YOUR DESPERATE NEED
FOR THE CROSS
* * *
A companion study to the introduction and
chapter 1 in Experiencing the Cross
LIFE CHANGE OBJECTIVES
It's our prayer that after you have finished this lesson .
You will begin to open yourself to greater personal ownership and
experience of the cross.
You will grasp more deeply the seriousness of sin-particularly
your own sin.
You will begin to live and speak in ways that will more highly
elevate the name of God because of His sacrifice on your behalf.
DAY 1-A BURDEN TO BE SHARED
When the Lord repeats something, He expects us to sit up and
listen! Consider the following statements from the Son of God:
"If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself,
and take up his cross daily, and follow Me" (Luke 9:23).
"He who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not
worthy of Me" (Matthew 10:38).
"Whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot
be My disciple" (Luke 14:27; see also Matthew 16:24; Mark 8:34).
Key Question 1
Begin your study of Christ and His cross by talking to Him for a
minute or two. Invite Him to change your heart and mind so that you
will begin to take ownership of His cross, just as He did so willingly for
you. In the space below, write the essence of what you've asked Him to
do for you.
1a. Read again the three passages quoted above (Luke 9:23; Matthew
10:38; Luke 14:27). In your own words, what do these statements
say is involved in taking up your cross?
DAY 2-MORE THAN MERE KNOWLEDGE
What does it mean to take up your cross? Throughout this study you'll
discover several truths that help answer that question. And underlying
everything must be an actual experience of the cross.
Key Question 2
As you embark on your study of the cross, what do you
think bearing your cross might cost you?
What are the reasons you want to bear your cross?
2a. If possible, describe a time when the sacrifice of Jesus became so
real to you that, at least for a time, you lived as a different kind of
DAY 3-MORE THAN MERE HISTORY
Key Question 3
Read Matthew 16:21 and Luke 24:44-46. Why is it significant to you
that Jesus recognized there was no other way to fulfill the Father's plan?
3a. Read Revelation 13:8 and Titus 1:2. Why is it significant
for you that the cross was God's plan throughout the span
of history and beyond?
DAY 4-THE REASON FOR THE CROSS
Key Question 4
Read Ephesians 2:11-12 and describe in your own words your
prospects apart from the cross of Christ. (Without the cross,
how does God view your eternity?)
4a. Consider the familiar words of John 3:16. Before reading Experiencing the Cross, what would you have chosen as the one
word that represents the very core of what God is saying in this
verse? Why did you choose that word?
4b. Describe the daily reminders God has provided all around you to
help you understand the seriousness of sin. (See Genesis 3:16-19.)
According to Dr. Blackaby, "the reason we fall short of seeing eternity
as God sees it is that we fail to view sin as God views it."
4c. How serious does God know our sin to be? What was the magnitude
of the price it required? (See 1 Peter 1:18-19; Hebrews 9:27-28.)
DAY 5-GOD'S RADICAL TREATMENT OF SIN
Our English word radical comes from the Latinradix, "root." So when Dr. Blackaby says that God
planned "to deal radically with sin," he means that
God's plan was no mere Band-Aid. His remedy went to
the very source from which our individual sins arise.
So consider two scenarios:
Scenario 1: God implements a plan by which He
remedies each sin as you commit it, but leaves you
Scenario 2: God implements a plan by which He
addresses the very root of your sin nature, changing
you from the inside out.
Key Question 5
Why is it important to you that God chose the second of these scenarios?
(See Ezekiel 36:26-27; John 3:3; Ephesians 4:22-24.)
5a. Read Hebrews 10:12-17 and describe your eternal prospects after
the cross of the sinless Christ has been applied to your life. Under
the cross, how does God view your eternity?
CONCLUSION-EXPERIENCING THE CROSS
The seriousness of sin applies not only to your life before Christ, but
also to your life in Christ. In Experiencing the Cross, Dr. Blackaby
explains that God implemented His plan of spiritual rebirth "for My
holy name's sake, which you have profaned among the nations wherever
you went. And I will sanctify My great name, which has been
profaned among the nations, which you have profaned in their midst;
and the nations shall know that I am the Lord . when I am hallowed
in you before their eyes" (Ezekiel 36:22-23).
Key Question 6: Reflecting on the Cross
Take a few minutes and talk with your Father about your life as you
have been living it. You might pray something similar to Dr. Blackaby's
Use the following space to record thoughts that come to mind as
you pray with an open heart before Him.
6a. Take a few minutes more and ask Your Father that question:
"Why did Jesus have to die? Was there no other way?" Pray also,
"Lord, help me understand more deeply and personally that you
did this for me . that it was exactly what I needed."
Use the following space to record your thoughts as you converse
Key Question 7: Changed by the Cross
Choose one change you will make this week in your thinking, speech,
or behavior in order to reflect your gratitude for God's sacrifice on your
For Meditation and Memorization
In each lesson, we will suggest a key Scripture passage for you to think
about throughout the week. Write it on a card and carry it with you.
