The Cross

December 4, 2016   Galatians 6:11 – 18  The Cross

 

   I have thought a number of weeks about preaching on this passage.  This is a good passage as we approach Christmas.  As Christians we can glory and boast in the cross. We can hold our head up high because we understand what Christmas really means.  At the heart of Christmas is the story of Jesus and our salvation in Jesus which culminates in the Jesus death on the cross and resurrection after Jesus death. 

   Paul understood how important the cross was and it became the center of Paul’s life.  In Romans 1 Paul writes for I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile.    For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.   

    In verse 14 we read in the NIV translation may I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is the new creation.   The King James and the NIV tells us that God forbid that I should glory except in the cross.  The NIV and the New King James reads that may I never boast except in the cross.   The Greek word can mean to make boast, glory, joy and rejoice.   It means to vaunt in a good or bad sense and in this verse it means in a good sense. 

     Paul really understands the cross.   He sees the world and as lost and the only hope is in the cross.  That cross became his boast and his glory.  Here is a picture of Paul’s heart and understanding.    Man is guilty of sins and trespasses and judgment follows.    God says we are filthy rotten and no good.   In Genesis God said every thought of the heart was evil continually except for Noah.  In Isaiah 64:6 all of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.    Man had no hope of anything better.   Mankind was enslaved in sin.   The wages of that sin was and is death.   Man must die.   The wages of sin is death.   Romans 1 tells us that God’s wrath is being revealed from heaven against all sin.  He hates sin.   God hates sin.   Man was out of step with his creator. 

   We were helpless.   We could not save ourselves.   We had no light no hope and no power to please God in any way.  We were prisoners of sin, of our fleshly desires, of this world, and of the devil.   We were enslaved to our own selfishness.   We could not keep the law in such a way that we could please God.   We could not be good enough because God is perfect.    We have a rebellious nature and that is not cool.   The sentence is harsh.  The evidence is clear.  Man is guilty and God who passes judgment is a consuming fire.  It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.   It is not good to be his enemy.  .   The sentence is passed.   God’s law and holiness cannot be broken.   The penalty is death.  The soul that sins it shall die.   The judgment is totally correct and it did not look good for mankind.  There was no appeal and there is no way around death.   Man must die.  The price for sin had to be paid.  We broke the law. 

    If we do not understand that heaven and hell are real.  If we do not understand that God made us and we will answer to this holy God someday then the cross does not mean much if anything to us.  It does not even impact people at Christmas time.  Merry Christmas becomes happy holidays because Jesus does not mean anything and the cross does not mean anything.   

     But God who is rich in mercy gave sent his son Jesus to die for us.   God poured out his wrath on his son.  Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree.    Jesus took the curse.  Jesus paid the penalty.    God’s wrath is not on the person who has received Jesus and is born again.  God’s wrath is not on the child of God.  God’s wrath is not on the Christian.  God’s wrath is still revealed from heaven against all sin, but God sees us as sons and daughters.   When a child disobeys a parent there usually is correction but they are not thrown out of the family.   The person is not discarded.     God’s wrath is not on me anymore.   God poured out his wrath on Jesus on the cross.   Jesus paid for our sin.   He paid the price. 

  The child of God is set free.   I am set free.   I can be corrected for my sin.  I reap what I sow.   Do we still die?   Well Paul said in Galatians 2:20 that he was crucified with Jesus.   It means that the Christian has died with Jesus.  I have died with him.  In Romans 6 we see that we have died with Jesus.  That is how we get that little saying if you are born once you die twice.  If you are born twice you die once.  We die physically but there is also the sense in that we have already died once.  Spiritually we have died with Jesus.  We died to the old sin nature and we have a new spiritual nature.   

     If a person is sentenced to death they are put to death they have paid the penalty.   If someone is sentenced to death in court and their life is taken and they have paid the price.   If they rise from the dead then they are free because the price has been paid.   Legally God sees the Christian as dying in Christ and then raised in Jesus Christ.   So in Jesus we have been convicted and we have died.   

