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July 13, 2020 12:01 am
What sets Christianity apart from all other world religions? Today, R.C. Sproul teaches that the answer to this question is found in Christianity’s central symbol: the cross of Jesus Christ.
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What separates Christianity from all other religions, Christianity is the only major world religion whose founders still alive.
All the rest of died and they stayed dead. Only Christianity has a resurrection at the very heart of its face. Only Christianity has a finished work of atonement for our sins is one of the most recognizable symbols. It appears not just in the church, but in origin and in the broader culture. But why is it so important, why was the first century Roman form of capital punishment central to Christianity as we begin a new week here on Renewing Your Mind.
We are pleased to feature Dr. RC Sproul series, the atonement of Jesus. My favorite trivia questions to ask people is this one. Do you remember where you were and what you were doing when you heard the news of the assassination of Pres. Kennedy. Obviously there lots of people who can't answer that because they morning alive at that time, or were too young to remember. But for those who can remember most of them can tell me exactly where they were and what they were doing when they heard that news I was still a seminary student at the time and I was sitting in the library of Pittsburgh theological seminary, a place where the cardinal rule is that of silence when all of a sudden a little groundswell of murmuring went all the way through the library and suddenly the rules were suspended as it was spoken aloud that the president had been shot and I remember those days vividly. We huddled around first the radio and then the television set. Then we watched the drama unfold. I remember going to an elders home after church on Sunday morning and as we were preparing for dinner. We were watching the television set when Jack Ruby shot Lee Harvey Oswald on live television, never forget that either part of my trivia question was this what was the name of the man who was shot allegedly by the same assailant and assassin Lee Harvey Oswald.
On that day in Dallas, Texas. How many of you can remember his name. His name was officer Tippit that's exactly right officer but most of us however long forgotten that particular name, but the nation was stricken by that deed of information whereby a president was assassinated in broad daylight in the city of Dallas and what I noticed about that event in our history, was the fierce determination of our nation.
Never ever forget it that memorials were established everywhere. Historic sites were set up a perpetual flame was established at Arlington national Cemetery.
The old Idlewild international Airport in New York City, was renamed Kennedy International Airport space Center was named after him. Thousands literally thousands of schools in America change their names and were called Kennedy school streets and boulevards all over the country were also renamed in honor of the late president because of this determined effort to keep the memory of this man a lot, but for the most part, in a matter of three decades or so. That memory has greatly faded from our national history in their art. All of those exercises and pageants continuing to be repeated in honor of the man. Now, in contrast to that oral so in comparison. I have another memory that took place about 20 years ago I was going to speak to the chapel and a college in Western Pennsylvania and I took a bus from downtown Pittsburgh to Beaver Falls. Some of you remember beaver falls because that was the home of Joe Namath was going to speak at a college in Beaver Falls, Geneva College and the boss that I was riding was a local and went through all these little towns along the river outside of the city of Pittsburgh and during that time there was a high unemployment rate, the mills were shutting down and these little towns were severely depressed and as I sat on the bus.
I sat in the back of the bus. The bus was filthy. The windows were grimy. It was in the winter of the year there was sweat stained snow along the curbs and it was an overcast day and everything about the experience was one of a somber, depressing mood and I watch the people as they would get on each block and get off different stops along the way and the people would get on the bus and they were stooped over their faces had the look of defeat etched in them. There was a pall of unhappiness that was almost tangible and as I was sitting by myself and looking out the window of this bus at these depressed portions of the city and saying one bar after another, and very little in the way to excite hope or a sense of progress.
My ice came upon a little storefront church and it had the cross in the window. I looked at that and instantly began to smile I thought there is the symbol of hope and so is the boss continued to slog along slowly.
I just took notice of how far we would have to travel within the city limits.
Before I would see that sign again and I realized in the entire distance of the trip that I never went more than a city block without seeing him somewhere that sign.
The sign of the cross as I thought about it I thought that this very moment as I am experiencing this somewhere in this world, people are seated at a table and they were participating in a ritual there eating bread and drinking wine in remembrance of an event that took place to thousand years ago and as I thought about that, I realized that not a second ticks on the clock, where at least some place in this world, people are gathered to remember the death of another human being whose death has been memorialized not by perpetual flame in Arlington national Cemetery or by the renaming of an airport or of the school, but whose death is of such monumental importance that the world cannot erase it from the memory of our collective humanity and were speaking of course of the death of Jesus Christ and the symbol of Christianity is a symbol taken from his death, a death of ignominious shame and humiliation and passion. And yet the very sign of the means of his execution.
The cross has become the most important symbol of hope on this planet is an interesting the difference between the universal symbol of Christianity being the cross and the universal symbol of Islam. For example being the scimitar with the sword because the prophet Mohammed came as one dedicated to violence were the killing of the infidel is seen as a virtue where Christ came as a lamb who was led to the slaughter, and who gave his life as an atonement.
