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Gazing at the Cross

Sermon by Derek Thomas on Mar 21, 2010

Galatians 6:14

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The Lord's Day Morning

March 21, 2010

Galatians 6:14

“Gazing At the Cross”

Mr. Derek W. H. Thomas

Now turn with me to Galatians chapter 6, Galatians chapter 6 and I just have one verse this morning, verse number 14 — well known verse. Before we read it together let's look to God in prayer.

Father, we are a needy people. We thank You for the provision of the Scriptures written by the out breathing of God and profitable for doctrine and reproof and correction and instruction in the way of righteousness that the man of God might be thoroughly furnished unto every good work. Help us to read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest. Come Holy Spirit and grant the light of illumination for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Verse 14 of Galatians chapter 6:

“But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.”

Amen.

A second-century piece of graffiti, now housed in the KersharianMuseum in the city of Rome, was discovered on the Palatine Hill in Rome. It bore a cartoon-like figure of a man being crucified. He has the head of a donkey and underneath are the words, Arxamenos Cebete Theon — in Latin meaning “Arxamenos worships God.” It's a caricature. It was a second century way of saying that someone who worships a crucified man like Christians do is a donkey; is a fool.

I. Boasting in the cross.

Paul boasts in the cross.

Let's think about that for a minute. The cross was an instrument of execution, the preferred Roman method of executing the worst of criminals. Imagine if we were saying, “I boast, I glory in an electric chair.” Somebody was telling me at the end of the first service near the police headquarters here in town, I guess off of 55 as you turn there by the hospital, there was a glass window in which could be seen — so I'm told — an electric chair. I'm sure it slowed the traffic down. But imagine with me for a minute that what we were saying, “I boast in an electric chair. I boast in a syringe. I boast in a hangman's noose. I boast in a guillotine.” - All methods of execution.

“When I survey the wondrous cross on which the Prince of Glory died,

my richest gain I count but loss and pour contempt on all my pride.

Forbid it Lord that I should boast, save in the death of Christ my God.

All the vain things that charm me most, I sacrifice them to His blood.”

The cross is the climax of Jesus’ life. He would subsequently be resurrected, of course, but the cross is the climax of Jesus’ earthly life. He had come to die. It was for this reason that He was in the world. His whole life had been one act of obedience that culminated in His laying down His life. Remember what Paul says in Philippians 2? “Let this mind be in you that was also be in Christ Jesus who, being in the form of God thought it not robbery to be equal with God but made Himself of no reputation and He humbled Himself.” And Paul goes on to say, “He humbled Himself even to the point of death.” Actually he's saying “He kept on humbling Himself until He reached the point of death.” The cross is the culmination of a total life given in obedience to His Father in heaven. “I must go to Jerusalem,” He said.

There's a painting by Holman Hunt. I'm sure it's very familiar to you. It depicts Jesus when He was twelve. He's standing in the carpenter's shop. His hands are at the doorway, at the posts of the door. He's leaning on the posts. And there's a piece of wood that He's working on leaning on His shoulder. And the sun is shining on Him so that it casts a shadow deep into carpenter's shop and the shadow is in the form of a cross. Even at twelve years of age, Hunt is saying that He had come to die. The shadow of His cross laid upon His life. “I have a baptism,” He said, “with which I must be baptized.” He was referring to the cross. He had been baptized by John, the baptism of repentance, and Jesus saw that baptism of repentance as a sign of the cross that lay before Him.

Do you remember at Caesarea Philippi, way up north in Galilee? He asked His disciples that question, do you remember? “Who do men say that I am? What are people saying about Me? Who do they think I am?” And you remember there were all kinds of answers. Some thought He was Elijah, some thought He was Jeremiah, some thought He was one of the prophets, some thought He was John the Baptist returned from the dead. And He turns to Peter, “Who do you say that I am?” And Peter, bless his cotton socks, Peter said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” “Flesh and blood hasn't revealed this to you Peter, but My Father who is in heaven.” “And on this rock I will build My church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.”

