Spirit-Filled Pastor: Why We Must Focus on the Centrality of the Cross

(Russ Riedmueller)

It only takes a glance at social media or the news these days to see the prevalence of hate-filled language and unbridled anger almost everywhere. It is human sin nature to put up guards, defend our positions and rip into those who disagree.

But if we are in Christ, we should no longer live according to our flesh and carnality, but according to God's nature, character, Word and Spirit.

As Christians, our lives are to be lived in a different spirit than the world, no matter what is going on around us. The way we interact with others—be it our family, friends, neighbors, co-workers or those strangers we meet throughout our busy days—should have a marked difference from the rest of the world. The way we respond to circumstances and events should reflect that we are born from above, bearing the likeness of our Father.

When we approach the world with a different spirit, opportunities to share the reality of God's kingdom with those around us will abound. Even as the world around us continues to shake—with economic breakdowns, racial tensions, political battles and other natural and man-made disasters—we can and should be approaching each situation with the spirit and character of Christ. As a result, many will see our good deeds and glorify our Father in heaven (Matt. 5:16).

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The Centrality of the Cross

In 2004, I wrote an article called "The Battle for the Moral Soul of America" in which I said:

"Our nation is at a crossroads, a turning point in history. We are in a battle for the moral soul of America. And it's a battle to destroy the very foundation on which we were built ... You cannot build on a cracked foundation or what is already standing will inevitably fall apart."

If broken cisterns and foundations are to be fixed, then we, the church must awaken our hearts and get back to our spiritual moorings and biblical principles. Psalm 11:3 says, "If the foundations are broken, what can the righteous do?"

The book of Genesis tells us the tree of life was in the middle of the Garden of Eden. But when the serpent questions Eve in Chapter 3, she replies: "We may eat of the fruit from the trees of the garden; but from the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, 'You will not eat of it, nor will you touch it, or else you will die' " (verses 2b-3).

She is referring here to the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, which shows us her focus has shifted. Instead of life being at the center of everything, she is centered on the one thing she cannot have.

You see, the deception happened when Adam and Eve no longer fixed their eyes on the tree of life but were distracted by the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, which became the center of their focus. When we ponder this in light of the ills of our society and what's happening around the world—from natural and human crisis to pandemics to social unrest—we realize we cannot fix the broken foundations or the broken cisterns through our mere human efforts or institutions.

In March 2010, I wrote an article titled, "The Whole Earth Groans with Birth Pangs." Since that time, we have had an even greater increase in disasters, crisis and plagues around the world. We see nations raging, political unrest, kingdom against kingdom. And we see that everything that can be shaken is being shaken. This is no surprise to God, who gives us a biblical mandate as Christians to understand how we can maneuver through these difficult times.

In April 2010, in an article called "Prophetic Perspective for Our Times," I wrote:

"We live in a time of shaking all over the world, in both the natural and spiritual realms. But we, as a people of God, do not need to fear. In the midst of the shakings, God wants His people to have perspective, peace and purpose."

God is calling on prophetic people to arise and rebuild our falling and failing foundations. He wants us to be a people with vision and prophetic understanding of what He is doing in the midst of all the seeming chaos. We need prophetic wisdom so we can know how to lead others and how to be part of the unshakable foundation of Christ.

One New Man

Through the work of the cross and the power of the resurrection, we become one new man. Galatians 3:28 says there is neither Greek nor Jew, male nor female. The inference here is that, in Christ, we bring down every dividing wall, and we become the corporate one new man. We're the body of Christ together.

"For He is our peace, who has made both groups one and has broken down the barrier of the dividing wall, by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of the commandments contained in ordinances, that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus making peace, and that He might reconcile both to God into one body through the cross, thereby slaying the enmity" (Eph. 2:14-16).

One Blood

Acts 17 says we are one blood.

"He has made from one blood every nation of men to live on the entire face of the earth, having appointed fixed times and the boundaries of their habitation, that they should seek the Lord so perhaps they might reach for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us. 'For in Him we live and move and have our being.' As some of your own poets have said, 'We are His offspring'" (Acts 17:26-28).

When we've been separated from God, the work of the cross brings us to that place of equality in the His holy presence. We deserved punishment for our sins, yet we received forgiveness through the payment that Jesus Himself provided when He gave His life for us. Jesus exemplified what true love is as He gave Himself for us when we did not deserve it. Because of that, we can pull down our dividing walls, becoming one blood and the corporate one new man.

Ministers of Reconciliation

Paul reminds us that if anyone is in Christ, we are a new creation and that old things have passed away, thus all things become new. The Lord has reconciled us to Himself through Christ and has given us the ministry of reconciliation as well as the Word of reconciliation. We are ambassadors, living in this world but representing the kingdom of God.

"All this is from God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ and has given to us the ministry of reconciliation, that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their sins against them, and has entrusted to us the message of reconciliation. So we are ambassadors for Christ" (2 Cor. 5:18-20).

Luke 21 tells us that at the signs of the times at the end of the age there will be wars and rumors of wars, increased pestilence and plagues, all kinds of shakings: kingdoms against kingdoms and nation against nation (verse 10-12). That word for nation is ethnos, which means we are going to see race against race, ethnicity against ethnicity. Verses 25-26 (NKJV) speak of "distress of nations, with perplexity" and tells us men were "fainting from fear."

Isn't that what we see in the world today? Yet in Luke 21:13 (MEV), Jesus tells us, "It will turn out as a testimony for you."

Although we see division and fighting and tension all around us, in the church it should not be!

Micah 4 says that in the latter days all people would be welcome at the mountain of the Lord and would put aside their weapons of warfare and exchange them for harvesting tools together. The spiritual inference for us as the church is clear here as well. Although in the world there would be distress of nations, political and racial tensions, we, in the church should put aside our warfare against one another, crossing our racial, denominational and generational lines, exchanging them for tools to bring in the harvest together. And from that harvest, we will see the outcast, the lame and the sick become a strong nation.

When we, who come through the place of the cross, fix our eyes together on the centrality of the cross, we can bring healing in the midst of a world of turmoil that can never be fixed by the institutions of men.

The world will never find an answer because they are looking for answers in the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. But if we, the church, focus on the tree of life—the divine life of God—and together fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, we can bring hope in the midst of the confusion, chaos and pain that is going on around us.

Doug Stringer is founder and president of Somebody Cares America and Somebody Cares International, a global network bringing hope and healing to communities through prayer initiatives, compassion outreaches and cooperative efforts. He is the author of numerous books, including In Search of a Father's Blessing and Leadership Awakening: Foundational Principles for Lasting Success.

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