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The Voice of Sovereign Grace / Doug Agnew
The Truth Network Radio
May 21, 2023 7:00 pm


The Voice of Sovereign Grace / Doug Agnew

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May 21, 2023 7:00 pm

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If you have your Bibles with you, turn with me if you would to Matthew chapter 15. We're looking at verses 22 through 32. And the inscription of the charge against Him read the King of the Jews. And with Him they crucified two robbers, one on His right and one on His left. Those who passed by derided Him, wagging their heads and saying, Aha, you who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself, come down from the cross. So also the chief priest with the scribes mocked Him to one another, saying, He saved others, He cannot save Himself. Let the Christ, the King of Israel, come down now from the cross that we may see and believe.

Those who were crucified with Him also reviled Him. Bow with me as we go to our Lord in prayer. Heavenly Father, we pray for our sick this morning.

We continue to pray for Jeremy Carriker and Jim Belt and Colos. Pray for Gerard Michaud, who has got open heart surgery coming up in a few days. Pray for Leah Jackson, Lord, who was horribly bitten by a snake this week. And we thank you, Lord, that she has recovered doing well, but ask that you help her to complete recovery.

And Sarah Alligood, who's suffering with macular degeneration. Pray for Judy Swigart, who has had horrible throat problems and is going to the hospital with this in just a few days and ask that you be with her in power. I pray for Linda Cobb's family, that you would be with them as they've experienced Linda's passing away this morning, and pray that you'd comfort them.

Heavenly Father, I pray for the PCA. I pray for myself and for all those in family and friends who loved Harry Reader. I pray, Lord, that you would comfort us. I thank you for that man's mentorship of myself. I thank you, Lord, for his preaching ability. I thank you for his love for Jesus. And, Lord, I know that heaven gained a good one this week. And I praise you, Lord, for his life. He would not say he was a good one. He would just point us to Jesus and say, Jesus, this is everything. And I praise you for that. Heavenly Father, today we view the crucifixion of your son.

We have heard about it from our childhood. We've been taught of the physical pain, the shedding of his blood, the stark reality of his death that hurts our hearts. But the greater hurt came from his spiritual pain. Jesus became sin for us so that you, Father, could forsake him and abandon him on the cross so that he could suffer our hell for us. That is amazing grace. We pray this morning that you will help us to feel and appreciate amazing grace like John Newton did, like the thief on the cross did. Help us to realize that our sin was just as offensive to God as was theirs. And help us to realize that our sin caused Jesus the same as John Newton's and the thief on the cross. Our sin caused Jesus his blood, his life, and his suffering our hell on the cross. For it is in the precious and holy name of Jesus that we pray, amen.

You may be seated. Ten years ago this month, Cindy and I and Meredith Oldham and Elena Ellsworth went down the road a little bit to Covenant Church. And we went to hear the African Children's Choir singing.

Most of these little kids were from Uganda. And you talk about joyful singing with fervent praise. My goodness, they lifted up the Lord. But as they were singing, they came to a special song. They sang Amazing Grace. And when they sang that, it just hit me hard that here was this little black African Children's Choir.

And they were singing a song that a converted slave trader had written. John Newton, who was the captain of a slave ship. If anybody was a true candidate for hell, John Newton was. He was a blasphemer, a womanizer. He was trafficking in human beings. He would go into African homes. He would steal out men, women, boys, and girls.

And then take them back and sell them. They lost their freedom. He didn't care that they lost their freedom. He didn't care that they'd been ripped away from their families and ripped out of their homes.

All that mattered to him was that their bondage was making him extremely rich. But then, a storm came into his life. And it was a literal hurricane-type storm. They were out at sea. He was commandeering his ship. And the wind began to toss his boat back and forth so horribly that he just knew that he was going to be killed and die by drowning. And so he cried out to the Lord, Lord, please help.

And all of a sudden the wind just stopped and the waves calmed down. And he knew that God had answered his prayer. He surrendered to Christ at that point in time. He repented. He trusted in Jesus.

His whole life turned around. Not long after that he became a pastor and not long after that he wrote the great hymn that we know called Amazing Grace. He was a rabid abolitionist. He prayed against slavery. He preached against slavery. He fought politically against slavery. And he hated slavery with the same passion that he hated the devil. He worked with his friend, William Wilberforce, to put an end to the slave trade in England. He became the slave's best friend. When Newton was on his deathbed, Wilberforce came to see him, to bid him goodbye.

