John 8:31-32 Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
1 Corinthians 1:18-For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
The movie, “Do You Believe” is a must-see for Christians and for anyone considering what the cross means and what it means to follow Christ. In the movie, 12 different lives become intertwined as they are confronted with and impacted by the cross and message of the Gospel of Jesus. They each have a different reaction to the idea that God the Father has made a way for us to have a relationship with Him and it is through the sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross. I have seen it twice now and was incredibly moved both times.
Watch this trailer:
People have different reactions to the cross. For some it is a symbol of torture. For others, it is a mere symbol of religion or some kind of personal goodness. For some it is a source of comfort. For yet others, it is a connection with other people as they cherish the person who perhaps gave them a cross to wear or to have as a keepsake. For some people, strangely enough, the cross is a sign of rebellion or a way to affiliate with contemporary culture.
I guess you could say the symbol of the cross has never gone out of style. It just means different things to different people. That is because Satan has been hard at work to twist the message of the cross. That is really all he is good at accomplishing . . . twisting things. Following the crucifixion and burial of Christ, Satan couldn’t put Jesus back in the grave, so instead of the cross becoming a symbol of Christ’s victory which His followers get to share, Satan works to make it appear entirely different than it really is. And even for those who know the truth about the cross, Satan twists what it means to be a cross-carrying disciple of Jesus in an effort to make the Christian life look unpleasant or seem unreasonable. That’s why I am preaching this message today. I thought perhaps we might clear up any mixed messages any of us have received.
Satan wants to strip the cross of its power, turning it merely into a trinket rather than a trophy OR he tries to misrepresent its message entirely.
Let’s talk first about these two strategies of Satan. For some people, the cross is simply a trinket or good luck charm.
For those people, the cross holds merely an element of fascination. It is something they are drawn to because it is popular or cool in our culture today to wear a cross or to have a cross tattooed on their body. In movies, crosses in homes are “good luck” charms to ward off evil spirits. For some people, the cross is sort of a recreational and representational part of their lives. They hope it’s good for something, and just in case it is, they have one around the house, around their neck or around their bicep. Today are some of you merely being charmed by the cross?
If Satan can’t charm people with the cross, he will chastise them with it, luring people into believing that the cross is about chastisement or judgment and so they stay as far away as possible from it. Satan knows how dangerous it is when people get close to the cross of Jesus.
While that is true that the cross represents chastisement, punishment and the judgment of God, it isn’t true that we have to be chastised, punished and judged today because of our sin. You see, Satan doesn’t want you to know the beautiful thing about the cross. The cross was a place of chastisement and judgment, a place where our sins were judged, but the judgement, the punishment, the chastisement for our sin was laid on Christ alone. He was judged in our place. He was judged for the sins of the ENTIRE world. You know that suffocating feeling that sin creates in our lives? He wants to lift that off of you because He already bore that suffocation entirely, He bore that punishment completely, He bore that shame fully, He bore that weight fully, He born that guilt totally when He hung on the cross and God the Father turned His face away from Him.
Allow me to explain it from Scripture:
The penalty for a condemned criminal was to be “hung on a tree.”
Deuteronomy 21:22-23 22 If a man guilty of a capital offense is put to death and his body is hung on a tree, 23 you must not leave his body on the tree overnight. Be sure to bury him that same day, because anyone who is hung on a tree is under God’s curse.
Romans 6:33 tells us that the penalty or wages of sin is death. Sin puts us under a spiritual and physical death sentence. The cross was the place where a legal transaction took place. During the legal transaction, God the Father, transferred to God the Son, the penalty we deserve.
Why do we deserve punishment or chastisement? Because of the sin we carry and the sin we commit. We are all born sinners. We are all cursed by sin, but when Jesus was hung on the cross, that curse that all of us should have been placed under, was placed on Him. Since the human race sinned, a member of the human race had to pay the just penalty God demands, but only One who was sinless could pay such a penalty. Don’t take my word for what really happened on the cross. Look at these Scriptures. They are words Satan doesn’t want you to hear.
Galatians 3:13 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 hung on a tree.”
Isaiah 53:12 12 Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong, because he (Jesus) poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.
1 Peter 2:24 24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.
How is it bad, scary or awful FOR US that Jesus took our chastisement so that we didn’t have to? That doesn’t sound condemning for you and me. It sounds like God has done something marvelous for us. The cross isn’t meant to chastise or punish us. That was laid on Jesus. We aren’t to live sorry, shamed, or sad. We are to live free. That’s the part Satan doesn’t want you to hear and understand.
Here is what the cross really conveys for you and me:
First of all, the cross says that we are cherished—completely loved by God.
The heart isn’t the world’s greatest symbol for love. The kissy lips emoji that I use when I text my husband isn’t the greatest symbol of love. The cross is the greatest symbol of love ever.
John 15:13 13 Greater LOVE has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.
Romans 5:8 8 But God demonstrates his own LOVE for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
John 3:16 16 “For God so LOVED the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
1 John 3:16 16 This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.
When your children ask you what love is, when your friends talk about what love is, let them know that love is the cross. The cross is love. The sacrifice of the cross is the hallmark of love. When you couldn’t love God back, He loved you with the cross. When you couldn’t do anything about your sin problem, He took it for you on the cross because God loves you. You didn’t and couldn’t earn His love. He just loves you unconditionally. Even though you have failed Him. Even though you have ditched Him when you went with your friends last week. Even though your love for Him is on-again, off-again, His love never has an off switch. You, my friend, are cherished by God. It is unbelievable, but altogether real and marvelous at the same time. You only have to believe what happened on the cross for you and believe what happened afterwards for Jesus as He rose from the grave, in order to experience God’s love and in order to have the weight of your sins lifted off of your life. The cross says you are cherished. Do you believe?
