Abounding Grace (Vol.43) – The Freedom that comes through the Cross
Sunday English Service – 07 NOV 21
Please turn with me to Galatians, chapter 5. I’d like to read from two portions in Galatians chapter 5. In chapter 5, I’ll read from verse 10 to 13 and in chapter 6, I’ll read from verse 14 to 16. First, we’ll read from verse 10 to 13, in chapter 5: I have confidence in you, in the Lord, that you will have no other mind; but he who troubles you shall bear his judgment, whoever he is.
And I, brethren, if I still preach circumcision, why do I still suffer persecution? Then the offense of the cross has ceased. I could wish that those who trouble you would even cut themselves off! For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.
Chapter 6, verse 14: But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but a new creation. And as many as walk according to this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God.
Well, we’ve gathered together here, in spite of all this rain, and some of you have come bearing this rain and thank God for that. So, we’ll still preach and look at the Word of God today. Let God speak to us.
We’ve been preaching about grace, “Abounding grace”. We call it “Abounding grace” because Paul says, “Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound”, meaning that sin ruins people’s lives but when God’s grace comes in salvation, it restores man and makes his life even more beautiful than what was before because where sin abounds, grace does much more abound. Whatever power sin has to destroy and ruin, the power of grace is much more than that. It’s able to repair, rectify, redeem, and make everything beautiful. All right.
Now, in talking about this grace, we came to Galatians and we looked at chapter 4, and some of chapter 5 already. Today, I want to talk about how faith in Christ brings us into a life of freedom, to a life of freedom. The Cross of Jesus Christ, and our faith in the Cross, and what has happened there brings us into freedom. And the modern definition of freedom, the modern people define freedom in this way. They say freedom is doing whatever you want, being able to do whatever you want. Freedom is self-determination for them, without limits, that nobody should limit them in any way. Nobody should hamper them. They should be able to do whatever they want; in whichever way they want. That’s what freedom is defined as today. Self-determination without limits. Freedom is doing whatever you want, they say.
A great modern-day example is what I told you a couple of weeks ago, about a woman that was interviewed in a foreign country, on her 50th birthday. A very famous person interviewed on her 50th birthday. She talks a lot about this freedom. And so, they asked her what freedom is all about. She said, “The important thing about freedom is, you mustn’t let others limit what you want to do. That’s what freedom is”, she said. Then the interviewer asked her, “Have you had the freedom you wanted?” And she thought about it and she said, “Yes”. Well, she says, “Of course, you are not free when you are in love. But fortunately, you can’t be in love all the time. So apart from when I’m in love, yes, I’ve been free”. What a statement. She says, “When you are in love, you cannot be free. So, whenever you’re in love, you’re not free. And so fortunately, you can’t be in love all the time. So apart from when I’m in love, I’ve been free.” She’s talking about her marriage. She says, “When you’re living a relationship of love with someone else, you really can’t be free, because you have to give up certain things for the sake of the other person that is now with you, the other person that you claim to love. When you live in that love relationship, you cannot be really free, you are kind of bound. Because that relationship demands that you do certain things. And you’re restricted, and you’re hampered in so many ways.” It’s like someone else has tied you up. Many people look at marriage as being tied up. And that’s the modern definition of freedom.
Modern definition says that you cannot live in a relationship of love without tension. So, this means that if you want to be free, you cannot be married. Marriage will be a problem. According to the modern definition, which says that freedom is the ability to do whatever you want, and that you don’t have to sacrifice anything for anybody. You should be able to be free to do whatever you want. Now, in that definition, marriage becomes a huge difficulty; you cannot have a married life because marriage demands that you get along with the other person, live with the other person, consider the other person, and so on. That’s the worldly definition of marriage. But the Bible definition of marriage is totally different. Paul says, “You’ve been called to liberty”, in verse 13. He says that you’ve been called to liberty, freedom. Christianity sets people free. Sets people free, to do what? Sets people free in what way? Sets people free from all the things that they are bound by, because of sin, because of what sin has done. Sin has ruined people. So, people live with a lot of hang-ups today, a lot of anger, a lot of frustration, a lot of jealousy, envy, strife, bitterness; all of these things are part of human life today. Many people live with that, bear that, walk around with that, work with that. They’re living with that, and that makes life very complicated.
And Paul says, “You’ve been called to liberty”; you’ve been called to live free from that, and not be a slave to all of these things. A life of sin is a life of slavery but Christian life is a life of liberty. So, he says, “You’ve been called to liberty”, he says in verse 13. But then he says this, look at the definition, Christian definition, of liberty, “Only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love, serve one another”. He says, “You’re called to be free. You’re free to do whatever you want. But the thing is, there’s a condition there. Don’t use that liberty as an opportunity for the flesh.” That means, don’t use that liberty to do things that will just satisfy your desires and your wants and your needs. Use that opportunity, use that liberty as an opportunity to love and serve one another in love, through love. What a definition; exactly the opposite of the world’s definition. The world’s definition says, “Through liberty, means that you have the freedom of self-determination without limits, that you should be able to do what you want”, they say. Christian definition says, Bible definition says, “Yeah, you’ve been called to liberty, freedom, but don’t use that liberty as an opportunity for the flesh to satisfy your desires and whatever you want but use that as an opportunity so that, through love you serve one another.” There’s a big gap between these two definitions.
