#297 The Power of the Cross Part II (05/08/07)

The Message

By: Robert A. Schuller

Special Guest

wight Alexander is a phenomenal story. Was happily married for 15 years and proud father of two wonderful sons, Grant and Colin, and unexpectedly his life was tragically altered when his wife and two sons were involved in a deadly car crash, killing his wife and leaving the two young sons barely alive. Dwight’s captured his family’s story, I have a copy of his book here and I hope you go out and order it or buy it here in our bookstore. And nothing is more hurtful than when you are asked to carry the cross of the loss of your beloved wife and the tragic injury of your surviving sons. So here’s the book, “Through These Doors.”

Special Music

" Joyful, Joyful.. "
" O God, You are the Father "
" In the Cross of Christ I Glory "

" O For a Thousand Tongues to Sing/Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah "

DANIEL McGREW - "Sanctus"
TRIO – 33 MILES – “Hold On”
TRIO – 33 MILES – “The Best Man”
TRIO – 33 MILES – “Thank You”y”

The Message

Today I would like to share with you a little history of the cross and the Crystal Cathedral. Some of you may not realize that one of the very first things my father built when he came to California was a cross. He did that because when he was standing on top of a snack bar rooftop he wanted some kind of a background. So, that cross was one of the very first things he built in Southern California and it stood on top of the snack bar rooftop at the Orange Drive-In Theater. Then he got a little more elaborate and he built one with a little more background to it and for Easter they put some Calla Lilies all over it. For years we have covered the cross here in the Crystal Cathedral with Calla Lilies. It wasn't long after that they moved and built a church; and, actually they had two services. One was here and my father designed the very first church, which was up by Brookhurst Street. He designed the church and he designed the cross in the building of that church. However, when we moved from the drive-in onto this property (Chapman Ave.), we brought it here to this property while the Tower of Hope was being built. That building was built by Richard Neutra. The cross on the Tower of Hope today is a much bigger cross than was down below. Today we still have a cross inside the Crystal Cathedral and we have one in the Arboretum. The cross has always been a very central theme of this ministry. Since the very beginning, we have always had a worship center that held the symbol of our faith; the cross.

I believe the cross answers three of the most nagging questions with which every human being struggles.

The three questions are:

1. Who am I?

2. Where am I headed?

3. Does all of this really have meaning?

The cross of Jesus Christ answers these questions. It tells us who we are. We are children of God saved by grace. That is who we are.

We have had a running question on our website, where people can post an answer to the question, "What does the cross mean to you?" If you want to go to our website at http://www.crystalcathedral.org/, you can answer the question too. I didn't realize how many people would respond. I was given a book full of responses to "What the Cross means to me." When my family gets together we usually have devotions. Unfortunately, we cannot have devotions all together as often as we used to because my "baby" is in college now: he's 19 years old, so it's a little more difficult to get the family together. However, when we have devotions every once in awhile we hit a topic that just works. Last night I asked the question to my family, "What does the cross mean to you?" I did it at the beginning of dinner. We didn't stop talking about what the cross meant to us until we were done with dinner. It grabbed everybody's attention. Everybody wanted to share what the cross meant to them. Everybody has a different perception of what the cross is and what it means. The cross is a symbol with far greater depth than we can ever possibly imagine. When you read through the Bible you begin to see what the cross means. In Peter's letter we read these words: it says "He Himself, Jesus Christ, bore our sins in His body on the cross." (1 Peter 2:21-25) Why? So that we might die to sin and live for righteousness.

As I have read through all of these various responses and perceptions that people have of the cross, over and over again they say, "The cross is the sign and the symbol of my salvation. It is God reaching out to me. The cross bridges the gap between the chasms, as one gentleman said in his definition of the cross. The chasm is humanity and our sin, and in God and His holiness, the cross becomes the bridge from sin and death to life and resurrection.

Many people have crosses with Jesus Christ hanging on them, known as a crucifix. One of the things that you may recognize is that every single one of our crosses here at the Crystal Cathedral is an empty cross. It does not have Jesus Christ hanging on it. The reason Jesus Christ doesn't hang on our crosses, is because we believe even though He died for our sins the fact is that He came down from the cross. He is no longer on the cross. He rose from the grave, He conquered sin, He conquered death, He was victorious and the cross is a sign of a victory! The cross begins with our guilt, our failure. It continues with God's grace.