Many people often ask me this question. What is the principal difference between Christianity and all of the other great religions of the world and of course there are two major differences that jump out at us immediately.
The one is Christianity is the only major world religion whose founders still alive. All the rest of died and they stayed dead. Only Christianity has a resurrection at the very heart of its face, but beyond that there is a cross only Christianity has a finished work of atonement for our sins, and that atonement is so central to our faith that were going to spend several days now looking at the cross of Christ and trying to plumb the depths of its significance for our faith but to begin that series. I just want to set the groundwork for us to understand how crucially important this concept is to the Christian faith.
I chose my words there carefully. When I said that it was crucially important, what word was I using in terms of its derivation, but the word process from which we get the word crucify or crucifixion because cruises means the cross and we have taken that word into our language to draw attention to anything that is of great importance, we say it is crucial to fascinating evolution of language isn't it because from this one event in history. The cross of Christ. Now everything that is important is measured in terms of how crucial it is. Let's turn our attention now for a moment to Paul's letter to the Corinthian church.
In this first epistle to them to the second chapter beginning in verse one, and I brethren when I came to you did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I was with you in weakness and fear and in much trembling.
And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.
This is a fascinating statement by the apostle, because on the one hand he calls attention to the limitations of his own person. Paul was highly educated and supremely gifted as a scholar as a writer as a missionary and church planter. But in the final analysis, he reminds the people that the power of his ministry is not located in his skill or in his talent or in his gifts, or even in his determination but he says I came not in the power of great skills of rhetoric or eloquence, or that sort of thing. But he said I came in the demonstration of the power of the spirit of God, and he said I was with you, which is an interesting observation. I think part of the strength of the apostles ministry was his ability to be with his people, not just physically or locally, but he entered in to their pain. He entered into their sorrow. He entered in to their fears. He entered in to their humiliation, which was motivated in Paul's life by his attempt to imitate Christ again and again and again Paul reminds the church that the church has been baptized into the death and to the resurrection of Jesus Christ that to be a Christian means to take up one's cross to be willing to identify with the cross of Christ, not in the sense that we give our lives as a ransom for other people or that RC Sproul could ever add anything to the virtue of the atonement rendered by Christ, but rather we are to join Christ in his humiliation in his affliction in his suffering to such a degree that Paul himself referred to his own ministry as filling up that which was lacking in the afflictions or the sufferings of Christ, not in the sense that Paul adds any merit to the merit that was intrinsic to the value of Christ's suffering, nor to indicate that there's anything lacking in the value of Christ's suffering. But what does the apostle mean when he says that he fills up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ.
What he means, I think, is this that the cross of Christ goes on, but for Christ, who is now exalted to the right hand of the father whose atonement was given once and for all and is not to be repeated, but the witness of his people to that event.
Our commitment to the Christ of the cross means that we participate willingly in the humiliation and the affliction that he endured in fact the New Testament repeatedly says if we are not willing to identify with that suffering and the basement and humiliation, then God is not willing to allow us to participate in the exultation that he has given to his own son in the consolation that is repeatedly given to the Christian community in the New Testament is that if we patiently bear with these afflictions. We join with Jesus in this humiliation so we will also participate in his exultation and of course every Christian.
As I mentioned who is baptized bears the mark of Christ and the mark of the cross in his or her soul because that baptism signifies many things are cleansing our regeneration or certification. All that but in addition it also marks us as those who die with the Christ and who will be raised for him and so so important is this cross to the entirety of the Christian faith.
But Paul makes this astonishing statement that I read over somewhat quickly. In the second chapter of first Corinthians, when he says I came to you and I did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified lesson astonishing statement by a man who had the equivalent of two PhD's in theology. By the time he was 21 years old fireman, who writes considerable information on the whole broad scope of theology. Nevertheless, he says the focal point of my teaching this central message and core of my preaching and of my ministry has been determined to be this to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. But obviously when the apostle Paul makes a statement like that puts it on paper. In this letter to the Corinthian community. He is engaging in the literary art of hyperbole. What is hyperbole while the key to understand the word hyperbole comes in the prefixed to the word they wrote comes from the verb to throw and the prefixed hyper or Cooper. We get the word super from and it indicates degree of emphasis it takes the route and makes it emphatic and so this is a's super throwing hyperbole is a form of intentional exaggeration. That's the legitimate device to communicate is that sometimes the parents tell their children in exasperation when the children disobey.
The parent might say to the child-hold you 10,000 times not to do that now when somebody says I've told you 10,000 times they don't literally mean 10,000 times.
