Why the Cross is too Huge an Event for any one man-Made Label

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

You may listen to the podcast version of this article here. 

While I was in Cradle Roll Sabbath School,  before I could even read there was a picture in my Bible of Jesus dying on the cross. I was mesmerized by this picture and would study it in church as the preacher preached. As I took in the entire scene one thought kept reverberating in my heart, Jesus died for me.  One night when I was seven I put my Bible away to fall asleep. As I laid there contemplating that picture the Holy Spirit was painting that very scene on my heart. That night I decided to give my heart to Jesus and be baptized  because Jesus died for me.

This is the Bible and picture I would always love to look at as a child.

Over time the world and even people in the church have pressured and even threatened me to compromise my faith and convictions. When they demand my loyalty to them I remember that night when I gave my heart to Jesus. I remember the people pressuring me to compromise did not die for me. Jesus died for me. I must be loyal to Him. I gave my heart to Jesus. I did not give it to people in the world or in the church. 

Way too many times over the years I have compromised my faith without any pressure from anyone else at all. Again my mind goes back to the picture of the cross that the Holy Spirit painted on my heart on that night so long ago. I don’t give up. Jesus died for me. I ask His forgiveness which He so freely offers me. I know I am forgiven because Jesus died for me. 

I have completed many more trips around the sun since my cradle roll days and baptism when I was seven. Still one theme still grips my heart and mesmerizes my soul. Jesus died for me. As time passes the Holy Spirit continues painting even more details into that picture of the cross. As I continue studying Scripture and not just a picture the details become increasingly more vivid on my heart making the scene more real, more wonderful and more awe-ful. While many want to give specific theological labels to the cross I find the picture of the cross the Holy Spirit is painting on my heart is much to grand and vivid to fall under any one label.  As I have written before, many camps of thought are not so much wrong in what they teach as much as in what they fail to teach. One camp of thought does not necessarily have to replace the other. I believe we get the big picture of the cross when we put all the camps of thought together, and just throw away the labels. After all I did not fall in love with a theological label. I fell in love with Jesus because Jesus died for me. 

The first time I heard the Gospel presentation I was taught that when I chose to knowingly break God’s law that was counted as sin according to 1 John 3:4. Sin is punishable by death according to Romans 6:23John 3:16 tells me God gave His Son to die the death I deserve so I can have eternal life. As I continue studying I find another definition for sin besides 1 John 3:4. In John 16:9 Jesus also defines unbelief as sin. I have studied that Jesus died not so much because humankind took a piece of fruit they were told not to, but because in taking that fruit they showed they did not trust God or really believe in His love. Therefore God became a man and went to the cross to die and prove that He loves us so we can believe in His love. Therefore Jesus heals us from the sin of unbelief. The atonement appeases an angry race instead of an angry God. So which is it? Did Jesus die because humankind sinned by breaking the law which is punishable by death, or did Jesus die because humankind stopped believing in God’s love and by dying on the cross Jesus reconciled us by convincing us He loves us? Both! Interestingly John records both definitions of sin-in 1 John 3:4 the sin of breaking the law, and in John 16:9 the sin of unbelief. John understood Jesus died for every definition of sin.

I have heard that Jesus took on human nature so He could give us an example of human obedience. I have heard that Jesus took human nature because He had to die as a man. So which is it? Both!

The law of Moses was unable to save us because of the weakness of our sinful nature. So God did what the law could not do. He sent his own Son in a body like the bodies we sinners have. And in that body God declared an end to sin’s control over us by giving his Son as a sacrifice for our sins.  He did this so that the just requirement of the law would be fully satisfied for us, who no longer follow our sinful nature but instead follow the Spirit. Romans 8:3-4 NLT

There is not a law in this universe that will allow someone to die for someone else. I can’t go to a murder trial and offer to die for the defendant so that he can go free. They won’t allow that. God can’t allow it either. So what was God’s solution? Jesus took my human body to the cross and died not just for me but as me. Not only is my sanctification dependent on the humanity of Jesus, my justification is dependent on it as well.

