Keeping the cross at the centre
The cross is central and permanent whether or not humans see it to be so or behave in light of the truth that it is so. There is always our sinful and moral weakness to affect not only how we behave but how we see. Older theologians used to speak often of the "noetic" effect of sin (noetic, from the Greek word "nous" = mind). Romans 1:21 makes it clear that our sin affects our ability to think and see. Jesus told some people that their love of society's praise kept them from believing in him (John 5:44). It wasn't that their mental apparatus had vanished; it was that sin distorted that still-existing apparatus.
It's one thing to flatly deny a truth and it's another to suppress or sideline a truth because it's costly. These are both sinful but sidelining can be more subtle and so more destructive because in some ways we feel we can justify doing that. It isn't that this truth is untrue, we tell ourselves; it's simply that it's unimportant or less important and very often we think so because we don't want to face the consequences of that truth or go where it will lead.
To see our brothers and sisters in light of the cross may mean that we continue to bury them under criticism or think them inferior because they don't live up to the cross—as we assess them in light of how we assess the meaning of the cross. But if we can believe that Jesus thinks "Sarah" and "Harry" are worth living and dying for then however we treat them (in thought and otherwise) we dare not go below that, for that would be to take issue with the Christ and his cross. Still, we often do it, and yet, in our better moments we're glad that the cross stands in judgement on our judgements.
Our ability to take our eyes off the cross is generated by sinfulness. The above illustrates the point that to take our eyes off the cross means that we take our eyes of what the cross implies.
But it isn't only our sinfulness that leads us to take our eyes off the cross; our sheer ignorance as to its meaning also leads to that. Part of the reason for that is that (astonishly) we often think we've thoroughly understood it and it becomes a bit of a yawn; so we move on to other issues. It's perfectly true that we can't fathom the full depths of its meaning; but that's so true it's hardly worth saying, and it's certainly no excuse for our not plunging in as deep as we can go at present. If we continue to plunge in over our heads and come back up with treasure that can only be found "down there," who knows how our vision and so our behaviour will change. Maybe we'll see our fellow-Christians and ourselves in an astonishingly better way and feel less burdened when the meaning of the cross of Christ begins to blaze for us. Maybe that's why God doesn't grow weary of our shortcomings—because he so rarely thinks of them, since he has his eye on Jesus and where he's taking us in and through him.
The cross makes it clear that God means to transform us (2 Corinthians 5:14-15) and make us like Jesus Christ (Romans 8:29) so there's no suggestion that salvation is merely about the forgiveness of sins committed—it's about life. But what we need to transform us is the truth about, the rich profound truth about Jesus and him crucified.
To repeat over and over and over and over and over again that Jesus died for me may not be a bad thing but there must come a time when the rehearsing of the bare act grows tedious. We can't keep drumming up a tearful condition or an emotional stirring by going over the details of his suffering and abuse. This is not what we're called to. When it is reflection/study time we're encouraged to sit down and look at the cross and ask, "What exactly does that mean? What is happening there in that event?" The life and death and subsequent resurrection and exaltation of Jesus our Lord is the centre of creation's history, past, present and future. No wonder Paul told the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 2:1-2), "I have only one message!" No wonder he told the Galatians (6:14), "I will glory in nothing—absolutely nothing—but the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ!"
Our Bible study, however it progresses, should be conducted so that we can return to the cross with new tools and insights that will enable us to uncover more of the massive, cosmic-changing truths imbedded in it.