(I found this in my notes from last year. I barely even remember writing this, but it is too good not to share. I think the majority of the content I derived from a sermon by Paul Washer.)
Why a cross? Why a death? The greatest problem in the entire bible is found in an obscure text in proverbs. Proverbs 17:15- “He who justifies the wicked and he who condemns the righteous, both of them alike are an abomination to the Lord.”
He who justifies the wicked is an abomination to the lord.
Anyone- a judge, a king- anyone who justifies the wicked is an abomination to God. What’s an abomination? For starters, it a word loaded with preconceived perceptions. We’ve heard that word in movies and, personally, I realized today that I had unconsciously made an assumption that was false. When I hear it, my mind automatically associated it with someone who is too rigid and judgmental. I thought if someone called someone else an “abomination” they are probably very close-minded and ignorant. Well, that’s what I thought before God brought it to my attention today. While many people do use the word the wrong way, it still has its rightful place in the Word of God. Scripture says its something that is loathsome, vile, heinous and disgustingly wicked. Anyone who legally declares a wicked man to be right is an abomination before God.
Here’s the biggest problem people have with the Bible: God has justified the wicked, and yet scripture cannot be broken. But, to justify the wicked is an abomination to God- and this, THIS is exactly what the core of the gospel is all about. The greatest problem in all of scripture is that if God is just, He could not just forgive you. You say, “why not?” God is HOLY and just. He cannot simply turn his back on sin. He cannot simply look over it and pardon us. If He’s just, he must judge us righteously and a righteous judgment means our death in hell forever. –Before you scream “blasphemy”, finish reading. The greatest question is how can God be just and the justifier of all the wicked? Oh this is good! Why shouldn’t we answer the questions no one else wants to talk about? God gave us the answer in His word, and if we would stop worrying about who might get offended, there would be many more people walking around with a greater understanding!
This is what the cross is all about. If God is Just, how can he Justly forgive wicked men and declare them to be legally right before him?
Think about it this way: Lets say you were to go home tonight and find your family had been slaughtered. You see the assassin standing before the last one of your family members, standing with a little bit of life in their body. He breaks their neck, drops them to the floor and laughs. He runs out the door, you run out the other door, catch him by surprise and knock him out. You bind his hands. The police come to get this person who has murdered your family and they lock him away. In due time, they present him before a judge. The judge looks down at the man who has murdered your entire family and says, “I am a very loving judge. I pardon you. Go free.” What would your response be? OUTRAGE! You would demand justice! You would call newspapers or congressmen and say that there is a judge on the bench far more wicked than the criminals that he pardons. There is something in you that cries out for justice. “This cannot be!“
Many people will tell you, “instead of being just, God was loving.” You cannot say this, its wrong. God’s love must be just. God is just. He is perfect and consistent in all His attributes. In order to pardon the wicked, the justice of God must first be satisfied, and His wrath appeased. Someone must interpose, intervene. Being that here are only two parties 1 –God and 2-man. We cant put faith in man, because he isn’t capable, so God himself must intervene to satisfy His justice, appease His wrath and make it possible to express His love in salvation towards wicked men.
How many of you have ever heard a sermon on the hatred of God? Many people believe this: “God is love, therefore He cannot hate.” –FALSE! That is not correct. God is love, therefore He must hate. Think of it this way; do you love babies? If you love babies, you must hate abortion. If you love Jewish people, you must hate the holocaust. If you love God, you must hate sin. There is no neutrality. If you truly love that which is right, there is also an animosity, an enmity against all that is contradictory. God loves all that is right, all that is true and all that is virtuous, but scripture after scripture tell us that His hatred is manifested against wickedness. Consider this verse from Psalms: “The boastful shall not stand before Your eyes. You hate all who do iniquity.” (5:5) It does not say that Gods hatred is manifested towards the wicked DEED, but towards the one who commits it. Do not be mistaken; Gods hatred is not like ours. Its not egotistical, self-centered, and selfish hatred. It is the reaction of a Holy God towards men who are vile. You ask, “who are you speaking of?“ -Every man who is ever born a son of Adam (that’s ever man born…period.)
Just what do you think the wrath of God is? Some impersonal thing that flies out from behind the throne of God? No, It is GOD! People always say, “God saved me from my sin.” No, God saved you from Him. You know all those passages in the bible that say things like, “prepare to meet thy God,” “God is Holy, He cannot look upon iniquity, His eyes are too pure,” “His wrath is revealed against all unrighteousness”? You, in your sin, being encountered by a Holy God, equates to only one response… wrath. But God’s love is of such a character that it is even able to love, and show love towards the objects of His wrath. It is as though in one hand God is holding back Hs justice from the men of this world, and with the other He is pleading for men to come to Jesus for salvation. Be aware, one day, both hands will be dropped.
You might have heard this, “Heaven is Heaven because God is there and Hell is hell because God is not that.” That is not what scripture teaches. Hell is the wrath of the Almighty God. It is His perfect justice revealed against men throughout eternity. If you would only read the bible, you would see this is true! Preachers wont say this anymore because they want big churches. We must warn men, and tell them that God, all day long, extends His hand to disobedient people. Read the book of Revelation. You say, “hell, the wrath of God? Well I just don’t believe that.” What you believe doesn’t really matter. What does scripture teach? There is the wrath of God and it is the result of Him being righteous, holy, loving and good. Can God be loving and not move against wickedness? No. Can He be good and be apathetic towards evil? Absolutely not. God will judge men. He will. The question is this, how can anyone be saved? Here’s our answer. The cross of Jesus Christ. Christ went to that tree and died. With his death, He satisfied the justice of God! This is why He is the ONLY WAY! No one else, (Go ahead, send me hate messages. I’m going to tell you the truth regardless), no one else in the history of this universe did what Jesus did. No one else can save you- no other spiritual leader or prophet, NO ONE. Jesus Christ is the way, the truth, and the life, and no one goes to the Father EXCEPT THROUGH HIM! People get mad at me all the time and tell me that I “need to understand that everyone has their own way, and I should be more understanding.” You might like me more if I was “more understanding”, but how would I be loving you if I allowed you to believe such a lie? If I really cared about the eternity of your soul, shouldn’t I try to show you the way to the One who saves it? Jesus died the death of His people (that is, the death that we deserve) to satisfy Gods justice….AND GOT UP! He lives!
