Here is the link to my most recent audio sermon. The following is the basic transcript for it:
Good morning everyone. I’m Rand one of the Pastors here at Grace Valley Fellowship. Let me pray for us and we’ll get right to it…(Prayer) I trust that you all had an enjoyable Christmas and that with most of the holiday festivities being over that you are now getting ready for the new year. And we’ll be starting a new sermon series in January but today, we’re into the last week of our December sermon series Grace came down.
This week following the Christmas season we’ll be looking at the cross- for if it were not for the death of Jesus on the cross we wouldn’t have celebrated Christmas at all.
Why has the cross, in other words, the death of Jesus by crucifixion become the so-called crux of all human history? Why is it that because of Jesus life but especially His death even the dating of time itself is recognized as bc- “before Christ” and AD- “in the year of our Lord.”
Why is it that even to this day, the cross prevails in our culture as a symbol worn even by people who admittedly want nothing to do with Jesus or His church?
The cross is everywhere. I don’t know if you knew about this but about one year ago Madonna, during her four month Confessions tour which was apparently the highest-earning show ever done by a female artist. At the end of her shows she hung from cross made of mirrors to perform a mock crucifixion”
This action obviously garnered a lot of media attention and this is what Madonna said about her actions.
She said “If Jesus were alive today he would be doing the same thing.” I read about this and thought how ridiculous and sad 1. Jesus is a live today and he was crucified hundreds of years ago on a real cross “once and for all” He wouldn’t be doing anything of the sort.
I find it so interesting that the cross is such a significant symbol for celebrities and other people in our culture.
Another example is celebrity rapper 50cent who some of you may recognize- This guy basically raps about killing people for no reason. He was interviewed by ESPN and says he believes in God and wears a huge Christian cross while performing, and while rapping about murdering people for fun. And cooking crack in his microwave and selling it to hustle people.
This may be an extreme case but my point is that everybody and their mother wears the cross. My guess is that most don’t really get what the cross symbolizes. Sure its Christianish, but even if a person tended to dislike Christians or the church, of course they could still where a cross and maybe this will somehow make them spiritual. I don’t know what people are thinking.
In my study I came across two quotes from what appears to be two non-christians regarding the symbol of the cross.
The first says, “I always thought Christianity was morbid, their symbol is the execution style of their savior, if he had been hung would they have a gallows on top of churches?
The second said, “I always felt that the christian community needed a better symbol besides the cross. Why? Well the cross was used as a form of capital punishment…what’s religious about that?
Good questions from a couple people who obviously don’t get the significance of the cross. But why did the early Christians choose the cross and not something else for their primary symbol? Sure, Jesus was crucified… but in that culture being crucified as a common criminal would have been a mark of embarrassment for the Christians- something to hide, not something to emphasize.
Why did they choose the cross. Why did they make the sign of the cross on their bodies, and decorate their homes and churches with this utterly morbid symbol.
I mean if you think about it, if Jesus was executed in our own day we would be wearing electric chairs around our necks or lethal injection syringes around our necks or dangling cianide capsules from our earings. That would be just strange- morbidly weird. But that is the culturally appropriate equivalent to what the early church did in using the cross as their main symbol.
And I’m sure you already know this, but death by crucifixion was the most despicable and gruesome form of execution probably ever invented. It is virtually beyond description. Death by crucifixion was an utterly excruciating way to die.
Think about it- not only were nails driven through the hands and feet of the condemned, but the flogging itself which in most cases took place prior to the crucifixion was so severe that many people died from it. The cat of nine tails the executioners whip had bits of bone and other materials that would beat the flesh and rip the skin and muscles from the bones and sometimes even the bones from the body. Catch a rib and crack it. It was horendous
And the way people died on the cross was slow painful death by asphyxsiation. And so those who were hung on the cross would hang from this rough wooden structure through for several days in the cold night, in the hot day, thirsty, hungry, and barely able to breath- having to pull themselves up to catch their breath, humiliated and naked, as people jeered them, bleeding, dripping with their own fluids because of shock,- sweat, blood, feces, urine, and tears. I could go on…
The question we are asking this morning is Why was Jesus death by crucifixion good news? How can it be? There was nothing good about it was there?
In my attempt to help us answer this question and see the value of Jesus death, we’re gonna look at a passage of the Bible that was written by a man named Paul who originally threw rocks at Christians in the face to kill them being one of the most ardent opponents of the early church and who was converted to Christ and himself was murdered for preaching and teaching what Christians through the centuries have called the gospel of Jesus.
Most of you probably know that the word “gospel” means “good news”. But if you think about how Jesus died, How can it be good news- the best news we’ve ever heard?