And Newton said to him, two things I know. One, I am a great sinner. And number two, Jesus is a great savior. When I heard those little African children singing Amazing Grace, and I thought about the one who wrote it, tears rolled down my cheeks and I said to myself, bless God.

If there's hope for a blaspheming, womanizing, foul-mouthed slave trader like John Newton, then there's hope for all of us. Praise God. No sinner is beyond God's reach. No heart is too hard for God to break. No will is too stubborn for God to change.

And no man is so evil that God can't convert them. Folks, that's the glory of the Reformed faith. And how glorious it is that God's sovereign power is not limited by any sinner's stubbornness.

In fact, God's sovereign power is not limited by anything, period. Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me. Today we're looking at the crucifixion of Jesus. I want to share with you what Kent Hughes said. He said, it is so easy to become desensitized to reality. We daily view scenes of real violence such as attacks on the pope or the president as we pass the potatoes and gravy. Crosses and crucifix are so much a part of the landscape that we don't even see them, much less be moved by them. As Christians, we must steel ourself against such desensitization. Christ's passion was real. His physical sufferings have always been and will remain a window through which we see his heart, the heart of God.

I love theology and I love how the Bible can be systematically laid out in order that we might see the magnitude of what God has done. And yet I'm constantly amazed at some of the brilliant theologians that I see who embrace the system of theology and at the same time forget the cross. May that never happen to us. May we stay tenderized to the cross. May we stay deeply appreciative of what Christ has done for us on the cross. And when we hear the cross, may tears well up in our eyes.

I've got four points I want to share with you today and I'm going to go back to the Gospel of Luke to give us the fuller picture. But the first one is a dishonored Lord, Mark 15, 22 through 26. And they brought him to a place called Golgotha, which means place of the skull. And they offered him wine mixed with myrrh, but he did not take it. And they crucified him and divided his garments among them, casting lights for them to decide what he should take. And it was the third hour when they crucified him and the inscription of the charge against him read, the King of the Jews. It was taken to a place called Golgotha or Calvary.

Both those words mean skull. And I had the privilege of going there in 1977 and I stood under that particular hill. And it is in the exact shape of a skull.

It's an amazing thing. But on the top of that hill where Jesus was crucified, today there's a Muslim cemetery, so we couldn't even get to go up there. The road up under it, it was kind of like a bus stop. One bus would come in, another bus would take off. And then not only a bus stop, but there was a garbage dump over on the other side.

There's an old junkyard dog that was out there barking. And I wanted to go up and I could not because there were guards, Muslim guards that were guarding the cemetery. I wanted to see the place, the very spot where Jesus was crucified. I was not able to see that spot.

Today they've made it a garbage dump. People walk by that place and they don't even think about the fact that on that very spot of soil is where the precious blood of Jesus had been shed. And I thought, what's wrong with this modern world of ours and then all of a sudden it hit me. It was not just the modern world. Same thing was true when Jesus was living. This was not a sacred place. It was not a special place.

It was a place of dirt and derision and death. This is the place where Jesus was crucified. Jesus was actually nailed to the cross at nine o'clock in the morning. His scourging had already taken place, where the Roman soldier had taken his robe and just ripped it off of him. And then he had taken the whip, cat-of-nine-tails whip that branched out into nine pieces of leather. Intertwined in those pieces of leather were broken pieces of pottery and sharp shards of metal. He was an expert in using that whip.

He knew how to snap his wrist at the right time so that the metal and the pottery would stick into the flesh and then when he'd pull his wrist back, it would just rip the flesh right from the bone. When the Jews were doing the scourging, they could do it no more than 39 lashes and they would hit 13 lashes on one side, 13 lashes across the middle, and then 13 lashes across his left side. But the Romans were not limited in how many lashes they could give. I think Jesus probably got much more than that. Some prisoners had so much flesh that would be pulled off the side that their intestines would literally spill out of the open wound.

Most of the people, when they were getting lashed, after several lashes, they would just pass out from the pain. Jesus did not pass out. He stood under every single bit of it and without passing out, he got up and they were going to force him to carry the cross and he put the cross on his back and then he fell under it because he had lost so much blood, he was weak. They called on Simon of Cyrene and they told him to carry the cross and so he picked it up, they carried the cross.

