This is where the appeasement view of the cross serves us so poorly. By viewing the cross as the offer of a “Get-Out-Of-Hell-Free-Card” rather than an invitation of friendship with a gracious Father, we empty it of its power. By preying on people’s uncertainty about the afterlife we can get them to go forward, pray a sinner’s prayer or whatever else we ask them to do to ensure they go to heaven.(Image: Manos by Martin Kussler at flickr; some rights reserved)
But then our problem only begins. Most go right back to living the way they had before, hopeful that they did enough not to worry about hell any longer. Some will get involved in a religious group or activity as an expression of their sincerity to God but they will all soon discover that the reality of Christianity doesn’t live up to its promise. They’ll still find themselves overwhelmed by sin too great to conquer because they have not let him deal with the root of it.
For the power of the cross to significantly change our lives it would have to restore the trust that was shattered in Eden.
And that it does in spectacular fashion . . .
The apostle John . . . said he wrote his gospel so that those who read it would “believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:30-31). We have cheapened this verse with the popular notion that believing Jesus is the Christ is an affirmation of correct doctrine. If one gives mental assent to the fact that Jesus is the Christ then one has his life. That’s not what John was talking about. The word we translate believe is simply the verb form of faith. Perhaps the word trust would bring out his fuller meaning.
John was not encouraging people to confess the right creed, but inviting them to learn what God started to teach us in the Garden—how to trust him completely. John chose the events he did from Jesus’ life so that we might be stirred to trust who he is and by living in that trust every day, to experience the life of God. We don’t enter into this kingdom by a sinner’s prayer, going forward at a religious gathering or reciting an orthodox creed but by learning to trust who he is and by living in that trust every day.
Those who do, discover God’s life, even here in a broken and fallen world. What God accomplished in Christ on the cross not only defeated our sin but allows us to build a life of trust. He loves you absolutely and completely and will every day of your life on this planet and into the age to come.
So Paul took his stand in the open space at the Areopagus and laid it out for them: "I'm here to introduce you to this God.... He doesn't play hide-and-seek with us. He's not remote; he's near. We live and move in him, can't get away from him!" ~Acts 17