The Beauty of the Cross

Beautiful Things Pt. 4 – The Beauty of the Cross

There is a difference between knowing about something and encountering it.

You can see places in movies, pictures, magazines or read about things in books – but to actually encounter, see, and experience  those things is amazing. (example – Eifle Tower in Paris, Big Ben or Buckingham Palace in London, Great Wall in China, sunset on the west coast, sunrise on the east coast, a Krispy Kreme Donut,)

It is possible to know God without actually encountering Him. If you want to encounter the power of God, you go to the cross where all powerful encounters start.

I Corinthians 1:17-18 NIV –  For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel—not with wisdom and eloquence, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power. 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.

Power is a word much loved by us. Who doesn’t love power? We know that those with power have influence. We seek power in our lives over circumstances and relationships. The world teaches us that power is good and weakness is bad, power is proof that you have arrived as a success in life, weakness is proof that you are a loser. The one with the power calls the shots and often determines the outcome of things. Gaining power or being affiliated with those who have it too often becomes the goal of our life.

The Cross – a symbol of power! A fashion statement around someone’s neck or as a tattoo maybe – but definitely not power! Perhaps a wonderful emblem upon the highest place in the church for us to gaze upon but who can call that power? When was the last time that you saw someone flaunting an electric chair or a hangman’s noose as a symbol of power? Well they are the equivalent today of what the cross was for many people in ages past. Death on the Cross was a most demeaning death in the past. It was reserved for the basest and worst of slaves and criminals and also for those who opposed Roman rule. To picture a dying man on the cross so torn and tattered that one could hardly recognize Him and to call that power being demonstrated seems to be a ridiculous idea. Yet Paul calls the Cross the Power of God! 

What cross is this? Many have been crucified upon a cross – some good, most bad, yet none with the power to help you or to change and transform your life as the cross of Christ. You see it wasn’t any cross but the Cross of Christ that makes all the difference.

“The death of Jesus on the cross is the centre of all Christian theology. All Christian statements about God, about creation, about sin and death have their focal point in the crucified Christ.” –Jürgen Moltmann, The Crucified God

The Old Rugged Cross by George Bennard

On a hill far away stood an old rugged cross, The emblem of suff’ring and shame; And I love that old cross where the dearest and best, For a world of lost sinners was slain.

So I’ll cherish the old rugged cross, Till my trophies at last I lay down; I will cling to the old rugged cross, And exchange it some day for a crown.

Oh, that old rugged cross, so despised by the world, Has a wondrous attraction for me; For the dear Lamb of God left His glory above To bear it to dark Calvary. 

In that old rugged cross, stained with blood so divine, A wondrous beauty I see, For ’twas on that old cross Jesus suffered and died, To pardon and sanctify me.

To the old rugged cross I will ever be true; Its shame and reproach gladly bear; Then He’ll call me some day to my home far away, Where His glory forever I’ll share.

Matthew 27:27-33 ESV 27 Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the governor’s headquarters,[d] and they gathered the whole battalion[e] before him. 28 And they stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, 29 and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on his head and put a reed in his right hand. And kneeling before him, they mocked him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” 30 And they spit on him and took the reed and struck him on the head. 31 And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the robe and put his own clothes on him and led him away to crucify him.32 As they went out, they found a man of Cyrene, Simon by name. They compelled this man to carry his cross. 33 And when they came to a place called Golgotha (which means Place of a Skull), 

Golgotha (Calvary) was so named simply because it was a place of execution, where the skulls and bones of criminals lay scattered.

•Golgotha is also the place where the love of God achieves its greatest expression. As Jesus is lynched in the name of religious truth and imperial justice he expresses the heart of God as he pleads for the pardon of his executioners.

•The cross is both hideous and glorious, simultaneously ugly and beautiful. It’s as hideous as human sin and as glorious as divine love. It is a collision of sin and grace.

•Before the cross is anything else, it is a catastrophe. It is the unjust and violent lynching of an innocent man.

Jesus died for us…not for God.

2 Corinthians 5:19 ESV – that is, in Christ God was reconciling[a] the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.

•The crucifixion is not the ultimate attempt to change God’s mind about us — the cross is the ultimate attempt to change our mind about God. God is not like Caiaphas seeking a sacrifice. God is not like Pilate requiring an execution. God is like Jesus, absorbing sin and forgiving sinners.

•The cross is not about payment, the cross is about forgiveness. Good Friday is not about divine wrath, Good Friday is about divine love

I look to the cross to see God. This is who God is, this is what God is like.

Isaiah 45:22 ESV – “Turn to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other.

•On the Cross we sinned our sins into Jesus and he forgave us

•In his crucifixion Jesus achieves solidarity with all who suffer.

•At the cross Jesus doesn’t save us from God, he reveals God

•In his crucifixion Jesus joins humanity in death that we might join him in resurrection

•I come to the cross to see God – I come to the cross to find God

•The Power of the Cross is the demonstration of God’s Love for Us

What the Cross Provides

The medieval saints used to erect a simple cross in the center of the market square of every town so that it came to be known as the market cross. This still may be seen in older towns of Europe. The simple and the beautiful idea was that the cross should dominate all the business of earthly life and that all transactions, interests and concerns should be under the shadow of the cross.

