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FACTS ABOUT THE CROSS

IT'S ABOUT THE CROSS No. 1  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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Many years ago I ran across this poem by Vera May Thomas:
I carry a cross in my pocket, A simple reminder to me That I am a Christian, No matter where I may be.
This little cross isn’t magic, Nor is it a good luck charm. It isn’t meant to protect me From every physical harm.
It’s not for identification For all the world to see. It’s simply an understanding Between my Savior and me.
When I put my hand in my pocket To bring out a coin or a key, The cross is there to remind me Of the price He paid for me.
It reminds me too, to be thankful For my blessings every day, And to strive to serve Him better In all that I do or say.
It’s also a daily reminder Of the peace and comfort I share With all who know my Master And give themselves to His care.
So, I carry a cross in my pocket Reminding none but me That Jesus Christ is Lord of my life, If only I’ll let Him be.
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Read more at Poem : The Cross In My Pocket http://www.turnbacktogod.com/poem-the-cross-in-my-pocket/#ixzz59H2sbRUp
Though I disagree with the last two lines of the poem, namely that Jesus Christ is Lord of our lives only if we let Him be, still I find the overall sentiment of the poem to be insightful. Ever since the time of Constantine in the fourth century A.D. the cross has been a religious symbol, and one that has often come to lose the significance of its meaning.
Symbols are well and good if our lives reflect what the symbol stands for. But so often our lives reflect no such thing. This reminds me of a story I once heard about a law-enforcement officer pulling over a driver on the grounds of suspicion of the vehicle being stolen. When the driver of the automobile produced the proper paperwork to demonstrate that they were indeed the owner of the vehicle the officer responded with a defense of his suspicion. You see the vehicle had a bumper-sticker that read “Honk if you love Jesus!” And another sticker that said “.” Still yet another sticker that said “God loves you!” But when the officer witnessed the driver honking at someone who was driving slow, giving an unseemly physical gesture towards another driver, and then yelling at a pedestrian who was crossing the street, the officer came to the conclusion that this vehicle must have been stolen.
This reminds me of a story I once heard about a law-enforcement officer pulling over a driver on the grounds of suspicion of the vehicle being stolen. When the driver of the automobile produced the proper paperwork to demonstrate that they were indeed the owner of the vehicle the officer responded with a defense of his suspicion. You see the vehicle had a bumper-sticker that read “Honk if you love Jesus!” And another sticker that said “.” Still yet another sticker that said “God loves you!” But when the officer witnessed the driver honking at someone who was driving slow, giving an unseemly physical gesture towards another driver, and then yelling at a pedestrian who was crossing the street, the officer came to the conclusion that this vehicle must have been stolen.
This week we begin our preparation for Easter by starting a new series. This series was provoked by a portion of last weeks passage in which reads like this:
Galatians 5:11 NASB95PARA
But I, brethren, if I still preach circumcision, why am I still persecuted? Then the stumbling block of the cross has been abolished.
I have titled this new series of messages as IT’S ABOUT THE CROSS. My reasoning for switching at this point in time is that we have come to a natural break in our text in Galatians, and so in my way of reasoning this is a good place to pause that series. Being that this is more of a topical series than I am accustomed to I will frankly admit that I will be leaning heavily on an outstanding work by the late John Stott simply titled THE CROSS OF CHRIST.
For those unfamiliar with John Stott, he was a notable voice of conservative theology in Great Britain over the last half of the 20th century. His name is associated with the likes of D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, and J.I. Packer, all of whom were or are conservative men within the ranks of the Anglican Church. When Stott passed away in 2011 I read an article about him which stated that this book was the most important of his works.
As a side note, I had the opportunity to appear on T.V. with Stott back in the mid 1980’s. He was the guest speaker for a Chicago area religious broadcast, and I was the guest singer (along with the rest of the members of the Moody Chorale!).
With this message being more topical in nature, there will be many different passages that are referred to. As always you are invited to turn to the various passages in your Bible, but for your convenience the passages will be provided on the screen as well. Today’s message is titled FACTS ABOUT THE CROSS. We will look at the central importance of the cross, the deliberate character of the cross, and the basis of forgiveness that comes only through the cross of Jesus Christ.
Let’s look first at the central importance of the cross.
THE CENTRAL IMPORTANCE OF THE CROSS
As we consider the central importance of the cross we will look at its importance to Christ, and the Apostles.
The Cross’s Importance to Christ
John Stott wrote:
The Cross of Christ The Perspective of Jesus

The fact that a cross became the Christian symbol, and that Christians stubbornly refused, in spite of the ridicule, to discard it in favor of something less offensive, can have only one explanation. It means that the centrality of the cross originated in the mind of Jesus himself. It was out of loyalty to him that his followers clung so doggedly to this sign.

