Celebrate the Cross

Title: Celebrate the Cross

Bible Book: John 19 : 16-19

Author: Johnny L. Sanders

Subject: Cross; Christian Living



This is the final sermon, number 18, in a series of messages on the Cross. The overall title is The Way of the Cross. There are two kinds of people in the world: those who have been to the Cross and those who have not. The former category is the minority; the latter the overwhelming majority. Among those who have been to the Cross and come under the blood of the Lamb of God there are two categories: Those who have taken up their cross and followed Jesus and those who have not. Those who have taken up their cross and followed Jesus are in the minority. Those who have been saved but have never taken up their cross and followed Him are in the overwhelming majority.

A. Jesus Died on a Cross to Pay for Our Sins.

The account of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ is found in the Gospels. Contrary to what some claim, the Gospels do not contradict each other, they compliment each other. Those who want to pick and choose what parts of the Gospels they like are quick to tell us, "Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John are Gospels. The Gospels are not history." Technically, they may have a point, but I am afraid many who make that statement simply want to justify their rejection or the claim of the Gospels and the demands made on their lives. Luke tells us that he researched his account very carefully. John testified to the truth of the Gospel account that bears his name. John wrote of the Cross:

Therefore they took Jesus away. Carrying His own cross, He went out to what is called Skull Place, which in Hebrew is called Golgotha. There they crucified Him and two others with Him, one on either side, with Jesus in the middle (John 19:16-19).

Jesus did not die for His sins. He had none: "He was tempted in all points like as we," yet He never sinned. He died for you and me:

For while we were still helpless, at the appointed moment, Christ died for the ungodly. For rarely will someone die for a just person—though for a good person perhaps someone might even dare to die. But God proves His own love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us! (Rom. 5:6-8).

B. The Bible Tells Us Why We Need to Be Saved.

1) All have sinned. Paul wrote, "All have sinned (past tense) and come short (present tense) of the glory of God" (Rom. 3:23). "The heart is more deceitful than anything else and desperately sick—who can understand it? (Jer 17:9, HCSB).

2) The penalty for sin is death. " For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Rom. 6:23).

3) God loves us enough to send His son to die for us. "But God proves His own love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us!" (Rom. 5:8).

C. The Bible Tells Us How to Be Saved.

God offers eternal life to all who believe in His Son. "If you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. With the heart one believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth one confesses, resulting in salvation" (Rom. 10:9-10).

Brother Albert Williamson retired from the Railroad a couple of years after I became his pastor. There were times when I would pick up Bro. Albert and take him with me when I made a call. He was a gracious and godly man and our family loved him and his wife, "Miss Florence", who was like a second grandmother to John, our older son. We gave John a little pull toy with the picture of a dog on it and when he pulled it, it barked like a dog (actually, it squawked like an old hen). John named it Bro. Albert. Most people in our area know one of his grandsons , Mike Pitts, from Channel 8 in Monroe.

We enjoyed the fellowship with Bro. Albert, but there was one area in which we could not fully agree. Bro. Albert often said, "I don’t think you ought to have to beg church members to come to church. They know where it is as well as I do." He was right, but he was wrong. We should not have to beg church members to come to church, but some of those church members might well have been lost people and they were slaves to the world and the flesh. Others were backsliders, who needed encouragement. Here is where I disagreed with Bro. Albert. I will beg. We must exhort the lost person to come to Jesus in faith, trusting Him for their salvation.

If you have never received Jesus Christ as your Savior, you are lost in sin, condemned to an eternity in hell, at this very moment (John 3:18). You don’t have to wait until you die to be under the death sentence, an eternal death sentence. You are absolutely lost, completely helpless, and eternally condemned. If you do not repent of your sins and trust Jesus to save you, you will spend your eternity in hell. Like Bro. Albert, I don’t think we should have to beg a Christian to worship the Lord with His people, in His house, on the Lord’s Day. I have done a lot of that over the years. Sadly, some I invested the most time and energy in were the ones who would eventually create problems once they got back into Sunday School and worship services. Maybe it would have been better if, instead of my persuasion, the Holy Spirit had brought them back.

