Easter 2012 - Saturday

7Apr

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Easter 2012 Saturday

Jesus' Cross

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Today we look again at the cross and ask some fundamental questions about it: what is the cross about, why is the cross important and also an imperative of historical and biblical Christianity.

But lets begin with reading from the Bible, and today I will be reading 1 Corinthians 1:18-31 from The Message version.

18-21The Message that points to Christ on the Cross seems like sheer silliness to those hell-bent on destruction, but for those on the way of salvation it makes perfect sense. This is the way God works, and most powerfully as it turns out. It's written,

I'll turn conventional wisdom on its head, I'll expose so-called experts as crackpots.

So where can you find someone truly wise, truly educated, truly intelligent in this day and age? Hasn't God exposed it all as pretentious nonsense? Since the world in all its fancy wisdom never had a clue when it came to knowing God, God in his wisdom took delight in using what the world considered dumb-preaching, of all things!-to bring those who trust him into the way of salvation.

22-25While Jews clamour for miraculous demonstrations and Greeks go in for philosophical wisdom, we go right on proclaiming Christ, the Crucified. Jews treat this like an anti-miracle-and Greeks pass it off as absurd. But to us who are personally called by God himself-both Jews and Greeks-Christ is God's ultimate miracle and wisdom all wrapped up in one. Human wisdom is so tinny, so impotent, next to the seeming absurdity of God. Human strength can't begin to compete with God's "weakness."

26-31Take a good look, friends, at who you were when you got called into this life. I don't see many of "the brightest and the best" among you, not many influential, not many from high-society families. Isn't it obvious that God deliberately chose men and women that the culture overlooks and exploits and abuses, chose these "nobodies" to expose the hollow pretensions of the "somebodies"? That makes it quite clear that none of you can get by with blowing your own horn before God. Everything that we have-right thinking and right living, a clean slate and a fresh start-comes from God by way of Jesus Christ. That's why we have the saying, "If you're going to blow a horn, blow a trumpet for God."

1. The problem!

The problem is sin or disobedience (active or passive) of and towards God. Sin is what separates humans from God and as a consequence leads to both a spiritual and physical death (Romans 3:23, Romans 6:23, Isaiah 59:2). In the Old Testament, sins were dealt with by blood sacrifices of atonement as coverings for sin (Leviticus 17:11), for without the shedding of blood there can be no remission of sin (Hebrews 9:22). A blood sacrifice is God's way of dealing with sin. These blood sacrifices of the Old Testament signified several things:

  • They provided a covering for sin.
  • They showed the great cost of sin.
  • They were an exchange or substitution.
  • They were only always going to be a temporary measure as they pointed forward to Jesus' sacrificial death on the cross.

2.. The Solution!

The ultimate solution to sin lies not in continual animal sacrifice of the Old Testament because as Hebrews 10:4 reminds us the blood of animals cannot take away sin but was only a veneer or covering. That was why it was necessary to repeat time and time again! But they also pointed toward a time when animal sacrifices would no longer be necessary! That is the cross of Jesus Christ! It is only through the death of Jesus Christ on that cross, that sin is taken away (Hebrews 9::11-15, 26-28), because Jesus is the permanent and ultimate sacrificial substitute!

2a. Substitution

Jesus was our substitute. Jesus died for our sin, the just for the unjust (1 Peter 3:18). That is how God is both just and the Justifier of sinners. That is why Jesus needed to be both fully God and fully human! If he lacked either, it would not be the full substitutionary sacrifice that was necessary to bear the permanent consequences of sin! When Jesus died on the cross, in our place, he bore the consequences of all sin, of all the earth over all periods of time - past, present and future. He therefore became sin for humanity (2 Corinthians 5:21) and it was His precious blood as a lamb without spot or blemish (1Peter 1:18-19) that finally fulfils God's righteous requirements permanently as the substitute.

2b. Propitiation

And more than that, we know that towards sin and sinful behaviour, God has great fury, anger and wrath (Jeremiah 21:5). Yet as Micah 7:18 "He is slow to anger and quick to forgive". Propitiation basically means the turning aside of God's anger by the offering of the sacrifice of Christ. God's anger and judgment of sin falls on Christ, instead of us. We need to approach God to appease His anger, in order to accept it (Romans 3:25; Isaiah 53:5; John 2:2, 5:6).  If Jesus' death on the cross was not an atoning sacrifice, then the Old Testament Law would not be fulfilled, animal sacrifices still necessary to cover sins and God would be made out to be a liar.

