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The Fourfold Message of the Cross
The Message of Forgiveness
John 1:29-37
One of my favorite stories of all time is about a very well-to-do lady and her husband who are planning a trip to a campground down in Florida. . .
Sometimes, it's easy to misunderstand what people are talking about!  I'm glad that's not true when it comes to the message of the cross.  There is a very clear and plain message of God's love for lost mankind that is delivered through the cross. 
As we saw last week, that message involved a sacrifice for sins.  For centuries, the sacrifice of Christ was pictured through the sacrificial system of Judaism.  And as we learned, the shedding of the blood of Jesus Christ was a sacrifice that offers an appeasement to God. 
So on God's side of the cross, the holiness, righteousness and justice of God was satisfied through a sinless, perfect sacrifice and He accepts that sacrifice as a substitute for all those who will allow that sacrifice to atone for them.  And in that way, as Paul told the Romans, He is both just and a justifier of those that believe.  
But what about on the human side of the cross?  What does the sacrifice of Christ accomplish for us?  Well, in a word, we are provided forgiveness from our sins. 
There is a vivid illustration of that at the cross itself as Jesus dies between two thieves.  At the beginning of the experience, both are cursing and yelling at Jesus from the cross.  But one of them begins to take note of what is happening, and convinced of the power of Jesus to forgive sin, he asks to be a part of the coming Kingdom. 
And you know the story, no greater assurance was ever given to a sinful human than what that man received that day when Jesus said to him, "Today you will be with Me in paradise." 
How could that happen?  This man is dying on a cross for his offenses against society.  It can happen only because what Jesus did on the cross was, by grace through faith, applied to him. 
The righteousness of God was satisfied in that His sins were paid for by Jesus and God's grace was seen as He forgave the man and accepted him into heaven.  And that's what happens every time a sinner repents.  The sacrifice of Christ is applied on his or her behalf and forgiveness is extended based on that sacrifice. 
Now, last week I explained how the sacrifice was offered on the Day of Atonement as the blood of that sacrifice was sprinkled on the Mercy Seat on top of the Ark of the Covenant in the Holy of Holies.
Inside the container called the Ark of the Covenant was the Ten Commandments, and on the Day of Atonement, more intensely than any other day, the people were reminded that God's law had been violated.
So in that box was represented all of their sins for the past year.  God's presence hovered above that container.  There was a separation between God and man because of sin.  But on the Day of Atonement those sins would be covered by the blood of a sacrifice as that blood was sprinkled on the top of the ark on what was known as the Mercy Seat. 
And God's promise was that He would meet them in the blood and His wrath would be averted.  Now remember, all of that pointed forward to the coming of Jesus and His sacrifice on the cross and all the pictures and types regarding the Day of Atonement were fulfilled at the crucifixion. 
But the Day of Atonement wasn't the only day a sacrifice was presented to God by the Jews.  There was another day of significance called Passover. It was significant because it involved the sacrifice of a lamb. 
And it is in the sacrifice of that lamb that we find the solution for man's sin problem.  Listen to what we read in
John 1:29-34
Let's begin with
1.  The Declaration
Now when John declared that Jesus was the Lamb of God, that meant something. But what exactly did it mean? I'm confident John had a specific picture in mind when he referenced Jesus as the Lamb.
After all, he is the only person in the Bible to reference Jesus in that way, and he does it twice.   But to what is he pointing their and our attention?
Well, obviously, since John the Baptist is the last of the Old Testament prophets, he is drawing on Old Testament history and references that first-century people would have understood.  But it is difficult to determine just what image of the ‘lamb’ John has in mind. 
The very first appearance of a lamb as a sacrifice is found in Genesis 4:4 when Abel brought a firstling from his flock as an offering to God.
Then we see this image of the lamb in Genesis 22:7-8 when Isaac asks Abraham where is the lamb for the sacrifice and Abraham responds by saying, “God will provide.” And God did provide. Abraham was supposed to go sacrifice his son and God provided a lamb to take the place of Abraham’s son.  So maybe John has that lamb in mind.
