THE CROSS--THE CROSS

1 John 3:1-2: "Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew Him not.
2: Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when He shall appear, we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is."

If you had only one son, and he always obeyed you, and he was always pleasant when he had to do something that he really would rather not do, and he was just a joy to have around all the time, wouldn't you want to have more like him?

This is how it is with God the Father. He wants to have a large family of children transformed to be like His only begotten Son.

God had the cross in mind since eternity past. He saw it as the only way to have the family He wanted. His heart was broken in the Garden of Eden and again at the cross. His love for mankind was never greater than the moment He allowed His Son to be sacrificed for me.

God dealt with the human race through two men, Adam and Christ. Our natural beginning can be traced to Adam. Our spiritual beginning can be traced to Christ. We have two family trees, Adamís and Christís. What we inherit from Adamís tree, (the tree of the knowledge of good and evil), is the flesh and all it's ills, sin, the law, and death. From Christís tree (the Tree of Life) we inherit righteousness and eternal life.

God's plan is to use the blood of Christ and His cross to make us fit to come to Him. From God's point of view, we become perfect sons the moment we're born from above. God sees us as having been with Christ in His death on the cross and He includes us in the likeness of His resurrection: Romans 5:10, [paraphrased], says; "Being reconciled to God by the death of His Son, how much more shall we be saved through His resurrection."

The Christian life is an exchanged life. Christ lives in us and we in Christ.
Galatians 2:20 "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me."

Acts 6:8 tells us about Stephen who, "full of faith and power, did ďgreat wonders and signs.Ē His reward from his fellow man was to be stoned to death for preaching the Gospel to them.

There was a young man standing there at the time who didn't want to take part in the actual murder, but he held the coats of those who stoned Stephen to death. That implicated him in the murder. It was Saul of Tarsus. I think the glowing face of Stephen showed Saul the power of the cross more than the words of his message. It must have terribly convicted him.

After he got saved his name was changed to Paul, and his writings indicate that scene later haunted him. Maybe Paul's memory of that was the 'thorn in his side' that he asked God to remove. What you do speaks louder than what you say, just as it did with Stephen.

The cross is a dividing point in history. It's the dividing point between eternal life and eternal death. There is a gap between the Creator and His creatures, and the shed blood of His Son made a way for man to cross that gap.

Isaiah tells us "It pleased the Lord to bruise Him." How can we understand such words? Isaiah 53:9-10: "And He made His grave with the wicked and with the rich in His death, because He had done no violence, neither was any deceit in His mouth. Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise Him... to put Him to grief, to make His soul an offering for sin,.. He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in His hand." All this was fulfilled with the Fatherís full approval.

Three days after the cross, on that first day of the week, the cross was empty and the tomb was empty. Where is Christ now? Revelation tells us this; "And behold...in heaven,.. in the midst of the throne stood a Lamb.." The prophetic "Corn of wheat" fell into the ground and died so He wouldn't abide alone.

The cross was an offense to man in the first century and it still is in this last year of the second millennium later. Even if the Lord does come this year, a new millennium will start Jan. 1, 2001 and the cross will still be offensive to the un-saved. Why is the cross so offensive to the natural man? I think it's because man's sin guilt was made known there by God. We don't want our sins made known. It's our fault that the blood of God's Son was shed for our sins.

God asked us to live obedient to Him, and man has refused. Two whole chapters of the book of Exodus deal with man's responsibility for his own actions. I believe God also felt responsible for us and our actions so He sent a remedy. We can live a life for Him because Jesus Christ died on the cross. Jesus said, "If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me." Matthew 16:24. The cross made any other way of salvation impossible.

The expression, "the offense of the cross," sounds strange because we see crosses on church buildings, on Bibles, and hung around the necks of people. Many professional athletes wear them around their necks, but all those are only symbols. Isaiah wrote, in 53:2, "There is no beauty that we should desire him." When we visualize Him hanging on a cross, bleeding and dying, what is there in Christ to desire?

1 Corinthians 1:18 "The preaching of the Cross is to them that perish foolishness, but unto us who are saved it is the power of God.Ē To those who don't believe, it does seem foolish that a man dying on the cross could save them from hell, but to believers it is the power of God.

Our sin condemns us in our own eyes, and in the eyes of God, and the cross has come down through the centuries passing judgment on all the sins of all people. In short, it tells us we're sinners, and we don't like to hear that. Scripture says, in John 3:19, that people "loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds are evil." Our deeds are evil. We don't want the world to know just how bad we are and our secret thoughts, much less God.

In 1 Peter we see the standard for man, the salvation for man, and the satisfaction for man. 1 Peter 2:21-25. " For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps:
22: Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth:
23: Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously:
24: Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.
25: For ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls."

