I pay no direct attention to the world of rap singers or any of the modern music culture. But every once in a while one of them comes up on the news, either being killed or arrested for murder. And also periodically, in a movie I’m watching, an entertainer is one of the characters. On those occasions many of them are wearing big, gold crosses, often studded with diamonds or some other expensive gems. They aren’t shy little symbols of the death of Christ, but large, grotesque, “in your face” crosses. Thinking about this, I did some on-line research in which I pulled up dozens of names and images of rappers and other entertainers. Again, I found many of them wearing huge crosses, draped over their shirtless, thug-type, tattooed bodies. I have no idea what they have in mind with that kind of ornamentation, but I am quite sure it is not the same thing that was in the mind of Christ as He hung on His cross. What they are thinking was probably in not the mind of Paul when he spoke about his dedication to the cross. What they are depicting is not what was in the mind of God the Father. And very sadly, that might be said about 90% of the more common people who wear crosses and crucifixes. They think very rarely about the sacrifice which Christ made at the place called Golgotha.
This morning, I’d like to take you back to Calvary, starting with an often used scripture. And remember that last week I pointed out Paul’s summary of his Ephesian ministry with the words: “repentance” and “faith.” And here to the Corinthians he points to something which laid the groundwork for that repentance and faith. The gospel of Christ is the good news of Jesus’ death on the cross for the purpose of our salvation from sin. That gospel when properly understood results in people’s humble reception of salvation by faith. And that good news must begin with our sinfulness and Jesus’ sacrifice for our sin. So, “Christ sent me … to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect. For the preaching of the cross … is the power of God (unto forgiveness from sin).”
As I say, this morning, I’d like you to consider Christ’s cross once again. But this time, it’s not so much about the blood, the pain, the stench, and the shame of the cross. It’s not exactly about how the crucifixion bought us reconciliation with God, and it’s not about any of the other theological aspects of our salvation. The crucifixion has another message which those cross-wearing, sin-filled entertainers need to consider. The cross illustrates God’s view of sin; it depicts God’s love; and it tells us that salvation is free.
The cross of Christ reveals God’s opinion about SIN: it is ABOMINABLE; it is DETESTABLE.
In this, the cross of Christ is Immediately separated from the grotesque ornaments of the rappers and the dainty little crucifixes worn by immoral hookers and call girls. God hates sin so much He ordained from before the foundation of the world that Christ would die to pay the penalty for people’s personal sins. And not just die, but as it was prophesied, He would die on a cross.
Please, keep in mind that for more than thirty years, Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God, knowingly moved closer and closer to Calvary with each passing day. He knew exactly what His mission and purpose was. The future wasn’t an unknown to Him the way it is to us. As the Son of God, He carried Jehovah’s hatred for sin in His heart, and it affected Him in a special way. On Jesus’ final trip to Jerusalem He came south from Galilee along the east bank of the Jordan River. Then He passed through Jericho, where He touched the heart of Zacchaeus and delivered him from sin. After that He took His disciples up and through Bethany, until they came to the Mount of Olives overlooking the city of Jerusalem. Luke tells us, “When he was come near, he beheld the city, and (He) wept…” He wept over a city filled with people who had as little thought of sin as the people of our community.
Have you ever met someone who lost a loved one to a preventable disease, or in some other way, and who, with tears in his eyes, said, “I hate diabetes. I hate cancer. I hate drunk drivers.” Christ Jesus despises sin so much that several times He wept at the thought of people dying because of it. In one sense, that death and God’s judgment for sin is preventable. Four chapters earlier Jesus had looked at this same city and said with tears in his voice, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem… how often would I have gathered thy children together, as a hen doth gather her brood under her wings, and ye would not!” Christ hates sin so much that He gave His life to deliver us from its penalties.
Perhaps more graphically, we can see God the Father’s hatred of sin. Isaiah, the great evangelical prophet of Israel, describes the Lord in his 63rd chapter. Verse 7: “I will mention the lovingkindnesses of the LORD, and the praises of the LORD, according to all that the LORD hath bestowed on us, and the great goodness toward the house of Israel, which he hath bestowed on them according to his mercies, and according to the multitude of his lovingkindnesses. In all their affliction he was afflicted, and the angel of his presence saved them: in his LOVE and in his PITY he redeemed them; and he bare them, and carried them all the days of old. But they rebelled, and vexed his holy Spirit: therefore he was turned to be their enemy, and he fought against them.” Notice the words, “They rebelled, and vexed his holy Spirit.” In English the word “vexed” speaks of irritation, but in Hebrew it means that He was grieved. Grief is something we experience when someone dear to us dies; our heart aches; our heart breaks; our eyes may pour out their tears. God despises and abhors sin, but we have no better term to describe the divine emotion than “grief.” “Grief” describes the heart of God when Christ went to the cross.
