In his book Foundations of Christian Faith, James M. Boice writes:
…if the death of Christ on the cross is the true meaning of the Incarnation, then there is no gospel without the cross. Christmas by itself is no gospel. The life of Christ is no gospel. Even the resurrection, important as it is in the total scheme of things, is no gospel by itself. For the good news is not just that God became man, nor that God has spoken to reveal a proper way of life for us, or even that death, the great enemy, is conquered. Rather, the good news is that sin has been dealt with (of which the resurrection is a proof); that Jesus has suffered its penalty for us as our representative, so that we might never have to suffer it; and that therefore all who believe in him can look forward to heaven.
The substitutionary death is not just a theological term, but a historical reality. Furthermore, it is a personal reality if we take sin seriously and truly believe that it is for my sin and your sin that Christ died. Regarding the state of sin out of which man is to be redeemed, Leon Morris writes:
This is likened to a slavery, a captivity which man cannot himself break, so that redemption represents the intervention of an outside Person who pays the price which man cannot pay. The Bible sometimes speaks of this slavery in set terms (e.g. John 8:34; Romans 7:14) but more often assumes it. It is a basic tenet of biblical theology that man is completely unable to grapple with the position created by the fact of his sin, and the redemption passages must be interpreted in this context [The Apostolic Preaching of the Cross (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2001), 61].
For many people this is just another religious holiday. But for the God’s redeemed, the cross-centered life is our life. Without it, there is no salvation, no reconciliation, no sanctification, no life, no Christianity, no holiness, no church, no preaching, no evangelism, no gospel, no joy, and many other no’s.
It’s not too uncommon to hear people become sentimental about the cross and the death of Jesus. Some would even say things like, “He didn’t have to die” and etc. But do you not realize that if Jesus did not die, you and I still would be in our sin? He had to die so that you and I may live!
Before I ramble further let me propose few applications. First of all, ponder on the sinfulness of your sin. You can’t appreciate the message of the cross if you do not understand the depth of your own sinfulness. In fact, if you disregard it you will waste this weekend like the millions of people.
Also, the sentimentality of the cross does not save anyone, nor feeling bad about what you’ve done. Those things are not necessarily what repentance means. There are many people who romanticize about the cross and Christ, and even feel bad about their sin, and yet not have true repentance. Hence, practice biblical repentance. Practice personal and public holiness. Ask yourself, is there any area in my life that I maybe compromising for the fear of people and convenience? The cross-centered life means biblical convictions plus God-conscience plus courage. You add compromise and convenience, you just diluted your character and conscious.
Consider Christ. Like the author of Hebrew exhorts, “Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2). Look to Christ, God’s own substitutionary atonement for us – for his own glory!