CORE VALUE 5: COMMUNICATE CHRIST & HIS CROSS
The following is a summary of my October 30 sermon at the Cornerstone Church:
Part 5 of Forward Together. Philippians 1:12-18a
At the Cornerstone, all our decisions are directed by our six core values. Today, we're looking at number 5: Communicate Christ and his Cross.
Our passage today shows us we aren’t the first to think this way. Communicating Christ and his Cross was an urgent priority for the Apostle Paul. He was in prison, but his focus was on the Gospel - the good news about Christ and his cross.
He was excited to tell the church in Philippi about his experience:
Verse 12: the gospel was advancing.
Verse 13: the whole imperial guard had heard about Christ.
Verse 14: Roman Christians were boldly sharing the word.
Verse 18: Christ was proclaimed and Paul rejoiced.
So … I’m reading all that and I’m thinking … why is communicating Christ and the Cross so important to Paul? And why might it be important to us and to our church? The answers are in the rest of the letter.
Let me highlight TWO of them:
A. THE GOSPEL CREATES CHRISTIANS - 1:5.
“… because of your partnership in the gospel” - Philippians 1:5
The church in Philippi existed BECAUSE Paul taught them about Christ. And they became fellow participants/partners in the gospel, in Christ, and in salvation.
You can read all about the power of the Gospel message in Philippi in Acts 16: Paul shared the message with Lydia and she believed and was saved. Then he got thrown in jail and he shared the message with the jailor and he and his family believed and were saved.
The message about Christ and his Cross has massive spiritual power. For example, it transformed the city of Ephesus:
And now you have also heard the truth, the Good News that God saves you. And when you believed in Christ, he identified you as his own by giving you the Holy Spirit, whom he promised long ago. - Ephesians 1:13 NLT
That’s what happened to you - right? You heard and believed. (If not, talk to me after)
A couple of months ago, I sat down with a couple to talk - we’ll call them Jack and Jill. I discovered that Jack was not yet a believer. So I shared Christ and the Cross with him. I gave him a copy of the “Done” book which we have on the book table. A few days later, I received an email from Jack: “I wanted to let you know that I was not angry, or bitter after our meeting. I appreciate the way you conveyed the message to us. That being said, I had something else I wanted to share with you. Today after lunch, I got back to work earlier than usual, so I was sitting in my truck, and the best way to explain it is, something came over me. I prayed for salvation. Again, it's a difficult feeling to describe, but I'll try. After I said amen, I was overwhelmed with feelings of joy. I couldn't help but laugh. I had chills, and couldn't stop smiling. I feel so good right now!”
The gospel has supernatural power to create genuine Christians and churches. God works through the message when we share it.
B. THE GOSPEL CLARIFIES CULTURE - 2:11
The world can seem chaotic and out of control. But the message about Christ and his Cross assures us that there is a plan running through it all:
And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. - Philippians 2:8-11
The message about Christ and his Cross tells us what the plan is: History is flowing to a culminating, final, event: the day on which God receives all the glory in the universe.
The Gospel message also tells us what people are: We were made by God for the glory of God. We were created for a sacred purpose, which gives each and every one of us value and purpose.
Forgetting these foundational truths about life and humans has led to dire consequences in modern Western society. Francis Schaeffer warned us about this 40 years ago in his classic book, “How Should We Then Live?” He predicted the loss of a biblical view of history and humanity. He accurately painted a picture of secular humanism in which:
God would be removed from the public square.
Humans would be reduced to evolved biological machines without intrinsic value.
Abortion would reach epic proportions.
Euthanasia would become commonplace - he predicted the progression: terminally ill, mentally ill, old, infirm, and eventually anyone deemed surplus to requirements or a nuisance.
Religious liberty would be taken away from the church.
Unfortunately, this is exactly the point at which we’ve arrived.
But there is better news: the good news about Christ and his Cross. The gospel is the true humanism. Because it restores us to God and our dignity. It affirms God’s glory and our and value and meaning and purpose.
This might be the greatest conundrum in history: why did Jesus die for broken, godless, sinful humans? Psalm 139:13-18 has an answer. Listen to this description of a human being - the dignity, the value, the place God gives us in his universe:
"You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb. Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it. You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion, as I was woven together in the dark of the womb. You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed. How precious are your thoughts about me, O God. They cannot be numbered! I can’t even count them; they outnumber the grains of sand! And when I wake up, you are still with me!"
Individual human beings matter to God. And Christ and his Cross confirm that.
We have a wonderful message to share. It brings life and hope, and it breaks chains. It glorifies God and it dignifies humans.
Emily Armstrong is a thirty-something mother of three living in London, Ontario. I read about her testimony of faith in Christianity Today online. Her story is of moving from the Bahai religion, to working on the technical side of the porn industry, to finding Christ.