Now, I believe the Bible gives the best tense, the most sophisticated, the wisest, the most brilliant answer to the modern problem of freedom. Its definition is unique. And in Paul’s letter to the Galatians, he talks a lot about it – what a life of freedom is all about. In fact, if you read the rest of chapter 5, which we’ll come to in the next couple of weeks, it talks about how to live in that freedom. Verse 14, for example, the next verse says, For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” The entire law is fulfilled in one word and that line is: “You shall love your neighbour as yourself”, and then listen to this: But if you bite and devour one another, beware lest you be consumed by one another! Animals eat one another, kill, hunt, and devour one another; sometimes human life has become like that. He says, “If you devour one another”. Now human beings do that also; they tear up each other. It’s a very complicated world. And the Bible says, “If you bite and devour one another, beware lest you be consumed by one another!” Then it says, “I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another,” It’s talking about how there is something called the ‘flesh’, which is totally against God and everything that God stands for. That’s what is called ‘flesh’. Flesh, in the New Testament, does not refer to this flesh that covers our bones. It refers to our ideas, our thoughts, and our notions that are totally contrary to God.
So, it says there is a warfare going on between the flesh and the spirit, but you walk in the Spirit. The flesh lusts against the Spirit and the Spirit lusts against the flesh. These are contrary to one another so that you do not do the things that you wish. The text tells you exactly the opposite of what human, what worldly definition of freedom tells you. It says you can’t do what you wish. ‘Walking in the flesh’, means that you do whatever you wish. You don’t have any consideration for others; just do whatever you wish, because you call that freedom. He says, “No, you can’t do anything, you can’t do things that you wish just like that”. But if you’re led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Then it talks about, the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like. That’s what I was talking about. Human life is so complicated because of sin. All of these things have come in. People are complicated. They’ve got all these things inside of them. The works of the flesh. What do they want to do? Here is a list of what they want to do; this is what they want to do, it says. “The works of the flesh are evident”, he says. And big list, horrible list of works of the flesh. Which includes, jealousy, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the life. But then verse 22, says, But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control, Against such there is no law. And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another. So, you can get an idea of the Bible definition of love from this whole passage. I’m just going to cover verse 10 to 13 and chapter 6, verse 14 to 16, this morning.
So, Paul is writing to the Galatians. He’s telling them, he says, “Stand fast in the liberty wherewith Christ to set you free, and do not be entangled in the yoke of bondage.” He calls their life before coming to Christ as a life of bondage. In what way were they bound? They were bound by the desires of the flesh. They just did whatever they wanted. Sin dominated their life. They just did whatever their heart wished. That’s the way they lived – “bound”, he says. But now, they are set free. Set free to be what? Free in the sense that they are now able to serve one another in love. That’s what Christian freedom means. Christian freedom is the most positive thing, it’s the most wholesome thing, it’s the most amazing thing is to be able to serve one another with love, and not just going out and doing whatever you want to do. But to go out and live the way God has originally intended for us and made for us to live.
Now, he has been teaching that to these people, the Galatians. They have come to Christ and they put their faith in Christ. They’re all Gentiles, and the Jewish Judaizers, legalizers, go into the church and they are telling them, you get circumcised, you follow the law, and you do this, you do that, and so on. He’s telling them, “Believe in Jesus Christ, you will be saved. And as a saved person, now you live a new life. And you will follow what the law says, because you are saved”. But they are telling the exact opposite. They said, “You believe in Jesus Christ, then you follow the law. That is what will get you saved. Salvation comes in the end”, they say, But Paul says, “Once you put your faith in Christ, you’re saved. And thereafter, you do the works of a saved person”. But they come and teach exactly the opposite. And Paul says, “Not only is it a wrong doctrine, doctrinally wrong, it is going to take you into bondage”, he says. It’s going to take you into a life of bondage. It’s going to take you into a life where you feel anger, frustration, bitterness, strife, all of those things. It’s going to take you right back into what you were before. And I’ll show you how that amounts to bondage. When you go into the law and live by the law, you will get back into a life of bondage. So, he says, “Don’t go back into it. Keep your freedom, keep your liberty, this wholesome liberty that Christ has brought into your life”.
Now, what is this freedom, this radical freedom that Christianity talks about, and Christianity claims that it brings through Jesus Christ? And how to get that freedom and how to keep the freedom. That’s what we want to talk about. He says, “Two things you have to do.” He says, “First, you have to understand that the message of the Cross first comes as an offense to you. You’ve got to get over that offense to believe in the Gospel.” The Gospel preaching, the Christian preaching, offends everybody in some way. It is a stumbling block. People come because the teachings of Jesus sound beautiful and wonderful. They say, “Oh, that’s wonderful; that’s good teaching. Maybe we need to follow this, live by this”, and they come. But then, they like Christ, they like the teachings of Christ but the message of the Cross, that He died on a cross, shed His blood and died this gruesome death. And the message that says, “It is that death on the Cross of Calvary that saves us”, is offensive to people because that message says, the message of the Cross says that He had to come from Heaven, because there is not one person here, in the whole world that can save us. That all of us are sinners, that all of us are disqualified before God, therefore not one of us could save any other person. And therefore, the Son of God Himself had to descend from Heaven and be born as a man to save us and to save us by taking our sin and our punishment for our sin. And that is the reason for His death on the Cross of Calvary and that’s how it saves us.
Now, that’s offensive to people. They say, “What do you mean? You mean to say that, without Him, I can’t be saved. Without him, I’m in bondage to sin. Without Him, I’m a bound person. I’m a slave to sin, that He comes in sets me free. Wait a minute. I like Jesus. I like the Sermon on the Mount. I like the teachings of Jesus. But I don’t like this ‘Cross’ business, that He had to come and be born here and die on the cross in order to save. This is nonsense”, they say. The message of the Cross is an offense. And that’s what Paul says here. He says, in verse 11, if you read, he says, “If I still preach circumcision, why do I still suffer persecution?” If I preach circumcision, then the offense of the Cross has seized. The Cross will not be offensive. If I preach circumcision, what am I preaching? I’m saying, “Are you circumcised?” If you’re circumcised, then you’re into the Kingdom of God, you’re into the blessing of Abraham, you can come and receive the blessing of God, God accepts you. That’s the circumcision preaching. That’s the law preaching. If I preach like that, then Cross does not come in at all. The offense of the Cross is gone, removed. Why my preaching is offensive is because I preach Christ! Not just preach Christ but Christ crucified.
