Summary: The Rev. Billy Graham at age 95 recently preached his "last sermon." Fittingly, it was about the cross of Jesus Christ. Permit me to share some reflections on Jesus' crucifixion from a sermon I preached in Alaska about the timeless value of the cross.
1 Corinthians 1:18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
•• The apostle Paul wrote elsewhere that "the gospel of Christ ... is the power of God unto salvation..." (Romans 1:16)
•• The Gospel of Christ and the message of His crucifixion are inseparable. Both are said to be "the power of God". Hearing the good news of Jesus' death, burial, and resurrection for you and me brings to your life God's power to save you.
•• In late 1968 and early 1969 I came under the hearing of the Gospel, including the central truth that Jesus had died on a cross for my sins. One winter night I repented of my sins, asked Jesus to forgive me and save me, and He did! I immediately felt powerful changes happening in my life.
• I knew absolutely that my many sins were forgiven. • I was born again. • I entered into God's family as a son. • I began to experience victories over sin. • Long-standing bad habits began to lose their strong grip. • Suddenly I loved attending church services, which was a big change for me. • And many more evidences of God's power occurred in my new life as a born-again follower of Jesus Christ.
2 Corinthians 5:21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
New Living Translation For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin...
•• What a grace-filled trade! At the cross our sinless Savior Jesus had all our sins placed upon Him, and then God's righteousness is placed upon us.
1 Peter 2:24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.
•• Three wonderful blessings flowing out to us from Jesus' crucifixion are mentioned here:
• Jesus on the cross, bearing our sins, gives us power to die to sins.
• Further, we are enabled by the power of the cross to live for righteousness. A holy life becomes an attainable goal.
• By the wounds inflicted upon Jesus in his scourging and at the cross, we have "been healed".Divine healing is ours!
Colossians 1:20-22 ...and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross. Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation.
•• Through Jesus' blood, shed on the cross, we are offered an abundance of His blessings:
• Formerly His enemies, we are now at peace with God.
• Once alienated from God by our unforgiven sins, we are now reconciled to God by faith in Christ's death on the cross for us.
• Our faith in Jesus' death, burial, and resurrection for us brings changes in our lives that enable us to live "holy in his sight".
• Formerly guilty, unforgiven sinners, we now find ourselves "without blemish and free from accusation" in God's sight.
Galatians 2:20 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
•• "Crucified with Christ" — when I came in repentance and faith to Jesus Christ in 1969, all the benefits of His crucifixion and his resurrection three days later became available to me. The "old Jim" died, and the "new Jim" began a joyful and victorious life of faith in the Son of God.
Galatians 6:14 May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.
•• The power of the cross enables believers to break the grip that the things of the world have on us.
Ephesians 2:13-16 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups [Jews and Gentiles] one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility.
•• The ancient Jews and Gentiles had a long history of animosity towards one another. But Jesus died on the cross for the sins of all mankind and thus opened the way for Jew and Gentile to be united in "one body", His church.
•• The takeway here is that Christ's cross has the power to unify every disparate group on earth. Muslims, Hindus, atheists, animists, Satanists, Jews, Gentiles, poor, rich, the honored, the despised — these and more can all find unity in Christ, through the overcoming power of His cross in each of our lives, breaking down the barriers that so easily and sadly divide us.
Hebrews 2:14-15 Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death — that is, the devil — and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.
•• Victory through the cross! Jesus died to "break the power of ... the devil" in our lives. On your own you can't do it. But the power of Christ's death on the cross (and His resurrection on the third day) are fully sufficient to break every hold of Satan in your life.
•• Have you lived all your life fearing death? Well, I have good news! You no longer have to fear going to hell or being under Satan's control in this life or eternity. Why? Because by Jesus' death on the cross He has broken Satan's power and has freed us from being "held in slavery by [our] fear of death". Having been born again by faith in Jesus Christ, you can look forward to eternity in God's presence.
1 Corinthians 2:1-2 And so it was with me, brothers and sisters. When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.
•• This may surprise you, but the great apostle Paul admitted that he was "unskilled in speaking" (2 Corinthians 11:6, Amplified). How then was he so effective in ministry for the Lord, since he did "not come with eloquence or human wisdom"? The answer — and an example for us — is that he did not focus on human abilities, but always on the cross of Jesus Christ.
•• The world we live in is getting worse and worse. Crime, immorality, violence, corruption, and more seem to have permeated the very fabric of society. Man's best efforts to turn this around have failed. There is only one hope, and it is a supremely great hope — "Jesus Christ and him crucified".