Nor does the person who hears them make that comment understand them to mean that they literally said something 10,000 times. Everybody understands with statements like that that this is an exaggeration but not an exaggeration.
Born out of deceitfulness or falsehood, but out of an intentional action to bring emphasis and that's what Paul is doing to the Corinthians here when he said I was determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. Obviously, Paul was determined to know all kinds of things besides the crucifixion and even besides the person and work of Jesus. He was determined to teach them of the deep things of the character and the nature of God the father was determined to teach them of the person and work of the Holy Spirit.
He was determined to teach them of Christian ethics in all kinds of things that go beyond the immediate scope of Christ's work on the cross. So why does he say this, but I was determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. Obviously, the answer is clear. Paul is saying in all of my teaching and all of my preaching in all of my missionary activity. The central point of importance is the cross.
This teacher is saying to his students forget other things that I teach you, but don't ever forget the central importance of this cross because it is on the cross through the cross and by the cross that our Savior has performed his work of redemption and has gathered his people for eternity. And so with this in mind we are going to spend the next few days examining the significance, the purpose and the meaning of the cross of Christ as it is unfolded to us in the New Testament today. I told the story of my experience on the dilapidated bus outside the city of Pittsburgh and the sensation I had in my soul when I noticed in the midst of this forlorn environment. Sign of the cross. I like to ask you today to do a similar exercise.
Just be aware. For the next few days stop and pause and think and take note every time you see that sign. You'll see it in many places in strange ways.
You'll see people wearing jewelry designed among the symbol of the cross earrings or necklaces or so on and in many cases, in a thoughtless way, where it is simply that costume jewelry that has no particular theological or spiritual significance, but the sign is there notice it on church steeple's notice it on Windows. Notice it wherever it may be seen and become aware of how pervasive in this world is the sign of the death of Christ and when we sink in pessimistic terms that this is the post-Christian era, or that civilization has forgotten the death of Christ.
Let that sign restore to you in awareness and awakening of the reality that no secular force can possibly eradicate in our day the centrality of the cross.
Some people can remember the precise moment when they believe the gospel. Others have never known a day when they didn't trust in Christ alone. Yet for all of us who have placed our trust in Christ. The cross is central to our identity as Paul says in Galatians 220 I have been crucified with Christ is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. Today's lesson is a great reminder of the finished work of Jesus and its importance in our lives.
Yet his work of atonement is often criticized. Some go so far as to call it cosmic child abuse. This is why we believe Dr. Spruill series can be a helpful defense of this important doctrine and encouragement would like to offer you the atonement of Jesus series along with a bonus track on the MP3 CD. It's a message by Dr. Spruill titled the cursed motive of the atonement for your gift of any amount will be glad to send you this resource and simply reach out to us to make a request. You can go online to Renewing Your Mind.org or you can call us with your gift at 800-435-4343 is 800-435-4343 will today.
RC talked about the significance of the cross. Tomorrow he'll address another question that pops up from time to time is God's punishment unjust.
God's justice has to do with his own internal righteousness.
His internal character that defines everything that God does.
God never acts according to injustice. It's a lesson titled the necessity of the cross.
We hope you'll join us for that tomorrow as we bring this program to a close, I vested one of our teaching fellows. Dr. Burke persons join me in the Burke as we look back over the first half of 2020.
This is certainly been a challenging year already and it's given rise to a number of catchphrases. How many times have we heard were all in this together. People wonder for living." The new normal, but in a recent sermon you delivered at St. Andrews Chapel, you referenced another catchphrase and I was wondering if you share those thoughts with our listeners. Certainly Lee as I'm sure most of our listeners have heard numerous phrases like the ones you mentioned and I wouldn't has certain companies are trying to sell us their product they'll say things like, you know, we're here for you and you know we've heard numerous times. Of course things like in these unprecedented times, but the one phrase that I heard that really struck me is this one in these uncertain times in the first time I heard that used by an advertiser somewhere at some point I understood what they were trying to communicate. But as I heard it from different advertisers in different commercials and read it in different places in the newspaper. I realize that that that is communicating something that we as Christians simply do not believe in III began to grow in my angst overhearing that repetitive phrase in these uncertain times, and I eventually wanted to say to the whole world speak for yourselves.
These are not uncertain times for Christians, nor will they ever be. We know who holds tomorrow and we know who our God is and that our God is sovereign and that he is righteous that he is good that he is gracious that he is loving and we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to his purpose. And while there certainly things that are uncertain about tomorrow.
We know that our times are in his hands. Our days are in his hands, and so we are called not to worry not to be anxious about tomorrow, but to seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, knowing that all these things will be added to us. So as Christians we are not to be an anxious people, we are not to be a frantic people. We are to be a people who are resting confidently in our gracious and sovereign God