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The Cross Centered Life  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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The Timothy Keller Sermon Archive Cross; The Way to Freedom

I’m going to read Galatians 5:10–13 and Galatians 6:14–16. This is Paul writing.

10 I am confident in the Lord that you will take no other view. The one who is throwing you into confusion will pay the penalty, whoever he may be. 11 Brothers, if I am still preaching circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? In that case the offense of the cross has been abolished. 12 As for those agitators, I wish they would go the whole way and emasculate themselves! 13 You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love.

Then we continue in chapter 6, starting with verse 14.

14 May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. 15 Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is a new creation. 16 Peace and mercy to all who follow this rule, even to the Israel of God.

This is God’s Word

By the way, in the old King James Version, verse 14, which is shown here as saying, “May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ …” in the old King James Version it’s translated, “But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ …” You’re going to find today, since I learned that verse in the old King James, you’ll find me at certain points going back and quoting it that way. “May I never boast except in the cross …” “But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross …” Same thing.

From now until Easter, from now all the way through Lent, which begins in a little while, we’re going to be talking each week about the cross and how the cross deals with all the important dimensions of our lives. This week we’re going to talk about the cross and freedom, next week the cross and forgiveness, and so on. I got out my old Jesus Christ Superstar record. A very old record. In the theme song, there’s a place where Judas sings:

Did you mean to die like that? Was that a mistake, or

Did you know your messy death would be a record breaker?

We’re talking about the record-breaking, messy death of Jesus for the next few weeks. I’d like to talk about freedom and how the cross gives us the most nuanced and sophisticated answer to the modern problem of freedom. Take notes. I know when I get through here, I’m not going to deal with everything I should. I’m not going to answer all the questions. I’m not going to handle all the passage you have written in front of you. The advantage you have over the other services, though you are the least of the services, you are the greatest of the services because we do questions and answers downstairs afterwards in the East Lounge. You can go down and say, “What does this verse mean? Why didn’t you talk about that?” and so on.

The way modern people define freedom is self-determination without limits. Freedom is always doing what you want and never having to sacrifice what you want because someone on the outside is forcing you to. Freedom is doing whatever you want. The problem with that modern definition of freedom is that it doesn’t really work out very well.

The quintessential example of it is the interview with the French novelist Françoise Sagan some years ago. When she turned 50 somebody interviewed her. Of course, like most novelists, most people who live in Manhattan or London or Paris and so on, she is obsessed with freedom. The important thing is you do what you want to do. You mustn’t let others limit what you want to do, you see? That’s what freedom is.

At one point she was asked, “Have you had the freedom you’ve wanted?” She thought about it and she says, “Yes. Well …” she says, “Of course, you’re not free when you’re in love, but fortunately, you can’t be in love all the time. So apart from when I’m in love, yes, I’ve been free.” Man … Yikes! You see, the modern definition of freedom … If you’re free by the modern definition, you cannot be in a love relationship without tension.

Do you see what she means? If somebody says they love you, but they are not willing to sacrifice their desires for you, then you know they don’t really love you. If they’re not willing to sacrifice their desires for you, they don’t love you, in spite of what they might say. But if the definition of freedom is to be able to do what you want without sacrifice … Don’t you see she’s right? “By my definition of freedom,” she says, “you can’t really be in love.” I imagine you certainly couldn’t be married, because that wouldn’t work. This is a tremendous problem, a huge difficulty.

The Bible gives the best answer, the most sophisticated, I think, the wisest, the most brilliant answer to the modern problem by giving us a definition of freedom that is unique. It talks about it here. Paul’s book to the Galatians is the number one book in the whole Bible on the subject of Christian freedom. See he says, “Brothers, you’re called to be free.” He’s talking about what he calls the circumcision party, who are trying to limit the Galatians and have them lose their freedom.

Now the circumcision party was a group of people that came in after Paul. Paul had planted the Galatian church. It was his church. He had started it. After Paul left, in came another party of teachers. They were called the circumcision party, because they taught the entire Old Testament set of regulations plus circumcision was necessary in order to be saved, in order to be accepted by God.

Paul writes the book of Galatians back, and in it you can summarize the two different positions, the circumcision party and Paul, like this. The circumcision party said, “You must give to God a record of righteousness to be saved,” but Paul said, “Nuh-uh. On the contrary, you have to receive from God a record of righteousness in order to be saved.” What is the essence, to give a record of righteousness or to receive?

Or we’ll put it one more way. The circumcision party said, “Number one, believe in Christ. Number two, obey the Law. Then, number three, you’ll be accepted by God.” But Paul said, “Nuh-uh. Number one, believe in Christ. Number two, be accepted by God. Number three, then you’ll obey the Law.” See, two radically different approaches.

Paul says not just that the other approach is wrong, he says, “If you follow that other approach, you have lost your freedom. My gospel …” Which is his way of talking about his message. “If you don’t keep hold of my gospel, you will lose the radical freedom that comes from the gospel.” Now how do you get that radical freedom? Paul says there are two things you have to do if you want to get that radical freedom, if you want to keep that radical freedom that you get only in the gospel.

You have to, first, let the cross offend you. You have to feel the offense of the cross. Secondly, you have to boast in the cross. Then if you do that, you’ll be free. If you see the offense of the cross, which is very important, and then, secondly, if you accept the offensive message of the cross, embrace it, boast in it, and glory in it, then you’ll be free. Very important. Let me show you.

1. Let the cross offend you

First of all, Paul says, the whole purpose of the circumcision party, the circumcision teaching, was to get out from under the offense of the cross, to try to get out from under what the cross really teaches, which is deeply offensive. It was a way of trying to abolish the offense. You notice, by the way, he does not say the circumcision party was trying to abolish the cross. They wanted the symbol. They wanted the cross. They said, “Yes, Jesus died for you,” but they were abolishing the offense of the cross. They were trying to mute, or trying to hide, its main message. “The main message of the cross is deeply offensive,” says Paul.

Now why? What is that offensive message? Let me delineate it here. In 1 Corinthians 1, Paul says that he found many of the Jews were offended by the cross because they wanted power, and many of the Greeks were offended by the cross because they wanted wisdom. He says to those who believe, both Jew and Greek, the cross is the power and the wisdom of God.

