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This is our second session on the theme of “The Cross at the Center.” In our previous session I pointed out three major reasons why we have to keep the cross at the center, why God’s plan and our salvation really doesn’t work when the cross is displaced. These were the three reasons which I’ll simply state without commenting. First of all, the cross represents one all sufficient sacrifice by which God has provided for every need. And there is no other basis for His provision. Second, through the cross we can receive the release of the supernatural grace that we need to do what the New Testament tells us we ought to do. Apart from that grace we’re confronted by a standard of living much too high for us to achieve. And third, the cross is the basis on which God releases the supernatural confirmation of His word that is part of the New Testament message through mighty signs and wonders. Only when the gospel message is attested that way can we say with Paul we have fully preached the gospel.
I want to give you three more reasons why we need the cross at the center. My third reason is divided into two parts. So if you add the first three and the second three, that makes six; and if the sixth one is divided into two, that makes seven. I’m always satisfied when I’ve arrived at seven. I feel that’s it, I don’t need to look for any more.
The next reason, and this is extremely important and one which our enemy would wish that we never discovered and he’ll do everything in his power to prevent us apprehending it or understanding it or applying it, this reason is that the cross is the sole basis of the total defeat of Satan. Through the cross Christ administered to Satan a total, permanent, irrevocable defeat. Satan cannot change that, he realized it just too late. Because, when he procured the death of Jesus on the cross he procured his own defeat. But ever since that he’s been doing everything he can to obscure that fact and to keep it from the eyes of the church. And if you go against Satan in your own life or in any situation on any other basis but the fact that Jesus defeated him through the cross, you’ll be defeated because he’s much stronger and much cleverer than we are in our own wisdom and strength.
In the ministry of deliverance from evil spirits, which the Lord led me into nearly thirty years ago now, I soon discovered that demons are not impressed by our theology, they’re not impressed by our denomination. You can tell them I’m Pentecostal or I’m a Baptist or I’m a Presbyterian—they could care less. But when you deal with them on the basis of what Jesus accomplished on the cross, then it really is true the demons believe and tremble. I’ve seen demons trembling many times when confronted with the reality of the defeat that Satan suffered through the cross.
I want to turn to a scripture in Colossians 2:13–15. I have to say this is a somewhat complicated statement and I’m not going to be able to take time to elaborate it at length. I trust that the Holy Spirit will make it clear to you. Colossians 2:13–15:
“And you being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He [that is God the Father] has made alive together with Him [Jesus Christ the Son], having forgiven you all your trespasses, having wiped out the handwriting requirements that was against us which was contrary to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it.”
Now, I’d like you if you have your finger in the Bible, keep it in that passage because we’ll go back there, but turn for a moment to Luke 11:21–22, which is a parable which I believe unfolds the truth that’s stated doctrinally in Colossians 2. Jesus says:
“When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own palace, his goods are in peace; but when a stronger than he comes upon him, and overcomes him, he takes from him all his armor in which he trusted, and divides his spoil.”
The picture there is of a man, a tyrant, an oppressor who has a very strong castle of which he’s total master. And in that castle he’s amassed a great deal of ill-gotten spoil and booty from people he’s oppressed. He also has under his control a multitude of slaves whom he forces to do his will. He’s sitting there fully armed as he thinks, undefeatable. But another man who is stronger than he comes against him, defeats him and, notice this, takes from him all his weapons and then releases his captives and plunders his goods. Now, who is the first strong man? Satan, that’s right. And the second strong man is Jesus. So that’s a little parable about what Jesus did. Satan had everything under his control. He had enslaved humanity, robbed us of all the wealth and the blessings that God our Father intended us to have and he was sitting there undefeatable. Then, praise God, along came Jesus! And without any military weapons through the cross Jesus administered a total, permanent, irrevocable defeat to Satan. Having defeated him—listen—He took from him all his weapons and then He said to the captives, “Now you can go free.” He said, “While you’re going, help yourself to some of the spoil.” That’s Jesus’ own picture of what He accomplished by His death on the cross.