Verses 21-23 The cross is a standard for men calling for believers to follow His steps.
Verse 24 Our salvation is through the cross that is called "the tree" here.
Verse 25 This is satisfaction for man, to return to Christ.

Hebrews 9:22 states; "Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sin." Blood, particularly human blood, is very un-attractive to most of us. I don't like to hurt myself and bleed and I don't like to see anyone else bleed. Yet God demands that blood be shed to atone for sin, and He demanded that it be enough of the life blood that it cause death, not just a wound. The Bible says in
Leviticus 17:11, "The life of the flesh is in the blood." So when the Bible speaks of shedding of blood, the blood is shed and death comes.

The only sacrifice God would accept as atonement for our sins was the perfect blood of His Son. In Romans 3:25 the blood of Christ is called our propitiation, the removal of God's punishment of sin through the perfect sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Romans 3:20-26: "Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.
21: But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets;
22: Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference:
23: For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;
24: Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus:
25: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God;
26: To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus."

When the Israelites shed the lamb's blood for the first Passover they put it on the lintel and two sideposts of the door. When the death angel came that night, that home was safe because God saw the blood.

It's a picture of the blood of Christ, the Lamb of God, who shed His blood for us. God can see if our sins are covered by faith in the blood of Christ.

In Revelation 5:9, the blood is called the blood of redemption: "And they sang a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof for Thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation." Those who will come to Christ by the way of the blood will be redeemed-saved. This scene in revelation takes place in heaven and it says they sang a new song. Obviously they had been singing before this and probably while they were still on earth. Now in the presence of the Lord their hearts and voices will praise Jesus when they are actually in His presence.

We already quoted Hebrews 9:22; "Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness." If Jesus hadn't shed his blood on the cross there couldn't be any forgiveness of our sins. We'd die and go to judgment and hell. But Christ did die for us and now God can forgive us. God sees us as innocent under the blood of Christ just like Adam and Eve were before the Fall.

God provided reconciliation through the blood of Jesus. Ephesians 2:13; "Now in Christ Jesus, ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ." Sin separates us from God and hell is separation from God forever.

The blood of the cross also provides justification, just as if I had never sinned. Romans 5:9: "Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him." The Bible says, 'God is angry with the wicked every day. We don't hear much about God's anger or judgment and hell, so people live like there's no judgment and no hell. It also says there's one appointment you won't miss. "It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment." We'll all stand before God in judgment and give an account of our lives and be judged for what we did with Christ. Believers are justified in God's sight just as though we had never sinned. Those who don't accept Christ as Savior are guilty and are under condemnation.

We have "peace through the blood of his cross" with ourselves and with God. The only peace we will ever have in our hearts comes from the forgiveness bought by the Prince of Peace.

When we pray, we want God to hear us. The Bible says, Hebrews 10:19; "Having boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus," Because Jesus' blood was shed on the cross, we can come boldly into the holiest place, the meeting place with God. Under the Law, only the high priest could represent man before God, and only once a year. We can go to God any time, day or night, because the blood opened the way. The line is never busy.

The blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin. 1 John 1:7; "If we walk in the light, as God is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin."

If the believer sins, and confesses that sin and turns from it, the blood of Christ will continue to cleanse him. Without Christ's shed blood, we would have been held accountable for that sin for eternity. How thankful I am that Jesus died on the cross for me! Even though I'm not a good singer, I can sing songs of praise while I'm still on earth and when I get to heaven I want to join that chorus and sing that new song mentioned in Revelation.

I'm sure the unsaved person would prefer to hear a sermon about doing good works, or ways of social improvement, not the gory bloody one about that righteous Man being crucified. If you talk about the cross and the blood of Christ, it offends some people. The cross condemns every other way attempted for salvation. The cross is the power of God unto salvation and there is no other way that God will accept. Jesus said, John 14:6 "I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me."

The only way to be saved from eternal separation from God and the torment of hell is to admit to God that we're guilty of sin and want the forgiveness that the blood of His Son brought for us on the cross. God won't force it on us.

We have to realize our need for forgiveness and honestly ask for it. Believe that the Lord Jesus Christ is the Son of God who died on the cross for your sins, and you will be saved.

God made the believer several promises in Romans 6:5-14. "For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of His resurrection:
6: Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.
7: For he that is dead is freed from sin.
8: Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him:
9: Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over Him.
10: For in that He died, He died unto sin once: but in that He liveth, He liveth unto God.
11: Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.
12: Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof.
13: Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God.
14: For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace."

God said it, I believe it, that settled it for me. What about you?

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