Now that’s interesting. What Paul is saying here is some people are offended in one way. Some people are offended in another way. If you look at the two ways people were offended in Paul’s time, you see the same kinds of people today. Here’s what I mean. First of all, there are still the people who are offended by the cross because what they really think the world needs is wisdom. These are the intellectuals, just like back in those days. That’s who the Greeks were, at least the Greeks Paul was talking about.

The intellectuals and the educated classes have always found (I don’t mean everybody, but I’m saying as a general rule), the cross offensive. There is a visceral hostility, not to Jesus Christ but to Jesus Christ crucified. The hostility on the part of educated people has not been to Jesus, oh no, but to Jesus Christ crucified. For example, Alfred Jules Ayer, one of the leading British philosophers of the early part of the twentieth century, said this about the atonement.

Now, the atonement is the doctrine of the cross, how Christ made atonement for our sins on the cross. He said the doctrines of sin and atonement are intellectually contemptible and morally outrageous. Bertrand Russell said, about the doctrines of sin and atonement, no one who is profoundly human can really believe God would punish sin like that. What do you see there? They’re offended. They’re threatened. They’re visceral. Do you notice they’re not saying, “You’re wrong”? They’re saying, “What?” They’re saying, “You’re intellectually contemptible. You’re morally outrageous. More than that, you’re not profoundly human.”

Now there are a couple of guys who are not up for a nice conversation. How’s that for a conversation starter? You sit down for a discussion and you say, “Well, Dr. Ayer, what do you think about the cross?” He says, “Well, I think anybody who believes in the doctrine of the cross is intellectually contemptible and morally reprehensible. What do you think?” That’s not a very good way to start a conversation, is it?

Bertrand Russell says, “Yes, here’s what I think about the people who believe in the cross. I believe you’re not really a human being if you believe in it. What do you think?” See these guys are not just saying, “Well, I think you’re wrong. Let’s talk about it.” They’re offended. They’re visceral. They hate the idea. Now they don’t hate the idea of Jesus. Oh no. The idea of Jesus as a wise man, the idea of Jesus as a wise teacher, they’ve never minded that.

As I mentioned before, when I got my Jesus Christ Superstar album out, I was listening to some of it, and I realized what they really had done is they have given us a picture of a Jesus who was a good man and a good teacher, but he started to believe his own press notices. He got too big for his britches. As a result, people started to call him a great Savior … The whole idea of Jesus Christ Superstar is if heˈd just stayed a good teacher, everything would have been fine. Because in the beginning, the very first song, Judas sings:

And all the good you’ve done

Will soon be swept away.

You’ve begun to matter more

Than the things you say.

See that’s the intellectual’s view. The things Jesus says are important, but as soon as you talk about him being Savior, as soon as you talk about him dying on the cross, that’s “intellectually contemptible.” Here’s the reason why. Because the educated and intellectual classes think the real problem is a lack of wisdom. “We don’t have the right political philosophy. We don’t have the right educational philosophy. What we really need is wisdom.”

They love the idea of Jesus as a teacher. Oh yes, the intellectuals have always said, “Look at Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. He says, ‘Make peace. Be a peacemaker.’ He says, ‘Turn the other cheek.’ He says, ‘Forgive everybody.’ ” They say, “If we could only just follow his teaching, then the world would be fine. That’s what we need. We need wisdom.” That’s the reason they hate the cross. They’re not offended by Jesus Christ but by Jesus Christ crucified, because what the cross says is, “The problem is not wisdom; it’s your wicked heart.”

If Jesus had just come telling us how to live, that would have been a compliment. That would have been Jesus’ way of saying, “Aha! You see, your problem is you’re basically good people, but you just don’t see the way to live. I’m here to tell you the way to live.” That’s not insulting, and therefore, there’s nothing offensive about that. But if Jesus came to die, what he’s really saying is, “The wisdom is not the problem. It’s your evil, wicked, corrupt nature,” and that’s offensive.

The cross is there to say that wisdom is not enough. Intellect is not enough. Being smart is not enough. Listen, friends, who’s right here? Are the intellectuals right, or is the gospel right? It’s so obvious. Do you want me to prove it to you? It’s easy to prove. Look at all this debate. In the twentieth century, the great debate has been is capitalism the right economic system for a country, or is socialism, or is there some kind of compound in between?

Do you know what the answer is? If the human heart wasn’t selfish, if the human heart wasn’t full of self-interest, if the human heart was totally honest, if the human heart never exploited anybody else, it wouldn’t matter what the system was. It would work fine. I’m not saying one system is as good as the other. I’m not trying to say that. I’m just trying to say they would all work. The problem is not a lack of wisdom. The problem is our hearts. The problem is sin. The problem is the radical selfishness of the human heart. The cross offends people because it says that’s the problem.

I hope nobody misunderstands me. We didn’t even need Jesus to give us wisdom. Frankly, read Confucius, read Buddha, read them all … they basically say the same thing as the Ten Commandments. They say, “Live honorably.” They say, “Be honest.” They say, “Honor your family.” They say, “Love your neighbor.” They all say it.

The problem is not wisdom. The Greeks wanted wisdom. The Greeks think that’s the way the wisdom comes. The intellectuals say, “If we can just get a plan … Can we just get the wisdom? If we can just get the right philosophy, if we can just get the right economic system …” “That’s not the problem,” says the cross. “If your hearts were okay, all the systems would work.”

We’re offended by that because that’s an insult. What the cross says is our hearts are so wicked and so selfish that nothing less than the death of the Son of God could save us and pay the penalty and deal with it. The very presence of the Son of God on earth is an indictment of every one of us. So you see, there’s one group of people, the intellectuals, the educated people, the Greeks of Paul’s day, who are offended because they think the problem is wisdom.

Let me tell you somebody else who’s offended. Paul says the Jews wanted a miracle. The Jews wanted power. These people really are not represented by our intellectual elite. There’s another kind of person who’s offended by the cross; it’s the common person. Now the common person is not into expertise. The common person does not think the world will be saved through the right philosophies.

They’re pretty cynical about the intellectuals, but what they do believe is, “Some people are good and some people are bad.” That’s what the common person says, “Some people are good, and some are bad. Some are just no good. You have to work hard. You have to be a good father. Be a good mother. You have to be a good citizen. You have to keep your nose clean. You have to be a decent chap.” That’s what it means. That’s what’ll save us. That’s what’ll make the world a better place. “The real problem is all these bad people out here who are selfish, these bad people who are criminals … The violent … That’s the problem.” That’s what the common person thinks.