Now, go back to Colossians 2:13–15 and you find how He did it. I think I enjoy this because of my background in philosophy because there are some benefits in having been a philosopher and I’ve learned to reason. I don’t think I can go into this in the detail that my mind would love to go into it but Jesus spoiled, if you look at verse 15, He disarmed principalities and powers. Whose principalities and powers were those? Satan’s, all right. The same principalities and powers spoken of in Ephesians 6:12 where it says:
“We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenlies.”
So, Jesus defeated them and stripped them of their weapons. And He made an open show of them. Then what we need to understand is on what basis He did that. Because until we understand the basis we can believe it in theory but we cannot apply it in practice. What is Satan’s great weapon against humanity? You could give me any answers but I’m only going to accept one. Guilt, that’s right. See, I’ll give you a little picture which is just out of my imagination of something that could have happened way, way back in who knows how many ages ago. We do know that Satan, at least in the time of Job, had access to the presence of God because when the angels came to present themselves and give an explanation of what they’d been doing Satan joined the throng. It’s typical of him because his attitude was, “Well, God, I know I made a mistake but here I am, I’m still coming to your presence.” And according to my understanding the only person who spotted Satan was the Lord. See? Because Paul says he can be changed into an angel of light. Then you remember that God and Satan had a discussion about Job. Are you perhaps rather glad you weren’t the person they had the discussion about?
Anyhow, I picture Satan, he’s impudent, he’s defiant, he’s a braggart, he’s got a big mouth and I picture sometimes Satan saying to God, “Listen, God, I know you’re a righteous, a just and a holy God. I know that well enough. I know I’m a rebel. And you see that lake of fire and brimstone that isn’t in heaven and isn’t in earth, there in outer darkness, I know that’s where I’m headed, God. I know I deserve to go there. I’m not arguing. But listen. I just want to tell you one thing, God. You see those human beings that you made in your image and likeness, that you love so much? I made them rebels just like me. You know that. And so, God, remember this. When you send me to that lake of fire, your justice demands that you send them, too. Just keep that in mind before you dispatch me and my angels there.”
And I picture God just keeping quiet. Sometimes the best way to deal with the devil is not to argue with him. That really hurts his feelings. If you ignore him, that really upsets him. God didn’t say, but He had a plan. You know what His plan was, His plan was Jesus. So along comes Jesus, he’s the last Adam. He’s totally identified with the Adamic race and Satan goes after Him and procures His death. But as He dies on the cross He’s the representative of the total Adamic race and all our guilt is laid upon Him. He pays the total penalty and when He dies and is buried, our guilt is banished—if we will believe. We have to accept it by faith.
So you understand what God has done? He’s made a way for humanity to be reprieved from the lake of fire. And yet, in His justice He can forgive us and punish Satan. And there’s never a suggestion anywhere in the Bible that Satan has any other destiny but the lake of fire. Jesus did not take upon Him the nature of angels, He’s not a substitute for angels. He’s the last Adam, He’s the substitute for the whole Adamic race—but only for the whole Adamic race. And one of the things that I think eternity will be too short to discover is why God cared so much about the Adamic race. I think it’s the most amazing fact in the Bible. And there’s a lot of amazing facts in the Bible. If you read your Bible and never get astonished I don’t think you’ve understood it. It is an astonishing book.
On the basis of what Jesus did, you understand, God can now justly punish Satan when it suits Him and justly acquit those who accept the sacrifice of Jesus on their behalf. We’re not acquitted unless we avail ourselves of the sacrifice.
God did two things through the death of Jesus to deliver us from guilt. Number one, He made provision for the past. So it says in verse 13 at the end:
“...He forgave us all our trespasses...”
All our acts of disobedience were punished in Jesus. So God, without compromising His justice, can forgive us. The past is clear. And if you are really a believer in Jesus and you’ve accepted His provision there’s nothing against you from the past in the records of heaven. Every evil deed you’ve ever done has been blotted out, God has cast them into the sea of His forgetfulness, and He has said He will remember them no more. You may remember what Corrie ten Boom used to say, He’s put up a sign that says “No Fishing”! That’s what God has done with our past.