When it comes to lost people, I will beg. At the same time, I will not try to use human persuasion to try to get them to profess Jesus as Savior. Only the Holy Spirit can convict an individual of sin and convince them to believe in Jesus Christ. Only God can draw people to His Son for salvation and He does that through the ministry of the Holy Spirit. The how of salvation is so simple that a child can understand it. My sister was six years old when she made a profession of faith in a revival service when I was a student pastor. My good friend Billy Pearce was the evangelist and I asked him to take Linda into a Sunday School room and see if he thought she understood what she was doing. He came out with a big smile on his face and told me, ""She knows exactly what she is doing. Her only concern was how she was going to tell a little girl who lives on your place how to be saved." Linda was saved the only way anyone is saved, by believing in Jesus. Paul explains it like this: "For by grace [God’s unmerited favor] you are saved through faith, and this is not from yourselves [a faith you can generate is worthless] ; it is God’s gift— not from works, so that no one can boast. (Eph. 2:8-9). Now, we are going to sing another great Hymn [ALAS AND DID MY SAVIOR BLEED]:

Alas and did my Savior bleed.

And did my Sovereign die?

Would He devote that sacred head

For sinners such as I?

Was it for crimes that I had done

He groaned upon a tree?

Amazing pity, grace unknown,

And love beyond degree.

Well might the sun in darkness hide,

And shut his glories in,

When Christ the mighty Maker died

For man, the creature’s sin.

Thus might I hide my blushing face

While Calvary’s cross appears,

Dissolve my heart in thankfulness,

And melt my mine eyes to tears.

But drops of grief can never repay

The dept of love I owe;

Here, Lord, I give myself away,

‘Tis all that I can do.

At the cross where I first saw the light,

And the burden of my heart rolled away,

It was there by faith I received my sight,

And now I am happy all the day!


A. Now, Let Us Sing Praises to the Lord for the Cross.

1) Paul praised God for the Cross. "For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is God’s power for salvation to everyone who believes" (Rom. 1:16). Now, we are going to praise our Lord by singing one of the all time favorite hymns [THE OLD RUGGED CROSS]:

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.

Oh, that old rugged cross, so despised by the world,

Has a wondrous attraction for me;

For the dear Lamb of God left His glory above,

To bear it to dark Calvary.

In the old rugged cross, stained with blood so divine,

Such a wonderful beauty I see;

For ‘twas on that old cross Jesus suffered and died,

To pardon and sanctify me.

To the old rugged cross I will ever be true,

Its shame and reproach gladly bear;

Then He’ll call me some day to my home far away,

Where His glory forever I’ll share.

2) The cross that was mean for shame is the glory of every believer. Once again, we are going to sing of that glorious Cross [WHEN I SURVEY THE WONDROUS CROSS]:

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.

See from His head, His hands, His feet,

Sorrow and love flow mingled down;

Did e’re such love and sorrow meet,

Or thorns compose so rich a crown.

Were the whole realm of nature mine,

That were a present far too small;

Love so amazing, so divine,

Demands my soul, my life, my all.

3) Let us praise God that the blood Jesus shed has the power to save all who believe in Him. Let us praise Him because THE BLOOD WILL NEVER LOSE ITS POWER:

The blood that Jesus shed for me,

Way back on Calvary;

The blood that gives me strength from day to day,

It will never lose its power.

It soothes my doubts and calms my fears,

And it dries all my tears;

The blood that gives me strength from day to day,

It will never lose its power.

It reaches to the highest mountain.

It flows to the lowest valley.

The blood that gives me strength from day to day,

It will never lose its power.

4) The Cross Manifests the Wisdom of God. Paul was inspired to write: "For to those who are perishing the message of the cross is foolishness, but to us who are being saved it is God’s power (1 Cor 1:18). [AT CALVARY]:

Years I spent in vanity and pride,

Caring not that my Lord was crucified,

Knowing not that it was for me He died

On Calvary.

By God’s Word at last my sin I learned;

Then I trembled at the law I’s spurned,

Till my guilty soul imploring turned

To Calvary.

