“Jesus keep me near the cross!”
That old classic hymn makes the request that God would “Help me walk from day to day with its shadow o’er me.” As with any hymn, we have to think about what we’re singing. And what those lyrics ask for is no small thing. To walk in the shadow of the cross is a life changing pursuit. It’s what makes you and me different. But we don’t spend enough time thinking about what it means to live in the shadow of the cross. What exactly happens when we take time out of every day to sit at the foot of the cross and think on the events that happened there? Here are five changes it brings to our lives.
We stay humble.
It’s not possible to acknowledge the depth of our sinfulness every day and the exorbitant price that was paid to cleanse those sins and still live with pride and self-confidence. And yet the source of all of our sins is our pride. We put ourselves above other people in our choices and our words. We imply that we think we know better than God about what will make us happy or fulfilled by choosing to do what He forbid. But the more we cling to that cross, the more our pride is drained day by day, “till our trophies at last we’ve laid down,” to quote another classic hymn. As Paul said in Galatians 6:14, “May I never boast, except in the cross of the Lord Jesus.” If the only thing we can boast about is that Christ died for us, that serves as a reminder that we are infinitely valuable and yet not a cent more valuable than the next person. All are equally valuable and should be treated as such.
We love others all the more.
Our natural tendency is to look out for ourselves – “number one” as we commonly say. Life gets busy, we get stressed and deal with the anxiety that every day brings, and we forget to keep an eye out for what others need. But when we stop and admire the events of the cross, we see Jesus making sure His mother would be cared for (John 19:26). In the midst of an excruciating death and all of the mental and emotional agony He was feeling, He thought of her needs. Beyond that, He took time to forgive the very people who had scourged Him, driven nails through His hands, and spat upon Him (Luke 23:34). If He can think of others in the midst of all of that, we have no excuse. He serves as a reminder that we should consider others above ourselves at all times (Philippians 2:1-8).
We’ll be stronger in our fight against temptation.
The more we meditate on the agony of the cross and the sins we’ve committed that necessitated that horrible event, the easier it becomes to say no to the temptations that get in our way. To quote yet another song, thinking of the cross helps us continually ask “Can He still feel the nails every time I fail?” So long as we’re fighting sin for some practical benefit, or to stay out of hell, we’ll never feel the depth of the motivation that comes from doing it as a sign of gratitude toward our Savior. He died for us, we live for Him.
We won’t be able to help but give thanks and praise.
Most (if not all) Christians can think of times where getting up on Sunday and going to worship isn’t easy. Sometimes it’s hard to focus. Sometimes we leave thinking we didn’t get much out of it. But when we meditate on the love that was poured out for us on Calvary, worship won’t be a challenge at all. We will be awed by the sacrifice and overwhelmed by the love that brought Him to earth, put Him on the cross, and kept Him there until He could say “It is finished!” (John 19:30).
We’ll have a constant sense of victory.
That same phrase – “It is finished!” should bring a daily joy and confidence knowing that our sinful souls have been redeemed and washed white as snow. The cares of this world that trip up so many of those around us will have no effect on us when we’re resting in His grace. It’s such a satisfying feeling knowing that “To live is Christ and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21) and no matter what happens here on earth, we win in the end.
My challenge to you (and to me) is to take some time over the next week aside from your regular reading and read through the crucifixion accounts. Each day, pick a part of what happened to Jesus there and meditate on it. Thank the Father for it. Then go about your day with that thought on your heart and mind. See how it changes you. The world needs the kind of light that only Christians can provide, and the place that light is found is at the place where Jesus Christ died for the sins of the world.
By Jack Wilkie