THE POWER OF THE CROSS
These are my notes for teaching at the Cornerstone Church on Sunday, April 5, 2020.
Today is Palm Sunday, a day to remember that Jesus was acclaimed King of Israel. Hosanna! "Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!” (Luke 19:38). Hail King Jesus!
Sadly, the celebrations didn't last long. On Friday morning, Jesus was condemned and crucified. His death is tragic in one sense since it was a miscarriage of injustice and a terrible sin against God. On the other hand, his death was a decisive moment in God's plan for the world.
Last Sunday, we read that Jesus atoned for sins. His death on the cross wiped away our sins. We are forgiven in Christ. I talked about the many theories of how that happens. Today, we are focused on the power of the cross.
First, we'll gather the information and sort out the biblical picture of the power of the cross. Then, I'll show you how to live in that power every day.
JESUS DIED TO SET US FREE
Let's talk about the power of the cross. To begin, notice what Jesus said about it:
(Mark 10:45) For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom (Gk. lutron, the price of release) for many.”
This verse led the earliest Christian theologians to develop the "ransom" theory of the atonement. They proposed that we are held captive by the devil, or by sin, or by death, or by all three, and we need to be set free. On the cross, Jesus paid the ransom that sets us free.
The ransom theory led to another theory called by its Latin name Christus Victor, which means Christ the Conqueror. At the cross, Christ defeated the devil, demons, and the spiritual forces of evil that rule the world and enslave humanity and, thereby, set us free to live a new life under his leadership. One contemporary scholar writes,
"Everything Jesus was about was centered on vanquishing this empire, taking back the world that Satan had seized and restoring its rightful viceroys - humans - to their position of guardians of the earth" Greg Boyd in The Nature of the Atonement: Four Views, 2006, page 27.
The Christus Victor explanation was popular for the first 1000 years of the church, then it was sort of forgotten until recently, when it has enjoyed a resurgence. Let's talk about it. Why? Because it's time to live in the freedom Jesus gained for us on the cross.
THE PROBLEM: THE WORLD IS RULED BY EVIL POWERS
A great many Bible passages inform us that the world is ruled over and enslaved by the devil and the evil powers. Here is a sample:
(Luke 4:5-7) The devil led Jesus up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. 6 And he said to him, “I will give you all their authority and splendor; it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. 7 If you worship me, it will all be yours."
(1 John 5:19) We know that ... the whole world is under the control of the evil one.
(2 Corinthians 4:4) The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers.
(Ephesians 2:1-2) As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2 in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient.
(Ephesians 6:12) Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.
JESUS CHRIST DOMINATED THE DEVIL
God came into the world in Jesus Christ to break the devil's rule over us by establishing his own (Luke 11:20). His teachings, forgiveness, miracles, healings, and deliverances were acts of aggression against the kingdom of darkness. He put his enemies under his feet and set the captives free. Here are two of my favorite accounts:
A little boy had recurring seizures, so at first we might think his problem was physical. But Jesus revealed a deeper problem:
(Matthew 17:14-18) When they came to the crowd, a man approached Jesus and knelt before him. 15 “Lord, have mercy on my son,” he said. “He has seizures and is suffering greatly. He often falls into the fire or into the water. 16 I brought him to your disciples, but they could not heal him.” 17 “You unbelieving and perverse generation,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy here to me.” 18 Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of the boy, and he was healed at that moment.
Jesus gave his followers authority to drive out demons and they went off to try it out. Were they successful? Judge for yourself:
(Luke 10:17-20) The seventy-two returned with joy and said, “Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.” 18 He replied, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. 19 I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions (Genesis 3:15 = a metaphor for the devil/demons - crush his the serpent's head) and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. 20 However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”
In life, Jesus dominated the devil. In death, he defeated him.
JESUS CHRIST DEFEATED THE DEVIL
On the cross, Jesus died to defeat the devil. What looked like a pitiful failure was actually the scene of God's cosmic victory over the rulers, authorities, powers of this dark world and spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms (see Ephesians 6:12). On the cross ...