Paul says, “Therefore the cross is foolishness to them.” I’ll tell you why. Do you know what the cross says, if you hear it? The cross says there’s no difference between the good and the bad. You who are really living a very nice, moral life and this person over here who’s down in the gutter, down in the depths, a person in prison, a person who’s done terrible deeds … When it comes to your relationship with God, there’s no difference. You all need the cross.

It says in Romans 3 (great place), where it says, “… the righteousness of God, which comes by faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe through his blood, for there is no difference …” Right there. We all need the blood. We all need the death of Christ. We all need the cross. There is no difference. The average common person says, “That’s reprehensible to talk like that.” Well, see what the message of the cross is?

Let’s take three people and put them out on Montauk Point and say, “Swim to France.” One of them can’t swim at all, one of them just is a normal swimmer, and the other is an Olympic gold-medal swimmer. One of them will probably drown within 50 feet if you don’t give them a rescue boat. Another one will drown within 2 miles if you don’t give them a rescue boat. The other one will go 150 miles before he’ll need a rescue boat. They’re all going to drown without a rescue boat. Therefore, there’s a sense in which one is a 150 times better of a swimmer than the other, but in another sense, they’re all doomed. They’re all the same. There is no difference.

The cross comes and says, “Some of you are much better than others. That’s good. Be a good father. Be a good mother. Control your appetites. Be a scout leader. Be a good citizen. When it comes to seeking to reach God, when it comes to seeking just to be good, when it comes to actually living an unselfish life and loving your neighbor as yourself and loving God with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind, you’re all in the same boat. You’re all going to need the cross to rescue you. Some of you will get 150 times further along, but you’re all never going to come close to it.” That’s the message of the cross.

The average common person says, “Forget it. That’s reprehensible. I want nothing to do with such a religion. You’re telling me that in the end, some murderer on death row … All he has to do is receive Christ through the cross and be accepted, and he’ll be in the same boat as me? He’s in the same situation as I am before God?” The cross says, “Yes.” People say, “Well, you can stuff it then.”

Don’t you see? The cross is so democratic. It offends everybody. It doesn’t just offend the elites; it offends the common person. It doesn’t just offend the pagans; it offends the prudes. It doesn’t just offend the left; it offends the right. It doesn’t just offend the young; it offends the old. It offends everybody, “… for there is no difference …” You can’t put Christianity in these stupid categories and say, “It’s traditional; it’s not modern. It’s conservative; it’s not liberal.” It offends everybody.

Paul says … now here we come to it … “If you want to be free, you have to see the offensiveness of the cross.” You have to recognize what it says. Here’s what’s offensive, and here’s why the circumcision party tried to abolish not the cross, but the offensiveness of the cross. The cross says, “You have to be saved by grace alone. It doesn’t matter what your situation is, for God to save you it’s an absolute mercy. It’s complete charity. You can do nothing to merit it.”

The gospel says, “No matter who you are or where you are …” Some people are offended by the exclusiveness of the cross. They say, “What I hate about the cross is it sets off people who aren’t Christians.” Oh no, think of it this way. Somebody says, “What I don’t like is the exclusiveness of the cross. I believe all good people should be able to connect to God.” Don’t you see you’ve set up an exclusivity because you’re saying “good people”?

What’s great about the cross … There’s a kind of exclusivity. Yes, you have to go to God through the cross, but don’t you see how radically inclusive it is? When you say, “I don’t believe you need the cross. Any good person can come to God.” What about the rest of us who aren’t good? What about those of us who are failures? What about those of us who are hopeless? What about those of us who know how flawed we are?

Don’t you see the cross is not really fundamentally exclusive? It’s so inclusive it says, “No matter who you are, you can come. Your sins can be covered. You can be accepted.” In order to do that, you have to admit you need it. You need that kind of radical provision. That’s deeply offensive. Not wisdom. Not moral achievement. Grace alone.

2. You have to boast in the cross

Once you’ve realized the offensiveness of the cross, you have to accept the offensive message, receive it, and begin to boast in it. Let me just stop here at the hinge between the two points and show you now that the cross stands in utter judgment over every human being. Here’s why.

No one can stay neutral at the foot of the cross, unless you don’t understand it. In other words, the cross will either offend you deeply or transform you. Paul is saying you will either be offended by it or you will glory in it. You will boast in it. It will become the transforming center of your universe. Nothing in between is possible, because its message is so radical you’ll either hate it or it’ll change your life.

“Well,” somebody says, “that’s interesting. That’s odd, though, because that’s not true of me. I mean, on the one hand, I’m not offended by the cross. Why, I think it’s a beautiful symbol. I’ve always believed it was a beautiful, inspiring symbol, but I don’t glory in the cross. I’m not transformed by the cross.” Listen to me. If it’s really true you’re not deeply offended nor do you glory in the cross, that only can mean you don’t get it. You don’t see what it’s really teaching. As you value your soul and as you value your life, please find out what it really says by today, but not just today. Don’t stop until you understand it.

I talked to a woman today who said she cried all through the 11:00 sermon because she was deeply offended by the cross. She was so glad to be told that’s a step in the right direction. You see, Peter thought he was serving Jesus Christ. If you go through the first half of the book of Mark, you will see Peter thought he was serving Jesus. He thought what it took to be a Christian was you serve Jesus and you do what he says.

Then Jesus starts in 9:1, he says, “I want you to know Peter that I have to die. I have to be tortured and suffer and die.” What happens to Peter? Right away he rebukes Jesus. He’s offended by the cross. That’s a step in the right direction. The point is he thought just being good and serving Jesus was enough. Jesus says, “No, no, no. I have to die.” Well that’s a tremendous insult. Peter didn’t understand it. He didn’t understand that salvation has to be purely and sheerly by grace. Until he was offended by the cross and saw the offensiveness of it, he couldn’t start to boast.

Now what does it mean to boast in the cross? Here’s what it means. Once you see salvation is radically by grace and totally and completely by grace, instead of being offended by that (though it is insulting), you decide, “I accept that,” and it changes everything. Paul says, “I boast …” Now that word boast literally means what it says. It means to boast. What do you boast in? If something great happens to you, if you get the job of your dreams, if you get a letter from somebody who says, “You are the very best I’ve ever seen at what you do,” if you get some kind of compliment or some kind of award or some kind of accomplishment, you boast in it.

