The cross is at the center of the Christian message. Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified (1 Corinthians 2:2, ESV). Why was Paul so centered on the cross? Because the message of the cross is the power of God for salvation (1 Cor. 1:18). The cross is God’s means of reconciling the world to Himself (Eph. 2:16, Col. 1:20). On the cross, Jesus became the sacrifice for our sins.
The cross is also at the center of our conversion. Even during his earthly ministry, Jesus said, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Mark 8:34, ESV). In the first century world, to take up your cross was to die. Luke’s account adds the word, “daily,” making clear that Jesus is speaking figuratively (Luke 9:23). Jesus demands that we die to ourselves, to our old lives.
This same imagery is associated with baptism. Paul wrote, “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:3-4, ESV). The Christian also has a cross, a tomb, and an empty tomb. We die to ourselves, and we are also united to Christ. The watery grave of baptism connects us to Jesus’ death and burial. We are resurrected from the waters of baptism to newness of life. There is a new life to be experienced now because we are united to Christ, and there is the hope of resurrection when He comes again.
The cross is at the center of Christian living. The new life has power. We are forgiven of our sins in the past, but we are also transformed. Paul wrote, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20, ESV). Later in the same letter, Paul explained, “But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world” (Galatians 6:14, ESV). Connected to Christ we can live better than we can with our own efforts alone.
The cross teaches me that I’m loved because Jesus endured the cross to save sinners like me. Jesus paid my debt on the cross. But the cross demands a response. Jesus asks me to die to myself. In baptism, my status before God is changed. I become united to Christ. My sins are forgiven, and I become a part of the people of God. The cross-centered life also gives power for living. In dying to myself and letting Christ live in me, I find the strength to be transformed. With Christ, I can do things I could not do alone.
Are you living a cross centered life?