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The Power and Message of the Cross (Part 2 of 2)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg
The Truth Network Radio
August 26, 2022 4:00 am

The Power and Message of the Cross (Part 2 of 2)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg

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August 26, 2022 4:00 am

The message of the cross is uncomfortable, confronting us with our sin. Many prefer to think that God will reward our kindness and best efforts. Listen to Truth For Life as Alistair Begg urges us to proclaim what’s true rather than what’s popular.



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One of the reasons why the message of the cross of Jesus is uncomfortable is because it confronts us with the reality of our sin. Most people prefer to think that if we're kind and do our best, God will somehow reward us. Today on Truth for Life, we'll find out why it's pivotal for us to preach what's true and not just what's popular. Alistair Begg is teaching from 1 Corinthians chapter 1, or in verses 18 through 31. Why this message for the unbeliever?

Well, let me suggest a couple of things. First of all, because the message of the cross establishes the gravity of the human condition. The message of the cross establishes the gravity of sin, says that the story of humanity is the story of man's rebellion and man's alienation and man's brokenness.

And the death of Jesus and the picture that is then given to us in the Bible causes us to ponder and then to proclaim that it took the death of God's perfect Son to deal with my sinful life, with my alienation, and with my brokenness, and with my rebellion. Now, I'm pretty sure, but I haven't checked, because I'm not here. But I think if you let me loose tomorrow morning anywhere in your city, I can get agreement from just about anyone that I meet about one subject, and it is this—that our world is broken. That it is broken.

You can broach the subject in Starbucks, you can broach it on the airplane, anywhere you want to go. You will get general agreement that something has gone amazingly wrong. You get agreement on that when it comes to the issue of not simply dealing with the symptoms but actually a diagnosis of the cause, and then the opportunity for an evangelism explosion is just kicking in at that point. But the point I'm making is straightforward. People are prepared to acknowledge something is badly odd. And the average millennial out in Texas tonight has no answer for that question either. They have been raised believing that they exist as a result of time plus matter plus chance.

They are a collection of molecules held in suspension. There is no ultimate destiny towards which they are moving, therefore there is no arc that they're able to navigate through their lives, and they are at sea. And if the message that is then offered to them is a kind of watery substitute for the message of the cross, then we ought not be surprised that they just walk away from it. Because what we have to face up to is the fact of our rebellion against God, that no part of our lives is left intact—our emotions, our affections, our minds, our wills. The anti-God bias, which is part and parcel of our human existence, comes in at the level of our understanding and our intellect. And there is no intellectual road to God. David Wells, who has been a friend to me over the years, has a purple passage in one of his books—I can't remember where it is—but he talks about how God is beyond the realm of our intuitive radar, as he puts it.

It's a wonderful line. So he says, there is an invisible boundary between ourselves and God—God in his holiness and we in our rebellion and in our alienation. There is no intellectual road for us to get there. And so it is that the only way that it is possible is for him to come in down, as it were, underneath the radar. We cannot access him on our own terms. We cannot access him in our own time.

No, we need him to come and cross the boundary so that we might know him savingly. And what is the message of the cross? It is that God in Christ has done exactly that—that he has crossed that boundary and that he has made himself known. And so when we think about it in terms of its gravity in the predicament that we face, it also is possible for us to explain to our friends the absolute necessity of God's grace. Which means that we either, in our proclamation and in our conversation, preach what the Bible says—that human beings are rebels against God, by nature under his judgment and loss—and that Jesus crucified, who bore their sin and curse, is the only available Savior.

We either proclaim that, or we emphasize human potential and human ability, with Christ brought in to boost them but with no necessity for the cross except to exhibit God's love and inspire us to greater endeavor. The latter is popular. The former is true.

If you go with the latter, no one will say you're a fool. They say, No, that's fine. God, whoever he is… I mean, I preach every week to a congregation of people, many of them, because of their status in life. They are operating on this basis. A good God, if he exists, will reward nice people if they do their best.

That's the story. If there is a good God and he exists, he'll reward nice people. In other words, if he's gradient on the curve, I'm in with a chance, because there's a lot of really bad people, and they're all sitting just along the row from me.

So there, they are definitely in the F category or the D- category, and even if I'm only getting a good solid C+, as long as it's going that way, I'm in with a very good chance. No, no, no, it's not going to work that way. If that was the case, why would we have Jesus dying on the cross? No, see, it doesn't make any sense at all. So what it does is it establishes the gravity of sin, it reveals the absolute wonder and necessity of grace, and it allows us to say to people, There is a wonderful opportunity for you now to close with this. You see, when the waft of the supernatural, as James Stewart on one occasion put it, when the waft of the supernatural threw the apostles out onto the streets of Jerusalem and they began to preach, they didn't shilly-shally about, did they?

