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The Power of the Cross

Notes & Transcripts

The Power of the Cross

Ephesians 2:11-19

Sermon by Rick Crandall

Grayson Baptist Church - May, 27, 2012

*One of the most famous pictures of World War II is of five brave Marines raising the American flag on the island of Iwo Jima. More than five thousand Marines gave their lives to capture that eight-square-mile island from the Japanese. And today there is a large statue to honor the men who fought and died in that terrible battle. The statue is based on the Iwo Jima picture, and it is just across the Potomac River from Washington D.C.

*The man in the center of the Iwo Jima photo was John Bradley. After the war, Bradley moved back to Antigo, Wisconsin, married his high school sweetheart, and raised a family.

*John Bradley won the Navy Cross for saving a fellow Marine’s life, but he preferred not to talk about the war. And he absolutely refused to accept the hero worship that others tried to force on him. When his young son James said something to Dad about being a hero, John Bradley replied, “The heroes of Iwo Jima are the guys who didn’t come back.” Our veterans would say the same thing. (1)

*Tomorrow is Memorial Day and it should be much more than a day-off for us. We should remember the million-plus men and women who sacrificed their lives to help make and keep us free.

*The freedom we have cost much more than money. Many people gave their all, so that we might be free today. And their sacrifice helps point us to the greatest sacrifice of all: The death of Jesus Christ on the cross for our sins.

*There is no way that we can exaggerate the importance of the cross to our world. There is no way that we can exaggerate the importance of the cross to us. And as the Apostle Paul speaks to Christians in these verses, God shows us what the cross can do in our lives.

1. First of all, the cross can fill our hearts with hope.

*Paul reminds us of this truth in vs. 12-13, where he describes our lives before we trusted in Jesus:

12. . . at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.

13. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been made near by the blood of Christ.

*Believers: Without Jesus, we had no hope. And I care enough about you to tell you that if you do not know Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, you are without hope right now. But Jesus Christ can give you hope. And Jesus will give you hope, if you will trust in Him.

*Jesus will give you a joyful and confident expectation of eternal salvation.

-But it came at the highest price for Him: The blood of Christ in vs. 13 is the blood that Jesus poured out when He died on the cross for our sins.

*But Jesus rose from the dead!

-And when we receive the Risen Lord as our Savior, we have hope.

*The cross can fill our hearts with hope.

2. And it can break down barriers between us.

*Paul pointed out this truth in vs. 14&15, where he was talking about Jesus and said:

14. For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of division between us,

15. having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace,

*Jesus Himself is our peace! He “has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of division between us.”

*Pastor Jim Black helped us understand these verses when he said: “Remember that Paul is talking to Gentiles, like (probably all of us here today). ‘Uncircumcision’ in vs. 11 was a typical disrespectful term used by the Jews to describe the Gentiles. They (i.e. we) were considered to be heathens, clearly not the people of God.”

*And Jim said: “It would be hard to adequately describe in today’s terms the (scorn) that the Jews had for Gentiles. As wide as the divide has been between whites and blacks in America, I don’t think that quite does it justice.

*The divide was racial, but extended far beyond race.

-It was political, but extended far beyond politics.

-It was religious, but extended far beyond religion.

*Other ancient Jewish writings refer to the Gentiles as ‘fuel for the fires of hell.’ In the Temple in the first century there was a literal dividing wall which separated the important part of the Temple, the Court of the Israelites from the Court of the Gentiles. Signs were posted in Latin and Greek to warn Gentiles not to go any farther into the temple under the penalty of death.” (2)

*There was a huge wall between Jews and Gentiles. But the cross of Jesus Christ can turn even the worst of enemies into best friends. And this matters to us, because there are all kinds of walls between people today. Think about your relationships in your family, at school and work, even at church.

*Satan does everything he can to build walls between us. He uses our pride and our prejudice, even our personal preferences to build walls. So the walls go up between husbands and wives, between parents and children, between Christian friends. But we must remember that Jesus is our peace. “He has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of division between us.”

