The Cross 1: Setting up the Cross
Text: 1 Corinthians 1:18-25
As we approach Easter arguably the most important celebration in the Christian calendar; I want us to look at the significance of the cross itself.
I often wonder what someone from the first century would think if then were transported to here and now and saw people walking around with crosses around their necks!
let us remember that the cross in itself is something horrific with no redeeming qualities; someone from the first century would think you like to walk around with a gruesome instrument of torture and death around your neck that's dark man!
What is it about the cross that gives us hope; what redeemed it was what God did with the cross.
God took one of man's most horrific instruments of pain and suffering and redeemed it turning it into the object of many peoples hope!
This is what God is in the business of doing take the horrible and broken and redeeming it for hope and His glory!
Paul references this in 1 Corinthians 1:18-25. And I want to use this as a springboard in our discussion on the Cross tonight!
I want us to know what it is about the cross that is so powerful!
I want to start out tonight and affirm with Paul the Cross and it's message is a stumbling block; it is foolishness. Why? Because it takes all the things that we hold as important and turns them on its head; we want strength and power God give humility and sacrifice.
The Cross breaks us because it breaks our arrogant demand for self control.
So what is important about the cross; Why did God use this as His instrument in winning us back to himself.
So what is the significance of the Cross well...
It's About Sacrifice
At the core of the cross is the idea of sacrifice; an idea that is somewhat foreign to us today in the 21 century but built on an idea established in the O.T.
Established for us in the Old Testament is the idea that the innocent will stand in the place of the guilty because the guilty have nothing they can do in order to win back their innocence.
Due to Sacrificial nature of the Cross of Christ we can see our own helplessness.
The Cross publically displays men's weakness and that is why it becomes a stumbling block to them.
This is why you will hear over and over again that Christianity is a crutch for weak people.
Paul says so clearly in 1 Cor 1:28-31
"28God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, 29so that no one may boast before him. 30It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. 31Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.”d
The significance of the Cross is that it highlights our weakness; so why do we fall into the trap of thinking ourselves strong or wise?
I find this in my own life so often; I started our the Christian walk in the humility that I am nothing without the death of Christ; that He stood in my place and that I simply could do nothing to save myself.
Yet I find myself so often falling into the trap of thinking now that I am somehow powerful; wise; good enough!
Generally it is here that I begin my stumbling!
I am only what I am because Christ sacrificed Himself in my place!
I am what I am by the grace of Christ; therefore my life; what I can achieve and do must be forgettable so that He can take honour!
The amazing thing to see is when we read Hebrews and see that Christ not only is the one who stands in our place but He is the priest who offers Himself and in this His ministry does not stop on the cross by He is constantly praying for us and pleading for us on our behalf!
Next thing we see is significant about the Cross is
It's about propitiation
Now I know the saying don't use big words when diminutive ones will do.
But in this case propitiation is in fact the best word to use. Merriam-Webster defines it as to gain or regain favour; to appease.
Propitiation is a two-part act that involves appeasing the wrath of an offended person and being reconciled to him.
In other words it is God dealing with his anger about our sin!
The significance of the Cross is not that it is a cross (as in shape) as the Greek word used is stauros which literally means stake.
What is significance is the fact that it was a horrible death for anyone to go through and in it we see the wrath of God!
The significance of the Cross is the fact that God was dealing with His anger at our sin in the person of Christ.
God was not winning us from the devil (as some think), or saving us from ourselves. We was dealing with His own anger at our sins.
He was in Christ appeasing His own wrath against our sins.
We live our lives against the desires of a Holy God! His Holiness demands that our rebellion be dealt with or He would not be Holy.
The only answer was to judge our sin as sin; He did that completely on the Cross.
It's gruesome display was a display of God dealing with Sin once and for all!
Christ Died the death that you were meant to die and received the punishment that we deserved.
In all this God remained just and Holy!
Christ received our punishment and we His righteousness!
The lesson remains that we have because Christ took our place.
I have often realized that if it was not for Christ I would be hopeless.
It is on the Cross that we see the full mercy and the full wrath of God expressed.
This forces us to deal honestly with our sins; I fear the world has through tolerance fallen into the trap of your sins are simply your problems that you can overcome.
They are okay though.
The Cross shows us that they simply are not. Our sins are death!
The significance of the cross is seen in the fact that God is dealing with His wrath on the cross. and in this we see its severity and in that we are confronted with the severity of our own sinfulness.
Sin is not something we can excuse away or belittle the cross leaves no room for that; it is serious!
we have offended God through our action and that cannot be pushed away a price must be paid!
Thanks be to God that through Jesus Christ that price was paid in full by Jesus Christ; and I the guilty party can go free now!
The next thing we see in the significance of the Cross is
It’s about Reconciliation
The significance of the cross lies in the fact that through the death of Christ God is winning people back to Himself.
He is reconciling us back to the original relationship that He desired to have with us from the very beginning.
What is truly amazing about the cross is that it reconciles us to God but also God to us.
It is at the cross that our own hostility towards God is dealt with and His hostility to us is dealt with and there is real reconciliation.
2 Cor 5:18
"17Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. 18Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, 19namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation.…
We must remember this is a work of God, but at the cross our hatred of God was taken away.
For the first time in my life I am at peace!
At the cross of Christ the universe is made right and all my sin is dealt with and I am set free from all that held me back from relating to God!
That has got to be the best news in the world; because of what Christ has done I can come as I am to God almighty and know that there is acceptance.
God becomes my God (with no reservations) and I become His people (with full conviction)!
That is what is amazing about the cross!
So as we approach the Easter season may it be in humility and gratitude knowing that above all else our God gave it all that we might find life!
1 John 4:10
"This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins."
How do we respond to this? this awesome realization of the love of God!
Well Romans 12:1 gives us the reasonable response to God's love and mercy:
"Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God--this is your true and proper worship."
It is in light of what Christ did for us and accomplished upon the cross that the only reasonable thing to do is to live our entire lives every part for Him and His glory!
You exist to make Him known! You exist to respond to His great love in worship and a life lived completely and utterly for Him!
So I want us to be renewed again; looking to the cross as our hope and our reconciliation; giving our lives every day and every moment to live for Christ!
Wake up tomorrow and live for His glory!'
Drive in traffic tomorrow and drive for his glory!
may your work; your words; your everything be lived in light of what was done for you!
We do not deserve the grace we have received so let us live with that same love and grace!
And may God remind us over and over of His love and make it more and more real to us in every moment!