#279 (01/04/07)
Why the Cross is the Chosen Symbol in the World’s Largest Faith

The Message

By: Robert H. Schuller

Special Guest

She is a great national treasure, internationally syndicated radio talk show host, a licensed marriage and family therapist, an author of eight New York Times best seller books. Laura tell us about a new book, her ninth book on the New York Times bestseller list.

Special Music

" Joyful, Joyful.. "
" Have Faith in God "

" We Walk by Faith "

MICHAEL O’BRIEN – “Sandra Heidi Anne”
PAM THUM – “Faithful Heart”
CHORALE RESPONSE - "My Eternal King"

The Message

I am astonished at how my perceptions have been influenced by the spirit of Christ between the ages of 75 and 80. And in my continuing studies in theology, I'm asking a question today that I've never asked before. Why has the cross of Jesus become the chosen symbol of the faith that counts more people as followers than any other religion in history? As followers of Jesus Christ we are entering the Easter season, so I want to ask the question, "How do you interpret the cross?"

People ask me, "Why do you use the cross for a symbol? It is so negative. You're so positive, why do you believe in the cross?" In the brief time we have today, I may not be able to give you all my answers. I want to give you a direction to one of three choices.

1) The Choice of Lenin - the Atheist

The first choice is what I call the choice of Lenin, the atheist. When Armand Hammer took me to Russia to meet Gorbachev, I received a special invitation to visit Lenin's private residence which is not open to the public. This was a most extraordinary opportunity for me. My escort was the chief Lenin-ologist, the number one Lenin author. He had the answers to all of my questions about Lenin. I immediately asked him, "How did Lenin become an atheist?" He answered, "Dr. Schuller, let me begin by showing you Lenin's apartment where he and his family lived until his death. Follow me." He led me first to the kitchen where simple white dishes were displayed on the table. "These were the very same dishes that Lenin ate from." Then he led me to a little study where he showed me a phonograph with a record of Beethoven's music to which Lenin loved to listen. Here Lenin also did his most personal reading, and the Lenin-ologist said, "Dr. Schuller, I've been watching you on Hour of Power here in Moscow and we really respect you so I'm going to give you a rare privilege. Sit in the chair behind that desk. That's Lenin's chair. That's where he sat." So I carefully did. Then he said, "Turn to your right and what do you see?" I said, "A wall of books." "Yes and at your eye level, what books do you see? Do you see a red one?" I said, "Yes." "Pull it out." I pulled it out; the title was 'Jesus.'" Shocked, I asked, "Did Lenin read this?" "Yes." "But then how and why did he become an atheist?" I asked. He said, "It is very tragic. He even had in mind to become a priest in the Orthodox Church. As was the custom, Lenin always wore a cross. But one day in class the professor holding up a cross, gave a very negative interpretation of the cross, saying, to be a Christian you have to understand what the cross means. You have to understand that the cross means that God wants us all to experience shame and suffering and have the kind of a death Jesus did. We need to show that we are totally committed. And Lenin, shocked, reached for the cross around his neck, jerked it off, threw it down and said, 'Then I'm never going to wear the cross again.'"

How do you choose to interpret the cross? The Lenin approach leads to atheism.

2) Choose to Believe that Jesus Christ was

Totally Divine while being Totally Human
The second choice, wrestles with a big theological question. Let me share an unforgettable experience. In 1999, I received a letter from the Grand Mufti in Damascus, Syria. (The Roman Catholic Church has one Pope as their leader and the Islam faith has six grand Muftis). Grand Mufti Kuftara was inviting me to come to preach the sermon on one of their holy days. That was an unusual invitation. I accepted and I was the first Christian ever invited to preach a full sermon in the Mosque in Damascus. I was given the privilege to choose my own title, and they did not censor it. I visited with the Grand Mufti Kuftaro for many hours and Mrs. Schuller and I were his guests at his Ramadan feast.

I found him to be one of the most powerful spiritual giants I've ever met in my life, even though he belonged to a different faith. We discussed at length the main differences that largely separate the Islam and Christian religion. Then we focused on the cross. I asked the Grand Mufti Kuftaro, "You believe that Jesus Christ was born of a virgin. You believe in His life and His teachings and you say you believe that He is going to come again, why aren't you a Christian?" "Because," he said, "We cannot accept the cross. That is where we cannot go. And that is the heart of the Christian believers." I said, "Why can't you go there?" "Because," he said, "You teach that Jesus was God, part of the Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. But," the Grand Mufti continued, "We can't buy the fact that He died on a cross. If Jesus was totally divine, how could He die? You can't kill God!"

That is a very, very important opinion and a lot of people who are not Muslims probably agree. Millions of Muslims watch this program every week and. I want to try to answer the very important question: How could God die? Jesus died on the cross. If He was totally God how could that be? I believe that Jesus Christ was God with a body coming to earth, that makes God real to me. The Man, Jesus, God in flesh, bones, meat and hair, hammered with nails to a wooden cross died. But the God Jesus did not die. I choose to believe Jesus was totally human while also totally Divine.