Others will say, “God looked down from Heaven at the suffering that was inflicted upon His Son by the hands of the Romans and He counted that as payment for our sin. “ Wrong again. We’re not saved merely because the Romans beat Jesus, or nailed Him to a tree. If you’re saved, its because when they nailed Him to the tree, He bore your sin and God the Father crushed His only begotten Son. It was God who had to dish out the punishment. It is God who had been offended. It was Gods wrath that had been kindled. Someone had to suffer. Jesus did.
Read Isaiah 53:10 It pleased the Lord to crush Him. It was GODS WILL TO BRUISE HIM! Jesus was born to die. That was His reason for existence in the flesh- to be an offering for our sins. While Jesus was hanging on that cross, He cried out, “My God my God. Why have You forsaken me?” Many will say the reason for this is that God could no longer bear to look upon His son suffering like that. That’s not that Jesus taught. What did He teach? When Jesus said this, He was directing us back to psalms 22- which just so happens to be the only chapter in the bible SOLELY dedicated to the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. (I learned that from Pastor James’ Christmas message at the Shreveport convention center.) Verse 1 says, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” This is the complaint of the Messiah while he’s on the tree. (I have tears even as I write this. I sometimes wonder if I’ll ever grasp fully what Jesus went through.) And then, in verse 4, Jesus gives an argument, saying, “ Our fathers trusted in You. They trusted, and You delivered them.” He was saying, “There has never been a time in the history of the covenant of Israel where the righteous called out to You and You forsook them… but I Your Son call out to You and I have done no wrong. Why have you forsaken me??” In verse 6 He gives the answer, “You are Holy, but I am a worm.”
God is holy, and man is not. What fixes this? What bridges the gap? Someone had to die OUTSIDE OF THE FAVORABLE PRESENCE OF GOD! Someone had to become the curse, the scapegoat. In the old covenant, spiritual leaders would lay hands on a goat, symbolically transferring the sins of Israel to that scapegoat. Then, it would be would be slaughtered and one would driven outside the gates of the city left to wonder in the wilderness and die. So Christ suffered outside the gates of the city, cut off from the favorable presence of God. He bore the sins of His people and became a curse. Even before His own father. How lightly we take this! Gosh, I have so often underestimated what this means! Forgive me Jesus.
Galatians 3 says, “For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them. But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith And the law is not of faith: but, The man that doeth them shall live in them. Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree” v. 10-13. Every man who has ever broken even one law of God has broken the whole law. Do you know what it means to be a curse before a Holy God in a Holy heaven? It’s a very terrible, horrible thing! It means we would be so vile and heinous in our sin that the last thing we would hear when we stepped into hell is all of creation applauding God for relieving them of such a vile thing as us.
But Christ redeemed us fro the curse of the law. How? By becoming a curse for us on our behalf. The filth, the guilt, the shame, before a Holy God, the sense of being cut off from His favorable presence, of dying without Him… that separation.
Then, not just separation, but wrath. Justice had to be poured out. It had to be.
On the cross the wrath (justice) of God was poured out upon the head of His only Son, and it pleased the Lord to crush Him. When Jesus is in the garden and 3 times He prayed, “Let this cup pass from me.”
Many have said that the cup was the cross and the nails. That is not true. If that were the case, it would mean that the Captain of our salvation is not as brave as His own followers. Is it not true that after the ascension of Christ, countless Christians have died on crosses, crucified upside down, dipped in tar, and set on fire to light the streets of Rome??? It is true, check any history book! And yet many of them went to their death singing hymns of Joy. So the disciples of Christ went singing hymns of joy, but the Messiah Himself cowers in a garden and doesn’t want to go? Absolutely NOT! No, no, no! Do you honestly think the Lord of Glory fears a whip?
What was in the cup? – God’s wrath.
Someone had to drink the cup of God’s wrath, to satisfy His justice. Christ, on the cross, took the cup of wrath and drank it down. Do you see what the cross is really about? Look at what God has done. He took it upon Himself to do our sin away. His only Son submitted in love and joy, willingly to God’s plan for us. A price had to be paid and Jesus Christ stood in our law-place and was crushed under the will of His Father. When he cried out, “It is finished”, its like He turned over that cup and not one drop of wrath came out… He drank it all. Justice has been satisfied completely. He proved once and for all that God is just and the justifier of wicked men.
Why wouldn’t you want to accept someone who gave their life for you? You say you don’t believe in this: Are you willing to accept the consequences if you’re wrong? Why not surrender to a God who is Love? Is it because of pride? Arrogance? – What is stopping you from letting the One who loves you more than you have the capacity to fathom Hold you in His arms?
JESUS, my heart is more overwhelmed every time You give me a greater understanding of what You did for me. Thank You will never be enough, but I am eternally grateful nonetheless. Jesus, you are Lord, and You deserve more than my feeble words could ever ever ever describe. Thank You.