Monday, September 24, 2007

Yesterday's Sermon Outline

Introduction: One large, famous church does not have a cross inside or outside its building. Apparently the leaders of the church fear that the symbol of the cross will be offensive to the non-Christians that they are trying to reach with the gospel. The cross is a powerful symbol in our world today. Muslims dislike it. The Ku Klux Klan and some rock stars misuse it. In Galatians 5:11 and 1 Corinthians 1:23, Paul made it clear that the cross is offensive (a stumbling block) to some people. The cross, however, is very important to Christians.

1. The cross is necessary for spiritual growth. Notice Luke 9:23:

“And He was saying to them all, ‘If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me.’” (NASB)

The same quote is given in Matthew 16:24 and Mark 8:34, but Matthew and Mark did not include the word “daily.” Luke was a physician and was more concerned about details than most people. The work of the cross does not stop at the time of conversion; it continues during our spiritual growth. Notice Colossians 2:6:

“Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him.”

We are saved by grace, and we are to grow spiritually by grace. We are saved through the work of the cross, and we are to grow spiritually through the work of the cross. Notice Romans 6:6, 11-12:

“Knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin. . . . Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts.”

Even though the Christian’s old self (the sinful flesh) was crucified and is now dead, it still influences the Christian. It is as if the Christian props up a corpse in a chair, places a gun in its lap, and waves a white flag while saying, “I surrender!” This scenario is morbid, not natural. It sounds more like the Hitchcock movie, “Psycho.” Christians should submit new situations to Christ’s lordship. When we become Christians, the Holy Spirit moves into our lives. It is as if our lives are houses, and the Holy Spirit looks around in our dark closets with a flashlight and finds stinking, rotting things that need to be cleaned out of the houses. This cleaning process takes time and is somewhat painful. God uses trials and painful experiences to help us grow. Notice James 1:2-4:

“Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”

The trials and tests lead to completion (spiritual growth and maturity).

2. The cross is necessary for conversion. Notice Luke 9:24-26:

“For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it. For what is a man profited if he gains the whole world, and loses or forfeits himself? For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when He comes in His glory, and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.”

Jim Elliot, a missionary who was killed by the Auca Indians in South America to whom he was trying to witness, said something very similar to what Jesus said in verse 24: “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” When we hear that quote by Elliot, we think about a missionary who was martyred for a great cause, but really his statement applies to all Christians. In order to become Christians, we must be willing to surrender what we cannot keep (our earthly lives) to gain what we cannot lose (eternal life).

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German pastor and theologian during World War II who was killed in a concentration camp, also said something similar to what Jesus said in verse 24: “When Christ calls a man, He bids him come and die.” He was talking about death to the self life and the willingness to surrender everything to him, including attachments to the world. Notice 1 John 2:15:

“Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.”

In John 3:16 we are told that God loves the world, but in 1 John 2:15 the reference is to a different world—the evil world system. We cannot love the evil world system and have the love of God in us at the same time.

Conclusion: We must make a choice. Joshua told the Israelites that they had to choose whom they would serve (Joshua 24:15). Jesus said that no one could serve two masters (Matthew 6:24).