This is one of the many great benefits of the cross. It centers you. It makes you whole and keeps you whole by uniting your fragmented heart.
This benefit has been described well by Horatius Bonar in his book, God’s Way of Holiness. First published in 1864 in Scotland, God’s Way of Holiness is one of the great classics on sanctification, from a period in history that produced many such classics.
I want to share with you my favorite quote from the book. In fact, I’m going to share it twice. First, I will share the whole quote all at once. Then we will look at it line by line.
Here is the whole quote:
The cross makes us whole; not all at once indeed, but it does the work effectually. Before we reached it we were not “whole,” but broken and scattered, nay, without a center toward which to gravitate. The cross forms that center and, in doing so, it draws together the disordered fragments of our being; it “unites our heart” (Psa 86:11), producing a wholeness or unity which no object of less powerful attractiveness could accomplish. It is a wholeness or unity which, beginning with the individual, reproduces itself on a larger scale, but with the same center of gravitation, in the church of God.
The cross gives us integrity. That is, it gives us spiritual integrity, the kind that begins deep within us.
Perhaps, when we think of integrity, we think of outward behavior. The cross produces that, too. But it doesn’t begin there. It begins its work deep within us, and works its way out.
The cross unites our actions with our deepest desires and intentions. It unites our conscious and sub-conscious mind. The result is true, spiritual integrity.
This is not an integrity imposed from without, even with our consent, but an integrity birthed from within. In fact, it is rooted so deep within, that you are not immediately aware of the extent of your renewal. It is only as the it works itself out that you realize the depths of the healing power of the cross.
But this out-working takes time. Bonar warns us not to expect an overnight miracle:
The cross makes us whole; not all at once indeed, but it does the work effectually.
Our souls need healing as well as forgiveness. The forgiven soul needs to be healed of the wounds that have shattered it.
The cross provides this healing. And it also gives us a center of gravity:
Before we reached it we were not “whole,” but broken and scattered, nay, without a center toward which to gravitate.
This new center of gravity is a great gift. It’s the kind you didn’t know you needed until you received it. And once you receive it, it goes to work and never stops. Even when you are not thinking about it, it’s there, centering you.
Bonar quoted Psalm 86:11, which says, “Teach me Your way, O LORD; I will walk in Your truth; Unite my heart to fear Your name.”
This is what you lacked before you encountered the cross. It is what we all lacked: singleness of heart. Apart from Christ, there isn’t one thing and one thing only that can keep our focus. There are many things that compete for our heart, pulling it in various directions.
People may think they are driven by one strong desire, but they are eventually proven wrong. Often what they think is one desire is really a point at which many desires converge. The closer they get to the goal, the clearer this becomes. Also, the closer they get to the goal, the more these various desires diverge from one another.
There simply isn’t anything else with the attractiveness of the cross.
That statement might seem a bit odd at first. Let me say it again: There simply isn’t anything else with the attractiveness of the cross.
Is “attractiveness” really the right word to use when speaking of the cross? The cross, after all, is known in the world for its ugliness. At least, the true cross of Christ is.
But “attractiveness” is the word Bonar used. And I think he was right, but I don’t think he was referring to human standards of beauty. He was referring, rather, to the hidden power of the cross.
Hidden in the cross is the power to attract us. When hidden, we can’t imagine it’s there. When revealed, nothing else in the world compares.
The glory of God is hidden in the ugliness of the cross. The grace and mercy of God are there, too. God’s eternal purpose and wisdom are hidden there for us. All of this works its attracting power even as it is hidden in the weakness, foolishness, even ugliness of the cross.
As Bonar says:
The cross forms that center and, in doing so, it draws together the disordered fragments of our being; it “unites our heart” (Psa 86:11), producing a wholeness or unity which no object of less powerful attractiveness could accomplish.
Finally, Bonar notes that this change that comes from the deepest part of us does not stop with us.
It sends us to church. This is the instinct of wholeness. Individuals being made whole form communities undergoing the same process, with the same center of gravity.
It is a wholeness or unity which, beginning with the individual, reproduces itself on a larger scale, but with the same center of gravitation, in the church of God.
Bonar did not elaborate on this aspect of the cross, neither in this quote or in any other part of God’s Way of Holiness.
I wish he did. It’s an explanation for why we go to church that I had never heard before: Spiritual renewal creates within us an integrity, a wholeness, which then “reproduces itself on a larger scale.”
The apostle Paul makes a similar move in his letter to the Colossians. But he goes in the other direction. Bonar sees, in the cross, a centering power that begins in an individual and then appears again on a corporate level. Paul, on the other hand, begins with the universe, but he also ends up at the church.
First, Paul says that all things consist in Christ. Creation is held together by Him. Then, he goes on to say that just as Christ is the center of the universe, He is the center of the church as well:
“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist. And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence.” (Colossians 1:15-18 NKJV)
This excerpt is from Personal Transformation the New Testament Way – 14 Practical Lessons from Horatius Bonar’s 1864 Classic God’s Way of Holiness