The Heart Of The Cross


Author: Gareth Russell Date: Monday, October 20, 2014 Campus:

This week we focused on The Heart Of The Cross. If you want to listen again to Gareth’s talk click here. The questions and transcript are below. Let us know your thoughts, questions and comments.

1. What do you feel God was saying to you through this talk?

2. What surprised you about this subject?

3. What practical action do you feel you need to make as a result of what God has been saying to you?

The Heart Of The Cross // The Cross Series

Grand Union Vineyard Church

19th October 2014

This week we are continuing our series on The Cross. Jill and Alan have done a great job in the first two talks looking at Approaching The Cross and The Achievement Of The Cross, and today we will be looking at The Heart Of The Cross.

The book that we are using as a guide for the framework of this series is called “The Cross Of Christ” and was written by a guy called John Stott.

And John Stott once said this:

“I could never myself believe in God, if it were not for the cross…In the real world of pain, how could one worship a God who was immune to it? I have entered many Buddhist temples in different Asian countries and stood respectfully before the statue of the Buddha, his legs crossed, arms folded, eyes closed, the ghost of a smile playing round his mouth, a remote look on his face, detached from the agonies of the world. But each time after a while I have had to turn away. And in imagination I have turned instead to that lonely, twisted, tortured figure on the cross, nails through hands and feet, back lacerated, limbs wrenched, brow bleeding from thorn-pricks, mouth dry and intolerably thirsty, plunged in Godforsaken darkness. That is the God for me! He laid aside his immunity to pain. He entered our world of flesh and blood, tears and death. He suffered for us. Our sufferings become more manageable in the light of his. There is still a question mark against human suffering, but over it we boldly stamp another mark, the cross that symbolises divine suffering. ‘The cross of Christ … is God’s only self-justification in such a world” as ours….’ ‘The other gods were strong; but you were weak; they rode, but you did stumble to a throne; But to our wounds only God’s wounds can speak, And not a god has wounds, but you alone.”

That is the heart of the cross. That God in all his power, in all his greatest, in all his majesty, in all his splendour – that God suffered, that God put himself in a place of abuse, mockery, beating, and ultimately death. All because of His love for us.

For God so loved the world that He stepped down from Heaven and because of His death, anyone who believes in Him shall not die but have everlasting life.

We will use some words this morning that are not used much in everyday language – words like sin and words like wrath.

It could feel a little heavy at times, but DO NOT FEAR – there is good reason.

Because I believe we must first fully acknowledge the seriousness of sin in order to fully understand the greatness of grace.

We often rush to the Saviour before we acknowledge what we are being saved from.

Whether you are here this morning and you are not a Christian, whether you have been a Christian five minutes or a Christian 35 years…you have sinned and have fallen short of the glory of God.

You have fallen short of His standards.

As Stott says “Before we can begin to see the cross as something done for us, we have to see it as something done by us.”

Our sin put Jesus on the cross. Our wrongdoings.

But all are justified freely by his grace through the saving power that came by Christ Jesus.

We are saved by the one who we put on the cross.

He was pierced for our transgressions,

    he was crushed for our iniquities;

the punishment that brought us peace was on him,

    and by his wounds we are healed.

But here’s the thing. We have to first acknowledge the seriousness of our sin before we can fully understand the greatness of grace.

We have to hate sin as much as God hates sin.

Yes we are saved by grace, but that does not mean we can be more accepting of sin or a sinful lifestyle.

Is this Gareth getting a little legalistic on the church? No!

If we love God, we want to please God. Yes we have a sinful nature, but if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: the old has gone, the new is here!

Accepting sin, living with sin, being sinful is an act of will. It is a choice. Yes we are tempted, yes we have bad thoughts but there is a choice to act on it.

And we must have the same hatred toward sin that God has.

I think this is a huge issue. I know it has been for me in the past. I have minimised the effect, the impact and the seriousness of sin in my life.

In the past, I have looked at grace and seen it as a get out of jail free card – knowing every time I sin, I can pray for forgiveness and it is given to me.

That is wrong.

If there is something in your life that you know is sinful. Stop justifying, ignoring, and accepting it.

Kick it out. Stop it. Pray for strength to resist it. Be accountable to people to break it.

Because we do not have to be controlled by that Spirit.

