A New Look at the Old Rugged Cross

Bible Book: 1 Corinthians  1 : 18
Subject: Cross of Christ; Salvation; Service, Faithfulness

A New Look At The Old Rugged Cross

Dr. J. Mike Minnix, Editor, www.pastorlife.com
Introduction

1 Corinthians 1:18

The cross of Christ has gone through a kind of transformation across the ages. Shortly after the death of Christ the idea that one died there to save the world became a laughingstock to the Romans. In a Latin Inscription class a professor showed the class a picture of a donkey dying on a cross and a man kneeling before it. Underneath were the words: "Alexamenos Worships His God." The professor explained to the class that this is what the ancient world thought of the cross of Christ. Indeed, the Bible states that the cross is a stumbling block to the Jews and an offense to the Greeks.

To believers the cross is a symbol of our faith. Early on the Church took note of the fact that God made much of the death of his Son. Someone has pointed out that biographies of great men like Daniel Webster and Abraham Lincoln may run on for hundreds and even thousands of pages, but only a few pages will mention the death of the great figure. I have just finished reading an 800 page biography of the life of Lt. Colonel John Paul Vann, who was a heroic soldier in Vietnam. Only a dozen pages contain the story of his death and burial. Contrast those few pages of his death with that of Jesus on the cross. At least 1/3 of Matthew, 1/3 of Mark, 1/4 of Luke and half of John's gospel tell the story of Christ's last days and hours. God made much of His Son's death and so did the early church. Even though the world despised the cross, the early believers preached it with great enthusiasm. Why? They did so because this was a crucial event for the salvation of the entire world.

Does the world understand the meaning of the cross? As I was saying, the cross has gone through a transformation. Once despised, then revered, it can now be said that the cross is taken for granted - its true meaning discarded or neglected. It is nothing to see someone in the Hell's Angels or a prostitute on the street wearing a cross without any thought to what it means. I am not sure which is worst: that the cross is despised or that it is neglected. Some even go so far as to belittle it as unimportant. An artist, a few years ago, place a crucifix in a bottle of urine and it was displayed in a museum as an exciting work of art.

Today I want us to a new look at the old rugged cross. We must never forget what it stands for and what it means to us. We must never forget the message it declares to sinner and the peace it brings to the saved. Note with me three things in our text about the cross of our Lord.

I. The Righteousness of God

Paul plainly tells us that through the sacrifice of Christ we have become the righteousness of God.

  • Christ did not just save us, He cleansed us.
  • Christ did not cleanse us, He converted us.
  • Christ did not just convert us, He transformed us.

I have been made the righteousness of God in Christ. Amazing, isn't it? Jesus knew no sin but had my sin imputed to him, just so I who knew no righteousness could have the righteousness of God imputed to me. What a thought! It is a reality for the believer. Now let’s see what this means and how it was achieved.

A. Condemnation

The cross was a place of condemnation. The two most awful judgments that this world will ever see can be comprehended in the picture of the Great White Throne Judgment found in the Book of Revelation and the horrors of the Cross. At the Great White Throne Judgment we see the lost of all the earth judged and cast out into eternity without God. At the cross we see the Lord of glory, who knew no sin, become sin for us. He was in fact judged for the sins of the world. "Why hast thou forsaken me?" Even the Father would not look upon Him in that moment. Christ was condemned for your sin and mine at the Cross. In this way he became our substitute. He do so in order for us to never face judgment at the White Throne. You see, Christ took the judgment we deserve so that we might have the purity that He possesses. In essence a person must accept one judgment or the other. You can accept the judgment Christ took for you and know what it means to be saved and ready for eternity with God, or you can accept your own judgment for sin and be separated from God.

So, this points to the idea of ...

B. Substitution

In essence, Jesus died in our place. No one is saved because he or she is good, religious or moral. One can only be saved by the blood of the Cross. Spurgeon was fond of saying,

"Morality can keep you out of jail,

But only the blood of Christ can keep you out of Hell!"

