One Comment to “The Heart at the Center of the Cross”

  1. Donald McMahon
    May 14, 2019

    I would like to thank the UMW of Emmaus for inviting me to speak today. The message I have prepared is not only for mothers and women, but for everyone. I hope that each person listening today will receive something that you can apply to your journey in faith. And in this message, I am also addressing myself.
    Today’s scripture reading is taken from 1 John Chapter 4, beginning with verse 9:
    9 This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.
    When I was a teenager, I received a cross necklace as a gift from a family member. It was beautiful, sterling silver and intricately carved, and I liked it very much, but I only wore it on special occasions because I felt it was so elegant. One morning as my parents and I were preparing for worship service, my mother was deciding what jewelry to wear and asked if she could borrow the cross necklace. I said, “Sure, Mom.” My mother loved to wear jewelry, but surprisingly she did not have a cross of her own. She asked to borrow the necklace again another week, and then another, until finally I said to her, “You know what Mom – why don’t you keep it. It suits you better than it does me, and if there’s ever a time I want to wear it, I’ll ask you if it’s ok.” After that, my mother wore the cross necklace often, not only to church but also to her workplace and out in public.
    Years later, I did ask to borrow the cross from her, on my wedding day, as a sign of Christ’s presence in my marriage with my husband, Christian; and I wore the cross necklace again, later that same year, to my mother’s memorial services, as a way to honor her faith and cling to my own faith. (I’m wearing the necklace today, too.) The necklace has come back to me; one day it will belong to my daughter, Moriah. When it passes to her, I hope that she not only appreciates the family history that this necklace now carries, but will also truly understand and value what the cross represents, that the cross will have personal meaning to her. I hope that she will receive from me not just a piece of jewelry, but a spiritual inheritance, a foundation for her own faith and her walk with God, in the same way that my mother helped to place a spiritual foundation for me.
    You see, my mother wore the cross necklace frequently, but even when she wasn’t wearing it, she still wore the love of God and the person of Christ. She wore her faith wherever she went. She wasn’t afraid to share her faith. In fact, she wanted to share her faith with people she knew and met, to share the joy and freedom she had experienced in knowing God personally. Her love for God and the goodness of God working through her were evident in how she lived, what she thought about and talked about, and how she treated other people. You could say that the love of God overflowed from her. Now, my mother was not perfect, and she was not the only person who helped shape my faith life – there have been many people among my family, my friends, and fellow Christians who have been good examples to me, including people who are gathered here today – but she is one of the people in my life who consistently showed me an authentic walk of faith. She showed me a life yielded to the will of God and to the love of God even as she sought to grow in her faith, and that had an impact on how I approached my own walk with God. Her faith was influential to me, to my father and family members, to her co-workers and friends.
    Now, if I were to ask you to think of a person in your life who had a significant impact on your faith, I’m sure there is someone who comes to mind fairly quickly. And I’m sure that you can remember what that person did that left such an impact. That person could be a parent, a teacher or a mentor, a friend or a person you met in church, or even a complete stranger. We are each in a position to be that person to someone else, to share the love of God and leave a positive lasting impact that bears fruit in the life of another.
    If you are a parent, then you are definitely called to guide your children in matters of faith. My husband and I are committed to raising our children in the Christian faith and teaching them about God, relying on the direction of the Holy Spirit, the Bible, and our own experience to lead us in that, but we know that we can’t force our children to follow Christ. They have to experience God for themselves and make their own decisions what they will believe in; but we know that our influence, our example, and our guidance plays a critical role in the way they will approach God and their faith in Him, now and in the future.
    You don’t have to be a parent to help shape the faith life of another. God may send someone to you that you are uniquely qualified to help in some way. As Christians, we each have a calling and a responsibility to share the love of God with others. Furthermore, if we have truly and deeply experienced the love of God personally and are in right relationship with Him, we should be motivated by that very same love to show God to others.