In 1 Corinthians chapter 1, in verse 22, Paul says, “For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified.” Now, listen to this about Christ crucified. It’s not just Christ, Christ crucified, that’s offensive. So, Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block, and to the Greeks, foolishness. The Jews when they hear about Jesus being the Messiah, they come near, they want it. It looks nice, they are coming near, but then, when you talk about the Saviour that hangs on a cross and dies in between two thieves, in utter shame, not being able to save Himself, crying, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” The Jews say, “I don’t want any part of this”, you know? “Is this the Messiah? Is this the Saviour? Why can He not save Himself? How is He going to save me?” And then, they say, “You mean to say my circumcision is of no value, my keeping the law is of no value, my being good is no value, that only this death on the cross is going to save me?” They find it offensive. Not only the Jews, but the Greeks also find it offensive. Paul says, “If I’m preaching circumcision, and the law and all of that, then the offense of the Cross will not be there. Right now, what I’m preaching is offensive, because my preaching is about preaching Christ crucified.” He says, “Jews request a sign, Greeks seek after wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness.” Then verse 24, he says, “But to those who are called”, in other words, those who have gotten over this stumbling block, those who have understood the Gospel, those who have got a revelation of what this Gospel is all about, and believed in Jesus, those who have crossed over that offense and come in. He says, “Christ, the power of God”, to those people. Christ is the power of God, and the wisdom of God. See, Jews are seeking for power; Greeks are seeking wisdom. And in Christ, all that those people are seeking is there. “When you come to Christ and believe in Christ, you will find the power that you’re searching for or asking for, and you will find the wisdom that you’re asking for”, he says.
So first, you’ve got to understand the Cross is an offense to every everybody. And secondly, you get over the offense and believe in Jesus Christ and then, you become a person who boasts only in the Cross and nothing else. When you come in first, Cross is the stumbling block. You don’t want it because of the Cross. The Cross is the thing that stops you from coming and believing Jesus, believing in Jesus usually, but then you get over that, and you believe in Him, and then, you turn exactly the opposite direction. Now, you say like Paul, “I boast nothing else other than the Cross of Jesus Christ”. That’s a true Christian. Let’s explain this. Let’s explain the offense of the Cross.
I just read to you: The Greeks seek wisdom and the Jews request a sign or power. Right? So, let’s talk about the Greek first. They seek wisdom it seems. The world was divided into two groups in those days: the Jews or God’s people and the Greeks. The whole world was ruled by Greeks in those days. So, when it says, “Greeks”, it’s talking about the Gentile world, the complete Gentile world. So, the Jews and the Greeks; that’s how the world was divided. Now, Paul talks about a third group. He says, “The Jews request a sign, Greeks seek for wisdom, but we (that’s the third group), we, the Christians, we preach Christ crucified”. So, there’s a group that’s requiring power. They say, “Show me the power”. There’s another group that says, “Show me wisdom”. But there is a third group that says, “No, no, no, we believe in Jesus Christ crucified”. So, “the Greeks seek wisdom”, he says. Let’s talk about this wisdom. That means that there’s a large group of people in this world that think, the problem with the world is that we need wisdom. If only somebody can come and give us the wisdom, preach wisdom, everything is going to be all right; we’ll get wise to have a good life. That is why the Greeks believed in philosophy. They listened to philosophers. Listening to the lectures of the philosophers was very favourite thing for Greeks. They had built halls in various towns and cities. Like in Ephesus, there is the Hall of Tyrannus, a philosopher. Morning and evening, he conducts classes there; he lectures on philosophy. Philosophy deals with these things. And Paul takes that hall for two years. In between the time that he uses it, Paul rents it and he preaches there for two years. So, this was the practice among the Greeks, the Greek practice, to hear lectures on philosophy. In Athens, there was this place where they gathered and heard lectures on philosophy. So, they are great believers in philosophy. They say, “We need wisdom and philosophy is about wisdom. Give us some great philosophy; we need some great wisdom to make our life successful. If we just had philosophy, wisdom, then everything is going to be all right”. That’s what they believe. The educated intellectuals have always believed that knowledge will set people free and wisdom will lead to great, wonderful life. That’s what they believe. And those very people, when they hear about the Cross of Jesus Christ, it’s very offensive to them. Because they believe in wisdom as the answer for the world. They say, “What do you mean Christ to die on a cross is the Saviour of the world. Nonsense”, they say.
There was a British philosopher back in the turn of the 19th century, who said this about the atonement. Atonement is the doctrine of the cross. It’s about how Christ made atonement for our sins, how He dealt with our sins on the Cross of Calvary so He can solve the sin problem. That’s called the Doctrine of Atonement. He said this about atonement. He said, “The doctrines of sin and atonement are intellectually contemptible and morally outrageous”. That’s hatred towards Cross, the doctrine of atonement. That’s outright hatred, outrage against the message of the Cross. Now, if you’re a philosopher, you won’t be yelling at people, you won’t be angry at people who expressed an opposite view. If you’re a proper philosopher, you’d want to discuss, you’ll want to argue your point, you will say, “You tell me your opinion; I’ll tell you my opinion”. That’s the way they’ll go about it. And these philosophers do that; this very man does it and other things. But when it comes to Christ crucified, the doctrine of sin and atonement, they end up hating it. They have such a revolt against it. They’re outraged by it. They find it contemptible. Very strong words.