He and Jesus walked together down what's called the Way of Sorrow, the Via Dolorosa, and they went to Golgotha where Jesus was to be crucified. His face was so beaten that it was swollen up, beaten by the fist of the soldiers. They spit on him to add to his humiliation. They took a crown of thorns, they crushed it down into his brow and blood rolled down his forehead and into his beard. Then at 9 o'clock in the morning, they laid him down on the cross. They took a rope and they tied around his feet and his ankle so that he couldn't get away. Then they took huge iron spikes and they nailed those spikes through his hands and through his feet. Then they took a sign and they nailed it on the top of the cross and that sign said, King of the Jews. It was written in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin.

Now, there's a story behind that. That one who is governor, when he executes somebody, he's supposed to put the crime they committed on top of the cross. Well, Jesus had not committed a crime. Pilate said there, I find no fault in him. And so he put this sign, King of the Jews, in Latin, Hebrew, and Greek. The religious leaders went absolutely crazy about this.

I mean, they were angry. They said, no, no, you can't put that sign there. If you put that sign up, but he said he is King of the Jews and Pilate said, what I have written, I have written.

You have to live with it. You have crucified your king. Pilate is the one who gave those orders, but rest assured of this, the sign, the words of the sign that were written came from Almighty God who inspired Pilate to write those words. Philip Ryken said the following, the sign was there because God loves his son. Even when Jesus was battered and bruised, dying in the guilt of our sin and therefore forsaken the Father, God declared his kingship, making a royal announcement to the world, this is the King of the Jews. Look and see, God was saying with fatherly affection, my son is the king. The sign was also there because God loves us and wants us to be saved forever. If you are still not sure about Jesus, if you have not made up your mind whether he's a savior or not, or if you have been, if your sense is in lately for who he really is, look at the sign on the cross and consider his kingship.

See who Jesus really is. God put the sign there so that when we see Jesus dying on the cross, we know that he is royalty. They hoisted the cross into the air, they dropped it down into the hole, and when they did, it jarred all of his bones out of joint. Jesus is hanging from the cross. The soldiers are mocking him and laughing at him.

The religious leaders are taunting him and spitting on him. And Jesus looks up to heaven and says, Father, forgive them for they know not what they do. I heard a conversation where a Christian was talking to another fellow the other day, and the Christian said this, he said, We don't have to forgive people who have sinned against us until they repent of that sin.

Wrong, wrong, wrong. Look at the scene at the foot of the cross. There's nothing here but wickedness and vileness and viciousness. There's no repentance. There's no regret. There's no remorse whatsoever. And yet Jesus says, Father, forgive them for they know not what they do. In Matthew chapter 6, verse 14 and 15, Jesus shares with us some instruction about forgiveness that we need to remember. For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

Jesus forgave when there was no hint of repentance. So if you're having trouble forgiving someone, then ask yourself this question. Did this person do worse to me than these people at the foot of the cross did to Jesus?

Or ask yourself this. Did this person do worse to me than I did to Jesus? And the answer to that is absolutely not for my sin sent Jesus to the cross and yet Jesus forgave me.

I have no right to withhold forgiveness and Jesus Christ is my example. But what did Jesus mean when he said they know not what they do? Were these people ignorant of their sin and so that made them not guilty?

No, they were guilty because Jesus asked the Father to forgive them. So how did they not know what they were doing? Well, they knew that they were executing an innocent man. They knew that. And they knew that to torment and to torture and to kill an innocent man was absolutely a sin and a terrible crime. They knew that. What was it they didn't know? They didn't really know that Jesus was God.

That he was the creator of heaven and earth. They did not really understand that Jesus is the judge that they were going to stand before one day at the final judgment. They did not know that Jesus was in fact Yahweh, the great I Am. 1 Corinthians 2 8 says, If the princes of this world had known what they were doing, they would never have crucified the Lord of glory. I point to his arrogant leaders, I'm going to go to Luke here, chapter 23 verse 35. And the people stood by watching.

But the rulers scoffed at him saying, He saved others, let him save himself, if he is the Christ of God, the chosen one. The religious leaders were the ones who were leading the mocking. They were standing there, their face was red with anger.

Their fists were balled up in defiance. They were saying, hey, if he's the Christ, if he's really the Messiah, then let him save himself and come down from the cross. 125 years ago, D.L. Moody preached a sermon called What Think ye of Christ. And in his sermon, he was the one doing the interviewing. And he was interviewing all these people that were there at the time of Jesus. He interviewed Pilate. And he interviewed Herod. And he interviewed the soldiers and asked them what think ye of Christ. Then finally, he interviewed the religious leaders. And I can just imagine Moody preaching.