Because God’s children are human beings—made of flesh and blood—the Son also became flesh and blood. For only as a human being could he die, and only by dying could he break the power of the devil, who had the power of death.  Only in this way could he set free all who have lived their lives as slaves to the fear of dying. We also know that the Son did not come to help angels; he came to help the descendants of Abraham. Therefore, it was necessary for him to be made in every respect like us, his brothers and sisters, so that he could be our merciful and faithful High Priest before God. Then he could offer a sacrifice that would take away the sins of the people. Hebrews 2:14-17 NLT

Jesus had to become us and die as us. This is why Paul never actually refers to Jesus dying for us as much as he writes about Jesus dying as us. Where we all sinned when we were in Adam we have now all lived a righteous life in Christ.

Yes, Adam’s one sin brings condemnation for everyone, but Christ’s one act of righteousness brings a right relationship with God and new life for everyone. Romans 5:18 NLT

Also as I sinned in Adam I have now been crucified with Christ. Take a look at how these verses describe us dying with Jesus and not just Jesus dying for me.

My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. Galatians 2:20 NLT

Or have you forgotten that when we were joined with Christ Jesus in baptism, we joined him in his death?  For we died and were buried with Christ by baptism. And just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, now we also may live new lives. Since we have been united with him in his death, we will also be raised to life as he was.We know that our old sinful selves were crucified with Christ so that sin might lose its power in our lives. We are no longer slaves to sin. For when we died with Christ we were set free from the power of sin. Romans 6:3-7 NLT 

Either way, Christ’s love controls us. Since we believe that Christ died for all, we also believe that we have all died to our old life.2 Corinthians 5:14 NLT

Where I sinned in Adam I have now been crucified with Christ. He took my flesh to the cross and crucified it. That is my justification. The good news is it does not stop there. Jesus also took on humanity and died so we can be sanctified and have victorious lives. Consider how these passages describe the victory Christ gives us by taking on humanity. Lets go back to where we began at Hebrews 2.

Since he himself has gone through suffering and testing, he is able to help us when we are being tested. Hebrews 2:18 NLT

He personally carried our sins in his body on the cross so that we can be dead to sin and live for what is right. By his wounds you are healed. 1 Peter 2:24

For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin,so that we could be made right with God through Christ. 2 Corinthians 5:21 NLT

The atonement was not only possible because of Jesus’ complete humanity but also because of his complete divinity.

The broken law of God demanded the life of the sinner. In all the universe there was but one who could, in behalf of man, satisfy its claims. Since the divine law is as sacred as God Himself, only one equal with God could make atonement for its transgression. None but Christ could redeem fallen man from the curse of the law and bring him again into harmony with Heaven. Christ would take upon Himself the guilt and shame of sin—sin so offensive to a holy God that it must separate the Father and His Son. Christ would reach to the depths of misery to rescue the ruined race. –Ellen White, Patriarchs and Prophets, Page 63.  

Did Jesus make an atonement as fully man or fully God? Both. Did Jesus die to free us from the power of sin or the penalty of sin? Both. Did Jesus die because of the sin of breaking God’s law or the sin of unbelief? Both. I have learned so much more about the cross since my early childhood days. But I am still not in any one theological camp or label. When I am tempted I look at the picture of the cross the Holy Spirit has painted on my heart. His love empowers me to overcome as I remember Jesus died for me. When I make stupid decisions and fall into sin I look to the cross and know I can find forgiveness because Jesus died for me. I am reconciled to God and can believe in His love because Jesus died for me. God made an atonement for my sin and transgression of the law when Jesus died for me. 

Many years later I have experienced hundreds of victories since my Cradle Roll days. Victories I never imagined possible. But before you pat me on the back I have also suffered a multitude of defeats that I never would have imagined possible, when I first gave my heart to Jesus at the tender age of seven. Sin has brought me lower than I ever comprehended possible and Jesus has raised me higher than I ever comprehended possible. I have found theological theories and labels get me nowhere. When I need forgiveness or power to overcome I do what I have been doing since Cradle Roll. I look at the cross and remember, Jesus died for me.

You may study this week’s Sabbath School lesson here.

My Open Newsletter to my Ministry Supporters

You may now send your tax deductible contributions online here.   Please see third line item under “Local Church” marked “Bible Worker.” Thank you!

Nani Baptism

Its hard to believe that it was five years ago that my friends and God encouraged me to begin a ministry that works closely in cooperation with the Seventh-day Adventist Florida Conference, but is supported solely by contributions from people like yourself, with no financial backing from the conference. When I began five years ago I had total trust in God, but was not sure what He had in store or how long I would be able to survive relying on God to provide supporters.

