The Cross God's Answer to Our Deepest Needs Sermon Outline
Message Title: The Cross: God’s Answer to Our Deepest Needs
Theme/Series: A Love Like No Other
Text: Colossians 2:6-23
Pericope: Colossians 2:6-23 (New International Version)
Freedom from Human Regulations through Life with Christ
6So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, 7rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.
8See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.
9For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, 10and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority. 11In him you were also circumcised, in the putting off of the sinful nature,[a] not with a circumcision done by the hands of men but with the circumcision done by Christ, 12having been buried with him in baptism and raised with him through your faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead.
13When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature,[b] God made you[c] alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, 14having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross. 15And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.[d]
16Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. 17These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ. 18Do not let anyone who delights in false humility and the worship of angels disqualify you for the prize. Such a person goes into great detail about what he has seen, and his unspiritual mind puffs him up with idle notions. 19He has lost connection with the Head, from whom the whole body, supported and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows as God causes it to grow.
20Since you died with Christ to the basic principles of this world, why, as though you still belonged to it, do you submit to its rules: 21"Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!"? 22These are all destined to perish with use, because they are based on human commands and teachings. Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.
- Colossians 2:11 Or the flesh
- Colossians 2:13 Or your flesh
- Colossians 2:13 Some manuscripts us
- Colossians 2:15 Or them in him
A popular monk in the Middle Ages announces that in the cathedral that evening, he would preach a sermon on the love of God. The people gathered and stood in silence waiting for the service while the sunlight streamed through the beautiful windows. When he last glint of color had faded from the windows, the old monk took a candle from the altar. Walking to the life-size figure of Christ on the cross, he held the light beneath the wounds of the feet, then his hands, then his side. Still without a word, he let the light shine on the thorn-crowned brow.
That was his sermon. The people stood in silence and wept. They knew they were at the center of mystery beyond their knowing that they were looking at the love of God, the image of the invisible God, giving himself for us—a love so deep, so inclusive, so expansive, so powerful, so complete that thought of mind could not comprehend nor measure it, or words express it.
The Cross has always been controversial.
When the movie The Passion of the Christ was being prepared for release in Italy the review board gave it a "G" rating. Some parents objected, saying the movie was too violent for children to watch. But the reaction of Italian author Riccardo Zucconi, quoted in USA Today, said more about theology than parenting. He refused to allow his children to see the film, in his words, "because I want them to have this idea of the spirituality of Christ, not this idea of debauchery. The soul of Jesus is important, not his body."
The writer preferred to have his son watch a 30-year-old film, The Gospel According to Matthew. "That film is very deep," he said, "and you don't see a drop of blood."
Zucconi planned to see the movie himself, however, "I think sometimes I will shut my eyes to preserve myself from all this blood," he said.
This reaction says much about the contemporary response to the Crucifixion: People want the spirit of Jesus, without the Incarnation; the death without the pain; the sacrifice without the blood. But without the body, the pain, and the blood, the Crucifixion is meaningless.
Sacrifice cannot be sanitized. Sacrifice has always been bloody. That's the point.
Eric Reed, Wheaton, Illinois; source: USA Today (4-6-04)
· The cross, like real life, is messy.
· It doesn’t fit well within our logic or the neat and tidy designs of religion.
· I don’t know about you but my life has been a mess at times, especially when I tried to live it on my own without Christ.
· I need a messy solution to the mess I made of my life.
· The cross is often misunderstood and misinterpreted.
The pop queen and sometimes-spiritual philosopher Madonna used the cross as part of her show,
In her [Madonna’s] 2006 Confessions world tour she staged a mock-crucifixion—singing "Live to Tell" while wearing a crown of thorns and strapped to a mirrored cross.
Not surprisingly, many religious groups protested the routine as an offense to their faith. Madonna answered her critics through a statement released following the tour's final show in Japan.
"There seems to be many misinterpretations about my appearance on the cross, and I wanted to explain it myself once and for all. It is no different than a person wearing a cross or 'taking up the cross,' as it says in the Bible. My performance is neither anti-Christian, sacrilegious, or blasphemous. Rather, it is my plea to the audience to encourage mankind to help one another and to see the world as a unified whole."
She later added, "I believe in my heart that, if Jesus were alive today, he would be doing the same thing."
Hugh Poland, Kingwood, Texas; source: Houston Chronicle (9-21-06)
· The crucifixion wasn’t done for theatrical effect.
· It involved real nails; real thorns; real blood and it accomplished a real purpose.
The Apostle Paul, who wrote the book of Colossians, from which we took our text this morning, focused on the cross in all of his work. He offers insight into to the power and the purpose of the cross.