There are many ways to approach the topic of the importance of the cross in the eyes and or focus of Jesus. For this present study we will look at Jesus’ prophetic statements to His apostles regarding His coming crucifixion. First let’s look at
Matthew 16:21 NASB95PARA
From that time Jesus began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised up on the third day.
The phrase “from that time” refers to the time when Peter confessed that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the Living God. Notice that Jesus prophesied the location of His death as being in Jerusalem, the capital city of Judaism. He also identified Himself with the Suffering Servant of when He stated that he would suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes. He stated that He would be killed — though He did not yet state by what means He would be killed. And finally He stated that He would be raised up on the third day — a reference to His resurrection — the empty tomb. As you know, Peter did not like what Christ was saying at all. And he took the Lord aside and began to rebuke Him for saying that He was going to die. But Jesus would not be thwarted from His mission.
The next statement about his death is found in
Matthew 17:22–23 NASB95PARA
And while they were gathering together in Galilee, Jesus said to them, “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men; and they will kill Him, and He will be raised on the third day.” And they were deeply grieved.
Once again Jesus made the same prediction. This time, however, we do not find anyone rebuking Him. In the previous passage it was specified that the religious leaders of Israel were the ones who were going to have Jesus killed. In this passage it merely says “the hands of men.” Perhaps this is a slight indication that His death will be by means of execution. The Jews did not have the authority to have a person crucified, but the Roman dogs did.
The third statement about His death in Matthew is found in
Matthew 20:17–19 NASB95PARA
As Jesus was about to go up to Jerusalem, He took the twelve disciples aside by themselves, and on the way He said to them, “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem; and the Son of Man will be delivered to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn Him to death, and will hand Him over to the Gentiles to mock and scourge and crucify Him, and on the third day He will be raised up.”
This time Jesus implicates both the Jewish leadership and the Roman leadership in His pending death. He also spells out specifically what type of death He was going to die. In this same time frame we see another statement about His death in
Matthew 20:28 NASB95PARA
just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”
His death was not going to be a mere act of political expediency but it was an act of redemption by which He was to pay the ransom price for His people.
Let’s consider now:
The Cross’s Importance to the Apostles
From the very beginning of the Church, the Apostles proclaimed the importance of the cross. Consider Peter’s sermon on the Day of Pentecost in
Acts 2:22–24 NASB95PARA
“Men of Israel, listen to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through Him in your midst, just as you yourselves know— this Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death. But God raised Him up again, putting an end to the agony of death, since it was impossible for Him to be held in its power.
Many years later in his first epistle Peter stated:
Acts 2:23–24 NASB95PARA
this Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death. But God raised Him up again, putting an end to the agony of death, since it was impossible for Him to be held in its power.
1 Peter 2:24 ESV
He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.
Of course we have seen already some of the Apostle Paul’s statements about the cross. One we have not yet looked at is found in
Galatians 6:14 NASB95PARA
But may it never be that I would boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.
The Apostle John referred to Jesus as the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world in the opening chapter of his gospel account. In the Book of the Revelation, also written by John, Jesus is referred to in this way in the opening chapter: , ,
Revelation 1:5 NASB95PARA
and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To Him who loves us and released us from our sins by His blood—
Revelation 1:7 NASB95PARA
Behold, He is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him; and all the tribes of the earth will mourn over Him. So it is to be. Amen.
Revelation 1:17–18 NASB95PARA
When I saw Him, I fell at His feet like a dead man. And He placed His right hand on me, saying, “Do not be afraid; I am the first and the last, and the living One; and I was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of death and of Hades.
Revelation 1:5 NASB95PARA
and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To Him who loves us and released us from our sins by His blood—
Let’s turn our attention now to the deliberate character of the cross.
THE DELIBERATE CHARACTER OF THE CROSS
We have been looking at how the cross was of central importance to both Jesus and His Apostles. Now let’s consider the question of why Christ died. As we consider this we will see that Jesus’ death on the cross was due to two things, human wickedness and the set purpose of God.
Jesus Death Was Due to Human Wickedness
When we consider that Christ’s death was due to human wickedness there are at least two lines of thought that we can follow. The one is from the theological perspective in that it was because of the wicked condition of man that Christ had to die. The other is from the human perspective in that it was because of the wicked acts of certain first century men that Christ died. Let’s deal with the human perspective first.
The New Testament authors hold certain individuals as being complicit in the wrongful death of Jesus Christ. First there is the religious leadership of Israel who were complicit in His death. They sought to have Jesus killed for various reasons. They charged Him with blasphemy which was in their minds a theological reason for seeking the death penalty for Jesus. They also feared that the Romans would take away their homeland and Temple because of a potential riot among the peoples who wanted to take Jesus by force and make Him King. They also did not like His association with people of low morals such as tax collectors and prostitutes. Furthermore, they were envious of Jesus. John Stott wrote:
The Cross of Christ The Jewish People and Their Priests