No, no, no. This Jesus whom you crucified, you get yourself stoned for stuff like that. This Jesus whom you crucified, he has made him both Lord and Christ.

And what did they say? What do you want us to do? What should we do? The average response to the preaching of the Word of God is not, What should we do? But when can we leave? It's like, Where are you going for lunch?

It's trivial. Or it's applause. Applause. Who started applause?

Send a clause. I don't know who started applause. You said, Oh no, you shouldn't say that because we've had a lot of applause. I don't care if you've had a lot of applause. This is not a performance.

This is not something that you get, you get kudos for. This is, to quote Tillichie again, this is horrible. Tillichie says, The pulpit draws the preacher the way the sea draws the sailor. To preach and to really preach is to die naked. And every time you do, to realize that you're going to have to do it again.

That's what it is. To stand, as McShane said, as a dying man in the face of dying men and women, and the issue of eternity is at stake. And in between a lostness in the grave and the opportunity for reality is the cross of Jesus Christ. There stands the cross of Christ with two arms outstretched to save.

And that's what they said. What do you want us to do? And Peter says, Repent and be baptized, every one of you. Because to put your confidence and trust in the person and work of the Lord Jesus is actually to believe the gospel. Well, it matters, this preaching of the cross, for the unbeliever, but I suggest to you that it matters also for those of us who believe, which I think would be the vast company this evening, although I never want to assume that everyone who is here has actually closed with God's offer of salvation in Jesus.

Calvin in the Institutes, he says, you know, that the idea that we simply know it intellectually does not mean that we have embraced it. But you believe tonight, and I believe, what then is this message of the cross? Well, I suggest to you that it is, first of all, a compelling force—a compelling force—for the love of Christ compels us. The love of Christ compels us. When Billy Graham was in transition many, many years ago, probably in the fifties again—I think this is in the book by Pollock, the biographer—and he didn't know whether he should stay up in Minneapolis or wherever he was with the school there—I don't remember the details—or whether this tug at his heart was to go out into the world with this great story of Jesus Christ and him crucified. And he tells of how he walked out through the forest, and as he walked out through the forest, the hymn that just kept coming to him again and again, Rescue the Perishing, Care for the Dying, Snatch them in pity from sin and the grave, Weep o'er the erring ones, Lift up the fallen, Tell them of Jesus, He's mighty to save.

And he says, I could not get that out of my heart or my mind, and the love of Christ compelled me, drove me out with this story of the death of Christ for sinners. A compelling force. And also for the believer, a correcting force. A correcting force. In what way, you say?

Well, in this way. Without the preaching of the cross, without preaching the cross to ourselves all day and every day, we will very, very quickly revert to faith plus works as the ground of our salvation. So that to go to the old Fort Lauderdale question, if you were to die tonight and you were getting entry into heaven, what would you say? If you answer that, and if I answer it in the first person, we've immediately gone wrong. Because I, because I believed, because I have faith, because I am this, because I am continuing. Loved ones, the only proper answers in the third person, because he, because he… Think about the thief on the cross.

And what an immense… I can't wait to find that fellow one day to ask him, how did that shake out for you? Because you were cussing the guy out with your friend, you've never been in a Bible study, you never got baptized, you didn't know a thing about church membership, and yet you made it! You made it!

How did you make it? That's what the angel must have said, you know, like, what are you doing here? Well, I don't know. What do you mean you don't know? Well, because I don't know. Well, you know… Excuse me, let me get my supervisor.

I'll get the supervisor angel. So, just a few questions for you. First of all, are you clear on the doctrine of justification by faith?

The guy said, I never heard of it in my life. And what about… Let's just go to the doctrine of Scripture immediately. This guy's just staring. And eventually, in frustration, he says, On what basis are you here? And he said, The man on the middle cross said, I can come. Now, that is the only answer.

That is the only answer. And if I don't preach the gospel to myself all day and every day, then I will find myself beginning to trust myself, trust my experience, which is part of my fallenness as a man. If I take my eyes off the cross, I can then give only lip service to its efficacy, while at the same time living as if my salvation depends upon me.