Or maybe he's talking about sacrificial lambs.  Since the time of the Exodus, lambs would have been a primary animal of sacrifice for the sins of the people of Israel. Two would be sacrificed each day, one in the morning and one at twilight as an offering to God. The lambs that were sacrificed were to be without blemish or defect.
These lambs were sacrificed to cover over the sins of Israel. Throughout the Old Testament the blood of lambs served as an atonement for the sins of the people.
And while the blood of lambs does not have the power to take away sin, for a time their blood would cover the sin of man so that God would be able to dwell among them in the Tent of Meeting. They could not erase the sin because they were not a perfect atoning sacrifice.
These lambs were killed for the sins of the people of Israel. They had done nothing wrong, they were helpless innocent sheep that were killed in place of men who were guilty of sin and deserved death. This sacrificial lamb may be what John means.
So John may be saying, in a general way that Jesus is the lamb of God who will be sacrificed for the sins of the world. Though He is innocent of sin He will be put to death for the sins of the world so that we may be forgiven.
Or maybe John had something more particular in mind. He may have used the lamb to refer to the sin offering of Leviticus 4 or the trespass offering of Leviticus 5 or even the sacrifice on the Day of Atonement from Leviticus 12.
The Picture
My personal conviction is he is pointing us to the Old Testament picture of the Passover lamb.  Over 1500 years before John wrote this book, the Israelites were captives in Egypt. Four hundred years before that, Joseph had rescued his family from a terrible famine by bringing them to Egypt where he was second in command to Pharaoh.
But during that 400 years, the children of Israel grew into a mighty nation. Subsequent Pharaohs became concerned about how the nation was growing. They were worried that the Jews would rise up against the Egyptians, so they oppressed them.
The oppression started simply enough, but before long they made them laborers. Then from laborers, they made them servants. Then from servants, they made the Jews into slaves.
They treated them harshly and before too long, the Jews began to cry out to God to deliver them.  God heard their cries and sent them Moses to deliver them from bondage in Egypt, into the land that He had promised Abraham hundreds of years before. So Moses appeared before Pharaoh and demanded that he release the Jews from their bondage.
Of course, we’re all familiar with what happened then. Pharaoh refused and then God sent a series of plagues upon Egypt. With each plague, Pharaoh’s heart became increasingly hardened. As he saw the mighty hand of God on display, he refused to submit his life to Him. And as he continued in his rebellion, God hardened his heart.
Finally, God sent one last plague. This was the plague of the firstborn. And in that plague, God told the people that He was going to send His death angel to take the life of all first-born males in Egypt. Judgment was coming. The oldest boy in every home was going to die.
But even in the midst of God’s judgment, He showed His grace. He gave Moses some very specific instructions about how he was to apply that grace. Each family had to select a lamb. The lamb had to be completely spotless and without blemish.  There were very specific instructions about how to select it, how to handle it, how to kill it and how to prepare it. But the whole assembly was to take all of those spotless lambs and slaughter them. They were then to prepare the lamb for the Passover meal.
They were also to make a brush from a hyssop branch, dip it into the blood of that pure, spotless lamb and apply it to the outside of the door and the doorframe of their home.
Once the blood was applied, the family went inside and closed the door till morning. During the night, God’s death angel passed through the land. He stopped at each house and killed the firstborn son unless he saw the blood.
When he saw the blood applied, he would "pass over" that home and God’s judgment would be avoided.  The lamb was a substitute. Its blood was poured out and applied so that the firstborn might live. From that point on, God commanded the Jews to remember that night. They were to remember that night by celebrating the Passover.
So when the first century Jew heard John the Baptist say, "Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world," they would have thought of the Passover lamb. They may have thought of other things also, but surely this picture would have come to mind. 
They may not have understood who Jesus was, but  they understood what John meant by referring to Jesus as the Lamb of God. 
And now, for the very first time, the announcement is being made that as the Lamb, Jesus could take away their sins. 