*I am married to one of the best women I have ever met. But there have been times when enormous walls came between us. There was no way we could get over the walls on our own, and sometimes we didn’t even want to.

*But one time years ago, God showed me that I could stand on this verse. I asked the Lord to break down the walls between us. And by His grace, He always came through.

*Now, I know that there are some impossible situations. There are those cases where no matter what you do, it wouldn’t be enough. You could stand on your head for 24 hours a day, and it still wouldn’t help, because the other person was not willing. That’s why Romans 12:18 tells Christians, “If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.”

*And remember the Lord’s sad cry in Matthew 23:37, "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!”

*Yes there are impossible situations. But you keep trying. And you keep trusting in the Lord, because “He is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of division between us.”

*The cross can break down barriers between us.

3. And it can heal God’s holy hostility toward us.

*Listen again to what Paul said about Jesus in vs. 15-17:

15. having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace,

16. and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity.

17. And He came and preached peace to you who were afar off and to those who were near.

*“Hostility” -- That’s the meaning of that word “enmity” in vs. 15&16. And yes, he was talking about the hostility between the Jews and Gentiles. But Paul was talking even more about the hostility between us and God.

*We must understand that God has holy hostility toward sin. As Romans 1:18 says: “The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness.”

*God’s wrath is real. And His wrath against sin burns hotter than the sun!

-So Hebrews 12:29 says: “Our God is a consuming fire.”

*God’s wrath is real, and it is on the way for those who don’t know Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. John 3:36 says: “He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.”

*Only one thing could cool the fire of God’s wrath, and that was the cross of Jesus Christ. Romans 5:8&9 tells Christians that:

8. . . God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

9. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him.

*And when it comes to Christians, 1 Thess 1:9-10 says that we:

9. . . turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God,

10. and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, even Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.

*1 Thess 5:9-10 tells believers that:

9. . . God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ,

10. who died for us, that whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him.

*Many years ago an American missionary met one of his Indian converts on a forest trail. As they talked, the missionary said this to the younger Christian: "Tell me what your heart says about Jesus."

*The Indian stood still, paused awhile, and then replied: "Stop, and I will show you." Then he stooped down to gather some dry leaves into a circle, with an open space in the middle.

*The Indian found a worm, dropped it into the center of the circle, and set the leaves on fire. Flames quickly spread around the circle, and the poor worm, began to feel the heat. He wiggled all around, trying to find a way to escape.

*Then the worm lay still, hopelessly exhausted. But the Indian reached out and lifted up the worm. Then he laid it on the cool ground, beyond the danger of the flames. And the young Christian said, "This is what Jesus did for me, and this is what I owe to him." (3)

*We cannot save ourselves. Only Jesus can save us from the fiery wrath of God. But it came at the highest price for Him.

-When Jesus reached down to save us, He took our place.

-He took our suffering and pain when He died on the cross for our sins.

*Only the cross can heal God’s holy hostility toward us.

4. The cross can also give us instant access to the Almighty.

*This access is a wonderful gift and we see it in vs. 18: “For through Him (i.e. through Jesus) we both (i.e. both Jews and Gentiles) have access by one Spirit to the Father.” In other words: “Through Jesus we all have access by one Spirit to the Father.”

*When we trust in the Lord, we get instant access to God the Father in Heaven. We have “access.” It’s a great word, with two great word pictures in the original language. William Barclay explained:

[1] First, “access” was the “regular word for introducing or ushering someone into the presence of royalty” and God. “Jesus ushers us into the very presence of God. . . And when that door is opened what we find is grace; not condemnation, not judgment, not vengeance, but the sheer, undeserved, incredible kindness of God."

[2] But there was another picture in this word “access.” It’s the picture of the safe harbor you desperately seek, when you are out on the stormy seas. When we trust in Jesus, we have access to; “we have reached the safe harbor of God's grace” and peace. “For through (Jesus) we both have access by one Spirit to the Father.” (4)

*The cross of Jesus Christ opens the door into the presence of God. In fact, Jesus is the door! Listen to the Lord in John 10:

7. Then Jesus said to them again, "Most assuredly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep.

8. All who ever came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them.

9. I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture.

*You may never get access to the Super Bowl. (The average price of the tickets last year was over $5,000.)

