Monthly Archives: April 2015

The Power of the Cross

Blind Faith (No. 18, 2015)
Weekly Devotional for April 30, 2015
The Power of the Cross

Terrorists impugn the cross as a symbol of western domination,
colonial exploitation, and perceived violation of their ethnic and religious
identities. “Fashionistas” demean the cross by using it as nothing more than
a decorative stud to wear in some pierced private body part or as another
glittering accessory. Wholly indifferent masses think of the cross as little
more than a logo for a first aid station, ambulance, or hospital, not
registering the slightest thought of any connection between the cross and
matters of faith. Far too often the cross is treated as a vapid ornament of
antiquated values. These – and many other misappropriations of the cross –
rob the cross of the rich, vibrant significance it rightly holds for genuine
followers of Jesus.

Unfortunately, Christians far too often have given more than
ample fodder for such negative or ambivalent responses to the cross. From
the time of Constantine Christians have tolerated use of the cross as a sign
of military supremacy, or wealth, or privilege. None of these human quests
for power is consistent with what gives the cross meaning other than as n
instrument of Roman capital punishment. Only the amazingly gracious,
suffering death of Jesus on the cross is an ultimately valid reason why the
cross is one of the most recognizable symbols in the world. Again, too often
it is recognized for things having nothing to do with the sacrificial death
of Jesus on the cross to redeem us from our sins. Many sins clamor to cover
themselves with the cross in order to continue their mayhem rather than to
practice mercy, healing, and unselfish compassion patterned after Jesus.
Christians bear a hefty responsibility for revitalizing the cross as a
symbol of their faith, and for communicating the depth of God’s love
demonstrated by Jesus’ death on the cross.

Followers of Jesus can take greater care in communicating their
faith in God through the symbol of the cross. Historically, much of the
theology known among the general population has been taught through hymns.
Isaac Watts gave a true depiction of the attraction befitting the crossin
his hymn, “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross.” The hymn was sung widely and
known broadly among numerous generations. Verses 1 and 3 speak of the
essential reason for the true power of the cross:

When I survey the wondrous cross On which the Prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss, And pour contempt on all my
pride.

See from His head, His hands, His feet, Sorrow and love flow mingled down!
Did e’er such love and sorrow meet, Or thorns compose so rich a
crown?
(When I Survey the Wondrous Cross, Isaac Watts, 1707)

No extraneous notions are associated with the cross in Watts’ hymn, but the
sacrifice, love, and glory of God shine clearly. “Worship wars” in church
music have led some congregations to abandon great hymn singing in favor of
singing choruses that are “friendlier” for contemporary singers but can be
less instructive for solid faith.

Contemporary hymn writers are making great strides producing
fresh hymns that are found by worshippers around the world to be invitingly
singable and carry theological depth. A pair of Irish classically-trained
musicians with a deep heritage of Christian faith and worship music are
writing hymns that have captured the attention of both Christian worshippers
and broader audiences. Keith Getty (along with his wife, Kristyn) and Stuart
Townend are now based in Nashville, Tennessee, where the Gettys serve as
church worship leaders. Their hymns consistently express the heart of
Christian faith while appealing to congregations numbering from 30 singers
to throngs of thousands. One of their hymns, “In Christ Alone,” was ranked
as the second most popular hymn of all time, closely behind “How Great Thou
Art” in a 2013 survey of the best loved hymns in the UK. Secular media such
as the Wall Street Journal, National Public Radio, and CBS Sunday Morning
have taken note of how these new hymns have resonated with worshippers
around the world.

Another of the hymns by Keith Getty and Stuart Townend that has
pervaded Christian worship world-wide is “The Power of the Cross.” Its
careful crafting took 15 months and 17 drafted verses to achieve a fitting
expression of the genuine power cited in its title. As increasing numbers of
Christians sing such songs, and as people outside the church become
acquainted with their message, the depletion of the genuine significance of
the cross may be allayed. The hymn succinctly addresses key elements of the
true power of the cross. Reflect upon Peter’s message of the cross as you
also pay attention to the words of the hymn: “Christ suffered for you and
gave you an example to follow. So you should do as he did. {22} “He had
never sinned, and he had never lied.” {23} People insulted Christ, but he
did not insult them in return. Christ suffered, but he did not threaten. He
let God, the One who judges rightly, take care of him. {24} Christ carried
our sins in his body on the cross so we would stop living for sin and start
living for what is right. And you are healed because of his wounds.” (1
Peter 2:21b-24 NCV) Couple that text with the lyrics of “The Power of the
Cross”:

Oh, to see the dawn Of the darkest day:
Christ on the road to Calvary.
Tried by sinful men, Torn and beaten, then
Nailed to a cross of wood.
(Chorus): This, the pow’r of the cross:
Christ became sin for us; Took the blame, bore the wrath-
We stand forgiven at the cross.

Oh, to see the pain Written on Your face,
Bearing the awesome weight of sin.
Ev’ry bitter thought, Ev’ry evil deed
Crowning Your bloodstained brow. (Chorus)

Now the daylight flees; Now the ground beneath
Quakes as its Maker bows His head.
Curtain torn in two, Dead are raised to life;
“Finished!” the vict’ry cry. (Chorus)
Oh, to see my name Written in the wounds,
For through Your suffering I am free.
Death is crushed to death; Life is mine to live,
Won through Your selfless love.

(FINAL CHORUS): This, the pow’r of the cross:
Son of God-slain for us. What a love! What a cost!
We stand forgiven at the cross.
(The Power of the Cross, Keith Getty and Stuart Townend, C 2005 Thankyou
Music)

Check out a solo rendition by Kristyn Getty, accompanied by Keith Getty on
piano. Note Kristyn Getty’s reading from Isaiah 53:4-5, from Isaiah’s
Suffering Servant passages:

Sing along with collaborator Stuart Townend and a congregation:

This is, indeed, the power of the cross. Capture a new vision of that power
– and help someone else find the true meaning of the cross.

J. Edward Culpepper