(April 03, 2023) Richard Winter highlights the deeper meaning of Calvary’s cross…

Anyone who has ever attended a wedding should be familiar with centrepieces. They tend to be the focus or centre of attention… it is the central or most important feature. The centrepiece of the wedding is the bride; the centrepiece of the reception is the couple.

In other arenas of life we can see that the centrepiece of –

  • Philosophy is the love of wisdom.
  • Science is knowledge
  • History is facts.
  • Most religions is works.

God’s centrepiece
The most important centrepiece of all time is the centrepiece between the Old and New Testaments – the cross of Calvary where our Saviour Jesus hung between two thieves.

That cross is the centrepiece of the gospel. And why? It focuses our attention, especially on Good Friday, on Jesus who alone is our salvation!

In Jesus’ day crosses were seen as death and defeat. But Jesus wasn’t defeated! The blood that spilled from His wounded side –

  • Drowned death,
  • Extinguished the flames of hell, and
  • Completely covered the accusations of our enemy the devil!

The centrepiece of God’s perfect plan for humanity was that ‘old rugged cross’ on which our Saviour was crucified and died for our sakes!

In explaining salvation to Jews and Gentiles after the crucifixion of Jesus, the apostle Paul said that Jesus’ death on the cross was the priority of his gospel message: ‘‘For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures’  (1 Corinthians 15:3-4NKJV). God’s centrepiece – Christ’s cross – is

1. God’s public announcement
‘For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life’ declares John 3:16.

Crucifixion on crosses was used by the Romans as a way to publicly show off the shame, suffering, and slow death of the criminal that was hung on it.

What we Christians call Calvary’s cross was a public announcement by which God showed He loves us. It wasn’t done privately, but a public crucifixion at Golgotha’s Hill! But while it was a public announcement it was one that had an eternal permanence in it.

  • No second sacrifices or actions would ever be needed!
  • It was a once of!
  • For all… and forever!

As Peter declared in 2 Peter 3:18, ‘For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God.’ The cross stands forever announcing the forgiveness of our sin.

2. Our safe ‘home base’
Did you ever play Hide and Go Seekor Tagwhen you were young? Run and hide and don’t be caught – lots of fun.

Home base is the objective of the ones who hide… safety. The objective of the seeker is to touch them or capture them before they get to home base or safety. You can’t be caught if you are safely in home base.

Home base for us was set up on a hill called Golgotha. Jesus Christ the living son of God made a safe, secure, stable place where all can lose their guilty stains of sin and be safe in the arms of God.

It is our safe place from the touching hands of Satan and sin. Sadly, many try so hard to hide from the reality of sin and responsibility to God that they never find home base.

How could we pay God for all the sins we have committed? The message of the cross is that Jesus came to pay a debt He didn’t owe because we owed a debt we couldn’t pay. The cross is the heart of the gospel, the centrepiece. Life, ‘death on a Cross,’ and a resurrection.

Between carnal life and eternal life there must be a death. Our death must be to self and sin with a new birth leading to devotion to God and His Son. We in the church call it discipleship, following Jesus no matter where He leads or how it hurts. Recalling our home base… our safety… will be a strength to us as we move on in Christ.

3. God’s key to restoration
So, what was the purpose of the cross beyond being the centre piece of salvation history? The cross leads to salvation which is about restoring our walk with God.

God’s original plan was that He and His creation being together for eternity. That relationship was broken because of Adam and Eve’s sinning in the garden of Eden (link: In-the-garden).

The cross and all it means was (and is) about restoring that relationship! So, what are we to do? We are to take Micah 6:8 and apply it to our lives – ‘He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.’  

Walking with God means allowing Him to enter our hearts and change us from the inside! Trying to be good is just the outside trying to change what won’t be changed inside without the Holy Spirit renewing us!

When we try to change to be good to impress God, we are saying –

  • ‘Look at what I’m doing, God.’
  • I’m working hard to be better, God.’
  • ‘God accept me by my works.’

Whereas when we are reborn as new creations in Christ the former life and lifestyle are removed. As Paul wrote: ‘Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!’ (2 Corinthians 5:17).