And he lifts up his voice. He says, OK, religious leaders, you rulers, you scribes, you Pharisees, you Sadducees. He said, OK, you religious leaders, here's my question to you. What think ye of Christ? And they said this, if he's the Christ, let him save himself.

And Moody's eyes welled up with tears. And he said, that's the problem, religious leaders. If he saves himself, he can't save us. If he somehow is able to rip his hands off the cross and rip his feet from the cross and go back to heaven, then we all go to hell. Folks, I think Moody was saying this, your point is pointless. Your logic is illogical. If Jesus saves himself, he can't save us. Oh, wow.

Was Moody ever right? Folks, the religious leaders' actions had been prophesied by David a thousand years before this actually took place. I want you to listen to the description. Eugene read it to us a little bit ago from Psalm 22. And this is a thousand years now before it actually happened.

This is what it said. And picture it as Jesus himself just saying it. I am a worm and not a man, scorned by mankind and despised by the people. All who see me mock me. They make mouths at me.

They wag their heads. He trust in the Lord? Let him deliver him. Let him rescue him, for he delights in him. That is fulfilled prophecy.

My point three is mocking soldiers. Luke 23 verse 36 through 38. I'm reading it from the King James Version. And the soldiers also mocked him, coming to him and offering vinegar and saying, if thou be the king of the Jews, save yourself. And a superscription also was written over him in letters of Greek, Latin, and Hebrew.

This is the king of the Jews. Psalm 69 one, the Psalmist prophesied this. He spoke of the Messiah's mistreatment and he said, in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink. Now you may accuse me right now of speaking repeatedly about Old Testament Scripture being fulfilled.

I don't apologize for that. Because on the day that Jesus died, 33 Old Testament prophecies were fulfilled to the letter. It was like the writers of the Gospel were saying what Jesus said in John chapter five when he said, search the Scriptures, for they testify of me. Soldiers took a sponge. They soaked it in vinegar.

They put it on a stick. They lifted it up to Jesus. Then they laughed at him and they mocked him. They pointed to the sign that was written above him. King of the Jews.

And they laughed at that idea. Peter, 30 years after this, wrote what we know as 1 Peter. And in chapter two, verse 22 and 23, Peter said this. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return. When he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. To all their blasphemy, to all their spitting, to all their mocking, to all their taunting, Jesus had nothing to say.

One of the most difficult things in the world is to keep your mouth shut when you're being mistreated. Jesus handled it amazingly. But be well aware of this, there will be a day of reckoning. Point four, an unlikely convert, look at Mark 15, 27 first. And with them, they crucified two robbers, one on his right and one on his left. In Luke 23, 39 through 43, one of the criminals who were hanged rallied at him, railed at him saying, are you not the Christ?

Save yourself and us. But the other rebuked him saying, do you not fear God? Since you are under the same sentence of condemnation and we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong. And he said, Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.

And he said to him, truly I say to you today, you will be with me in paradise. Jesus was crucified between two thieves. These were career criminals. Their whole lives were given over to burglary and larceny. But in Mark 15, 32, we find out that when they were both nailed to the cross right at the first, Jesus was there in the center, both of these criminals were attacking Jesus with taunts and saying horrible things about him. And that tells you a little bit about where their heart is. Here they are getting ready to die.

They're getting ready to go into eternity and they use all the strength that they've got to taunt Jesus, to make fun of him, to put him down. Now, we really like to study about the thief that ended up crying out to the Lord for salvation, but usually don't like to think about the other thief. Let me tell you, the other thief was a wicked man. And he cried out and he said, oh, Jesus, if you're the Savior, if you're really the Messiah, then take yourself down from the cross and then save us. All he was concerned about was his physical well-being. Salvation to him was nothing more than just a relief from an immediate death. But this hardened thief has no fear of God.

He has no sense of guilt. He has no expression of repentance and he is not asking for any divine help. Philip Ryken said, this is where many people want, this is what many people want from God.

Practical help in temporary emergencies. They want a deity who can work them a few miracles, but not a God who demands their service and obedience. When their circumstances get desperate, they demand for God to intervene.

But once the crisis is over, they go right back to living for themselves. What kind of relationship are you looking to have with Jesus? Do you want him to be your cosmic, easy button?

Or do you want to know him in a way that will change your entire life? A great question. It wasn't too long before a change came over, one of the thieves. All of a sudden, the taunting changed to silence and then the silence changed to repentance. Then there was utterly a changed heart.

