Align—align means to put things into correct or appropriate relative positions. There is a tool that helps you align your life into its unique original and intended shape. This tool aligns you into a right relationship with God and can keep you true. The cross aligns your relationships.
The Cross Has the final Word
Align—align means to put things into correct or appropriate relative positions. Alignment, your car needs it, your back needs it, the pictures on the wall need it and most importantly your spiritual life needs it.
We are in the middle of our Lenten season, the forty days from Ash Wednesday to Easter. In the rhythms of the church this is a time for self-reflection which most likely will lead to a desire to change some aspect of your life, and advocacy for the down and out, as Jesus told us the sick, the widow, the orphan, the prisoner, the hungry, the ones the world would label as the least of these. There is also an emphasis on self-denial, a laying down of something in your life that lightens your load making it easier to follow Jesus.
The Apostle Paul writing to the believers in Rome and he tells them and us about God’s intentions for us:
Romans 8:29 (MSG)
God knew what he was doing from the very beginning. He decided from the outset to shape the lives of those who love him along the same lines as the life of his Son. The Son stands first in the line of humanity he restored. We see the original and intended shape of our lives there in him.
Today is the 28th day before Easter and I want to give you a tool to help guide you in shaping your life along the same lines of Jesus. There is a tool that helps you align your life into its unique original and intended shape. This tool aligns you with a right relationship with God and can keep you true. The cross aligns your relationships.
Once again charging into a situation in which angels dare to tread, I was installing crown molding in my living room. I felt confident that I could save big bucks doing it myself and after watching a YouTube how-to video I was ready. Got the material, made the corner patterns, measured not once, not twice, but three times, cut the material and began to put it up. I soon realized something was terribly wrong as the pieces were not aligning correctly. At one point the crown molding fit perfectly into a corner, snug, seamless, perfect, and the opposite end hung 6 inches from the ceiling. What I discovered was that my cuts and measurements were correct, the walls and the ceiling were not aligned correctly, the technical term is they were not square, they were not true.
If the builders would have used a tool called a carpenter square to make sure the walls and ceiling were a true 90 angle my frustration levels would have been greatly diminished. Close enough isn’t. Almost is only good when you are playing horseshoes, throwing grenades, dropping atomic bombs.
There is a tool that helps you align your life into its unique original and intended shape. This tool aligns you with a right relationship with God and can keep you true. That tool is the cross.
That old rugged cross where the dearest and best for a world of lost sinners was slain is a tool that aligns you with Jesus, with being the way God always meant humanity to be, with the relationship God always intended to share with you.
How does the cross align you with a right relationship with God?
Please understand that the cross is a symbol. A symbol points beyond itself, conveying ideas and beliefs and relationships, required actions, warnings, and information. There are many messages that the symbol of the cross conveys, I want to focus on the most significant, how the cross aligns your relationship with God and then e how the cross of Christ helps you to align your spiritual life.
The most significant message of the cross is the great undoing of Adam’s disobedience. To catch this you need to realize that there is a correlation in scripture between a tree and a cross. Centuries before the Romans used crucifixion as a form of capital punishment we read in Deuteronomy 21:33
Deuteronomy 21:22-23 (NLT)
If someone has committed a crime worthy of death and is executed and hung on a tree, the body must not remain hanging from the tree overnight. You must bury the body that same day, for anyone who is hung is cursed in the sight of God.
What I want you to see is that there is a correlation between a tree and a cross.
The cross represents the great reversal of Adam’s Folly.
In the Genesis paradise setting, in the “Garden of Eden,” the fruit of a tree became the downfall of humanity. In disobedience, in willful sin, under that tree, eating the forbidden fruit, there came about the curse of human separation from God. The sign of this estrangement is physical death.
Jesus is the fruit of a second tree, the cross. The fruit from the first tree condemned the first Adam, the fruit of this second tree is nothing less than Christ himself, a sacrifice that reconciles a believer’s relationship with God, effectively breaking the victory that death has upon humanity.