There was a man named, Bertrand Russell. You’ve probably heard of him. Bertrand Russell. And he said about the doctrine of sin and atonement, he said this: “No one who’s profoundly – means deeply – human can really believe that God would punish sin like this. See, the preaching of the Cross says that Jesus died because of our sins, He carried our sins, and His death was a punishment of our sins. So, he says that anyone who’s profoundly human, cannot really believe that God would punish sin like this. He says, “You mean to say that there is a God and He hate sin and this is how He deals with sin and this is how He punishes it?” I mean if somebody makes a mistake, we forgive that such a person, that’s human. We, human beings face this all the time. Somebody makes a mistake, somebody offends us, in some ways, somebody does something wrong. We forgive them. What kind of God is this that crucifies a person because of some sin? “Any decent person who’s deeply human, cannot believe this nonsense”, he says. You can see that they’re outraged by it. They have a gut-level opposition to the idea of the Cross of Christ and salvation through that. They don’t hate the idea of Jesus. They like the idea of Jesus as a wise Man. They like the idea of Jesus’s teaching. These are the very same people that liked the Sermon on the Mount, and they appreciate, you know, the various aspects of the Sermon on the Mount and so on. They say, “Oh, look at that”, you know. He says, “Blessed are the peacemakers”, and we love that. He says, “If they slap you on one side of your face, show them the other side. That’s wonderful, wonderful teaching”, they say. And they say, he says, “Forgive everybody. Don’t commit adultery, don’t commit murder, don’t do this, don’t do that. That’s wonderful. All these teachings we need because that makes a person so wonderful. We like the teachings of Jesus; we like that Jesus that teaches. We don’t like the Jesus that hang on the Cross. And we don’t like you saying that it’s by hanging on the cross, that He saves me”. This is the problem.
I don’t know if people my age will remember the famous musical that came that was called ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’. When I was in college, I remember, I think back in 70, or 71, sometime during that. I remember, some of the guys in the college got together, musicians, and they put on a show, ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ in the Music Academy. And there was a lot of criticism about that. I remember people writing about it in the newspaper, and so on. I didn’t understand the issue so well in my younger days, because I didn’t understand really what was wrong with it but I knew there was some strong criticism. I can see why a little bit of why they were criticizing; I can see the point of why they were criticizing. The criticism was about this; the whole thing about Jesus Christ Superstar was this: That musical gives a picture of Jesus, who was a good man and a good teacher. But the problem with this good man and good teacher is this: that at some point in His life, people elevate Him to another status, that He ceases to be just a good man and a teacher. Now, they claim that He’s the Saviour, and that He saves by dying on the cross. This is the problem, they say. That’s not good. We like Jesus, the teacher; He’s a good man. In that, there is a song which Judas sings, and they show it as Judas singing, and the words go like this: And all the good You’ve done will soon be swept away. And You’ve begun to matter more than the things You say. In other words, Judas is saying, Judas is very sceptical about this idea of dying on the cross. And he looks at Jesus and says, “All the good You’ve done, will be soon swept away. If you’re going to be like this. Just teach, just be a nice man. Just be a great philosopher. Everything will be fine. And because You’ve brought this nonsense about dying on the Cross and saving people, now You begin to matter more than the things You say. Without the things You say are the most important thing. You say that You matter more than the things that You say. That’s the problem with You!” The things that Jesus say are important. But as soon as you talk about Him as a Saviour, as soon as you talk about Him dying on the Cross, they find it intellectually contemptible, reprehensible, outrageous. Amazing.
They love the idea of teacher, but they don’t like the idea of the Jesus who saves. Jesus Christ was crucified. Why? Why don’t they like this idea of Jesus dying on the Cross? I told you the message of the Cross says that He’s hanging there because of your sin. God took your sin and put it on Him. And that’s why He’s hanging there and that’s why He’s dying. And this is how man is saved. You immediately say, “Well, why does He have to come all the way from Heaven and die like this? Somebody can do this here, some great men of God, God-man, somebody can do that”. And the answer the Bible uses: there’s no one to do that. That’s why He had to come as a man, Son of God had to come as a man. He had to come and do it. Nobody can save you. Nothing that you do, can save yourself. Nothing that anybody can do, can save yourself. All are lost. Therefore, He had to come to save. That’s why it’s offensive. Let me put it another way and this will really reveal why there is such an offense about the message of the Cross. The message of the Cross says to those people that are seeking for wisdom, those people that that believe, just give me wisdom, everything will be alright, we’ll just learn wisdom, and we’ll be a better people. And the message of the Cross says to them, Your problem is not wisdom. The problem with you is your heart. Your heart is wicked; that’s the problem. What’s the use of wisdom? Wisdom can teach so many good things but your heart is bad. Therefore, no matter how much wisdom is taught, you’re not able to live according to that wisdom. The power to live is not there because you’re bound by sin, and you’re going in that direction. You only know anger, frustration, jealousy, envy, all of those things. You’re operating by that, by all those works of the flesh that is going on. You’re not able to come up with the fruit of the Spirit. Your heart is not good, because your heart only has the works of flesh in it. Everything that your heart thinks about is against God because the sin has shaped and formed your heart like that. Since the time you’re born, born, and raised in sin, and you come out like that. So, the works of the flesh are things that just flow out of you. Anger flows, wrath flows, envy flows, jealousy flows. Look how complicated human life has become. Boy, it’s very difficult to live with another person. Have you ever realized that? You put two people in one room, you’re lucky if they don’t eat each other, you know, kill each other, sometimes. Very complicated. And Cross says, your problem is not that you need wisdom, you need a new heart. You need a change of heart, somebody to come and give you a new heart. Let me prove it to you.
