Return to the Cross

I’m reading through the story of Abraham at the moment (helped by this book by Chuck Swindoll) and discovering all sorts of insights I never knew (a little aside: one of the things I love about Scripture is how there is so much depth and richness to it…that you can go on discovering new things…mining its riches. It’s not a book that you read once, put down, and think, “good story….I’m going to move on to something else now.” Scripture has an amazingly powerful draw, keeping us coming back for more and more).

Anyway, I want to share one thought that has really struck me…..

You might be familiar with God’s call to Abram, how Abram responds, and the progression of his journey. But just in case you’re not, let me recap some of the early parts of his story.

Abram is living in a place called Ur (somewhere in modern-day Iraq). He and his family are idol-worshippers. But one day, God breaks into his life…one day God speaks to him (there’s something in that about the types of people God calls to himself…let us never limit who God calls to himself).

Anyway, God essentially announces to Abram that He is going to work His plan to deal with sin and make all things right through Abram (God doesn’t quite put it like that, but that is, in essence, what God is declaring). As God declares some pretty amazing promises to Abram, He also calls Abram to trust Him and go where He is leading…to leave his homeland, his family, his roots, his livelihood, his comfort zone…and to step out in faith, trusting God, and follow His leading, to a new land.

Abram does. The writer of Hebrews uses Abrams’ response as an example of faith. Faith is not just believing God (head knowledge)…biblical faith is believing God and living in light of it (belief worked out in obedience).

Anyway, Abram goes….leaves Ur and begins his journey. They stop in a place called Harran (which isn’t part of God’s plan), before eventually continuing to follow God’s leading to the land of Canaan. And there in Canaan, Abram makes two altars – the first at a place called Shechem, and then the second at a place called Bethel (you can read all this in Genesis 12:1-8). These altars were a way of marking his continued journey…not just his physical journey…but also his spiritual one…marking his ongoing and growing trust in God. Each altar was a little statement if you like…declaring his ongoing trust in the God who had broken into his life.

But then, in Genesis 12:10-20, Abram’s journey takes a little detour. There’s a famine….and without asking God or seeking God’s face, Abram just ups sticks and takes his family to Egypt. There, he manipulates the truth, betrays his wife, and almost brings disaster upon himself and his family. But God is good and gracious to him and preserves Abram’s life, allowing him to return to Canaan.

And here’s the thing…here’s the thought that struck me….

As Abram returns to Canaan, maybe relieved that he’s still alive…maybe processing his sense of shame and failure….maybe disappointed in how he has let down his God…do you know where he goes?

He goes to Bethel.

The last place where he had built an altar.

The last place where he had felt close to God.

The last place he had worshipped.

The last place where he had done something significant to mark his trust in God.

And in Genesis 13:4 we read: “There Abram called on the name of the Lord.”

I love that.

Abram goes back to the last place he had felt right with God. Abram returns to a place that meant something to him…that signified something in his journey with God.

And there he calls to God.

There’s something in this for us….

What do we do when we mess up? When we walk through a time of shame and guilt? When we feel disappointment at perhaps having let God down? As we come to a realisation of our sin?

What do we do?

We don’t return to a place. Well, not a literal place anyway. But we return to the Cross. We return to Jesus. We return to the place where we know we can receive forgiveness and mercy, love and grace.

It’s that simple folks.

No beating ourselves up.

No convincing God that we’re good enough again.

No penance.

No grovelling.

Just a return to the Cross, and a fresh receiving of His life given for us…given for you and given for me.

I don’t know where you’re at right now in your journey with God? Whether you’re struggling or wallowing with guilt and a sense of failure. Maybe you feel you’ve let God down one too many times?

Well, don’t despair.

But go to the Cross.

And kneel.

And receive His mercy. His grace.

And pick yourself up.

And start your journey again.

And next time you mess up?

Do it again.

And again.

And again.

The Cross is the place where you’ll always be met with open arms.


Simon Lang