I recently heard the story of a group of hunters, gathered on a back porch, sipping hot coffee before leaving to hunt. As they stood there, the neighborhood raccoon (who had been getting into all the trashcans for months) ran by. With a clear line of sight and a clear field of fire, all seven hunters grabbed their guns and proceeded to miss the creature, who promptly jumped down a nearby drain pipe. Well, seven very upset hunters were not about to let that raccoon get the better of them. They got the can of gasoline from the garage, poured it down the drain pipe, and threw a lit match down after. However, the match kept going out before it got to the gasoline. Not easily defeated, the owner of the house decided to lower himself into the drainpipe far enough to hit the gas with a lit match. Well, we all know what happened next ... BOOM! He shot out of the pipe with a trail of fire behind. When we find ourselves in a tight spot, do we have the fiery power of God behind us?
Evangelist Reinhart Bonnke said, “Cool, casual Christianity will accomplish nothing. Our nation’s most urgent need is the flaming message of the cross -- now and not at our leisure.”
The story is told about a young boy who was flunking math. So his parents sent him to a special evening class at the local Christian academy. To their amazement, the boy began to get straight A’s. When asked what made the difference, the boy replied, “Those people don’t fool around about math. On the wall, they have a picture of some guy nailed to a plus sign!”
Do we see the cross of Christ as a plus or a minus?
Galatians 2:20: I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.
Do we see the cross of Christ as a positive or a negative? Crucifixion means that I choose to die, not physically, but in a more abstract sense. Yet this death is just as real as a physical crucifixion.
Many would read this passage and conclude that Christianity is not for them; at least not this radical form which calls for such a sacrifice. “Isn’t salvation a free gift”, they say? “I should be able to decide for myself how I will live, for I am a good person. I don’t want to die to anything. I want to live a good life my way.” For some, the cross is a negative.
Yet death does not have to be seen as a negative. Consider for a moment what we are called to die to:
1. The very idea that we can be justified (saved) by the law and our own works.
2. The world, with it’s applause, it’s treasures, and its gratification. If I am crucified, then the world has no hold on me.
3. To self. Crucifixion was a terrible suffering. And so it is when we seek to surrender our will to the Father, for self will rise up again and again to exert its control over us. It is not only a bitter struggle, but a daily battle. For when we say self, I am talking about the sinful nature that exists within each and every individual. I am talking about that part of us that continues to pull us away from the Father and our true heavenly home.
Consider also that if we die to these things, we also live for Christ. What is this life that we talk about?
1. It is the assurance in the very depths of my soul that I am God’s and he is mine. It is the knowledge that Christ is living in my soul. It is the peace that I need not fear eternity.
2. It is the joy of living. As we walk out this life of faith, we will find joy in the journey we have been called to. God knew us before we were ever born (Jer. 1), and God had a plan for our fulfillment. We have been created with a specific plan in mind, and that plan is for our joy, our fulfillment, and our completeness.
3. In this life of faith, we walk in the promises and blessings of God. There is no greater privilege than to walk in the blessings of God, to have the assurance that the promises of God are mine, and that I will prosper in whatever I do, so long as I am willing to life for Christ.
It is in the crucifixion that our own faith is given a true test. Are we willing to allow ourselves to be crucified with Christ so that we may live? Can we die to our works, to this world, to our own selfish nature?
May God find in this place men and women who will live Gal. 2.20 faith, who will die to self, so that they may live for Christ.
How do you see the cross this morning?