Saturday, March 31, 2018

The Completeness of the Cross

I Corinthians 1:18-25 NKJV

The Jews wanted sensation. The cross was only a momentary sensation, and a disappointment at that. The Greeks wanted wisdom. The cross seemed like such a waste to them, and that was surely foolishness. But what does the cross mean to you?

For you and me, the cross speaks of separation, sacrifice, and salvation. Jesus was tried before the elite of His countrymen. He was convicted on trumped up charges before an illegal court. He, the Lamb of God, gave Himself for the sins of His nation, His people, and the whole world. Jesus, through His sinless life and death, became the once for all sacrifice.

But He did not remain in the grave. The scandal of the ages is that He arose from the dead, He conquered graveyard guards, a government grave seal, doubting disciples, pernicious priests, death, Hell, the grave, and our slavery to sin. He became our Champion, our Victor, our Savior. And through the cross, He brings salvation to all who believe on Him.

But what is your response to the message of the cross?

“For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, that no flesh should glory in His presence. But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God—and righteousness and sanctification and redemption—that, as it is written, “He who glories, let him glory in the Lord” (I Corinthians 1:26-31).

He is our wisdom, not mere sensation or human reason.

He is our righteousness, our forgiveness.

He is our holiness, our sanctification. 

He is our redemption from destruction, the One who gives order and meaning to life.

The cross continues to be controversial!  But the Christ of the cross calls us to Himself, inviting us to experience His great salvation through the cross. All too often, in our sinful, self-indulgent state, we recoil.  The sinful self is:  self-preserving, self-protecting, self-pleasing, and self-prospering.  But Jesus calls us to self-denial.  He calls us to the cross.  Salvation and self-denial involve coming to Jesus, confessing our sins, clean living, consecrated living, crucified living, confessing Christ, and being confessed by Christ. He who took up the cross for the sins of the whole world invites us to take up our cross and follow Him.

John Newton penned these words of verse.

In evil long I took delight,
Unawed by shame or fear,
Till a new object struck my sight,
And stopp'd my wild career:
I saw One hanging on a Tree
In agonies and blood,
Who fix'd His languid eyes on me.
As near His Cross I stood.

Sure never till my latest breath,
Can I forget that look:
It seem'd to charge me with His death,
Though not a word He spoke:
My conscience felt and own'd the guilt,
And plunged me in despair:
I saw my sins His Blood had spilt,
And help'd to nail Him there.

Alas! I knew not what I did!
But now my tears are vain:
Where shall my trembling soul be hid?
For I the Lord have slain!

A second look He gave, which said,
"I freely all forgive;
This blood is for thy ransom paid;
I die that thou may'st live."

Thus, while His death my sin displays
In all its blackest hue,
Such is the mystery of grace,
It seals my pardon too.
With pleasing grief, and mournful joy,
My spirit now if fill'd,
That I should such a life destroy,
Yet live by Him I kill'd!

John Newton, 1725-1807.

Friday, March 30, 2018

The Controversy of the Cross Part 2

I Corinthians 1:18-25 NKJV

So what did the cross mean for Jesus? For Jesus, the cross was both prophetic and personal. Jesus, the Son of God, who was bound together in Holy Trinity with Father and Holy Spirit in eternity past, spoke prophetically after the fall of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.

“And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel" (Genesis 3:15).

Jesus was present in Holy Trinity, slaughtering the first animals to provide a sacrifice to cover Adam and Eve, protecting them from the shame of their sin.

“Unto Adam also and to his wife did the LORD God make coats of skins, and clothed them.”  Blood of animals was shed to provide a covering for the sinful couple” (Genesis 3:21).

Jesus was present in Holy Trinity, as Abraham trod the steeps of Mount Moriah to heed the call of God and offer his only son Isaac on the altar of sacrifice. He was listening as Abraham spoke in faith.

“And Abraham said, My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering: so they went both of them together…” (Genesis 22:8).

Father, Son, and Holy Spirit were inspiring Isaiah as he prophesied the hope of the Gospel in the Messiah of God who was to come.

“Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth. He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken” (Isaiah 53:4-8).

Jesus’ cousin, John the Baptist, prophesied that Jesus would be the atoning sacrifice for the sins of the world from the time of Jesus’ baptism at the beginning of His earthly ministry.

“Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).

Luke records Jesus’ resolve to go to Jerusalem, although it would eventually become the place of his execution on the cross.

“He steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem” (Luke 9: 51 NKJV).

Jesus knew that the cross was His destiny. Jesus revealed this truth to the Apostle John, and He recorded it in the Revelation when John referred to Jesus as

“... the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” (Revelation 13:8).

Thursday, March 29, 2018

The Controversy of the Cross Part 1

I Corinthians 1:18-25

The controversy about the cross is an ongoing battle between the world and the church, between the secular and the sacred, between the unbelieving and the believing. What is wise? What is foolish?

Mel Gibson produced The Passion of the Christ, a graphic motion picture portrayal of the last 12 hours in the life of Christ.  Believing Christians from a variety of faith traditions defend the motion picture for its Biblical and historical accuracy.  But Mel Gibson had to fund the $25 million movie out of his own pocket, because Hollywood studios feared controversy surrounding it.  They wouldn’t even nominate it for significant Academy Awards. The cross was foolish to many critics.

In God’s eyes, being beaten beyond recognition by a Roman legionnaire, tried and found guilty by an illegal, fixed court, brutally dragged the streets of the nation’s capital, and shamefully crucified on a cruel cross, is really wise.  In God’s eyes, becoming the sin sacrifice for the world, a crucified Savior, and being raised from death to life on the third day, is wisdom.

For two thousand years the cross has been controversial, and it continues to be.  Believers embrace the cross.  Doubters deny it, or even worse, replace it with a pretend cross that cost Christ nothing, and demands nothing of us in return.  A. W. Tozer wrote, “The old cross slew men; the new cross entertains them. The old cross condemned; the new cross amuses. The old cross destroyed confidence in the flesh; the new cross encourages it.”

“For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God” (I Corinthians 1:18).

Jesus prophesied that the cross would be controversial.

“But I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how distressed I am till it is accomplished! Do you suppose that I came to give peace on earth? I tell you, not at all, but rather division. For from now on five in one house will be divided: three against two, and two against three. Father will be divided against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law” ((Luke 12:50-53 NKJV)  

The cross was an ancient method of torture and capital punishment.  It was originally developed by the Persians, and later borrowed by the Romans.  The Romans perfected the art of death by crucifixion and used it throughout their empire.  Crucifixion was used to eliminate the dregs of society: thieves and insurrectionists. 

Yet the cross remains controversial!  Consider the varied audiences to the cross. Everyone from the Jews, the Greeks, Jesus, and we ourselves, has an opinion about the cross.

What was the Jews’ response to the message of the cross?  Sensation!

“Show me a Miracle!”

“Heal me!” Cast out my son’s demon!

“Raise my dead child to life!”

“Throw Rome out of Israel and reign over us as a political Messiah!”

“Amuse me!”

And at the end: “The Messiah wouldn’t die as a weakling!”  And when He died, many of the Jews construed His life and even His death as foolishness.

“If you are the Messiah of God, come down from the cross. Throw the Roman bums out. Make a kingdom of Israel once again.”

To the Jews, the cross was foolishness and a stumbling block.