-You will almost certainly never get access to the Queen of England or the President of the United States.

-But through Jesus Christ you can have access to God the Father anytime day or night!

*That’s what Jesus did for us when He died on the cross. So in John 14:6, He said: “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father but by me.”

*The cross can give us instant access to the Almighty.

5. And it can make Heaven our home.

*Verse 19 makes this clear, when it tells believers: “Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God.”

*Christian, you are not going to be a stranger in Heaven!

-In this verse God gives you a double guarantee that you will belong.

[1] First, He gives you the guarantee of citizenship.

*By the grace of God I am a citizen of the United States. And I am so thankful for that! We live in a country where millions of people desperately want to get in, -- not out. Think about that. And I don’t ever have to worry about being put out, because I am a citizen. But infinitely more important to me is that by the cross of Jesus Christ, I am a citizen of Heaven. And you can be too.

[2] But there is another guarantee in vs. 19. It’s the guarantee of family.

*“Now you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God.” When we receive Jesus as our Lord and savior, we are born again into the Family of God! And when we go to Heaven, we will be going home.

*That’s our hope, and it comes through the cross of Jesus Christ.

*Jack Morgan had this hope. In 1991, our country fought the first war against Iraq. And at the Billy Graham crusade in Seattle that year, a woman named Shirley Lansing gave the testimony of her son. She told the crowd: “I come with a story about my son, John Kendall Morgan. He was a Warrant Officer in the US Army, serving in Operation Desert Storm.”

*Shirley also told them that her son, Jack, had committed his life to Jesus at an early age. At that time, she said, it didn't seem terribly important, but it was.

*Then Shirley said, “A few weeks ago, two officers came to our door and told us they regretted to inform us that our son had been killed in action. His helicopter had been shot down by hostile Iraqi fire. Each of you has the decision to make that my son made. And this is the time when you have a choice, because we never know how long we'll have to make that decision.”

*Three weeks before John Morgan was killed in action, half a world from home, he wrote two letters to his family, “just in case.” Shirley and her family gathered together to read the letters after they received the word that their son had been killed. John's words reassured his family. And he ended his letter with these words, “In case you have to open this, please don't worry. I am all right. Now I know something you don't know: What heaven's like!” (5)

CONCLUSION:

*There is no way we can really know what Heaven is like until we get there.

-But Christians, one thing we do know is this: It will be like home.

*And it can be your home by the cross of Jesus Christ.

*Trust in the Lord, and discover the power of the cross:

-Real hope in your heart.

-Impossible barriers broken down.

-God’s holy hostility taken away.

-Instant access to Almighty God.

-And an everlasting home for you in Heaven.

*Trust in the cross of Jesus Christ as we go to God in prayer.

1. James Bradley with Ron Powers, “The Man in the Photograph,” Flags of our Fathers - Reprinted in Reader’s Digest, Nov. 2000, pp. 125-129) (Source: “Memorial Day” by Angela Akers - John 15: 12-17 - Dynamic Preaching sermon - May #6 - 2002

2. Adapted from SermonCentral sermon “Our Peace” by Jim Black - Eph 2:11-22

3. Original source unknown

4. BARCLAY'S DAILY BIBLE STUDY SERIES (NT) by William Barclay, Revised Edition (C) Copyright 1975 William Barclay. First published by the Saint Andrew Press, Edinburgh, Scotland - The Westminster Press, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania - AT HOME WITH GOD - Romans 5:1-5

5. David Holwick illustration #2616 - SOURCE: Dynamic Preaching Disk, Spring 1993 "A" - AUTHOR: "Hope For The Troubled Heart." Billy Graham. Grason, 1991, p. 225 - DATE: 311993

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