I could not go on without the cross. Why? Because periodically I discover surprising sinfulness in me that I did not know anything about. Without the cross to cover all that, I would despair because I am sure that in the folds of my heart there remains unknown corruption.
For example, on a Monday afternoon about two months ago I considered making a crucial visit to one of our members. It would be a hard visit, but I knew that I should probably do it. I had to write a lecture the next day (Tuesday), and so I put off making the appointment to another day.
Before I left the church that Monday, Kurt Swanson gave me a new copy of Microsoft Word 4.0. This is the word processor I use when I write sermons and Star articles. I was really excited to see what this new version of Word could do.
The next morning I got up, ate, spent some time in the Scriptures and could hardly wait to experiment with Microsoft Word 4.0. As I was about to set it up, something hit me: If I “have to” write a lecture today, why am I about to take two hours to install and play with this new program? There is absolutely no pressure to install it today.
Why was the pressure of lecture preparation an infallible reason for not making that tough visit today, but was no reason at all for not playing with the new computer program?
The answer was too plain—painfully plain. I put the visit off because I didn’t feel like making it. But Microsoft Word was like a new toy and I really wanted to play with it. My mind was able to support my desire not to visit by supplying the necessary “reason.” No time on Tuesday. Lecture preparation.
But as soon as there was a special chance to play computer on Tuesday my mind was quite ready to withdraw the reason. But by the grace of God, I saw what was happening.
What a wretch, I thought to myself. What a fickle wretch! Is that how my mind works—simply passing out rational permission slips for what I already want to do? How many times has this happened before?
This time the Lord opened my eyes to my irrational self-justifying effort to sanction what I already felt like doing. I repented, set aside Microsoft Word, and called the church member to ask if I could come over.
I thank God for that moment of victory over the exceedingly deceptive power of sin. But I do not kid myself. The remaining corruption that twists the mind to justify our desires on the basis of ostensible principle is deep and elusive in my soul. I hate it.
And when, by the grace of God, I see its effects, I kiss the cross and kill my flesh. What would I do without the grand assurance: “Christ died for the ungodly ... We are now justified by his blood” (Romans 5:6,9)? O cross of Christ, my liberty and power! In Thee I face this day anew, a sinner justified and free!