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Focus On The Cross

by Julius Hovan

(Transcribed from the Words of Life Radio Program)

 

Welcome to Words of Life. We are so glad you have tuned in today. Would you join me as we ask God to bless the preaching of his Word? Lord, we do come in the name of Jesus your Son and our Savior. Today as we present to this listening audience the message of the Lord Jesus Christ, we pray you will bless these listeners and bless the presentation of your Word for your glory in Jesus’ name. Amen.

In the year 1981 around Christmas time, some missionaries were visiting the Dani tribes people and they were watching a nativity pageant that was staged by those native Christians. Now you are familiar with Christmas pageants that have a manger scene and the birth of Jesus and all of that. The missionaries watched as the drama unfolded and it became clear that they were portraying not the birth of Christ in Bethlehem, but rather they were portraying his crucifixion. And they even used ketchup for blood. And the chief of that tribe said when the missionaries inquired about it, “Why not? Jesus was born to die on the cross. So it is all the same thing.”

Now there are, indeed, many great events relating to God coming to the earth in the form of man, the incarnation, God in the flesh. But it seems to me that this tribal chief had grasped the biblical truth that they all, whatever events there are, they all relate to Calvary, the cross. And without the redeeming work done there, every other event would have little meaning.

In Matthew chapter one and verse 21 the angel speaks there to Joseph and says, “You will call his name Jesus, for he shall save his people from their sins.” How will this babe born be able to do such a marvelous thing? He will grow up to live a perfect life and become the perfect sacrifice shedding his blood for the remission of the sins of the world.

Paul writing to the young evangelist Timothy says this in 1 Timothy 1:15. Here is the testimony of Paul: This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that this one Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the worst. Paul understood it. Christ’s mission was a mission of mercy. He came to save sinners. And as Paul would say: Even the worst of sinners. If you are one of those, if you think you are too bad, you need to think it through again, my friend, for the mercy and love of God are more powerful than you can ever imagine.

The writer John says in 1 John 4:10: Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son—there is the coming of Jesus, his birth—for what purpose? To be the propitiation for our sins. Here is the one to deal with our sin problem that is so severe in every person’s life. What did the chief say? The birth and the crucifixion, it is all the same thing, when in a very real sense, indeed, it is. For we cannot understand the birth apart from the shedding of the blood of Christ at Calvary. We cannot speak of a sinless life apart from his sacrificial death on the cross. We cannot begin to see the reason for or have an understanding of his great agony in Gethsemane when he shed that blood through his very skin, he sweat great drops of blood. We cannot understand that, apart from the atonement on the tree, the cross. We would then not have the blessed hope of Christ’s return if salvation had not been freely provided when he died on Golgotha’s hill. It is like a great magnet. The Scripture focuses all the various aspects of the coming and life of Christ and directs them all to the cross. The cross puts everything else into its right place and perspective. And so because the cross of Christ is the heart of the Christian faith, Paul writes these words: God forbid that I should glory save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.

My friends, if you are not a Christian, if you are wondering what a Christian is and what it means to be a Christian, may I say to you it means that we have a faith in, a belief in what Jesus did when he died on Calvary’s cross. He is a historical figure. Every time you write the date on your check or whatever letter you write, you are acknowledging anno domino, the year of our Lord. And, yes, he is the one who has marked time. He is the real one. And some have taught that throughout the Scriptures, Old and New Testament alike, there is the red line of the blood redemption of the Lord Jesus. It begins early in the Genesis letter and runs through the end of the book of Revelation.

 

Since the cross is so central, we need to ask ourselves are we keeping it there? I don’t know if you are aware there are some churches today that have rewritten some of the great Christian hymns and they have taken the blood out of those hymns. They tell us that is too gory. They say that just doesn’t sound very good. But what do we have without that blood to cleanse us? Without the shedding of blood, let me remind you, there is no remission of sins. Are you, in your church, keeping the cross in a central place? Yes, we ought to feed the hungry. We are glad to make clothing available to those who do not have adequate clothes. We want to provide housing. All those things tend to the physical need, but what are we doing about the spiritual need? Are we sharing the gospel message of the cross of Jesus Christ?

Every preacher who stands in a pulpit or those teachers who teach a class must have the responsibility of holding up the cross of Christ. They must relate all events, all Bible truth to this historic event. Every Christian in their place of work and in their opportunity to witness should seek to glory in the cross like Paul did. Parents have the responsibility of teaching their children what the cross is and what it means and what it accomplished and why it had to happen. Our walk with God is to be cross centered. Oh, what a difference it would be if it were always so, if self is dead and out of the way and Christ is living. For we are talking about not only the one who went to a cross, the one who gave his life in agony for us, but the one who rose again on the third day. God’s great grace has been given to us. Let’s not separate what God has joined together. Christ’s birth and perfect life and excellent ministry and Gethsemane experience and his eventual death and third day resurrection and then ascension to glory are all a part of the glorious whole, the picture of the redeeming work of God through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Now it is beyond human ability to understand this. That is the reason many wise people reject it, because they are wiser than God, or so they think. A childlike faith is needed for you to accept this gospel message and to be able to reap its benefits for time immemorial.