This morning I want to look at four needs that lie at the core of our identity and how the Jesus through the cross has met those needs.
These needs are common to all people although we may not describe them the same way. These needs are:
· something bigger than ourselves to strive for
II. The Need To Receive Forgiveness
The first need the cross satisfies is our need for forgiveness.
This is our most absolute need.
I argue we need this more than food or water. I say this because the lack of food and water can kill me now, the lack of forgiveness can kill me forever!
· The need for forgiveness is rooted in an awareness of our sinfulness.
· Some would say we don’t need forgiveness from God this is because they don’t have an awareness of their sinfulness.
One of the words translated as Sin in our English Bibles means “missing the mark”
When we miss the mark that God has set, the result is our relationship with Him is destroyed.—this is the spiritual definition of death
In today’s text is says:
Colossians 2: 13When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature,[b] God made you[c] alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, 14having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross.
Notice that is says we have been made alive with Christ because he forgave us all our sins.
Forgiveness removes that obstacle to our relationship with God and allows us to experience spiritual life.
I quoted Madonna earlier. In fairness to rock stars let me read you a quote from a rock star who I think got it right.
In the book Bono: In Conversation with Michka Assaya, the lead singer and songwriter for the rock group U2 makes an explicit confession of faith.
"It's a mind-blowing concept that the God who created the universe might be looking for company, a real relationship with people, but the thing that keeps me on my knees is the difference between grace and karma."
Saying that the idea of karma is central to all religions, Bono explained:
What you put out comes back to you: an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, or in physics—in physical laws—every action is met by an equal or an opposite one. It's clear to me that karma is at the very heart of the universe. I'm absolutely sure of it. And yet, along comes this idea called grace to upend all that "as you reap, so you will sow" stuff. Grace defies reason and logic. Love interrupts, if you like, the consequences of your actions, which in my case is very good news indeed, because I've done a lot of stupid stuff. . ..
It doesn't excuse my mistakes, but I'm holding out for grace. I'm holding out that Jesus took my sins onto the cross, because I know who I am, and I hope I don't have to depend on my own religiosity.
Michka Assayas, Bono: In Conversation with Michka Assayas (Riverhead Books, 2005); submitted by Van Morris, Mt. Washington, Kentucky
I like the one phrase in quote, “Love interrupts, if you like, the consequences of your actions”
That is a good way of describing what forgiveness does.
· Are you painfully aware of where you have missed the mark?
· Do you have a sense today of your sinfulness and separation from a relationship with God?
· If so, then forgiveness is your greatest need. I have some good news for you God’s love, which was demonstrated in the messiest of ways on the cross has provided for your forgiveness.
Let me make one last point before we move on—
- One of the most tragic passages in the Bible is Psalm 51.
- Psalm 51 is the prayer of repentance that King David prays after he commits adultery with Bathsheba.
- Their affair results in a pregnancy and in an attempt to cover it up, he ends up ordering the murder of her husband.
The Psalm starts,
1 Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion
blot out my transgressions.
While tragic, this isn’t what I am talking about. Listen to what he says in verse 3
3 For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is always before me
- David couldn’t forget his own sin.
- God has forgiven you, can you forgive yourself?
III. The Need To Be Loved
We need to love and to be loved
The cross is the ultimate demonstration of God’s love for us. (God doesn’t just say he loves us, his actions back it up)
On the cross, God gave himself for us. As bad as the physical pain of the crucifixion was, I believe the greatest pain was the separation that took place between Christ and Father as the result of the sin of the entire human race being placed upon him. An eternity of perfect unbroken fellowship was broken. It caused Jesus to call out, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” Matthew 27:46
- The truth is the Jews didn’t crucify Jesus, the Romans didn’t crucify Jesus. You and I crucified Jesus!
- He was there because of our sin.
- His love for us drove him to the cross.
IV. The Need to Belong
The third need is a twin to our need for love. In fact, it’s the other side of the same coin—our need for community. We need to belong. This may be our most desperate need in the 21st century.
I read a book the other day by a man named Henri Nouwen. He was a Catholic priest who taught at Notre Dame, Yale and Harvard. Despite his accomplishments, he never felt as if He belonged. In the last years of his life, he found a place where he felt he belonged. It was a community dedicated to the care of severely disabled people in Toronto.
From this community he wrote,
“Beneath the great accomplishments of our time there is a deep current of despair. While efficiency and control are the great aspirations of our society, the loneliness, isolation, lack of friendship and intimacy, broken relationships, boredom, feelings of emptiness and depression, and a deep sense of uselessness fill the hearts of millions of people in our success-oriented world.”
Henri Nouwen, In the Name of Jesus pp 20-21
Maybe you identify with this. Maybe you feel like if this is as good as it gets, it’s not all that good.