E. Stanley Jones: “At the cross God wrapped his heart in flesh and blood and let it be nailed to the cross for our redemption.”

The Hymn At Calvary – Years I spent in vanity and pride, Caring not my Lord was crucified, Knowing not it was for me He died On Calvary. Mercy there was great, and grace was free; Pardon there was multiplied to me; There my burdened soul found liberty, At Calvary.

Titus 2:14 NIV who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.

A. THE CROSS PROVIDES RECONCILIATION FOR ME 

  1. Reconciliation: to make friends and bring together those who are at odds with each other or are enemies (variance or enmity)

2.  At Christ’s cross, God and the sinner can meet while Christ stands between, reaching out one pierced hand to the Father pleading, “Father, forgive them, for they know not that they are doing” and the other to sinners beseeching, “Be reconciled to God.”

Romans 5:10 NIV – For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!

B. THE CROSS PROVIDES ATONEMENT FOR ME 

1. Atonement: to cover, expiate, to make at one, to pardon, to forgive and show mercy.

Romans 3:25-26 NIV God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement,[a] through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— 26 he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.

Billy Graham said, “Two thousand years ago God invited a morally corrupt world to the foot of the cross. There God held your sins and mine to the flames until every last vestige of our guilt was consumed.” 

Exodus 12:13 NIV – The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are, and when I see the blood, I will pass over you. No destructive plague will touch you when I strike Egypt. 

“God’s power to save us is greater than our sin that condemns us”

I John 2:1-2 NIV – My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.

C. THE CROSS PROVIDES HEALING FOR ME 

1. Our very bodies have been redeemed that we may lay our sicknesses and infirmities upon Him who bore them and that we may take His resurrection life for every physical, spiritual, and emotional need of our mortal frame.

Isaiah 53:5 NKJV – But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him,And by His stripes we are healed.

The Cross pronounced a complete cure for the ills of mankind.

I Peter 2:24 NIV  “He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.

Psalm 103:2-3  – Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases.

“Our tendency in the midst of suffering is to turn on God. To get angry and bitter and shake our fist at the sky and say, “God, you don’t know what it’s like! You don’t understand! You have no idea what I’m going through. You don’t have a clue how much this hurts.”

•The cross is God’s way of taking away all of our accusations, excuses, and arguments.

•The cross is God taking on flesh and blood and saying, “Me too.”

D. THE CROSS PROVIDES PEACE FOR ME

Through the work of the cross of Calvary we have peace with God and we can appear righteous in God’s eyes:

Colossians 1:19-22 ESV For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. 21 And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, 22 he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, 

Galatians 6:14 MSG For my part, I am going to boast about nothing but the Cross of our Master, Jesus Christ. Because of that Cross, I have been crucified in relation to the world, set free from the stifling atmosphere of pleasing others and fitting into the little patterns that they dictate. Can’t you see the central issue in all this? It is not what you and I do—submit to circumcision, reject circumcision. It is what God is doing, and he is creating something totally new, a free life! All who walk by this standard are the true Israel of God—his chosen people. Peace and mercy on them!

Romans 5:1 NIV “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

E. THE CROSS PROVIDES ME TO DRAW NEAR TO GOD

Draw near to God’s presence with clean hearts and clean hands. Through the blood you have a right to dwell in God’s presence.

Ephesians 2:13 NIV But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.

Hebrews 10:19 NIV  Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, 

Draw Me Nearer – Fanny Crosby (1875) 

I am Thine, O Lord, I have heard Thy voice, And it told Thy love to me; But I long to rise in the arms of faith And be closer drawn to Thee. 

Draw me nearer, nearer blessèd Lord, To the cross where Thou hast died. Draw me nearer, nearer, nearer blessèd Lord, To Thy precious, bleeding side.

Consecrate me now to Thy service, Lord, By the power of grace divine; Let my soul look up with a steadfast hope, And my will be lost in Thine. 

There are depths of love that I cannot know Till I cross the narrow sea; There are heights of joy that I may not reach Till I rest in peace with Thee.

Psalm 73:28 ESV – But for me it is good to be near God; I have made the Lord God my refuge, that I may tell of all your works.

“Once you have been to the cross, you will never be the same.” 

Isaac Watts penned the famous hymn 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!

Ephesians 2:16-22 MSG – Christ brought us together through his death on the cross. The Cross got us to embrace, and that was the end of the hostility. Christ came and preached peace to you outsiders and peace to us insiders. He treated us as equals, and so made us equals. Through him we both share the same Spirit and have equal access to the Father. 19-22 That’s plain enough, isn’t it? You’re no longer wandering exiles. This kingdom of faith is now your home country. You’re no longer strangers or outsiders. You belong here, with as much right to the name Christian as anyone. God is building a home. He’s using us all—irrespective of how we got here—in what he is building. He used the apostles and prophets for the foundation. Now he’s using you, fitting you in brick by brick, stone by stone, with Christ Jesus as the cornerstone that holds all the parts together. We see it taking shape day after day—a holy temple built by God, all of us built into it, a temple in which God is quite at home.

