People are always looking for that “quick fix” for their lives: “All you have to do to find true happiness is steps 1, 2, and 3!” Unfortunately, the church has soaked up this harmful practice. Church attenders today, in America, are sadly drawn in by rhetoric that has little to do with the Bible in order to live “your best life now.” What you really need is to know Jesus: who he is and what he did and why it’s important.
I am so saddened when I talk to folks who show no interest in theology. Granted, theology has gotten a negative reputation as being something for academics and has little use outside the classroom. However, after reading John Stott’s “The Cross of Christ,” this couldn’t be farther from the truth. Not understanding theology is what is keeping you suckling milk when the academics are chewing on hearty meat. Understanding theology helps us in our sanctification and strengthen and deepen our relationship with God.
It was surprising to me to find out most Christians do not know the real reason why Jesus died on the cross (I’m getting to the book soon, I just need to stand on this soapbox for a minute), and the answers we typically give are mostly erroneous. Yes, he loves us, but why the cross? If he simply had to die because he loves us, that seems shallow and superficial. No, God has a hatred for sin, seen in Romans 1:18: “For the wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.” God’s wrath is against sin. Therefore, to be justified, or declared not guilty, someone had to take the penalty for God’s wrath. Therefore, the reason Jesus died on the cross was to satisfy (propitiation: see Romans 3:23) the Father’s wrath against sin, the exchange being Jesus’ righteousness for your sin.
How do we respond to this act of love? We fall down to our knees in worship! But we also consider the sin in our life. When we understand how much God hates sin, then we begin to hate sin. Our theology determines our methodology!
These are some of the truth’s found in Stott’s book. This is merely the surface however. This book is eye opening: it reveals what depth of love Jesus has for us, how much God hates sin, both of which are impossible to truly understand given a theology based on superficial presuppositions like “Christ died for YOU on the cross.” This cheapens both Christ’s death and Christianity. Stott’s book has solidified in my mind the need to educate the layman in theology: it is not merely an academic exercise. Understanding the cross is crucial to a correct understanding of who Jesus is and without it, we perpetuate the Church’s steady decline into irrelevance. This definitely deserves a second read because it is sometimes not easy to understand, but Stott presents such a sound argument with loads of evidence considering all the points (which can be confusing at times). I have learned much from Christ’s experience on the cross and the subsequent response we as Christian should have when we discover such magnificent truths. I would recommend you pick up a copy to read for yourself!
“If we spoke less about God’s love and more about his holiness, more about his judgment, we should say much more when we did speak of his love.”