Sermons

Summary: Thank God for the cross and the record we have of it, for not only is our salvation dependent upon it, but the reality of all Jesus taught is dependent upon what we see and hear at the cross.

One of the most diabolical criminals of his day, and the first big time American gangster, was

also a very impressive pulpit orator. John Murrell as a youth was caught for horse stealing, and

after a public whipping he was sent to prison. He declared eternal vengeance upon society for this,

and while he was in prison he studied theology. When he was released he assumed the garb of an

evangelist and began to preach. His eloquence gained him quick popularity, and soon he had an

unique racket going with a highly organized gang. One of his schemes was to greet people in

front of the church and compliment them on their beautiful horse. This was a signal to his helpers

as to which ones he wanted stolen during the service. Before his career ended he added

counterfeiting and murder to his list of crimes, and all the while he was preaching the Word of

God.

He was an obvious example of the great contrast that can exist between what a man professes

and what he practices. Profession is the easy part. The real test comes in practice. We need not

limit this failure of practicing what is preached to sham clergyman, however. Leon C. Prince has

recorded the experience of others. He writes, "A New England navigator who had charted the

dangerous reefs of the Massachusetts coast who wrecked his own vessel on a sunken rock which

he himself had described and of which he warned others. A surgeon on one of the Arctic

expeditions of the last century who earnestly and repeatedly cautioned his fellow voyages against

the peril of yielding to the almost overwhelming impulse to sleep, but the surgeon himself fell

asleep and perished."

History is filled with such glaring inconsistencies, and we need look at further than our own

lives to add to the evidence that man is far more able to learn the truth than to live it. It is so much

easier to proclaim than to practice. Shakespeare has Portia say, "I can easier teach twenty what

were good to be done, than be one of the twenty to follow mine own teaching."

In the light of this fact of human nature it is with great assurance and satisfaction that we turn

our eyes upon Jesus in whom we find perfect consistency. No one ever made such startling

statements as Jesus. No one ever set such high standards of character and conduct. If we could

not look at his life as an example of what He taught, we would have to dismiss His teaching as

dreamy idealism and sentimental nonsense totally irrelevant to the real world in which we live.

How could we honestly bother to consider Christ twice once we heard Him say, "Love your

enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which

despitefully use you, and persecute you," if we say that he could not practice what He preached?

No can make such radical statements and hold anyone's respect whose life does not back them up.

Thank God for the cross and the record we have of it, for not only is our salvation dependent upon

it, but the reality of all Jesus taught is dependent upon what we see and hear at the cross.

We want to focus our attention on the first word of Christ that He spoke on the cross, for here

we see the idealism of Christ made real, and His life conform to His lips. If all we had was the

record of His life, and not His death, men might dare to doubt the sincerity of His teaching. They

might point out that it is easy to say love your enemies when you are walking from village to

village with crowds of eager listeners. It is nothing to set on a mount with friends and disciples all

around, and talk about praying for those who hate you. But the record of the cross leaves critics

facing a scene that removes all doubt.

The first word on the cross demonstrates in a manner unsurpassed love's response to hate. It

proves dogmatically that Jesus meant every word He preached, and those who claim Him as Lord

need to take everyone of them seriously. Only the blind and deaf could stand at the cross and hear

this word of Christ and not respond with the Roman Centurion who said, "Truly, this was the Son

of God."

This word of Christ is composed of two parts. First is His intercession for His enemies, and

second is His interpretation of His conduct. We have then His response and the reason for that

response in this word. We want to focus our attention on the first part only, which is His response

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