Summary: Most Americans tend to believe a relationship with God is primarily about going to heaven when you die. They think that all good people will go to heaven. But the truth is that your relationship with God in this life will determine your destination in th
In her book The God Who Hung on the Cross, journalist Ellen Vaughn retells a gripping story of how the Gospel came to a small village in Cambodia. In September 1999, Pastor Tuy Seng (not his real name) traveled to Kampong Thom Province in northern Cambodia. Throughout that isolated area, most villagers had cast their lot with Buddhism or spiritism. Christianity was virtually unheard of.
But much to Seng's surprise, when he arrived in one small, rural village the people warmly embraced him and his message about Jesus. When he asked the villagers about their openness to the gospel, an old woman shuffled forward, bowed, and grasped Seng's hands as she said, "We have been waiting for you for twenty years." And then she told him the story of the mysterious God who had hung on the cross.
In the 1970s the Khmer Rouge, the brutal, Communist-led regime, took over Cambodia, destroying everything in its path. When the soldiers finally descended on this rural, northern village in 1979, they immediately rounded up the villagers and forced them to start digging their own graves. After the villagers had finished digging, they prepared themselves to die. Some screamed to Buddha, others screamed to demon spirits or to their ancestors.
One of the women started to cry for help based on a childhood memory — a story her mother told her about a God who had hung on a cross. The woman prayed to that unknown God on a cross. Surely, if this God had known suffering, he would have compassion on their plight.
Suddenly, her solitary cry became one great wail as the entire village started praying to the God who had suffered and hung on a cross. As they continued facing their own graves, the wailing slowly turned to a quiet crying. There was an eerie silence in the muggy jungle air. Slowly, as they dared to turn around and face their captors, they discovered that the soldiers were gone.
As the old woman finished telling this story, she told Pastor Seng that ever since that humid day from 20 years ago the villagers had been waiting, waiting for someone to come and share the rest of the story about the God who had hung on a cross.
Citation: Doris I. Rosser & Ellen Vaughn, The God Who Hung on the Cross (Zondervan, 2003), pp. 35-37
Series Introduction & Review:
We’ve been going to Jesus’ cross as we work our way to Easter Sunday’s celebration of his resurrection because it is the essence of our gospel message. His death is the central idea of our faith.
So far, we’ve found that Jesus’ death on the cross paid the ransom that sets us free from slavery to sin and Satan. His crucifixion conquered the forces of evil and sets us free from the list of charges against us. On the Cross, as Jesus bled and died, he received the punishment our sins deserved. When Jesus died for us he made it possible for us to become God’s children.
REPENTANCE POINT: How should you change your mind?
Most Americans, even good church going Christians, tend to believe a relationship with God is primarily about going to heaven when you die. Plus, they think that all good moral people will go to heaven.
But the truth is that your relationship with God in this life will determine your destination in the next. Plus, good moral living will not and cannot make anyone’s relationship right with God.
If this is so, how will we establish a right relationship with God?
Text: The answer is found in Romans 3:21-31.
21 But now, apart from law, the righteousness of God has been disclosed, and is attested by the law and the prophets, 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction, 23 since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; 24 they are now justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a sacrifice of atonement by his blood, effective through faith. He did this to show his righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over the sins previously committed; 26 it was to prove at the present time that he himself is righteous and that he justifies the one who has faith in Jesus. 27 Then what becomes of boasting? It is excluded. By what law? By that of works? No, but by the law of faith. 28 For we hold that a person is justified by faith apart from works prescribed by the law. 29 Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, 30 since God is one; and he will justify the circumcised on the ground of faith and the uncircumcised through that same faith. 31 Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law.