Take it out and read it at least twice each day, reflecting on its significance
in your life. This simple process is one way of practicing biblical
Allow the truth of the passage to sink deeply into your mind and
heart. After a few days, you'll probably find that you can remember the
specific words. But even if you can't, the essential significance of God's
Word will become more deeply embedded in your thinking.
You were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or
gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from
your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb
without blemish and without spot. (1 Peter 1:18-19)
For Further Study and Application
Each lesson in this book will conclude with a selection of additional
Scriptures that you may want to study to strengthen your understanding
and application of the Bible's teaching about the cross.
The necessity of the cross: Luke 24:25-26; Acts 4:12; 1 Corinthians
The seriousness of sin: Matthew 12:30; Ephesians 2:1-3; Colossians
The magnitude of Christ's sacrifice on the cross: Hebrews 7:26; John
The impact of the cross in our lives: Romans 5:8-10; Ephesians
THE DIVINE NECESSITY
OF THE CROSS
Was There No Other Way?
* * *
It is the gift of God.
When we recall the horror and frightful injustice of God's
pure and blameless Son being crucified, the question
often comes: Why? We want to know: Could there not have
been some other way? Was there no other way to save us from
If you haven't yet done so, I urge you to stand in the presence
of God and ask Him, "Why did Jesus have to die?" Then
linger in prayer until He gives you His answer.
Throughout the Scriptures, God makes clear the divine
necessity of the cross. It had to happen; it was God's purpose,
and there was no other way. If there had been, we can be
absolutely certain that God would have provided it.
That's why, in this world of so many religions, a Christian
declares unashamedly that Jesus Christ alone is the way and the
truth and the life, and that no one can come to the Father and
to eternal salvation except through Him. If the cross was God's
only way of providing human redemption, then Jesus Christ is
surely the only Savior there is for all mankind.
Eternity as God Views It
The reason we often fail to grasp the divine necessity of the
cross is that we don't view eternity as God views it. What does
God know about eternity that you and I often fail to realize?
Recall in your mind the familiar words of John 3:16. If you
could choose one word that represents the core-the very
heartbeat-of what God is saying here, which word would it
be? "Loved"? "Gave"? Perhaps "everlasting life"?
Actually, it's the word perish.
Think about that: "For God so loved the world that He
gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him
should not perish but have everlasting life." Death is at the very
foundation of that statement-eternal death-a destiny that's
inescapable by our own efforts.
In Ephesians 2:12, Paul tells us to remember something we
often forget: "You were without Christ . having no hope and
without God in the world." Humanly speaking, none of us has
any eternal hope of anything . except to perish.
Yet this inescapable fact brought a response from God's
heart, one that causes us to bow in wonder and awe as we truly
consider it: He so loved the world that He gave His only
Son . so we would not perish!
Something about that word perish made the cross eternally
necessary, requiring God to give up His Son, with no other
effective strategy being possible. That
word perish says something about
eternity that we don't usually take in.
And the reason we fall short of
seeing eternity as God sees it is that
we fail to view sin as God views it.
The Proof of Sin's Magnitude
How serious is sin?
Serious enough that to provide a way to deal with it, God
the Father ordained the death of His own beloved Son, a death
far more profound than physical death, as we'll study later. His
Son was "holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners"
(Hebrews 7:26, HCSB); His Son was "a lamb without blemish
and without spot" (1 Peter 1:19); "In Him was life, and the life
was the light of men" (John 1:4). But sin-your sin and
mine-necessitated this One's death.
Have you realized, therefore, how the cross reveals more of
the magnitude of sin than all the wars and atrocities and
human cruelties throughout recorded history?
God understands the seriousness of sin because all sin-every
sin-is a personal offense against our God and our
Creator. In that sense, there are no "little sins"; any and every
sin a person commits places that person in enmity with the
Not many people seriously think of themselves as God's
enemy. Even believers often resist this way of thinking. They'll
say with all sincerity about their past, "Well, I wasn't really goingagainst God; I just wasn't going with Him." But they're sincerely
wrong. God's perspective is all that matters, and He says in His
Word that we were His enemies (Colossians 1:21). Or as Jesus
put it, "He who is not with Me is against Me" (Matthew 12:30).
For the Sake of His Great Name
In Ezekiel 36, God is ready to announce to His people the new
covenant which will initiate our spiritual rebirth and renewal.
Speaking through the prophet, the Lord will tell the people of
God, "I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all
your idols." He will promise them, "I will give you a new heart
and put a new spirit within you I will put My Spirit within
you and cause you to walk in My statutes" (Ezekiel 36:25-27)
But first He tells His people something else. He lets them
know that what He's about to do, He is doing not for their sake,
"but for My holy name's sake, which you have profaned among the
nations wherever you went. And I will sanctify My great name,
which has been profaned among the nations" (vv. 22-23).
And how did God sanctify His great name among the
people of Israel? He sent them into captivity in Babylon and
destroyed Jerusalem and the temple. He did this to restore the
holiness of His name, because His people in their sin had profaned
His name among the nations. God severely chastened
His covenant people in full view of the nations. All the nations
could see what God did to His chosen ones, and all could see
and begin to understand that the God of Israel is a holy God.