Now, some of you may think well, how come you’re so sure about that? Let me give you a very simple example. Today, there is such a great deal of things, a great deal of talk about capitalism versus socialism, you know. Turn on the television, everybody’s talking about this. Some people are saying, “Well, it’s all turning into capitalism. Few businessmen are going to own everything, and they’re going to do everything, they’re going to earn everything. So, we need socialism”, some people say, because capitalism doesn’t care for people. There are few individuals, they’re going to make the money, they’re going to become big. They won’t care about anybody. People’s welfare will not be taken care of. The businessmen, they will take care of their welfare and they will do whatever is advantageous to them. They will control us and they will become rich and we become nothing. They don’t care about us. So, capitalism is bad, they say. Socialism people, they say, bring everything to socialism, because socialism will care for people, because the government will run everything. Capitalism was bad. Socialism is government run stuff, everything government will run, so that they’ll care about people. They’re not caring about profit; the businessman will care only about profits. Socialism will care about people, they say. So, they’re debating heartly, these two things, capitalism, or socialism. I said to you, the problem is not capitalism or socialism, the problem is the heart of man. Man is evil. So, capitalism won’t work, socialism also will not work. That is why it is not working. That is why capitalism is not working, because everybody is greedy and they grab for what they want. Few people on the top want to own everything and get everything and their greed lands everybody in trouble. And socialism also doesn’t work because you think socialism is going to care for people. But when the government runs everything, people are just happy to have a nice government job. They get a salary, whether they do the job or not, salary will come. And they only care about their salary and their welfare, not about the welfare of the people. So, both ways, both of them are failure. Capitalism is a failure, socialism is failure, not because they are flawed, they may have some flaws in them but ultimately, the flaw is in man, man who’s running these things. Once you get the heart changed, if a person changes, then the heart has changed. Capitalism will work and socialism will work; you can easily use either one of those things. It will benefit people; benefit will come to people. Because what sin is ultimately is selfishness. It only cares for oneself; it doesn’t care for others. That’s what makes capitalism so ruthless, sometimes. And that’s what makes socialism so useless. Because there’s a few people sitting there that just care about themselves. So, all others are left out. It’s a problem of selfishness.
So, though he was blaming capitalism or socialism, it’s man’s heart. That is why, see? That is why it doesn’t work. No use talking about all of these things. You need a changed heart, you need a new heart, you need to become a new person. The selfishness that we’ve driven out, this complication has to go, the works of the flesh must be put down, the fruit of the Spirit as to become the fact of life. See, if all we need his wisdom, then really, we don’t even need Jesus because every religion in the world preaches some kind of wisdom. Now, tell me which religion says murdering is okay, stealing is okay, cheating is okay? No, no, no, religion teaches like that. Every religion teaches: Do not murder; do not kill; do not steal; do not lie; honour your father and mother. All of these things are taught by every major religion, basically similar, so if it’s without the Bible, without Jesus, you get all those things. Then what is the difference? What is it that Christianity brings in, that others don’t bring in? The difference is this. All of them teach this basic same thing. They tell us a lot of things, a lot of wisdom is given, a lot of solutions are offered. A lot of wisdom is given but nobody is able to practice it. Nobody’s able to do it. Christianity is the only thing that talks about salvation from the bondage of sin, so that men can come into the freedom to be able to do the things that he must do as a result of being motivated by love. Christianity talks about salvation, which is freedom, which results in freedom, where a man is set free from all these things that inhibit him, from all these complications of the works of the flesh. So, he is set free, so he can do the things motivated by love. Instead of using the liberty as an occasion for the flesh, a Christian is able to use this opportunity to serve one another in love. He experiences the freedom of a different kind. The best kind. The freedom that really enables people to live as a society together, the liberty that enables people to live in a family life, in a marriage, and in all these relationships. The other freedom that people talk about, the ability to do whatever you want, whenever you want, whatever way you want, that’s not freedom at all because it is because of that kind of freedom that is inculcated, marriages fail, family fails, relationships fail, societies fail, and there is such a hatred generated and such jealousy and envy and strife and all of these things result from it. Alright.
The Greeks are seeking for wisdom. The Cross says, “No, wisdom is no what you need; you need a new heart, man. Wisdom is not going to solve your problem. Your heart is bad.” That’s why they don’t like it. They don’t like the Cross. They think they can come and get some wisdom and go home and say we’ve got the answers. But the message of the Cross says you need salvation, you need a Saviour.
Let’s talk about the Jews. They want a sign or power as 1 Corinthians 1 talks about. In verse 24, it says, they want power. This is common. This is not that philosopher; they’re not so sophisticated. They look at these philosophers and they find them useless. They just find these philosophers talk a lot and don’t do anything. So, they don’t believe in the philosophers. So, the common man, he says, “Hey, look, in the world, this is a problem. We see it this way. There are good people in this world, then there are bad people, then there are ugly people. It’s like the good old, good, bad, and ugly stuff, you know. There are three kinds of people. The good people: we need more of good people. That’s when the world’s problem is going to be solved. You need to be a good husband, you need to be a good father, you need to be a good citizen, you need to be a good person, a decent person, doing the right things. And then the society, the whole society, will be a better place as a result of good people being there. The problem with the society is these bad people and the ugly people that are there, that are mean and ugly and violent and wicked. They’re the ones that are causing the problems. The world is like this because of these mean, wicked, violent, ugly people. These criminals, these guys that are so bad.
So, they say, “What’s the use of preaching about the Cross? There’s no use preaching about the Cross.” Plus, the Cross, to them. is offensive because the Cross says you say that there’s good, bad, and ugly – three kinds of people. And the Cross says the good and the bad and the ugly, everybody needs Jesus. He puts them all in the same category. That’s what they don’t like. They say, “What do you mean? You know how good I am? You know what a nice person I am? What a decent person I am? How educated I am? How decently I behave? I don’t have any criminal record; I don’t know anything bad. You mean to say that I am on the same level before God as the other person that is so bad and ugly and mean and wicked and violent?” So, what these people are saying is, I’ve not done anything wrong. Those people are doing all things wrong. So, I must be a person that must have access to God and Heaven and everything, all the blessedness and privilege and everything because of my goodness. But the Bible disagrees. The Bible says, “No, there is not one person good in this whole world. All have sinned and come short on the glory of God. There is no difference.”
