I love southern gospel and I love old church hymns. Generally I find that the old hymns in particular can really put my heart and mind in the right frame for worship. While much of today’s Christian pop music tends to focus on the me side of our relationship with God, and feel-good feelings; it can lack God-centered praise and worship. Now don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of wonderful, praise-filled, God-honoring modern songs. But there really are so many that focus on the feelings, and that can be a dangerous thing. Faith in God is not about having that mountain-high-feel-good feeling all of the time. Just like being in love does not mean feeling all ooey gooey inside every day for 60 years. That kind of love goes deeper than week knees and pitter pattering hearts, just like mature faith goes beyond the mountain high to the low valleys and every where in between. Mature faith causes a Christian to praise and worship through the tears, in spite of pain that is not understood. 

Mature faith is the kind of faith that gave us the hymn It is Well With My Soul by Horatio Spafford, written after all four of his daughters died in a shipwreck. 

While listening to my favorite gospel album I was struck by the words of a church favorite. I sang it often as a child. It was my brother’s favorite when he was a young boy. If you grew up watching pioneer or cowboy and western era television programs, you may have heard it coming from a small country church. The Old Rugged Cross. Look closely at the words of the last verse and chorus:  

To the old rugged Cross, I will ever be true 

Its shame and reproach gladly bear

Then He’ll call me some day to my home far away

Where his glory forever I’ll share

So I’ll cherish the old rugged Cross

Till my trophies at last I lay down

I will cling to the old rugged Cross

And exchange it some day for a crown.

To the old rugged cross I will ever be true. I will cherish the old rugged cross. I will cling to the old rugged cross.  You shall not make for yourself a carved imageā€”any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God. 

Something tells me I should not be true to the cross, but to the One who died on it. I should cherish and cling to Yeshua (Jesus’ given name before He was born) and what He did for me on the cross, but not the cross itself. The cross was simply wood, created by the One who hung on it. The cross did nothing but stand there, inanimate unfeeling, incapable of doing anything. I do not owe my loyalty, love or praise to a piece of wood. I owe it ALL to Yeshua, who sacrificed Himself for me, using that cross to do it.

You may think I am nitpicking. Consider the modern day cross. We wear it on a chain around our necks; have statues of it in our homes and churches; print it on clothing, purses, checkbooks, and even tattoo it on our skin. When you sing in church, do you find your eyes resting on the cross hanging on the wall of the sanctuary, or perhaps you finger the cross on a chain.

There is an ad floating around social media now. A company selling ergonomically correct crosses, painted with designs to please the visual palette. The purpose? To make it easy and comfortable for you to hold in your hand and find peace. Please tell me you see where this is a problem. 

We are a people who trivially use the tool our Savior used to save us to become the focus of worship and the source of our salvation. This is why God commanded the Israelites to make no carved, or otherwise, image of anything from the earth. He knew our foolish tendencies. Did you know that God told the Israelites that if they built an alter to sacrifice on, they must not use cut stone, but raw and untouched. Why? For the exact same reason. And yet here we are. We have removed Yeshua from the cross and made it our idol. The cross, empty and standing where is was put by human hands, is worth nothing. 

Over the next few weeks, as we approach Good Friday, I urge you to prayerfully consider the place of the cross in your worship. We must glorify Yeshua who bore the cross, not the cross that bore Yeshua.