This is the third and final installment on mys eries on the Cross. This segment will focus on forgiveness, burdens, and failures and how we insist on carrying that luggage around.
Focus Scripture: Acts 22:3-21
Scripture Text: “Then Paul said: “I am a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city. I studied under Gamaliel and was thoroughly trained in the law of our ancestors. I was just as zealous for God as any of you are today. I persecuted the followers of this Way to their death, arresting both men and women and throwing them into prison,as the high priest and all the Council can themselves testify. I even obtained letters from them to their associates in Damascus, and went there to bring these people as prisoners to Jerusalem to be punished. About noon as I came near Damascus, suddenly a bright light from heaven flashed around me. I fell to the ground and heard a voice say to me, ‘Saul! Saul! Why do you persecute me?’ “Who are you, Lord?” I asked. ‘I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting,’ he replied. My companions saw the light, but they did not understand the voice of him who was speaking to me. “What shall I do, Lord?,” I asked. ‘Get up,’ the Lord said, ‘and go into Damascus. There you will be told all that you have been assigned to do.’ “My companions led me by the hand into Damascus, because the brilliance of the light had blinded me.A man named Ananias came to see me. He was a devout observer of the law and highly respected by all the Jews living there. He stood beside me and said, ‘Brother Saul, receive your sight!’ And at that very moment I was able to see him.Then He said: ‘The God of our ancestors has chosen you to know his will and to see the Righteous One and to hear words from his mouth. You will be his witness to all people of what you have seen and heard. And now what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name.’ “When I returned to Jerusalem and was praying at the temple, I fell into a trance and saw the Lord speaking to me. ‘Quick!’ he said. ‘Leave Jerusalem immediately, because the people here will not accept your testimony about me.’ “‘Lord,’ I replied, ‘these people know that I went from one synagogue to another to imprison and beat those who believe in you. And when the blood of your martyr Stephen was shed, I stood there giving my approval and guarding the clothes of those who were killing him.’” “Then the Lord said to me, ‘Go; I will send you far away to the Gentiles.’ ”
How many cartoons have you watched where a character gets smashed by a boulder or another large object? It beats them into the ground, and when they emerge, they appear defeated, exhausted, and all sorts of disoriented. Our sins and our failures are much like a boulder. We constantly let them beat us down into the ground, and often times, keep us there for awhile. Through this, we can become depressed and walk through our own lives looking and feeling defeated.
What the Cross represents the most is forgiveness. Jesus died on the Cross to forgive man for their multitude of sins. Remember that the Cross is also a realization for ourselves that we cannot make it through this life alone.
We are called to bring our failures, our burdens, and our anxieties to the Cross and lay them down. We are told to pray to God and know that we are forgiven because of Christ’s blood being shed for our sin.
Seems easy, but for most it is hard to do.
There are numerous reasons we use to pick up that luggage after we lay it down before God. Some say they feel guilty or unworthy. Some say that the pains are just too much to let go of. Whatever the reason may be, it blocks God from helping us.
Our failures and our burdens are investments in the past when we are supposed to be living in the present. If we take these things to the Cross and invest them in the forgiveness, mercy, and grace God has to offer, the return is amazing. God will empty all that junk from our hearts and fill them with assurance, love, grace, and forgiveness.
We need to stop avoiding God. He already knows our pains and struggles and stands ready to help, but we have to come to Him.
The focus scripture for this segment is the story of Paul’s conversion as told in Acts. This story is the definition of forgiveness. Paul killed many Christians and Christ chose to reveal Himself to Paul and use Paul to further God’s message and make Paul a prominent leader in the Christian movement. Paul’s letters make up a considerable portion of the Bible. He founded churches and he spent years in jail for beinga Christian and for building Christian churches.
We don’t need to get into the bulk of Paul’s life to see just how amazing God’s forgiveness is. He took a man that was killing His followers and made Him a leader for His will. It can be said that God cleaned Paul out when Paul saw Christ. Undoubtedly, Paul had to feel intense guilt and shame for what he had done to Christ’s followers. God helped him overcome these burdens and dedicate his life in a brand new way. Paul remained strong in God and trusted each day to God’s will. And what God did with Paul is absolutely amazing.
I would argue that without Paul, Christianity would not have grown and many more people would not know Christ.
This blog concludes my series on the Cross. It is my hope that this series has helped, spoken to, or taught people about what Jesus died for and how amazing God truly is.
Focus Scripture: 1 John 1:9