The Christian Life Revolves Around the Cross
Written by Dylan Wells
For Christians, the cross is the central symbol to our faith. Both for what God has done for us and what the cross signifies for how we are commanded to live.
Christians believe that Jesus has existed eternally in equal and perfect unity with God. Jesus willingly left his position at Gods right hand, came to earth as a servant and died on a cross to provide salvation and eternal life for all who receive it. (Philippians 2: 1–11)
While on a mission trip in West Africa a couple of years ago, my team and I shared the story of the Bible from beginning to end. Instead of going into detail about how Christ died, we said that he died for our sins without mentioning the cross specifically. When we were talking later and discussing Christianity, one of the men asked what the cross signified and why is it displayed in churches? It was shocking to us that this these men had no idea about the crucifixion and the cross. They are Muslim and recognize many of the same prophets that Christians do. They believe that Jesus existed, but they do not believe he was the son of God and that he died on a cross.
We explained that crucifixion was one of the most gruesome, humiliating and public ways to die. We told them how Jesus had been innocent of all the charges against him but that he willingly gave his life as a sacrifice. Because of this all people who believe in Jesus and follow him have their sins forgiven by his sacrifice.
Believing vs. Following Jesus
Growing up I knew who Jesus was. I knew that he died on a cross. I knew that Jesus wanted me to be a nice person and treat others like I wanted to be treated. (Matthew 7:12) However I did not realize what it meant to follow Jesus. As a senior in high school, I read Crazy Love by Francis Chan and realized the difference between believing in and following Jesus. Following Jesus requires 100% devotion. Jesus uses crucifixion as an example of what it takes to follow him.
Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?” (Matthew 16: 24–26)
I recognized that even though I knew who Jesus was, I was not following him, and I made the decision, at age 18, to follow Jesus. This meant changing from someone trying to live as a good person to someone dedicated to following the written word of God, trusting those words are true and to following scripture’s instruction for my life. Jesus said that in order to follow him and enter the kingdom of God, everyone must experience a radical change in their life and be born again.
Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.” Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. (John 3: 1–5)
Following Jesus as a Sinner
It has been twelve years since I decided to follow Jesus and that decision has dictated all the major decisions I have made since. Decisions on finances, career goals, children and marriage have all been viewed through the lens of Jesus’ calling on my life.
Unfortunately, being born again and receiving the Holy Spirit does not completely remove sin from the Christian’s life. We are all sinners and fall short of perfection. The difference is Christians who follow Jesus are focused on his calling on their lives and working to correct and prevent the areas of sin in their lives. It is an ongoing battle that we will face until eternity.
One sin that I want to confess is my failure to be someone who boldly proclaims the Gospel to others. There have been periods of my life as a follower of Christ where I have eagerly pursued sharing the good news of Jesus with friends, but time and time again I find myself afraid of the awkwardness of being the person who ventured into the taboo topic of religion. In West Africa, we shared the Gospel multiple times a day with people who have never heard the story of Jesus before. It was one of the most satisfying experiences of my life. I felt a deep spiritual fulfillment and connection with God.
Sharing the Gospel boldly and clearly is one of the goals of my writing. I believe that because of sin we were all separated from God and doomed for eternity in Hell, but God has made a way for us to be saved through Jesus’ shed blood on the cross and he can give us the power to live the lives we were meant to live, following his commands. I plead that all who read this take these claims seriously.
The God who created the universe sent his Son to earth to die on the cross as a sacrifice for our sins. Salvation is a gift available to everyone. Receiving the gift is free but the only response for those who accept it is complete surrender of their lives by following Jesus.