By the way, that's why He came.   It was at the announcement of His birth to Joseph when the angel said, "Call His name Jesus for He will save His people from their sins."
And now, the time has come and John points to Jesus and invites those listening to look and see the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. 
But how does that happen?  How do we connect the death of Christ on the cross and what it pictured and accomplished to the 21st century and our sin problem? 
Let me share with you how you can be forgiven for any sin. 
3. The Application
There are three things involved when it comes to sin.  We must first  
- Acknowledge It
Listen to what we read in
1 John 1:8
Then he repeats what he's just said in
verse 10
One of the primary reasons many will never be forgiven is because they refuse to acknowledge their sin.
The very concept of sin itself has become a forbidden word even in many pulpits and many churches.  We are being bombarded today from movies, to television, to the media telling us there is no such thing as "sin". 
We won't even call sin by its proper name anymore.  For example, people don't lie - they have a "credibility gap."  People aren't deceitful - they are just "shrewd business people."  People don't commit adultery; they just have "harmless affairs."  It is not embezzling,, it is "creative accounting."
But I can make things very clear and plain for you.  If you intend to have a relationship with God, you must acknowledge your sin.  It doesn't get any more plain that what we read in
verse 10
Then, once you acknowledge the sin,
- Confess it
The remedy for sin is not a good lawyer or a good excuse or shifting the blame.  The remedy for sin is old fashioned, down and dirty confession.
verse 9
Now again, this is where a lot of people have a lot of problem in dealing with sin.  It is one thing to acknowledge the fact of sin. 
We can kind of pass it off as the universal problem of humanity or the dilemma into which man fell when he sinned, in a general way. 
But to make it personal is another thing, entirely.  The Bible says we are to "confess" our sin.  Now that word "confess" comes from the word "homologeo".  You would recognize the prefix "homo".  That means "the same".  The word "logeo" means "to say", so it literally means "to say the same thing." 
When you confess sin, you say about that sin what God would say about that sin.  The reason why that is so difficult is, in effect when you confess sin you are testifying against yourself. 
It is self-incrimination.  And while that is outlawed in a court of law, it is required in God's court.  You may be protected by the 5th amendment in the United States, but you will never be forgiven by God without confession.
If you are going to deal with sin and deal with sin the way sin must be dealt with and get right with God, you must confess your sin.  There is only one way to deal with sin and that is to confess that sin and confess it properly. 
And please understand that confession is more than admitting sin. You can admit sin without confessing that it is sin.  When you truly confess sin, it means you have been convicted of that sin, you despise that sin, you are ashamed of that sin, you are broken over that sin and you want to turn away from that sin.
Admit it, confess it, and the third thing is
- Accept It (Forgiveness)
If you do your part and properly confess your sin God will do his part and forgive you.  In fact, that is the only way to be free from it.  Remember, Jesus is the Lamb of God Who takes away the sin of the world.
And notice the promise:
verse 9
Now here we come to the secret of why we can be forgiven of sin.  It is not because sin is not serious.  It is because God is so gracious.  God is "faithful and just."  What does it mean to say that God is "faithful and just"?
First of all,
- God is faithful to His Word 
Isaiah 55:7
God has made a promise, set it in concrete, written it in stone, and sealed it with His own blood.  He said, "Here is the deal.   When you acknowledge the fact of your sin and you admit the fault of your sin, then you can accept the forgiveness of your sin."  When you do your part, God does His part.  When you confess your sin and honestly want forgiveness of your sin, God forgives.
God is also
- just in His work
Now God cannot just simply ignore our sins and pretend they never happened.  Because God is a holy and righteous God, sin must be judged and punished.  So how can God forgive us of our sin and still be just?
In a word, the answer is Jesus.  Even though God forgives us of our sins, our sins have to be punished.  And as we saw last week, God has been satisfied by the death of Jesus Christ. 
But I want you to understand what it means for God to accept what Jesus did on the cross.  If God accepts the substitutionary death of Jesus on your behalf, then He must forgive you.  For Him to say He accepts what Jesus id, then demand more from you would make Him unfair and unjust. 