Fredrick Buechner said, “And now brothers, I will ask you a terrible question, and God knows I ask it also of myself. Is the truth beyond all truths, beyond the stars, just this: that to live without him is the real death, that to die with him the only life?” 

John 3:16-17 ESV – “For God so loved the world,[a] that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.

Titus 2:11 NIV – For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people.

Salvation Call 

Jesus, forgive me for all of my sins, I give my life to you, make me brand new. I believe you died for me so that I can live. Fill me with your spirit that I would know you, & serve you with my life. My life is not my own, I give it to you. Thank you for loving me, in Jesus name, Amen!

Jesus Is…God

Jesus Is_Screen

Jesus Is…God 

(1 Corinthians 2:1-2 Message) “You’ll remember, friends, that when I first came to you, I didn’t try to impress you with polished speeches and the latest philosophy. I deliberately kept it plain and simple: first Jesus and who he is; then Jesus and what he did–Jesus crucified.”

To invoke a well-worn cliche, truth is indeed stranger than fiction. Roughly 2000 years ago he was born in a dumpy, rural, hick town to young Jewish virgin girl named Mary. At the age of 30 he began his public ministry that included preaching, healing the sick, feeding the hungry, & befriending social misfits. His ministry spanned 3 short years before he was put to death for declaring himself to be God. This story continues after 2000 years.

Inspiration for…more literature, more music, more works of art than any other person in history. Our calendar is set according to His birth. The two biggest holidays celebrated worldwide each year, Christmas and Easter, commemorate His birth and His resurrection. Despite ever-evolving cultural changes, Jesus has been relevant in every generation. (Contrary to what John Lennon said)

The Big 3 of Ancient Greek Philosophy – Socrates,, Plato, and Aristotle (formed the philosophical foundation of western culture. Combined careers equal 150 years) Jesus being in the public eye for only 3 1/2 years he and his teachings have arguably impacted the world far more than these 3 philosophers combined.

Encyclopedia Britannica dedicated 21,000 words to Jesus. Largest of any biographical entries.

In fact, Jesus has appeared on more covers of Time magazine than any other person who has ever lived.

Who believes it? Its been estimated that there are currently between 70 and 100 million people in America alone who believes that Jesus is God, and as many as 2 billion more worldwide. Not only do they are convinced the story of Jesus is true, they stake their eternal destiny  on it.

HIS CLAIMS

John 1:1-14 ESV –  In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life,[a] and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light.The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. 11 He came to his own,[b] and his own people[c] did not receive him. 12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. 14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

†Jesus claimed to be God.

Matthew 26:59-65 ESV –  Now the chief priests and the whole council[a] were seeking false testimony against Jesus that they might put him to death, 60 but they found none, though many false witnesses came forward. At last two came forward 61 and said, “This man said, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God, and to rebuild it in three days.’” 62 And the high priest stood up and said, “Have you no answer to make? What is it that these men testify against you?”[b] 63 But Jesus remained silent. And the high priest said to him, “I adjure you by the living God, tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.” 64 Jesus said to him, “You have said so. But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.” 65 Then the high priest tore his robes and said, “He has uttered blasphemy. What further witnesses do we need? You have now heard his blasphemy.

That’s where the controversy starts for many.

The Religious leaders were out to take Jesus out

You and I may not have an issue with that but many people do.

Jesus had his share of haters.

At times through out his ministry he exposed their religiosity.

This morning I want to encourage you that Jesus is God and his desire is simple, he wants to have a relationship with you!

John 8:58 NIV –  “Very truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!”

He was not a man who became God. He is God who became a man

John 10:30-33 ESV I and the Father are one.”31 The Jews picked up stones again to stone him. 32 Jesus answered them, “I have shown you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you going to stone me?” 33 The Jews answered him, “It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you but for blasphemy, because you, being a man, make yourself God.”

†Jesus claimed to be the only way.

John 14:6-9 ESV – Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you had known me, you would have known my Father also.[a] From now on you do know him and have seen him.”Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?

Did you know the Hindu religion believes in 330 million different gods.

To them everything is God but man.

Story: Share on trip to China

People say we are narrow-minded and yes to a point that is true and so was Jesus he admitted it!

NOT IN NOTES (Matthew 7:13-14) Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. 14 But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.

Who is Jesus to you? Who do you say that he is?

Jesus asked this to his disciples and Peter answered…

NOT IN NOTES (Mark 8: 27-29) Jesus and his disciples went on to the villages around Caesarea Philippi. On the way he asked them, “Who do people say I am?”They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.” “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”Peter answered, “You are the Messiah.”

“A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said wouldn’t be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic – on a level with a man who says he is a poached egg – or else he’d be the devil of hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was and is the son of God, or else a madman or something worse.You can shut him up for a fool or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us.” – C.S. Lewis

Either Jesus was both the Son of God and the only way to Heaven or everything is false and a lie.

If these two claims that he made that he is God and the only way, if those two claims are true then there could only be three answers…

†Jesus is either: (according to Thomas Aquinas) 

1. Liar – like David Koresh, claimed to be God

2. Lunatic – Pastor in Miami who claims to be Jesus in the flesh. Nuttier than a snickers

3. Lord – He’s not a liar or lunatic, He is Lord. According to the first two commandments, there is only one God & that God alone is to be worshiped. That one God is Jesus.

