Jesus and the message of the cross

On Billy Graham’s 95th birthday, perhaps his last message was on television last night, with more broadcasts of the same program to come. I think the same program can be downloaded here (more). In characteristic Billy Graham fashion, there was a simple preaching of the gospel with an emphasis on how one can find forgiveness, new life and a relationship with God through Jesus Christ. And there were two powerful testimonies of people who came to the end of their rope in different ways, before they found and became followers of Christ. Not lost in the message and presentation is the powerful truth of Jesus’ resurrection. It is wonderfully illustrated graphically by special effect. But the emphasis is placed on the cross, on Jesus and his death for us. And how the cross confronts us in our sin and challenges us to live an entirely different kind of life. Of course all in and through the salvation God brings in Christ.

I think some have thought that I don’t make enough of the cross myself. Maybe they are right, my guess is that this is probably true. I don’t see anything at all that is good and of God happening apart from the cross which of course includes the resurrection. God deals with the world, with creation through the cross.

Some might falsely think that, for example, the book of James does not deal with the cross enough. In fact it doesn’t mention the cross at all. And a good number of passages in scripture don’t. However all the good that is worked in and comes out of God’s people as well as the forgiveness, which we all need daily, comes through the cross, Jesus’ death for us and for the world. Apart from that there is no hope, no new life, no new world already breaking in, in and through Jesus.  When Jesus’ death, or the cross is mentioned, Jesus’ resurrection is never absent, biblically speaking. And nothing in terms of God’s will can be considered apart from the cross.

At the same time, we can reflect scripture itself, not having to mention the cross at every turn. Maybe some theology does that, but scripture often does not. Arguably we should, given some scripture and what it teaches concerning the cross. But I think not. While also at the same time, we always remember that we couldn’t be trying to understand God’s will, or stand in it at all, apart from the cross, Jesus’ death for us and for the world.

I am thankful to God for the ministry over the years of  Billy Graham. His preaching of the gospel along with my mother’s witness and the influence of the church I grew up in were probably the major factors God used to bring me to Christ at the age of seventeen. And I remember praying to God that day, thanking him for Jesus dying on the cross for my sins, and committing my life to God then and there in that dairy, at work after school. God met me, and even with all its up and downs and my faults and failures along the way, life has never been the same. And that can be true for you, as well. Give this message from Billy Graham a listen. And may God help you to put your trust in him, and commit your life to him, in and through Jesus. Yes, in and through that cross.

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