And then you remember the gospel writers saying, “From this time, Jesus began to speak to them plainly” — plainly — “that He must go to Jerusalem and there be handed over to the chief priests and be crucified.” And Peter, only Peter could have said it, putting two words in the same sentence that can't belong in the same sentence. He says, “Never, Lord. You are my Lord, You are my sovereign King, Your will is paramount in my life, but You’re wrong here, You’re mistaken.” And you know, read that text again. Something got hold of Jesus. It touched a raw nerve I think within His being because Jesus has been tempted here that there may be some other way and He says, “Get behind Me, Satan, because you savor the things of men and not the things of God.” He had come to die. He had come in order to be crucified.

Don Carson, in a commentary on Matthew, describes the crucifixion.

“It was unspeakably painful and degrading. Whether tied or nailed to the cross, the victim found himself in countless paroxysms as he pulled with his arms and pushed with his legs to keep the chest cavity open to enable him to breath and then collapse with exhaustion until the demand for oxygen renewed paroxysms. The scourging, the loss of blood, the shock from the pain all produced agony that could go on for days, ending at last by suffocation, cardiac arrest, loss of blood. When there was reason to hasten the death the soldiers would crush their legs so that they would slump down and be unable to push themselves up and they would die almost immediately of suffocation.”

Beyond the pain was the shame to be crucified. And in all probability, my friends, Jesus was crucified naked. The shame of it. And for the Jews something more, because in Deuteronomy Moses has spoken that that form of death was cursed. It signified the curse of God, the abandonment of God.

II. Paul's doctrine of the cross.

How can you glory in the cross? How can you boast in the cross? Isn't it something you want to run away from? Because Paul has a doctrine of the cross. He understands the cross. It means redemption for Paul. The language of the marketplace - “We are redeemed by the cross” Paul will say. “The price to set us free from bondage, we are redeemed” he says, “from the curse of the law.” He says that in this very epistle.

And the price to redeem us, to set us free, to give us liberty is the blood of Jesus. The cross propitiates. The language of the temple — the cross deals with the problem, yes, the problem of the holiness of God, the wrath of God that is set against us because we are sinners, and the cross, in the cross, the unmitigated wrath of God descends upon His Son instead of us. “The Lord bless you and keep you, the Lord make His face to shine upon you and be gracious to you, the Lord lift up His countenance upon you and give you peace.” And Jesus heard, “The Lord curse You and turn His face away from You and refuse to give You an ounce of comfort and send You to hell.” “I glory in the cross” Paul says, “because it propitiates.” My sins, though they are red like crimson, can never ever rise up and be an obstacle to my fellowship with God, ever.

The cross reconciles. It reconciles. It reconciles God to sinners because He looks at what His Son has done as a substitute in my place. God made Him to be sin for us, who knew no sin, that we might be reckoned the righteousness of God, the perfection of God, in Him. “There is a green hill far away, outside a city wall, where my dear Lord was crucified who died to save us all.”

The Galatians were back to doing what converted Jewish Christians will want to do, and that is boast about boundary markers that establish them as Jewish rather than Gentile. And they were boasting in circumcision and possibly food laws and other things and Paul is saying, “I'm not going to boast in anything except this — the cross of Jesus Christ.”

Do you understand that? Do you understand how Paul can say that? Is that something that you say “Amen” to? You've looked at the cross and you've seen, in one sense, the ugliest thing that has befallen mankind. It is the most brutal savage act that could have ever occurred and yet at the same time it is my redemption, it is my reconciliation, it's my propitiation, it's my salvation because there at the cross Jesus was doing something for me.

Are you boasting in the cross this morning? Amidst all the other things that fill your agendas this morning, are you boasting in the cross? I guarantee you, folks, whatever the problem may be it will pale in insignificance before the cross of Jesus Christ.

