PastorRodney’s Weblog

Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

The Centrality of the Cross

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20090906_centrality_of_the_cross.mp3

9/6/2009 The Centrality of the Cross

In light of communion and doing communion more often, I want to spend some time together meditating on the significance of the cross of Jesus. The cross is not part of Christianity; the cross IS Christianity; there is no Christianity without the cross. The cross is not something we gain an understanding of and move on. The cross is where we live our lives. The cross of Christ will be the focal point of our worship– for eternity!

The Cross was the Center of Jesus’ Purpose

The Cross was the Center of God’s Purpose for all Eternity

The Cross is the Center of the Gospel

The Cross must be Central in the Christian Life & Ministry

The Cross is the Center of Church Life

The Cross will be Central for all Eternity

The Cross was the Center of Jesus’ Purpose

Jesus did not come primarily to live a perfect life and set a great moral example for mankind. Jesus came to die.

John 12:27 “Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour.

Jesus taught his disciples:

Luke 9:22 saying, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.” (Mt.16:21; Mk.8:31; cf. Lk.24:7)

Luke 22:37 For I tell you that this Scripture must be fulfilled in me: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors.’ For what is written about me has its fulfillment.”

After his resurrection, he said to them:

Luke 24:25 And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?”

Luke 24:44 Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.”

The Cross was the Center of God’s Purpose for all Eternity

The cross was the goal and focal point of Jesus’ earthly life and ministry. But this was not Jesus’ creative plan to appease the wrath of his angry Father. The death of the Son on the cross of Calvary was the plan of God before the foundation of the world.

Genesis 3:15 I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”

Isaiah 53:10 Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for sin, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand. 11 Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities.

Hebrews 10:5 Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said, “Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body have you prepared for me; 6 in burnt offerings and sin offerings you have taken no pleasure. 7 Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come to do your will, O God, as it is written of me in the scroll of the book.”’

Acts 4:27 for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, 28 to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place.

Luke 22:22 For the Son of Man goes as it has been determined, but woe to that man by whom he is betrayed!”

Ephesians 3:11 This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord,

2Corinthians 5:21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

God made Jesus to be sin on our behalf.

Romans 3:24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. …

God’s righteous wrath must be poured out and his justice must be satisfied. And God put forward Jesus as a propitiation by his blood. Jesus was appointed by his Father as the sin-bearing substitute.

John 3:14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. 16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.

The Father sent the Son. Jesus came in perfect obedience to his Father, in the strength and power of the Holy Spirit. There was perfect unity among the persons of God.

The Cross is the Center of the Gospel

The good news message is a message of blood-bought freedom and forgiveness. The ultimate price paid. Peace with God purchased at the highest cost. The just wrath of God absorbed by the willing sacrifice of a sinless substitute. As Phillip Bliss described it so well in the old hymn:

Man of Sorrows! what a name
For the Son of God, who came
Ruined sinners to reclaim.
Hallelujah! What a Savior!

Bearing shame and scoffing rude,
In my place condemned He stood;
Sealed my pardon with His blood.
Hallelujah! What a Savior!

Guilty, vile, and helpless we;
Spotless Lamb of God was He;
“Full atonement!” can it be?
Hallelujah! What a Savior!

Paul describes the gospel this way:

1 Corinthians 15:1 Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2 and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you––unless you believed in vain. 3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep.

The good news message is the most important message in the universe – of first importance. And the good news message is the substitutionary death, burial and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.

1Corinthians 1:17 For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power. 18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

1Corinthians 1:21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. 22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.

The gospel message is called the message of the cross, and the message of the cross is the power of God for saving sinners. This was the content of the apostolic preaching; Christ crucified. In fact, Paul resolved to know nothing except Christ crucified:

1 Corinthians 2:2 For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.

Here’s some more verses that describe the gospel accomplishments of the cross:

Colossians 1:20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.

Colossians 2:14 by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.

Galatians 3:13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us––for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”––

1Peter 2:24 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.

Reconciliation, forgiveness, redemption, propitiation. The message of the cross – Christ crucified – is the gospel. Without the cross, there is no good news. Here’s some verses from another favorite hymn: O Sacred Head Now Wounded; James Waddel Alexander

What Thou, my Lord, hast suffered, was all for sinners’ gain;
Mine, mine was the transgression, but Thine the deadly pain.
Lo, here I fall, my Savior! ’Tis I deserve Thy place;
Look on me with Thy favor, vouchsafe to me Thy grace.

My burden in Thy Passion, Lord, Thou hast borne for me,
For it was my transgression which brought this woe on Thee.
I cast me down before Thee, wrath were my rightful lot;
Have mercy, I implore Thee; Redeemer, spurn me not!