JESUS IS GOD

Story: Dr. Simon Green Leaf was famous for evidence in the court of law out of Harvard. Out of much study he came to the conclusion that according the laws of legal evidence used in the courts of law there is more evidence for the historical fact of the resurrection.

More evidence to prove that his death & resurrection took place than really any other event in history.

What do we take away from knowing Jesus is God.

The key is not in the next few blanks but in the word experience that is what separates us from all religions.

(Philippians 2:9-11 NIV) “Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

Since Jesus is God Ask to…

1. Experience His power.

Don’t just know he is powerful but we can experience it

The blind man who had mud on his eyes and he could see.

The religious leaders questioned and investigated it.

They thought it to be a lie and a conspiracy.

(John 9:17, 25 NIV) Finally they turned again to the blind man, “What have you to say about him?” He replied, “Whether he is a sinner or not, I don’t know. One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!”

We must be desperate for God’s power.

You can never argue with someone whose had a personal experience and encounter with God.

Jesus never intended for his church to be powerless but powerful.

NOT IN NOTES (Acts 1:8) But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

Power in the greek is the word dunamis meaning explosive which is where we get the word dynamite from.

Concordance also says it’s a Miraculous type of power

•The Proof of Jesus is not in an explanation but in a changed life (Acts 3 story)

•“The good news is not that Jesus Christ lived and died, but that He died and lives.”

I Corinthians 2:3-5 Message – I was unsure of how to go about this, and felt totally inadequate—I was scared to death, if you want the truth of it—and so nothing I said could have impressed you or anyone else. But the Message came through anyway. God’s Spirit and God’s power did it, which made it clear that your life of faith is a response to God’s power, not to some fancy mental or emotional footwork by me or anyone else.

2. Experience His presence.

There is no substitute for the presence of God.

You can have all the nice things, signs in place but if you don’t have God’s presence it’s an empty church.

(1 Corinthians 14:24-25 NIV) But if an unbeliever or someone who does not

understand comes in while everybody is prophesying, he will be convinced

by all that he is a sinner and will be judged by all, and the secrets of his

heart will be laid bare. So he will fall down and worship God, exclaiming,

“God is really among you!”

(Acts 2:28 ESV – “You have made known to me the paths of life; you will make me full of gladness with your presence.” (Psalm 16:11)

1. It produces REST. It’s not a goofy expression, but it’s peace!

•Isa. 63:14 (NIV) – They were given rest by the Spirit of the LORD. This is how you guided your people to make for yourself a glorious name.

2. It Produces FREEDOM. Not goofiness or a distraction.

•2 Corinthians 3:17 (NIV) – Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, There is Freedom.

We don’t want to go through the motions we are desperate for his presence to change us.

3. Experience His peace.

(John 14:1, 27 NIV) “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me./ Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”

We are going to face tough time and tough seasons but this to will pass.

If you’re struggling go to Jesus and experience his peace through prayer and time alone with him.

3 Sources Of Tension • Uncontrollable Circumstances • Unchangeable People • Unexplainable Problems

Trust God to Take Care of Things Beyond My Control 

Philippians 4:6-7 NIV Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

There is no fear in death when you know God and his peace.

You can experience his peace in a tragedy or your day-to-day life!

For every action there is a reaction – your response determines the outcome.

He is Jehovah Shalom – means the Lord is our peace.

NOT IN NOTES (2nd Peter 1:2-3) Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.

The Storm – “Peace Be Still”

4. Experience His salvation.

(Romans 10:9 NIV) “That if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”

“The Good you do won’t finally save you and the bad you do won’t finally condemn you” Martin Luther

“God’s power to save us is greater than our sin that condemns us”

1. God loves us and does not want us to perish.

John 3:16,17 — For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.

2. All people have sinned. Sin causes separation from God.

Andy Griffith Show – The minister was moving away. Floyd & Andy were talking about him. “He was a good man, Andy said.” Floyd said, “I knew all his sermons by heart…but we didn’t give him much to work with. There’s just not a lot of sin in this town.”

Romans 3:23 — For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

3. Eternal Life is a free gift. You cannot earn or deserve heaven.

Romans 6:23 — For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Ephesians 2:8,9 — For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works lest anyone should boast.

4. God wanted us to be brought back into relationship with Him.

Romans 5:8, 9 — But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him.

5. We receive God’s forgiveness through faith, by trusting in Christ.

John 1:12 — But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become the children of God, to those who believe in His name.

6. Repent – Turn away from sin and to Christ with a change of heart & mind

Acts 3:19 – 19 Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord,

I John 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

Altar Call

“Lord Jesus I need You.  I know that I am a sinner – and I am sorry for my sins.  Forgive me – for living my life my way.  Today I invite You – to be the Lord of my life.  Take control of my life – make me the kind of person – You want me to be.  Give me the power to change.  In Your Name I pray.  Amen.”

