ON A HILL FAR AWAY

By Arch Hoercher

There is a hymn that has been around for a very long time, “The Old Rugged Cross”.  It is a hymn that is not sung much in churches anymore.  I can remember when Tennessee Ernie Ford made the song popular worldwide.  But I would guess many people, even Christians, may have never heard the song.  Today, may God bless him, Brad Paisley has recorded the song.  Why do I mention this old hymn?  I mention it because the central message of the song is the central message of the gospel, the cross of Christ.

The Easter season is upon us with Easter egg hunts, Easter dinners and buffets, Easter dresses and Easter hats.  But Easter, which represents the resurrection of Jesus Christ, would not exist if the Cross of Christ did not exist.  The message of the cross is not a message just for the Easter season, but a message that is vital to the Christian faith that should be in the mind of every Christian every day of the year.

The character of God is revealed in the cross.  Not only His perfect love for ALL sinners – but His perfect justice as well.  The “wages of sin is death”.  Those “wages” were paid in full by the blood and horrible death of our Savior Jesus Christ on the cross of Calvary.  The Lamb of God, the sinless life of Jesus Christ, was sacrificed on the cross of Calvary for every man’s sin.  Not just one or two sins, but all the sins of all men in the world – both past, present, and future.

As Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 1:23; “We preach Christ crucified.”  This was the central message of Paul and should be the central message of all Christian churches.  It is central to the gospel.  There are many today, as in Paul’s time, who believe that the cross of Christ is foolishness and sheer lunacy.  Many think that the picture painted by Jesus’ death on the cross is repugnant and violates their delicate sensibilities.  Many accept Christ’s character, but not His crucifixion.  Many cults and false doctrines arise from this aversion to the cross of Christ.  Satan hates the cross because it sealed his doom.  Satan would like nothing better than turn as many people as he can from the reality of the cross.

Many will say that the cross does nothing to help me with my problems in my marriage or raising my kids or paying my bills or any other personal problem.  But in reality, if we grow in the understanding and appreciation of the cross of Christ and what it has done for us we will grow in God’s love.  If we want to grow in Godliness, we must grow in the understanding of the significance of the cross which confronts the most insidious of sins, pride.  The cross is a place where all the wounds of sin are healed.

We gaze at a world today which in all its wisdom is still confused and frustrated.  There is an answer, but much of the world will never see or understand it.  1 Corinthians 1:20-21 (NIV) – “Where is the wise man?  Where is the scholar?  Where is the philosopher of this age?  Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?  For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know Him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe.”  And what is the message of “those who believe”; “we preach Christ crucified.” 

Billy Graham wrote, “The people of Corinth were blind to Christ crucified and what it meant.  To them, His death in this manner was foolishness.  The Greek word here moria, which literally means ‘idiocy.’  Out of this Greek word comes the word moron.  This is how the Corinthians evaluated the crucifixion of Christ.”  And that is no different than today, many non-believers think that those who believe in this nonsense are morons.  The crucifixion of Christ is difficult to believe for those who are proud and boastful and believe that they are the source of the wisdom of the world.  How different it is for those who believe “Christ crucified” in simple faith.  And in simple faith, believers receive the power and wisdom of God through the cross of Christ.

Billy Graham once told this story. “It was my privilege to be the guest of a secretary general at the United Nations in New York.  He took me to the little room that has been designated a ‘prayer room’ at the United Nations building.  I went into the semidarkness.  There was something missing.  Immediately I recognized that there was no cross in that room.  Here was religion without a cross… a testimony that the nations of the world are deeply religious but have not yet come to the point where they are willing to accept Christ and Him crucified.  Thus, the people of the world stumble on blindly toward eventual judgment and destruction, not realizing that they are rejecting Christ and Him crucified, which is the only hope for salvation.”

Our only hope for salvation is “Christ and Him crucified.”  So now I will go back to that old hymn.  “On a hill far away, stood an old rugged cross the emblem of suffering and shame and I love that old cross where the dearest and best for a world of lost sinners was slain.  Oh, that old rugged cross so despised by the world has a wondrous attraction for me for the dear Lamb of God, left His glory above to bear it to dark Calvary.  In the old rugged cross, stained with blood so divine a wondrous beauty I see for the dear Lamb of God, left His glory above to pardon ME.  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.”

So we should “cling” to that old rugged cross.  It is because of that cross that salvation and a relationship with God is given to me.  It is by God’s grace alone that I can partake of this gift.  There is no work that I can perform to acquire this gift.  There is no amount of the wisdom of the world which will earn it for me.  It is a pure gift of God’s love paid for by the Lamb of God’s sacrifice on the cross.  I might seem foolish to the world, but I will be a “moron” for Christ Jesus and Him crucified.  And never forget what happened “On a hill far away”.