Now that doesn’t mean you brag about it to other people. Hopefully, you’re not so stupid as to not realize there’s nothing people hate more than braggarts. Do you know why people hate you to brag? They want to brag. You only hate a boaster if you want to be the one who everybody is centering on. The more self-centered you are, the more you hate self-centered people. The more proud you are, the more you hate proud people. The more of a braggart you really are in your own heart, the more you absolutely can’t stand other people who brag. You’re not so stupid. You know you can’t. People won’t like you.

But you still boast. Oh yes you do, you boast in your heart, because what you boast in is what gives you the emotional strength to face the world. You say, “This is what makes me special. This is what makes me great. This is what makes me stick out. This is what makes me powerful. This is what makes me confident.” What is Paul saying? Paul is telling us here’s how you can find out what a real Christian is. A real Christian doesn’t just believe in the cross in a general way. A real Christian doesn’t just enjoy the cross or even just think it’s inspiring. A Christian boasts in the cross.

When Paul says, “But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of Christ …” what he means is there is nothing else he is obsessed with as a source of his own meaning. The cross is the fountain of everything he is, everything he has become, and everything he hopes for. It’s the center of his universe. It’s the thing he pours over and and thinks over, that makes it possible for him to do anything and to face anybody or anything.

Here’s what’s so great about it. Why is it better? He says, “I won’t boast about anything else,” because if you boast in anything else, if you make anything else the thing you boast in, the thing that gives you power, the thing that gives you hope, and the thing that gives you confidence, if you boast in anything else, you’re not free. If you boast in circumcision, if you boast in the Law, if you boast in your pedigree, you’re not free. Why not? You’re in a fragile condition.

You can boast in your figure, and some of you do. I can see why. There’s a lot to boast in, but it’s on the way out. It’s going to go, and there’s always somebody with a better one. If you boast in your accomplishments, you might fail next week; or somebody might come along who looks better than you. Don’t you see? “God forbid that I should boast in anything but this …” A Christian is not just somebody who says, “I believe in the cross,” or “I like the cross.” The Christian is somebody who goes crazy thinking about it, boasts in it.

I was reading about a philosopher. I was reading an autobiography of this philosopher, and he obsessed over mountains for a number of years. He just absolutely loved mountains. He lived in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where there were no mountains, nothing bigger than the trash heap on the outskirts of town. That was the biggest mountain around. Every summer he would go to the Canadian Rockies. He was obsessed with mountains; he gloried in mountains. He would not only go look at them, but he’d climb them. He mastered them. He gazed at them. Do you know what it means to boast in the cross, not, “Oh, I believe in it,” to climb it, to master it, to think about it?

First, a Christian is somebody who boasts in the cross intellectually. You see, a Christian goes intellectually crazy when he looks at the cross. When you look at the cross, you see on the cross … A Christian says, “If it wasn’t for the wisdom of the cross, I would either have a God who just overlooked evil, a God of love, or a God of holiness and absolute standards who was harsh and crushed people; but on the cross, the love and the holiness of God brilliantly fulfill each other.”

Now a Christian goes berserk thinking about that, how great that is, how unbelievable it is. On the cross, God gives us a gift that reconciled the irreconcilable, love and the Law. A Christian glories in the cross, especially when you see it formulated like William Cowper in his great hymn, where he says … William Cowper, in the hymn, is looking at the cross and he says:

To see the Law by [love] fulfilled,

And hear His pardoning voice,

Changes a slave into a child,

And duty into choice.

“To see the Law by [love] fulfilled …” Law. Love. Aren’t they at work against each other? That’s the reason that Christians follow Christ, because they can absolutely love a sinful person and still absolutely hate the sin. Why? Because on the cross, they come together. The Law is fulfilled by Jesus dying. The justice of God is fulfilled. The payment is made. Justice demands that obligations are paid, and we owe God. There’s a debt to be paid. Sin is a debt. It’s paid. But at the same time, the love of God on the cross is absolutely fulfilled.

To see the Law by [love] fulfilled,

And hear His pardoning voice,

Changes a slave into a child,

And duty into choice.

A Christian goes crazy. Do you? Do you boast in the cross? Do you let it sink in?

Then, a Christian personally boasts in the cross. Let me show you exactly how it happens. Let me give you a very, very, very practical example. Christian friends, your problems would not be over if you were boasting in the cross, but your problems would all be under control. The next time you get really scared, the next time you get really depressed, the next time you get really angry, ask yourself something and tell yourself something.

First ask, “What is it that I’m so afraid of losing? That’s why I’m afraid. That’s why I’m angry. That’s why I’m depressed. What is it that I’m so afraid of losing?” Then look at it and say, “God forbid that I should glory in this. The reason I’m not free is because I’m boasting in this. God forbid that I should boast in anything except the cross, because this I will not boast in. It does not save me.” I can tell you, if you’re a Christian, if you can say that, if you can think that, if you can work that through, you’ll start to feel a freedom.

You’ll start to feel a joy. You’ll be boasting in the cross. You’re capable of it, and that proves you’re a Christian. That’s the reason why we’re free. That’s the reason why Paul is able to say in the very verse after that, “May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” There’s your freedom. Don’t you see? Because the world doesn’t have anything I absolutely need, I’m free to confront it.

Think of your cowardice. What makes you do things that are cowardly? Always something you really have to have. See a Christian is different. You may want professional success, you may want material comfort, you may want approval, but you don’t boast in those things. Because you don’t boast in those things, the world has nothing that you have to have, and you are free to confront it. There’s courage there. There’s compassion there. You’re free to confront. You’re free to love.

A Christian who understands the cross looks at people out there and can’t ever feel superior to anybody. There is no difference. The cross has sunk into your heart. There is no difference. You look at somebody, no matter how bad they seem to be, and you say, “We’re in the same boat.” The world is crucified to you and you to the world. You don’t think in worldly categories anymore. The world can’t jerk you around anymore. Oh my … Do you see the freedom that comes? God forbid that any of us should glory except in the cross of Christ our God, by which the world is crucified to us and we to the world. Let’s pray.

Father as we receive the bread and the cup, help us to see we’re receiving your broken Son, your Son on the cross. Help us to see we’re receiving our freedom. Help us to boast in what he’s done for us. We pray in Jesus’ name, amen.

