Sunday, August 24, 2008

His Cross and Ours

The following is the bulk of my sermon today from Galatians 5:24. The stuff about Bishop Moule will be no surprise for readers of this blog!

One my heroes for the last 30 years has been Bishop Handley Carr Glynn Moule, born in Dorsetshire, in 1841, and died in Cambridge, in May of 1920. The son of an Anglican priest - who, by the way, was of French extraction; his mother was Welsh - he became the dean of Trinity College, Cambridge, the first president of Ridley Hall, Cambridge - which is where I would have liked to have studied if I had done my schooling in England. A friend of mine is currently studying there, and I'm a bit envious of that. Eventually Moule was consecrated the Bishop of Durham, following on the heals of two other great Bishops of Durham, J. B. Lightfoot, and B. F. Westcott, both of whom remain still today, like Moule, giants in New Testament studies. Though raised a Christian, it was not until September the 18th, of 1884, that Moule seems to have gone through a spiritual crisis which was a defining point in his commitment to Christ. The rest of his life as a Christian could be considered as a progressive growth from that particular time. Now, Moule was a poet and author, and has given us some beautiful pieces - sadly, none of his hymns are in the 1940 hymnal. One of his pieces is connected to that moment of commitment to Christ to which I have referred, and it is called the Morning Act of Faith. Let me read it to you:

I believe on the Name of the Son of God.
Therefore I am in Him, having Redemption through His Blood, and Life by His Spirit.
And He is in me, and all fulness is in Him.
To Him I belong, by purchase, conquest, and self-surrender.
To me He belongs, for all my hourly need.
There is no cloud between my Lord and me.
There is no difficulty, inward or outward, which He is not ready to meet in me to-day.
The Lord is my Keeper. Amen.

Now it is that line, where he says, To Him I belong, that I want us to note. Every Christian belongs to Christ.

Why do we belong to him? Bishop Moule tells us, summarising what the Bible says. First, we are his by purchase. Paul says in I Corinthians: 19: What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? 20: For ye are bought with a price.... Peter tells us what that price was in his first epistle: 18: Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, ... 19: But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot. We belong to Christ by purchase. And when did He purchase us? When died on the Cross, and shed His blood for our payment.

But Moule also says we belong to Christ by conquest. We don't talk like this much in our day of disdain for empires and our talk of international laws - which don't work, by the way - but it used to be that a conqueror was considered to have right over those he had conquered; right by conquest, we say. Well, Christ has conquered us, has he not? We lived in rebellion against him; we were part of that humanity, under bondage to the devil, that raises its fist to God and cries "We will not have the LORD to reign over us," and seeks to build its own kingdom for its own glory. But Christ came, born of Mary, riding on a donkey, suffering under Pontius Pilate, crucified, dead, and buried, that he might on the third day rise from the dead as Christus Victor - Christ the Victor - as He himself had said, "Be not afraid, I have overcome the world!" How? Through the cross, as we are told in Hebrews 2: 14: Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; 15: And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.

And now all authority is given to him in heaven and earth, and the words of God, spoken through King David in the second psalm, are fulfilled in these last days: "Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion - ask of me and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession. Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces, like a potter's vessel." And then David tells the kings and rulers of this rebellious globe - admit your defeat! Reverence and submit to this new king, the Son of the God of the Universe, lest you be destroyed should he get riled with you, even just a little bit. And when this great King, who is also a Lamb, called us ever so kindly to come to him and turn from living in our rebellion against him, and to bow our knees to him and acknowledge him as king and Lord over our lives, we were conquered - not by His sword, but by His love and grace - that love and grace so wonderfully displayed and powerfully effectual on the Cross of Calvary. We now love our Conqueror, because He first loved us.

We belong to Jesus. We belong to Him because He has bought us, because he has conquered us, and because we have gladly surrendered ourselves to him. This surrendering of ourselves to Him is depicted, here in Galatians 5, by Paul, with the imagery of crucifixion. 24: And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.

We belong to Christ because we have given ourselves to Him. And this giving of ourselves to him is a kind of dying. We cease to live our life for ourselves and begin to live for him. Hear what Paul says earlier in Galatians, in ch. 2:20: I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me. Note this idea of replacement through crucifixion: my life is given up for His. Christians are disciples who follow Christ. Christ went to the cross so that he might remove all that would hinder us from joining with him in his new resurrected life. But in order to share in his new life, we must share in his death. In order to rise with him in the Spirit, we must die with him on the Cross.