4. Our light that leads to our transformation
Reformation means change as in trying to be better. But it is hard to reform what is on the surface of our lives. We may put pleasure beyond service… our desire may be fun, finance and a self-determined future that echoes of ‘It’s my way, the only way.’

And that is exactly what Christ warned us against: ‘He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life’(John12:25). He also pointed out that thistles cannot produce figs (Luke 6:44). Similarly, if a field contains nothing but grass, it cannot produce wheat. Cutting the grass may keep it short: but it will still produce only grass.

A saved life is more than a reformed life! Those changed by the Christ who hung on that centrepiece, will want to witness Him, share the gospel good news! If we want to produce for Jesus, the change in us must go deeper than the surface. The ‘field of our life’ must be ploughed up and re-sown. John 12:24 tells of the change He had in mind: ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain.’ 

It is the inner change… our thoughts, our heart, our desires, our actions… that brings an outward changed life for us. One sign that our walk with God is changing us from glory to glory is when we have no hidden agenda behind our service to God. It is an inner change that brings outward service – that is: it is not enough to come to church – everyone must be the church!

Remember how Paul became a productive servant of Jesus! His ‘inner man’ was changed. He started off as one who opposed Christ and His teachings. When known as Saul, he was a co-murderer of Stephen. But oh how he was significantly changed when he found Jesus!

Here’s the key – God says the action of change is ‘just not reformation but transformation.’ This is something many cannot understand, they may want to do good but fail too frequently. And Satan will use human frailty to condemn us to a future without hope and endless depression.

The devil would subtly discourage us from engaging in this transformation with whispers of ‘It’s an impossible task.’ The transformed Paul warned about the tricks of Satan, that an ‘angel of light’, the ‘… god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God’(2 Corinthians 4.4). 

So, what does God want His transformed followers to be like? He wants people –

  • To see Him when they see you…
  • In your good deeds.
  • In your beliefs.
  • In your associations.
  • To portray the message of Easter and the cross by how you live!

Many people say they cannot see God, but when the world sees Christians it is the revealing of an age-old principal – the visible revealing the invisible. There are some things which you cannot see at a moment in time but then there is a revealing… such as lightning reveals the presence of electricity. Benjamin Franklin proved that for this world

Transformation by God means we are to be changed by Him – but to what? We are to be conformed to the image of Jesus. God doesn’t just want people to be saved, He wants them to be just like Jesus!

5. God’s revelation of His love
So, what is God like? That’s a good question. The Bible tells us in 1 John 4:8 that ‘God is love.’ Then we must say what does that mean?

Paul wrote a whole chapter telling us what love is. In 1 Corinthians 13.4-8, he describes  and declares that God’s love is perfect love.

  • Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud (v4).
  • It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs (v5).
  • Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth (v6).
  • It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres (v7).
  • Love never fails (v8).

God wants us to walk with Him so that our relationship will cause us to become more and more like Him – and others will see Him because they see our love for Him and others!

6. Our hope for tomorrow
The gospel message of the cross is smack dab in the middle of the life of Christ and the resurrection of Christ. There can be no good news without the cross. If there were no cross there would be no salvation.

Jesus’ death brings us life. But it doesn’t just end with abundant and eternal life.

Time, terrorists, false teachers, and others have tried to tear down the cross of Christ and its message of divine love. As Jesus proclaimed from the cross His work was  finished (John 19:30). His resurrection from the tomb still stands as our peace for today and our hope for tomorrow.

So what does the cross as the centrepiece of the gospel mean to us today? It means that we are invited to be involved in sharing the good news. Jesus said in Matthew 16:24, ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.’

7. God’s centrepiece of the gospel of Christ
It is not just a chain around our neck, not just a church symbol!

Two possible but related life questions for us are:

1. Do we faithfully serve so He can work through us?
2. Do we fervently pray for His soon return?

There are no crown-wearers in heaven who were not cross-bearers here below. When we become conformed to the likeness of Jesus, we’ll demonstrate the centrepiece of God’s love to the world.

Three last words – Sin, Cross, Salvation!

Dr Richard Winter pastors The Connection Church, Huntington Beach, California. Link:


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