Sunday, March 02, 2008

The Joy of the Cross: Purpose

Luke 24:44 – 49

The Joy of the Cross: Purpose

Rick Warren, commenting about the search for purpose, in “Purpose Driven Life” stated, “typically we begin at the wrong starting point – ourselves.”

That’s a difficult idea because human nature sees the world and other people as extension of the individual self. Basically we project our feelings and motivations on others. The human sin nature knows no other way, no other starting point, no other reasoning process.

Christ cut through all the nonsense of our self–orientation. Strange, when you are able to step away from the basic self–orientation... you discover that when you begin with yourself, nothing will ever completely make sense.


I.         Scripture is the starting point.


            A.        We must have God’s help to understand Scripture.


                        1.         “Then He (Jesus) opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.” [v 45]


                                    a.         These are people who had been with Jesus for three and a half years.


                                    b.         They struggled with their faith and the revolutionary ideas Jesus proposed.


                                    c.         Even after the resurrection, they did not understand.

“The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.” [1 Corinthians 2:14]


                        2.         Does this set up a special “privileged” class?


                                    a.         The easy answer is “yes.” You cannot understand what God does not open to you.


                                    b.         The hard answer is “no.” God makes you responsible for understanding, which means He provides the means for you to understand.

“Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will.” [Romans 12:2]


            B.        That means, we must understand.


                        1.         God expects us to put some effort into testing and approving His will.


                        2.         Another word for this is “discern” (“distinguish with difficulty by sight or with the other senses.” Oxford University Press)

And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, [10] so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ...” [Philippians 1:9 – 10]


II.       The message is the starting block.


            A.        The message is about Jesus: “The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day.” [v 46b]


                        1.         Jesus is the Messiah (Christ) spoken about in the Old Testament.


                                    a.         Some people struggle with the concept of Jesus dying on the cross.

“Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, [23] but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, [24] but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.” [1 Corinthians 1:22 – 24]


                                    b.         Yet God played the strongest possible move (in chess terms) a sacrifice. The sacrifice was necessary to satisfy the idea of “justice.” (A price/penalty must be paid for our sins. We cannot do it, so Jesus as the sinless Lamb of God took our place and paid the penalty.)

God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice...” [Romans 3:25a]


                        2.         Jesus rose from the dead!


                                    a.         If we focus on the means of Jesus’ death we miss the fact that the resurrection is prove positive of who Jesus is.

“And who through the Spirit of holiness was declared with power to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord.” [Romans 1:4]


                                    b.         The tombs of past leaders such as Buddha, Mohammed, etc... are occupied with earthly remains. Jesus’s tomb is empty.


                                    c.         So we enjoy, not just words... we participate in the most powerful event in history.

“I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death.” [Philippians 3:10]


            B.        Our response to the message is “repentance.” [Repent is to change the mind and the behavior.]


                        1.         There are different reactions to guilt triggers.


                                    a.         Psychology will try to teach us to change our beliefs so our interpretation of consequences of our actions will change. But this does not produce positive productive life change, it only masks the cause of the problem.


                                    b.         Addiction is a form of self-medication we can use to dull the pain.


                                    c.         Sin does have its pleasure for a short time [see Hebrews 11:25], so sin is a form of distraction.


                                    d.         Call it what you want, there are only two types of reactions/responses to the guilt of sin.

Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.” [2 Corinthians 7:10]


                        2.         Repentance is necessary.


                                    a.         Peter expressed the heart of God this way: “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. [2 Peter 3:9]


                                    b.         Paul asks: “Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God's kindness leads you toward repentance? [Romans 2:4]


                                    c.         Trouble is, human nature fights against the need to admit we are wrong (change the mind) and take serious corrective action (change the behavior).

(Scripture is the starting point, the message about Jesus and our response in repentance is the starting block but staying on track is our responsibility.)


III.      Our responsibility is to stay on track.


            A.        Notice Jesus said: “You are witnesses of these things.” [v 46]


                        1.         You means you, not someone else’s responsibility.


                                    a.         Before William Carey’s time it was believed this was just for the original Apostles. Their obstacles:


                                                1.)       “Theological rigidity” in a perverted form of the doctrine of “predestination.”


                                                2.)       “Sanctified Self-interest” where the church’s responsibility was to “nurture the seeds of faith planted in baptism.”

(Source: Eerdmans’ Handbook to the History of Christianity, p. 549)


                                    b.         William Carey preached a sermon in 1792 where he stated, “expect great things from God, attempt great things for God.”


                                                1.)       It was not long after that sermon that Carey headed to India as one of the first pioneer Protestant missionaries to “non-elect” (non-Western) world.


                                                2.)       The gravity of Christianity has shifted from Western and English speaking nations to the rest of the world. Christianity has become a world religion. (The head of the World Fellowship of the Free Methodist church is from the Philippines.)


                        2.         What does a witness do?


                                    a.         A witness tells the truth from their perspective and experience.


                                    b.         In our case, we tell truth handed to us through Scripture and we tell how we have experienced the life changing power of faith in Jesus and our response in repentance.


            B.        Jesus promised us help.


                        1.         God never tells us to do something we cannot do... So if He expects us do something, it is more than possible.


                        2.         When God tells us to do something supernatural... such as witness... He gives us the resources to do it. (Pocket Testament League presentation.  See

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