Galatians 5:10–13 ESV
I have confidence in the Lord that you will take no other view, and the one who is troubling you will bear the penalty, whoever he is. But if I, brothers, still preach circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? In that case the offense of the cross has been removed. I wish those who unsettle you would emasculate themselves! For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.
10 I am confident in the Lord that you will take no other view. The one who is throwing you into confusion will pay the penalty, whoever he may be. 11 Brothers, if I am still preaching circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? In that case the offense of the cross has been abolished. 12 As for those agitators, I wish they would go the whole way and emasculate themselves! 13 You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love.
Then we continue in chapter 6, starting with verse 14.
14 May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. 15 Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is a new creation. 16 Peace and mercy to all who follow this rule, even to the Israel of God.
Galatians 6:14–16 ESV
But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation. And as for all who walk by this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God.
This is God’s Word
By the way, in the old King James Version, verse 14, which is shown here as saying, “May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ …” in the old King James Version it’s translated, “But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ …” You’re going to find today, since I learned that verse in the old King James, you’ll find me at certain points going back and quoting it that way. “May I never boast except in the cross …” “But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross …” Same thing.
From now through Easter we’re going to examine how the cross deals with every important dimensions of our lives. This week we’re going to talk about the cross and freedom.
Did you mean to die like that? Was that a mistake, or
Did you know your messy death would be a record breaker?
Modern man defines freedom as; self-determination without limits. Freedom is always doing what you want and never having to sacrifice what you want because of outside forces. Freedom is doing whatever you want. The problem with that modern definition of freedom is that it doesn’t really work out very well.
We’re talking about the record-breaking, messy death of Jesus for the next few weeks. I’d like to talk about freedom and how the cross gives us the most nuanced and sophisticated answer to the modern problem of freedom. Take notes. I know when I get through here, I’m not going to deal with everything I should. I’m not going to answer all the questions. I’m not going to handle all the passage you have written in front of you. The advantage you have over the other services, though you are the least of the services, you are the greatest of the services because we do questions and answers downstairs afterwards in the East Lounge. You can go down and say, “What does this verse mean? Why didn’t you talk about that?” and so on.
The way modern people define freedom is self-determination without limits. Freedom is always doing what you want and never having to sacrifice what you want because someone on the outside is forcing you to. Freedom is doing whatever you want. The problem with that modern definition of freedom is that it doesn’t really work out very well.
The quintessential example of it is the interview with the French novelist Françoise Sagan some years ago. When she turned 50 somebody interviewed her and asked, “Have you had the freedom you’ve wanted?” She thought about it and she says, “Yes. Well …” she says, “Of course, you’re not free when you’re in love, but fortunately, you can’t be in love all the time. So apart from when I’m in love, yes, I’ve been free.” If you’re free by the modern definition, you cannot be in a love relationship without tension.
At one point she was asked, “Have you had the freedom you’ve wanted?” She thought about it and she says, “Yes. Well …” she says, “Of course, you’re not free when you’re in love, but fortunately, you can’t be in love all the time. So apart from when I’m in love, yes, I’ve been free.” Man … Yikes! You see, the modern definition of freedom … If you’re free by the modern definition, you cannot be in a love relationship without tension.
Do you see what she means? If somebody says they love you, but they are not willing to sacrifice their desires for you, then you know they don’t really love you. If they’re not willing to sacrifice their desires for you, they don’t love you, in spite of what they might say. But if the definition of freedom is to be able to do what you want without sacrifice … Don’t you see she’s right? “By my definition of freedom,” she says, “you can’t really be in love.” I imagine you certainly couldn’t be married, because that wouldn’t work. This is a tremendous problem, a huge difficulty.
The Bible gives the best answer, most sophisticated, and wisest answer to this modern problem. It does so by giving us a definition of freedom that is unique. It talks about it here. Paul’s book to the Galatians is the number one book in the whole Bible on the subject of Christian freedom. See he says, “Brothers, you’re called to be free.” He’s talking about what he calls the circumcision party, who are trying to limit the Galatians and have them lose their freedom.
Now the circumcision party was a group of people that came in after Paul. Paul had planted the Galatian church. It was his church. He had started it. After Paul left, in came another party of teachers. They were called the circumcision party, because they taught the entire Old Testament set of regulations plus circumcision was necessary in order to be saved, in order to be accepted by God.
Paul writes the book of Galatians as a response of opposition to the circumcision party. The circumcision party said, “You must give to God a record of righteousness to be saved. Paul said, “You have to receive from God a record of righteousness in order to be saved.”
The circumcision party said, “Number one, believe in Christ. Number two, obey the Law. Then, number three, you’ll be accepted by God.” Paul said, “Number one, believe in Christ. Number two, be accepted by God. Number three, then you’ll obey the Law.” See, two radically different approaches.
Or we’ll put it one more way. The circumcision party said, “Number one, believe in Christ. Number two, obey the Law. Then, number three, you’ll be accepted by God.” But Paul said, “Nuh-uh. Number one, believe in Christ. Number two, be accepted by God. Number three, then you’ll obey the Law.” See, two radically different approaches.
Paul says not just that the other approach is wrong, he says, If you follow that other approach, you lose your freedom.
My gospel …” Which is his way of talking about his message. “If you don’t keep hold of my gospel, you will lose the radical freedom that comes from the gospel.” Now how do you get that radical freedom? Paul says there are two actions that must transpire for radical freedom to take place.
You have to, first, let the cross offend you. You have to feel the offense of the cross. Secondly, you have to boast in the cross. Then if you do that, you’ll be free. If you see the offense of the cross, which is very important, and then, secondly, if you accept the offensive message of the cross, embrace it, boast in it, and glory in it, then you’ll be free. Very important. Let me show you.
1. Let the cross offend you