One of the responses I received was from a gentleman named, Troy. Troy said, "The cross is the first letter in my name, Troy." He said, "As a result the cross is a part of me and I walk with Jesus all the time." Another woman by the name of Hope said that her grandmother died five years ago. Three months later, she was flipping through the television channels and she saw the Hour of Power. She said, "I knew that my grandma wanted me to watch it and so I started watching the Hour of Power. When I first started watching, I had alcohol problems, I was depressed, I couldn't express myself. Now I am optimistic, I'm a happy person who believes in Jesus Christ and last year I was baptized. Now I know I am not alone and Jesus will always be with me and He is with my family and my friends."

The cross is a positive, powerful symbol of grace. In Corinthians we read these words: "For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing but to those who have been saved, it is the power of God." The cross is the power of God that has the ability to bring us into His loving arms of grace and hope and beauty and freedom. We've been saved through the cross through the grace of Jesus Christ. From our grace we come to a point of thanksgiving because our grace is not a license and it is not a freedom to sin but it is a license and a freedom from sin. There is a dramatic difference. One of the biggest criticisms other religions have about the Christian faith is that our understanding of grace and our forgiveness is a license to sin. I believe that grace is a license and freedom from sin, so that we might have the ability and the strength to carry on and be the people that God has called us to be. Grace allows us to move forward victoriously with an attitude and an understanding that God is at work within our lives. Through grace we can succeed and be the human beings that God has called us to be. As such, we live with gratitude doing the things that God has called us to do.

One of the worst tragedies in the history of the great lakes was the sinking of the Lady Elgin. It took place on September 8, 1860. It was a magnificent paddle boat and it was traveling from Chicago up to Wisconsin with several hundred passengers on board. Unfortunately there was a collision with another boat and the collision put a hole in the side of the Lady Elgin which was irreparable. They started making their way to shore but unfortunately they couldn't get there. Before they arrived on shore nearly seven hundred people perished. It was amazing how different stories emerged as a few survivors managed to find their way to shore. As they did, the news went out there were people who were trying to make their way back to shore and some were drowning. One young man who was actually a swimmer from Northwestern University heard about the events and he started swimming miles out to rescue people. He would swim out a mile, grab someone, haul them back to shore and he would turn around and he would do it again. In fact, they say he saved 18 people that day. He stopped at 18, even though there were more people to save because he was exhausted and delirious. He was known to have been lying on the beach, beaten by the rocks and the waves, saying to himself, "I think I could have saved one more. I think I could have saved one more." That gentleman, from that day forward, never walked again. We don't know why. I don't have the history, but we do know that he recuperated from his exhaustion from saving those 18 people. He sacrificed his legs and his life for 18 individuals he had never met before and after saving all 18 of these people, he spent the rest of his life in a wheelchair. At the age of 83, he passed away. His name is Edward Spencer, and there is a plaque displayed at Northwestern University in his honor. Prior to his death, he said, "One of the most interesting things about that day and about the events that have taken place since then is that of the 18 people I saved, not a single one ever said thank you."

Today we see the cross of Jesus Christ. It is a symbol of His sacrifice for us. He made incredible sacrifices so that anybody who will call upon His name, He will reach out and embrace and invite them to His home and prepare a table for them forever. All He wants is a thank you. We say thank You by giving our lives to Him. Who are we without the cross of Jesus Christ? I don't know! What is our role and purpose for living without the cross of Jesus Christ? I don't know. Where am I headed and is there any meaning to all of this in life? Without the cross of Jesus Christ, I don't know.

The cross of Jesus Christ is the symbol of grace; it is a symbol of gratitude.

Dear Heavenly Father, we thank You that You continue to touch human lives with the power of Your cross. You overshadow our lives from every angle. That shadow is here to bring hope and victory, good news and strength. We thank You Lord for what You are doing in our lives and we praise Your name always and forever, Amen.

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