Do you remember, in the gospel of Mark, when Peter tried to talk Jesus out of going to Jerusalem and being crucified there? It's in chapter 8. It says that Peter actually rebuked Jesus for having such an idea. Right after that happened, Jesus called all the people around him together and then he said these words: Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. 35: For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel's, the same shall save it. 36: For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Having just talked about dying in Jerusalem, Jesus now talks about losing one's life. He would lose His life in Jerusalem on the cross. He's talking about losing your life by dying on a cross. He kept using this imagery of the cross in his call to people to follow him at other times. When he met the man who said he had kept all God's commands, Jesus told him, "Sell what you have, take up the cross, and follow Me"(Mark 10:21). And after Peter confessed Jesus to be the Messiah, Jesus said to all his disciples, "If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. 24: For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it."

So you see what is happening here. A Christian is someone who follows Jesus; who "comes after Jesus." Where was Jesus going? To the cross. Where does he say we must go if we are going to follow him? To the cross. Why? To die on it, like he did. Becoming a Christian is the equivalent of taking in hand our natural selves, dominated by the desires and affections of our evil hearts, which we inherited from Adam, and which are stirred up by the rebellious world around us. And having taken ourselves in hand, we nail ourselves on a cross to die to our old selves. We determine that we will not be that kind of person any more. We will put away from our lives the things that characterise our fallen condition, such as the things which Paul listed earlier in the Epistle reading. We will stop living for ourselves - give up our life - so that we may follow Jesus - to death - to the end of all we have known in this world up to this point.

Now if we consider the horrible damage that our sins do to us - the sins we naturally love so much - it should sound wonderful that we can die to all that garbage! What a wonderful thing! I can stop being the person I have always been - messing my life up all the time and hurting all the people around me. I can be free from sin - by dying to it. But, at the same time, that sounds rather threatening. Death? Crucify myself? Die? How can I lose myself? The idea of going on, dead to myself, does not sound very inviting. Ah! But the death is not all there is! Remember the principle of replacement. Jesus said, we must lose our life to save it! Just as Jesus' own cross was the way to His own day of resurrection, so our own cross is the way to a new life in Him: He dwells in us and we dwell in Him. Death to living for self is not the end, but the means to an end. It is the way to follow Jesus - through death, past the cross, unto resurrection and newness of life. Taking up our cross - turning from living for ourselves - surrendering ourselves to our King - ceasing to try to own ourselves and beginning to live, owned by someone else - by Christ, is the path to the glory and joy that Jesus already knows in heaven and wants to give to us today. And in place of a life dominated by the works of the flesh, having left that life behind, we now can know a life filled with the fruits of His own Spirit. Instead of a life of hatred, we can have a life of love. Instead of a life of anger, we can have a life of joy. Instead of a life of strife, we can have a life of peace. And we have all these because those who belong to Him are those to whom He gives His Spirit, that right now, we might know the power of the saving and redeeming work of Jesus' Cross in our lives. He died, that we might live - in the power of His Spirit - freely by His grace. And, having taken up our own cross and died on our own cross by self-surrender, we now live a new life, raised with Christ - not for ourselves, but for Him who died and rose again for us, our Loving King and Saviour.

Friends, this life of love and joy and peace is yours - if you will have it. It is free - completely paid for by your Saviour. It is yours every day. As Bishop Moule said: To Him I belong, by purchase, conquest, and self-surrender. "To me He belongs, for all my hourly need." Yes! The path of the cross - of losing your own life - is the path of gaining the life of Christ Himself. He gives himself to you, with all his glory and grace, for everything you need, until the day when he brings you home to himself, perfectly.

1 comment:

Steve Trevino said...

The cross is the plumb bob by which all doctrine and teaching becomes balanced. I believe the key to all spiritual victory and power is conformity to His death. For if we are to become like Him is His life we must become like Him in His death. 2 Cor 4:10-12

The cross is key not only for justification but for our sanctification as well. I believe it is the "narrow path" that leads to life but few are they who find it. Matt 7

The cross was not a one time event. It is an on going moment by moment work of the Spirit in our lives. "The concurrent working of deep opposites.". -Bishop Moule

If we are not being killed we are not being made alive. If we are not being emptied we're not being filled. Decreased so He can increase. No longer I but Christ. Acts 27:41 "where two seas (cross currents) met.". This is the place where your outer man will "be broken up". While your inner man "sticks fast" (union). Let go of all controls and cast your self on Him.