How can it be that the death of the man Jesus who came from a small rural insignificant town called Nazareth (a whole in the wall),who was never married, never traveled a great deal, a man who was homeless and poor, a guy who never wrote anything, never went to university, didn’t win any wars, He didn’t franchise any companies, He didn’t have a portfolio. He only did about three years of public ministry of all things…ministry, how can it be that He made such an impact?
He was just a traveling pastor teacher who made some people mad enough because of the things he taught that they ended up plotting to kill and actually ended up murdering him. Even though he was only about truth and goodness the crowd chose to release another man when given the opportunity instead of Jesus yelling Crucify Him! Crucify Him! Crucify Him!
So Jesus was crucified, a manner of death that the Jewish historian Josephus called “the most wretched of deaths” and he died next to two criminals whose names we don’t know. But we know Jesus name. There have been thousands of crucifixions throughout history and we don’t remember any of their names.
Why Jesus? It is because Jesus death on the cross is really good news!
Lets look at what Paul has written in 2 Cor 5:21 to understand why? 21He made Him who (AJ)knew no sin to be (AK)sin on our behalf, so that we might become the (AL)righteousness of God in Him.
And here we have the reason that Jesus death by crucifixion on the cross is good news. I hope you realize that if the text this morning is not true, then, Jesus is just another dead guy who died like everyone else before him and after him and His death didn’t do anything special for you or me.
He might as well be someone that people do mock because of the way he died. And if they love or worship him or spit on or urinate on his cross in a jar and call it art or do whatever they want with him…so what- because what difference would it make if its not true. But many years ago Jesus said that what you believe about Him makes a life and death difference for your soul and he’s saying it today… that “he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die.”
How you respond to what Jesus taught and what Paul writes here is an eternal life and death issue. And as we go through this text I want to draw out a few points that explain why Jesus death on the cross is such good news that we who follow Christ dare not boast in anything else but Him crucified.
The first point is that Jesus is sinless and we are not
Paul writes “He made him who knew no sin”
In Jesus short time of ministry He said a bunch of pretty crazy sounding things to us so-called reasonable folk. He said things like: I am the bread of life who came down from heaven” yeah I came from heaven that was my home and that’s where I going to prepare a place for you guys. That’s pretty bold. Think about it if someone were to come up to you and say that, youd think they were nuts.
And there are other things that he said equally as bold, but there is a statement that He makes which to me is maybe the boldest of all- When Jesus asks if anyone can convict him of sin. Jesus claimed to be without sin.
Talk about the height of arrogance and megalomania if Jesus was not actually who he claimed to be. There are of course other passages that talk about the fact that Jesus was sinless but this is an unparalled claim. And there are significant reasons why Jesus must have been sinless.
But how about us? are we without sin?
Let me share a quick story. You see before I became a Christian, I knew that things weren’t the way they are supposed to be in the world. I knew that whatever you wanted to called it: sin or evil, or wrongdoing, or immorality, or whatever it was called, that the world was tainted. The problem that I had was that I though I was on the good guy side. I thought that if God were to choose a team-a few people he liked…that he would certainly have picked me- because I was a pretty good guy.
I didn’t treat people meanly, very much. I didn’t brag about how good I was, all the time. I tried to help old ladies across the street rather than push them down. By the way, in a world without God, there is no moral difference between those to two options. I didn’t beat people up. I didn’t steal stuff, at least no big stuff. I was respectable and a decent human being. I only told small lies when it seemed appropriate. I did cuss a lot but not in the wrong places and I yes suppose I did say the name of God and Jesus as curse words on occasion but it wasn’t that much. You might say that my life’s resume was a little bit like Jesus. He was a good guy and so was I.
And maybe you are here today and think you’re a decent person, and let me comfort for a bit and say that it is normal to think that way.
But what you must know, is that this self understanding of goodness and decency is a manifestation of pride. To think that you could even be put on the same playing field with Jesus is the same pride that ultimately got Satan kicked out of heaven.
And undoubtedly you think, well I’m only human, nobody’s perfect, Everybody makes mistakes. I’m normal right? Aren’t we all sinners? Yeah that is the point.
We are all sinners by nature, and choose to sin everyday. Our thoughts, our words, our deeds, are all tainted. Even our motives- if they aren’t done for the glory of God, are all tainted, corrupt at the core. But even if they are done with good intentions, according to the prophet Isaiah, even our so-called good works are like a filthy menstrual garment to God. For we are by nature unclean, and unholy, and full of guilt, and unfit to be in God’s presence.
We sin by omission (not doing things we should) and commission (doing things we shouldn’t) and we all know it even if we don’t personalize and take responsibility for our sin. We blame others and we don’t repent.
And whether you believe it or not, you are accountable to the God who brought the universe into existence and who has given us a standard of right and wrong to live by. We have all transgressed His standard, his Moral law…and our sin of breaking God’s Law is an affront to His Holy majesty and His glory and ultimately His justice.
