Sermon for Friday, April 15th, 2022 at First Presbyterian Church at Unionville, NY (BPC)
[1Co 2:1-5 ESV] 1 And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. 2 For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. 3 And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, 4 and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5 so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.
What do you keep near?
When you’re a small child you might have a blanket or a stuffed animal that goes everywhere with you.
When you’re an adult you have might an EDC. Do you know these initials? EDC. Every Day Carry. This is what some call their Swiss Army knives or whatever else is kept in pockets or bags that go with you. An every day carry.
And, if you’re like me, you immediately feel LOST if one of these items is missing from your pockets. Phone, keys, pocket knife, and wallet. I admit to feeling just dreadful when I’ve left one of these behind. Of course, you might drive with terror if your wallet is left at home. But, in our day, we hardly know what to do if our cell phones are not near us.
But if these are the physical things that are near us, what is to be on our minds?
Unless we have the cross of Christ near us we are always going to be lost in the maze or difficulties in this world and without hope.
So we desire to always remember Christ and Him crucified. To keep near the cross.
The hymn writer says:
Jesus, keep me near the cross, there a precious fountain
free to all — a healing stream — flows from Calv’ry’s mountain
In the cross, in the cross, be my glory ever
till my raptured soul shall find rest beyond the river.
I. Nothing but Christ and Him Crucified.
The Apostle Paul professed to know nothing but Jesus Christ and him crucified. He desired to keep him near at heart, and to keep close on his mind the message of the cross, of Jesus Christ and him crucified.
This message of the death of Jesus Christ is overlooked, I believe intentionally, in many modernist churches. When the substitutionary atonement is denied the cross is an empty symbol.
But for true believers, the symbol of the cross brings to mind that which is of central importance, the very gospel itself. Jesus Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures.
So important was this message that Paul said not only “keep me near the cross” but that he had decided to KNOW NOTHING but Jesus Christ and him crucified.
As Paul preached he gave up all of his earthly wisdom and focused on the message of the Gospel, of Jesus Christ dying for sinners upon the cross.
Paul was a learned man, and he could have wow-ed the crowd with his speeches on all variety of topic. But he wisely chose to focus on the cross. While Easter is historically the pinnacle of the Christian calendar, it is not the resurrection but the crucifixion of Good Friday that takes preeminence for Paul.
He sought to preach Christ and Him CRUCIFIED.
A seminary professor of mine often summarized the work of the minister in saying “preach Christ.” [REPEAT: preach Christ.] True indeed. But we must be sure to preach the true Christ, for many false ideas of him have arisen. We don’t preach “Christ the good guy” or “Christ the social reformer” (making him in our own image, fitting whatever political topic of the day we might support) but we preach Christ the savior, crucified for the sins of his people, willingly going to the cross for the love he has for us.
II. The Crucifixion
We hear about the crucifixion in the each of the Gospels.
They tell us of the physical pains that Christ endured on the cross.
The scourging of perhaps 39 or 40 lashes.
The crown of thorns on his head.
The being struck upon the head with a reed.
The enduring of thirst.
The nails through his hands or wrists.
The nails through his feet.
The asphyxiation upon the cross.
And the Gospels tell us of the emotional pains Christ also suffered.
Of the abandonment of his friends.
The betrayal of Judas.
The humiliation of being spit upon, of being mocked as a king, of being counted among the criminals.and of being on display.
And the very act of being forsaken by the Father.
And yet Jesus did not sin.
And yet in this lowest of low times, we have the highest of all highs. And the world could never expect this.
While Christ could have called upon angels to rescue him, led an army against Rome, and freed the Israelites from their bondage, this was not the plan of God.
Christ’s Kingdom is not of this earth.
His is an eternal kingdom.
And He came to save his people for THAT kingdom.
On the cross, we were delivered from the domain of darkness and transferred to the kingdom of God’s beloved son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
We must always remember that Christ’s death on the cross was in fact a victory.
It was a victory for one because it was all according to God’s plan.
[Act 4:27-28 ESV] 27 for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, 28 to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place.
And second, the cross is a victory because it is a victory over death.
[1Co 15:56-57 ESV] 56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
On this idea of victory over death the Puritan John Owen wrote his greatest book titling it “The Death of Death in the Death of Christ.” [REPEAT: The Death of Death in the Death of Christ]
While death thought it had the victory, it was Christ who was in fact victorious, fulfilling the prophecy of Isaiah which says:
“Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”
Though indeed we shall all yet die (unless the Lord comes before our mortal bodies wear out), our eternal life is promised in Jesus Christ.
That is why it is a GOOD Friday. Not because we glory in the gore of Christ’s death, but because we glory in the results of Christ’s work, actively and passively obedient to God the Father, taking upon himself that which was due to us, and redeeming us from all our sins.
On this GOOD Friday, what message could possibly be BETTER to hear? Christ died for the sins of His people.
III. The Meaning of the Crucifixion
This is indeed the meaning of the crucifixion. It is a substitutionary atonement. Christ was our substitute. He took upon himself that which we deserve, and gave to us the riches and glory due only to him alone.
Christ takes our sin:
Isaiah 53:6 -– “The Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.”
John 10:11 – “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”
1Peter 3:18 – For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit,
And we are righteous only for Christ’s sake:
Jeremiah 23:6 – And this is the name by which he will be called: “The Lord is our righteous.”
2 Corinthians 5:21- For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
IV. Paul’s purpose in preaching the crucifixion
So the Apostle Paul preached Christ crucified, the glorious Gospel itself.
And his purpose was to clear away any other message, so that the conversion of people would be dependent solely on Faith in the Word of God, not upon the word or actions of Paul.
“my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5 so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.”
Thus the glory goes to God, not to Paul.
“God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Gal. 6:14)
You can see how silly it would be for a minister to count the number of conversions he has made, for no minister ever converted anyone, but it is the work of the Holy Spirit that brings Faith in Jesus Christ.
We are to preach Christ crucified to the ears of many, and the Holy Spirit works in the heart of those chosen of God. For many are called but few are chosen.
Ultimately it is the work of the Holy Spirit that keeps us near the cross; that keeps the cross on our minds.
This is what we need when we go out. Our Every Day Carry, on our minds, should be the cross.
“I, believing in Christ, am loved of God, for He sent his son to die on the cross for my sins.”
“Though I am a horrendous sinner, I have a tremendous savior who proved his love for me on the cross.”
We are always to keep the cross near. For there are many troubles that come our way.
And throughout all of this, we remember that Jesus keeps us near to him. [REPEAT: Jesus keeps US near to HIM.]
He keeps us in his protective hand.
[Jhn 10:28 ESV] 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.
We rely on Him.
Thus we pray “Jesus, Keep Me near the Cross.” We pray for HIM to keep US near. It is HIS work. The work OF GOD is this: believe in the once whom He has sent.
Keeping near the cross means:
1) We keep the cross on our minds.
2) It is to the cross we cling in times of trouble.
3) It is to the cross we look for joy.
4) It is that love of Christ which we seek to emulate. That sacrificial love.
5) Keeping near the cross keeps evil at bay. Because when we focus on Christ, we give no room for the devil.
6) And finally, let us draw near the knowing that for us Christ died and brought us close to him.
We’ll conclude then with this verse from Hebrews 10:22
[Heb 10:22 ESV] 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.
Let us pray.