“May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Galatians 6:14).
On the cover of John Piper’s book “Don’t Waste Your Life” there’s a picture of Jesus hanging on the cross. A first century person would have been incredulous about placing a picture of a cross on anything. There was no greater symbol of death and utter humiliation than to hang helplessly on a cross! Being hung on a cross would have been considered a waste of life.
The cross was originally invented to be an instrument of torture and death reserved for traitors and violent criminals. But no symbol in the history of mankind has been more transformed than the cross. The cross can be found everywhere in the world whether as art, jewelry or architecture.
Something happened when the Romans hung Jesus on a cross that not only transformed the way people understood the cross, but changed the entire course of human history. How could this be?
Philip Graham Ryken suggested that, “The cross should have been an embarrassment to the early church. What would people think when they discovered that the founder of Christianity had been executed like a low-life criminal? But instead of denying this, or covering it up, Christians advertised it. The very thing that most people considered too obscene to whisper in polite company, Christians were broadcasting in the streets.”
It’s so like God to choose an incredulous and completely unexpected way to humble the prideful pretensions of humans! The cross! Incredible! Amazing! Confounding! Humbling! Transforming! Inspiring! Comforting! Convicting! Empowering! All this and more!
John Piper titled the third chapter of his book, “Boasting Only in the Cross, the Blazing Center of the Glory of God.” He wrote, “Life is wasted—if we do not grasp the glory of the cross, cherish it for the treasure that it is, and cleave to it as the highest price of every pleasure and the deepest comfort in every pain.”
In 1825, John Bowring penned the words of a great hymn expressing the same theme.
“In the cross of Christ I glory, Tow’ring o’er the wrecks of time. All the light of sacred story Gathers round its head sublime.
When the woes of life o’er take me, Hopes deceive and fears annoy, Never shall the cross forsake me. Lo! It glows with peace and joy.
When the sun of bliss is beaming, Light and love upon my way, From the cross, the radiance streaming Adds more luster to the day.
Bane and blessing, pain and pleasure, By the cross are sanctified. Peace is there that knows no measure, Joys that through all time abide.”
What did Dr. Piper say? “Life is wasted if we do not grasp the glory of the cross.”
Listen to the way he explained it.
“The opposite of wasting your life is living life by a single God-exalting, soul-satisfying passion. The well-lived life must be God-exalting and soul-satisfying because that is why God created us (Isaiah 43:7; Psalm 90:14). That was the burden of Chapter 2. And “passion” is the right word (or, if you prefer, zeal, fervor, ardor, blood-earnestness) because God commands us to love him with all our heart (Matthew 22:37), and Jesus reminds us that he spits lukewarm people out of his mouth (Revelation 3:16).”
“The people that make a durable difference in the world are not the people who have mastered many things, but who have been mastered by one great thing. If you want your life to count, if you want the ripple effect of the pebbles you drop to become waves that reach the ends of the earth and roll on into eternity, you don’t need to have a high IQ. You don’t have to have good looks or riches or come from a fine family or a fine school.”
“Instead you have to know a few great, majestic, unchanging, obvious, simple, glorious things—or one great all-embracing thing—and be set on fire by them. I will tell you what a tragedy is. I will show you how to waste your life. Consider a story from the February 1998 edition of Reader’s Digest, which tells about a couple who “took early retirement from their jobs in the Northeast five years ago when he was 59 and she was 51. Now they live in… Florida, where they cruise on their 30 foot trawler, play softball and collect shells.”
“At first, when I read it I thought it might be a joke. A spoof on the American Dream. But it wasn’t. Tragically, this was the dream: Come to the end of your life—your one and only precious, God-given life—and let the last great work of your life, before you give an account to your Creator, be this: playing softball and collecting shells. Picture them before Christ at the great day of judgment: “Look, Lord. See my shells.” That is a tragedy. And people today are spending billions of dollars to persuade you to embrace that tragic dream. Over against that, I put my protest: Don’t buy it. Don’t waste your life.”