I am going to turn to the book of Corinthians today and read to you from 1 Corinthians chapter two beginning with verse one and read two verses. Listen to what Paul says. “And I, brethren, when I came to you came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom proclaiming to you the testimony of God”. What effect Paul’s message had that made people respond was not because Paul was brilliant, though he was that. But it was his message in verse two. For I determined not to know anything among you save Jesus Christ and him crucified.

The center of the message of the apostle Paul was the cross and the crucifixion. Do you stumble at that message? Well, the people of the first century did. Paul dealt with that in verses 21 and following of chapter one of 1 Corinthians saying ‘or seeing that in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom knew not God.’ The world’s wisdom does not comprehend and accept God. It was God’s good pleasure, then, to do what? Through the foolishness of the thing preached to save those that believe. What was preached? The cross. We saw that from chapter two, did we not? And so Jews look for signs. Greeks seek after wisdom. But we preach Christ crucified. Unto Jews it is a stumbling block. Unto Gentiles it is foolishness. But unto them that are called, Jews and Greeks, it is the power of God and the wisdom of God, because the foolishness of God is wiser than men and the weakness of God stronger than men. My friends, it has been the case throughout history that people have rejected God for a wide variety of reasons. And when they come to what you and I know as the cross, it is so easy to stumble.

Let me ask you this morning where you are in relationship to believing in the cross of Jesus? Is it foolishness to you and you laugh at it or pass it off as unimportant? Or is it the power of God unto salvation for you? A man by the name of Larry Ritchie fell into a snow covered hole in the Oregon cascades and found himself trapped 4.2 meters below the ground with a dwindling food supply in his backpack. It was four days before he managed to hoist himself up by a rope tied to a rock. Cold, wet, running out of food, for three days and nights he repeatedly tossed the rope wrapped rock to the surface, hoping it would become stuck on a tree trunk so he could pull himself to safety. Finally it became lodged on a fir tree and he, being an experienced winter backpacker and a man of strength, a former construction superintendent, began the arduous task of getting out of that deep hole in the snow and ice.
It seems to me that this is a picture of man in sin. He finds himself trapped in an awful pit of sin and he cannot escape by himself. Try as he may, he cannot extricate himself from that trap. He may toss a rope. He may call it effort. He may call it law keeping. He may call it whatever he will. He will never be able to deliver himself. There is only one way for him to come out, to find salvation from sin. And the psalmist describes that for us in Psalm 40 verses one and two. I waited patiently for the Lord and he inclined unto me and heard my cry. And he brought me up also out of a horrible pit, out of the miry clay and set my feet upon a rock and established my goings. If you are trapped in the corruption of sin it is wearing you down. The guilt is eating you up. You know one day you must face this God in judgment. What can you possibly do? Without the cross man finds himself in this impossible pit. But what does the psalmist say? I cried to the Lord and waited for him and he heard me and delivered me. That is our message of Words of Life to you today.

Paul to the Church at Colosse said in chapter one: He has made peace through the blood of his cross. You do not want to be at odds with almighty God. You do not want him to be your enemy. You do not want to face him in fiery judgment. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. You have rather the choice of accepting Christ as Lord and Savior and being snatched out of that horrible, horrible pit.

An article in the paper had this heading on it. Rare Span in Danger. And then the article followed and informed us that the world’s longest covered bridge was in danger of possible collapse after being struck by a car. It explained: A sub compact car hit the west end of the 396 meter long wooden bridge. It broke a steel strain rod which held up a main beam of 18 by 36 centimeter Douglas fir. That caused one of the main beams to crack and then another one to crack as well.

Let’s relate that to what we have been talking about this morning. At Calvary, God opened up a bridge enabling sinful man to span the chasm of sin and wickedness and return to him. That bridge has stood for centuries. And may I say to you there is no danger of it collapsing whatever strains are placed upon it. Faith accepts the fact and rests confidently on the Savior, the Lord Jesus.

Paul says it this way in 2 Corinthians 5:15 talking about Jesus, that he died for all. Do you understand that is you and that is me? That it is all under the sound of my voice. Jesus has died for you that you need not have to pay the penalty for sin. He died for all that they that live should no longer live unto themselves, but unto him who for their sake died and rose again.

Now there is a twofold message here. There is a message for the person that is not a Christian, the one carrying the load of sin and guilt and sorrow and heartache that comes from sin in our lives. You can come to Jesus, you can do like the folks on the day of Pentecost when they cried out: What must we do? And the answer came: Repent, change your ways. Turn from the way you are going. Believe and put your faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and be baptized into him for the remission of your sin and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. That is the message to those out of Christ. You can come and Calvary will be a Savior to you.

And then for the Christian, that we are now to live not for ourselves, but to him and for him who died and rose again. Do you understand it? We have a savior, a risen Savior for any who come with an obedient faith. Christianity is the only religion whose prophet, whose leader is alive today. All of the others go to a tomb or to a monument and there worship that one whom they have followed. But the Christian follows Christ.

Who are you following today? My friends, we hold up the cross to you for those indeed are words of life. Jesus is our loving Savior and he calls upon you to call upon him to be snatched out of the pit, brought out of sin, set on a solid rock.

     Holy Father, we pray today that your blessings will abide upon those who have listened to this message. May it pierce by the Holy Spirit their hearts and may they seek one who can lead them to stronger faith and salvation in Jesus Christ is our prayer. In his name. Amen.

 

                                                       Julius Hovan is minister of the Bohon Church of Christ, Bohon, KY.




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