The Bible says, in Romans chapter 3, there’s a beautiful verse that says something like this, you know, you can’t put it better than that. In Romans, chapter 3, from verse 24, in English. It says, “Even the righteousness of God,” – it’s talking about how no man can come to God and qualify himself before God with his own righteousness. No man can come before God and say, “I’m righteous, let me in, I have the right to come to You because I’m good and righteous”. It’s talking about that. Every man can come to God only by the righteousness which God Himself gives. You cannot produce the righteousness that God demands. You can produce some righteousness; you can be better than the other person and so on. But you cannot produce the righteousness that God wants. That’s why Martin Luther was completely frustrated. He would climb the staircase on his knees, repenting and praying and asking God to forgive him and all that. His knee would wear off; he would fast and pray and struggled so hard because he thought all of these things will qualify him before God, it will take him to God, will find him righteous before God. Then he found out that all of this is filthy rags. Our righteousness is filthy rags. That’s what the Bible says. So, he was angry. One time, he went to an old man, old priest in this church and said, “Look at this God; He’s a mean God. He’s asking for a righteousness that I cannot give. He says that I should be as righteous as He is, then only He will accept me. I should come to Him with the righteousness that He Himself has. I can bring my best but how can I bring the righteousness that God has? It’s impossible for a man to be as righteous as God. No matter how much a man tries, he cannot be as righteous as God. How can a God, a good God, expect man to bring something that he cannot possibly bring?”
He was about to lose his faith in God. And one day, he was meditating on the Word and God spoke to him and God said, “Look, you think I’m bad because I’m asking you to bring My righteousness and you are not able to bring, show righteousness on My level. You’re angry about that. Don’t you know, I know that you cannot, with all your trying, no matter how good you are, you cannot produce a righteousness that I demand. My righteousness. the righteousness on my level, you cannot bring it. That is why I have sent to My Son and made Him die on the Cross where I took your sins and put it on Him and took His righteousness and put it on you. Righteousness is given as a gift. I’m not a mean, wicked God, asking or demanding for something that you cannot give. I am the loving God who has made His Son the sacrifice, put the sin of the whole world on Him and took His righteousness and put it on you, given to you as a gift so you can have it by grace and through faith”. That is when the Protestant movement started, that revolutionized his life. But these people are not able to understand it. They’d say, “You mean to say that we good people are on the same level before God with all the bad people and the ugly people? What kind of Gospel is this? We don’t want nothing of this.”
Let me give you an example and you’ll understand it. You take three people out to the ocean here and put them in the waters, in the sea. You ask them to swim all the way to Australia. Now, you know how far Australia is; that’s thousands of miles and you want them to swim and make it there. Out of the three, one doesn’t know swimming at all. The second person is a guy who regularly goes to the swimming pool, does his forty laps for exercise. He’s a pretty good swimmer. The third guy is an Olympic gold medallist swimmer; he can really swim. You put all three of them in water and you tell them you’ll see them in Australia; come and meet me there.
Well, you can be sure all three of them are going to die. The one that doesn’t know any swimming needs somebody to come with a rescue boat within 50 feet from where you left him. He won’t last beyond that. He’s going to drown and die if you don’t send a boat to rescue him. The guy who swims in the swimming pool and does his laps is not going to make it for very long. He may swim for a mile and no more than that. He needs a rescue boat to rescue him, otherwise he’s going to drown. And the guy who’s an Olympic gold medallist, even though he’s an Olympic gold medallist, excellent swimmer, how long can he swim? 100 miles or 150 miles? He cannot make it beyond that. But Australia so long; it’s impossible. All three of them are going to drown. That’s the way human beings are before God, that kind of righteousness that God demands and asks, is something that nobody can afford, nobody can bring, nobody has the possibility of bringing. That is the essence of the Gospel. The Gospel says, “You can’t bring it, no matter how much you try it, you cannot bring it. I’m going to give it to you. The only way you can have it is when I give it, you’ll have it. It’s by grace and through faith.” But these people say, “Oh no. There are good people, there are bad people, and then, there are ugly people.” God says, “No, everybody’s the same; all are equal in my sight.” When God looks at you, everybody looks the same. Between us, there can be differences. I agree that there are people that are better than others. There are people that are very excellent people just like the gold medallist swimmer. There are people that are very good, champions of morality and goodness. But even they are sinners before God. In what way are they sinners? They’ve not done anything wrong. The Bible doesn’t talk about sin as a wrong act. It is not a deed. The Bible describes people as sinners. Not necessarily that they do sin; sinful deeds result from being sinners but first of all, they’re sinners. These good people, they also have sin in their hearts.
Paul was a good man, educated man, a religious man. And he says, in Romans chapter 7, the thing that I want to do I’m not able to do; the thing that I don’t want to do I end up doing. I know that the law of God is good; I want to do it but I’m not able to do. The thing that I know is wrong, I end up doing, How come? He says, because I found out the problem. There is sin residing in me. That’s the problem. That’s why I always say the 10 Commandments, you know, people sometimes, like Paul believed, in Philippians 3, he talks about it. “I’ve been impeccable as an observer of the law”, he says. “I’ve never disobeyed the law; I’ve been impeccable.” What a claim. He says, “I’ve been impeccable with regards to the law. Well, the 10 Commandments were never given so that anybody can pass the test and come to God as a result. I’ve said that so many times.” People said, “Oh, I’ve done every one of those things: 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9. Everything, I’ve done, but in the 10th Commandment God put a hitch. The 10th Commandment is not about what you did or what you did not do. The 10th Commandment is about what is in your heart because the 10th Commandment is not about a deed. It’s about to what is in your heart: Thou shalt not covet. Covetousness is something in the heart and in the works of the flesh that covetousness is listed. Covetousness brings such problems in this world. People are complicated. They may be outwardly so right and never had a criminal record or anything, but because of that covetousness, families are torn, marriages are torn, societies come apart because covetousness in an ordinary thing. It works from people’s hearts and destroys everything. So, sin is much more than what we think it is. It’s not like they think, “I’ve never done anything wrong.” No. It works from the heart and causes such damage and Paul is talking about that.