For those who have embraced God’s love and let God love you through the cross, the cross becomes something which enables us to live “in check” or to live reminded of what God has accomplished for us in and through His great love!
We have told out kids that when they are with other people, when they are out with their friends, they need to remember who they are. We want them to remember what we have taught them, what we hope they will live for. The cross reminds us who we are, whose we are, what we have been taught, and what we are to live for.
Jesus even used cross language with the earliest disciples when He said, Matthew 16:24-25 24 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25 For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it.
The cross Jesus was talking about was the reminder that we have given up control of our lives to Him. We have become His disciples. We have become His followers. The cross reminds us who we are and what we live for. We have died to self and we live for Christ by allowing Him to live His righteous life through us.
Galatians 2:20 20 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
The cross reminds us what God thinks of sin, so that we choose to embrace Christ’s righteousness and continually choose to be done with sin. That isn’t such a turn-off, is it? To be reminded of who we are and to be reminded of what God thinks of sin? Will you let the cross be the reminder you need this morning?
For believers, the cross becomes an instrument by which we can check ourselves and make sure we are aligned with God’s purposes for our lives.
We need encouragement to run our best possible race. We need inspiration to not give up and give in to fear and doubt in the hard times. The cross becomes a symbol of inspiration to keep us from compromise as we consider what Jesus went through and how He didn’t quit until He proclaimed His job on earth was finished!
Hebrews 12:2-3 2 Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
No, we allow the cross to spur us on and move us forward. We allow the cross to motivate us to trust God in every situation because no one had it rougher than Jesus. Nothing made less sense than one man taking the fall for the entire universe, but God was always in control. God always knew what He was doing. God was always executing his will. I have said it before, but it is so fitting this morning so I need to throw it out there again: When the world looks at the cross they see an execution of a person, but when God (and His children) look at the cross, they see an execution of a PLAN!
It was the most brilliant and courageous plan ever executed, and it produced the results God intended. Salvation was won for the entire world because Jesus didn’t cop out. Jesus didn’t quit. Jesus didn’t make excuses about why He shouldn’t have to do what God was asking Him to do. Let’s continue to look at the cross. Let’s continue to look at Jesus’ sacrifice, obedience, and humility inspire us to become more and more like Him. Can you let the cross be your inspiration for living the Christian life every day?
The cross also helps me to remember where I have come from and to celebrate what God has brought me through, for the cross reminds me that there was a day and time when Calvary covered it all! Calvary covered my past with its sin and stain. My guilt and despair, Jesus took on Him there, and Calvary covers it all! The cross reminds me there is a before and an after. The cross reminds me I am not what I was, and I have been made new.
I have been changed-transformed! My chains are gone! I’ve been set free. My God, my Savior, has ransomed me, and like a flood His mercy reigns, unending love, amazing grace! I once was lost, but now I am found, was blind, but now I see!
At the cross, at the cross, where I first saw the light, and the burden of my heart rolled away! It was there by faith, I received my sight, and now I am happy all the day!
II Corinthians 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!
I now have a new identity in Christ. I have a relationship with a loving Heavenly Father. There is now no condemnation over my life. There is now no fear in death. My future in heaven is certain. I have become the righteousness of God in Christ! (II Corinthians 5:21) I am never, ever alone. Jesus walks with me, and He talks with me, and He tells me I am His own. I am never without hope. Does anybody else know what I am talking about?
I am never without power. The Holy Spirit is my generator! I have Holy Spirit empowering to think like Jesus, to act like Jesus, and to talk like Jesus talked. My life has meaning and purpose. There is a point to my life because Jesus has brought me from living a pointless life to pointing others to Him. I’m changed, and I am continually being changed by the Spirit of God that is in me.
II Corinthians 3:18 And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.
And no matter what happens in the world and no matter what happens to me, I am good to go! That is the Good News of the cross of Jesus Christ! Without the cross, I would be sunk. I would be stuck. Life-change would never be possible. My sin could never be removed, but because of the cross and my Savior who willingly bled and died there, I don’t just get to go free only to run back to my old way of life, but I get to go free and be transformed into the very image of Jesus as I walk with Him! What?! Can anybody here be changed by the cross today?
Something the cross ought to speak to you, if you don’t know Jesus, is that you are being chased—pursued. God is speaking to you right now.
Whether you prayed the prayer before the message and asked God to speak to you or not, He is speaking. You can’t even pretend that He isn’t. This message has been packed with more Scripture than ever. That is His voice speaking to you. It isn’t words on a page written by well-meaning people hundreds of years ago. It is Him. Here. Now. Speaking. He is calling to every doubter, every backslider, every unbeliever and the message is the same as it has been for over 2000 years. “Come, follow Me. Come by way of the cross. Let Me love you. Let Me show you your worth and value. Let me remind you who you are. Let Me inspire you and empower you to live courageously and righteously. Let Me live in you. Let Me change your life.”
Do you believe? Do you dare to believe the message of the cross? Watch this: