What things obscure a Christian’s view of the cross of Christ? What keeps us from experiencing all the benefits of the cross graciously lavished on us when we put our faith in Jesus’ sacrificial death? Here are a few of the obstructions, but I’ll put the most emphasis on the last one.
*Lack of Bible knowledge. A believer who hasn’t been mentored in the faith, who doesn’t read his Bible consistently, or who hasn’t been in a solid Bible-teaching church for very long doesn’t grasp his identity in Christ, and the implications for the here-and-now of Jesus’ death for him.
*A hidden sin, or a pattern of sin in a specific area. A casual attitude in relation to God’s call for holiness, or irregular times of confession, harden the heart and affect our vision.
*Past experience of abuse. Being mistreated verbally, physically, or sexually by someone who is supposed to love and protect a person may affect his or her perceptions of God’s character, and diminish the victim’s capacity to trust the Lord.
*Pride nestled in the mind and heart. The result of arrogance is a lack of gratitude for what Christ accomplished for us, and an inability to see our sin and ongoing need for grace.
*A depressive episode. When darkness descends and envelops us, we don’t think or see clearly. We tend to turn inward, locking our lens on our foibles and on past sins that we confessed and abandoned. We are more likely to feel guilty before God and unacceptable to Him. Our prayer life suffers, since we believe God condemns us just as we condemn ourselves for shortcomings. The lies whispered by our enemy sound more convincing than the truth of God’s Word.
Severe depression puts blinders over our eyes and we cannot see ourselves as God sees us. Yet, if we have put our faith in Jesus’ sacrifice and accepted Him as Savior, here is our status:
Forgiven! Hebrews 10:15-18
Unconditionally loved! Romans 5:6-8; Zephaniah 3:17
Declared right with God (justified)! Romans 5:1; Hebrews 10:14
Not condemned by God! Romans 8:1
Purchased by God, Jesus’ blood as payment (redemption)! 1 Corinthians 6:19-20; 1 Peter 1:18-19
Secure in Him, due to His adoption of us! John 1:12; Galatians 4:4-6
Not guilty! God’s wrath toward sin appeased by Jesus’ death, satisfying His holiness & justice (propitiation). 1 John 2:1-2; Romans 3:21-26
Those are just a few of the truths we see when there isn’t fog or humid air obscuring our view of the cross.
Many years ago, I wrote the following poems about the cross that I hope will deepen your appreciation for Jesus’ sacrifice there. If needed in your current pilgrimage, I hope these words give corrective lenses so you can view the cross with 20-20 vision.
Looming large, within my view,
I pay it the homage due.
I cringe. What an evil glare!
Everywhere I turn, it’s there.
Menacing, its taunt is cruel,
an expert at ridicule.
I confess, to find repose.
Louder yet its laugh echoes.
I cannot cut it down to size,
or hide its features from my eyes.
No matter when or where I look,
I see and feel its jarring hook.
Then God’s strong voice breaks through.
He says, “I have a different view.
I can’t spot the sin harassing you.
In the way, there is a tree;
two beams crossed at Calvary.
Blood-stained wood is all I see.
Your Substitute: He died and bled.
That’s why I see one color: red,
not darkness of your sin, instead.
So ever since that cross was built,
I can no longer see your guilt.
Your eyes are prone to deceive.
For better vision, just believe.”
History of the Cross
A seed expands, then gives birth
to a stem that cracks the earth.
At first, a flimsy shoot of jade,
dancing in the breeze, a blade
of no apparent strength or worth.
Showers fall to quench its thirst.
It bathes in the sun’s outburst.
Roots dive deeper in the soil,
trunk and limbs grow from the toil.
All for God’s best, and man’s worst.
Over time, this hardwood grew
to shake hands with a sky of blue.
Then a sharpened axe felled it.
A scorned, bruised man impaled it.
Crucified, in public view.
Beams designed and crossed by hell.
Split and scarred by driven nail.
Stained by blood: a vulgar fate.
Bears a breathless body’s weight.
Yet what a story it would tell!
That’s the tale of one tree’s wood
from a Jewish neighborhood.
Yet it is not a forlorn story:
there God displayed His glory,
turning man from bad…to good.
May our Lord give you a clear view of Jesus’ cross and its implications for you. No matter what causes our depression, we face a spiritual battle in dealing with it. It is a battle for our minds, a fight over what we choose to believe. Make it a point to study aspects of your “identity in Christ,” and you are more likely to win the battles.
A helpful resource that describes our identituy in Christ is a book by Robert McGee, The Search for Significance: Seeing Your True Worth Through God’s Eyes (Thomas Nelson). He discusses in detail various aspects of the benefits of the cross: justification, redemption, regeneration, reconciliation, propitiation, the difference between guilt and conviction, and more.