And as soon as you go there, it will lead you either to abject despair or a horrible kind of arrogance. And it is only the cross of Christ that deals both with the dreadful depths of despair and the pretentious arrogance of the pride of man that says, You know, I can figure this out, and I'm doing wonderfully well. No, because the sinless Savior died, my sinful soul is counted free, for God the just is satisfied to look on him and pardon me. That's why Luther says, Most of your Christian life is outside of you, in this sense, that we know that we're not saved by good works. We're not saved as a result of our professions, but we're saved as a result of what Christ has achieved. So it gives to the believer a reminder, and a very important reminder, of the story of God's love that we get to take out into a broken world. It corrects my tendencies to self-aggrandizement, and it gives me a confidence that I couldn't otherwise have—a confidence in the gospel. In the gospel. As a student of church history, which you will be if you've been around at all, then you know that whenever the church, big C—or we see, for that matter—whenever the church loses confidence in the truth, the power, and the relevance of the gospel, it loses any compelling sense of mission. Because what is it going to talk about? It's got nothing to say. 1952, James S. Stewart, whom I've mentioned, is preaching to the faculty and students at Yale Divinity School, and he warned them, 1952, the year I was born, of a theologically vague and harmlessly accommodating Christianity which he said was less than useless. As I end, let me go back to where I started. I'm not here to try and say something that we don't know.

I'm just here. The ministry of reminder is a pastor's responsibility. I intend always to remind you of these things, says Peter, and so do we. So I'm just reminding us of what we know to be true. We are not charged with the political agenda of the left or the right, but we are charged with the biblical message of Jesus Christ and him crucified. To offer to a man or a woman a God who does everything in general and nothing in particular that kind of gospel is just absolutely hopeless. And it is hopeless because it is not the gospel that is proclaimed by the apostles who went before us. Think about it.

Either in Christ, God the Creator and Redeemer came right into human life and bore in his own body our sins, either he did or the gospel is a fabrication. Either he did. This is not… In our postmodern milieu, this is the sort of, well, that's just your perspective. No, it ain't. Either he did or he didn't.

There is no middle ground. Oh, well, there's certain parts, and this, I like a bit of this and a bit of that. Did you ever read Augustine when he said, Listen, if we believe what we like in the gospel and reject what we don't, it's not the gospel we believe, it's ourselves? So Paul, by the time he gets to the end of his long letter, the first letter, before we get back to the second letter, what does he do? Well, he really comes full circle.

By the time he gets to chapter 15, the great chapter on the resurrection, how does he begin? Now, I would remind you, brothers and sisters, of the gospel that I preach to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preach to you, unless you believed in vain. All that Christ has done for us is of no value to us so long as we remain outside of Christ. And if ever there was a time in a crazy, broken, beautiful, wonderful, fantastic US of A, for those who have come to the cross of Christ and have knelt down and have been transformed by the power of the Spirit—if there ever was a moment and a time, surely it's this moment, it's this time—to go out and lovingly, kindly, imaginatively, creatively, crazily say to people, I've got a really good friend, and I'd love to introduce you to him if you'd be interested. And then you can just tell him about Jesus, mighty to save. At the end of the day, a watered-down gospel is no gospel at all. Salvation is through Christ alone. We're listening to Truth for Life. That's Alistair Begg urging us to introduce others to Jesus.

Alistair returns shortly to close the program. If you'd like to introduce others to Jesus but you're not sure where to begin, visit the Learn More page on our website. You will find a couple of brief videos there that are perfect to download and pass along to friends. You can watch or share one or both of the videos as often as you'd like.

They're completely free. Just visit truthforlife.org slash learn more. And if you'd like to dig deeper into an understanding of the gospel, you'll find several short series listed on the same web page to help get you started. You can learn more about Jesus, about the Bible, about the church, or even the basics of authentic Christian faith.

Each series is between three and eight messages, perfect for listening with a friend or a small group as the summer ends and new routines begin. Once again, you can watch or download the messages for free at truthforlife.org slash learn more. Now, regardless of how long you've been studying the Bible, we believe you will benefit greatly by reading a book called God Is. It's a devotional guide to the attributes of God. The book examines specific qualities that paint a more comprehensive picture of who God is, how his attributes are clearly displayed in the person and work of Jesus.

We're only offering the book God Is for a few more days, so be sure to request your copy when you give a donation at truthforlife.org slash donate. Now here is Alistair with a prayer. Lord God in heaven, look upon us in your mercy, we pray. Grant that what is of yourself may find a resting place in our minds and hearts. Anything that is unclear, that you'll clear it up. Anything that is untrue, that you'll banish it from our recollection.

Anything that is unhelpful, that we may forget all about it. Lord, unless we hear your voice, the dulcet tones of speaker number one and the squeaky voice of speaker number two will avail nothing either now or for eternity's sake. So we look from ourselves and ask you, we who plant and water to take care of the growth. To the glory of your name we ask it. Amen.

I'm Bob Lapine. We hope you enjoy your weekend and are able to worship with your local church this weekend. Join us again Monday as we begin a study in the very practical book of James. We'll investigate the dangers of favoritism within the church. The Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life where the Learning is for Living.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-03-05 19:28:45 / 2023-03-05 19:36:48 / 8

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