So, the Cross is an offense in this way. The Cross points of the real problem. “The problem is in your heart”, it says. And secondly, once a person realizes that what the Cross says is true. See, we all got saved, getting over the offense. We were offended. We didn’t like people calling us sinners. We didn’t like people saying, “You are a sinner; you’ve got to get saved. Repent; get save!” We didn’t like that. Who likes that? Nobody will like that. But at one point we got over that. We realize yes, it’s right; the Bible is right; the message of the Cross is right. We got over that and got saved. And then, what happens? Paul says, “You get over the offense of the Cross, and then, you be in the boast only in the Cross and nothing else.” Only in the Cross and nothing else.
Now, what does it mean to boast in the Cross? We boast in certain things. We know that if you have a job of your dreams, and you’re dreaming about a job and then finally you get it, you’ve got something to boast about, right? You’re very happy and say, “Wow! I’ve achieved something great.” Or somebody writes to you and says, “You’re the best at what you do. There couldn’t be anyone else that can do any better than you do it. You’re the best.” You feel so good, you know? You don’t go around bragging about it, you know, because nobody likes to braggart. We are not so foolish to go and brag about it, but we feel good about it and we think about it. We bring it up to our mind and we think about it as something big. Isn’t that right? Or some compliment or some award or something given to us, makes us boast in these things, that I’ve done something, I’ve achieved something and I’ve been recognized for my achievement. That’s something big. But that doesn’t mean you brag about it, but you still, inside you, there is boasting about it. And whenever you feel down and depressed because of certain circumstances, this thing that you boast about, you feel good about this. You’re proud of your achievements. You’re proud of the awards. You’re proud of whatever somebody said. That gives you a boost; that gives you motivation. So, in that way it’s good.
So, boasting about something is something that we understand. We boast about certain things. But what Paul is saying is this: a true Christian can be identified by what he boasts about. A true Christian is not one who just believes in the Cross. A true Christian is not one who just enjoys the Cross or finds it as an inspiration. A true Christian is not somebody who’s got it in his house or around his neck or something like that, because he likes it so much and it’s very inspirational or something like that. A true Christian is one who boasts in the Cross and boasts only in the Cross. He thinks that the Cross is the biggest thing in his life. He thinks that the Cross is the fountain of everything that he is, everything he has become, and everything he hopes for, has come down to him from the Cross. It is the Cross that has brought everything; the Cross that has given him meaning for life. The Cross, he feels, is the centre of his universe, and therefore, he thinks about it, and explores the truth about the Cross and he revels in in, rejoices in it. That’s what boasting means. And if you boast in anything else other than the Cross, then that amounts to bondage. You’re not free when you boast in other things, other than the Cross.
For example, if you boast on circumcision. That’s what was happening in Galatian church. These guys came and preached the circumcision and the law and everything. So, everybody’s boasting about the circumcision. They are going around asking, “Are you circumcised? Have you got it done? How about you? Why didn’t you do it?” And the guys who got circumcised are lifting their shoulders up, above everybody and they’re proud that they are now qualified as children of Abraham, qualified for a blessing, and keeping the law the same way. It makes them proud and they boast about it, but the thing is, with the law, this is the problem. You can never be perfect, according to the law. Because you are human beings, somewhere, you’re going to err, somewhere there’s going to be some problem. You’re going to make a mistake somewhere because you’re a human being and when you make one mistake, my friend you’re doomed, you’re finished. It’ll crush you. That’s what happens when you boast in circumcision or boast in the law. All of a sudden, you’re crushed. You find yourself disqualified before God. You find yourself worthless but if you boast on the Christ and the Cross and what has come to you as a result of the Cross, that nobody in the whole universe can change. Jesus never fails. He never sins. He never dies. He is risen and lives forevermore. He is your intercessor. Nothing and nobody can change what he has done and what he’s doing for you right now. That’s why you need to boast on the Cross only.
People boast about a lot of things that will get you under bondage. Let me give you another example. Something people boast about is their looks, that they’re good looking. It’s good that you’re good looking but how long is it going to last? People that were ‘Miss World’, after a few years, somebody has to say, “This woman was Miss World, back ten years ago”, then only everybody will know because she’s changed completely, in form and shape and everything, you know, and doesn’t look like the Miss World now. Because these are things that disappear, just with a few drops of rain, beauty will disappear sometimes. I still remember one woman when I was pastoring in another country. I was giving an altar call one day, some people were getting up and coming and there was this woman that has come to church. She was all made up, full of makeup and must have spent two, three hours at least, making herself up. And she was coming, I think she had some problems. She was crying and coming, with tears flowing down her face. And I’m standing here, people are in prayer, so nobody saw her; I saw her coming. And she’s got eyelashes, you know, black eyelashes, and she’s shedding tears and then, she’d wipe away her tears. So, in her white face —she’s a white woman with a white face— you got this black thing smeared everywhere. I mean it looked so horrible; you know. I’m glad nobody saw it. Just few drops, beauty is gone. You’re going to boast about it? If you’re going to boast about it, then you’re going to be disappointed about it big time because that will not last very long. It just disappears, just like that.