In Genesis 6, the Bible makes God’s hatred of sin quite clear. “And GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And it REPENTED the LORD that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart. And the LORD said, I will DESTROY man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man, and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air; for it repenteth me that I have made them.” Once again, we are forced by the limitations of our minds and language to use human terms to describe the infinite God. The best we can do in this case is to say that God was so “disturbed” by man’s sinful debauchery that He regretted ever creating us. That is not exactly true, but that is the way our language limits us. Sin is so abominable in God’s sight that at the time He wiped sinful humanity from the face of His creation, starting over again with Noah. But the family of that righteous man, with sin still in their natures, began once again to rebel, and to again seek their own wicked lifestyle. Where grace did abound, sin fought its way to the surface and mankind continued to call for divine judgment.
And yet despite Christ’s grief, and the God the Father’s vexed and grieved Spirit, together they agreed that the Son of God would die on the cross to save a few unworthy sinners. The cross is a declaration of God’s detestation of man’s sin.
But obviously, another truth declared by the cross is: God’s LOVE is BEYOND COMPARE.
In the first three chapters of the Book of Romans, Paul lays out our sinfulness in unmistakable detail. “There is none righteous no not one. There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are tegether become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no not one. For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” And later he writes, “the wages of sin is death.” But then in chapter 5 Paul says, “When we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for ungodly. For scarcely for a righteousness man will one die; yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
The cross upon which Jesus died, is God’s declaration of God: “I love you.” On the cross the Son of God spread out His arms and said, “I love you this much.” “For God so loved the world, he gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believeth on Him should not perish but have ever lasting life.” Remember, God sent a flood into the world in the days of Noah to destroy life upon this planet, with the exception of the few He graciously chose to save. And yet, four thousand years later, when the world was just as bad, “God sent NOT his Son into the world to condemn the world (again); but that the world through him might be saved” by way of the cross.
Isn’t it true that the more something is loved, when it is sacrificed, there is a greater demonstration of love? When a young woman leaves her mother and her father’s home, she demonstrates that she has a greater love for her new husband. And when that husband gives up his Friday night bowling and his season’s tickets to the games of his favorite team, he tells his wife, “I love you this much.”
A few months ago, Sister Barbara was asking me about an old familiar short story. Neither of us could remember the name, forcing me to do a little research. Do you know the story “The gift of the Magi,” by O Henry? Della and Jim had no money, but they had great love for each other. Each wanted to give a gift to the other as an expression of their love. So Jim sold his pocket watch in order to buy his wife a set of ornamental combs for her beautiful long hair. At the same time Della cut off and sold her hair to a wig maker in order to buy a chain for Jim’s watch. Neither of them could use the gift they received, but the sacrifice each made expressed their love.
O Henry’s heart warming story is good, but it doesn’t really express the sacrifice the Lord made for us. God didn’t sacrifice His home in Heaven in order to commend His love toward us. And He didn’t ask Michael, Gabriel or one of His other angels to give up his life for us. No, the Triune God, sacrificed one of His own – their own – the Second Person of the God-head. The Son of God died proving God’s love. In order for sinners like us to be delivered from our sin’s penalty, the Son of God went to the cross. This is how much God loved us. And still, man goes on in his sin, and a few even try to ease their consciences by trying to save themselves. Don’t try to tell me that God has no love for us.
The cross also tells us that SALVATION is FREE.
Like you, I often by certain things in bulk – in large bundles, with what I need in smaller bundles inside – like, in my case, boxes of coffee pods. Sometimes, those pods or the smaller packages inside the large boxes, carry the label, “Not for resale.” If you want to interpret it this way: the big box is expensive, but the little boxes inside are free. Again, I know that it’s not the same thing, but there is a spiritual parallel. Christ paid for salvation, and now there is nothing left for you and me to do, but to rest in what He has done.
