I Corinthians 1:18 tells us, “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.” What is the message of the cross? What does it say to us today?
- I am loved. God hates sin, but He doesn’t hate me.
When we want to use a symbol to express our love to someone usually it is a heart like this:
Or maybe something like this:
You probably wouldn’t send a picture like this in your Valentine card to let someone know you love them:
But God did. Sometimes the world likes to paint God as an excluder or hater of people. That couldn’t be farther from the truth. The message of the Gospel is a universal message that “Whosever will may come!”
Read John 3:16 with me from the paper you have on your seat: 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.” Loving us meant crucifying Jesus. The cross shows us just how far God’s love reaches. The cross shows us just how deep the Father’s love is. The cross shows us the extreme measures God would take in order to be in a relationship with us.
Love isn’t all unicorns, rainbows, cupcakes and romantic walks on the beach. Our English word “love” is used to mean all sorts of things. It can mean we enjoy ice cream, that we are fans of certain actors or TV shows, that we are groupies of certain sports teams, or we have butterflies for someone. God’s love is way deeper than that kind of love for sure.
Sometimes people try to show love in order to manipulate someone else into giving them something they want. Sometimes people express love only if they know the other person will receive it. Sometimes people will withhold love to try to shame someone or to make someone earn their love. God’s love is pure, perfect, and without the playing of power games. God loves us unconditionally.
Love is far more than a feeling, too. It is a commitment that is revealed by a demonstration of sacrifice, and the greater the sacrifice, the greater the love.
Romans 5:6-9 “6 You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. 7 Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him!”
God didn’t just tell us He loved us, but He demonstrated that love with the cross. Pretty intense. Why a cross? Well, the Bible tells us that sin demands a sacrifice, so there is a spiritual principle at work. It became an instrument upon which Jesus shed His blood as a sacrifice for the sins of the world. Also understand that the deeper the love, the greater the sacrifice. Remember that. The deeper the love, the greater the sacrifice.
If I am getting up and Thom sees me getting up, and he says to me, “While you’re up, will you get me a glass of milk?” If I get him a glass of milk, what kind of statement does that make? I love him, yes, but I was getting up anyway. If we are both enjoying some TV show, and Thom looks at me and says, “Would you spoil me and get me a glass of milk?” and if I get up to get it for him, what does that say? Is that another level of love I am demonstrating because it involves another level of sacrifice? Now I am choosing to do something I wasn’t planning on doing in order to meet a need he has expressed. That’s another level of sacrifice, right? But if Thom looks at me while we are both enjoying a TV show and asks for a glass of milk, and I choose to get him milk which means I choose to do something I wasn’t planning on doing, only to find we have no milk…but because I love him, I go to Kroger to get some, now that is another level of sacrifice. You get my point about the degree of sacrifice revealing the depth of someone’s love, right? Now, Thom would be capable of getting his own milk. Let’s establish that, friends. ? But, because I love him, I have an opportunity to demonstrate that love by serving him and even by going out of my way for him in order to show increasing levels of sacrifice. Even if I have to drive to Walmart because Kroger is out of milk, how much have I really sacrificed in order to demonstrate my love?
We weren’t asking God for anything. In fact, we didn’t even know we had a need to be loved by Him, but God, who is rich in love and mercy, God, who saw our need, God who knew that we had need of something we had no way of getting on our own paid the highest personal price that could be paid in order to meet our need. He went out of His way to come to us. He left His throne and crown in heaven and died the most horrific death known to humankind at the time, and gave every ounce of blood and sweat to reveal God’s love for us. The greater the sacrifice, the greater the love, and God has revealed the greatest love of all through the sacrifice of Jesus.
The highest form of love in Greek is called Agape, and that is the New Testament word that is used to describe what God did when He sent Jesus. You have heard the phrase, “Actions speak louder than words.” I’d say the cross makes quite a statement. God has said, “I love you” with a cross and at the greatest possible cost.