People boast about accomplishments, their great accomplishments. Now, I’m glad that you’ve accomplished something but you cannot boast about it. You can have accomplishment but you cannot boast about it. You must boast only about the Cross of Jesus Christ. What will happen if you boast about your accomplishments because someone will come along, they’ll beat your accomplishment, one day. They’ll break your record; they’ll move forward and make you look like nothing. What are you going to do? You’re going to be crushed. See, why people feel anger, why people feel frustration, why people feel jealousy, why do they feel envy, why do they feel bitter, why they feel frustrated? Do you know what began that? Because they had something in their mind that they’re boasting about? Something is precious to them. They think about it as the biggest thing in their life. And they took great pride in that. And now, someone is threatening to take it away from them. It’s going to leave them; they’re going to lost it. That is why all those things come up, all the works of the flesh, we were talking about. All that comes up as a result of the hurt.
Christianity is about being free from that kind of bondage: strife, bitterness, anger, frustration, jealousy, envy, all those lists we read about the works of the flesh. A Christian is free from that. He’s not a complicated person like that. Why? How did he get free from that? The whole world is into that. The world functions on that basis. How can a Christian be free? How does Christ set you free? How does the Gospel set you free from that? How are you free from jealousy and envy and frustration and anger and wrath and all of that? How? Yeah, you like success; being successful is good. You like prosperity; prosperity is good. You like a good family, good things; that’s good. You live a comfortable life; that’s good. You desire a comfortable life – there’s nothing wrong with that; it’s good. You enjoy that; you have it. But you do not boast about any of those things. You enjoy it; you have it. God has given it to you; you are thankful about it. You’re happy about it but you do not boast about it! The only thing you boast about is the Cross of Jesus Christ! Amen. The Cross of Jesus Christ. See, all complications of life are gone, when you do that. You have no reason to be jealous. No reason to be envious. No frustration, no anger. no wrath, no bitterness. None of that stuff, none of this looking and saying, “Oh my God, how did he get all that and I’m trying for so long and nothing works?” None of that junk comes in because you realize that you are in the hands of God. And all the blessings flow from the Cross of Calvary. And you’re not always trying to compare yourself with others. Therefore, you’re not such a complicated person. You’re happy in Jesus.
I heard about a man who loved the mountains. And I like mountains also, like going [Tamil] and all that. I loved that; you know. So he goes, where he lived, there were no mountains. There was one little mountain but that was a mountain of garbage – a dust heap; a garbage dump. That’s all they had in their town. So, he’ll take the car and drive for hundreds of miles to go to a mountain. He enjoyed the mountain very much. They say that he’ll just sit there—he’s a philosopher—and he will just look at the mountains, just all day, just taking in the view, the beautiful view of the mountains, just cherish it, enjoy it just like anything. Gives him such great joy. Then he’ll get down and walk through the mountains, climb the mountains, come down the mountains, go to the length and breadth and height and depth of the mountain, explore it completely. Why?
Because he boasts about the mountains. See, he thinks the mountains are the greatest things. That’s the joy of his life. That’s the thing that he considers as ‘the big thing’. If you consider the Cross and boast on the Cross and the Cross only, then you’ll do the same. What will you do? You will gaze at the Cross. You will love looking at the Cross, learning about the Cross, reading about the Cross, meditating on the Cross. You’ll want to explore the height and the depth and the length and the breadth of that love that was displayed on the Cross of Calvary. You will be engaged in that because you think that is the biggest thing in life. That’s the greatest thing. There’s no time for any other thing. No jealousy, no envy, no strife, no bitterness, none of that nonsense, you know, that complicates life. You’re happy. You’re happy in this exploration. You’re happy in your own world. And the Bible says, “We preach Christ crucified and those who seek for wisdom, Christ is the wisdom; those who seek power, Christ is the power of God”. That’s what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 4, verse 24. People are seeking wisdom and power. He says, “We preach Christ crucified because in Christ, there is power; in Christ there is wisdom”. How come in Christ there is wisdom? In Christ there is wisdom because if it was not for the wisdom of God, that is displayed on the Cross, if God didn’t have the wisdom, then we’ll have just God who’s a God of justice, a God who has set a high standard by His laws, and He is a God of justice. And He’s going to end up punishing everybody; that’s all.
But God is the God of love also. The Cross says that the love of God and the law of God is reconciled on the Cross of Calvary. Man disobeying the laws of God is punished. And the punishment is experienced by Jesus on the Cross of Calvary. So, God can love man. That’s the wisdom of God. How can you love man, as well as punish man? The punishment for sin is death. The soul that sins shall die. So, if God must be a just God, He must punish sin. So, if He punishes sin, man will be dead. If man is dead, how can He love him? How can He be a God of love? There’s a dilemma. God cannot be both, a God of love and God of justice. If He does His justice, practices justice, man will not be spared. He’ll be punished and dead. How can He be a God of love? If He cares to be a God of love, then He cannot be a God of justice and punish him and therefore, He cannot be a God of justice. There is a dilemma. He’s got to be both, the God of lave and God of justice, at the same time. And the Cross brings these two things together, where God can be a God of justice, where He can punish sin, in the way that He said, sin must be punished. The soul that sins shall die, that is demonstrated by Christ’s death. And He also can be a God of love. He puts the sin on Jesus and He showers His love upon the sinner.
God reconciles the law and love on the Cross of Calvary, so there’s wisdom and there is the power of God displayed. So, do you boast in the Cross of Jesus Christ or do you boast in anything else? This is something that you can check yourself to see what you boast on. What are you thinking about most of the time? What do you think is the greatest thing in your life? What are you interested in? If you boast in the Cross and the Cross only, that is a proof that you are a true Christian, born-again, child of God.
Let’s all stand together; let’s pray.
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