You’ll notice Paul goes on to say, “by which the world has been crucified to Me.” By which the world has been crucified to Me — Paul is saying the world can offer Him nothing. It can offer Him nothing of any value in comparison to what the cross offers. No he's not saying some kind of aesthetic statement that he can't look at a beautiful scene and see something of the transparency of God's glory. He's not saying he can't appreciate things like music or art or architecture or whatever. That's not what he's saying. He's saying what the preacher says in Ecclesiastes — “Life under the sun, life without God, is it vanity. It is hopelessness.” It is, as Paul says in Romans 8, “the world has been subjected to futility. It can offer me nothing.” It's what Jesus says. “What shall it profit Me if I gain the whole world?”

Have you ever envied somebody who's got a lot? I did it yesterday, I'm ashamed to say. I was flying back from San Paulo, Brazil, working for this man here, and as I was getting on the aircraft I was in the back of the bus, you understand. Two teenagers, two teenage boys, made a great show of being in the business class. You know, you have to walk through the business class to get to the back of the bus. You understand the scene? And for a moment — actually it was more than a moment — I sort of envied them. “What kind of young teenagers are these that they can afford these seats?” that's what I was thinking. And then like a blow to the side of the head came the word, “What are you preaching on tomorrow? Ah yes, the world is crucified to me. I have Jesus” — I don't know whether these two teenagers had Jesus or not, but I had Jesus. Math time, math time children, do the math with me. You have the world. You have the world, you have everything, everything you ever dreamed of, but you don't have Jesus. What have you got? Nothing. Nothing. Do the math again. You have Jesus and nothing else, nothing else. What have you got? Everything. Everything.

Are you spending your hours and minutes and days and months envying the world and what it's got, striving with all of your might to be just like the rest of the world? You are fools. I can say that because the Bible says that. What will it profit you my friend, if you gain the whole world and you lose Christ? It will gain you nothing.

And then Paul goes on to say, “I am crucified to the world. The world is crucified to me, but I am crucified to the world.” Now there was a sense, very popular at one time, to interpret this part of the verse as a further act of consecration. “I” Paul would be saying, “I crucify myself to the world.” No, I don't think that's what Paul is saying. Paul is saying something a little different. He saying — how did the world think of Paul? I think I told you this before, when I told my father I was going to be a minister, a preacher — there were no preachers in our family — I remember his words as though they were yesterday. “What a waste” is what he said. What did the world think of Paul? This incredibly intelligent man with Type-A Personality, a go-getter — he could have been anything he wanted to have been. What did the world think of him? The world treated him as someone who was crucified, as nothing, as unimportant.

Look at verse 17. Look at verse 17. “From now on let no one cause me trouble, for I bear in my body the marks of Jesus.” What's he saying? Justin Pillsbury took a bunch of you young folk to the beach for spring break. A marvelous time was had by all I hear. I sometimes imagine, you know, Paul on the Orange Beach trip, the spring break trip, you know? And the teenagers are saying, goading him, “Paul, come on. Let's go swimming. You know, no jellyfish here today, blue warm water — let's go for a swim.” And Paul takes off his shirt and there are gasps of just horror from the teenage boys because they look at his back and there's the evidence of thirty-nine lashes on several occasions that have etched deep scars into the tissues and muscles of his back. “I bear in my body,” Paul says, “the marks of Jesus.”

So, you follow Jesus and you get the marks of Jesus. And what have you got? Everything. Everything. Everything. You've got eternal life.

My dear friends, where are you this morning? What's important to you? What's at the center of your agendas this morning? What are you living for, striving for, worrying about, sleepless nights concerning? Here's a perspective — I am not going to boast in anything except the cross of Jesus.

“When I survey the wondrous cross on which the Prince of Glory died,

my richest gain in count but loss and pour contempt on all my pride.”

Let's sing that to God, shall we? It's number 252.

Grace, mercy, and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.

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