Maybe you feel like Antwone Fisher—a young man they made the movie Antwone Fisher about—
He was abandoned at birth by an incarcerated woman, who was raised in abusive orphanages, foster homes, and reform schools. After his 18th birthday, he joins the navy where his anger towards life brims to the surface. After several fights, he is ordered to undergo counseling. Psychologist Jerome Davenport (Denzel Washington) encourages `Antwone to find his roots to begin healing.
After several phone calls, he reaches one aunt and uncle in Cleveland, who escort him to a dilapidated apartment complex where his estranged mother lives. A suspicious and aloof woman answers the door. Upon realizing that Antwone is the child she gave up at birth, she retreats to another room, sits down on a soiled and worn couch, and cries silently.
Antwone asks for some explanation as to why she never came to rescue him or why she never sought him out. She cannot answer. She simply stares ahead, not daring to look at him, tears rolling down her expressionless face.
He gently kisses her on the cheek as if to say, "I forgive you," and walks away. His mother remains on the couch and stares at nothing, making no effort to respond. A despondent Fisher leaves the apartment with his questions unanswered and rides back to his aunt's house with his uncle.
As he exits the car, his slow gait betrays the loneliness of a man with no hope of a meaningful connection to anyone. As Antwone enters the front door; however, his world changes. He is met with a chorus of cheers from 50 plus relatives, all waiting to meet Antwone for the first time.
There are children, couples, cousins, uncles, and family friends, all smothering him with hugs, slaps on the back, and beaming smiles. One cousin tells him his name is Edward and says, "I'm named after your dad," and an older aunt squeezes his cheeks. Antwone takes it all in, overwhelmed.
The hallway stairs are filled with kids holding up signs with his name scribbled next to crayola-sketched smiley faces and rainbows. He is then led into the next room where a grand feast is spread across a long table. The table is overflowing with chicken, mashed potatoes, pancakes, fruit salad, and every other possible dish. The room is prepared for a party. For the first time in his life, he is being adored. For the first time, he belongs.
As the clamor quiets, an elderly woman sitting behind the table knocks to get Antwone's attention and then waves for him to come over next to her. With slow, deliberate moves, she raises her arms, grabbing his hands and then caressing his face. A slow tear runs down her cheek, and with a raspy voice that seemed as if it was mustering all the strength it possessed, she whispered the redemptive invitation: "Welcome."
Through the cross, Jesus makes our welcome into the family of God possible.
Verses 11 and 12 of today’s scripture text states it like this,
11In him you were also circumcised, in the putting off of the sinful nature,[a] not with a circumcision done by the hands of men but with the circumcision done by Christ, 12having been buried with him in baptism and raised with him through your faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead.
- In these verses, we are described as being circumcised.
- Circumcision is a sign of the people of God--it is a symbol of belonging to this group.
- We belong in the family of God. We belong to one another.
- Just like Antwone Fisher, we are welcomed into a family of believers and the Holy Spirit whispers in our ear, WELCOME!
Most of us here have felt the sting of exclusion at sometime.
- This pain runs deep and stays with us forever.
- No matter what the culture says about who is “in” and who belongs.
- No matter what the social structure says about who belongs,
- The God of the Universe wants you to know this, You belong and you matter to him.
V. The Need to Purpose Bigger Than Ourselves
In order to have a full life, we need to be dedicated something bigger than ourselves--Something that draws out of ourselves and focuses on others.
We need something that makes an impact that lasts longer than we do. We need a purpose for our life.
For the Apostle Paul, his life purpose is recorded in his letter to the church at Philippi, 3:10-11
“10I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead”
Paul found a secret.
- The more he knew Christ,
- The more he realized his true self and the more he experienced fulfillment.
- The more he knew Christ
- the more he realized his needs and limitations and the more he had to press on to his purpose.
- The more he focused on living his life according to how Jesus wanted,
- the more he became sensitive to the needs of people around him and
- the more he realized that same love that motivated Jesus to go to the cross
- The more he realized that love had become the love that motivated him.
Life is not a dress rehearsal
It does get better than this
We can live our life in a way that there will be no regrets
Jesus is calling you and I to a purpose that is beyond our wildest imaginations. He is calling from where you are right now.
He called fisherman to become fishermen of souls.
He is calling you to a bigger world where you are motivated by the same love that drove him to the cross.
For many who witnessed Jesus on the cross, they believed it was the end—it is really just the beginning.
Do you need forgiveness and a restoration of your relationship to God?
Do you need to know you are truly loved?
Do you need to belong?
Do you want a purpose bigger than life itself?
Come to the Cross!