The cross as an event is powerful. The cross as a cause for a different kind of life is far more powerful. The shadow of the cross extends all the way to our time and place. In a few days I plan to be traveling to Donetsk, Ukraine to teach and preach there. I don’t have to worry if the cross cast its shadow over that part of the world or not because it is for all people in all times.
Think of some of the effects that should come into our lives because we live in the shadow of the cross.. This shadow extends itself to all parts of our life as well. It is over your home life, your work life, your relationships and even your recreation.
One major effect of the cross is living with a clear conscience. In Hebrews 9:14 God tells in the cross we have our conscience cleansed from dead works that we might serve the living God. Nothing is more crippling than a guilty conscience that keeps reminding us all the time how wretched we are. Satan wants to keep all our failures and sins flashing up in front of us all the time so we never feel we can live by God’s teaching. God wants us to all have a clean conscience. In I Peter 3:21 it is noted that when we are baptized it isn’t to cleanse our body but to give us a good conscience by the power of Jesus’ resurrection. Peter tells us earlier in that chapter that we are to be ready always to give an answer to anyone who asked a reason for our hope. Then he declares that we should have a clean conscience to be able to bear such a witness (I Peter 3:17-19). In Hebrews 10:22 we are encouraged to draw near to God “with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.”
Think about how important a clear conscience is for our living for God. It affects our ability to serve God, to draw near to God, to have the power of God working in us and our ability to bear witness for God to others who ask about our hope. In the shadow of the we cross there is no room for a guilty conscience that stands as a wall between us and God and all that God wants us to do.
In the shadow of the cross forgiveness becomes a way of life. In Ephesians 4:32 we are told to “be kind to one another, tender hearted forgiving one another in the same God has forgiven us through Christ. The essence of the cross is forgiveness. Jesus most well known statement on the cross and likely the first words he spoke on the cross were, “Father, forgive them they don’t know what they are doing.”
To live in the shadow of the cross and not be forgiving to others who have hurt or wronged you in some way is to miss the point of Jesus dying on that cross.
The shadow of the cross should produce humility in all of us. In Philippians 2:5-10 we are told to have the same attitude that was in Christ. Jesus Christ was in heaven, as God. He willfully gave up the powers and privileges of deity to become one of us and walk among us suffering our temptations without giving in to them. He didn’t just humble himself to become a man, as a man he humbled himself to go to the cross for us. He was obedient to the father when it wasn’t easy to follow him. If we are to have that attitude we too must be willing to stand in the shadow of that cross to say, “There and there only are my sins forgiven.” The effect of being forgiven should be for us to be forgiving of others who sin against us. A faith in Jesus that doesn’t turn us into people ready and anxious to forgive others who wrong us, isn’t the faith that Jesus taught us to have. When we cultivate the humility that was in the heart of Jesus we can forget about ourselves and think of others. The opposite of humility is pride, arrogance and selfishness. Humility focuses on others rather than on ourselves.
Perhaps the most powerful aspect of living in the shadow of the cross is given by Paul later in Philippians. In chapter three he told of what he gave up to follow Christ. He turned his back on the family heritage and his place as a Pharisee to turn to Jesus. He now counted all his things he might have boasted about in earlier life as garbage, ruin in order to win Christ and be found in him not with a righteousness of his own but that imputed righteousnesses from Christ. In verse ten he says, “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.”
To really know Christ would involve several things. It would mean getting to know his power and learning that all things are possible through him in whom you have believed. Jesus suffered in human weakness on the cross. But immediately God’s power came back to crush him and his kingdom under his feet.
The second aspect of knowing Christ is to fellowship with him or share with him in his suffering. In doing so we become like him in his death and so somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead. Often the Christian life is pictured by some as a place for all positive thinking, and never allowing the words of discouragement or fear or doubt to enter in. That is a false Christianity. The real thing often carries us right through the middle of suffering. Either we tend to go through it without touching anything or anyone, or try to get around it.
Paul wanted to share in Christ’s suffering. Peter wrote the whole book of I Peter about suffering as a Christian. He noted that Christ left us an example for us to follow in his steps (I Peter 2:21). He declared that we should not suffer as a murderer or a thief, as a evildoer or meddler in other people’s business. “Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian he should not be ashamed but glorify God in this name.” (I Peter 4:16). Allowing the shadow of the cross to fall over us will lead us to not avoid or hate every form of suffering, but to see it as a means ot grow and share in Jesus’ life and agony.
Allow the shadow to fall over your life. Live every day with the cross looming in your sight. When you do, God’s grace will reign over you and you will appreciate your forgiveness from God, but more than that you will be forgiving of others and of yourself. With a pure conscience you can serve the Lord wherever you are. Certainly we all remember mistakes we’ve made and Satan points at all those failures to live up to what we say or teach. But God is constantly reminding us that we are forgiven, cleansed and new. It is always easier to get the forgiveness of God than to forgive ourselves. But why would we hold on to sins God has cleansed? In family life a parent who has forgiven themselves will find it much easier to forgive a wayward child when they attempt to come home again.