The cross must be central in the Christian life & Ministry

But the joy of the cross does not stop with the message of justification, propitiation, reconciliation and redemption. The cross is essential to our sanctification; our progress in holiness. We don’t hear the good news of Christ crucified for sinners, and then move on to something else as we grow in the Christian life. The good news message of Christ crucified is good news for Christians too!

Romans 6:6 We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin.

Galatians 2:20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

Galatians 5:24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

Galatians 6:14 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.

The good news of Christ crucified begins the Christian life by the great truths of justification – being declared ‘not guilty’ by the judge of all the earth; redemption – being bought from the slave market; propitiation – the wrath of God fully appeased by the blood of Christ; and reconciliation- enemies of God conquered by his terms of peace. But the good news of the cross continues throughout the Christian life in the great truths of sanctification – being made holy; and mortification – putting to death the sin that remains.

Listen to what Jesus taught:

Luke 9:23 And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. (Mt.10:38;16:24; Mk.8:34)

Jesus taught this before he was crucified. He does not tells us to take up the cross of Jesus, but to take up our own cross daily. A condemned criminal was forced to carry their own cross to their place of execution as a public demonstration that they were guilty. Taking up your own cross is a daily public acknowledgement that I am guilty and I deserve to die. Jesus calls us to daily embrace our own cross – our own guilt before him. Again today I am a sinner deserving of condemnation and in desperate need of God’s undeserved grace. I stand here deserving of death row and yet I have been selected to receive God’s pardoning mercy. Jesus calls us to deny ourselves. Peter loved his own skin so much that he disowned any relationship with Jesus. Jesus calls us to disown ourselves, to utterly reject and renounce self. I disown me. I utterly abhor and reject my own traitorous heart. I want to be identified only and completely with the Lord Jesus Christ. Daily I must deny self and own my guilt and identified with Jesus through his cross.

The cross is essential to my own sanctification or growth in holiness. The cross is vital to my salvation. The cross was central to Jesus’ purpose and the plan of God from eternity. The cross is also to be crucial in the life of the church.

The cross is the center of church life

Acts 2:42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.

Acts 2:46 And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts,

Acts 20:7 On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, …

The church was devoted to the breaking of bread. Day by day they broke bread together. They gathered together on Sundays – the first day of the week to break bread. Breaking bread was an essential part of the life of the early church. They took this ordinance from Jesus:

1Corinthains 11:24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 25 In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” (cf. Lk.22:19)

Jesus commanded his followers to break bread and drink the cup to regularly remind us of him. Daily we are to embrace our own guilt and renounce our sinful self. Regularly we are to be reminded together of Jesus’ broken body and shed blood. Jesus calls us to be keenly aware of our own guilt, and Jesus invites us to stay close to his cross and revel in the undeserved mercy that he pours out there. Elizabeth Clephane writes: [Beneath the Cross of Jesus; Elizabeth C. Clephane]

Upon that cross of Jesus mine eye at times can see
The very dying form of One Who suffered there for me;
And from my stricken heart with tears two wonders I confess;
The wonders of redeeming love and my unworthiness.

I take, O cross, thy shadow for my abiding place;
I ask no other sunshine than the sunshine of His face;
Content to let the world go by to know no gain or loss,
My sinful self my only shame, my glory all the cross.

1Corinthains 10:16 The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? 17 Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread.

Jesus invites us to feed on him, to draw our life and sustenance from his limitless resources. We should never tire of drawing near the cross and being freshly amazed by the riches of grace toward us who believe.

The cross will be central for all eternity

We are not done with the cross after salvation. The cross is vital to our sanctification. We need to be regularly reminded of God’s grace toward us at the cross. But our reflection on the cross will last much longer than our momentary lives here. We will spend eternity reveling in the grace of God that was secured for us at the cross. We will never outgrow the cross of Christ. In the Revelation of Jesus Christ given to John, we get a glimpse of heavenly worship around the throne of God. Jesus is announced as:

Revelation 5:5 … behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.”6 And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, with seven horns and with seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth.

Notice the conquering Lion of the tribe of Judah, the victorious Root of David is seen in heaven as a lamb standing as though it had been slain. The glorious king is a butchered lamb.

7 And he went and took the scroll from the right hand of him who was seated on the throne. 8 And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty–four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. 9 And they sang a new song, saying,Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, 10 and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.”

The cross is never left behind and forgotten. The cross is the eternal ground and source of worship and wonder. Jesus, you are worthy because you were slain and you ransomed people for God with your own blood. The bloody memory of the once for all sacrifice of the Son of God is the centerpiece of angelic worship.

11 Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, 12 saying with a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” 13 And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!” 14 And the four living creatures said, “Amen!” and the elders fell down and worshiped.

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org

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September 6, 2009 - Posted by | occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , ,

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