Now, why was it? Well, we know it was the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit took him from his spiritual problem of being dead in trespasses and sins and lifted him up out of there and raised his spirit from the dead so that he could what? So that he could repent, so that he could trust in this Jesus.

And it was a beautiful and glorious thing. Why did he do that? What did God use to put that desire in his heart? I think he first of all used Jesus' prayer.

Jesus said, Father, forgive them for they know not what they do. Then I think he used Jesus' attitude on the cross. All these taunts were coming to him. All this abuse was being flung at him and Jesus handled it amazingly well. He just didn't even respond to him.

He didn't fight back. Well, how do we know that there was true repentance? Well, first of all, he rebuked his partner in crime. He said this, do you not fear God, seeing that we are under the same condemnation?

We deserve what we're getting, but this man deserves nothing for he has done nothing wrong. And then number two, he confessed Jesus as Lord. He said, remember me when you come into your kingdom. Jesus responded and said, truly, I say to you today you will be with me in paradise.

And hear what I'm saying here, no sinner, no sinner has ever been given more explicit assurance than this man. He was received immediately and unconditionally into the kingdom of God. Now, what had he done to merit his salvation? Nothing.

Absolutely nothing. His salvation like my salvation and like your salvation was based on the merit of someone else, not himself and that someone else was Christ. Christ said, today you will be with me in paradise. Jesus has washed away every sin, every evil deed this man has ever done.

And as soon as Jesus said, today you will be with me in paradise, the physical pain went on for several hours for this thief, but the misery left him immediately. For the first time in his life, he's been unburdened of his sin. For the one who is nailed to the cross right beside him is bearing his sin for him. And not only is he bearing his sin, but he has now clothed him in the righteousness of Christ. Folks, this passage tells me that I'm not to wait until I get my life cleaned up so I feel better about myself before coming to Christ. I'm to come to Christ, repentant and broken, but I'm not to try to clean myself up.

Folks, Jesus doesn't want to patch up me. Jesus wants a new creation. 2 Corinthians chapter 5 verse 17 says, if any man be in Christ, he is a new creation.

Old things are passed away. Behold, all things are made new. The thief died that day and so did his Savior. And on that very day, he entered into the very presence of Christ. What had he done for Jesus?

Nothing. Had he been baptized? No. Had he honored Christ by partaking in the Lord's Supper? No. Had he served Christ on the mission field?

No. He missed many blessings that he could have had on this earth. He missed those blessings, but he's in heaven for all of eternity. He could have written Amazing Grace. He didn't write it, but he could have. Let me tell you who he inspired. It's a man named Richard Burnham who lived back in the 1700s. In 1783, he wrote a beautiful hymn called Remember Me and he used this man's testimony, the thief's testimony, for the basis of his song.

It goes like this. Jesus, thou art the sinner's friend. As such, I look to thee. Now in the depths of thy great love, O Lord, remember me. Remember your poor word of grace.

Remember Calvary. Remember all your dying groans and then remember me. Thou wondrous advocate with God, I yield myself to thee. While thou art sitting on thy throne, O Lord, remember me. I own, I'm guilty, own, I'm vile, yet thy salvation's free. Then in thy all-abounding grace, O Lord, remember me. However forsaken or distressed, however oppressed I be, however afflicted here on earth, do thou remember me.

Amen. Praise God for Jesus. Praise God for the cross and praise God for grace. Wonderful, free, glorious, amazing grace.

Guess what, folks? One day we're going to see the thief on the cross in heaven. And when I see him, I want to ask him a question. I want to say, thief on the cross, why are you here? And you know what I think he's going to do? I think he's going to point his finger right to Jesus on the throne. And he's going to say, I died on the cross to pay for my crimes, that Jesus died on the cross to pay my sin debt. And I think he's going to point right back to Jesus and say, why am I here?

Him, him, him. That's why I'm here, Jesus and Jesus alone. Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me. I once was blind, and now I'm found. I was blind, but now I see.

Let's pray. Heavenly Father, we bow before you this morning with tears in our eyes, with a heart that's about to burst with appreciation. We have been humbled as we've studied the thief on the cross. We have been forced to acknowledge that our salvation is fully, totally, and gloriously all of grace. Help us to live like we believe that, for it's in Jesus' precious and holy name I pray. Amen.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-05-21 14:30:21 / 2023-05-21 14:42:45 / 12

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