And with our sin in view the question is really this…
How can the Holy love of God justly and mercifully come to terms with the unholiness and sinfulness of humanity? How does a good judge handle this problem of sin in the world which is made manifest by the thoughts and actions of men and women? In God’s high court, Does He punish our guilt with condemnation- something His justice requires? Or does He pardon us and set us free- something his love seems to require?
And this brings us to our second point:
The second point is that Jesus became our sin
Paul writes that Jesus was made to be (AK)sin on our behalf. Another translation reads that He who knew no sin, became sin for us.
OK… So How does God, the Moral Law giver and Supreme Judge of the universe who sets the eternal scales of Justice deal with sinners who have transgressed His goodness.
The only possible way that God can judge our sin with both justice and love in view is by becoming the substitute for our sin. So that as our substitute He will receive the judgement and we will receive the pardon.
And this is exactly what God did for us in Christ.
I recenently read a powerful story about a rural school many years ago that had a hard time keeping a teacher. There was a group of big, rough boys who took pride in running the teacher off. The biggest and roughest of them all was kid named Tom.
A new young teacher won over the boys in this school by letting them write the rules for the school–which were very strictly enforced with a rod. For example, cheating would be punished with five strokes of the rod, and stealing with ten strokes, both to be given with the offender’s coat off.
Everything went well until one day Tom’s lunch was stolen. A frail little boy in hand-me-down clothes that were too big for him admitted his guilt. The school rules demanded that he be whipped. When the teacher called the little fellow up front, he came whimpering and begging to leave his coat on. The pupils insisted he obey the rules and take off his coat. When he did, a deathly silence settled over the room, for he had no shirt on and his emaciated body looked like skin stretched over bones. The teacher gasped and dropped the rod. He knew he could never whip that little boy.
Suddenly, big Tom strode up and stood between the two. “I’ll take it for him, Teacher, for after all it was my lunch he stole.” He shrugged out of his coat. At the third blow the switch broke, and the teacher threw it in the corner and said, “That’s all, school dismissed.” The frail little boy laid his hand on big Tom’s arm and through his tears said, “Thank you, Tom, it would have killed me.”
That’s a lot like what Jesus did for us…isn’t it? But in a much more profound level. He took the punishment for our sin. He stepped into that Divine courtroom and payed the penalty for our sin to satisfy the justice and love of God…Our punishment was the death penalty- which Christ took for himself.
And many of you have heard this before but have you really understood it.
The fact is
Some of you are thieves, perverts, bigots, adulterers in action and in thought, you lust for sex, you lust for material possession, you do not glorify god with your every motive, you are fornicators, you are drunks, you are addicts, you are liars, you are mean, you gossip, and you are bitter and unforgiving, you hold grudges, you think you are better than others, you look down on the poor, you participate in worldliness without discernment, you don’t even know nor do you seek to know the will of God and to dwell in His courts.
You covet and covet and covet- what you do not have. And then you finally get what you want often through sinful means like stealing or borrowing and within a short while you are ungrateful and begin to covet again
Some of you have sex outside of a marriage covenant between a man and women and God- whether with someone of the same or opposite sex, committing immorality. Some of you are childmolesters and some of you eat too much or not enough, some of you think too much or not enough. Some of you forget to trust in God for minutes, hours, and even days. And some of you never trust in God ever.
Some of you are murders whether you’ve actually pulled the trigger or not- Jesus said that you commit murder in your heart if you’ve ever stabbed someone with your unholy anger or spite or belittling condescension. Some of you are prostitutes or pimps and abusers of all sorts. And you’ve created idols in your mind and heart and you worship them with your time and talents. And you do not store up treasures in heaven and you don’t submit to God or the God given authority of parents, government, church elders and pastors, or your husbands.
You neglect your children. You do not love God with your whole heart, soul, mind, and strength. You are rebellious and self centered. You do not love others as yourself. And you do not train your children to follow the King of Kings. And some of you are thinking I’m not like that..I’m on the good team. And you are self righteous. You are the worst of us all. The one that God despised the most and Jesus called a white washed tomb.
If you think you are a decent person or that because of your deeds you are good, if you pray the prayer “Thank you God that I am not a sinner like that man” then you commit the worst sin of all.
Did I get everybody?
But friends I want you to really understand that… if you are in Christ He became the worst of what you are. Do you get that…If you are a pervert…Jesus became perverted. If you are a thief, a liar, a pharisee, a glutton, a fornicator, Jesus became that. Paul says that He became sin for us.
And if there is anything that you need to remember it is this…and it is what the Apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 15:3 is of first importance of all he could say, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures.
The prophet Isaiah, many years before Jesus was ever born, spoke about the coming Christ who would pour out his life unto death, and would be numbered with the transgressors. For he would bear the sins of many and make intercession for the transgressors. That by His wounds we would be healed and that God would lay on Him the iniquity of us all.