I Believe

I Believe_Screen

“I Believe” (To Believe is Human, To Doubt is Divine)

I want to talk today about how hard it was for the followers of Jesus to get beyond his death to his resurrection. The reason I want to talk about it is because there are a lot of people who acknowledge that Jesus lived, was a great teacher…a Rabbi or prophet….but don’t believe that someone who was dead came to life again. If that’s a struggle for you….you might find it interesting to know that some of Jesus’ most devoted followers had the same struggle

““if you don’t have doubts you’re either kidding yourself or asleep. Doubts are the ants in the pants of faith. They keep it awake and moving.” Frederick Buechner

Our text this morning records Mary’s words to Peter and John after she went to the tomb where Jesus had been buried…she said…

John 20:1-2 ESV Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.”

The people who knew him best…chosen by him… they thought an empty tomb was nonsense

Luke 24:11-12 NIV But they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense. 12 Peter, however, got up and ran to the tomb. Bending over, he saw the strips of linen lying by themselves, and he went away, wondering to himself what had happened.

Buechner also said, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief’ is the best any of us can do really, but thank God it is enough.” 

Sometimes things happen that are hard to believe…. Like the huge plane that disappeared last year… I don’t know about you but I found it very hard to believe that a HUGE plane could just disappear!

• All the sophisticated equipment and satellite systems of the world….a plane that big is gone! Disappears off all the radar systems and satellite systems of the world…all we have are and a lot of theories …AND then there’s always some conspiracy theories…Like some of what you see in Ripley’s Believe It or Not… freaky…crazy…hard to believe!

Illustration: A little boy was going past a cemetery with his father when he noticed a new open grave. He pointed it out and said, “Look, Dad. One got out!”

•These kinds of things happen daily somewhere in the world….situations and circumstances that defy natural laws…break barriers of what we think is impossible… That’s how some would categorize what we celebrate today…with the resurrection of Jesus….Hard to believe/Impossible/a conspiracy….

While many believe that Jesus was a good teacher, a Rabbi….and was crucified. We believe that there’s more beyond the cross. We believe that Jesus literally, physically rose from the dead!!

Anytime there’s something hard to believe….like the resurrection….you may wonder how people get from wondering to believing?…..

Q=How is a theory or a rumor or a truth validated?….

1. FIRST OF ALL, IF WE ARE AN EYEWITNESS TO AN EVENT –  Meaning we are there when it happens and we see it and witness it ourselves. But when it comes to the resurrection, none of us were alive 2000 years ago so that’s out….None of us were there.

2) SECONDLY, IF ENOUGH OTHER PEOPLE SEE IT AND TELL US WHAT THEY SAW

>In court, the amount of eyewitness you have who tell the same story the stronger the case for truth.

>We believe a lot of what we have not seen because of enough credible people in history who saw and documented what they saw.

1. There were many people who witnessed the resurrection, wrote about it and had no motivation for saying it happened.

>They had nothing to gain and a lot to lose…(research how they suffered and died because of their stories)

Let me tell you about some of those people…

Matthew- saw a risen savior and documented it

Mark and Luke-spent time with Peter and others who saw a risen savior and documented those experiences…

John– saw a living Jesus, watched him die, walked away with his mother…then said he saw and had a meal with a risen Jesus.

Peter– said he saw him die and then spent time with a risen Jesus

James- The brother of Jesus…

Question= what would your brother have to do to convince you that he was the son of God?… he would have to rise from the dead! James who had never believed Jesus….was embarrassed by Jesus….said he saw him!

Paul…the chief persecutor of the church…the one who wanted to put the early church out of business…who wanted these other men to die wrote about the eyewitnesses naming Cephas and a group of about 500 that were with Jesus after the resurrection.

No royalty checks….nothing to be gained….but a lot to be lost… stuck to their story through grueling persecution and death. Some were themselves crucified… some were stoned to death… some beheaded….ALL OF THEM STUCK TO THEIR STORY OF A RESURRECTED SAVIOR.

B) The followers of Jesus documented their own disbelief.

They believed in him as teacher, Rabbi… like many people today…they believed he was great BUT they also believed he was dead!

• If you’re part of a conspiracy you tell a different story…you say: I never doubted…I knew it all along…we waited outside thetomb in a vigil…I had pre-printed T shirts that said “He is Risen” you make yourself look better…

• You don’t say: we were cowards; bewildered, overwhelmed and afraid…we were hiding…

• If you’re Peter and you’re making up the story: you don’t tell how you run away from your friends when they need you most and then deny knowing Jesus 3 times and launch into obscenities at the very suggestion that you were his friend….

• If you’re a friend of Thomas you don’t tell what the doubter said in private when he was afraid, upset and angry….

• Women of that day were not allowed to witness in court…So if you’re fabricating a story…you don’t document the women’s testimonies….it doesn’t count and you’re looked down on for even considering it!

This wasn’t a strategy, a conspiracy… a fabricated storyThis was their honest documented experience…What they saw and felt…experienced—clearly an honest documentation of how certain they were that Jesus death was a shock and that his resurrection was not something they expected or were quick to believe

Q= If you believe anything they say….why not believe everything they say about Jesus?

3) THIRD, PHYSICAL EVIDENCE.

Historical compatibility….geographical match ups…real people…real places… real garden…real tomb…. …that had a huge stone in front of it… being guarded by soldiers… was now empty…

• In court cases physical evidence is a huge! Physical evidence includes the aftermath of an event.

