Summary: A sermon on the Cross (Taken from Timothy Keller’s Book, "The Reason for God" Chapter 12 "The True Story of the Cross" Pages 186 to 200)
Sermon on the Cross
HoHum: In the years of Communist domination of East Germany there was a symbol that brought hope and comfort to believers in Jesus. A huge TV tower had been erected to broadcast atheistic propaganda. Near the top of the building was a globe-shaped structure housing a restaurant. The remarkable thing was that the sunlight always reflected off the globe in the shape of a cross. The authorities were embarrassed and tried everything they could think of to prevent this optical phenomenon, even covering the dome with paint. But nothing worked. A preacher commented, "No matter how hard they try, they can’t get rid of the Cross!"
The cross is what brings us together. The death of Jesus Christ for our sins is the very heart of the gospel. However, what the Christian church considers to be good news is considered by the rest of the culture to be bad news.
According to the Bible, Jesus dies so that God can forgive sins. For many that seems ludicrous. “Why would Jesus have to die?” “Why couldn’t God just forgive us?” It all seems like Divine child abuse.
Thesis: Why the Cross? Many reasons but from Timothy Keller in The Reason for God we will explore two today.
I. Real forgiveness involves costly suffering.
A. Economic example. Someone borrows your car, backs out of your driveway and runs over a gate, knocking it down along with part of a wall. Your property insurance doesn’t cover the gate or the wall. What can we do? 3 options:
1. Demand that the one who borrowed your car pay for all damages.
2. Refuse to let the one who borrowed the car pay for anything.
3. Both of you share the payment for the damages. You pay half, he pays half.
Notice that every option the cost of the damage must be borne by someone. Forgiveness means bearing the cost for his misdeed.
B. Most of the wrongs done to us cannot be assessed in purely economic terms. Robed of happiness, reputation, opportunity, and certain freedoms. Once we have been wronged and we realize there is a debt that can’t simply be dismissed- only two things to do.
1. Make the perpetrators suffer for what they have done. In my dreams, Halloween is getting close. If they suffer, we begin to feel a certain satisfaction. Several problems here- become colder, more self absorbed, become prejudiced, cycles of retaliation start, the evil spreads especially into our characters.
2. We can forgive. Forgiveness means refusing to make them pay for what they did. However, to refrain from lashing out at someone when we want to do so with all our beings is agony. It is a form of suffering. We not only suffer the loss of happiness, reputation, and opportunity, but now we forgo the consolation of inflicting the same on them. We absorb the debt, taking the cost of it completely instead of taking it out on the other person. It hurts terribly. Many people would say it feels like a kind of death.
C. It is a death of sorts but it leads to resurrection instead of the life long living death of bitterness and cynicism. As a preacher I have counseled many people about forgiveness, and I have found that if they forgive- refuse to take vengeance on the wrongdoer in action and even in their thoughts- the anger slowly begins to go away. Not giving any fuel to this and so the resentment burns lower and lower.
E. Forgiveness must be granted before it can be felt, but it does come eventually. It leads to new peace, a resurrection.
F. Forgive and forget. God can do that but we cannot. Not saying we shouldn’t try. However, when we see that person we only see a few times a year, I go through the holidays too, we have that anger and resentment resurface, we have to make that decision to forgive again. Matthew 18:21-22 Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, "Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?" Jesus answered, "I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times (or 70 X 7)”
G. “Shouldn’t they be held accountable?” Yes, but only if you forgive them. Now if we are talking about breaking man’s law, criminal charges, then tell the authorities, the government, and let them deal with it. However, for other things, we need to make sure that we have forgiven them before we confront them. If not, we will go in a spirit of anger and resentment rather than in a spirit of love. Some people I still have not confronted because I would do it in a wrong spirit. Want to see them hurt, in the end hurt worse than I have. Romans 12:21 NIV • Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.