I am not a good fundraiser so I am very happy that God has provided for me so I can focus most all of my time and effort into soul winning, and very little time and effort into fundraising. I want to thank those who contribute monthly to my ministry and to those who contribute whenever the Spirit impresses them. In the past I have been told by people that it would be easier for them to contribute online. Well now thanks to God you can! The Plant City SDA Church who hosts my fund is now accepting tax deductible contributions including for my Bible worker fund. You can contribute here.  The Bible Worker fund is the third line item under local church. You can still send contributions by mail to the Plant City SDA Church PO Box 5379 Plant City, Florida 33563. If giving to the Bible Worker fund please mark “Bible Worker Fund” on your check.

Studying With Preston

While God has wonderfully provided over the last five years we are looking forward to many years to come. Like any ministry some people for whatever reason are no longer able to support this ministry, so please pray and ask God if He is asking you to begin systematically supporting this ministry to continue where others who have faithfully supported this ministry over time are no longer with us or just not able to continue.

Bible Work is a constant everyday battle with wicked spirits in high places, so I also truly appreciate all of the prayers and kind words sent my way. Thank you for your prayers, kind words and contributions for the last five years, and please pray for the continued success of this ministry. Thanks and God bless you!

William

Acts 8;The Gospel in Samaria

Christina who was 15 at the time of this picture last Summer, was one of several young people who made presentations in our evangelism seminars at the Tampa First Seventh-day Adventist Church. Our evangelism force goes way beyond the pastors and Bible Worker. Many of our members are active in soul winning, like Christina who went on to preach two regular Sabbath sermons at Tampa First. She has gone on to preach at other churches as well. She, like the other members here, loves Jesus with all her heart and does not let the pastor and Bible Worker do all the work. Christina is sharing Jesus at home and school during the week and at church on Sabbaths.

Acts of the Apostles Chapter 11

This chapter is based on Acts 8.

The unselfish labor of Christians in the past should be to us an object lesson and an inspiration. The members of God’s church are to be zealous of good works, separating from worldly ambition and walking in the footsteps of Him
who went about doing good. With hearts filled with sympathy and compassion, they are to minister to those in need of help, bringing to sinners a knowledge of the Saviour’s love. Such work calls for laborious effort, but it brings a rich reward. Those who engage in it with sincerity of purpose will see souls won to the Saviour, for the influence that attends the practical carrying out of the divine commission is irresistible.  {AA 109.4} 
     Not upon the ordained minister only rests the responsibility of going forth to fulfill this commission. Everyone who has received Christ is called to work for the salvation of his fellow men. “The Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come.” Revelation 22:17. The charge to give this invitation includes the entire church. Everyone who has heard the invitation is to echo the message from hill and valley, saying, “Come.”  {AA 110.1} 
     It is fatal mistake to suppose that the work of soul-saving depends alone upon the ministry. The humble, consecrated believer upon whom the Master of the vineyard places a burden for souls is to be given encouragement by the men upon whom the Lord has laid larger responsibilities. Those who stand as leaders in the church of God are to realize that the Saviour’s commission is given to all who believe in His name. God will send forth into His vineyard many who have not been dedicated to the ministry by the laying on of hands.  {AA 110.2} 
     Hundreds, yea, thousands, who have heard the message of salvation are still idlers in the market place, when they might be engaged in some line of active service. To these Christ is saying, “Why stand ye here all the day idle?” and He adds, “Go ye also into the vineyard.” Matthew 20:6, 7. Why is it that many more do not respond to the call? Is it because they think themselves excused in that they do not stand in the pulpit? Let them understand that there is a large work to be done outside the pulpit by thousands of consecrated lay members.  {AA 110.3} 
     Long has God waited for the spirit of service to take possession of the whole church so that everyone shall be working for Him according to his ability. When the members of the church of God do their appointed work in the needy fields at home and abroad, in fulfillment of the gospel commission, the whole world will soon be warned and the Lord Jesus will return to this earth with power and great glory. “This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.” Matthew 24:14.  {AA 111.1} 

You may find more studies and devotionals at In Light Of The Cross.