•The time our parents town and home was flooded

A) The resurrection of Christ is the only way to explain the massive amount of people going from a skeptical, fearful, doubtful position…..to a full on believer who is willing to live and die for what they have found to be true.

• Apostle Paul—went from persecuting Christians to being a devoted follower who was persecuted, in prison and died a martyr.

• Thomas– a bold doubter….a bold skeptic…who goes from doubting to preaching to dying a martyr.

• James the brother of Jesus who all his life felt embarrassed and humiliated by Jesus….and then after the resurrection saw Jesus for himself and walked into a church service in Jerusalem….his death was violent as well.

Followed by millions of stories…of real people, intelligent people, socially popular and social misfits…

>Former prison inmates.

>Former depressed

>From selfish to selfless

>From anger to self-control, peace

>From hatred to forgiveness

VIDEO: Listened to Bono • He explains his belief that Jesus died and rose again…I have no problems with miracles….they are all around me….I am one.

John Lennon once said, “Christianity will go. It will vanish and shrink. I needn’t argue with that; I’m right and I will be proved right. We’re more popular than Jesus now; I don’t know which will go first – rock and roll or Christianity.”

Well, I still listen to the Beatles and enjoy them, but I think Lennon is wrong. Christianity will never die because Jesus is alive and the resurrection is proof that man doesn’t have the last word, God does.

B) At the end of the day….a sound argument will never convince someone to be a Christ follower but an experience will.

•The sound argument encourages someone to re-think, look again….but eventually it’s the awareness that God is real… that he is speaking to me…that he is calling me to serve him….FOLLOWED by a personal experience so real that his presence and power is undeniably at work in your life

**This is why many reasonable, intelligent people who started out unsure have come to the conclusion that Jesus died, was buried in a tomb and rose from the dead.

•The Proof of the resurrection is not in an explanation but in a changed life

CLOSING: (Ask that no one move…..everyone stay in your seats….until we dismiss)

It doesn’t make sense to believe Jesus was a good man, a good teacher who was crucified on a cross….and then stop short of believing in his resurrection.

• The same people who documented everything else about him are the same ones who documented his resurrection. If there is no resurrection you should abandon everything Christian.

• Because none of the rest matters…If he died and the resurrection part was fabricated…then the story’s and the scriptures has no significance in our lives

• If the resurrection is not true then take the cross off the wall…don’t wear it around your neck…

• Don’t have Christian wedding ceremonies…with those scriptures about how love overcomes all things and never fails…

• Don’t have a Christian funeral with the talk about heaven and eternal life….seeing your family and loved ones again.

If on the other hand, the story of scripture is credible then early Sunday morning….on the third day….Jesus got up!! He not only walked out of the tomb….he broke the power of sin and death off our life!….So that whoever believes in him would not perish but would have everlasting life!

• Easter means….He not only was a good teacher…a rabbi….a man who lived and died…

• Easter means…He is a risen savior!…He is the hope of the world!! As the song says: Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus just to take him at his word….Just to rest upon his promise… Jesus how I trust him how I prove him ore and ore”….

TO not just believe in the cross… but to go beyond the cross…to cross over to the reality that on the third day…the body that was placed in a borrowed grave…was suddenly filled with the breath of

God….

• Mary crossed over

• Peter crossed over

• James crossed over

• Thomas crossed over

• So many before you have crossed over….

• People not as smart as you have crossed over…

• People who were smarter than you crossed over…

• People with less information than you have crossed over…

• People with more information  than you crossed over

John 11:25-26 NIV Jesus said, “I AM the resurrection and the life! Whoever believes in me, even though they die, will live again. I give them eternal life for believing in me and they will never perish!”

Death is not the end of the story! NOTE: Not a principle. A person!   I Am! You need to get to know Jesus!

Brennan Manning said, “For me the most radical demand of Christian faith lies in summoning the courage to say yes to the present risenness of Jesus Christ.”

My prayer for you this Easter…

Ephesians.1:19-20 ESV  and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might 20 that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places,”

The disciples had the knowledge of the resurrection, but didn’t have the power of the resurrection!  PAUL:

Philippians 3:10 ESV “that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death,  

A LIFE-CHANGING PRAYER

Romans 10:9 “I because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved”

PRAY: Dear God, I need your presence, and your promises, and your power in my life. Thank you for sending Jesus to pay for all the things I’ve done wrong by dying on the cross for me….

This is why I want to encourage you to PROFESS AND DECLARE FULL FAITH IN CHRIST. TO STAND UP FOR HIM like he stood up for you!!!

“The good news is not that Jesus Christ lived and died, but that He died and lives.”

(SALVATIONS) TO LIVE FOR HIM…TO FOLLOW HIM….TO PUBLICLY DECLARE HIM…TO PUT YOUR TRUST IN HIM!!!

The Power of the Cross

PowerCross_web

The Power of the Cross

There is a difference between knowing about something and encountering it.

You can see places in movies, pictures, magazines or read about things in books – but to actually encounter, see, and experience  those things is amazing. (example – Eifle Tower in Paris, Big Ben or Buckingham Palace in London, Great Wall in China, sunset on the west coast, sunrise on the east coast, a Krispy Kreme Donut,)

It is possible to know God without actually encountering Him. If you want to encounter the power of God, you go to the cross where all powerful encounters start.

