Summary: Why is the Cross of Christ even more important than the teachings of Christ?
Once upon a time there was a country church that had an ivy plant growing up by the front door. Over the doorway was a text carved in stone, "We preach Christ crucified". Over the years the plant grew and a branch gradually spread over the doorway. The first word of the text covered by the leaves of the plant was "crucified" which reduced the text to "We preach Christ". Well, we might think, that’s unfortunate but the essential part of our faith is still there. As time went on the branch spread further and covered over the word "Christ". Now, this was serious, but no one seemed to notice, and the message of the church to the world outside was reduced to "We preach" – We preach whatever ideas come to mind.
Over against that fabled Church we have the Apostle Paul’s determined declaration that the central message of the Church is the Cross. This evening I want to briefly focus on Galatians 6:14. May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Galatians is a declaration of religious independence from men and dependence on God. It is the Magna Carter of the Christian Faith. It rejects all authorities, institutions, customs, and laws that interfere with direct access of the individual to God.
Paul’s missionary work in Galatia had been extremely successful. Mostly Gentiles had been converted to Christianity. After Paul left the area certain Jewish teachers came along and said, ‘Fine, but you must also keep the laws of Moses to be saved.’
There was this general epidemic of circumcision among the Gentile Christians. Paul was outraged. This was not the Gospel.
• Jesus and circumcision.
• Jesus and read four chapters of the Bible every day
• Jesus and be kind to your neighbours.
The message Paul taught was salvation by faith alone in the finished work of the Cross.
Paul was saying – You guys can boast that you keep the rules. You can boast that you hold to certain traditions. You can boast that you can circumcise so many people. But I will boast that Jesus died for me. My boast is the Cross.
• I will not boast about my education
• I will not boast about my racial origins
• I will not boast about my Roman citizenship
• I will not boast about my travels
• I will not boast about my Greek Culture
• I will not boast about my charismatic ministry
• I will not boast about my sufferings for Jesus
• I will not even boast about my personal morality.
My boast is this – Jesus died for me.
Did you know that this message – the central message of the New Testament and the Church – The message that Jesus paid for all my sins is still offensive. Most people want to earn their way to heaven.
There are many people who are prepared to embrace Christ’s teachings but not his Cross.
There are many who aren’t Christians who praise the Sermon on the Mount. Gandhi, the great Indian leader and a Hindu, praised it. They like Jesus the teacher; they say that his teaching is the very thing the world needs - as indeed it does. The theory is that if everyone practiced it, all our problems would be solved. But Paul did not glory in the teachings of Jesus – it was the Cross of Jesus Christ.
It’s true the world would be a great deal better if the teaching of Jesus was put into practice, so why didn’t the apostle say, "God forbid that I should glory, save in the Sermon on the Mount, save in the incomparable teaching, of the Son of God?" Paul knew very well that teaching alone, even from the lips of Jesus, was not sufficient. You see, there is all the difference in the world between praising the Sermon on the Mount and practicing it! We applaud it, but to apply it is a different matter! In our better moments we may want to live according to its standard but because we are sinful beings, we are powerless to do so.
Once upon a time a man was caught in a bed of quicksand. Confucius saw him and remarked. “There is evidence men should stay out of such places”.
Buddha came along and said: Let this be a lesson to the rest of the world.
Mohammed looked at the sinking man and said: Alas, it is the will of Allah.
The Hindu turned to the man and said: Cheer up friend, you will return to earth in another form.
But when Jesus came along he said: Give me your hand – I will pull you out.
The message of the cross pulls us out of the mire of self-help. The quagmire of good intentions – of meaning well and doing poorly.