Tozer wrote, “The cross of Christ is the most revolutionary thing ever to appear among men.” Tozer went on to say, “We tend to forget that part. We love to romanticize the “Easter Story.” But we forget that in Roman times, there was no compromise when it came to the cross; and it never made any concessions. If there were any arguments, they were settled by killing its opponent. Yeah, a pretty permanent settlement, but it worked. It certainly didn’t spare Jesus any of the shame, or agonizing pain. He died the same as all the rest. He was alive when they hung Him on that cross, and six hours later, he was completely dead.
“After Christ had risen from the dead, the apostles went out and preached His message, and what did they preach? They preached the cross. And wherever they went they carried the cross, and the same revolutionary power went with them.
“The radical message of the cross transformed Saul of Tarsus and changed him from someone who persecuted Christians to a tender believer and an apostle of the faith. The power of the Cross turned evil men into honorable men. It shook off the long bondage of paganism and completely altered the whole moral and mental outlook of the Western world.
On a hill far away stood an old rugged cross,
The emblem of suffering and shame;
And I love that old cross where the dearest and best
For a world of lost sinners was slain.
“The power of the cross performed mighty things and had continued to do so, even today, as long as it remains what it has always been, a cross! A symbol of death. The cross means one thing and only one thing: death by the most painful and humiliating means human beings could develop. It is a death of our sin; death of our selfishness; death of our pride. Its power dissolved once it changed from a thing of death to a thing of beauty; when men made it become an ornament, they could hang around their necks or on the rearview mirror in their car. As such it is revered today by millions who know absolutely nothing about its power. They interpret the “cross” as some burden they must carry: a strained relationship, a thankless job, a physical illness. With self-pitying pride, they say, “That’s my cross I have to carry.” Such interpretations are not what Jesus meant when He said, ‘Take up your cross and follow Me.’”
No, my dear friends, the cross destroys your established values and plans and creates its own values and plans. The cross is a cherished symbol of atonement, forgiveness, grace, and love. It always has its way. It wins by defeating its opponent and imposing its will on him. The cross always dominates. It never compromises, never barters, never negotiates, and never surrenders a point for the sake of making you feel good. It doesn’t look for peace; it only cares to destroy its opposition as fast as possible. It is a call to absolute surrender.
With perfect knowledge of all this Christ said:
“Those who want to come with me must say no to the things they want, pick up their crosses every day, and follow me” (Luke 9:23)
“So the cross not only brought Christ’s life to an end, but it also ends the life of every one of His faithful followers. It destroys the old pattern, the Adam pattern, in the believer’s life. Then the God who raised Christ from the dead raises the believer, and a new life begins.
“The revolutionary work of the cross is the actual effect of our faith, and we can recognize the sharp difference of this work from that held by the rank and file of most evangelicals today. But we don’t dare qualify our position.
“The cross stands high above the opinions of men, and to that cross, all opinions will suffer judgment. Sure, shallow and worldly leadership attempts to modify the cross in the hope to please the entertainment-mad saints who will have their fun even within the very sanctuary, but for them to do so courts spiritual disaster and risks the anger of the Lamb turned Lion.
“Look, we can only do one of two things with the cross: flee from it or die from it. And if we are so foolhardy to flee you will put away the faith of our fathers and make your faith something other than it is. All you will have left is the empty confession of salvation, and the full power washed away.
“If you are ready to take up your cross, you must be willing to follow Jesus even if it means losing your closest friends; alienation from your family; loss of your reputation; losing your job; losing your life.”
If we are wise, we will do what Jesus did: endure the cross and despise its shame for the joy that is set before us. To do this is to submit the whole pattern of your life to be destroyed and built again in the power of an endless life. We will find that it is more than poetry, more than sweet Psalms and elevated feelings. The cross will cut into where it hurts worst, and won’t spare us nor our carefully cultivated reputations. It will defeat us and bring our selfish lives to an end. That is the only time we can rise in the fullness of life; to establish a pattern of living wholly new and free and full of good works.
The changed attitude toward the cross that we see in modern Churchs doesn’t prove that God has changed, nor that Christ has eased up on His demand that we carry the cross; it means that contemporary Christianity has moved away from the standards of the New Testament. So far, it will take nothing short of a new reformation to restore the cross to its right place in the theology and life of the Church.