To do that would not only break His word, it would dishonor His son. And He can't do either one, because He is faithful and just.
Now there are some who have a hard time believing God could or would ever forgive them.  But I want you to know, if you will acknowledge the fact of your sin and admit the fault of your sin, you can accept the forgiveness of your sin.
What does verse 9 say?  He will cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  God does more than forgive our sins.  He removes them.  He washes them away.  And if you will just take one step toward the cross of Jesus Christ, forgiveness is waiting on you.  He will forgive and cleanse you through the blood of Jesus Christ.
Normally, we don't associate sprinkling blood on things as a way of cleansing them.  In fact, we would think more of blood staining something rather than cleansing it. If you’ve ever gotten blood on an article of clothing, you know that you need to rinse it out quickly or it will permanently stain your shirt.
So to think of taking blood and sprinkling it on things would appear to dirty them, not cleanse them.  But
modern science and medicine has revealed that God knew exactly what He was talking about when He talked about the cleansing properties of blood.
Dr. Paul Brand, who specialized in the treatment of leprosy, wrote about how the blood is designed to cleanse the body of toxins and wastes that are built up in the tissues:
No cell lies more than a hair’s breadth from a blood capillary, lest poisonous by-products pile up.  And through a basic chemical process of gas diffusion and transfer, individual red blood cells, traveling slowly inside narrow capillaries, simultaneously release their cargoes of fresh oxygen and absorb waste products (carbon dioxide, urea, and uric acid).
The red blood cells then deliver these potentially hazardous chemicals to organs that can dump them outside the body.
He goes on to tell how the lungs and kidneys, plus the liver and spleen, work to cleanse the blood of these poisons to keep our system cleansed and healthy.
Each red blood cell can only sustain the sequence of loading and unloading these chemicals for about a quarter million circuits. Then they are broken down and recycled by the liver, while the bone marrow releases new red cells to continue the process at a rate of about four million cells per second!
God designed this as a beautiful picture to show that just as blood cleanses our bodies from poisons, so the blood of Christ, applied to our hearts by faith, cleanses our souls from the poison of sin.
Regarding the spiritual cleansing that we need, someone wrote, “The blood of animals cannot cleanse from sin because it is non-moral. The blood of sinning man cannot cleanse because it is immoral. The blood of Christ itself alone can cleanse because it is moral”.
The blood of Christ was shed to provide the cleansing from sin and forgiveness that we all need. Have you applied it to your soul? It is God’s only way for forgiveness of sins.
One of the more minute details of the crucifixion is recorded in
John 19:28-30
"They filled a sponge with sour wine, put in on hyssop, and put it to His mouth."
Now if you were paying close attention a few minutes ago when I related the original Passover instructions, you took note that God instructed the Jews to use hyssop to paint the blood on the doorposts. 
Now hyssop is a rather delicate plant and it would probably make an excellent paint brush!  But when it comes to lifting wine-filled sponges up in the air, I would think it would be rather flimsy. . .unless you turned it around and used the stalk. 
Then the sponge could be stuck down on the stalk and lifted up to the person on the cross.  But that would mean the "paintbrush" end would be pointing away from Jesus and toward the crowd gathered around. 
Is it just possible that John included for us a reminder of the blood that was shed by the Lamb of God was falling down on that hyssop branch and it has now been extended to us? 
No wonder David prayed, "Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean;     wash me, and I will be whiter than snow."  I encourage you to accept His forgiveness today by applying the blood of Jesus Christ to your life. 
Martin Luther said, "Sin has but two places where it may be; either it may be with you, so that it lies upon your neck, or upon Christ, the Lamb of God. If now it lies upon your neck, you are lost; if, however, it lies upon Christ, you are free and will be saved. Take now whichever you prefer.
Forgiveness of your sins comes only through the blood of Jesus Christ. Make sure that you have applied His blood to your heart by faith!
Let's pray.
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