Not only is the depth of someone’s sacrifice an indicator of their love, but the unworthiness of the object of a person’s love is also an indicator of the depth of a person’s love. You and I are the objects of the love of God. Romans 5:6-8 are pretty telling verses when it comes to the condition we are in before Christ. They clearly describe how unworthy we truly are. We are “powerless.” We are “ungodly.” We are not “righteous.” We are “sinners.” Were we really worth dying for? We had nothing to offer God, yet He gave everything for us.
Jesus didn’t die for amazingly good and righteous people. He died for sinners. He died for we who didn’t deserve God’s love. He died for people who would discard His sacrifice. He died for people who would scoff at His sacrifice. He died for people who would reject His sacrifice. He died for people who would continually trample on His blood by digging in their heels to enjoy the pleasures of sin rather than receive the love and forgiveness of God. He died for people who would mock Him. He died for people who would try to discredit Him. He died for people who would fail Him. He died for people who would stab Him in the back. He died for people who would use Him for monetary game, fame or a quick miracle. He died for people who would never love Him back. The cross says, “I love you so much that whether you ever love me back, it was still worth it for Jesus to die so that you could have the opportunity to be redeemed.”
Jesus became everything God hated on the cross. Jesus took on the sin of the world. He died a horrible death in order for God to demonstrate the depths of His love. God is serious about you and me, and He showed it through the cross.
The second thing I think the cross says is:
- I don’t have anything to be afraid of. Look at your neighbor and tell them, “You don’t have anything to be afraid of.” Our biggest enemies were taken out by Jesus when He died on the cross. The Devil and Death have been defeated. If the worst possible person to deal with is the devil (and I would think we could all agree that is the case) and the worst possible experience we could encounter is death, and Jesus whipped them both, we are good to go!
II Timothy 1:10 . . . “But it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.”
Hebrews 2:14 “Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil…”
1 John 3:7-9 tells us that Jesus came to destroy the works of the devil. 7 Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray. He who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous. 8 He who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work. 9 No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning, because he has been born of God. I John 3:7-9
When we allow the cross to become our point of victory, when we allow Jesus’ sacrifice to become our redemption, when we receive the impact of the cross into our hearts by faith, the Devil has no legal right to us. Yes, you heard me. Apart from Christ, the Devil has legal access to us, spiritually speaking. We belong to him. He can lay a claim on us and chain us and possess us and keep us for himself. The link between Satan and us is sin, and if we don’t repent of sin and turn our lives over to Jesus, becoming new, then we remain in the grip of Satan. But once, oh but once, hallelujah, once we accept what Jesus did for us on the cross, His victory becomes our victory, and legally, we change hands.
Although the Devil may try to harass us, he cannot take back what Calvary has purchased!
No power of Hell, no scheme of man, can ever pluck me from His hand! ‘Til He returns or calls me home, here in the power of Christ, I stand. If you are in Christ, you will be kept safe in the arms of Jesus. He has purchased you with His own blood, and Calvary becomes a line Satan cannot cross.
Colossians 2:13-15 13 When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, 14 having 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. 15 And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.
What these verses tell us is that Satan has been stripped of his authority. He has been “disarmed,” but I like to think of him as being “Dis-armed.” Satan can no longer grab you and drag you to his territory, and you are no longer doomed for hell. So, while you need to be aware that you have an enemy, you need to live with assurance of the victory. Hell is no longer your destination. Heaven is your home, and it is secure.
Jesus not only disarmed the powers of darkness, but Scripture also tells us He disarmed the power of death or sting of death. Death has been defeated. Jesus has overcome. Up from the grave He arose. We will rise with Him. Death is no longer something to fear. It is no longer our enemy. It is our gateway into victory forever. That is the transforming power of God! If God can transform death into something wonderful, He can bring transformation into any situation in your life which takes the fear out of not only death but life as well.