1 John 2:2: He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.

1 John 4:10: This is real love-not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice (or propitiation) to take away our sins.

Jesus, through His atoning sacrificial death on the cross, is our peace offering to God. Amazing.

2c. Redemption (Ransom) Mark 10:45

Even further! Not only was it propitiation, but also an act of redemption! In the time of the New Testament, this word was used to refer to the buying back of a slave - the price paid to buy the slave's freedom. God paid redemption so that humans can be freed from the slavery to sin (John 8:35 Romans 7:14). The price was paid (1 Peter 1:18-19) and so we are redeemed with the precious blood of Christ (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). But it is our responsibility to choose that way! God does not coerce forcefully - He leaves it as a choice for humans to make as individuals.

What is our response to this to be? Sacrifice, substitution, propitiation and redemption can be summed up in one word: love. For 1 John 3:16 states: "This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers." Jesus told us to take up our cross if we are to follow Him as His Disciple (Luke 9:23). Are you as a Christian Disciple willing to take up your cross and do all you can do to love others?

There is a price to pay for those seeking to be followers of Jesus Christ

They must surrender completely to Him, be prepared to identify with Him in suffering and death and be willing to follow Him obediently, wherever He leads.

2d. Victory over Satan, death and sin.

And yet again, the cross is even more! As we look back through the Gospel accounts, we see Jesus being tempted and taunted by satan. We see the temptations in the wilderness, satan using the Apostle Peter to try and deflect Jesus away from the cross and satan using Judas to betray him. If Jesus had ever succumbed to temptation, and sinned in thought, word, action or inaction, then He Himself would have needed a Saviour. That is why Jesus is the perfect sacrifice - because he never sinned and always did what He saw God the Father wanting Him to do. Jesus' death on the cross is the centrepiece of all human history and the focal point of eternity.  On the cross and through the cross alone, satan, death and sin have all lost their sting. WOW!

3. The Cross is a choice

As we have seen, the cross is God's solution to the suffering and sin of the world. Only by Jesus Christ going to cross have sin, suffering and satan been dealt mortal blows.  The cross provides the solution as it provides a substitution, propitiation, redemption and a victory. The cross is not a symbol to be merely placed around the neck on a chain, to be worn as a lapel pin, or as a item statement of fashion. The cross is not meant to portray Jesus as some form of sadomasochistic 'tragi-hero' as some people try to make it out to be. The cross is God's solution to the problem of sin, suffering and pain, as much as the wise of this world would love to think that it is not.

The cross is a choice. You can choose to deny the cross and say it doesn't matter. You can say that it is an irrelevance and that is your right. God will not force you to accept the cross and love him. If He did, He would have created Adam so that Adam would automatically love him and not given him free will to rebel. That way the cross would not have been needed. But such is the enormity of the love of God, that each person, including you and I, have a choice to make - follow Jesus and take up your own cross and be an overcomer for Him.  God will not force you to accept it, but he will keep on calling you back to the cross. Calling sometimes in quiet ways and at other times, much more loudly.  You can deny the cross and its meaning and when Jesus Christ comes again in judgment, you will find that He denies you entrance into His glorious kingdom.  When Jesus comes again, everyone will know who He is and bow down to Him.  But only those whom He knows, will be granted access into everlasting life.

How you think of the cross, ultimately has relevance to you and affects your reality. You can accept the cross as your personal substitution, personal propitiation and personal redemption. That way you have peace with God. The cross of Jesus Christ thoroughly epitomises God's glory, and if there were any other way that God the Father could restore people into relationship with Himself, then surely He would have done it that way. But there was no other way - Jesus Christ, as the Son of God who was simultaneously fully God and fully human, died on a Roman cross. He took on the sins of the world, paying the greatest price, so that you can be restored into a peaceful relationship with God the Father. That is for all people, of all nations, ages, generations, statuses and gender.  The cross is amazing love in action and is ignored at great peril.  Let us go forward in hope and faith, choosing deliberately not to boast in anything else, save only of Jesus Christ and Him crucified.  The wisdom of God as exhibited on and in the Cross of Jesus Christ, is foolishness but only to those who don't accept it.  Thank you.

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