One man said, "I do not need the blood, all I need is an example.” The preacher said, "Okay, let’s begin with 1 Peter 2:22."

1 Peter 2:22, “Who committed no sin, Nor was deceit found in His mouth...”

Then he asked, "Can you follow that example?"

"Well", the man said, "I know I have sinned but..".

"No, No! If you cannot be sinless then you do not need an example, you need a Savior!"

A great parliament of religions was meeting in Chicago and practically every known world religion was represented. Learned discourses were given. Dr. Joseph Cook stood and said, "Gentlemen, I beg to introduce you to a woman who has blood on her hands and has found no way to remove the stains. The blood is that of murder. She has been driven to desperation in her distress. Is there anything in your religion that will remove her sin and give her peace? " A great hush fell on the large assembly. No one replied. He then raised his eyes toward Heaven as if speaking to someone there and said, "John, the apostle, can you help this poor woman to be rid of her awful sin?" The he waited as if he expected an answer. Suddenly he cried out, "Listen, John is speaking, 'The blood of Jesus Christ cleanses from all sin.'" (I John 1:7)

There is the story of a young woman was saved, though she had lived a very sinful life. Shortly afterward she became ill and in a few short weeks was at the point of death. Just before she died, while very weak, she felt her brow over and over again. Finally she spoke, "There are no thorn marks there, for he bore the crown of thorns for me." Then she began to feel of her side, "There is no mark there for he took the spear for me." Finally, she felt the palms of her hands with her fingers, "There are no nail prints there for he took the nails for me.” Shortly afterward she slipped away to meet God. Jesus took her judgment, my judgment and your judgment at Calvary -if only we will come to Him by faith and accept Him as Lord and Savior.

Let us ever remember that Christ was condemned as our substitute so that we might be forgiven and live. Only those who come by way of the cross will ever be saved and live with God forever.

Now, let's look at ...

II. The Responsibility of Grace

A. Workers with God

With this wonderful salvation comes an awesome responsibility. We are workers with God. God, through the cross, has taken us into partnership in the great work of God. We are now co‑workers with Him. We want to say with Peter, who fell down in the fishing boat, "Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord". We can say with Paul, "I am chief among sinners." Yet Christ calls you His fellow worker. We have the responsibility to be faithful to Him.

But Paul points out that we can be ...

B. Wasters of Grace

We can receive the grace of God in vain. What does that mean? It means that we may never be that which God saved us to be. We may be saved and on our way to heaven, but not be the responsible Christians we are called to be, and therefore, waste grace. How horrible a thought is that?

When Jesus died on the Cross, he did not just die to save you from hell, He died to forgive you and give you victory over the sin and Satan. He rose to give you the power to be all you were meant to be in eternity.

We read in Galatians 2:20, "I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live, yet the life which I now live, I live by faith of the Son of God who love me and gave himself for me."

We must not be guilty of wasting grace or of taking what God has given and failing to be responsible for it and with it. What a sad thing to do, and yet we often fail to serve Him faithfully in the grace He has provided.

A great Christian leader of the past said that he owed much of his spiritual fervor to the causal sight of a picture of the crucifixion, in which Jesus spoke from the cross saying:

"All this for thee:

How much for me?"

He saw Jesus speaking from the cross saying, “I did this for you. I took all the suffering for your sin. How much are you now doing for me?”

Twas not the law that saved my soul,

Nor yet the deeds of virtue done,

Twas Jesus Christ, the Gift of God

He bled, He died, my soul he won.

Oh, hallelujah, praise His name!

Twas Jesus Christ Who made me whole;

He rescued me from sin and shame,

He bled, He died, He saved my soul.

Twas not my works that saved my soul,

Nor yet my zeal, my prayers, my tears,

Twas Jesus Christ, The Son of God

He bore my sins, he calmed my fears.

Now, let's think of ...