Sin brings death. Those who live in the realm of Satan and sin live in the realm of death. It is a natural, spiritual and eternal consequence of the Fall when Adam and Eve sinned, but Jesus, the sinless Son of God, the sacrifice for the sins of the world, tasted death and overcame. What the first Adam couldn’t do, the second “Adam,” Jesus, did. Death is now dead because Jesus was resurrected from the grave. God started the war on Satan and death on the cross, and He finished it with the resurrection.
1 Corinthians 15:54b-57 “Death has been swallowed up in victory.” 55 “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” 56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the LAW. 57 But thanks be to God! He gives us the VICTORY through our Lord Jesus Christ.
The law says I am doomed to experience eternal consequences because of sin, but I am no longer under that spiritual law (Romans 6:14) because I have been translated to the realm of grace through the victory of Jesus Christ.
Romans 8:1-2 1 Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, 2 because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.
Jesus removes the fear factor from death! That is how powerful the blood of Jesus is! And Revelation 12:11 tells me that because Jesus has conquered Satan and death by His blood, I too, can overcome anything, withstand anything, walk through anything, face anything and overcome anything by His blood and by the testimony of my mouth as someone who now possesses the ability to overcome anything along with Jesus. The blood of Jesus is the key to the gateway of Heaven! The Devil is done and death is done because of the perfect, precious blood of Jesus and because of His resurrection from the dead.
- I have a new identity. I am in the “Witness Proclaiming Program”.
I am not just free from sin, Satan, and death, but I am new. The cross tells me I am new. I have a brand-new identity. Galatians 2:20 “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.”
My life is now hidden with Christ. I have new desires, and they involve pleasing God. I have a new start without the weight of sin on my back. I have a new outlook because fear is gone. I have a new way to deal with life’s problems because Jesus walks with me and counsels me by His Spirit. I have a new focus and it involves telling others about Jesus.
II Corinthians 5:17-20 “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And He has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making His appeal through us.”
The cross not only gives us a new identity, but it gives us a new responsibility to share the message of the cross with others.
In her book The God Who Hung on the Cross, journalist Ellen Vaughn retells a gripping story of how the Gospel came to a small village in Cambodia. In September 1999 Pastor Tuy Seng (not his real name) traveled to northern Cambodia. Throughout that isolated area, most villagers had cast their lot with Buddhism or spiritism. Christianity was virtually unheard of.
But much to Seng’s surprise, when he arrived in one small, rural village the people warmly embraced him and his message about Jesus. When he asked the villagers about their openness to the gospel, an old woman shuffled forward, bowed, and grasped Seng’s hands as she said, “We have been waiting for you for twenty years.” And then she told him the story of the mysterious God who had hung on the cross.
In the 1970s the Khmer Rouge, the brutal, Communist-led regime, took over Cambodia, destroying everything in its path. When the soldiers finally descended on this rural, northern village in 1979, they immediately rounded up the villagers and forced them to start digging their own graves. After the villagers had finished digging, they prepared themselves to die. Some screamed to Buddha, others screamed to demon spirits or to their ancestors.
One of the women started to cry for help based on a childhood memory—a story her mother told her about a God who had hung on a cross. The woman prayed to that unknown God on a cross. Surely, if this God had known suffering, he would have compassion on their plight.
Suddenly, her solitary cry became one great wail as the entire village started praying to the God who had suffered and hung on a cross. As they continued facing their own graves, the wailing slowly turned to a quiet crying. There was an eerie silence in the muggy jungle air. Slowly, as they dared to turn around and face their captors, they discovered that the soldiers were gone.
As the old woman finished telling this story, she told Pastor Seng that ever since that humid day from 20 years ago the villagers had been waiting, waiting for someone to come and share the rest of the story about the God who had hung on a cross. (http://www.preachingtoday.com/illustrations/2011/april/1041111.html)
The cross says that you and I are Christ’s ambassadors as though He were now making His appeal through us. We are the ones now, who lift up the cross of Christ so that the world will know its message.
Oh church, the message of the cross is powerful! It tells me God loves me. It tells me I have nothing to fear. It tells me I can be made new and be used of God to help others hear the same incredible message.