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The Fourfold Message of the Cross
The Message of Love
Romans 5:8
In our approach to Easter next Sunday, we have been considering what the cross says to us.  What is the message that we are to receive from what happened at Calvary 2,000 years ago?
Even a casual look at what happened there will tell you it contains a message of sacrifice.  A holy God demanded satisfaction for the sins that had been committed against Him, and the appeasement of His anger took place through a sacrifice. 
And wonder of wonders, even though we deserved to die and go to hell, God allowed what Jesus did on the cross to be credited to our account, and at the same time He transferred our sin unto Him.  What Paul wrote to the Corinthians is really true!  He said, For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him."
But for that to happen required a sacrifice.  Keep that word in mind; we'll return to it in a few moments. 
The cross also delivers a message of forgiveness.  At the same time that sacrifice was accepted by God,  true to His Word, God extended forgiveness to us. 
It's really true that "He Who knew no sin became sin for us so that we might become the righteousness of Christ"
Now that makes sense because for God to have accepted the sacrifice of Christ on our behalf, then demand more from us is inconsistent with His nature. 
The book of Romans reminds us that God is both "just" and a "justifier of those that believe."  He is completely satisfied with the sacrifice of Christ and it is sufficient to deal with the sins of all those who will put their trust in Him.
So we hear a message of sacrifice, a message of forgiveness, and today I want to offer you a third message from the cross and that is "A Message of Love."
Listen to what we read in
Romans 5:8
If ever there was an unmistakable and undeniable message that comes from the cross, it is the message of God's love. 
Now, because the word love is so widely used and misused, I want to make sure we are on the same page when we talk about love in this context.  Simply put, love is the giving of oneself for the benefit of others.
In particular, when the New Testament refers to God's love, it uses the Greek word agape. Agape love is the highest form of love. In his first epistle, the apostle John twice states that "God is love" and that's the word He attaches to describe God.
Now to be fair, that's not the only word we could use to describe God, but it is one of the words the Bible uses to help us understand His nature.  So if God is love, then using our definition, that means God continually gives of himself to others and for others for their benefit."
In his book The Cross of Christ, John Stott writes, "Just as human beings disclose their character in their actions, so God showed himself to us in the death of his Son." 
The cross reveals the love of God. Or to use Paul's word here in Romans 8, He demonstrates His love. 
Now think about what we are reading.  There are some attributes and characteristics, such as His power, that don't require any proof or explanation.  They are evident and obvious.
But the love of God is not self-evident, according to the teaching of the Scripture. It is not manifest as His power is manifest nor written on the nightly heavens like His wisdom. On the contrary, it must be demonstrated. 
And that makes sense because there are some things in life that seem to argue against the love of God.  We look around the world and see wars and fights and struggles for power.  
We read in the newspaper about school shootings and abused children and violence against humanity.
We have problems and illnesses and death and all kinds of things that leads the world to be skeptical about a loving God in heaven.
But here is a verse that declares God loves us and the evidence is seen in the fact that Christ died for us.
Now the Bible is a book for thoughtful people. It never takes the lovely summer day and says, ''Behold your proof that God is love.'' It knows that before the beautiful day is ended there may be an awful earthquake in Japan.
It never turns to the child in the mother's arms, saying, ''Mother, behold your proof that God is love.'' It knows that before another year is gone that little child may be sleeping in its coffin.
Instead, the Bible turns to the Cross of the Lord Jesus and finds there its unanswerable argument when it says, "But God demonstrates His love toward us, in that while we were still yet sinners, Christ died for us."
This verse of Scriptures says that God demonstrates His love toward us. This word, "demonstrates"  or "commends" in other translations, is a very strong word.  It is a beautiful picture of what happened at the cross.
The word literally means to put together. God put it together at the cross. All of the facets and all of the shades of the meaning of the love of God come together at the cross. God put it together at the cross.
When the Lord Jesus Christ died on the cross, he put on display His love. The word also means to prove. God proved His love for us when He died on the cross.
Every drop of blood that fell from the Lord Jesus Christ says, "He loves me, He loves me, He loves me." God put on display, God proved His love when His Son, the Lord Jesus died on the cross
Once we have really understood the Cross, once we have grasped its inward spiritual meaning, there is one thing we can never do again-we can never again doubt the love of God. Whatever happens to us, whatever sorrows come, whatever trials that there is no explaining, the magnificent proof of Calvary remains.
