Summary: A thought-provoking look at why we are present for worship on Sunday mornings.
“What Brings You To the Cross?”
Text: Ephesians 2:14-18
Our theme of “Spiritually Clean in 2015” demands that we return frequently to the cross. I want us to spend some time this morning at Calvary reflecting on the crucifixion of our Savior. But, I want to do this in a very unusual way to challenge our thinking. The title of our lesson is a question: “What Brings You To the Cross?” I could have asked, “What brings you to church today?” It is through the cross that Christ reconciled both Jews and Gentiles to God in one body – the church. The cross is the reason we should be here today! The playing field is level at the cross: there is neither male nor female, Jew nor Gentile, slave nor free – we are all one in Christ Jesus. In Acts 20:7, we read that on the first day of the week, the disciples came together to break bread – to partake of the Lord’s Supper – to remember the Lord’s death until He comes again. Is that not why we’re here today? We are part of God’s family as Christians – His adopted children. We are united by the cross and that is our reason for being here today. As we ask ourselves what brings us to the cross, I want us to seriously consider what brings us to this worship assembly today. Often, we pray in line with John 4:24 that our worship is in spirit and in truth. God knows our hearts – our attitudes – and He knows what brought us to worship Him today. I hope you’ll open your Bibles as we ask ourselves this question today. As always, we beg you to be like the Bereans in Acts 17:11 and search the scriptures daily to make sure these things are so.
As we consider what brings us to the cross, I’m reminded of the arrest of Jesus after His betrayal. All four gospels record how Peter denied His lord that evening but I want us to briefly notice Matthew 26:57-58 – And those who had laid hold of Jesus led Him away to Caiaphas the high priest, where the scribes and the elders were assembled. But Peter followed Him at a distance to the high priest’s courtyard. And he went in and sat with the servants to see the end. I wanted us to observe that we, like Peter, sometimes try to follow Jesus at a distance out of curiosity – to see what will happen. Undoubtedly, there were those at Mount Calvary that day out of curiosity. Listen to these curious onlookers in Mark 15:29-32 – And those who passed by blasphemed Him, wagging their heads and saying, “Aha! You who destroy the temple and build it in three days, save Yourself, and come down from the cross!”
Likewise the chief priests also, mocking among themselves with the scribes, said, “He saved others; Himself He cannot save. Let the Christ, the King of Israel, descend now from the cross, that we may see and believe.” Is it possible that we may be here this morning out of curiosity? I’m not talking about someone sincerely seeking the truth but one who wants to follow Jesus at a distance – not wanting to get too close to other believers. Or, one who wants to see how many mistakes I will make. Curiosity can make me a critic of everything we do today but that’s not the role of a worshiper. Secondly, are you here because of your conscience? You know that inner sense of what is right or wrong in one’s conduct or motives, impelling one toward right action. We may have been brought up attending worship services and learned this is what God wants us to do. I believe that is one of the lessons of Hebrews 10:25. But, our conscience can be good and still we are doing wrong. For example, the apostle Paul who had persecuted Christians and wreaked havoc on the church could still declare to his Jewish brethren in Acts 23:1 – “Men and brethren, I have lived in all good conscience before God until this day.” But, I want us to think about the thief on the cross for a moment. Matthew and Mark both tell us that the robbers crucified with Jesus reviled Him. Yet, like Paul Harvey, Luke tells us the rest of the story – Luke 23: 39-42 – Then one of the criminals who were hanged blasphemed Him, saying, “If You are the Christ, save Yourself and us.”
But the other, answering, rebuked him, saying, “Do you not even fear God, seeing you are under the same condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds; but this Man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said to Jesus, “Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.” One of the criminals knew right from wrong and his conscience bothered him. It was a good thing because we know how Jesus rewarded him! Are you here today because your conscience told you to? That motivation can be positive, negative or neutral but you have to decide that. Are you brought to the cross out of compassion? In our daily Bible reading, we’re on our second trip through the gospels. In fact, this week we’ll read the Passion narrative in John. I’ve confessed before that I don’t like to read through the crucifixion accounts because they trouble me. They drive home my unworthiness for what Christ did for me and it hurts to read what Jesus suffered for my sins. Can we imagine the emotional torture of the ladies who actually watched Jesus die on the cross? It is difficult to reflect on the cross and not be moved with compassion. Listen to the inspired prophet’s words in Isaiah 53:3-8 – He is despised and rejected by men,