There is almost never a day that goes by where I am not reminded to keep “Christ and Him Crucified” at the center of my life. Last winter, on a cold snowy day in Chicago, I was unexpectedly reminded of this. Bundled in my coat, I walked past a warm little bookstore and glanced in the window to see a homeless man that had gone inside to get out of the cold.
There he sat in the nice big reading chair with a half-starved look on his face. Unlike the many other homeless that were out on the street begging for money and trying to get something to eat, this man had a different idea of filling his need. He had taken a rather large picture book of food and gazed as he slowly turned through the pages. As I watched the man’s face it was as if he was sitting at a large banquette table and with every flip of the page he was served the next course of his meal. Finally, when he arrived at the desert section he grinned from ear-to-ear, and I continued to walk with a smile.
This foolish man made me think of all the times in my life that I have sat satisfied with something far less than the real thing. Too many times I meddle in the meaningless effects of this world, when I could be experiencing the Almighty. Even more, it may not be sin that distracts me, but the mere everydayness of Christianity. My desire to relate to people more deeply, or preach more adequately, or do youth ministry more relevantly are all noble causes, yet they pail in comparison to knowing Christ and Him crucified.
When the Cross is off-center in my life I have willingly allowed something else to take its place. Whether it is my finances, my relationships, or even this week’s sermon, which are all so urgent and all “good things”, they begin to knock out the important, Christ. How easy it is to let my ministry take the place of Christ and I go on doing things for God rather than knowing Him more closely. When this happens the aching slowly grows and I find myself homesick for the Cross due to my busyness, shallowness, and sin.
For some it may be making retreats more rewarding than redemption or Wednesday nights more enthralling than God’s glory. With deep urgency, we must strive to return the Gospel to its central place in our lives. The Cross, and all its beauty is not only saving on the day of our regeneration, but should also fulfill us daily. By the Cross our hearts are found overflowing with the deepest satisfaction, and by it we are given strength to help those that God places around us. When a teen in an abusive situation comes crying for help we will already be in position to lay them right there at the feet of Jesus. Or when we have a young guy come and openly admit his attraction to the same sex, we will be able to help him tap right into the bondage-breaking power of the blood of Christ. With the cross as the nucleus of life we will be ready for all situations.
For everyone there is a choice whether we are going to wander this world aimlessly, sit hopelessly, or run fervently to God. Great men have gone before us such as Paul, St. Francis, Luther, Whitefield, Spurgeon, and even still Graham, Piper, McDowell and Giglio. All of these have known God greatly, but the Cross was no more accessible to them then it is to us today. What makes these men great is that they acted upon an inward longing. We too can discover that true life is found with the Cross at the center, and in turn can be used greatly by God.
By His strength only
Making Christ the midpoint of our life requires sacrifice and diligence. There will be much excavation that needs to be done in order to clear a path for deeper perseverance. God’s word tells us that we are to “Throw off everything that hinders us and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run the race marked out for us (Hebrews 12:1).” Yet not by our own strength do we run, for it goes on to say that we are to, “Fix our eyes on Jesus the author and perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:2 emphases added).” It is prideful yet easy for us to think that in order to fully know God we are to run in our own strength; Rather, we need to selflessly fall to our knees with the same brokenness that we did on the day of our salvation and remember the great gracious gift that God has give us. By remembering where we have come from, by surveying the cross, and rejoicing in our hope eternal we will discover this sweet salvation once again, and the grace He bestows for everyday life.
So then how do we live?
I trust that all of us understand the disciplines of grace to live a cross-centered life of modeling Christ. This means that it will affect the way that conduct ourselves, for we are instructed to imitate God (Eph. 5:1) all the while living a life worthy of the Gospel (Php 1:27). Our chief-end is to know Christ. Any knowledge of small groups, great leadership, or secrets to youth ministry tastelessly compare to knowing Him. No praise of man or adoration of students will ever satisfy us as much as the love of Christ. How much more Glory would God receive if at the end of our ministry it could be said of us, “For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you but Christ and Him Crucified.” (1 Corinthians 2:2)