So if you want to know what love really is, you don't have to go to a dictionary or to philosophy or education.  Just go to the cross.  And there, in just four words, Paul relays the message of love that is found at the cross.
"Christ died for us"
There are four words in that little phrase and by way of those four words, I want to share with you the message of love that echoes from Calvary.  The phrase begins with
1. Christ
There we see that Who died matters because Who died makes all the difference.  It wasn't just anybody that died; Christ died.  In fact, three men were crucified on the same day on that same execution hill.  But history focuses on only one of them.  One is a celebration of God's grace and the other a reminder of His judgment. 
But this verse is talking about only one of them. 
He is referred to as "Christ", which means Messiah.  He was the fulfillment of thousands of years of promises and prophecies about what God was going to do some day. 
In fact, notice how the book of Romans begins.
Romans 1:2-4
Note how Romans 5:10 further identifies who verse 8 is talking about.  "We were reconciled to him through the death of his Son!" 
Christ then, was not just an important person, not just a great man, not just a human martyr, but the only begotten Son of the Living God!  He and He alone could accomplish bringing reconciliation between Holy God and sinful humans.
The second word is
2. Died
Christ died, our verse continues. 
There are a lot of folks around that like to lump Jesus in with Confucius and Mohammed and Plato and Aristotle because they recognize the significance of His teachings.  And well, they should.  After all, He taught as no other before or since.  He taught with authority and power.
But if his teachings about loving your neighbor and loving your God were his legacy, then it would be another matter altogether. 
He would have simply left us, like so many other teachers and philosophers before and since, with another set of ethical commands we fail to keep. We don't need more rules to break. We have enough problems with the Ten!  Jesus was a teacher.  But he was not just a teacher. He made that very clear.
Jesus said he came to die.  Weeks before the Crucifixion, he began to prepare his disciples for what would happen. 
Mark 8:31 says, "He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again".
He told his disciples, "I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep" (John 10:11). 
At the Last Supper, Jesus said, "This is my body.  This is my blood poured out for many". 
He said, "I did not come to be served, but to serve and to give my life a ransom for many."
Jesus came to die, not just teach, not just to be a humanitarian, not just to show us how a good man lives. 
The fact that He died matters.  But there is more to it than that.  Christ just didn't die.  He died one of the most hideous, gruesome, barbaric deaths depraved humans have ever invented.  Most people fall into one of two categories about the crucifixion. 
Those who are unfamiliar with the Bible think very little about it.  "So what if He died?  Everybody dies.  Big deal." 
Others, on the other hand, have read it, heard about, and even sung about the cross so often that we take it for granted.  We have polished all the splinters and sharp points off the old rugged cross.  We've dulled down the thorns and glamorized the scourging. 
We've allowed Hollywood to dull our senses and hymns to soften the blow. And while I never want to dwell on the bloody nature of Christ's death, I do believe it is critical that we see it and understand what happened there. 
After all, it is through the foolishness of the cross that those who believe are being saved.  We must talk about it.  We must allow it to confront us and convict us because if we don't understand crucifixion, we can't understand what this verse means when it says, "Christ died".
Dr. C. Truman Davis, M.D., a medical doctor provides this physical description of death by crucifixion:
"As he slowly sags down with more weight on the nails in the wrists, excruciating, fiery pain shoots along the fingers and up the arms to explode in the brain--the nails in the wrists are putting pressure on the median nerves. As he pushes himself upward to avoid this stretching torment, he places the full weight on the nail through his feet. ... As the arms fatigue, cramps sweep through the muscles, knotting them in deep, relentless, throbbing pain.
With these cramps comes the inability to push himself upward to breathe. Air can be drawn into the lungs but not exhaled. He fights to raise himself in order to get even one small breath. ... Hours of this limitless pain, cycles of twisting, joint-rending cramps, intermittent partial asphyxiation, searing pain as tissue is torn from his lacerated back as he moves up and down against the rough timber.
Then another agony begins: a deep, crushing pain deep in the chest as the pericardium slowly fills with serum and begins to compress the heart. It is now almost over--the loss of tissue fluids has reached a critical level--the compressed heart is struggling to pump heavy, thick, sluggish blood into the tissues--the tortured lungs are making a frantic effort to gasp in small gulps of air. He can feel the chill of death creeping through his tissues. . . Finally he can allow his body to die."