And every one of you here this evening that is a believer in Jesus should have a confident assurance that all your past sins are totally forgiven, never to be remembered again. Of course, if you’ve committed sins which you haven’t confessed, that isn’t necessarily true. So, the remedy is to confess them. If we confess our sins, what happens? God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
But God still has to make provision for the future because otherwise we go back and start sinning all over again. God’s provision for the future is more complicated to understand. He has removed the law of Moses as the requirement for achieving righteousness with God. The writer says God nailed the law with its commandments and ordinances to the cross. There is a hymn that says our sins are nailed to the cross. I’m not sure about that. What I do know is the law was nailed to the cross. Once we come to the cross and go beyond it we’re outside the territory of the law. We’re no longer under the law, we’re free from it’s requirements. We’ll be dealing with that later in another session.
So, what is the requirement now for righteousness? We’re not required to observe the law of Moses. Thank God, because none of us would observe it in all its details, it’s very complicated. It’s a lot of demands. So what in one word—believing, yes, I was going to say faith but that’s perfectly right. That’s all that’s needed is faith. You understand? Not keeping a set of rules but faith. Let me turn you to Romans 4, which takes the example of Abraham. It says in Genesis 15:6:
“Abraham believed God and it was counted to him for righteousness.”
What was counted to him for righteousness? His faith, that’s right. And Paul says here at the end of Romans 4:22 and following:
“And therefore IT WAS ACCOUNTED TO HIM [Abraham] FOR RIGHTEOUSNESS. Now it was not written for his sake alone, that it was imputed [or counted to him], but also for us it shall be imputed to us, who believe in Him who raised us Jesus our Lord from the dead, who was delivered because of our offenses, and was raised because of our justification.”
So, we are in the same category with Abraham if we believe the record of what Jesus did on the cross. He was delivered to death because of our offenses. He paid the penalty and He was raised up from the dead for our justification that righteousness might be imputed to us. Then righteousness is imputed to us on the basis of our faith just as it was to Abraham. Abraham didn’t earn righteousness by keeping the works of the law, he wasn’t even under the law. It will not be imputed to us because of what we do but because of what we believe. Faith is the only basis for righteousness that’s accepted by God. As I understand it, God does not permit us to add anything whatever to that requirement. It’s not faith plus something, not faith plus the law, faith plus the church, faith plus baptism, faith plus good works; it’s faith. And as they used to say, ?so la fide?. Do you know what that means? By faith alone. That’s really the great recovered truth of the Reformation. I don’t think the Reformation recovered everything but it did lay hold of that one fact. It’s only by faith that we can be counted righteous with God because God has abrogated the law of Moses as a requirement for achieving righteousness. And He’s not substituted any other law, praise God.
I know that I’ve taught this so many times and I’ve seen Christians with their mouths open, gaping at me in astonishment. I’ve got used to that. And yet really, this is the central truth of the gospel. The amazing thing is how many people say they believe the gospel and don’t understand this.
Let me give you just one other scripture in Ephesians 2, beginning at verse 14. Speaking again about what Jesus did for us on the cross:
“For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one...”
Both who? Jew and Gentile.
“...and has broken down the middle wall of division between us, having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is the law of commandments contained in ordinances...”
And I think we’ll leave it there. He abolished in His flesh by His death the law of commandments contained in ordinances—and thereby abolished the enmity. You see, the law doesn’t bring peace, it brings enmity. First of all, it brings enmity between Jew and non Jew. It has for something like 4,000 years or 3,500 years. Here are the Jews doing this and saying this is what makes us righteous. Here are the rest of us not doing it and saying we’re just as good as you are, maybe better. And then the law also brings enmity between God and man. Because, when we come under the law and break it we become enemies of God.