What was the fundamental reason for the priests’ hostility to Jesus? Was it entirely that they were concerned for political stability, doctrinal truth and moral purity? Pilate did not think so. He was not taken in by their rationalizations, especially their pretence of loyalty to the emperor. As H. B. Swete put it, “He detected under their disguise the vulgar vice of envy.”

Stott went on to write that “envy is the reverse side of a coin called vanity. Nobody is ever envious of others who is not first proud of himself.”
Not only are the religious leaders of Israel held complicit in the death of Christ, but so was Pilate. Pilate knew that it was out of envy that they were seeking for Jesus to be executed. He was the one man who had the political power to put this wrongful death to a stop. But he didn’t. Three times he interviewed Jesus and found Him to be innocent, and yet he allowed this atrocity to proceed.
Judas is also held complicit in the death of Jesus. He was one of Christ’s closest associates. He was His friend. Judas was beside himself when Mary anointed Jesus with costly perfume — a blend that was so valuable that it could have been sold for a years worth of wages for a common worker. And yet because he became disillusioned he betrayed the Lord for the sum of about three months wages.
The Jewish nation was also held complicit in the death of Christ. When Pilate asked why the crowds wanted Jesus to be crucified since He was clearly innocent of any charge that would mandate death, the people that were in the crowd that day shouted all the louder for Jesus to be crucified. In frustration, and perhaps in an attempt to make himself look good before God, Pilate ceremonially washed his hands with water indicating that he was innocent in regards to Jesus’ death. And the crowd responded this way:
Matthew 27:25 NASB95PARA
And all the people said, “His blood shall be on us and on our children!”
From the theological perspective Jesus’ atoning death was the result of human wickedness. It was the redemption price for he many who would by faith embrace Jesus as their Lord and Savior.
Romans 5:12 NASB95PARA
Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned—
If sin had never entered the world then there would have been no need of an atoning sacrifice. This brings us to consider our next point:
Jesus Death Was Due to the Set Purpose of God
There are many, many statements in Scripture that we could look as we consider the set purpose of God in regards to Jesus’ death. But we will limit them to a few.
John 12:27 NASB95PARA
“Now My soul has become troubled; and what shall I say, ‘Father, save Me from this hour’? But for this purpose I came to this hour.
We see in this an understanding on Jesus’ behalf as to why He had to die. We also see a willing acceptance of the mission for which He came. Earlier in John’s gospel Christ stated this:
John 10:17–18 NASB95PARA
For this reason the Father loves Me, because I lay down My life so that I may take it again. No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This commandment I received from My Father.”
Writing in his first epistle Peter stated this:
1 Peter 1:18–21 NKJV
knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot. He indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you who through Him believe in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.
Acts 2:23 NASB95PARA
this Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death.
Let’s move now to our final point:
THE BASIS OF FORGIVENESS FOUND IN THE CROSS
The penalty for sin is death. If Jesus had not died on the cross then there would not be any forgiveness of sin for without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.
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