Now I’ve given to Jesus everything,

Now I gladly own Him as my King,

Now my raptured soul can only sing

Of Calvary.

Oh, the love that drew salvation’s plan!

Oh, the grace that brought it down to man!

Oh the mighty gulf that God did span

At Calvary

Mercy there was great and grace was free;

Pardon there was multiplied to me;

There my burdened soul found liberty

At Calvary.

5) Now, join us in praising Jesus for the price He paid for our salvation. First, there is the Scripture, and then the song:

For I passed on to you as most important what I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures (1 Cor. 15:3-4 ).

When I was in seminary in New Orleans, Becky and I belonged to First Baptist Church where J. D. Grey was pastor. We loved the early service which was broadcast all over the area as THE GOSPEL HOUR. One Sunday morning the Offertory Hymn was JESUS PAID IT ALL. There was no way J. D. Grey was going to miss that opportunity! In his unique style he chided the Minister for singing JESUS PAID IT ALL right before the offering. This is not our Offertory Hymn today, but it is a great hymn with a great message. [JESUS PAID IT ALL’:

I hear the Savior say,

Thy strength indeed is small,

Child of weakness, watch and pray,

Find in Me thine all in all.

Lord, now indeed I find

Thy pow’r, and thine alone,

Can change the leper’s spots,

And melt the heart of stone.

For nothing good have I

Whereby Thy grace to claim;

I’ll wash my garments white

In the blood of Calvary’s Lamb.

And, when before the throne,

I stand in Him complete,

"Jesus died my soul to save,"

My lips shall still repeat.

Jesus paid it all,

All to Him I owe;

Sin had left a crimson stain,

He washed it white as snow.

B. Those Who Praise God for the Cross Must Bear the Cross and Follow Jesus.

1) We are commanded to take up our cross and follow Jesus. It is a simply matter to sing about the Cross, but another matter all together to bear our cross. We can sing about the Cross because we love to sing, know the song, or like to sing with others. Those who really love the Lord will obey Him, and that includes His command to take up your cross and follow Him.

And whoever doesn’t take up his cross and follow Me is not worthy of Me. 39 Anyone finding his life will lose it, and anyone losing his life because of Me will find it (Matt 10:38-39).

Then Jesus said to His disciples, "If anyone wants to come with Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me. 25 For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of Me will find it. 26 What will it benefit a man if he gains the whole world yet loses his life? Or what will a man give in exchange for his life? (Matt 16:24-27).

1) We must take up our cross and bear a witness to lost people. Mike Arrington is one of the Vice Presidents of LifeWay Christian Resources. Mike is a Texas Aggie, but who never seems offended by a good Aggie joke. Before Jordan Guice graduated from high school I learned that he planned to go to Texas A & M, so I sent Mike a message and asked him to contact Jordan. I had no doubt that Mike would send Jordan a message, but I was pleased when I saw a copy of the long personal note Mike sent. He told him about the university and then he recommended churches and encouraged him to get involved. Mike is a committed Christian with a gift for administration and a passion for souls. As Vice-President over the Corporate Affairs Division for LifeWay Christian Resources, Mike is responsible for the operation of Ridgecrest and Glorieta, the two largest Christian conference centers in the world. I helped arrange for a good friend, John Smith, go to Ridgecrest in

October, 2005 to help with construction work as a volunteer.

I had told Mike that Mr. Smith had built shopping malls all over the United States, but wanted only to do hands-on work at Ridgecrest. I received a phone call from a surprised John Smith one day. He had to tell me that Mike Arrington had flown in for a meeting at Ridgecrest and asked about him. When he learned where he was, Mike found him and thanked him for helping out with the work. John was surprised that a man as busy as Mike would take the time to do that. That tells you just a little about the kind of man Mike is. Mike even e-mailed me to tell me he had met John and thanked me for recommending him.

Mike Arrington is not only considerate, as I have already said, he has a passion for souls. A few years ago Mike e-mailed me that he and his wife Paula had visited relatives in New Orleans. The relatives had a restaurant and after greeting them he saw a couple of young ladies at a table and went by and introduced himself to them. Before long, Mike was witnessing to them. Now, remember, Mike is a layman. I thought everyone left that up to the pastor! Some lost people expect the pastor to witness to them, but may much more responsive when a layperson has enough compassion to try to introduce them to the Lord.