I Corinthians 1:17-18 NIV –  For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel—not with wisdom and eloquence, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power. 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.

Power is a word much loved by us. Who doesn’t love power? We know that those with power have influence. We seek power in our lives over circumstances and relationships. The world teaches us that power is good and weakness is bad, power is proof that you have arrived as a success in life, weakness is proof that you are a loser. The one with the power calls the shots and often determines the outcome of things. Gaining power or being affiliated with those who have it too often becomes the goal of our life.

The Cross – a symbol of power! A fashion statement around someone’s neck or as a tattoo maybe – but definitely not power! Perhaps a wonderful emblem upon the highest place in the church for us to gaze upon but who can call that power? When was the last time that you saw someone flaunting an electric chair or a hangman’s noose as a symbol of power? Well they are the equivalent today of what the cross was for many people in ages past. Death on the Cross was a most demeaning death in the past. It was reserved for the basest and worst of slaves and criminals and also for those who opposed Roman rule. To picture a dying man on the cross so torn and tattered that one could hardly recognize Him and to call that power being demonstrated seems to be a ridiculous idea. Yet Paul calls the Cross the Power of God! 

What cross is this? Many have been crucified upon a cross – some good, most bad, yet none with the power to help you or to change and transform your life as the cross of Christ. You see it wasn’t any cross but the Cross of Christ that makes all the difference.

“The death of Jesus on the cross is the centre of all Christian theology. All Christian statements about God, about creation, about sin and death have their focal point in the crucified Christ.” –Jürgen Moltmann, The Crucified God

The Old Rugged Cross by George Bennard

On a hill far away stood an old rugged cross, The emblem of suff’ring and shame; And I love that old cross where the dearest and best, For a world of lost sinners was slain.

So I’ll cherish the old rugged cross, Till my trophies at last I lay down; I will cling to the old rugged cross, And exchange it some day for a crown.

Oh, that old rugged cross, so despised by the world, Has a wondrous attraction for me; For the dear Lamb of God left His glory above To bear it to dark Calvary. 

In that old rugged cross, stained with blood so divine, A wondrous beauty I see, For ’twas on that old cross Jesus suffered and died, To pardon and sanctify me.

To the old rugged cross I will ever be true; Its shame and reproach gladly bear; Then He’ll call me some day to my home far away, Where His glory forever I’ll share.

Matthew 27:27-33 ESV 27 Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the governor’s headquarters,[d] and they gathered the whole battalion[e] before him. 28 And they stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, 29 and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on his head and put a reed in his right hand. And kneeling before him, they mocked him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” 30 And they spit on him and took the reed and struck him on the head. 31 And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the robe and put his own clothes on him and led him away to crucify him.32 As they went out, they found a man of Cyrene, Simon by name. They compelled this man to carry his cross. 33 And when they came to a place called Golgotha (which means Place of a Skull), 

Golgotha (Calvary) was so named simply because it was a place of execution, where the skulls and bones of criminals lay scattered.

•Golgotha is also the place where the love of God achieves its greatest expression. As Jesus is lynched in the name of religious truth and imperial justice he expresses the heart of God as he pleads for the pardon of his executioners.

•The cross is both hideous and glorious, simultaneously ugly and beautiful. It’s as hideous as human sin and as glorious as divine love. It is a collision of sin and grace.

•Before the cross is anything else, it is a catastrophe. It is the unjust and violent lynching of an innocent man.

Jesus died for us…not for God.

2 Corinthians 5:19 ESV – that is, in Christ God was reconciling[a] the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.

•The crucifixion is not the ultimate attempt to change God’s mind about us — the cross is the ultimate attempt to change our mind about God. God is not like Caiaphas seeking a sacrifice. God is not like Pilate requiring an execution. God is like Jesus, absorbing sin and forgiving sinners.

•The cross is not about payment, the cross is about forgiveness. Good Friday is not about divine wrath, Good Friday is about divine love

I look to the cross to see God. This is who God is, this is what God is like.

Isaiah 45:22 ESV – “Turn to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other.

•On the Cross we sinned our sins into Jesus and he forgave us

•In his crucifixion Jesus achieves solidarity with all who suffer.

•At the cross Jesus doesn’t save us from God, he reveals God

•In his crucifixion Jesus joins humanity in death that we might join him in resurrection

•I come to the cross to see God – I come to the cross to find God

•The Power of the Cross is the demonstration of God’s Love for Us

What the Cross Provides

The medieval saints used to erect a simple cross in the center of the market square of every town so that it came to be known as the market cross. This still may be seen in older towns of Europe. The simple and the beautiful idea was that the cross should dominate all the business of earthly life and that all transactions, interests and concerns should be under the shadow of the cross.

E. Stanley Jones: “At the cross God wrapped his heart in flesh and blood and let it be nailed to the cross for our redemption.”

The Hymn At Calvary – Years I spent in vanity and pride, Caring not my Lord was crucified, Knowing not it was for me He died On Calvary. Mercy there was great, and grace was free; Pardon there was multiplied to me; There my burdened soul found liberty, At Calvary.