First of all, Paul says, the whole purpose of the circumcision party, the circumcision teaching, was to get out from under the offense of the cross, to try to get out from under what the cross really teaches, which is deeply offensive. It was a way of trying to abolish the offense. You notice, by the way, he does not say the circumcision party was trying to abolish the cross. They wanted the symbol. They wanted the cross. They said, “Yes, Jesus died for you,” but they were abolishing the offense of the cross. They were trying to mute, or trying to hide, its main message. “The main message of the cross is deeply offensive,” says Paul.
Now why? What is that offensive message? Let me delineate it here. In , Paul says that he found many of the Jews were offended by the cross because they wanted power, and many of the Greeks were offended by the cross because they wanted wisdom. He says to those who believe, both Jew and Greek, the cross is the power and the wisdom of God.
Now that’s interesting. What Paul is saying here is some people are offended in one way. Some people are offended in another way. If you look at the two ways people were offended in Paul’s time, you see the same kinds of people today. Here’s what I mean. First of all, there are still the people who are offended by the cross because what they really think the world needs is wisdom. These are the intellectuals, just like back in those days. That’s who the Greeks were, at least the Greeks Paul was talking about.
The intellectuals and the educated classes have always found (I don’t mean everybody, but I’m saying as a general rule), the cross offensive. There is a visceral hostility, not to Jesus Christ but to Jesus Christ crucified. The hostility on the part of educated people has not been to Jesus but to Jesus Christ crucified.
Bertrand Russell said, about the doctrines of sin and atonement, no one who is profoundly human can really believe God would punish sin like that. What do you see there? They’re offended. They’re threatened. They’re visceral. Do you notice they’re not saying, “You’re wrong”? They’re saying, “What?” They’re saying, “You’re intellectually contemptible. You’re morally outrageous. More than that, you’re not profoundly human.”
Now, the atonement is the doctrine of the cross, how Christ made atonement for our sins on the cross. He said the doctrines of sin and atonement are intellectually contemptible and morally outrageous. Bertrand Russell said, about the doctrines of sin and atonement, no one who is profoundly human can really believe God would punish sin like that. What do you see there? They’re offended. They’re threatened. They’re visceral. Do you notice they’re not saying, “You’re wrong”? They’re saying, “What?” They’re saying, “You’re intellectually contemptible. You’re morally outrageous. More than that, you’re not profoundly human.”
As I mentioned before, when I got my Jesus Christ Superstar album out, I was listening to some of it, and I realized what they really had done is they have given us a picture of a Jesus who was a good man and a good teacher, but he started to believe his own press notices. He got too big for his britches. As a result, people started to call him a great Savior … The whole idea of Jesus Christ Superstar is if heˈd just stayed a good teacher, everything would have been fine. Because in the beginning, the very first song, Judas sings:
And all the good you’ve done
Will soon be swept away.
You’ve begun to matter more
Than the things you say.
See that’s the intellectual’s view. The things Jesus says are important, but as soon as you talk about him being Savior, as soon as you talk about him dying on the cross, that’s “intellectually contemptible.” Here’s the reason why. Because the educated and intellectual classes think the real problem is a lack of wisdom. “We don’t have the right political philosophy. We don’t have the right educational philosophy. What we really need is wisdom.”
They love the idea of Jesus as a teacher. Oh yes, the intellectuals have always said, “Look at Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. He says, ‘Make peace. Be a peacemaker.’ He says, ‘Turn the other cheek.’ He says, ‘Forgive everybody.’ ” They say, “If we could only just follow his teaching, then the world would be fine. That’s what we need. We need wisdom.” That’s the reason they hate the cross. They’re not offended by Jesus Christ but by Jesus Christ crucified, because what the cross says is, “The problem is not wisdom; it’s your wicked heart.”
If Jesus had just come telling us how to live, that would have been a compliment. That would have been Jesus’ way of saying, “Aha! You see, your problem is you’re basically good people, but you just don’t see the way to live. I’m here to tell you the way to live.” That’s not insulting, and therefore, there’s nothing offensive about that. But if Jesus came to die, what he’s really saying is, “The wisdom is not the problem. It’s your evil, wicked, corrupt nature,” and that’s offensive.
The cross is there to say that wisdom is not enough. Intellect is not enough. Being smart is not enough. Listen, friends, who’s right here? Are the intellectuals right, or is the gospel right? It’s so obvious. Do you want me to prove it to you? It’s easy to prove. Look at all this debate. In the twentieth century, the great debate has been is capitalism the right economic system for a country, or is socialism, or is there some kind of compound in between?
Do you know what the answer is? If the human heart wasn’t selfish, if the human heart wasn’t full of self-interest, if the human heart was totally honest, if the human heart never exploited anybody else, it wouldn’t matter what the system was. It would work fine. I’m not saying one system is as good as the other. I’m not trying to say that. I’m just trying to say they would all work. The problem is not a lack of wisdom. The problem is our hearts. The problem is sin. The problem is the radical selfishness of the human heart. The cross offends people because it says that’s the problem.
I hope nobody misunderstands me. We didn’t even need Jesus to give us wisdom. Frankly, read Confucius, read Buddha, read them all … they basically say the same thing as the Ten Commandments. They say, “Live honorably.” They say, “Be honest.” They say, “Honor your family.” They say, “Love your neighbor.” They all say it.
The problem is not wisdom. The Greeks wanted wisdom. The Greeks think that’s the way the wisdom comes. The intellectuals say, “If we can just get a plan … Can we just get the wisdom? If we can just get the right philosophy, if we can just get the right economic system …” “That’s not the problem,” says the cross. “If your hearts were okay, all the systems would work.”
We’re offended by that because that’s an insult. What the cross says is our hearts are so wicked and so selfish that nothing less than the death of the Son of God could save us and pay the penalty and deal with it. The very presence of the Son of God on earth is an indictment of every one of us. So you see, there’s one group of people, the intellectuals, the educated people, the Greeks of Paul’s day, who are offended because they think the problem is wisdom.
Let me tell you somebody else who’s offended. Paul says the Jews wanted a miracle. The Jews wanted power. These people really are not represented by our intellectual elite. There’s another kind of person who’s offended by the cross; it’s the common person. Now the common person is not into expertise. The common person does not think the world will be saved through the right philosophies.
They’re pretty cynical about the intellectuals, but what they do believe is, “Some people are good and some people are bad.” That’s what the common person says, “Some people are good, and some are bad. Some are just no good. You have to work hard. You have to be a good father. Be a good mother. You have to be a good citizen. You have to keep your nose clean. You have to be a decent chap.” That’s what it means. That’s what’ll save us. That’s what’ll make the world a better place. “The real problem is all these bad people out here who are selfish, these bad people who are criminals … The violent … That’s the problem.” That’s what the common person thinks.
