Summary: According to statistics, revealed by Christianity Today, 85 percent of our country claims to be near the cross, classifiying themselves as Christian. But, being near cross may not be enough. This sermon will focus on three groups of people that were nea
Near the Cross
Our culture is saturated with marketing that attaches a jingle, catch phrase, or symbol to a product so that we, the consumer, make a connection by sound or sight and become loyal to a brand or company. Here are some jingle examples, please finish them if recognized: Red Robin…. (YUM), when I say Hillshire you say farm, Hillshire (FARM)...Go meat! You’re in good hands with… (ALLSTATE). You could save a bunch of money by switching to… (GEICO). Ok, well done, now let’s do some symbols. In a second I will display some symbols on the screens behind me, when you know them, just call them out.
1. McDonalds (M), 2. Apple (Apple logo), 3. Nike (Swoosh symbol), 4. Mercedes (Symbol), 5. Shell (Symbol), 6. Facebook (F). It is interesting that when we see these symbols we immediately think of great French fries, our computer, comfortable shoes, a dream car, expensive gas and a social media tool that has brought many closer together. We, as the marketing folks aimed to do, have connected certain feelings and emotions to each of these symbols and because of that these companies have our loyalty.
Now let me share a few other symbols to test your skills of recognition: 1. The lotus flower (Symbol of Buddhism), 2. The Star of David (Judaism), 3. Crescent (Islam), 4. Pentagram (Satanism), 5. Swastika (Nazi’s) and now the final symbol and call out the first thing that comes to your mind when you see it. (I now show the cross). This is the most recognizable symbol in the entire world.
For the Christian viewing this symbol brings many emotions and feelings to surface: grace, mercy, love, sin, forgiveness, reconciliation, sacrifice, power, compassion, victory, Savior, Messiah, The Lamb, the Only Begotten Son of God…Jesus Christ.
And yet there are other groups of people that do not have these thoughts when they view the cross, some folks would say: fairy tale, myth, lunatic, liar, crutch, hypocrisy, contempt and even child abuse. And, still others would say: good man, great teacher, nice guy, prophet, charismatic leader, and powerful orator.
And yet the majority, according to statistics, (Christianity Today shows 85 percent of our countries population) are near the cross and classified as Christian. But, being near the cross may not be enough. Let me share three groups of people, found in the Word of God, that were near the cross and let’s discover together where we fall as we classify ourselves.
1. Some were Forced to the Cross:
Matthew records the account of the journey of Christ to the cross and brings out an interesting event “And as they came out, they found a man of Cyrene, Simon by name: him they compelled (or forced) to bear his cross.” –Matt. 27:32 Mark says of this same event “And they compel (force) one Simon a Cyrenian, who passed by, coming out of the country, the father of Alexander and Rufus, to bear his cross.” –Mark 15:21 Luke reports “And as they led him away, they laid hold upon one Simon, a Cyrenian, coming out of the country, and on him they laid the cross, that he might bear it after Jesus.” –Luke 23:26 While Simon was as near to the cross as one could get, we have no record of any change being wrought in his heart from this experience.
Through the years I have had parents, spouses, friends and family try to use me and my office as a Minister to bring change upon someone. I have often felt like a dog that was being commanded to “sick” Jesus on someone else. And, what I have learned through the years is that no matter how much you force the cross on someone. No matter how close you get someone to come to the cross, change will not come unless and until they want change to come.
Proximity to the cross never brings change. Change can only come through repentance. And repentance hurts because it always involves giving up something that is providing something for us. Repentance means that we are willing to surrender something in our lives because Jesus has surrendered all of His. Paul tells us “by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. –Rom. 12:1 Now to sacrifice your body is not pleasant, it is not comfortable…it HURTS! Yet if we are to live for the Lord, in victory, making a difference, we must give up what we see to obtain what we can’t.
Don Wyman knows what it means to give up something. In 1993 he was all alone in the woods cutting up a fallen tree when suddenly the tree snapped back in his direction and knocked him to the ground. Unable to free himself and loosing much blood he realized that he was going to bleed to death unless something happened. With nobody close enough to hear his screams and his chainsaw not functioning he realized there was only one thing to do, although it was drastic. He pulled the starter cord from his chain saw, wrapped it around his leg, and tied the cord to a wrench. Then he twirled the wrench until it cut off the flow of blood to his shin. Somehow he amputated his own leg below the knee with his pocket knife. After crawling uphill for 135 feet he climbed into a bulldozer and drove a quarter mile to his truck and then to a farmers home a mile and a half away. Soon Wyman received the medical care that saved his life.