Unpacking the basics: Why is the Cross so important to Christians?
Alpha // May 21, 2019, 12:53 pm
What do you think of when you think of the greatest love that you can imagine? Maybe it’s a boyfriend/girlfriend, husband/wife, parent/child kind of love.
But there’s a verse in the New Testament where the Apostle Paul says this: “The Son of God (Jesus Christ) loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20)
God’s love for us is unconditional. It’s wholehearted. It’s continual.
And it’s personal. If you had been the only person in the world, Jesus would have died for you. He loves you that much.
That’s why the Cross is the symbol of Christianity: Jesus demonstrated His amazing love for us by dying on the Cross for you and me.
But, why was it necessary for Jesus to die for us?
1. We were made perfect by a perfect God
You’re created in the image of God. That means you are a masterpiece! There’s something amazing about every human being: Something noble, something beautiful, something magnificent.
Human beings are capable of such extraordinary creativity because they’re created in the image of God. After all, God, the Creator of the universe, is creative.
Humans can produce great music, art, literature. Human beings are capable of great self-sacrifice, devotion, kindness.
2. We have been made imperfect by sin
But there’s also another side to the coin. We’re also capable of bad stuff. You only have to open the newspaper, look at the news – there are some terrible things going on around the world. There’s evil going on around the world.
But the world is more complex than just saying “well, those are evil people and these are the good people” because it’s more mixed.
People who are capable of great love and devotion and kindness can also do some bad stuff because of this thing in our nature called “sin”.
3. Sin separates us from God
Sin in today’s culture has almost become like a good word. One advert for ice-cream used the slogan: “It’s so good, it’s sinful!”
But sin in the Bible is the bad stuff. And the Apostle Paul puts it like this: “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23)
Sin is anything that falls short of the glory of God, which was revealed in Jesus. And let’s be honest: We’ve all done stuff that we know is wrong. Compared to Jesus, we all fall a very long way short.
Why does it matter?
- It’s possible to pollute our soul. The things we do wrong spoil our lives and our relationships.
- There’s also the power of sin. The bad stuff can be very addictive. Jesus says: “Whoever sins is a slave of sin.” (John 8:34)
- Then there is the penalty of sin. Something within us cries out for justice when we see horrific things that are going on around the world.
- Sin causes a partition between us and God. When we have offended someone or someone has offended us, we don’t want to look them in the eye. We try and avoid them because something has come between us. Similarly, the stuff that we do wrong separates us from God.
That is the bad news.
4. Only the sinless could pay for sins
But the good news is this: God loves you.
The Son of God loved you and I, and gave Himself for us. God came to this earth as a human, in the person of His Son to do something about sin: To die for you and to die for me.
It’s been described as the “self-substitution of God”. God substituted Himself for you.
Jesus, who was innocent, became our scapegoat and paid the penalty for our sin. Because of that, we’re acquitted and our guilt has been removed. There’s no condemnation.
The word that’s used is ‘justified’. Justified means ‘just-as-if-I’d never sinned’. It’s a term from the law court: if you were justified, you were acquitted.
6. Jesus paid the cost of our sins
John writes that “the blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:7). The pollution has been removed and there is continual forgiveness.
The power of sin has also been broken on the Cross. Jesus said: “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (John 8:36)
Jesus’ death is unique – He was suffering spiritually because He was bearing on Himself our sin, our guilt, our shame.
The New Testament never concentrates on the physical suffering of Jesus. Because other people have also suffered crucifixion. Even today people are being crucified.
But what it focuses on is what was unique about Jesus’ death, as He was suffering spiritually because He was bearing on Himself our sin, our guilt, our shame.
7. We’re free from guilt and shame
Guilt is feeling bad about the stuff we do. Shame is feeling bad about who we are. And Jesus bore our guilt and our shame, so you never need to feel bad about yourself because you’re loved.
Your worth is what you’re worth to God. What are you worth to God? Jesus died for you! You’re so infinitely valuable to God. We’re priced by the one who paid.
8. We’re loved by God
On the Cross, Jesus revealed what true love is. True love is not just a feeling. Love involves more than words; it involves actions. And Jesus showed us the supreme example of love, by sacrificing himself for you and for me.
Many people have asked: Why does God allow suffering? Theologians and philosophers have struggled for 2,000 years, and no one’s come up with a complete answer.
But what the Cross tells us is this: God is not sitting in a deckchair in heaven watching all the suffering down here. No, He has come into our world to suffer for us and He now suffers alongside us.
9. There is victory
The Cross also tells us this: Evil has been defeated and there’s going to be a good ending. The resurrection was not the reversal of a defeat; it was the manifestation of a victory. And it tells us that the story ends well.
10. We’re reconciled to God
The partition has been removed; you can come home!
2 Corinthians 5:19 says: “God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them”.
You see, the Cross was not God sort of punishing an innocent third party – that would be barbaric. No, God was in Christ. God himself came to die for you and for me. God was in Christ, reconciling you and me to himself.
And reconciliation with God leads to reconciliation in marriage, in relationships, between parents and children, in friendships.
God loves you intensely. You are loved. The Son of God, Jesus, gave himself for you.
This article was adapted from the Alpha Transcripts and has been republished with permission. If you have more questions and would like to further explore the basics of the Christian faith, find out more about Alpha or use the map below to connect with an Alpha group near you.
THINK + TALK
- Do you think that sin is an outdated concept?
- What do you feel about the idea of forgiveness?
- Do you agree that Jesus’ death was the only way we could be saved? Why or why not?
- Would you like to accept Jesus as your Lord and Saviour?