. He just loves me. So thankful for the gospel. And you, Edie, who unashamedly point us to the cross. Much love friend, angela

  13. What an anointed article! I’m really shocked at the boldness of your words! How many people today want to hear this? How many Christians today want to see this? But you went right on and wrote it! You are such an inspiration to me. Every time I am afraid to be a Christian I will think of you (along with other women I’ve read about who are not are not ashamed of Jesus Christ.) You are my modern apostle Paulette! Thank you!

  14. Amen! Sweet Edie-you have once again given us much food for thought. It is so easy to forget the cross when we can not take our eyes off of ourselves and our circumstances. But our Heavenly Father sees us through the forgiveness of our sins and we are made whole because of His precious Son.
    Rufh

  15. Oh, Edie. When I read posts like this I am brought to the feet of Jesus. Thank you. Your blog is always a blessing to me, but today my heart fills with gratitude for your wisdom and graceful approach. Hugs.

  16. thankyou Edie for the depth and simplicity that you’ve shared. what a great reminder of what our faith is all about. the Cross.

  17. thank you for reminding me that in the midst of all of these changes and unfamiliarity.. that the church is right here between Jesus and I and what He is doing in my life. I’ve stopped holding out my cup to the Church and the community and have begun (again) to only hold my cup to my Savior at the foot of the cross. only there can I begin to seek His wisdom and serve. xoxoxo

  18. I am reading your post one day after I watched Billy Graham’s The Cross – so yes, I think it is a sign! I bawled my way through the video – I always feel so incredibly humble when I think of God’s love for us and what he did to give us everlasting life and free us from our sins. I think this message gets lost in the mainstream church/ mainstream society. We are so focused on ourselves – what can the church do for us – that we forget to see what God has done for us.
    I will admit it is sometimes hard to stay focused when so much hurt and horrible things happen around us, but I know that this is life, that this is just part of living.
    Today was a difficult day…making it one big emotional week!
    Today, our (extended) family went though an ordeal so difficult it is truly heartbreaking. We all came together as one family to support them, even though it would have been easier to walk away, to say we don’t agree therefore cannot support you. But we didn’t. Through God’s grace we saw that love is greater than anything, more powerful than any sin, more healing than any therapy.
    Isn’t that what God shows us – even though we are dirty and grimy and filthy with sin, through Jesus (as our filter) we are clean and beautiful, and He loves us so much that He gave his only Son so that everyone who believes in him will not die but will have eternal life. And this gets duplicated here as earthly fathers (and mothers) and their undying love for their children – that willingness to sacrifice “face” for love, to try with all your might to help your child, no matter what they have done…so amazing.
    This life is an amazing journey, and sometimes when it all doesn’t make much sense the only thing left to do is just believe.
    And one final observation/theory I have about Jesus’s cry out, “My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?” – this was the final fulfillment of His earthly experience. Jesus, as God in human form, came to earth to experience what we experience, to feel what we feel – to feel the hurt, the heartbreak, the pain. And what is the one thing that is most distressing to God – our distrust, our unwillingness to fully believe, our doubt? In this last moment Jesus fulfills ALL his requirements that will free us of our sin and give us eternal life – takes on ALL sin. He came to us pure, and left us full of ALL our sins, even the sin of doubt.
    Sorry for the ramblings – all this has been working in me, and your post appeared at the perfect time to bring it all together. And maybe you have answered all this in your post, but sometimes it works best when we answer it for ourselves. I think that is what happened today.
    As one broken mother said today – “It is in God’s hands, and all we have to do is believe, because that is all that is left.”
    Amen.

  19. Very thought provoking, especially this for me, “We’ve become masters at the carefully tailored worship service—so much so that the atheists can copy us and have their own inspirational services, often without changing much of anything.”

    Also, regarding the symbol of the cross, I thought you might like this Chesterton quote:
    “But the cross, though it has at its heart a collision and a contradiction, can extend its four arms forever without altering its shape. Because it has a paradox in its center it can grow without changing…The cross opens its arms to the four winds; it is a signpost for free travellers.”

    : )

  20. Amen. “And you, who were once alienated and enemies in your mind through wicked works, yet now He has reconciled in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and irreproachable in His sight…” (Colossians 1:21, 22). Without Christ on the cross there is no resurrection; without the resurrection there is no eternal hope; without that hope we are the most miserable of men! Thanks be to God for His unspeakable gift.

  21. Thank you for this post, Edie. It has brought some clarity for me on some issues/thoughts I have struggled with the past few days. Appreciate your blog <3

  22. we all have a hole in our soul that can only be filled with spiritual food – a relationship with Christ. All of the major problems in our world come from filling this hole with everything else except a relationship with Christ.

  23. This took my breath away. As someone who is always looking for signs, this was very grounding. Thank you for your beautiful words.

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