So, in order for us to achieve righteousness, God had to set aside the requirements of the law of Moses. And it says here the law of commandments contained in ordinances. If you want to look at another translation which is very specific, look at the New International Version, it says it extremely clearly. You see, most of us feel like a drowning man who’s holding onto a plank, which is the law. If we let go of the plank we’re going to drown. Well, the truth of the matter is we have to drown and come up again because the plank won’t do it.
So, what’s the key to being righteous in one word? Faith. Listen, there’s a wonderful instance of this in Luke 22 at the last supper. Jesus is warning Peter that he’s going to deny Him three times that night. And He says this to Peter in verses 31 and 32:
“Simon, Simon, indeed Satan has asked for you that he may sift you as wheat; but I have prayed for you...”
What did He pray? That he wouldn’t deny Him? No.
“...that your faith would not fail.”
Peter, you’re going to do a lot of bad things but if you keep on believing, I’ll see you through, Peter. That’s good news, isn’t it? If we can just keep believing, God will bring us through. We may have our problems, we may have our defeats but our faith is continually reckoned to us for righteousness.
If you go back to the story of Abraham, it’s very interesting. Abraham did quite a number of wrong things after that. He let his wife be taken into a Gentile harem. Well, that’s not a good thing to do. God didn’t approve of that but all the same, even while he was doing it his faith was still being accounted to him for righteousness. You see, if you could only grasp this you’d heave a sigh of relief. I don’t mean that God encourages us to do bad things but if we’re sincerely seeking to do what He wants, even if we do some bad things, our faith is still counted to us for righteousness. Relax. You don’t have to hold on. Just keep believing, that’s it.
And by that provision God has enabled us to be free from guilt. Satan has nothing more that he can accuse us of because of the cross.
Look in Romans 5:1, we really don’t need to look there, many of you know that.
“Therefore, being justified by faith we have peace with God.”
And even then in Romans 8:1, which says:
“There is therefore now no condemnation...”
How much condemnation? No condemnation. Is it for those who keep the law? No.
“...for those who are in Christ Jesus.”
As I understand Romans, and I’ve taught on this recently in a video series, there’s a pilgrimage from chapter 1 through to chapter 8. I call it the Roman Pilgrimage. And chapter 8 is the destination that we should all aim for in the Spirit controlled life. Its climax is eternal, inseparable union with Jesus Christ. But chapter 8 is the victory chapter. But, there’s only one doorway. It’s verse 1.
“There is therefore now no condemnation...”
If you’re under condemnation you cannot live in Romans 8. And most Christians come under condemnation again and again and again, and they lose it. They don’t stay in the chapter because they haven’t learned the basis of being free from condemnation.
Look for a moment in Revelation 12. We get a real good picture of our enemy here. Some people say this has happened. I personally believe it’s still in the future but I won’t argue about that at this point. It describes Satan and his angels being cast out of heaven. Then it says in verse 10:
“There was a loud voice saying in heaven, ‘Now salvation and strength and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ have come; for the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night, has been cast out.’”
If that’s still future that tells us where Satan is and what he’s doing right now. What is he doing? He’s accusing us. Do you realize that? That’s why you have such dark, deep, moody feelings. There’s an atmosphere being created around you of guilt and you’ve got to learn to deal with it. Why does he accuse us, what’s his purpose? He wants to prove us what? Guilty, that’s right. You say why doesn’t God stop him? As I understand it, God’s answer is because I’ve given you the power to stop him. I’m not going to do for you what you can do for yourself. And the next verse tells us how to stop him.
Brothers and sisters, I make no charge for this but if you were to pay me money, there is no money that you could pay that would be worth what I’m going to tell you. Because, it’s the answer to guilt. What is it?
“They overcame him...”
Who? Who’s him? You notice there’s a direct conflict between God’s people and Satan? They overcame him. Some people like to tell us that Satan doesn’t give any problems to Christians. That is not true and it’s not scriptural. They overcame him how?
“...by the blood of the Lamb and the word of their testimony...”
