Genesis 1:14-19: And God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark seasons and days and years, and let them be lights in the expanse of the sky to give light on the earth.” And it was so. God made two great lights – the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars. God set them in the expanse of the sky to give light on the earth, to govern the day and the night, and to separate light from darkness. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening, and there was morning – the fourth day.
Verse 19 tells us of the first sunset. While this was the fourth day, previous to this day the sun had not yet been created. Every night since then, the sun has set. God designed it that way and we take it for granted that this is what happens every day. Some days, there is a particularly beautiful sunset, but most of us miss it because we are otherwise occupied with events of our day.
I grew up on Cape Cod. Our house is about a one-minute walk from the beach. To prevent erosion, rock jetties are very common along the southern shore of the Cape. Near our house is a particularly long jetty the marked the entrance channel to Allen’s Harbor – suitably dubbed “The Big Jetty.” This jetty sticks out fairly far into the water, far enough that the sunset could be viewed over the water rather than land. This was one of my favorite spots to go. There is little that can compete with the sight of the sun setting over the water. It is unfortunate that unless we happen to notice an unusually beautiful sunset we tend to take no notice of it at all. It happens every day so we know there will always be another chance to catch it.
I grew up in church. My family attended every Sunday and Wednesday, and I was active in the youth group. We had a big cross hanging in the front of our sanctuary, behind the pulpit. We had, like many church buildings, a cross hanging on the building. My paper route took me past a couple of churches in my town, each of which also had a cross hanging on it. I saw the cross every day, yet I never truly saw the cross. I never really took any notice of it. I knew it was there, but I never really personalized it.
It is easy for the cross to go unnoticed unless we hear a particularly moving account or convicting message about our lives and walk with God. “I’ll get religion tomorrow,” or “I’ll repent of my sins next week, this week I want to have fun sinning.” How great a risk do we take with this attitude? We take an eternal risk. Our options are Heaven or Hell. It took some serious Bible studies – one of which focused solely on the cross – for me to really take note of the significance of the cross.
I grew up with stories of how God sent Jesus to die on the cross for our sins. Nobody ever told me that I drove the nails, or that I placed the crown of thorns on His head. I always questioned how the very people that followed Jesus and believed in Him could be the very ones who asked that Barabbas be pardoned rather than Jesus. I never once thought that I was in that very same crowd of angry sinners.
I grew up with blinders on.
John 3:16-21:For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.
John 3:16 is the first bible verse that I ever memorized. I even won a prize for my memorization of it. You would think that memorizing a verse would help to personalize it.
Romans 3:23-24: …for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through redemption that came by Jesus Christ.
Jesus died on the cross because of my sins. He died so that I might have eternal life in Heaven.
“Heaven. So what. Hell can’t be that bad, right?”
Matthew 8:28-30: When he arrived at the other side in the region of the Gadarenes, two demon-possessed men coming from the tombs met him. They were so violent that no one could pass that way. “What do you want with us, Son of God?” they shouted. “Have you come here to torture us before the appointed time?” Some distance from them a large herd of pigs was feeding. The demons begged Jesus, “If you drive us out, send us into the herd of pigs.”
How awful is Hell? The demons would rather inhabit a herd of pigs than to return to Hell. Jesus died on the cross so that I would not have to spend eternity in a place that even demons are afraid to be.
If the sunset is beautiful, the cross is a thousand times more so and I never intend to take another sunset for granted.