Summary: With a huge cross on the platform which the worship team had to 'work around', the question of the day was stated in the title of this message. For us, "Is the cross or the culture in our way?"
What’s Really In the Way
(This message was preached with a 10 foot cross place in the center of the platform area. The worship leader and band had to work around it & the choir was behind it)
• Several years ago a pastor friend told me a true story about an event that had happened in his past. It seems that he, my pastor-friend, led a prominent business man to faith in Christ. This man’s faith was so genuine that it began impacting every part of his life, even how he did business. In point of fact, his new faith not only affected every part of his life, but also how he viewed all of life and the world around him. The day he bowed his knee at the cross of Jesus for the forgiveness of sin & the salvation of his soul, the “Old Rugged Cross” became his place of change, redemption, freedom, hope, help, and LIFE. This was so true for him that he began looking at the church building where he worshipped and noticed that there was no CROSS to be seen in the place. He was indeed a successful business man and possessed the financial resources needed to fund that project, so he offered his pastor, now friend, and the money which would be needed to put a cross in their worship center. With an excitement, the pastor started the process of taking this through the ‘channels’ of the church, only to run up against a brick wall. There would be no cross in that worship center. Why? Because the cross could be offensive. (A HUGE CROSS ON THE PLATFORM)
• Have you noticed this cross this morning? Actually, how can you not notice? It’s simply up here on the platform & is considered ‘in the way!’ It’s in the way of the band, the worship leader, the choir, you can see the baptistery, and you have to look around it to see the screens! Every time you turn your eye up here, all you can see is the CROSS! What is that about?
• In fact, I suggest & submit some in here have already wanted to get this cross “OUT OF THE WAY.” And you know what? You have just preached today’s message. People really want to get the cross out of their way! If they can get the cross out of their way, then they can do what they want.
• The person who has never placed their faith in Christ wants the cross out of the way because, as is intimated in 1 Corinthians 1:18, “The word of the cross is folly or foolishness to those who are outside of faith (perishing).” Sometimes those who ‘profess’ faith in Christ want the cross out of the way because Jesus said, “If anyone would come after me or follow me, HE MUST DENY HIMSELF, TAKE UP HIS CROSS, and then follow me.” You do realize that Matthew, Mark, and Luke all recorded these words of Jesus so these are important or even tantamount to the Christ follower. Here’s the truth: For the one who follows Christ ‘from a distance, the cross gets in the way of a lot of things.
• Today, I want to simply answer a few questions about the cross.
1. What is it? –We have sung about the cross & how much we cherish & love it. Admittedly, without the cross, we have no hope of heaven & eternal life. But the reality of the cross is sobering!
a. A Place of Shame – A public crucifixion was intended to deter others from committing such an act that would require this type of punishment. The Romans were masters of the crucifixion, they knew how to exact a response from the people. The Bible tells us that they ‘stripped’ Jesus. Over the years, artists renditions have graciously put a loin cloth on Jesus, but historical evidence indicates that it is more likely that Jesus was stripped bare & crucified naked while the soldiers gambled for their prize, His clothes. Hanging naked caused the victim, his family, his countrymen (Jews), and all who looked on, a great deal of shame.
b. A Place of Suffering – Once again, the Romans were masters at the crucifixion. The purpose of such a punishment was not simply death, although death was the ultimate result. They desired for the victim to writhe in agony & pain. The nails in the hands & feet, the little seat (sedile), the distance between the nails were all strategically placed to cause suffering. The little seat was actually a sharp board which would cut into the backside, the nails between the radial & ulna was place to cause the nerves to electrify when weight was place on them, & the nails in his ankles which allowed the victim to ‘stand’ were placed to bring excruciating pain. Ultimately, his arms was be dislocated at the shoulders & he would no longer be able to pull up for a breath or the nails in his ankles would not hold his weight, & a painful death would ensue. A place of suffering.