The turning point in Emily’s life happened when she was invited to an Alpha Course where she learned about Christ and the Cross (Alpha is an evangelistic curriculum developed by Nicky Gumbel, the pastor of Holy Trinity Anglican Church in Brompton, England). Emily was not immediately converted, but some months later she and her boyfriend Aaron began to experience extreme demonic attacks in their home. In her testimony, she describes the feelings of extreme fear. She thought she was losing her mind. Then the most wonderful transformation happened:
“But in that moment, despite the terror, I understood that Jesus was my hope. So there in the bed that I shared with my boyfriend, I pleaded with God to save me. I already knew that I had to repent: of trying to be holy through a faith that promised perfection; of helping to sell online pornography; and ultimately, of relying on myself. As I prayed in repentance, the fog I cowered under lifted. There was a sudden clarity: Yes, this is true, this is real—Jesus really is the Son of God.”
Isn't that similar to what happened to you? Someone dared to share Christ and the Cross with you. You turned from sin to trust Jesus as Savior and God. You found life and hope and release from spiritual chains.
Would you ask the Lord to open doors, to make you bold, to help you speak up?
Rick Warren is the pastor of Saddleback Church. He wrote last Wednesday about the power of personal invitation:
"In 36 years at Saddleback, we’ve never had a planned, organized visitation program. Yet, we’ve baptized over 47,000 people! Our church has grown simply by inviting one person at a time, friends from work, from school, and from the neighborhood, and from social networks." http://pastors.com/evangelism-in-a-digital-social-age/?mc_cid=57528e4e26&mc_eid=f7b07cdd62
This is our mindset: No one is so lost that Christ cannot find them. No one is so ruined that the Cross cannot restore them.
HUMANS AS EVOLVED BIOLOGICAL MACHINES
Francis Schaeffer predicted that secular humanist philosophy would result in humans being classified as machines - not embodied souls. This purely materialistic understanding has paved the way for the growing acceptance of practices such as abortion and euthanasia.
Astro-physicist, Stephen Hawkin, in his book The Grand Design wrote:
“It is hard to imagine how free will can operate if our behavior is determined by physical law, so it seems that we are no more than biological machines and that free will is just an illusion.”
Francis Crick, who helped discover DNA, wrote in his book The Astonishing Hypothesis:
"a person's mental activities are entirely due to the behavior of nerve cells, glial cells, and the atoms, ions, and molecules that make them up and influence them." Crick claims that scientific study of the brain during the 20th century led to acceptance of consciousness, free will, and the human soul as subjects for scientific investigation.”
Francis Schaeffer accurately predicted to rise of abortions. In 2011, twenty-one percent of all pregnancies resulted in abortions. Abortion is now euphemistically called reproductive health and is actually a key plank in the Democratic Party platform:
“Democrats are committed to protecting and advancing reproductive health, rights, and justice. We believe unequivocally, like the majority of Americans, that every woman should have access to quality reproductive health care services, including safe and legal abortion—regardless of where she lives, how much money she makes, or how she is insured. We believe that reproductive health is core to women’s, men’s, and young people’s health and wellbeing. We will continue to stand up to Republican efforts to defund Planned Parenthood health centers, which provide critical health services to millions of people. We will continue to oppose—and seek to overturn—federal and state laws and policies that impede a woman’s access to abortion, including by repealing the Hyde Amendment.” 2016 Democratic Party Platform, page 37.
Schaeffer also predicted that euthanasia would become accepted practice as a result of secular humanism and the degrading of human dignity. Again, he was correct. According to Wikipedia:
“Euthanasia is illegal in most of the United States. Physician aid in dying (PAD), or assisted suicide, is legal in the states of Washington, Oregon, California, and Vermont; its status is disputed in Montana. The key difference between euthanasia and PAD is who administers the lethal dose of medication: Euthanasia entails the physician or another third party administering the medication, whereas PAD requires the patient to self-administer the medication and to determine whether and when to do this.”(Wikipedia)
“Efforts to change government policies on euthanasia of human lives in the 20th and 21st centuries have met limited success in Western countries. Human euthanasia policies have also been developed by a variety of NGOs, most notably medical associations and advocacy organizations. As of June 2016, human euthanasia is legal in the Netherlands, Belgium, Colombia, and Luxembourg. Assisted suicide is legal in Switzerland, Germany, Japan, Canada, and in the US states of Washington, Oregon, Vermont, Montana, and California.” (Wikipedia)
Euthanasia is legal in Canada under certain circumstances. You can read about one family’s experience here.
THE DEATH OF RELIGIOUS LIBERTY
In his article found at Charisma Magazine online, October 28, 2016, Dr. Michael Brown cites several recent examples of intrusions on religious liberty. You can read it here.
The October 2016 print edition of Decision Magazine contains an article about Judge Ruth Neely, whose religious liberty has been ignored and denied.