Without the cross

Tonight is the Good Friday service at my church, probably my favorite church event of the year. Although I love Christmas music (and our annual Christmas Celebration is always spectacular), the Good Friday service speaks to me in a unique and powerful way.

While the music tonight will range from subdued to soaring, the atmosphere of the service will remain somber. As the audience enters the sanctuary, a message on the large screens flanking the stage will ask that there be no talking for the rest of the evening until everyone has left the building and is back in their cars. In his welcome and opening announcements the pastor will ask that, even though some of the music will crescendo to an exciting climax, there be no applause.

The lights on stage will be dim except for a light on the huge, stark cross erected center stage for Easter weekend. Everyone involved in the presentation – singers, players, technicians – will be dressed in black: long sleeves, collars buttoned up to the neck, pants or floor-length skirts. All attention will be on the cross and nothing else.

We will perform beautiful, haunting – sometimes stirring – arrangements of classic hymns and songs like “Near the Cross,” “Were You There?” and “O Sacred Head Now Wounded.” In between songs, a deep voice will recite key passages from the Bible detailing events that occurred the day of Jesus’ death on the cross. The pastor will deliver a message that is powerful in the truth it tells about the full measure of what Jesus did for all of mankind almost 2000 years ago.

I will be sitting at the piano playing music that is a pianist’s dream – piano scores with a classical feel that are more challenging than the hymns and praise choruses we typically sing on Sunday morning. Although I will certainly be caught up in the beauty and artistry involved, I will also be reflecting on exactly what the service means to me tonight that it wouldn’t have meant to me three years ago.

Three years ago I was not even a churchgoer, much less a Christian. A torrent of hurt and loss in the weeks and months prior had filled my life with such grief and stress that I ended up in the emergency room with an anxiety attack so severe I was afraid it was something much worse. I felt so alone and lonely I considered packing up my broken life here and moving back to my childhood home just to be near family who I knew cared about me. I even wasted time in therapy searching for answers and relief that never came…

…at least until God began piecing together a string of seemingly disparate events that gently (sometimes not so gently) drove me to the realization that there was only one answer; an answer that didn’t depend on any of the empty pleasures I was medicating my life with.

That answer was the cross the choir will be singing about tonight.

If you are not a follower of Jesus, maybe you aren’t aware of the implications His death had for us – any of us, all of us. Because of our sin nature inherited from Adam after his rebellion in the Garden of Eden, we owe a tremendous debt to our Creator. None of us is good enough to satisfy that debt on our own; none of us is good enough to have that payment ignored.

Jesus was good enough, though. By giving His life willingly in our place, He satisfied that debt for us; by giving His life He offered us the chance to have that payment ignored.

Although the substitution of His life for ours through His death could have taken place through any number of methods of execution, a common method of dealing with criminals in His day was death by hanging on a cross. As a result, He was nailed to a wooden cross and left to hang there, slowly and excruciatingly bleeding out and suffocating to death.

That’s why Christians sing songs about the cross. Without it our future would still be hopeless; our lives empty, with no promise of eternal life with God.

One of the songs we will perform tonight is called “Without the Cross” by Rebecca Peck and Jeffrey Ferguson. In addition to concentrating on what I’m playing, I will also be reflecting on what my life would be like if I had continued on in the condition I was in three years ago. Even though it’s only been two-and-a-half years since I became a follower of Jesus, I can no longer imagine my life without the cross.

  • Without the cross I would have never become an integral part of a body of believers – believers who have become my adopted family while my biological family is so far away; believers who’ve given me the opportunity to discover the joy of giving and serving.
  • Without the cross I would have never had the chance to use the gifts and talents God has given me – talents I joyfully give back to Him in service at every opportunity.
  • Without the cross I wouldn’t have an army of Godly men and women in my life – men and women who have taught me to pray in public, to study God’s word, to listen to the Holy Spirit, and to devote heart, mind, soul, and strength to my relationship with my Heavenly Father.
  • Without the cross I wouldn’t have a cherished fellowship with a few select Christian men; men who have brought me tremendous strength and accountability; men who have taught me to enjoy basketball, loaned me books, and laughed at my jokes – men who I call brothers.

But even more than the previously unimaginable life God has given me and the people to share it with, as the choir sings the chorus to “Without the Cross” tonight I will be thanking God that the lyrics are more than just words:

Without the cross I would not know

redeeming love that floods my soul.

Without the blood where would I be?

Do you know where I would be? The same place any of us would be…

I would be lost without the cross.

11 thoughts on “Without the cross

  1. I just left our Good Friday service, and I honestly thought of you about five times during it. So so thankful that now, you get it. Isn’t it amazing how blindingly, achingly clear it is once He allows your eyes and ears to be opened. I wept during ours, and I know you will tonight. (Try to keep your eyes clear enough to play!) I love you!

    • Tam —

      The choir and orchestra always have devotional time together before the service starts, so I was trying to “dry up” before we even got out on stage. Amazing service; even more amazing Savior…

      BTW, I’m glad I get it now, too, and will get to share it with you forever.

      Love you, dear friend.

  2. Thank you or sharing this. It would be cool if you could film that presentation and post it on here, so we too, could experience what you all will. Keep doing what your doing brother. God bless you!

    • Hey, bro —

      Good Friday is one of the few services we don’t record and post online, but trust me when I tell you you would have loved it. Powerful…

      Much love and blessings, brother…

      • I can imagine. I, unfortunately didn’t get to attend ANY Good Friday services, due to having to work. But praise God I will be off Sunday. I always admired your piano skills at P.V.B.C., so I know you’ve only built upon that talent. Good to know that you’re using it for the One who blessed you with it. Love you brother.

  3. Dusty, What a powerful confession of faith! I am looking forward to worshipping our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ tonight at our Good Friday Service…this is a wonderful description of what others can expect 🙂

  4. Nothing touches the love story of Christ and how he touches individuals. Lea and her husband and boys have ALL accepted Jesus as their savior within the last 2 years. Every chance she gets she thanks us for never giving up on her and loving her regardless. Sounds familiar? I rejoice that my family and you sweet Dusty are part of my eternal family. Praise and thank our father. Much love

    • It blesses my heart to hear about Lea and her family! Now you know how my mother felt when I called her the morning of June 17, 2010. God’s grace still amazes me, now more than yesterday and tomorrow, no doubt, more than today.

      By the way, I thank you for never giving up on me as well…

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