By Luke Holmes
We all know the old saying “looks can be deceiving.” This adage is proved everywhere, perhaps nowhere more often than in nature.
Butterfly wings often have eye-like patterns to help ward off predators. Similar patterns can also be seen in amphibians and birds. But up till now they had never been used by mammals.
Conservation Biologist Neil Jordan came up with the idea to paint eyes on the rears of cows to discourage predatory behavior among farmers in Botswana. A four-year study found that the painted cattle rumps had a significantly higher survival rate the than cows without them.
Looks can also be deceiving in the Christian life. The Bible is full of examples of people who judged too quickly, from Eli and Hannah to the story of Samuel and young David.
The Bible makes the point quite clearly that we can’t always trust our eyes when the Lord tells Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or physical stature, because I have refused him. For the Lord does see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”
Only God has the power to judge the thoughts and intentions of man’s heart. But the heart of God is easy for everyone to see as it is displayed through the cross. This truth is made very plain through Isaac Watts’ classic hymn “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross.”
One of the most important words is the third one: “survey.” It’s clear as the song continues that Watts has done more than think briefly about the cross. He took a long look at the cross of Jesus and saw the heart of God.
The word survey implies that Watts has looked at it carefully and given it deep consideration. He knew that a “survey” of the cross would counter deception. This beautiful hymn is proof that Watts deeply loved the cross, and that he would never forget it.
As ministry leaders we know the cross of Christ is at the center of what we do. Unlike Watts though, we often only glance at the cross instead of looking at it intently because so many other things fill our minds. The worries of the day loom large and seem to take up our whole vision.
In the same way, the guilt of our past and regret of ministry failures can obscure our vision as we try to survey the cross. Tragedies and sorrows also take our focus off the cross. But every Christian will benefit from a long and deep look at the cross.
Four things happen when we learn to survey the cross fully.
1. See the value of the cross.
We cannot think for long about the cross without realizing what it cost. Christ gave his life on the cross in order to purchase our redemption and bring us back into a right relationship with God.
When we see its value, it should become more precious and valuable to us. We should never take something that cost Christ His life for granted.
2. See the immensity of the cross.
The coming of Christ literally divides human history. Every book in the Old testament looks forward to the cross and every Christian since then looks back on it.
Jesus conquered death and hell itself. What chance do any of our problems stand in light of the cross? We can be sure that no matter how big our problems are, the cross is bigger still.
3. See the depth of our sins.
When we start to think too much of ourselves or get consumed by our own lives and ministries, a long look at the cross reminds us that we’re sinners in need of redemption.
It’s tempting to compare ourselves to others and think we aren’t that bad. But Scripture makes it clear that Jesus died on the cross for us. Without the shedding of Christ’s blood there would be no redemption of our sins.
4. See the love of the cross.
Who would willingly endure something like that for someone they didn’t love? A long look at the cross reminds us that we are deeply loved. Christ’s love for us was so great that He gave His life on our behalf.
Whatever is on your schedule today, don’t be in a hurry; take time to look at and survey the wonderful cross of Christ. When we take a long look at the cross then we realize that the cross is far more wondrous than we could ever imagine.
LUKE HOLMES (@lukeholmes) is husband to Sara, father to three young girls, and pastor at First Baptist Church Tishomingo, Oklahoma, since 2011. He’s a graduate of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and can be found online at LukeAHolmes.com.