I’ll tell you what I believe this means. We overcome Satan when we testify personally to what the word of God says the blood of Jesus does for us. It’s our testimony. You see, under the Old Covenant in order to apply the blood of the Passover lamb which granted them immunity from judgment, they had to sprinkle the blood on the lintel and the doorpost. You remember the story. And they could only use one thing to sprinkle the blood. A little bunch of a herb called hyssop. They dipped the herb in the basin, sprinkled the blood and they were saved.
Now, for us the blood of Jesus has already been shed. Christ our Passover has been sacrificed. The blood is available. How do we apply it where we need it? What is our hyssop? The answer is there in that verse. Our testimony, that’s right. By our testimony we apply the blood where we live. You see? So we overcome Satan when we testify personally to what the word of God says the blood of Jesus does for us.
If time were unlimited I’d take you through a series of confessions but the Bible says we’re redeemed by the blood of Jesus out of the hand of Satan. The Bible says the blood cleanses us from all sin. The Bible says we are sanctified by the blood. We are redeemed by the blood. There’s four things. Practice saying those.
I tell you what. I think I’m going to ask my wife to come forward. I really am trying to get through because time is running out and I’ve got a lot more to say. We have a confession, a testimony that we use regularly. We’ll say it, it’s really applying Revelation 12:11:
“My body is a temple for the Holy Spirit; redeemed, cleansed and sanctified by the blood of Jesus. My members, the parts of my body, are instruments of righteousness yielded to God for His service and for His glory. The devil has no place in me, no power over me, no unsettled claims against me. All has been settled by the blood of Jesus. I overcome Satan by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of my testimony, and I love not my life unto the death. My body is for the Lord and the Lord is for my body.”
I’d like to go on, that’s just a little demonstration of how to apply the victory that Jesus won at the cross over Satan.
We have to go on. The next reason why we need the cross in the center is because it’s the door to God’s secret, hidden wisdom. We’ll go back to 1 Corinthians 2. Paul has said we don’t deal in the wisdom of this world. But in verse 6 he begins to talk about a different sort of wisdom. And it’s the New English Bible in its translation that uses the phrase “a secret, hidden wisdom of God.” Because of my background in philosophy, that’s exactly what I was looking for, a secret, hidden wisdom. I didn’t find it in Christianity as I knew it, I didn’t find it in philosophy. I looked for it in yoga, I looked for it in all sorts of improbable places and didn’t find it. And then I discovered there’s a door. The door is shaped like a cross. If you go through the cross, on the other side is the secret, hidden wisdom of God. If you have the kind of nature I have you’ll thrill at that statement. To me it’s exciting to have access to God’s secret, hidden wisdom.
Let’s read here in 1 Corinthians 2:6 and following:
“However we speak wisdom among those who are mature; yet not the wisdom of this age, nor of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing; but we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the ages for our glory...”
If that doesn’t excite you, you never understood it. God has prepared a secret, hidden wisdom and the reason for that wisdom is to bring us to glory. Is that exciting? God had from eternity a plan to get us to glory. The plan is contained in His secret, hidden wisdom. The doorway is the cross. If you go through the cross you’ll start into the secret, hidden wisdom of God. Paul goes on:
“...which none of the rulers of this age knew; for had they known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory...”
You see, the cross is the way.
“...but as it is written, ‘EYE HAS NOT SEEN NOR EAR HEARD, NOR HAVE ENTERED INTO THE HEART OF MAN THE THINGS WHICH GOD HAS PREPARED FOR THOSE WHO LOVE HIM.’”
So we do not discover this with the senses, we do not discover this with the reason, we do not discover this with the imagination. How do we discover it? Paul tells us:
“For God has revealed them to us through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God.”
So when we come through the door of the cross the Holy Spirit begins to reveal to us what we can never find out by reasoning, by imagination, by speculation; only by revelation. And you remember what I said before? The only thing the Holy Spirit honors is the cross. You can come on any other basis and He’s not interested. But when you make the cross central He says, “That’s a person I’m interested in.” Do you know one of the things I like to do is attract the Holy Spirit. I find when the Holy Spirit is there, things go well. I’ve discovered to attract the Holy Spirit we need to exalt Jesus and preach Christ crucified. And when we do that the Holy Spirit says, “I like those people. I feel at home with them. I’ll go share that meeting because that’s what makes me happy is when Jesus crucified is exalted.”
