Have you ever imagined how you might react if your teenage daughter came home and exclaimed, “I got my ears pierced today so I could wear my new earrings.” Then, pulling back her hair, she might ask, “Do you like ’em?” You take a look and are dumbstruck because hanging from her earlobes are two tiny replicas in solid gold of an electric chair! Imagine!

Suppose the same daughter came home, pulled back her hair and showed you two tiny gold crosses. Now, that’s a different story, isn’t it? It’s funny what God can do with a detestable instrument of punishment and torture. He took that rough Roman cross and turned it into the world’s ultimate plus sign! Today it is part of the jewelry collection of every well-dressed woman and more than a few men.

It’s funny the way God has with doing such things. Here’s another one: Have you ever thought the message we preach is really dumb dynamite? That is exactly what Paul called it when he wrote to the erudite Corinthians. “The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Cor. 1:18).

Our message has as its central theme the cross of Jesus Christ, and when people hear it preached in Holy Spirit power, it produces opposite reactions. Unbelievers call it silly, foolish, dumb! Paul used the Greek mohria, meaning “pure stupidity!” Against that pure stupidity, Paul went on, there is yet another reaction, which he described as power. Look closely at the Greek, and you realize this is not just any power. This power is dunamis, that ancient Greek word from which we derive our English words dynamic and dynamite.

God has taken old Rome’s most despised instrument of torture and turned it into something precious. For the age in which the first generation of preachers served, the cross was a horrible symbol, one that made most people shudder. It was an instrument of shame. The writer of Hebrews reminds us that “For the joy set before Him Jesus endured” that shameful instrument, the wickedest instrument Rome’s cruel leaders could imagine. “Scorning its shame,” He “sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (see Heb. 12:2).

On a recent teaching trip to Novi Sad, Serbia, I spotted a church steeple with a spire that bore—on one axis—a Christian cross and Islamic star and crescent moon. I was so stunned that I took a picture of it right then and there. Wouldn’t it be an amazing thing to visit a major American city and see an electric chair atop a church steeple! You say, “That makes no sense! Those two symbols do not belong together!”

That is exactly my point: The Christian cross is notable not only because the Son of God died on it and paid the penalty that was our just due, but because God turned that fundamental instrument of conflict into something beautiful in which we find our glory. What an amazing God we serve! What an amazing Savior we are called to preach!

Every time we confront people with the cross and its roots and meaning, they are unable to escape the fact that either they are committed to a life of foolish lostness or a life of dynamic power. It’s a stark contrast—more so than that of a crescent star and Calvary cross on the same church steeple axis. This is what Paul meant when he pointed to the judgment the cross makes on every human life.

When we preach that the finest Man who ever lived took our place on the cross, we’re going to see one of two reactions: either arrogant scorn or grateful humility. That is why we must preach it clearly every time we stand to speak. It is why Charles Haddon Spurgeon told his students, “When you mount your pulpit and read your text, jump across the ditches, climb over the hedges, run through the wheat fields until you bring your hearers face-to-face with the cross of the Savior!”

It’s still good advice: Dumb dynamite or not, it’s the only message worth preaching!

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