One of the things I like to see is when I look over, and I notice someone has brought a friend to church with them. It’s an incredible blessing. I see it with older folks in the church, and even with the teens and younger kids, who invite a friend to come with them.
It’s an attitude we try to have as protestant “evangelical” Christians. So when you hear someone refer to evangelicals what they are referring to is Christians who actively share their faith with others.
Today we’re looking at the work of Jesus Christ on the cross, and meaning of that event. Connected with that historical event, we’re then considering the implications of this living gospel, and how we can carry it with us where we go.
Does it penetrate to the deepest recesses of your being, your soul, and your understanding of the world? Do we really understand the significance of the cross?
Let us consider the state of reality. Did you know that the way things are right now are not as they were intended to be? It’s true. These lives we live today are a struggle, often broken, filled with chaos and strife.
We as a species were destined for paradise. But paradise was lost, through a string of events we call the fall of man. Today we live in the fall. But as Christians our ultimate destiny is paradise. It’s paradise regained, thanks to Jesus.
We live here 80 to 90 years. We’ll spend forever in paradise. Millions and millions of years are just the beginning of eternity with Christ. But today, right now, really matters. Because the door stands cracked open. And soon it will be shut forever. That is the door to salvation. That is the door to eternal life. Who is the door? Jesus. But once Jesus returns and sets all things right on Earth, that door will close. Many people will be very surprised, and the fate that awaits them is terrible indeed.
Every person we see, every single one is made in the image of God. Every person we see, our coworkers, our friends, family, strangers and gas station attendants. Their souls hang in the balance, today. They die for lack of knowledge. Everything is at stake right now. Right now is when we can make a difference.
Paradise was lost, but it has been regained and we are destined for that eternal city, the New City of God. This place is where I want to be! John wrote of the city when he said:
It shone with the glory of God, and its brilliance was like that of a very precious jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal. 12 It had a great, high wall with twelve gates, and with twelve angels at the gates. 14 The wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.
19 The foundations of the city walls were decorated with every kind of precious stone. The twelve gates were twelve pearls, each gate made of a single pearl. The great street of the city was of gold, as pure as transparent glass.
22 I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. 23 The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. 27 Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.” -Revelation Chapter 20
We have access to this glorious future, to eternal life, to eternal joy, to paradise itself! We know why:
Two thousand years ago Jesus willingly went to the cross, voluntarily. He was there for hours, suffering. Today as we consider reaching those in our community, I’d like to draw your attention to the 7 sayings of Jesus while he was nailed to the cross.
Our savior is nailed to the wooden cross beams, and lifted up and the cross base is dropped into a hole in the ground. And as Jesus is there, slowly dying, having been whipped and beaten, he makes several statements. Let’s take a look at these statements and see what they teach us about the mysteries of the cross.
The roman soldiers were debating over who would get Jesus’ robe. This was right after Jesus had been hoisted upon the cross. And this is when Jesus made his first statement:
Luke 23:34: Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.
So often in our world violence begets violence, hatred is met by hatred. The Jews and the Islamic nations have fought back and forth for hundreds of years. Family disputes go on and on. They hurt us, so we hurt them. Back and forth, back and forth. When hate was thrown upon Jesus, when violence was thrown upon Jesus, it did not bounce back, it stopped with Jesus. At the cross, Jesus returned the hatred of his enemies with love, and He absorbed the sin of the world, ending it. Next…
The criminal on the cross says to Jesus, if your really the son of God get us down from here. Then the second criminal says,”We are punished justly, we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing. Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
Luke 23:43: Truly, I say to you on this day, you will be with me in paradise.
At that moment, the criminal confessed his own sinfulness, and declared that Jesus Christ was the king who would come into his kingdom. And by his humility, his willingness to see the truth, that he was guilty, and Jesus was innocent, did he receive eternal life. He repented, and said that Jesus was pure, and he was justly deserving judgment. So he received grace.
Mary the mother of Jesus and John the disciple of Jesus were there when Jesus was on the cross. So after Jesus’ words with the criminal, he turns his head towards mom and says, “Mom, this is your son” gesturing toward John. And then to his dear friend John he said, “Son, this is your mother.”
This reminds of us the importance of relationships, and family.
In Matthew chapter 27 it says “42 “He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself! He’s the king of Israel! Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. 43 He trusts in God. Let God rescue him now if he wants him, for he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’” 44 In the same way the rebels who were crucified with him also heaped insults on him.
45 From noon until three in the afternoon darkness came over all the land. 46 About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
At this moment it is believed, that for three hours the presence of God the Father left Jesus Christ utterly alone on the cross. At this moment Jesus atoned for the sins of the world, in total darkness. An eclipse of the sun occurred, and it was completely dark.
Jesus saved others, but he did not spar himself. He went to the cross, suffered the condemnation for the sins of the world. Jesus became sin, in so doing, God the Father could not look upon God the son, but turned his being away from Him and left him alone. That is the punishment we deserved, and Jesus took it for us. What a terribly high cost.
Jesus declares forgiveness, he declares grace to those who slaughter him, but he does not spare himself the great suffering, the great passion of being utterly left alone, to have all the sin of the world poured upon him like a great river of filth and darkness descended.
Three hours, total darkness. And after three long hours Jesus cried out “Father, father, why have you forsaken me?”
He’s suffering, and he’s crying out in sadness that he has been left so incredibly alone, left condemned with the worst sinners.
Jesus’ then utters the phrase: “I thirst.” And many consider this a declaration of his extreme suffering. He is in the most intense state of suffering. He is offered the sour wine, but does not receive it. He accepts no consolation.
Shortly after these words Jesus declared victory when he said, “It is finished.” He had atoned for the sins of the world, and it had been fully accomplished. Jesus was victorious to the very end, just as he is victorious in our lives today.
Then finally Luke 23:46 Jesus is reunited with God the Father, when He says “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” And then Jesus died.
Jesus cried out one last time (Matthew 27:50) and he gave up his spirit. Matthew 27:51 then says “At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split 52 and the tombs broke open.”
Jesus’s victory on the cross had torn away the veil between God and people. Jesus opened the door to relationship between God and man through his mediation. He shook the world, defeated Satan, and opened up the tombs, in that he had defeated death, and declared eternal life open to all who would believe in Him.
These things are true! And real! This all really happened. It’s recorded by eye witnesses in the gospels. Jesus Christ is alive. He is resurrected, and he has defeated sin and death. Think of the weight, value, and importance of what Jesus has done. Eternal life is open to all who would believe in Jesus. It’s open today.
Friends we are so blessed in this church, at the salvation Army Escanaba to come here every week and celebrate our glorious Jesus. But friends, there are so many out there today who don’t have that opportunity. They know nothing of Jesus. And we have to reach them. We have to mobilize. It’s easy to sit here on Sunday and worship God. It’s a lot scarier to leave our comfort zone, to step out into the community and minister to someone we don’t know much about.
Jesus said, “Follow me, and I will make you a fisher of men.” And he said, “go forth and preach the gospel to everyone.”
We know everything hangs in the balance. The stakes are so high. Today I invite you to go into your communities; to visit with someone who needs Jesus, develop a relationship with them, and bring them into the family of believers.
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