Let’s look in Philippians 3 on this theme for a moment. Philippians 3:7–11. This is Paul’s own testimony.
“But what things were gain to me, those I have counted loss for Christ.”
And he’s talking about all his background in Judaism and all his inheritance as a religious Jew.
“But indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish that I may gain Christ.”
He says nothing is of any interest to me except Christ.
“And be found in Him [notice this] not having my own righteousness which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ...”
You remember what we said, there’s only one basis for righteousness which is faith in Christ.
“...the righteousness which is from God by faith, that I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; if by any means I may attain to the resurrection of the dead.”
Paul’s supreme ambition was to know Christ. He didn’t write as somebody who didn’t know Him but his aim was to know Him better. This is after many years of fruitful Christian service. He said I want to know the power of His resurrection. But with that goes the fellowship of His sufferings. No cross, no crown. The cross is the way to the secret, hidden wisdom of God by which we share His glory.
There’s a passage, too, in Ephesians, a very brief passage. Ephesians 2:4–6:
“But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.”
Where do we end up? In the heavenly places. What are we doing? On what? Sitting on what? The New English Bible says God has enthroned us together with Christ. You see, when we come to the cross, in a certain sense, it’s like entering an elevator. When you get inside the elevator you get to whatever floor you press the button for. It’s the lift that takes you up. And so, once we’re in Christ through the death and the crucifixion of Jesus, we’re made alive with Him—that’s wonderful. We’re resurrected with Him—that’s tremendous. But that’s not the end. Where does the lift stop? At the throne, we’re enthroned with Him. We don’t get there by efforts, we get there because we’re in the lift. But the doorway to the lift is the cross. When we enter through the cross we qualify for the throne.
I’ve always been tremendously interested in the tabernacle of Moses. There are two kinds of people, those who get excited by the tabernacle and those who don’t. I’m one in the former part. I know there’s some people who don’t get excited. I don’t hold that against you but just let me take a brief example. If you remember the structure of the tabernacle of Moses, there were three areas and they’re distinguished by the light available in each. First of all, there’s the outer court where the light is natural light: the sun, the moon, the stars. Then you go inside the first veil or curtain and now you’re not walking by natural light. Paul says we walk not by sight but by faith. Passing through the veil is a step of faith. And you get into the first compartment which is called the Holy Place, and the light there is the light of a candlestick or a candle stand which is supplied by olive oil that’s burning. It’s the light of the inspired word of God illuminated by the Holy Scriptures. But that’s not your destination. See, stepping through the first veil is resurrection. But when you step through the second veil, that’s ascension. Inside the second veil in the Holy of Holies you’re on the throne. There two supreme ministries of Jesus, the king and the priest, are exercised from within the second veil. And the light there is not the light of a candle. In fact, the exciting thing about this is if you get inside it’s totally dark, there’s no source of light. I just wonder how many of you would make that your destination. Just one little room, a cube with no light and just one item of furniture. Is that exciting?
You see, the further you go in the Christian life the less there is to distract you. And the only people that will go through the second veil are the people that just want one thing. What’s that? God. It’s really remarkable. But inside the second veil if you meet the conditions, there comes a light which is not natural, it’s not artificial. It’s what they call the shekinah, the actual presence of God supernaturally illuminating the place. That’s the secret, hidden wisdom of God.
You don’t have to go through the second veil. You can stop off anywhere. You can press the button of the lift and just get off at mezzanine or floor 2. There’s something in me that wants to get as high as the lift will go. I really see in the lives of great men of God that there comes a place of, in a sense, loneliness when you’re bereft of everything except God. But when you’ve got God you’ve got everything.