Jesus provided the ransom that sets the captives free:
(1 Timothy 2:5-6) There is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave himself as a ransom (Gk. antilutron, the purchase price to bring liberation from oppression) for all people.
(1 Peter 1:18-19) You know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed (Gk. lutroo, to free a slave by paying a ransom) from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.
(Revelation 5:9) You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased (Gk. agorazo, to purchase, to set a slave free by purchase) for God persons from every tribe and language and people and nation.
Jesus triumphed over the evil powers:
(John 12:31) [Referring to his death on the cross, Jesus said] "Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out."
(Colossians 2:15) Having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.
(Ephesians 1:20-22) God raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, 21 far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. 22 And God placed all things under his feet.
Now, Jesus reigns to impose his victory over the evil powers:
(1 Corinthians 15:24-26) Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death.
(Revelation 11:15) The seventh angel sounded his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, which said: “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah, and he will reign for ever and ever.”
What is our situation in all of this? Do we benefit from the triumph of Jesus Christ? If so, how?
The answer depends on your connection to Jesus? Are you still living for yourself? Then you don't benefit. But it doesn't have to be that way. Turn from yourself, from living life on your own terms. Turn to Jesus to follow him and trust him to wipe away your sin and guilt and to restore you to God. He gave himself as your ransom to set you free.
The followers of Jesus Christ have the right to live free from captivity to the devil and the cosmic evil powers. But that is easier said than done.
People who spend time in prison often experience a lot of difficulty adjusting to freedom. They are used to being confined and controlled by jailers and rules. They may have lived with fear and anxiety in a negative environment. The result is that although they are technically free, they are not able to live free. Old habits die hard. Their experience is a good analogy for our struggle to live free in Christ.
The struggle is daily, so here are the daily steps to take to live free:
Get in fight mode daily. The devil will keep on trying to win you back into old habits, old guilt, and old patterns of thinking. Don't back down and don't be afraid - fear was what kept us captive to the devil.
(1 Peter 5:8-9) Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. 9 Resist him, standing firm in the faith,
Renew your mind daily. The main point of attack is your mind, your thinking, the self-talk that controls your attitudes, emotions and actions. Remind yourself every day: this is who Christ is, this is who I am in Christ (loved, adopted, forgiven), and this is the truth in Christ.
(2 Corinthians 10:4-5) The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. 5 We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. (The context is the way Paul plans to settle discord in the church, but the ideas hold true on a personal level also.)
Get back up daily. You will make mistakes. You will not always follow Jesus. And the devil will use those moments of failure to accuse and condemn you and tell you to give up on Jesus. Don't listen to him. Claim your cleansing and forgiveness at the cross (that is the same as putting on the full armor of God) and get back up.
(Ephesians 6:10-11) Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes.
Live by faith daily. Trust that Jesus is on your side. Trust that your King loves you, provides for you, protects you, and leads you in his will and ways. Lean into that. Trust all his promises. Trust that the Spirit of Jesus will be your strength as you show love and mercy to others and as you attempt great things for God.
(John 8:36) So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.
(Galatians 5:13) You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free.
(1 Peter 2:16) Live as free people ...
You can live free in Christ. That's why he came into the world:
(1 John 3:8) The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil's work.
HOLY WEEK REMINDERS
Next Sunday, we celebrate Easter. However, all week is a special time to renew our focus on Jesus and his great love for us on the cross.
I have posted links to several Holy Week resources on our website, FamousGod.com. On the home page, scroll down to the Holy Week box. This is something you can do as a family to build strong faith together.
Finally, if you'd like to join me for a Zoom discussion about today's teaching or just to say hi, then open your Zoom app and enter the meeting ID - 252 661 567. Or you can use Zoom on your browser: https://us04web.zoom.us/j/252661567
I posted those details in the notes on Church Online Platform. I also put a link on FamousGod.com.
I'll start that meeting at 11:05 AM, EST., just a few minutes from now.