As we turn our minds towards the meaning of Easter, General André Cox, leader of the international Salvation Army, reflects on the message of transformation at its heart.
The message of God’s restorative and redemptive love, as evidenced in the Cross and empty tomb, is still as powerful and relevant today as it was 2,000 years ago.
The Cross is central to our faith and gospel message. It is integral to everything we believe and is our motivation in reaching a dying world with the message of hope, love and salvation. The Cross is purposefully located at the centre of the Salvation Army crest.
A Personal Encounter
Each of us needs to have a personal interaction with the Cross, for it is there that we kneel to surrender our lives to Christ. The Cross is our place of repentance for sin; where we receive restorative grace and begin a new life in Christ.
The Cross is transformative as God’s love, grace and forgiveness are unleashed in our lives. We come to the Cross condemned but leave forgiven (Romans 8:1). We come to the Cross dead in our sin, but leave with new life in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 2:20). Through the Cross our eternal destination changes from Hell to Heaven (John 3:16).
The Salvation Army’s sixth doctrine states: “We believe that the Lord Jesus Christ has by His suffering and death made an atonement for the whole world so that whosoever will may be saved.” The Cross is available for everyone and the gospel message is for the whosoever—this is central to our faith and witness, particularly as Salvationists.
We know this. We preach this. The key question and challenge is: do we always experience the power, reality and transformation of the Cross in our own lives?
You see, it is more than simply admitting sin and acknowledging our need of salvation; more than recognising that Jesus died for our sin; more than a personal and corporate need; more than a simply sacrificial act.
Yes, the Cross is about the price of sin being paid, but it is also about the power of sin being broken. Yes, the Cross is about forgiveness, but it is also about restoration. Yes, the Cross reminds us of our weakness, but it is also a place of power. We come in shame, but we leave in victory!
The Cross is about victory over the powers of evil. The Cross cancels the curse of sin and breaks its power.
Christians can have lives of victory and strength because of the Cross. Defeat is exchanged for victory. Weakness is exchanged for strength. The old self is left behind and the new self is embraced.
This gospel of Christ and the power of the Cross are holistic. Our 10th doctrine clearly states that we believe “that it is the privilege of all believers to be wholly sanctified, and that their whole spirit and soul and body may be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ”.
What a glorious reality! What a complete work! All because of the love of God, revealed in Jesus and manifested on the Cross.
Never lose sight of the Cross. We stumble and fall when we forget the Cross.
The songwriter Fanny Crosby prayed: “Jesus, keep me near the Cross” (song 178, The Song Book of The Salvation Army) and George Bennard said he would “cherish” and “cling to” the old rugged cross (song 191).
The apostle Paul never lost sight of the Cross. In Romans 1:16–17 we read: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile. For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: ‘The righteous will live by faith.”’ Paul also asserts that “the message of the Cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18).
It makes no difference how the world views the Cross. The inability of existing and previous generations to grasp the fullness of all the Cross accomplishes does not diminish its power or eternal impact. The message of the Cross may not be a popular one, yet its truth is eternal and relevant.
The Empty Tomb
Good Friday and the Cross is only one part of the Easter story. Praise God the story does not end with a dead Saviour! We worship a risen Lord who, in addition to cancelling the curse of sin and breaking its power, also defeats death to provide eternal life and Resurrection power to every believer!
The glorious reality of Easter morning is symbolised by the empty tomb. “He is not here; he has risen” were the words of the angel in Matthew 28:6. The question posed to the women who went to the tomb on that morning was: “Why do you look for the living among the dead?” (Luke 24:5).
Nothing can constrain God—not sin and certainly not death. The events of Easter demonstrate the sovereign power of God who intervenes in our physical and spiritual realities. God reveals the full extent of his power, defeating Satan and crushing the two most limiting and controlling aspects of our fallen humanity.
A Prayer for You
As we once again reflect on God’s incredible gift of freedom from sin, it calls for a personal response from each one of us. I pray that we will all know the love, forgiveness, grace and power of God as we experience his risen presence in our lives.