All of that and so much more is summed up in two words as Christ, the Son of God in flesh, died.  Here is where the sacrifice offered to God on our behalf becomes a reality.  Here is found the purchase price of our forgiveness.  And here we listen to the message of love in all its gruesome detail.   
But, if that word "died" is a vital part of the Gospel message, equally so is the next little word. 
There we are told that Christ died
3. for...
Stop right there! 
Christ died for.  That means He died for a reason. 
It wasn't meaningless.  It wasn't an accident.   Christ died for...!
So for what did He die?  It wasn't for sins He had committed.  Jesus taught the truth of heaven.  He demonstrated the heart of God.  He broke neither the laws of man or the commandments of God.  He was "tempted in every way, just as we are, yet was without sin" (Heb 4:15). 
Pilate, the Roman Governor, who stood in judgment over Jesus, declared, "I find no fault in him."  The guard at the tomb observed what happened when he died and declared, "Truly this Man was the Son of God".  Even his enemies had to bribe witnesses and invent false charges.  
Keep reading and you will discover that Christ died for
4.  Us
Christ died for us.  In four short words, the message of the gospel is recorded. 
So why did Christ die? 
Let's answer that in a couple of ways.  First, let's think about
- a theological answer. 
Our text says He died to reconcile sinners to God.
verses 9-11
The references to reconciliation remind us that our disobedience and rejection of God put us at war with our Maker. 
And in Christ's death we have an opportunity to see just how seriously God takes sin.  He will tolerate no rivals.  He eliminates His enemies.  And as the Holy Creator and Sustainer of heaven and earth, He deals severely with those that He created being rebellious and disobedient.
But we also get to see just how desperately He wants to forgive and restore us.  He wants us to be reconciled to Him. So much so that He allowed Jesus to take our place! 
Remember, the sacrifice that appeased Him and offered forgiveness to us was provided by Him.  That's what Paul was talking about when He referred to Christ as the "propitiation" for the sins of the whole world. 
As we saw when we studied the message of sacrifice, God stepped in when we had nothing to offer.  The Lord of the Universe pronounced us guilty then turned around and paid the price for us.  Jesus became our atonement, our reconciliation, our satisfaction, our ransom. He became our sacrifice on the cross.   He paid the debt we owed and could not pay. 
Christ died for us!  And by the way, the "us" for whom Christ died are described in four different ways in this passage. 
First, in verse 6, we are pictured as "without strength".  That means we are powerless.  We are in over our heads.  We are caught in quicksand. We are addicted to sin.  We can't get ourselves out no matter how hard we try.
Verse 6 also says we are ungodly.  Our actions line us up against God.  We are not simply innocent transgressors who ignorantly wandered into forbidden territory. 
Third, verse 8 says we are sinners, those who disobey and fall short of God's standards. 
And in verse 10, we are classified as enemies, rebels who reject God's right to tell us what to do. 
And yet, the verse says, "Christ died for us."  He demonstrated God's love while we were still sinners.    He didn't wait for us to clean up our act and then offer us forgiveness.  He didn't say, "I'll meet you half way."  He didn't tell us to check back with Him when we started acting better or stopped with our rebellion.  While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
So why did Christ die for us?  In a word, the death of Christ gave us
- position
When we get saved, everything about our standing before God changes.  When God forgives us of our sin, we assume a new position before God.  And this change in position is accomplished by what Jesus did on the cross.
Now the key to that change in position is found in
verse 9
Notice the word "justified".  We are justified by His blood. The word "justified" means to be declared righteous.  That means God no longer regards me as a sinner.  In the eyes of God, I am as righteous as Jesus Christ Himself.  As we learned recently from Romans 8:1, there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 
And this justification takes place because of His blood.  If you ever wonder about the necessity and centrality of the blood of Jesus , just read that verse.  We are justified by His blood and ur standing is instantaneously changed from sinners to saints and from enemies to friends.  We who were ungodly are now righteous. 
But there's another reason why Jesus died on that cross and here is where we move from the theological to the practical.  And the practical effect of the cross is all about
- power
Remember, in verse 6 we are described as being without strength.  And that is true.  We can do nothing to save ourselves.  We are spiritually helpless when it comes to doing anything about our sin, separation and rebellion against God. 
It is all dependent on the work of Christ on the cross. 