The price necessary to delivery me from the wrath of God, was so great, there was only One person with the resources to make that payment. And how did the Lord make that payment? He didn’t check with His accountant and decide to sell a few of the cattle on His thousand hills. He didn’t search through the universe to find a world filled with gold nuggets and diamond crystals. He didn’t make promises about future sacrifices. To pay my sin debt, Christ Jesus died in my place in one of the most cruel and painful of all ways. Just because He was and is God, that didn’t in any way diminish the reality of the death of the Son of Man.
What are some good English words to express something extremely large? “Colossal,” “enormous,” “immense,” “gargantuan,” “ginormous?” There is no human word large enough to describe the price Christ paid for each of our salvations.
What is the current national debt that the government has been squabbling about for the last few weeks? Its about 32 trillion dollars. That’s 32 with 12 zeros behind it. How helpful would it be for you to offer the change in your pocket to pay off the debt of the nation? That wouldn’t scratch the back of a parasite living on a flea.
Turning that illustration around, Christ Jesus offered to pay your sin-debt, and only He has the resources to do it. But so many sinners think they can either repay the Lord or finish what they think He failed to complete. How is it that Christ made a payment size of eternity, and yet sinful men think that their sacrifice, which is the size of a tiny second in comparison, could be a part of redemption?
My friend, salvation from sin is a gift; it is free; it is something out of God’s grace. Back in Romans, Paul said, “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God,” But reading into the next verse: the Lord has saved multitudes which He “justified FREELY by his GRACE through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” The Book of Revelation, the last book in the Bible closes with the words, “the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life FREELY.” The horrendousness of the cross tells us that there is nothing left for us to pay for our salvation. Deliverance and forgiveness of sin is accomplished through Christ’s sacrifice, and it is absolutely free – humbly receive it by faith.
In conclusion, please return with me to Isaiah 55.
Remember, this was originally shared with Israel, and the context is specifically for them. But some of the principles are eternal, and Isaiah often shared things with New Testament saints and even twenty-first century sinners.
God says in verse one: “Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.” Obviously, whatever the Lord is offering here is free for the taking. But this isn’t a old, scarred up dresser at the side of the road with a sign on it saying: “FREE.” “Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread? and your labour for that which satisfieth not? hearken diligently unto me, and eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness.” The Lord Jesus said of Himself, “I am the bread of life;” “I am the water of life.” Food and water are things absolutely necessary for life; but Jesus was making a spiritual application which is even more important. The question is: Why waste your time, energy and money on anything less than the eternal and the best? “Incline your ear, and come unto me: hear, and your soul shall live; and I will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David.” Notice, “and your soul shall live.” Isaiah was talking about spiritual life. Behold, I have given him (David) for a witness to the people, a leader and commander to the people. Behold, thou shalt call a nation that thou knowest not, and nations that knew not thee shall run unto thee because of the LORD thy God, and for the Holy One of Israel; for he hath glorified thee.” David, one of the great kings of Israel, was a testimony to all the world of the grace of God. Come unto me and your soul shall live, and we might add, live forever – eternal life.
“Seek ye the LORD while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near:” The Lord Jesus said, “Come unto me all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Isaiah went on, “Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the LORD, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.” The only thing the Lord requires is repentance. Come to Him forsaking our wicked way. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts. Forget about trying to manipulate the Word of God to suit your preferences. For example you cannot devise a way to get around judgment for sin, except through God’s means. For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater: So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.”
“For ye shall go out with joy, and be led forth with peace: the mountains and the hills shall break forth before you into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands. Instead of the thorn shall come up the fir tree, and instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle tree: and it shall be to the LORD for a name, for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.” In speaking about Israel, there is a day coming when the son of David, the Messiah, shall bring full and complete peace to them and to this troubled world. But a different version of God’s peace is given to the soul of those who come to Christ in repentance and faith.
On the cross, Jesus paid the price for your salvation. While recognizing the wretchedness of your sin, but loving you nevertheless, God did all the heavy lifting in regard to your soul’s deliverance. Let the wicked forsake his way – repent – and let the unrighteous man forsake his own plans for salvation, and come to the living waters of Christ – by faith. Repent before God and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. In those things you will find the only way to the love of God – through the cross upon which Jesus died.