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A Cross Filled Life

 

1 Corinthians 15:3-4; Romans 6:1-4

 

Jim Davis

 

Anger and violence in the home and in the work place are becoming the nation’s number one concern. USA Today said this about our society: “Leading social scientists say the nation is in the middle of an anger epidemic that, in its mildest forms, is unsettling and, at its worst, turns deadly. The epidemic rattles both those who study social trends and parents who fear the country is at a culture precipice.”

 

We seem to be losing our cohesiveness as anger is being displayed in very destructive ways. Anger seems to dominate our world. Have you noticed how anger is used to manipulate our world?

 

You see anger at work when NBA games become a brawl. We observe players bulling other players and fans alike. It is compounded when the coaches get into a fistfight. An angry young man walks into a Radio Shack store killing two employees, and pitifully maiming another. The third one may yet die. In the last few days a husband and father stabs his wife, daughter and himself. Another husband shoots his wife, and takes his three children on a vehicle rampage, which ends in him shooting himself in front of his children. A deer hunter goes on a shooting rampage killing six other deer hunters and wounding two others.

 

Have you noticed how anger is motivating the political agendas of our world? Anger is a powerful motive used to get people out to the poles to vote. Half of the people are convinced they are going to get what’s coming to them, while the other half are convinced they are going to loose what they have. We have our red states and our blue states. If you get 120,000,000 million persons to the voting poles out of anger you can rest assured that almost half of them are going to go home angry. Then you can compound their anger by blaming their anger on those who won.

 

Satan is convincing us to buy into to the hype that our anger is the result of something that lies outside of self. We want society at large to manage anger. Society seeks to manage anger by taking away guns. If we take this route we will probably lose our cars to prevent road rage. All of our meat and vegetables will come pre-cut because our knives will be taken away.

 

Preaching Christ and Him Crucified

 

Anger is the result of a self-centered life. Paul describes this kind of life for those living in the last days.

 

2 Timothy 3:1-5

3:1 But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. 2 People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, 4 treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God- 5 having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them. NIV

 

The cross of Christ is the cure for selfishness; its message is designed to take our eyes off of ourselves. Someone walked into the church office this week with a tee shirt that had a picture of the White House on it. It read: “Regime change begins at home!!!” The message really hits home. However, it gets even more personal: Regime change begins in my heart!!!

 

Mark 7:14-23

14 Again Jesus called the crowd to him and said, "Listen to me, everyone, and understand this. 15 Nothing outside a man can make him 'unclean' by going into him. Rather, it is what comes out of a man that makes him 'unclean.'"

 

17 After he had left the crowd and entered the house, his disciples asked him about this parable. 18 "Are you so dull?" he asked. "Don't you see that nothing that enters a man from the outside can make him 'unclean'? 19 For it doesn't go into his heart but into his stomach, and then out of his body." (In saying this, Jesus declared all foods "clean.")

 

20 He went on: "What comes out of a man is what makes him 'unclean.' 21 For from within, out of men's hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, 22 greed, malice, deceit, lewdness,

envy, slander, arrogance and folly. 23 All these evils come from inside and make a man 'unclean.'" NIV

 

My wife and I have been married for many years. She has never made me mad over anything she has ever done. I have chosen to get angry over some things, but she doesn’t have the capability to make me get angry. Anger is a personal choice that comes from within.

 

James 4:1-3

4:1 What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don't they come from your desires that battle within you? 2 You want something but don't get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God. 3 When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures. NIV

 

The essential message of the cross is aimed at cleaning up the inside. Every heart must experience Christ’s rule. It’s the only way the world can experience the peaceful reign of the kingdom of God. The message of the cross seeks to place Christ in the heart of every believer. Christ living in us is our only hope of revealing a new way of living to a lost world.

 

Galatians 2:20

20 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. NIV

 

Placing Christ in the center of every heart is the world’s only hope of true reconciliation. The answers to the world’s problems lie in the rule of Christ. The kingdom of Christ exists for the sole purpose of bringing reconciliation to a lost world.

 

A Cross-less Gospel

 

I read a magazine article this week titled “Beware of the ‘Cross-less’ Gospel.” It raises the question: “When we talk about our faith, do we remember the heart of the matter.” The article suggests that churches have lost sight of the cross. Christ is rarely mentioned when people seek to give a testimony. People say God changed my life. God gave me a purpose for living. God gave me peace. However, what Christ did on the cross is rarely mentioned. It is no longer the central message of the gospel.

 

The article suggests that persons are led to find a new way of living without bringing them to the realization they are sinners. They don’t understand the purpose of Christ dying on the cross was to remove their personal sin (1 John 3:5). We need reminded of this, otherwise we may seek to give peace, joy, happiness, purpose for living, and an example to follow without an understanding why Christ died on the cross.