That's how serious Israel's sin was in God's eyes.
Ezekiel 36 is a passage God has powerfully used in my own
heart and life, and I'm often disturbed by all that it implies.
When Christians today sin consistently, they affect how the
world understands God. In fact, they
profane His name by their sin. What
then should we expect God to do?
Doesn't the world today need to see
and know that God is holy? Wouldn't
God be entirely right and just, therefore,
to bring severe affliction upon
His people today, so the nations of the world can see His holiness
displayed through His discipline of His chosen ones?
Don't take this passage lightly. It devastates me to think
about it, and causes me to pray, "O God, is there anything in
my life, in word or deed, that misrepresents You to people who
watch or listen, causing them to take lightly who You are? Are
they kept from hearing You because of how I live or what I say?
If that's so, I ask You, Lord, to do in me what's necessary to
cause them to realize that You take sin seriously."
God's Radical Treatment of Sin
God knows full well-as we could never know-the appalling
destructiveness of sin. He knows what sin has done to us; He knows
how it hurts and impairs us. For every sin we've committed, He
understands the full harm done to ourselves and to others, as well
as the awful affront which it is to Him. In the cross, therefore, He
made complete and total provision for every aspect of what sin has
done or ever could do.
And as we'll see later, because of the totality of what God
did in the cross, absolutely nothing can now come into our
lives to make us less than what God wants us to be and to
become. In Christ and in the cross, God has already abundantly
provided us with everything we need to deal with
everything that confronts us.
This is true because God, through the death of His Son,
purposed to deal radically with sin-not just with our individual
sins (plural), but with the sin nature in human beings,
with the whole presence of sin (singular), which is the root
cause of all our individual sins.
Reminders All Around Us
of Sin's Seriousness
Failing to view sin seriously shows how little we understand
about the reality that surrounds us every day of our lives. God
has given us reminders of the seriousness of sin in the form of
His judgments against sin in Genesis 3, judgments that continue
to this day.
As a pastor for a church in Saskatchewan on the prairies in
the heart of Canada, I officiated at many funerals. When those
funerals occurred in the depths of winter, the graves had to be
dug in ground that was frozen several feet down, hard as a rock.
It made me think of the judgment the Lord God pronounced
upon Adam: "Cursed is the ground because of you" (Genesis
3:17, ESV). Ever since Adam's sin, God has cursed the ground
so that it's unyielding, or stays prone to yield the wrong
things-"thorns and thistles" (v. 18), and requires painful toil
to produce our food. If we take notice of this and think about
it, we may wonder why God continues to bring such a judgment.
Don't you suppose it's meant to serve as a constant
reminder of how serious sin is to the mind and heart of God?
Or think of His judgment upon Eve and on every mother
since then: "In pain you shall bring forth children" (v. 16).
When a mother today experiences the intensity of labor pains,
do we say, "Thank You, Lord God, for reminding us of the
reality of the seriousness of sin"?
In the graciousness of God,
every moment of experiencing His
continuing judgment provides us an
opportunity to remember how tragic
sin is, how it turns us into His enemies,
and how costly it is for God to
deal with it.
That's why it's incredibly good news that "when we were
enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His
Son" (Romans 5:10). Our sin against God, our enmity against
Him, required nothing less than the cross; and that ultimate
sacrifice is exactly what God provided!
Jesus Recognized This
Jesus Himself knew and accepted this divine necessity of the
cross. This is clear in His first mention of the cross in the
Gospels, in Matthew 16:21:
From that time Jesus began to show to His disciples that
He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things . and
be killed, and be raised the third day.
The Savior didn't hint that these things might happen, or
even predict that they would happen-but rather declared that
they must happen. There could be, there would be, no other way.
Jesus again emphasized this necessity in the very significant
teaching moments He had with His disciples after His death
He said to them, "O foolish ones, and slow of heart to
believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary
that the Christ should suffer these things and
enter into his glory?" (Luke 24:25-26, ESV)
To demonstrate this necessity to them, He went directly to
Scripture, to the Old Testament:
He said to them, "These are the words which I spoke to
you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled
which were written in the Law of Moses and the
Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me." And He
opened their understanding, that they might comprehend
the Scriptures. Then He said to them, "Thus it is written,
and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise
from the dead the third day." (Luke 24:44-46)
He was telling them, "All this had to take place-the
Scriptures themselves say so." Thus was it written, and thus was
Paul taught the same thing: "Christ died for our sinsaccording to the Scriptures" (1 Corinthians 15:3). The cross was
inevitable-planned by the Father from the beginning, and
plainly revealed to His people in His Word.
So whenever you come into God's presence and ask Him,
"Why did Jesus have to die? Was there no other way?"-let
Him show you from the Scriptures how the cross was necessary
for the redemption of the whole world. Then let Him apply
that truth to your heart. Let it sink in how it was all for
you . and exactly what you need.