Paul says, “Therefore the cross is foolishness to them.” I’ll tell you why. Do you know what the cross says, if you hear it? The cross says there’s no difference between the good and the bad. You who are really living a very nice, moral life and this person over here who’s down in the gutter, down in the depths, a person in prison, a person who’s done terrible deeds … When it comes to your relationship with God, there’s no difference. You all need the cross.
It says in (great place), where it says, “… the righteousness of God, which comes by faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe through his blood, for there is no difference …” Right there. We all need the blood. We all need the death of Christ. We all need the cross. There is no difference. The average common person says, “That’s reprehensible to talk like that.” Well, see what the message of the cross is?
Let’s take three people and put them out on Montauk Point and say, “Swim to France.” One of them can’t swim at all, one of them just is a normal swimmer, and the other is an Olympic gold-medal swimmer. One of them will probably drown within 50 feet if you don’t give them a rescue boat. Another one will drown within 2 miles if you don’t give them a rescue boat. The other one will go 150 miles before he’ll need a rescue boat. They’re all going to drown without a rescue boat. Therefore, there’s a sense in which one is a 150 times better of a swimmer than the other, but in another sense, they’re all doomed. They’re all the same. There is no difference.
The cross comes and says, “Some of you are much better than others. That’s good. Be a good father. Be a good mother. Control your appetites. Be a scout leader. Be a good citizen. When it comes to seeking to reach God, when it comes to seeking just to be good, when it comes to actually living an unselfish life and loving your neighbor as yourself and loving God with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind, you’re all in the same boat. You’re all going to need the cross to rescue you. Some of you will get 150 times further along, but you’re all never going to come close to it.” That’s the message of the cross.
The average common person says, “Forget it. That’s reprehensible. I want nothing to do with such a religion. You’re telling me that in the end, some murderer on death row … All he has to do is receive Christ through the cross and be accepted, and he’ll be in the same boat as me? He’s in the same situation as I am before God?” The cross says, “Yes.” People say, “Well, you can stuff it then.”
Don’t you see? The cross is so democratic. It offends everybody. It doesn’t just offend the elites; it offends the common person. It doesn’t just offend the pagans; it offends the prudes. It doesn’t just offend the left; it offends the right. It doesn’t just offend the young; it offends the old. It offends everybody, “… for there is no difference …” You can’t put Christianity in these stupid categories and say, “It’s traditional; it’s not modern. It’s conservative; it’s not liberal.” It offends everybody.
Paul says … now here we come to it … “If you want to be free, you have to see the offensiveness of the cross.” You have to recognize what it says. Here’s what’s offensive, and here’s why the circumcision party tried to abolish not the cross, but the offensiveness of the cross. The cross says, “You have to be saved by grace alone. It doesn’t matter what your situation is, for God to save you it’s an absolute mercy. It’s complete charity. You can do nothing to merit it.”
The gospel says, “No matter who you are or where you are …” Some people are offended by the exclusiveness of the cross. They say, “What I hate about the cross is it sets off people who aren’t Christians.” Oh no, think of it this way. Somebody says, “What I don’t like is the exclusiveness of the cross. I believe all good people should be able to connect to God.” Don’t you see you’ve set up an exclusivity because you’re saying “good people”?
What’s great about the cross … There’s a kind of exclusivity. Yes, you have to go to God through the cross, but don’t you see how radically inclusive it is? When you say, “I don’t believe you need the cross. Any good person can come to God.” What about the rest of us who aren’t good? What about those of us who are failures? What about those of us who are hopeless? What about those of us who know how flawed we are?
Don’t you see the cross is not really fundamentally exclusive? It’s so inclusive it says, “No matter who you are, you can come. Your sins can be covered. You can be accepted.” In order to do that, you have to admit you need it. You need that kind of radical provision. That’s deeply offensive. Not wisdom. Not moral achievement. Grace alone.
2. You have to boast in the cross
Once you’ve realized the offensiveness of the cross, you have to accept the offensive message, receive it, and begin to boast in it. Let me just stop here at the hinge between the two points and show you now that the cross stands in utter judgment over every human being. Here’s why.
No one can stay neutral at the foot of the cross, unless you don’t understand it. In other words, the cross will either offend you deeply or transform you. Paul is saying you will either be offended by it or you will glory in it. You will boast in it. It will become the transforming center of your universe. Nothing in between is possible, because its message is so radical you’ll either hate it or it’ll change your life.
“Well,” somebody says, “that’s interesting. That’s odd, though, because that’s not true of me. I mean, on the one hand, I’m not offended by the cross. Why, I think it’s a beautiful symbol. I’ve always believed it was a beautiful, inspiring symbol, but I don’t glory in the cross. I’m not transformed by the cross.” Listen to me. If it’s really true you’re not deeply offended nor do you glory in the cross, that only can mean you don’t get it. You don’t see what it’s really teaching. As you value your soul and as you value your life, please find out what it really says by today, but not just today. Don’t stop until you understand it.
I talked to a woman today who said she cried all through the 11:00 sermon because she was deeply offended by the cross. She was so glad to be told that’s a step in the right direction. You see, Peter thought he was serving Jesus Christ. If you go through the first half of the book of Mark, you will see Peter thought he was serving Jesus. He thought what it took to be a Christian was you serve Jesus and you do what he says.
Then Jesus starts in 9:1, he says, “I want you to know Peter that I have to die. I have to be tortured and suffer and die.” What happens to Peter? Right away he rebukes Jesus. He’s offended by the cross. That’s a step in the right direction. The point is he thought just being good and serving Jesus was enough. Jesus says, “No, no, no. I have to die.” Well that’s a tremendous insult. Peter didn’t understand it. He didn’t understand that salvation has to be purely and sheerly by grace. Until he was offended by the cross and saw the offensiveness of it, he couldn’t start to boast.
Now what does it mean to boast in the cross? Here’s what it means. Once you see salvation is radically by grace and totally and completely by grace, instead of being offended by that (though it is insulting), you decide, “I accept that,” and it changes everything. Paul says, “I boast …” Now that word boast literally means what it says. It means to boast. What do you boast in? If something great happens to you, if you get the job of your dreams, if you get a letter from somebody who says, “You are the very best I’ve ever seen at what you do,” if you get some kind of compliment or some kind of award or some kind of accomplishment, you boast in it.
