The backlit wooden cross hanging on the wall above the stage was bare, but Christ crucified was a prominent feature of Sunday’s service at Pacific Beach Bible Church.
I say prominent, not exclusive; the mentions of Jesus’ sacrifice came among all sorts of prayers — prayers of praise, of petition, of thanksgiving. And they came in all sorts of contexts — during music, after readings, before rituals. But, again and again they came — the personal prayers of diverse men with a common heart.
Leon gave an opening prayer: “Lord, You will not hold us accountable for our sins, for You paid for them on the cross — every sin that we’ve committed or will commit. Lord, that doesn’t give us an excuse to live a sinful life....”
Joel blessed the offering: “Lord, we do thank You for giving your Son Jesus. Lord, He died as a sin offering for all our sins.... So, Lord, I just ask that You would take this offering and bless it....”
After reading the Scripture, the lector said, “Father, we just thank You for our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who paid the penalty for our sins, so that we would have a way back to You.”
Leon again, this time before communion: “So this morning, we have to remember that an awesome price was paid on that cross. When Jesus said, ‘Why have You forsaken me?’ at that moment, God had placed on Him all of our sins...so that we can say that we’re the righteous sons of God.”
James, blessing the bread: “Father, we just look to the cross.... Look at what we’ve done, Lord — all the sins. They’ve mounted up to heaven! But You bore all our sins on the cross, Lord.... We thank You today, Lord, that we can remember You....”
Ron, blessing the cup: “I killed Jesus Christ because the Lord Jesus had to die for my sins.”
“Forsaken for our sin/ You died and rose again,” sang the band.
The crucifixion got a mention in the sermon as well, as evidence of God’s love for us. Pastor Wayne Atkins was commenting on James’s exhortation to “Count it all joy when you face trials of many kinds.” “God’s desire...is that we would become more like Jesus Christ, and it’s through trials that we really learn to trust God. It’s through trials that we understand that God is sovereign.” Only the “double-minded man,” one who “wants some of the world and some of the church” measures God’s love by circumstances.
Immediately after commenting on suffering, James said that “if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God...and it will be given to him. But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt....” Atkins: “It’s through God’s living word that He gives us wisdom...and as we live His word, we find out just how powerful it is. In Ephesians, we learn that the power He has given us is the same power that He used to raise Jesus from the dead! I don’t want to come down on anybody, and I in no way would ever put down AA, but it troubles me when I hear someone who is a Christian refer to themselves as an alcoholic, like it’s a handle they have to carry for the rest of their life. Why not refer to yourself as a child of God? If we really believe God’s word, if we really believe that we have this resurrection power, why do we have to live with addictions? I would rather have a Christian tell me, ‘I know that alcohol has a really strong hold on my life. It’s really something that Satan can use to get hold of me. I understand that I have to be really careful because if I’m not, I could fall right back into it. I have to be continually praying and seeking God, asking Him to strengthen me.’”
“In your kingdom broken lives are made new,” sang the band.
“We want people to know that in Jesus Christ, there really is deliverance,” continued Atkins. “You really can be set free. Knowing God’s word and acting on it — that’s what wisdom is.... Wisdom is saying that I can do all things through Him who gives me strength! Bad things happen to good people; that’s just the way it is. When you’re going through a trial...you need to know that God is in control. You need to have wisdom and know that God is going to work this all out eventually. If you don’t, you’re going to be devastated, and you’re not going to be any good at all for God’s kingdom.”
“You are my hope, Your promise never fails me...for You are good to me,” sang the band.
What happens when we die?
“Well,” said Atkins, “if we don’t know Jesus Christ, we’re not going to heaven.”
Pacific Beach Bible Church
Denomination: Christian & Missionary Alliance
Address: 4240 Gresham Street, Pacific Beach, 858-274-9266
Founded locally: 1956
Congregation size: about 100
Staff size: 1
Sunday school enrollment: about 40
Annual budget: $85,000
Weekly giving: n/a
Singles program: no
Dress: casual to semiformal
Sunday worship: 10:30 a.m.
Length of reviewed service: 1 hour, 15 minutes