Chirst became sin for us.
And then What did God the Father do? He punished Jesus instead of us.
All the judgement and righteous anger of the most High God that you and I deserved by necessity fell upon Christ. And at that moment Jesus cried out “My God My God Why have you forsaken me?
On the cross, Isaiah says, that God was pleased to crush Him. Why? Because of His love for us- because when Jesus died under the full force of the wrath of God he paid for all of our sins- past present and future and took all our guilt away forever and we can no longer be guilty ever again. And He restored our relationship with God. And before He breathed His last he proclaimed ‘it is finished!” because there is nothing more we can do.
Do you truly see why the cross of Christ is such good news?
And now we come to our third and final point.
The third point is that We became Jesus’ sinlessness
Paul writes so that we might become the (AL)righteousness of God in Him.
This is the full exchange- God imputed our sin to Jesus and imputed His righteousness- His sinless life, to us.
If you are a Christian you are not only completely forgiven, but you stand before God in perfect righteousness. He has declared you to be righteousness in His sight. Once and for all.
The very moment you believe on the Lord Jesus, you are forgiven of everything you have ever done because of the cross of Christ alone. But not only that, His life is imputed to you. You are clothed in it. You are in Him. You are born again and you are regenerated with a new nature.
Your heart of stone as Ezekiel describes it which was dead because of sin is given new life, the very life of Christ Himself. And so now because of the cross, if you are in Him God looks at you and always says, This is my beloved child in whom I am well pleased”
You can no longer do anything to separate you from the love God- there is no height, not depth, nor any other created things that can separate you from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. You have a new identity in Christ if you have been substituted for and have you received the righteousness of Christ.
Christians, do you realize that you no longer need to ask God to forgive you for your sins. He has already forgiven them at the cross through the finished work of Jesus. I can now come boldy before the throne of my Abba Father always repentant, still confessing my sins and sinfulness, sick with disgust at my wretchedness, but with thankfulness that that all my debts have been nailed to the tree, upon which the savior died for me.
As the famous preacher Charles Spurgeon has remarked…” Oh that I could mount to the heights of this argument the saint in Christ, robed in Christ’s righteousness, wearing Christ’s nature! He wore my crown of thorns. I wear His crown, the crown of glory. He wore my dress, no rather, he wore my nakedness when He died upon the cross- I wear His robes, the royal robes of the King of Kings, He bore my shame, I bear His Honor. He endured my sufferings to this end that my joiy may be full and that His joy may be fulfilled in me. He laid in the grave that I might rise from the dead and that I may dwell in Him.
And is not one day in Your courts, OH Lord, better than a thousand elsewhere.
In closing, I hope that I have been clear in my attempt to answer from Scripture the question for you “Why is Jesus death Good News?”
Paul has clarified for us the good news about the great exchange- that God in Christ satisfied His necessary attributes of justice and His mercy by coming to earth living a sinless life, dieing a gruesome death on the cross for us, on our behalf, instead of us become our sin, so that we might become His righteousness.
I read about a small boy who was consistently late coming home from school. His parents warned him one day that he must be home on time that afternoon, but nevertheless he arrived later than ever. His mother met him at the door and said nothing. At dinner that night, the boy looked at his plate. There was a slice of old bread and nothing to drink. He looked at his Father’s full plate and then at his father, but his father remained silent. The boy was crushed. He knew He had done wrong.
The father waited for bit to let the full impact sink in, then quietly took the boy’s plate and placed it in front of himself. He took his own plate of meat and potatoes and fresh bread, put it in front of the boy, and smiled at his chiild. When that boy grew to be a man, he said, “All my life I’ve known what God is like by what my father did that night.”
Christ took the consequences for our sin and gave us the consequence of His sinlessness
This morning if you have not yet come to Christ with saving faith in repentance of your sin, to accept the loved of God and His provision for you, and to receive the gift of His grace, you can do that anytime. And our great God will be your substitute and will give you His very own life. He will save you from your sins and your sinfullness because our good God is mighty to save.
And if you have already come to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ our Lord, I encourage you to never stop standing up for the truth of the gospel which is the power of God for the salvation of all who believe. Commit your life to Him and go forth from this place with a purpose none other than to glorify God with your life.
Do not merely wear the symbol of our saviors death without experiential knowledge of its significance. But leave this place representing the King of kings whose blood covers you and whose cross has saved you. And boast in nothing but Him who was crucified for you.
And as Martin Luther wrote, “Learn to know Christ and him crucified. Learn to sing to him, and say, ‘Lord Jesus, you are my righteousness, I am your sin. You have taken upon yourself what is mine and given me what is yours. You became what you were not, so that I might become what I was not. What a great and wonderful exchange! There is no greater love!