Now that doesn’t mean you brag about it to other people. Hopefully, you’re not so stupid as to not realize there’s nothing people hate more than braggarts. Do you know why people hate you to brag? They want to brag. You only hate a boaster if you want to be the one who everybody is centering on. The more self-centered you are, the more you hate self-centered people. The more proud you are, the more you hate proud people. The more of a braggart you really are in your own heart, the more you absolutely can’t stand other people who brag. You’re not so stupid. You know you can’t. People won’t like you.
But you still boast. Oh yes you do, you boast in your heart, because what you boast in is what gives you the emotional strength to face the world. You say, “This is what makes me special. This is what makes me great. This is what makes me stick out. This is what makes me powerful. This is what makes me confident.” What is Paul saying? Paul is telling us here’s how you can find out what a real Christian is. A real Christian doesn’t just believe in the cross in a general way. A real Christian doesn’t just enjoy the cross or even just think it’s inspiring. A Christian boasts in the cross.
When Paul says, “But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of Christ …” what he means is there is nothing else he is obsessed with as a source of his own meaning. The cross is the fountain of everything he is, everything he has become, and everything he hopes for. It’s the center of his universe. It’s the thing he pours over and and thinks over, that makes it possible for him to do anything and to face anybody or anything.
Here’s what’s so great about it. Why is it better? He says, “I won’t boast about anything else,” because if you boast in anything else, if you make anything else the thing you boast in, the thing that gives you power, the thing that gives you hope, and the thing that gives you confidence, if you boast in anything else, you’re not free. If you boast in circumcision, if you boast in the Law, if you boast in your pedigree, you’re not free. Why not? You’re in a fragile condition.
You can boast in your figure, and some of you do. I can see why. There’s a lot to boast in, but it’s on the way out. It’s going to go, and there’s always somebody with a better one. If you boast in your accomplishments, you might fail next week; or somebody might come along who looks better than you. Don’t you see? “God forbid that I should boast in anything but this …” A Christian is not just somebody who says, “I believe in the cross,” or “I like the cross.” The Christian is somebody who goes crazy thinking about it, boasts in it.
I was reading about a philosopher. I was reading an autobiography of this philosopher, and he obsessed over mountains for a number of years. He just absolutely loved mountains. He lived in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where there were no mountains, nothing bigger than the trash heap on the outskirts of town. That was the biggest mountain around. Every summer he would go to the Canadian Rockies. He was obsessed with mountains; he gloried in mountains. He would not only go look at them, but he’d climb them. He mastered them. He gazed at them. Do you know what it means to boast in the cross, not, “Oh, I believe in it,” to climb it, to master it, to think about it?
First, a Christian is somebody who boasts in the cross intellectually. You see, a Christian goes intellectually crazy when he looks at the cross. When you look at the cross, you see on the cross … A Christian says, “If it wasn’t for the wisdom of the cross, I would either have a God who just overlooked evil, a God of love, or a God of holiness and absolute standards who was harsh and crushed people; but on the cross, the love and the holiness of God brilliantly fulfill each other.”
Now a Christian goes berserk thinking about that, how great that is, how unbelievable it is. On the cross, God gives us a gift that reconciled the irreconcilable, love and the Law. A Christian glories in the cross, especially when you see it formulated like William Cowper in his great hymn, where he says … William Cowper, in the hymn, is looking at the cross and he says:
To see the Law by [love] fulfilled,
And hear His pardoning voice,
Changes a slave into a child,
And duty into choice.
“To see the Law by [love] fulfilled …” Law. Love. Aren’t they at work against each other? That’s the reason that Christians follow Christ, because they can absolutely love a sinful person and still absolutely hate the sin. Why? Because on the cross, they come together. The Law is fulfilled by Jesus dying. The justice of God is fulfilled. The payment is made. Justice demands that obligations are paid, and we owe God. There’s a debt to be paid. Sin is a debt. It’s paid. But at the same time, the love of God on the cross is absolutely fulfilled.
To see the Law by [love] fulfilled,
And hear His pardoning voice,
Changes a slave into a child,
And duty into choice.
A Christian goes crazy. Do you? Do you boast in the cross? Do you let it sink in?
Then, a Christian personally boasts in the cross. Let me show you exactly how it happens. Let me give you a very, very, very practical example. Christian friends, your problems would not be over if you were boasting in the cross, but your problems would all be under control. The next time you get really scared, the next time you get really depressed, the next time you get really angry, ask yourself something and tell yourself something.
First ask, “What is it that I’m so afraid of losing? That’s why I’m afraid. That’s why I’m angry. That’s why I’m depressed. What is it that I’m so afraid of losing?” Then look at it and say, “God forbid that I should glory in this. The reason I’m not free is because I’m boasting in this. God forbid that I should boast in anything except the cross, because this I will not boast in. It does not save me.” I can tell you, if you’re a Christian, if you can say that, if you can think that, if you can work that through, you’ll start to feel a freedom.
You’ll start to feel a joy. You’ll be boasting in the cross. You’re capable of it, and that proves you’re a Christian. That’s the reason why we’re free. That’s the reason why Paul is able to say in the very verse after that, “May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” There’s your freedom. Don’t you see? Because the world doesn’t have anything I absolutely need, I’m free to confront it.
Think of your cowardice. What makes you do things that are cowardly? Always something you really have to have. See a Christian is different. You may want professional success, you may want material comfort, you may want approval, but you don’t boast in those things. Because you don’t boast in those things, the world has nothing that you have to have, and you are free to confront it. There’s courage there. There’s compassion there. You’re free to confront. You’re free to love.
A Christian who understands the cross looks at people out there and can’t ever feel superior to anybody. There is no difference. The cross has sunk into your heart. There is no difference. You look at somebody, no matter how bad they seem to be, and you say, “We’re in the same boat.” The world is crucified to you and you to the world. You don’t think in worldly categories anymore. The world can’t jerk you around anymore. Oh my … Do you see the freedom that comes? God forbid that any of us should glory except in the cross of Christ our God, by which the world is crucified to us and we to the world. Let’s pray.
Father as we receive the bread and the cup, help us to see we’re receiving your broken Son, your Son on the cross. Help us to see we’re receiving our freedom. Help us to boast in what he’s done for us. We pray in Jesus’ name, amen.
Keller, T. J. (2013). The Timothy Keller Sermon Archive. New York City: Redeemer Presbyterian Church.
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