ExhortationsThe Message - Sermon

The Cross

Cross – is a Symbol of Christianity.

We have learned from the ancient history of the Roman Empire that they hung on the cross the slaves who ran away from their masters; the convicted criminals including the rebels against the empire carry their crosses to the place where they will be crucified. The Cross is a symbol of the Roman atrocities and why Christians made it a symbol is beyond my knowledge.

If we will not be careful how we treat the image of the cross, we may fall under the sin of idolatry. Like for example; making signs of the cross, kissing a cross pendant, the rosary, and we even have all kinds of pieces of jewelry with crosses. If these are only to have an identity as Christians then it could be considered a decoration and not a representation of God.  We honor the Son for his victory in defeating death. We believe that he is sitting at the right hand of the Father. The Christian symbols or manmade images sometimes take away the focus of the rightful way of worship.

Many symbols of Christianity came into existence before the cross like;  the Good Shepherd, Dove, Anchor, Shamrock, Lily crucifix, Ichthys, and many more and they are usually carved either wood or stone. A manmade image must not be worshipped according to the scripture. “Thou shalt not make to thyself a graven thing, nor the likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or the earth beneath, nor of those things that are in the waters …” Exodus 20:4; Matthew 4:10, Luke 4:8

The cross without the image is interpreted that Jesus is already raised.  Most Christian institutional churches have their display of wooden crosses, some are gold and some are dark brown and some even painted it black and it depends on how the leadership feels more comfortable. I experienced one time that I painted the cross black and one of the elders wanted it to change to a gold color, so I did,p.  I was not a Bishop then until I found out that she fears black paints. The Catholics maintained Jesus on the cross and others don’t have an image at all just an altar which is a symbol for offerings.

Take your cross or carry your crosses.  These are dealing with burdens and problems, trials and challenges, and the ups and downs of life. Why will you need a cross if it will only give you so much pain and suffering? To avoid the fear this would bring, we can just walk away and choose not to be Christian. If someone feels this way then your vulnerability to be deceived to false doctrine will be easy.

These are a misinterpretation of what Jesus said in Matthew 16:24—let’s begin with what Jesus didn’t mean. “Take up your cross and follow me.” During the time of Jesus, people are burdened with the cruelty of the Romans; they have a special treatment to only Roman citizens. Cross those days meant the most painful and humiliating death and burden that they face when the miscarriage of justice takes place, like what they did to Jesus. They thought Jesus was a menace to the empire and accused him wrongfully which led to the cross.

As generations passed by thousands of years later, Christian’s perception of the cross serves as a symbol of saving grace, a gift of salvation, and unconditional love. The teachings of forgiveness must outweigh more than the offense or sin against you. After many years after the cross, people started taking tiny and small pieces of the wooden cross that was used to crucify Jesus. People keep the piece for themselves and some make it a business and sold it. Maybe this idea of the cross begins and from then on it is more commercialized. The cross represented nothing at that time but death to convicted criminals. Carry the cross along the way and death at the end of their journey.

“Take up your cross and follow Me” Matthew 16:24-26

“Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?”

Strengthening the faith and lifting hopes that anything can be achieved with the help of the Holy Spirit because there is nothing impossible that cannot be possible when God is involved. We are the over-comers and not the underachievers. We have to stay to the truth and let go of the fear. Whatever you receive from the Holy Spirit is good and it is from God and the good news is yours to keep, so use it for His glory. “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.”—John 16:13

You may have many crosses with different looks and adorn yourself with them, but when you don’t have God with you what good does it gives you. Prophet Jeremiah said, Thus says the Lord: “Learn not the way of the nations, nor be dismayed at the signs of the heavens because the nations are dismayed at them, for the customs of the peoples are vanity… Their idols are like scarecrows in a cucumber field… Do not be afraid of them, for they cannot do evil, neither is it in them to do good.”— 10:1-5 ESV.

Jesus said in Mark 7:13-“Thus you nullify the word of God by the tradition you have handed down. And you do so in many such matters.”  … Matthew 15:9. “But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.”

Make your dreams to be an inspiration and ignore the distractions when you fail. Patience is a virtue and our faith to move on and succeed is much bigger than failure. Just remember to ask yourself “Why do we have to break the commandment of God for the sake of our tradition that was passed unto us without a clear explanation?

God is all in all.

Bishop Joseph

Dr. Joseph Vitug, Ph.D. - Bishop Emeritus

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