The amount of division among so many people these days can be overwhelming. It causes me to consider what it means to live in this world as a follower of Jesus Christ. What does it mean to live a life that is close to the cross?
Devotion to the Right Things
They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.- Acts 2:42
They devoted themselves to the apostles teaching. The apostles taught that Jesus Christ was the Messiah, that He died on the cross for the sins of mankind, and that you can be forgiven of your sins. The message was so important to them that they made sure everyone around them heard.
They were also devoted to fellowship. This is a special fellowship, it is not just hanging out together watching a movie or playing a game. This is truly caring for one another, giving each other what they need, and worshipping the Lord together.
They were devoted to the breaking of bread,what we refer to as communion or the Lord’s supper. They were devoted to remembering Jesus’ sacrifice. With that, they were also devoted to prayer. They recognized that they needed to be people who pray proactively, not reactively. That means that when they get together, they pray. It also meant that when they were apart they prayed also.
Staying close to the cross means staying close to Jesus. Think about how much perspective you get for your life, when you live it in the shadow of the cross. How much more do we learn about ourself and how we ought to live when we draw closer to Jesus? When we remember all that He has done for us, it will change how we live.
The life of Jesus Christ Among Us
Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. – Acts 2:43-44
The Holy Spirit had come and now was working among them and through them. As they stayed close to Jesus, things were happening. The apostles were used to doing miracles that showed people who Jesus is. True fellowship comes from staying near to Jesus. As we do that, Jesus works among us by the Holy Spirit and by the Word of God.
We want His life and power among us. We want Him. When we come together to worship, we want him to be the one who does the work, who captures hearts, who draws people in. If God is at work among us people will notice it.
Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. – Acts 2:45
They not only cared for each other spiritually, but materially. So, they took everything they owned and sold it all, giving to those who had need. Why would they do something like that? There is a story I want to share here that demonstrates this perfectly. See, it is not about selling everything just to prove a point. It is about giving all of ourselves to Jesus Christ.
Getting close to the cross causes us to recognize that this life is not about us. It reminds us that what we have does not belong to us and that we have a responsibility to give to others. Life becomes about others and not about us. It becomes about showing people, in practical ways, how much Jesus loves them.
praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. – Acts 2:47
The Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. Things were happening, people were being changed, lives were turning to Jesus because a group of believers were devoted to the living close to the cross. This is what we want to have happen to us! That we would be so close to Jesus that there is no way people will miss it.
G.K. Chesterton once said, “If there were no God, there would be no atheists.” I can’t imagine many atheists would agree with him on that, but he makes a logical point. In a country where freedom of religion is one of our hallmark values, we now have an organization called “The Freedom From Religion Coalition.” Their goal is clearly to take away any religious symbolism from any public forum. Is that really what the law has in mind?
The most recent area I have heard of their efforts was in Woonsocket, Rhode Island, at the sight of a 91-year-old war memorial at the town’s fire department. (story) At issue is a cross and a firefighter’s prayer on the memorial. The irony of their request for immediate removal is that they are actually spreading religious ideals in their quest to remove religion.
The fact of the matter is that religion is an important part of the culture of our world. The government is not supposed to establish a religion that we all must follow, but it doesn’t have to stay completely out of religious symbolism. There is no reason people need to separate their beliefs from their daily life in the world, especially when it comes to recognizing those who sacrificed their life for others.
Crosses have been used as a symbol of sacrifice in cemeteries for years. Does it mean that all of the men and women who have died for our country were Christian? Of course not. Doesn’t that meant we are endorsing a religion and therefore should get rid of all crosses in cemeteries? No. In the cemetery it is used as a symbol of hope, regardless of what your beliefs are. What is so offensive about the cross? Why demand they be removed?
In ancient times, a cross was not a symbol of anything positive at all. It was a symbol of justice, criminal activity, and execution. It would not have been something people in Rome would have worn around their necks or placed in their cemeteries. What changed the cross was an innocent man who died on one and then rose again from the dead. All of a sudden the cross was glorious. The cross became a symbol of hope and life, even when someone is confronted with death.
The reason this “coalition” is up in arms over this is because the cross represents Jesus Christ to most people. The controversy is that He is the only way to God, a way that many people would rather ignore.
Paul talked about this confusion of the cross in 1 Corinthians 1. God takes the cross and completely changes it from a symbol of foolishness to a symbol of hope.
“Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified; a stumbling block to the Jews and foolishness to Gentiles. ” – 1 Corinthians 1: 22-23
“For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength.” 1 Corinthians 1:25
Even so, why should that take away from something like a memorial? The cross is not making anyone follow Jesus. It is not rejecting people of other faiths. It is simply reminding people that their death,while maybe not at a time that they would have chosen, is not in vain. It proclaims that there is hope for a future because someone greater than they are died on a cross and lives today! This is offensive to some people, but it is the very truth that provides defense from the punishment of sin that we all deserve. That is a good news message even if you choose to ignore it.