Really, that’s the end of Romans chapter 8 if you look at it. We’re united with Christ. Colossians 3 says Christ is all and in all. So Paul says what do I care about the law? What do I care about my inheritance in Judaism? What do I care about everything I’ve lost? It doesn’t matter that much to me because what I want is to be inside the second veil. I want the revelation of Jesus Christ. I don’t want theology, I don’t even want doctrine. I want revelation. I want a personal intimate revelation of Jesus. That’s the only thing that can fully satisfy the longing of my soul. That’s the way I see it.
We come to the third reason in this session, the sixth if we consider the first section, for making the cross central. I hope I’ve excited you. If I haven’t excited you I haven’t communicated anything. I am so excited at the moment I could be jumping up and down but I won’t. Paul said if I’m sober it’s for your sakes! Here’s a double reason. The cross is the ultimate demonstration of God’s love and our value to God. Okay, I’m going to say that again. The cross is the ultimate demonstration of God’s love and of our value to God. Let me deal with the first. John 15:13–14. Jesus is speaking to His disciples and He says:
“Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. You are my friends if you do whatever I command you.”
In other words, I’m going to demonstrate the greatest love, I’m going to lay down my life for you. So that’s the supreme demonstration of one person’s love for another, is the willingness of that person to lay down his life or her life for the other person.
And then in Romans 5, Paul amplifies the nature of God’s love and the extent of His grace. Romans 5, beginning at verse 6 and reading through verse 10:
“For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own live toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more than, having been now justified by His blood [notice justified by His blood], we shall be saved from wrath through Him. For if when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of His son, much more, having been reconciled we shall be saved by His life.”
If you analyze that passage, Paul says four things about our condition when Christ died for us. He says first of all in verse 6 we were without strength. We could do absolutely nothing to help ourselves. We were totally dependent on God’s mercy. He also says Christ died for the ungodly. We were ungodly. We had a nature and a way of life and a way of thinking and conducting ourselves which was totally alien to God. Then he says in verse 8 while we were still sinners Christ died for us. So we were disobedient, rebellious, not in any sense seeking to please God. And finally, in verse 10 he says for if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God. So Paul uses four different phrases to describe our condition when Christ died for us. He says we were without strength, totally helpless, unable to do a thing to help ourselves. He says we were ungodly. I wonder if you can realize what that means. There was nothing in us that could attract God. Everything about us was alien to God’s nature. Thirdly, we were sinners, we were disobedient, we were rebels. And fourthly, we were enemies, we were actually in opposition to God. When we were in that condition Christ died for us. Paul says that is the measure of God’s love for us.
It’s very important, I think, that we see that because I find I’m always dealing with Christians who are not really sure that God loves them. There are none of them here tonight, I’m sure. Maybe there are. Well, if you have doubts about God’s love for you, those doubts will never be fully resolved until you’ve grasped the fact of the condition you were in when Christ died for you. And God will not allow you to come to peace on any other grounds because that’s the only basis. You see that? You may be relying on the attitude of some friend or the help of some minister or the assurance of somebody that you’re to be loved. If I understand God’s dealings, sooner or later He’ll remove that out of your life because He doesn’t want you to base your understanding of His love on anything except the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. You may find in times of darkness you’ll wonder what’s happening, why am I suffering, what’s going on. God will only illuminate one thing in the darkness, that’s the cross and that’s all you need to know. The trouble with many of us is we know too much and God wants to bring us to the place where it’s sufficient to know that Christ died for us.
And speaking of this love, Paul goes on in Romans 8:35–39. The trouble about having preached about Romans is you can’t get away from it afterwards. Romans 8:35 and following:
“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, ‘FOR YOUR SAKE WE ARE KILLED ALL DAY LONG; WE ARE ACCOUNTED AS SHEEP FOR THE SLAUGHTER.’”
That’s God’s people speaking. And yet in spite of that we cannot be separated from the love of Christ. I want you to know that there are lots of Christians in parts of the earth that are experiencing that right now. And if your salvation can’t see you through that, you better check on your spiritual condition. There’s no guarantee that within one year we might not find ourselves in that category.
“Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded [I am convinced] that neither death, nor life, no angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
That’s the climax of the Romans pilgrimage. Inseparable, eternal union with Jesus Christ. And being in His love forever.