3) Choose to Believe that the Cross Leads to Easter

Why do you believe in the cross? How do you interpret the cross? I believe that the cross deserves to be the crown statement of our faith to the whole world until the end of time. Why? Because the cross says we are a religion that is honest. We don't say that if you become a Christian that everything will always go your way. We don't say that if you become a Christian you're spared of all hardship, suffering and death. What we DO say is we can go through our own cross somehow, someway, but we will recover, we will be resurrected. Easter is coming! That is the uniqueness of the Christian religion that no other religion offers. Our leader lived, even though He lived the most perfect life, He died, He suffered the worst death, and came back on Easter. That is why the cross has a power above any other religious symbol ever chosen!

I have a personal friend whose name I cannot disclose. I must maintain his secrecy. He came from a foreign country, was given the privilege to become a citizen of America. And he is so grateful that when the war broke out in Iraq, he was one of the first to volunteer. He speaks many languages including Arabic, so he was assigned to dangerous covert operations. He spent his first year there, came home, but was asked in Washington to go back for another tour and he did. He survived many close calls working alone, even driving his own car. He was asked to go back for a third tour of duty. Again, he had some close calls where he probably faced death an average of four times a day.

Then, because of his language skills, he was needed so badly and he went back for a fourth tour. That was a little over a year ago, and we had a very small, private dinner party for him. At the end of the evening I felt very concerned for him, so before I left the dinner party, I asked, "May I pray for you?" And he said, "Please." So I put my hands with open palms on each side of his face and lifted it up. His eyes were open and he became very quiet as I prayed, "Dear God, this is Bob Schuller. We know each other. You know, we've had a lot of conversations back and forth, God. And You've always been good to me. You've always answered my prayers. Dear God, this is a special one. Spare his life from death; bring him home alive." We hugged and he left.

This past week he came home and I saw him. He said, "Dr. Schuller, I can't tell you how that prayer kept me alive this year. Three times I experienced a miracle.

Miracle #1

"My first miracle was when I was sitting on the bench at the entrance of the American Embassy. I was perfectly safe behind huge gates. But I saw a car come in and I suddenly felt suspicious and uneasy. At that very same moment God pushed me off that bench. I fell to the ground. I didn't plan it. God set it up. I wasn't on the ground but seconds when that car came right toward the embassy. Bullets sprayed from sub-machine guns right over the bench where I had been sitting and into the building. It was a total miracle that I was spared!

Miracle #2

"A second miracle, Dr. Schuller, occurred while I was sitting on my cot in our barracks when we heard a plane and suddenly through the wooden roof came an 18 millimeter bomb. It landed inches from my feet. The tail had hooked on the wood in the roof and was detached. I froze because I knew this was the end for me. But it didn't go off. Shocked, we ran out and the robots dismantled the bomb and then the bomb was carefully examined by all the engineers. The pin was perfect, in the right position. The fuel to explode and the spark were also perfect. There was absolutely nothing wrong with the bomb. But the question is why didn't it go off? Nobody could figure that out. The commanding general said, "That is a miracle." And before I left to come home, not many days ago, he gave me a plaque, made of a piece of wood from the section of the roof with the tail of the bomb. The Commanding General wrote, 'This is the mark of a miracle bomb. It fell inches from …… (his name). It did not go off.' The plaque carries the signature of the Commanding General, followed by the words, "In God we Trust." With great emotion, my friend said, "Dr. Schuller, that was my second miracle and I'm alive!

Miracle #3

The third miracle happened when I was captured. While I was a hostage I was blindfolded, my hands and feet were tied. Lying on the ground, three enemy guards kicked me repeatedly in my head and in the sides. They would stamp on my feet and arms. This went on day after day. Then we were told that a plane was coming to pick us up that same day, late in the afternoon. A group was paying five thousand dollars cash for each of us, dead or alive. But then the guards told us the plans were switched and the plane was coming that morning. So two guards left and only one guard was watching us. (We were in pretty bad shape by this time.)
"Suddenly there was a helicopter circling low over us and the remaining guard panicked. He thought the Americans had found us. So, dropping his weapon he ran. The three of us were now alone. So I immediately shifted my body over to my hostage friend. With his arms tied behind his back, he maneuvered himself to be able to remove the blindfold from me so I could untie myself then we all helped each other untie our feet to make a fast getaway. Running as fast as our injuries allowed, we yelled and yelled, "We're Americans! We're Americans!" But we didn't look like Americans. We were in bad shape, dirty and unshaven. With guns drawn, they stopped and made sure we were Americans. We were free!

"The next thing I knew I was on a plane to Frankfurt, Germany because of the beatings my head had swelled to almost double its normal size. I never told anybody, that I had been a hostage. What a miracle that I survived and I want to thank everyone who have been praying for me. I'm proud to serve my country. Our goals are noble and honorable. So, Dr. Schuller, thank you!"

I believe in God. I believe that in the worst times God will see me through. I believe in the cross. So I say to all, "Never give up faith when you have every reason to become an atheist. No. Keep trusting. Keep believing. The cross the single most powerful symbol of any religion in history, because the cross offers us forgiveness of sins! It offers us hope in the darkest times! The cross is empty! There is an Easter coming! Hallelujah! Amen."

HOP Privacy Legal  
Designed by: Ultragraphics Ltd.