NOT I BUT CHRIST
Good Friday... What does it mean to you? All over the world, many Christians are observing this day. In different parts of the world, this day is called... (SLIDE)
• Great Friday: Indonesia(Jumat Agung) – agung = majesty –king - great
• Holy Friday: France (Vendredi Saint), Portugal, Brazil (Sexta-Feira Santa)- holy-set apart
• Sad Friday: Arabic-speaking world – emotional tone
• Day of Christ’s Suffering: Chinese-speaking areas (基督受難日)
Yes, this day, for all who follow Jesus, is a great holy, sad and suffering day, all mixed together. It is great because we follow a majestic, yet humble and loving King. It is holy, for it is a day unlike any other. It is sad also, because it reminds us it is our sins, our fault, that nailed Him to the cross, that someone sinless had to bear our sins. As well, it is a day of Christ’s suffering as the Chinese would say. Mostly, Good Friday is all about Christ, not about me, just like our theme “Not I, But Christ”. Let’s read Galatians (Gal.2:20-21), our inspiration for today’s theme (SLIDE).
20I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 21I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!"
To appreciate what Paul wrote, we need to know what was going in the church in Galatia. He was writing this letter to them to address a specific situation. Would you come with me into Paul’s world? Imagine I am the balding Apostle Paul (SLIDE).
Imagine we are back in the days when he first wrote this text that we just read... Also, imagine that he is not in a good mood. And I tell you why. Typically his letters have a warm short greeting which is seen in Gal.1:1-5, and followed by a section where he gives thanks for the church he is writing to. However, in Galatians, there is no thanksgiving to God for this church. Instead, what follows is an uncharacteristic hostile tone. It is rather shocking to see this especially for the original readers. Come with me into Paul’s day, into this occasion when he penned this letter to the Galatians.
Ah, good morning. Let me have my first cup of coffee. You know, I am really concerned about the believers in Galatia. That church in Galatia is sure ticking me off. I had preached to them the Gospel. It is all about believing in the Lord Jesus who gave Himself for our sins and whom God the Father raised from the dead (Galatians 1:1-3). I was very clear that they need not add anything to achieve righteousness. That’s why it is Good News, it’s justification by faith alone, we do nothing at all to receive this grace. NOT I BUT CHRIST! That was my message. So I am just shocked, appalled, that they have so quickly moved away from the grace of Christ and gone to another teaching which is not good news at all (1:6-9). What are they trying to do? (Pound the pulpit). Are they trying to gain heaven by human effort (3:1-5)? Did not Habakkuk 2:4 say “the righteous will live by his faith?”
To teach another way to God is a sure-fire way to damnation, the short-cut to hell (1:8-9). It is a curse to preach another message and make it sound like it is the way of God. Am I now trying to be politically correct or am I telling the truth of God (1:10)? Is there really another way?
I see the cross (Brian Doerksen)
And it’s all I need to see
I see the cross
And it calls me to believe
I see the cross, lifted high for all to see, I see the cross, it’s the love the nations need
No other way to be reconciled
To receive complete forgiveness
No other choice could have set us free
Could have paid the price of justice
So I come as I am
To the place where mercy meets me
I see the cross I see the cross
You suffered and died
Poured out Your life
You showed us the way
To truly be great
Yet this just begins
The Father’s full plan
Now there is a way
To share in Your resurrection
To live forever
Through Your death and life
To share with Your resurrection
To live forever
There is no other way to rescue people from their sins. If righteousness can be gained any other way, would God offer up His own Son? To be healed of a disease, you’d go under the surgeon’s knife, right? It’d be painful but you’d go through it. Would you go through pain of surgery for the fun of it? If righteousness could be gained through our willpower, obedience or good behaviour, or through our cleverness in observing God’s perfect law, would Christ go to the cross? Did not our Lord Jesus plead with the Father 3 times according to Matthew 26 to not undergo the agony of the cross, but he yielded his will to the Father, saying, “Yet not as I will as you will.”
Let me repeat Jesus did not suffer and die for the fun of it. He did not die just so we can have a weekend off in spring. He did not die just so a movie can be made and make Mel Gibson a very rich man. He died because He loved the world, gave Himself for our sins. He died to set us completely free from the condemnation of the law, to pay the price of justice that says sins must be punished. That is why I am so astonished that Galatia abandoned the crucified Christ who loved me and gave Himself for me. I am in pain over this – that the glorious Gospel of Christ is being cheapened and made into something that you and I can do achieve righteousness before God. NOT I BUT CHRIST! Do you get it?