Galatians 3:13-14 (MSG)
Christ redeemed us from that self-defeating, cursed life by absorbing it completely into himself. Do you remember the Scripture that says, "Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree"? That is what happened when Jesus was nailed to the Cross: He became a curse, and at the same time dissolved the curse. And now, because of that, the air is cleared and we can see that Abraham's blessing is present and available for non-Jews, too. We are all able to receive God's life, his Spirit, in and with us by believing—just the way Abraham received it.
Abraham received this new way of living simply by believing what God revealed to him and obeying what God instructed.
Romans 5:19 (NIV)
For just as through the disobedience of the one man [Adam] the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man [Jesus] the many will be made righteous.
Righteous means rightly related. One becomes aligned with the purposes of God through faith that believes what Jesus accomplished upon the cross is sufficient. Forgiveness of sins, reconciliation of relationship, adoption into God’s family, the power to live life to the full.
The Old Rugged Cross
Is Jesus speaking to you this morning? The cross is a symbol of what I have done for you so that you can align your life with mine. Believe and follow. If you hear that message right now, then obey. Believe and follow. That’s how the cross aligns you with a right relationship with God. If you do so you will take your place in the line of humanity restored.
As a follower of Jesus, the cross also helps you to keep in alignment with the will of God. The cross is also a symbol of reconciliation, and it is a symbol of obedience and of self-denial. It is through this truth that as a believer, a follower of Jesus you can make sure your life is aligning along the same lines as His.
Mark 8:34-35 (NIV)
Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it.
Picking up your cross is following Jesus’ example. Before his arrest, Jesus prayed that there might be another way to accomplish what His Heavenly Father needed to be done. Jesus prayers were real. He didn’t want to die.
Jesus example is one of self-denial to the point of refusing self-preservation, He gives his life away literally. The best way to think about this denial is doing God’s will, doing what God requires, being obedient to what the Holy Spirit has revealed to you when you would rather not, especially when you rather have this cup pass from you.
Philippians 2:7-8 (MSG)
When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn't claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death—and the worst kind of death at that: a crucifixion.
The scripture reveals one of the reasons Jesus accepted the situation. The reason that helps us the most is love.
When you love someone enough there is an empowerment that forgets about self and meets that someone’s need.
When you love there is an empowerment that allows you to complicate your life for the good of another.
When you love you can make the judgment call in a conflict between unity and being right
When you love there is an empowerment to forgive canceling the debts others owe you.
When you love there is power to curb your free time that you may use that time to serve others.
When you love there is power to say no to temptation.
When you love you are approachable, open to correction, willing to listen.
When you love you can admit that you were wrong.
When you love you can sacrifice your time, your talent and your treasure for the good of others.
When you love you allow yourself to be inconvenienced.
When you love it's your intent to keep God’s commandments.
Jesus told us that love puts it all on the line for that which is greater than ourselves.
John 10:11 & John 15:13 (MSG)
I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd puts the sheep before himself, sacrifices himself if necessary. …This is the very best way to love. Put your life on the line for your friends.
The cross is a symbol to remind us that we are to be lovers. Every time you do love you’ve aligned yourself with the cross, your allowing yourself to be shaped along the same lines as Jesus, into the person God always intended for you to be with the responsibilities and rewards of being a follower of Jesus. If your behavior is not true to the cross you are robbing yourself of God’s very best for your life. You're weighing yourself down with needless encumbrances that will eventually prove to be an embarrassment to you and don’t right madness to have held on to.
You can live cross style. Reconciled and Aligned.
Galatians 2:20 (MSG)
Christ's life showed me how and enabled me to do it. I identified myself completely with him. Indeed, I have been crucified with Christ. My ego is no longer central. It is no longer important that I appear righteous before you or have your good opinion, and I am no longer driven to impress God. Christ lives in me. The life you see me living is not "mine," but it is lived by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
The Wonderous Cross
That Jesus would deliver all of humanity from death through his obedience and sacrifice, that is the gift to be cherished and celebrated and remembered. The cross proclaims the story of the Messiah, the divine mission of love in action, the act of banishing the power of death from this world.