The Cross: The liberating power of the cross

The Liberating power of the cross.

 

Colossians 1:15-23a; 2:6-15.

(Focus on vv13-15)

 

ILLUS.: I can remember at various times being in the presence of couples who are always having a go at each other. Criticising, cutting each other down, insulting, blaming. You wonder, if they do that in public, what goes on behind closed doors. They dredge up old hurts and fling tem in each other’s faces.

 

What a joy it is then to see couples like this who seem to have a pile of chips on both shoulders begin to restore their relationship. The flame of love begins to flicker again – they are learning to forgive.

It is a thrill to see forgiveness bring life and laughter back to marriages that were once dead and full of hate and bitter recriminations.

 

Forgiveness is a wonderful word and how much we all stand in need of it. Not only in marriages but wherever people are involved. Without it life is harsh and bitter and pretty miserable altogether. Hopeless, in fact.

 

Hopeless describes exactly the position humanity was in prior to the cross. We were bitterly at odds with God. He would reach out in love and we would argue, insult and ignore Him.

 

Then Calvary came and God offered us forgiveness in Christ. This allowed a real love relationship to begin between us and God.

 

As Christians we must never forget – “In Christ we have been forgiven”.

Paul uses an interesting picture to describe this – Colossians 2:14 14 having cancelled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross. (NIV)

 

  1. 1.     The code that was cancelled.

 

Think of the 10 commandments [it may well have referred to the wider law].

Think of how often we have broken those commands. Things we have said and done and thought that we shouldn’t have. Things we could have done and haven’t done.

Visualise all these things and God making out a bill and realise how much we are in debt. Then take a good long hard look and declare bankruptcy. No way can we pay the bill.

The good news is this 15……. he forgave all our sins14 having cancelled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us;

“Having cancelled” – “Paid in Full” – as we saw last week that is what Jesus said when he cried out on the cross “It is Finished!”

That is forgiveness – He has cancelled the debt. He has paid in full. No longer in debt. No longer bankrupt.  Forgiven!

 

  1. 2.     The code was nailed to the cross.

 

Having forgiven all our sins and cancelled the written code that was against us, he took it away, nailing it to the cross.

 

Part of a Roman cross was called a titulus, from which we get our word title.

The titulus was nailed above the head of the crucified person.

Remember the titulus Pilate wrote for Jesus “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews

Normally the put the list of crimes above the persons head so people walked passed and said, “Well he certainly deserved what he got!”

 

When the people look at Jesus on the cross they saw a strange titulus – “This is Jesus of Nazareth; The king of the Jews!”

The Jewish leaders were not happy and they wanted Pilate to change the titulus to “He claimed to be the king of the Jews!”

BUT Pilate as weak and wet as he still had enough backbone to insist his version remain.

 

However, the unseen titulus on the cross of Christ was a long list of my crimes and yours and those of the whole world.

 

When Jesus was on the cross he took the code, our indebtedness, and wrote cancelled across it. He also, as it were, took the titulus, the list of all our sins and nailed it over his own head.

 

When we look and see Jesus hanging on the cross, we don’t only see “Jesus of Nazareth; the king of the Jews” – we also see a record of the sins of people like you and me. He died for us, took our sin, nailed it to the cross. The cross means that we have been forgiven in Christ.

 

  1. We died with Christ.

 

The cross doesn’t only mean that Christ died for us but also that we died with him.

It means that we die to all that it was necessary for Christ to die for.

Christ died for our sin – we need to die to sin.

What does that mean?

It doesn’t mean that we are dead.

It doesn’t mean that sin is dead.

It means that the relationship has been terminated.

Romans 6:6-14 6 For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin — 7 because anyone who has died has been freed from sin.

8 Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9 For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. 10 The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God.

11 In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. 12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. 13 Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness. 14 For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace.

 

What does all this mean?

ILLUS.: When I was 17 – in SA – I received from the Govt. one of those cunning invitations to join the army. The day duly arrived and I was loaded onto a train with 100s of other conscripts and send 300 miles away to an army base.

I was no longer Gray but Robinson #73429078.

There was a very nice gentleman there call RSM Lubbe who had a big mouth and a big voice and he delight in standing 1” from your nose and opening his cavernous mouth shouting at you as if you were on the other side of the world.

You have to stand as stiff as a ramrod and answer Yes Sa’mjoor! – No Sa’majoor! {Afrikaans for SM}

 

A nice man – friendly, warm, personable, interested in our well-being.

Don’t believe it!! If you saw him coming you’d straighten up, swinging arms higher, thumbs on top, heel dug in.

I guess there are clones of RSMs in every Regiment around the world.

At the end of 12 months I had the option to sign up for a further 12 months – I regretfully declined.

 

I got my discharge papers, changed into civilians clothes and left.

I walked passed him in the town. I immediately started to stiffen, swinging my arms.

A voice inside me said “You don’t have to do that!”

“WHAT?”

“NO! – You have no further obligation to him. He has no further authority over you. So if you like you go on, marching about, swinging your arms looking funny. BUT you don’t have to!””

 

My shoulder slumped, my hands went into my pockets were they hadn’t been for 12 long months and I whistled as I walked passed him.

 

He could have turned red and purple and shouted his head off but he couldn’t do a thing about it – I HAD DIED TO HIM.

 

That’s what the cross means. We have died to all that it was necessary for Christ to die for. Why go on living to it? Why be in bondage to it? We don’t have to be. We are free!

We have been liberated by the cross of Christ.

 

He stood before the court

on trial instead of us;

he met its power to hurt,

condemned to face the cross:

our king, accused of treachery;

our God, abused for blasphemy!

 

These are the crimes that tell

the tale of human guilt;

our sins, our death, our hell –

on these the case is built:

to this world’s powers their Lord stays dumb;

the guilt is ours, no answers come.

 

The sentence must be passed,

the unknown prisoner killed;

the price is paid at last,

the law of God fulfilled:

he takes our blame, and from that day

the accuser’s claim is wiped away.

 

Shall we be judged and tried?

in Christ our trial is done;

we live, for he has died,

our condemnation gone:

in Christ are we both dead and raised,

alive and free – his name be praised!

 

© Christopher Idle (born 1938)  Hymns for Today’s Church #129

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