    The most remarkable thing about this cross necklace is not that it is crafted of fine silver; it is not that it belonged to my mother; it is not that it has unexpectedly become a family heirloom; but it is that, at the center of the cross, there is a heart. The heart at the center of the cross. Isn’t that what our faith is all about? Isn’t that what the entire Christian religion and all of our spirituality is founded on? The love of God demonstrated in His incarnation, revealing Himself in the person of Christ. Love which caused holy, perfect, and infinite God to squeeze Himself into a perishable human body, enter time, and subject Himself to human weakness and suffering. That divine and unfailing love that energized Jesus to fulfill His purpose and finish His work on the cross for our sakes. Max Lucado, a well-known pastor and author based in Texas, stated that ultimately it was not nails that held Jesus to the cross, but love. His immeasurable and unrelenting love for us.
    1 John 4:10 says: This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.
    Here is the same scripture from a different translation, The Voice translation: 9 Because of this, the love of God is a reality among us: God sent His only Son into the world so that we could find true life through Him. 10 This is the embodiment of true love: not that we have loved God first, but that He loved us and sent His unique Son on a special mission to become an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 So, my loved ones, if God loved us so sacrificially, surely we should love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God with human eyes; but if we love one another, God truly lives in us. Consequently God’s love has accomplished its mission among us.
    The Roman cross was an instrument of death, an implement of the most brutal form of execution in existence. As a symbol, the cross is a solemn reminder of what Jesus endured to rescue us. But on this side of the crucifixion and resurrection, we also know that the cross is a symbol of triumphant love. Dr. Charles Stanley, pastor of First Baptist Church in Atlanta and the international In Touch Ministries, noted in his article, “An Instrument of Peace” that with the cross, “God transformed an object of death into one of peace and reconciliation… What mankind meant for death, God used to give life.” The cross represents for us new life and restored relationship with the One who first loved us. At the center of the cross of Jesus, we find the heart of God for us.
    Many of you here at Emmaus have been walking with God for years and serving Him faithfully. You are familiar with Scripture and devoted to a godly way of living. Many of you are already rooted in the love of Christ and endeavoring to be the hands and feet of Christ in our community. I know that everyone here is facing some sort of hardship, challenge, transition, or uncertainty, and perhaps that has left you feeling discouraged. Maybe you want to do more for the kingdom of God, but you are unsure of your role or how best to serve. Or maybe you have been serving diligently for a long time, constantly giving of your time and talent and energy, and are beginning to grow weary. Maybe you have a genuine desire to pursue the things of God further, but are fighting distraction and frustration as you attempt to balance the responsibilities and business of day-to-day living. The good news is, we have the love of God to strengthen and energize us to serve effectively.
    1 John 4:12 says: No one has ever seen God [with human eyes]; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.
    The New American Standard version says: …if we love one another, God abides in us, and His love is perfected in us.
    If we love one another, God’s love is made complete in us. God’s love is perfected within us as we seek to share His love with others. God’s abiding presence enables us to love others, including those who are difficult to love, and empowers us to serve Him with ability beyond our own human strength. Ask God to fill you with His love, to give you assurance and revelation of His love for you, and to enable you to express that same love to those you encounter throughout your life – it is a request He is pleased to answer.
    As I was preparing this message, I was feeling significant anxiety and self-doubt, worried about how I would deliver what God had impressed upon my heart to say. I felt inadequate to the task at hand, afraid of failing miserably in my effort to serve God, and I was under spiritual attack more noticeably than usual. In the past few days, the Holy Spirit gently nudged me and reminded me that I had already been equipped for this occasion to write and speak, and that I had to simply take hold of what God had already made available to me in the Spirit. We have an anointing for everything God calls us to do. That anointing is powerful and more than sufficient for whatever we face. We simply need to walk in it, and remain anchored in the confidence of God’s love and provision for us. Our anointing includes empowerment to reach out to others with the love of God and to carry the finished work of the cross with us beyond church doors.
    We celebrated Resurrection Sunday only three weeks ago; we sang the hymn, “Easter People, Raise Your Voices,” which says in verse 3, “Every day to us is Easter.” We should be celebrating the finished work of the cross and the love of God that triumphed on a daily basis.
    So I ask you: How do you wear the cross? How do you wear Christ? How do you wear the love of God, and demonstrate the love of God in your daily life? I challenge you; I urge you; I encourage you, and myself, to wear the cross of Christ and the love of Christ every minute of every day, in all that you do, and to let that perfect love motivate you and work in you and through you to the point of completion. Allow your spiritual roots to grow deeper into the love of God. Draw from the heart at the center of the cross – the heart of God for you.

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