   The penalty had been paid.  In death I am set free.  Jesus died and spiritually I died also in him.   I am now free.    After death comes resurrection.   Jesus of course paid the price.  After death comes new life.   After death there is freedom and blessing.   Paul writes I am crucified with Christ but I live and that new life is lived in and through Jesus.   You and I do not have the strength or ability to live that life except by faith. I can choose to sin but I have been set free from sin.  If I chose to sin I can become a slave to sin.  I can be a slave to my sinful nature but I do not have to do that.  I really belong to God.  My real life is in Jesus and no longer in this world system. 

    So Paul writes my glory is in the cross.  My boast is in the cross.  God forbid that it should be in anything else.  Paul had a lot to things in his life that he could be proud of.   In Philippians 3 Paul compares himself with others and he writes.   Though I myself have reasons for such confidence.  If someone else thinks they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless.   But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.   What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ. 

     Paul was a very intelligent man but that was not his boast.  Paul had studied under Gamaliel but that was not his boast.  Paul had studied and was leading Pharisee but that was not his boast and it was not his glory.  With all of his background he was probably the envy of many of his fellow Pharisees and of the Jews.  Before he met Jesus Christ all of that was very important to him.  He trusted in his study and his heritage and his strict way of living to make him acceptable to God.  He thought he was on the inside tract.  He was very zealous but very wrong. 

    In this passage in verse 14 Paul writes that he is crucified to the world and the world is crucified in him.  He is saying I am dead to the world and its systems.   Sally and I watch on occasion the shark tank and Kevin O’Leary will tell one of the candidates you are dead to me.   In other words I am all done with you.  Who was he dead to?  Well Paul learned to be content with little or with much.  He became dead to the religious systems but alive to Jesus.  He became dead to the law.  Instead of being a slave to the law and religious systems he became a servant and slave to Jesus.

   Paul kept his focus on Heaven.   In II Corinthians 4 Paul writes so we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. His eyes were not totally on this physical world but he focused on the unseen.  The eternal was more important and that is good.  The things that happened in the world that threw others off have a far different impact on those that keep focused in heaven. 

     In Colossians 3 Paul writes since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.    Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.    For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.   When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.  Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.  The Christian has died and the Christians life is really in Jesus.  Jesus is to be our focus. 

    It has been stated that the Pharisees used to discuss how many angels could dance around on the head of a pin.  Many things need to die.   Paul saw the value and purpose in the cross and because of that Paul gained a new passion and love for souls.  People took on a new meaning for him.    Paul’s life was changed.  Old things passed away and all things became new for him.  Paul life changed with Christ.  Things that were important to him were no longer part of his life.  He died to some things and became alive to some things.  Jesus meant change for Paul.  Paul died to the world. 

     Rob Frazier, a contemporary Christian artist wrote a song titled, "He doesn’t want you better, He wants you deader"   Dead people don’t mind the pain.    Dead people don’t get offended so they never complain.    They’re not concerned about personal gain.  Does that sound like me or you?   Christians who have died to the world have a single eye for God’s glory and not their personal glory.    The truth is rising in the church and the word is this; that when Jesus calls a man He calls him to come and die!  He doesn’t want you better; He wants you deader – dead to yourself.

     Spiritually the Christian has died but there is a further work to be done.   There is growing in the fullness of Jesus.  There is growing in Christ likeness.    There is the discipline of reading the scripture, prayer, fellowship and witnessing.  It is a process that is never complete and that is good because some of us need to have new goals in front of us.  We can never exhaust God.   My old nature seems pretty alive to me at times.      Maybe the real question for us today is how dead are you?   How dead are you to the world?   How dead are you to sin?   Paul said I am crucified with Christ. Paul writes the world has been crucified to me and I to the world.   And how alive are you to God.   One pastor’s web site said that 80% of Christians do not read their bible.