2) We must take up our cross and serve others. James Sanders is also a layman. I like to think of him as my "older brother", but I don’t get much cooperation there. Of course, he is older than Mike and Linda, but he reminds me that he is younger than I. James and his wife Carolyn moved to Calhoun, LA, a number of years ago. James had been a district manager for Equifax, with responsibilities for north LA and a part of Texas and Arkansas for some time before leaving the company to concentrate on a private business. Medical problems forced him into retirement and they moved from Shreveport to Ruston, and then to Calhoun, just west of Monroe and West Monroe, LA. As soon as they moved into their new house they met their neighbors, including Mr. And Mrs. the Simmons. Before too long Mr. Simmons died, leaving an aging widow who has been able to live by herself for several years because James watches out for her. He checks on the house, yard, orchard, and acreage around the place. If she gets sick she calls on James. If James has a fish fry, Mrs. Simmons is there. She has a son who was a medical doctor in New Orleans before Katrina. In fact Dr. Charles Simmons was administrator over a hospital in New Orleans. He is now in Shreveport. Another son is an engineer in Clinton, MS. If there is a problem, her sons will be there, but it is the unselfish care of her good neighbor that enables her to live alone in her house.

The Cross of Jesus Christ compels Mike Arrington to witness to people. The Cross of our Savior compels James to mow the orchard, plant a garden, clean out flower beds, put out new plants, cut brush with a bush hog, and check out the plumbing for a neighbor. James takes the same kind of care of Mrs. Simmons he would of our mother if she were living next to him.

Bearing their cross is not a burden for Mike Arrington of James Sanders. They find great joy in bearing their cross for our Lord. I have not found the source of the following lines, but I love the thought:

I have His Cross upon me,

And easy ‘tis to bear.

And in the burden which He carries,

I gladly take my share

While I do not remember all the words, there is one other line that comes to mind: "We bear the Cross together, my Lord and I."

Paul wrote: "But as for me, I will never boast about anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world (Gal 6:14). That old cross is loved not because of its construction but because of what Jesus did there.


Up Calvary’s mountain one dreadful morn,

Walked Christ my Savior, weary and worn;

Facing for sinners death on the cross,

That He might save them from endless loss.

"Father, forgive them!", thus did He pray,

E’en while His life-blood flowed fast away;

Praying for sinners while in such woe-

No one but Jesus ever loved so.

O how I love Him, Savior and Friend,

How can my praises ever find end!

Thro’ years unnumbered on heaven’s shore,

My tongue shall praise Him forever more.

Blessed Redeemer! Precious Redeemer!

Seems now I see Him on Calvary’s tree;

Wounded and bleeding, for sinners pleading-

Blind and unheeding dying for me!


On the cross, "God was in Christ Jesus reconciling the world unto Himself." That is reason enough for any believer to sing praises and to offer up prayers of thanksgiving. That is enough to challenge every lost person to trust Jesus Christ for salvation. It is enough to motivate every Christian to be a faithful witness and to serve the Lord faithfully every day.

Therefore since we also have such a large cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every weight and the sin that so easily ensnares us, and run with endurance the race that lies before us, keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that lay before Him endured a cross and despised the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of God’s throne (Heb 12:1-2).

One hymn has continually come to mind throughout this series on the Cross. I hope you love it as much as I do.


I must needs go home by the way of the cross,

There’s no other way but this;

I shall ne’re get sight of the gates of light,

If the way of the cross I miss.

I must needs go on in the blood sprinkled way,

The path that the Savior trod,

If I ever climb to the heights sublime,

Where the soul is at home with God.

Then I bed farewell to the way of the world,

To dwell in it never more;

For the Lord says, "Come," and I seek my home.

Where he waits at the open door.

The way of the Cross leads home,

The way of the Cross leads home

It is sweet to know as I onward go,

The way of the Cross leads home.

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