And one of the fringe benefits that accompanies our salvation is power.  
He died on that cross so that you and I might have the power to live the way we are supposed to live.
All sin is addictive. You get hooked on sin. You don't want to do what you do, but you find yourself doing it again. You find that you are addicted to it. You need something or someone to give you some power to overcome your sin.
In fact, that maybe what you're thinking about right now.  You may be sitting there saying, "I'd like to get saved and live for Christ, but I know myself to well!  I know I couldn't live it!  I've tried to turn myself around and quit and do better, but I just don't have the power. 
Exactly right!  That's what verse 6 means.  We are without strength.  And if you wait until you can live it to receive Jesus as your Savior, you'll never be
saved.   There is no power within our human nature to enable us to overcome the power and the effect of sin.
But notice what these verses are telling us:  It was while we were helpless that Christ died for us.  God demonstrated His love while we were still sinners.  We are saved from His wrath by being justified by His blood. 
Even though we were enemies with God, we've been reconciled.  And having been reconciled by His death, we are empowered to live by His life.  Because of what He has done for us, we spend our days praising God for what He has made possible by the blood of Jesus.  After all, He did it!  We were without strength. 
But I'll tell you what you do have the power to do and that is confess your faith in Jesus Christ.  Think about the guy who's writing these words to the Romans. 
His name was Paul and after God saved Him, he traveled all over the Roman Empire preaching, including the filthy capitals of the ancient world. Paul waded through the cesspools of the slime pits of the ancient world. How could he do it?  How could he keep himself pure in that environment?
Listen to what he said in Galatians 6:14, "God forbid that I should glory save in the cross, by whom the world is crucified unto me and I unto the world." 
In Galatians 2:20 he wrote, "I am crucified with Christ. Nevertheless I live, yet not I. But the life which I now live, I live by the faith of the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me." 
The power to live the life you ought to live is the same power that saves you.  It all centers on the cross.
And that is the message of love from the cross.  Christ died for us.  Yes, He died to appease the anger and wrath of God.  Yes, He died to give us forgiveness  from our sins and change our position before God. But He also died to give us power over our sins.
Several years ago, there was a Southern Baptist preacher named Charlie Howard who was a professor of a Bible college in North Carolina.  He preached for 70 years and primarily served in little country churches all of his ministry.  
I recently read a story that he told and I want to share it with you as we close today.  Charlie said that in one of those little country churches where he served, there was a young man named John there in the area who was just an old farm boy. 
He fell in love with a beautiful girl in that community, proposed to her, she accepted and they asked Charlie Howard to perform the wedding ceremony.
Now as I said, John was a simple man, just a dirt farmer and he was not able to afford a wedding ring for his wife.  But his wife said to him, "I understand, John, that you can't buy me a wedding ring. But if you are ever able to gather up the money, I have always wanted a string of real pearls." 
At the time John used tobacco. But he decided to give up using tobacco and instead, every time he would normally buy tobacco, he would put that money in the tobacco pouch. 
Well, as the years went on, his wife became an invalid. And old John just took care of her like a good husband ought to do. He picked her up and carried her everywhere. He'd put her in the pick up when they went somewhere. He'd pick her up and carry her and set her in her pew at church. He just took care of her.
Many years later on one of their significant  wedding anniversaries, he invited Charlie Howard to come and celebrate the wedding anniversary with them.
After a sumptuous meal John picked up his wife and carried her into her easy chair in the living room, set her down and told her to close her eyes.
Then Charlie said John got out his tobacco pouch, reached in and removed a beautiful string of genuine pearls from that pouch. He went behind her, slipped those pearls around her neck and clasped them.
Then he came around in front of her, stood in front of her holding a mirror and said, "Now you can open your eyes."  She opened her eyes and looked in that mirror, saw those pearls and said, "Oh, John, they are beautiful. Are they real?"  He said, "You better believe they are real." Then she said, "John, oh, John, why did you do it, John"?
Dr. Howard said that big old rawboned farmer fell on his knees, buried his face in the lap of his wife and said, "Just because I love you." 
And dear friend, you can go to the cross, fall on your knees, bury your face in His lap and say, "Oh, God, why did you do it?"  And He will say to you, "Just because I love you."
That is the message of the cross.  "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life."  The God Who gave His Son invites you to look to the cross and see and experience His love for you today.
Let's pray.
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