Titus 2:14 NIV who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.

A. THE CROSS PROVIDES RECONCILIATION FOR ME 

  1. Reconciliation: to make friends and bring together those who are at odds with each other or are enemies (variance or enmity)

2.  At Christ’s cross, God and the sinner can meet while Christ stands between, reaching out one pierced hand to the Father pleading, “Father, forgive them, for they know not that they are doing” and the other to sinners beseeching, “Be reconciled to God.”

Romans 5:10 NIV – For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!

B. THE CROSS PROVIDES ATONEMENT FOR ME 

  1. Atonement: to cover, expiate, to make at one, to pardon, to forgive and show mercy.

Jesus did not shed his blood to buy God’s forgiveness, Jesus shed his blood to embody God’s forgiveness!

Romans 3:25-26 NIV God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement,[a] through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— 26 he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.

Billy Graham said, “Two thousand years ago God invited a morally corrupt world to the foot of the cross. There God held your sins and mine to the flames until every last vestige of our guilt was consumed.” 

Exodus 12:13 NIV – The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are, and when I see the blood, I will pass over you. No destructive plague will touch you when I strike Egypt. 

“God’s power to save us is greater than our sin that condemns us”

I John 2:1-2 NIV – My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.

C. THE CROSS PROVIDES HEALING FOR ME 

1. Our very bodies have been redeemed that we may lay our sicknesses and infirmities upon Him who bore them and that we may take His resurrection life for every physical, spiritual, and emotional need of our mortal frame.

Isaiah 53:5 NKJV – But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him,And by His stripes we are healed.

The Cross pronounced a complete cure for the ills of mankind.

I Peter 2:24 NIV  “He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.

Psalm 103:2-3  – Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases.

“Our tendency in the midst of suffering is to turn on God. To get angry and bitter and shake our fist at the sky and say, “God, you don’t know what it’s like! You don’t understand! You have no idea what I’m going through. You don’t have a clue how much this hurts.”

•The cross is God’s way of taking away all of our accusations, excuses, and arguments.

•The cross is God taking on flesh and blood and saying, “Me too.”

D. THE CROSS PROVIDES PEACE FOR ME

Through the work of the cross of Calvary we have peace with God and we can appear righteous in God’s eyes:

Colossians 1:19-22 ESV For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. 21 And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, 22 he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, 

Galatians 6:14 MSG For my part, I am going to boast about nothing but the Cross of our Master, Jesus Christ. Because of that Cross, I have been crucified in relation to the world, set free from the stifling atmosphere of pleasing others and fitting into the little patterns that they dictate. Can’t you see the central issue in all this? It is not what you and I do—submit to circumcision, reject circumcision. It is what God is doing, and he is creating something totally new, a free life! All who walk by this standard are the true Israel of God—his chosen people. Peace and mercy on them!

Romans 5:1 NIV “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

E. THE CROSS PROVIDES ME TO DRAW NEAR TO GOD

Draw near to God’s presence with clean hearts and clean hands. Through the blood you have a right to dwell in God’s presence.

Ephesians 2:13 NIV But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.

Hebrews 10:19 NIV  Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, 

Draw Me Nearer – Fanny Crosby (1875) 

I am Thine, O Lord, I have heard Thy voice, And it told Thy love to me; But I long to rise in the arms of faith And be closer drawn to Thee. 

Draw me nearer, nearer blessèd Lord, To the cross where Thou hast died. Draw me nearer, nearer, nearer blessèd Lord, To Thy precious, bleeding side.

Consecrate me now to Thy service, Lord, By the power of grace divine; Let my soul look up with a steadfast hope, And my will be lost in Thine. 

There are depths of love that I cannot know Till I cross the narrow sea; There are heights of joy that I may not reach Till I rest in peace with Thee.

Psalm 73:28 ESV – But for me it is good to be near God; I have made the Lord God my refuge, that I may tell of all your works.

“Once you have been to the cross, you will never be the same.” 

Isaac Watts penned the famous hymn 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!

Ephesians 2:16-22 MSG – Christ brought us together through his death on the cross. The Cross got us to embrace, and that was the end of the hostility. Christ came and preached peace to you outsiders and peace to us insiders. He treated us as equals, and so made us equals. Through him we both share the same Spirit and have equal access to the Father. 19-22 That’s plain enough, isn’t it? You’re no longer wandering exiles. This kingdom of faith is now your home country. You’re no longer strangers or outsiders. You belong here, with as much right to the name Christian as anyone. God is building a home. He’s using us all—irrespective of how we got here—in what he is building. He used the apostles and prophets for the foundation. Now he’s using you, fitting you in brick by brick, stone by stone, with Christ Jesus as the cornerstone that holds all the parts together. We see it taking shape day after day—a holy temple built by God, all of us built into it, a temple in which God is quite at home.

Fredrick Buechner said, “And now brothers, I will ask you a terrible question, and God knows I ask it also of myself. Is the truth beyond all truths, beyond the stars, just this: that to live without him is the real death, that to die with him the only life?” 

John 3:16-17 ESV – “For God so loved the world,[a] that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.