At The Cross

Steve Arterburn

As you travel the long, difficult road that God’s calling you to walk, you must bear a cross.  That cross represents the burdens you bear as a follower of Christ.  But the way of the cross always leads to resurrection and a new life.

As God leads you to do his will you may wish there were some other way.  You may feel fear, a lack of confidence, deep anguish, and a host of other emotions that threaten to stop you in your tracks.  Regardless of your feelings, you mustn’t let them cause you to turn away from the path God sets before you.

Jesus understands your fears and your struggle to persevere.  He had similar emotions.  The night he was arrested, he cried out, ‘My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death’ (Matthew 26:38).  He wondered if there was some other way and prayed three times for the suffering to be taken away, if possible.  But he always ended his prayer, ‘Yet I want your will, not mine’ (Matthew 26:39).  Jesus found the grace to accept God’s plan.

You may be overwhelmed as you consider the cross you’ll have to bear on the way to a new life.  But during such times of struggle, you can go to Jesus for encouragement and express your deepest emotions.  As you cry out for help, you can be confident that you will be given the strength you need to do God’s will rather than your own.

The Cross-Shaped Christian Life

Steve Arterburn

 

 

The triumph of the cross is the pattern for the Christian life. In the death of Christ we witness the death of death itself. Through the cross, Christ defeated your worst and last enemy. He won the war. And in this same way, you’re to fight the remaining battles, confident that the outcome is decided and in your favor.

 

Reading the gospel sets your thinking in a completely different direction than that of personal potential and self-empowerment’things our society put such a high value to. The gospel calls you to be out of step with the world. You and I must die in order to live. We lose our lives in order to find them. We become strong by becoming weak.

 

Yet we too often lack the courage and conviction to embrace these gospel paradoxes. Instead, we look at our needs, wants, and desires and formulate a plan we expect God to honor in order to meet them. This keeps us focused on getting our own way rather than on releasing God’s redemptive power in our lives.

 

How different this is from praying ‘Your will be done”Jesus’ prayer as He went to the cross. The world looks upon this and sees weakness, vulnerability,’and foolishness. Yet, if you believe the Bible, you believe the apostle Paul when he says the cross is the power and wisdom of God.

 

Men, we’re not better than our Master. Jesus Christ’s life was cross-shaped, and ours should be also.

Ministering Through Our Experience of Recovery

Pastor Ed Grant

I began counseling Sarah almost eight years ago. Her addictions and self destructive behavior were misguided attempts to keep her painful feelings at bay, to keep her ‘in the land of numb’. Recovery has been an inch by inch experience as we plumbed the depths of her painful past. Despite some occasional emotional struggles and setbacks, she and her husband now have a marriage neither could have imagined before they began the journey toward recovery together.

As our congregation prepares to begin ‘Celebrate Recovery’, a wonderful program based on the Beatitudes, I asked Sarah to lead the group for sexually abused women. Though she stills struggles with the shame of her past she sincerely desires to use her experience to help others. Recently she said to me, ‘It would be a shame not to use my experience to help others.’

Satan’s purpose is to keep us bound in the shame of our sins and secret past, isolated from God and from one another.

God’s intention for our recovery was demonstrated most clearly on the cross when He defeated sin, death and the devil. The open tomb on Easter declared to the world God’s power to rescue those held by death’s bonds and by the devil’s lies, to free them to experience His amazing, unconditional love.

St. Paul writes, ‘He forgave us all our sins, 14having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross. 15And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.‘ (Col.2:13b-15).

The scars on His resurrected body became the evidence of Jesus’ triumph. Ministering to others through our recovery requires that we show them our scars. God has chosen to use our scars and the vulnerability it takes to show them to offer hope, wisdom, encouragement and warning to those embarking on the journey toward recovery.

Our scars give hope.
Ted Rose, a former elder who has gone home to be with Jesus, loved to visit the sick and shut-ins. Once he visited a man who was to undergo heart surgery the following day. He was visibly shaken at the thought of having his body cut open. Ted offered to pray with the man and to show his own scar from heart surgery. Seeing Ted’s scar had a very calming effect. Our scars show the world that we survived our wounds and that there can be healing for those whose wounds are still bleeding.

Our scars offer wisdom.
It is important that we learn from our mistakes, but heaven help us if it is the only way we learn! How much better to learn from the mistakes of others. King David sinned and, for a time, was in denial about it. God’s hand was heavy upon him until he finally came clean about his secret sin. After he confessed his sin and received forgiveness he wrote, ‘8I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you. 9Do not be like the horse or the mule, which have no understanding but must be controlled by bit and bridle or they will not come to you.‘ (Psalm 32).

The mistakes we have made can serve as warnings to those considering a short-cut to recovery. Our failures can expose the traps and pitfalls Satan conceals from view.

Our scars offer encouragement.


Those beginning recovery usually have a difficult time receiving God’s love for them because of an overwhelming sense of shame. Those who bare their scars give great encouragement to accept what cannot now be felt. Their scars testify to the healing power that flows from God’s loving touch. When the walking wounded see us and hear our candid testimonies they are encouraged to believe that God could love even them.

Paul often recalls his past life for this very purpose: ‘15Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners–of whom I am the worst. 16But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life.‘(1 Timothy 1:15-16).

To Titus he wrote, ‘12I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that he considered me faithful, appointing me to his service. 13Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. 14The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.

As we share our scars with the wounded I believe that God continues to work healing in our own lives. Certainly the telling of our stories and the response we receive dispels the commonly held belief: ‘If you really knew me you wouldn’t love me’. We are refreshed and encouraged as we see the way God uses our scars to touch the lives of others.

When we get to heaven and see Jesus, we will gaze upon His scars. They are ‘the marks of love the Father chose never to erase.’ (Michael Card)