Do you see the cross, the Roman execution tool used to control and intimidate people? It’s an instrument of torture and death. It’s a reminder to never get in the Roman government’s way or else! Remember the screams of excruciating pain (wince), the suffocation of the victim (cough), the smelly bloody mess mixed with sweat and human waste from the repeated beatings, humiliation of being stripped naked, being taunted, and made fun of by the crowds with the awful sense of being labelled a condemned criminal hung over you, with no hope? Remember how shameful it is to have your sins made known for all the world to see? My goodness, it would be spelled out for all to see in the inscription called the titulus (SLIDE) hung above the condemned criminal’s head, like a knife through the heart. What shame! Most of all, it is lights out for sure, life terminated, no chance for parole, you will no longer live, under severe suffering. Life as you know it -Gone!
Today I am telling you, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live,” I am saying my sinful life was done and gone forever as I identified with the cross of Jesus. Because of the cross, I am now dead to the law (2:19). The law no longer applies to the dead. It’s like trying to give a speeding ticket to a corpse – what’s the use? The dead cannot pay the fine or go to jail. What’s the point of nailing a dead man on the cross again? Paul is stating that by identifying with Christ crucified, “I no longer live”. But that’s not the end of the story.
“But Christ lives in me!” You see, Jesus did not stay dead. There is life after death! He rose from the dead by the power of God after paying the price for all our sins. There is resurrection! The cross of Christ, secured for us the forgiveness of sins but by the power of His resurrection we get to live forever. That is why I, Paul gladly serve Jesus, who loved me and gave His life for me.
But the Galatian church did not get it. I am so mad they have adopted another gospel. It’s like a kick in the gut for me that they chose to stray away from grace and think they know better. Think about it how can cutting some skin in circumcision make me a better man? This is why I Paul have to write this angry sounding, urgent, desperate and scathing letter to stir those foolish Galatians, to wake them up before it is too late. It is NOT I BUT only Jesus Christ! (Pound the pulpit)... Look I have spilled my coffee now... got to clean up and write that letter!
Well I trust, you see how fed-up Paul is? Do you sense his outright anger? It is not a gentle or romantic letter. He used some bad words. Twice he used “anathema” which in the Greek means “be accursed”! Paul is in a serious fighting mood!
Not I But Christ! Is Christ of any value at all to us? What counts is faith in Jesus, growing in love and serving one another in love (Gal.5:13-14). Or is there infighting about what cultural forms are God-sanctionedIf Paul were here today, would he say anathema to us, get mad at us because we have abandoned the crucified Christ and sought out another way to be right with God and thereby living a life of ?
Would he say of you and I “where is your joy”, has it gone missing (4:15)? Have you fallen from grace and added other stuff in your version of the Christian life? Is there more bondage than freedom? Is there evidence of fruit of the Spirit such as love joy peace?
Perhaps we have unwittingly adopted other stuff such as cultural forms, forcing others to commit to cultural forms rather a real personal faith in Christ who loved you and gave Himself for you and I in the style of the Galatian church? Is it about you or about Jesus?
What is Good Friday to you? Would you let Good Friday be good again this day? Let us return to the cross, and trust His finished work. It was enough by the will of God the Father to pay for all our sins. Or did Christ suffered and died for nothing? Would you release yourself to the grace of Christ? My prayer is that Christ lives in you and that you’d not fall into the error that the Galatians fell into? Would you let Christ be of value to you? Not your culture, not your religious duties, not what you do, but what Jesus did. Not I But Christ! Christianity is ALL ABOUT the cross of Jesus, seeing the cross. No cross, no Christianity. Virginia Owens is right when she said, “Good Friday is the day we can do nothing at all.” We get to live forever, because Christ did it all, we can add nothing at all. As the old hymn says “My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus blood and righteousness. I dare not trust the sweetest frame but wholly lean on Jesus’ name. On Christ the solid rock I stand all other ground is sinking sand.” Not I But Christ! (SLIDE)
Let us pray...