 

There is another message I am hearing that is focused on things other than the cross. We speak of traditional or non-traditional worship services. This message emphasizes doing things different for the sake of doing things different. Freedom in Christ for many only means the freedom to do things different. Over the past couple of decades the church has centered its message on issues that divide rather than the cross. The issues are different for every congregation but they have become the focal point of churches.

 

The message of the cross is about Jesus freeing us from the bondage of sin for the purpose of striving to live above sin.

 

The Cross of Christ Absorbs Anger

 

Paul placed the cross as of first importance in the gospel message.

 

1 Corinthians 15:3-6

3 For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. NIV

 

The central message of the cross is that Christ absorbed the anger of God for us. Some think it strange that God’s anger against sin must be assuaged by the cross. The very knowledge that there is right and wrong instills a need for justice. The Bible recognizes wrong doing as sin. Justice demands the punishment of wrong doers.

 

Christ died to assuage the anger of God against sin. The cross is the only means of truly understanding God’s anger against sin. God’s wrath against sin was taken out upon his Son on the cross. He allowed him to suffer the angry assault of Satan on that cross. The cross absorbed hell’s fury for each of us.

 

Isaiah 53:4-6

Surely he took up our infirmities

and carried our sorrows,

yet we considered him stricken by God,

smitten by him, and afflicted.

5 But he was pierced for our transgressions,

he was crushed for our iniquities;

the punishment that brought us peace was upon him,

and by his wounds we are healed.

6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray,

each of us has turned to his own way;

and the LORD has laid on him

the iniquity of us all. NIV

 

Christ died for the sins of the whole world.

 

John 11:49-53

49 Then one of them, named Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, spoke up, "You know nothing at all! 50 You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish."

 

51 He did not say this on his own, but as high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the Jewish nation, 52 and not only for that nation but also for the scattered children of God, to bring them together and make them one. 53 So from that day on they plotted to take his life. NIV

 

1 Timothy 2:5-6

5 For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave himself as a ransom for all men-the testimony given in its proper time. NIV

 

Hebrews 2:9

9 But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone. NIV

 

John 1:29

29 The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, "Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! NIV

 

The message of the gospel becomes a cross-less message when it stops at merely discovering salvation. Many focus on what Christ did for them on the cross. They accept the salvation, but make no attempt to take up their cross and follow Christ.

 

The message of the cross is robbed of its power when we fail to realize the cross we carry for Christ is also designed to absorb the anger of an angry world—the sin of those who sin against us. Anger seeks to retaliate; the cross absorbed God’s anger. Every person’s cross is designed to absorb the anger and misdeeds of others while seeking to love them with the love of Christ.

 

Living for Christ is paramount to living for others. Paul teaches us that Christ died for all so that those who live in Christ should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again (2 Corinthians 5:14-15). This is the message that must penetrate an angry world. Living for others takes our focus off of what we have been deprived. The cross is God’s answer for an angry world.

 

Paul chose to spend his resources on God’s people.

 

2 Corinthians 12:15-16

15 So I will very gladly spend for you everything I have and expend myself as well. If I love you more, will you love me less? NIV

 

Taking up our crosses in an evil world today is just as painful as it was for our Lord. However, the impact upon our world is just as powerful.

 

1 Peter 2:11-12

11 Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul. 12 Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us. NIV

 

1 Peter 4:19

19 So then, those who suffer according to God's will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good. NIV

 

God’s means of salvaging our world is through those crucified for Christ.

 

Colossians 1:27

7 To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. NIV

 

The Lord can do wonders with a crucified life for this is where he makes his righteousness shine.

 

Psalms 37:5-6

5 Commit your way to the LORD;

trust in him and he will do this:

6 He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn,

the justice of your cause like the noonday sun. NIV

 

The righteousness of the saints is the drawing power of the gospel. It’s the only way to draw others to Christ.

 

Conclusion:

 

The cross is the central message of baptism.

 

Romans 6:1-7

6:1 What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? 2 By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? 3 Or don't you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.

 

5 If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection. 6 For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin- 7 because anyone who has died has been freed from sin. NIV

 

Baptism focuses hearts on the cross. The last command Christ gave on earth was concerning baptism.

 

Matthew 28:16-20

16 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." NIV

 

Mark 16:15-16

15 He said to them, "Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation. 16 Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. NIV

 

It is no accident the first gospel message after Christ’s ascension to heaven culminated in 3,000 baptisms. Taking up Christ’s cross is where the Christian walk begins and it ends with death to self. When Jesus took up his cross he turned the other cheek. He went the second mile. In his oppression and affliction he offered no defense. He met the anger of the mob crucifying him pleading God to forgive them. He refused to retaliate. He gave up all things to become one of us, and yet, he demanded nothing in return.

 

 

 

 

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