III. The Reciprocation of Generosity

A. He Heard You When You Prayed For Salvation

When you asked the Lord to save you, He did what He promised to do - He redeemed you from your sin. He did not postpone or delay His answer, but saved you in a moment - in a mere second. He loved you and acted upon your request through that love. Now He asks you for a response. He wants you to act as quickly as He acted in your behalf. Will you and I be as responsible to God as He has been to us? This is the human reciprocation for His divine generosity.

A nun went to a bishop and said that she had seen Christ. He required proof by asking her to ask Jesus the next time she saw him what sin he had committed. Several months later the nun appeared once more and told the bishop that once again Christ has appeared to her. He asked if she had questioned him concerning the last sin the bishop had committed. She said that she had asked him. The bishop wanted to know the answer. The nun said, "He told me he could not remember."

How amazing in our salvation - God remembers our sins no more. How is it that you and I are forgiven? When he ask Him, through faith in His sacrifice for our sins on the cross, to forgive us, He hears and answers us. What about when He asks us for a response, are we as faithful to Him as He is to us? When He calls us to duty, are we ready to do His will?

B. He Hears You When You Pray For Strength

In the book "Iron Shoes" Roy Angell tells the story of a young black boy who was sent to America to study so he could go back to his own people and preach the gospel. When taken on the campus he was shown around by a professor. He came to the track and fell down saying, "Is this the cinder running track that they told me about in Africa? Can I possibly run here with the other fellows?" He was taken out to meet the track coach and in his first run he outran everyone on the track team. Then the day for the big track meet came and the African American was to run in the last race. If he won it, they would win the meet. At first he lagged behind. The suddenly he burned up the track and won by inches over the best opponent in the state. The coach asked how he was able to make up so much ground at the end of the race. "I was praying,” he told the coach. “I told the Lord that if He would pick 'em up, I would put 'em down."

God comes through for us time and time again We cry out to Him in distress and He speaks to our hearts. We seek direction and He leads. We pray for forgiveness and He forgives. Now, let me ask, do we answer Him quickly when He asks so to serve, repent or to worship properly?

Conclusion

Christian, we need to take a new look at the old rugged cross. When we see what He has done for us, it should motivate us to do more for Him. We must not take His grace and love for granted. Let us not waste the grace of God through indifference and apathy.

Someone was complaining recently about an atheist who was on television making light of Jesus, He criticized the ignorance of believers, mocked the cross and laughed at the Bible. The person who watched this was a Christian and was appalled at such behavior. I said, "I am not nearly as troubled by an atheist who lacks faith as I am about a person who claims faith in Christ but does so little to show it. In the light of the cross, we are to worship and serve Him faithfully, honorably and gratefully.

You will never suffer for Jesus the way He suffered for you, but your can renew your commitment to be more faithful. You will meet Him one day - probably sooner than you think. We need to live so that when we meet Him on that day we can do so with a faithful life and hear Him say, "Well done, good and faithful servant."

The songwriter penned the words:

"On a hill far away stood an old rugged cross
The emblem of suffering and shame
And I love that old cross where the dearest and best
For a world of lost sinners was slain."

And then another verse reads:

"To the old rugged cross I will ever be true
It's shame and reproach gladly bear
Then he'll call me someday to my home far away
Where his glory forever I'll share."

Let that be our commitment as believers.

And, there are some listening today who have never trusted Christ as your Savior and Lord. This world is fleeting. Everything in it is passing. But Christ is forever. After he died for your sins, He rose from the grave and gives the assurance to those who trust Him that they will live forever with Him. You know you have sinned – all of us have. He is the only one who can wash you from the inside-out.

A man came to a preacher and asked, “What can I do to find peace with God?"

"You are too late," the preacher said.

"Too late?" the man asked.

"Yes,” said the preacher, “you can’t DO anything to find peace because it has already been DONE for you – it was accomplished at Calvary where Jesus died for you! Accept what He did for you, and He will give you peace."