“Woe is Me!” Before “Hallelujah!”

Could preaching the cross of Christ ever be sinful? YES. What? I say this because you cannot understand the power, weight, and significance of the cross of Christ unless it is set against our own inability to come back to God on our own. Against that backdrop, the cross stands forth as it ought to, glorious! John Stott once said:

It must even be said that our evangelical emphasis on the atonement is dangerous if we come to it too quickly. We learn to appreciate the access to God which Christ has won for us only after we have first seen God’s inaccessibility to sinners. We can cry ‘Hallelujah’ with authenticity only after we have first cried ‘Woe is me, for I am lost’….Until I understand that I am a sinner, that God really hates me for it, and that I really am going to the place where the fire burns without being extinguished and the worm does not die, I can’t begin understand the love he showed me when his Son died in my place for my sins, bearing the full weight of his Father’s wrath against me.

What does this mean? Gordon Cheng says:

Preach the cross as much as you like. But it is just a piece of stupidity in a distant historical context unless we understand why it is there. It’s as ridiculous as taking a pill the doctor offers, without understanding that I’m sick—no, really sick.

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