The Emptiness Of The Cross

the rain gently taps my window as if it were nature’s percussion section of a symphony orchestra. a beautiful accompaniment to “one love” by Bob Marley playing softly in the background. the elements are in place to create the ideal atmosphere for reflection and meditation.

so i sit.

i reflect.

on successes and failures.

on serving the needy and trying to find ways to urge believers to serve.

as my mind is filled with sounds, smells, and emotions of serving people my heart overflows with fear, heartache and joy.

this reflection of service is one that occupies my mind most.

there is a prevalent feeling of fear at the moment. it’s not a fear for me personally, but for others. early on in my walk with Christ i was terribly fearful that people would never come to the saving Grace of Jesus Christ and that is still the case today, but i’ve begun to realize that my method at which i present the Gospel is different. my method to counteract this fear is different.

i used to present a compelling argument through scripture references and historical facts that would lead people to understand that Jesus was real and then i would lead into the “spiritual” elements of how a person becomes a believer in Christ. it was either the Roman Road or The ABC method or both if someone needed some serious swaying.

i walked with Christ for 7 years before i met the living, breathing, loving Jesus that i know now.

the Jesus i knew the first seven years of my Christian life was found in the the pages of books by men like C.S. Lewis, A.W. Tozer, John Piper, and Martin Luther.

that Jesus was convincing,

academic

theological

eloquent.

i poured myself into hours of studying scripture. i would write exegetical papers for myself because that was the best way i learned. i spent countless hours in front of my computer or staring down at words written 300 years earlier because i wanted to know Jesus more.  i did learn a considerable amount about my Saviour through my studies, but i’m not sure i learned who He was, what he cared about, why he did what he did, or what Grace looked like.  i’m not discounting the benefits of studying scripture because i believe it helped me learn some key cultural elements that reveal more about Jesus than i would have known otherwise. what i am saying is that i had gained a good bit of knowlegde about Jesus, Paul, Peter, John, Luke and other characters of the Bible but i had yet to feel what Jesus felt when he touched the leper or what emotions pulsed through His body as the woman grabbed the hem of His garment.

i had my head wrapped around Jesus but still couldn’t understand why people give up so much to follow Him.  the comprehension of why people sell everything to become missionaries in India, or downsize to a 1000 square foot home so they can give more to the needy escaped me.

it wasn’t until i sat beside a homeless man who had lost everything he owned, which were the things he could carry on his back, in a flood in central texas, that i felt the cry of the oppressed.  for the first time in my journey with Christ i saw heartache.  i saw hunger in a man’s eyes.  i saw humility.  i remember my soul being filled with confusion and brokenness.  confusion entered my heart because i could not comprehend why i saw Jesus in the eyes of this man unlike i have ever seen in anyone’s eyes before. before this i had stood up and shaken a thousand hands on many sunday mornings and never saw the heart of Christ like i saw in His eyes.  as our conversation went on, his story broke me. his life was a tale of poverty, of trials that i may never face. it was a story that great books are made of.

in this moment sitting beside a man that smelled like he hadn’t showered in weeks, the sweet aroma of Grace poured over me. i’ve tried to explain what the feeling was that consumed me, but i truthfully can’t. i could type the most eloquent poem about what i felt, but it would never do that feeling justice.

Jesus showed up in homeless man’s eyes. i could hear him in his voice.

in less than 10 minutes i began to understand why Jesus touched the leper. healing the man wasn’t Jesus’ only teaching point of His action. when you let go of all of your pride, all of your selfishness, all of yourself, that’s when you can Jesus.  you can spend 24 hours a day studying scripture and reading the words of our church fathers but until you get up from your table and allow your tired eyes to rest on the needy, you’ll never know what the Gospel is.  if you never get your head out of books you may never know who Jesus is.  this is probably where my heartaches the most – seeing believers justify pursuing life for themselves and in doing so, fooling themselves into thinking that all they need is to learn about the elements of being a faithful christian.

the reality is that knowing how to follow Jesus and actually dying to yourself to follow Him are two entirely different things. this is what separates a believer from a non-believer.

the question today isn’t “how much scripture do you know?” or “how many christian books have you read?” but rather, “have you put your selfishness aside today, to serve Christ above all else?”

when you set yourself aside to serve Jesus, he’s not going to have you pursuing life for you alone. Jesus will have you in trenches; in the heart of desperation.  serving is never comfortable, nor is it easy, but why would you want it to be. man wasn’t created for the pursuit of happiness but rather for the pursuit of the cross. the very symbol of desolation, torture, and humiliation.  but when you reach the cross you don’t see a man hanging on it because he is gone. your eyes can still see the blood stains on the ragged wood grains; the very symbol or our atonement.

this empty cross is your truth.

it’s your love.

it’s the very grace that was poured out for you and has left a stain for you to see so that you will never forget the grace you must give to others.

this cross is where you die to yourself.

today, may you be covered in the conviction of the Holy Spirit to live as Jesus is asking you to live.

may your heart be filled with visions of the needy, the oppressed, the widow and the orphan.

may you see the cry of the oppressed.

it is the love and grace extended to you that should be your driving force to serve.

Grace and Peace

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