Preaching Articles

Christianity without the cross is a sham, but the cross is not enough. You heard me: the cross is not enough. Before the cross came incarnation, and after the cross came resurrection: Jesus modeled all three, and so should we.

I’ve watched recently as an increasing number of teachers and leaders encourage us to follow Jesus’ example by going to the cross. Our Lord is a model—the only true model, actually—of self-sacrifice and humility. This much is true: he is our example, and he went willingly to the cross. He didn’t miscalculate, he wasn’t blindsided by people or events beyond his control. No one took his life from him: he laid it down freely, and so should we.

Before the cross, however, all of heaven gasped in wonder at the miracle of Incarnation. The Creator became part of creation. He did not stand afar off and offer advice; he became present in his world. He arrived in the usual way for a man and the most unusual way for God. Nor did he simply drop in for a weekend redemption spree. He lived life to the full and left a record of how we should live. This part of his example required humility and sacrifice, as well.

The Apostle Paul tells us the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing. The cross, he says, is a scandal to the religiously minded and ridiculous to the wisdom of this age. The world does not value humility and sacrifice, but they are the calling cards of another realm. Still, Paul did not leave Jesus in the grave, nor did the Father. To win by losing is an oxymoron. But Jesus didn’t win by losing. He won by winning, and the winning came by the resurrection.

Jesus’ example did not end with the agonizing beauty of his tortured death. His final words on the cross were not his final words. He had much more to say and plenty for us to do. His work beyond the cross required the Father’s intervention in his life, and our work should require no less. Have you ever considered the humility and faith Jesus displayed by placing his future in the Father’s hands?

Jesus died in faith, trusting in the Father’s promise of resurrection, but he had no guarantee beyond the love and trust he exhibited that night in Gethsemane. In this, too, we can follow his example. The Spirit of God is hovering and poised to infuse our lives with resurrection empowerment even now.

No witness is complete without these three vital elements: incarnation, sacrifice and resurrection. Our attempts at ministry are incomplete without the three. We cannot stand far off and offer advice. We cannot follow Jesus without bearing the cross, and we cannot carry on his work without the Father’s intervention. Our tendency, though, is to prefer one of these above the rest. This week’s meditation asks of us: which is our default position, and how can we make room for the other two aspects Jesus modeled?

Ray Hollenbach helps pastors and churches navigate change. He's the founder of DEEPER Seminars, weekend leadership retreats focused on discipleship in the local church. His newest book is Deeper Grace, a guide to the connection between grace and spiritual maturity. Ray currently lives in central Kentucky, coaching and consulting church leaders. You can visit his blog at Students of Jesus.

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Derrence Smaage

commented on Aug 7, 2013

Thank you Ray. good thoughts.

Chet Gladkowski

commented on Aug 7, 2013

AMEN brother! And lets also not forget the ascension where he is seated on the throne of heaven, ruling and reigning over all creation. But that's another article.

Nancy Magaba

commented on Oct 4, 2013

Amen Brother! This is our present hour reality which is the end result of incarnation, the cross and the resurrection.

Chet Gladkowski

commented on Oct 4, 2013

thanks for your post Nancy - Chet.

Douglas Wilde

commented on Aug 7, 2013

I agree with you wholeheartedly and would add that the "Good News of Jesus Christ - The Gospel" and "The Kingdom of God" are one in the same as they are brought together in Luke 9:2 and 6. God's Kingdom has been before creation and includes creation, the fall, redemption and restoration of His Kingdom to its original state before the fall.

Donald Grouns

commented on Aug 7, 2013

Well said. In this time when many churches teach "gospels" that do not include the cross and the atonement and those that do, often teach "easy believism"... just repeat a prayer after me and you are "saved" forever. For the earnest Christian, kneeling at the cross is just the beginning. The 23 books in the New Testament after the Gospels are all about "beyond the cross".

Steve Hankins

commented on Aug 7, 2013

I'm Speaking on Grace this evening; Thanks for pointing out there can be no there is no Grace with the incarnation, sacrifice and resurrectrion.

Gary Devore

commented on Aug 7, 2013

I agree that all three aspects should be part of our ministry, but just as faith, hope, and love has a greater member, I think the cross is the greatest member of the former. When Paul was dealing with the philosophically injected influences of the believers in the west, he told us in 1 Cor 2:2 that he resolved to know nothing among them save Christ and him crucified. Gal 2:20 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. / I love the story of his birth and ministry as I love the eternal hope he has given us through the promises of eternal life in paradise by believing in him, but Jesus taught us that on two things hang all the law and prophets; to love the Lord God with all your heart mind and soul, and to love one another as you love yourself. It's ALL about LOVE and the cross is the greatest demonstration of "the greatest of these".

Ruth Harding

commented on Aug 7, 2013

hi Ruth here, i've always thought there is life beyond the cross. the cross is our starting point, as we go on with Christ the cross should grow smaller in size, as we walk with our living God. some people just stop at the cross, what a waste of life, their is more, much more.

Dr Elisha Mafunga

commented on Aug 8, 2013

The Cross is not enough. Christ was nailed on the cross as a sign of sacrifice to our sins. However The cross has been abuse by humans. I have seen from musicians, Drug dealers, none church believers and other put on the cross on there neck. I do not know why and what they believe in the cross yet the cross is a simple of Jesus Christ. Therefore those who are believers must wonder what on earth does this mean to put on a cross. there is a need for a serious discussion to understand about the cross and how it should be used and who should use it. It must not be used a dressing .

Ephrem Hagos

commented on Aug 8, 2013

There is no other CURTAIN CALL in the Scriptures to the burning but unconsumed bush for Moses than "the kind of death Jesus suffered". The cross is about God's perpetual self-revelation to the world! Don't miss it. (Ex. 3: 1-15; Matt. 27: 50-56)

Ephrem Hagos

commented on Aug 8, 2013

As a one-stop gateway to eternal life, a.k.a., "Paradise", the cross is more than enough! Otherwise, we make Jesus a liar! (Luke 23:43)

Greg Jordan

commented on Aug 10, 2013

The cross, (DEATH) is only half the gospel- if that were all it would be like being baptized and held under the water. While it justifies and reconciles us, it is His LIFE which brings sanctification,victory, and salvation. It is an obligation of the gospel to follow his example. So the cross is not enough, because "much more, being reconciled [by his death], we shall be saved by his life." Romans 5:10

Jenny Lyn Curtis Acree

commented on Aug 11, 2013

Wow!These were all great comments and I believe everyone has touched every part of what the author is saying. My point of view is how many times have I said that the "Cross is enough"? To recall: many many times! To have a new perspective in this subject is refreshing. God has put all of His teachings in a repetitive pattern for us to understand what He is saying in His Word. All in three's: the Trinity, our three parts (flesh, soul and Spirit). The Cross is the same so we can easily understand what Love Jesus is expressing in His wonderful act of Love towards us who should have been in His place. The Cross sacrifice, death, and resurrection is the pattern we should be focused on. Not just the Cross but the full act of the three that happened in the act of Love that the Trinity has done for us. What great Love is in this beautiful sacrifice that Christ did, but what wonderful act of God to allow him to die and then raise Him up in THREE days! To end my point of view on this is why should we say the Cross is enough when the other two parts are there for us to experience. God is lovely but I wouldn't be complete without Christ Jesus or the Holy Spirit. God bless everyone :)

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