In Romans 6 it says “What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning, so that grace may increase? 2 By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? 3 Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptised into Christ Jesus were baptised 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 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6 For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with,[a] that we should no longer be slaves to sin – 7 because anyone who has died has been set free from sin.

8 Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9 For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. 10 The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God.

11 In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. 12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. 13 Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness. 14 For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace..”

God in Christ died so that we did not have to. He died so that the power of sin and hell would be broken.

He died so that we could have life.

Let’s live that life. Let’s not be bound by the sin that the Devil wants us to be controlled by, let’s live a different way. A life free from sin. A life free from guilt, a life that gives life to others.

Let’s talk about wrath.

It’s not a fashionable word, is it?

It’s one of those words that people are either confused by or put off by. It’s old, religious and judgemental.

But what exactly is wrath?

Wrath is God’s response to sin.

Gods wrath exists BECAUSE he is holy.

God doesn’t FEEL holy. He IS holy. It is in His nature. It is who He is.

I can’t change my nationality or who my parents are – they are both part of who I am.

Holiness is part of who God is.

And we cannot fathom His holiness.

God cannot look at evil. Cannot look at sin. He cannot tolerate wrong. He is Holy.

Therefore, before Christ died, our sin effectively separates us from him, so that his face is hidden from us and the Bible even says he refuses to listen to our prayers.

And the biblical authors clearly understood that as a result, no human being could ever set eyes on God and survive the experience.

And all those who were granted even a glimpse of his glory were unable to endure the sight.

Moses “hid his face because he was afraid to look at God.” When Isaiah had his vision of Yahweh enthroned and exalted, he was overwhelmed by the sense of his uncleanliness. When God revealed himself personally to God, Job’s reaction was to “despise” himself and to “repent in dust and ashes”.

Ezekiel saw only “the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord”, in burning fire and brilliant light, but it was enough to make him fallen prostrate to the ground.

At a similar vision, Daniel also collapsed and fainted, with his face to the ground.

The glory, the majesty, the greatness of God is more than we can fathom. Our brains are simply not capable of imagining it.

Think of how great you think God is now.

He is greater than that.

Think how big you think He is.

He is bigger than that.

Think how strong you think He is.

He is stronger than that.

Let us not be a church that minimises our God to the size of our understanding. God is greater, God is bigger, God is stronger.

And God is more holy than we can ever imagine.

That’s why we read in Revelation that the angels and the living creatures can often only find themselves singing, “Holy Holy Holy, Lord God Almighty.”

And wrath is God’s holy reaction to evil.

What is common to the biblical concepts of the holiness and the wrath of God is the truth that they cannot coexist with sin. God’s holiness exposes sin; his wrath opposes it. So sin cannot approach God, and God cannot tolerate sin.

God cannot accept sin. It is abhorrent to Him.

Sin is evil. Sin is anti God. Sin is rebellion. Sin is choosing a way other than the will of God.

And in that same way it should be abhorrent to us. We should be disgusted by sin.

R.W. Dale writes “It is partly because sin does not provoke our own wrath, that we do not believe that sin provokes the wrath of God.”

When we minimise the need for wrath. We minimise the need for a Saviour.

If we justify sin. We are less dependent, in our own minds, on the saving power of the cross.

Is this meant to make you feel bad and put you on a downer? No!  

But it is meant to encourage you to take a good long hard look at your current behaviours, thoughts and words and ask yourself honestly if they are sinful.

And if they are, we must change. By the power of His Holy Spirit we must change.

Because what you tolerate you will never change.

And if we tolerate sinful behaviour, thoughts, words, or patterns – we miss out on living on the fullness of our relationship with God.

This is why we must fully acknowledge the seriousness of sin in order to fully understand the greatness of grace.

And that grace is great. Before the holy God can forgive us, some kind of satisfaction was necessary.

God is perfect and had to have the cost of sin satisfied.

The Cross is the event in which God makes known his holiness as the cost of sin is paid, but also simultaneously makes known his love – both in one event, in one absolute manner.

The only way God could simultaneously express his holiness in judgement and his love in pardon was to provide a divine substitute for the sinner – you and I.

The substitute would receive the judgement and you and I would be set free.

We still have to suffer the personal, psychological and social consequences of our sins, but the deserved penalty of separation from God has been borne by another so that we may be spared it.

And that, my friends is something to celebrate.

Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.

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