We’ve just got time to look at the other aspect of the demonstration that came to us through the cross. The first demonstration is God’s love, the second is our value, our worth. Somebody said to me people in this nation have a problem with a low sense of self worth. I don’t know whether that’s really true or not but I’ll say that it’s a very common problem throughout the body of Christ. Again, there’s only one real basis for knowing your worth and that’s the cross. You see, the value of anything—for instance, if I want to sell a house. Let’s say I say my house is worth $120,000. But nobody will pay more than 80,000. So my house is worth what people will pay for it, $80,000. So your value is not what you think your value it, your value is what God is willing to pay for it. What did God pay for it? Tell me. The blood of Jesus.
Let’s look for a moment in Acts 20:28. I like this because of one word God. Paul is talking to the elders of the church and he says:
“Therefore, take heed to yourselves, and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.”
Note it was the blood of God that purchased the church. The blood of God through Jesus.
And then Peter says in 1 Peter 1:18–19:
The problem is a lot of us don’t know.
“...knowing that you are not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.”
Without blemish means without original sin. Without spot means without personal sin. The perfectly sinless Lamb of God, Jesus.
Scripture says, Leviticus 17:11, the life [or the soul] of the flesh is in the blood. And then God says I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls. Isaiah 53:12 says He poured out His life [or His soul] unto death. When Jesus poured out His blood on the cross He gave His life, His soul, as the redemption price for all of humanity. And the scripture says in the book of Psalms God has provided redemption in overflow. The price was more than was needed. Can you see that? One perfect, divine life was worth more than all the lives of all humanity of all ages in history. And that life was paid in full to buy us back out of the hand of the devil. We are redeemed, the Bible says, by the blood of Jesus. And Psalm 107:2 speaks about confession. It says:
“Let the redeemed of the Lord say so, whom He has redeemed out of the hand of the enemy.”
You see, you don’t really have your redemption till you say so. It’s saying so that makes it real to you. I am redeemed by the blood of Jesus out of the hand of the devil. Would you like to say that?
“I am redeemed by the blood of Jesus out of the hand of the devil.”
Let me give you one final picture which I love. It’s Matthew 13:45–46. It’s one of the short parables. I know there are lots of ways to interpret this parable and you may have a different way but just bear with me because this is very real to me. And if I can communicate it, it will bless you.
“The kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls, and when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it.”
Now, to me that pictures, amongst other things, Jesus the merchant man. And He knew the value, He was not a tourist. He knew what pearls were. He saw one pearl so valuable that He sold all He had to get it. In my simple way I imagine this merchant—this is on the human plane—coming back to his wife and his wife says, “Why did you walk home from the office?”
He says, “I sold the car.”
“Sold the car! Whatever for?”
“And not only that, but I’ve sold the house.”
“You sold the house! We’ll have to move to the farm.”
“No, I sold the farm, too. I’ve sold everything I ever had.”
“You sold everything? Whatever for?”
“Because I found something so valuable it was worth everything.”
“What was it?”
He opens his palm and says, “This pearl is worth everything I paid.”
What’s the pearl? You. One human soul. If nobody else had ever been saved in all history, dear brother and sister, He would have died for you.
So I want you as we close this to think of yourself as the pearl in the hand of the Lord and I want you to hear the Lord saying, “I gave everything I had to purchase you. That’s how much you mean to me. Don’t ever let me hear you say again that you’re not worth much. Because in my sight you’re worth everything. I gave everything I ever had. You are so beautiful, so perfect. I know the value of things. Everything I sold just didn’t add up to what you mean to me. This pearl in my hand.” Do you believe that? Can you believe that? It will change your life, many of you, if you really can believe it. Your value is what God paid for you. Don’t let the world tell you what you’re worth because they might say it’s not much. But you’re worth what God paid for you.
Can you say just one thing? Thank you, Lord. Amen. Let’s just thank Him. Let’s worship Him. As we worship Him it will become real for us.