The Crux Of Our BoastingSeries: Reflections On The Cross
THE CRUX OF OUR BOASTING
Sermon Outline By Terry Siverd
Cortland Church of Christ / September 18, 2016
? Seven Sundays is now underway … Friends & Day and Fall Fest on October 9th ?
Saul of Tarsus was a man with a satchel full of notable accomplishments.
In Acts, in public settings, he testifies about his excellent standing among his peers.
Before a gathering of Jewish leaders, in Acts22:3-5a he notes - -
I am a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city, educated under Gamaliel,
strictly according to the law of our fathers, being zealous for God, just as you are today.
And I persecuted this Way to the death, binding and putting both men and women into prisons,
as also the high priest and all the Council of the elders can testify.
Before King Agrippa, in Acts 26:4-5 & 9-11, he affirms - -
So then, all Jews know my manner of life from my youth up, which from the beginning was spent
among my own nation and at Jerusalem; since they have know about me for a long time previously,
if they are willing to testify, that I lived as a Pharisee according to the strictest sect of our religion…
I thought to myself that I had to do many things hostile to the name of Jesus of Nazareth.
And this is just what I did in Jerusalem; not only did I lock up many of the saints in prisons,
having received authority from the chief priests, but also when they were being put to death
I cast my vote against them. And as I punished them often in all the synagogues, I tried to force them
to blaspheme; and being furiously enraged against them, I kept pursuing them even to foreign cities.
In Paul’s letter to the church at Philippi, he writes in Philp.3:4-6 - -
I myself might have confidence even in the flesh. If anyone else has a mind to put
confidence in the flesh, I far more: circumcised on the eight day, of the nation of Israel,
of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the Law, a Pharisee;
as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to the righteousness which is in the Law, found blameless.
From these three citations we can put together a profile of Saul of Tarsus.
He was a Jewish blueblood - - a Hebrew of Hebrews, from the seed of Benjamin.
Although he was born in Tarsus of Cilicia, his roots were deeply embedded in the soil of Jerusalem.
He was educated at the feet of Gamaliel, one of the most highly-respected teachers of the Torah.
His training as Pharisee was superb and superior in every way, creating an intense focus on keeping the Law.
As a zealot, his fervor was directed against Christians, whom he viewed as renegades and underminers of the Law.
Saul was the ringleader of those who stoned Stephen (Acts 7:58).
Stephen’s stoning ignited a widespread persecution of Christians and Saul was firebrand leading the charge.
Not long after Stephen’s death, Saul was on his way to Damascus.
He had in his pocket warrants for the arrests of Christians whom he intended to ferret out.
On this journey, as he approached Damascus, his life changed radically because He met up with Jesus.
“Suddenly, a light from heaven flashed around him and he fell to the ground, a heard a Voice.” (Acts 9:3-4).
The Voice said to him (Acts 9:5-6),
I am Jesus whom you are persecuting, but rise and enter the city, and it shall be told to you what you must do”
For three days Saul fasted and prayed - - (Acts 9:9 & 11).
God directed a messenger named Ananias to go to Saul and deliver a life-changing message.
Ananias was nervous, to say the least, and he tried to educate God about the terrorist-like reputation of this man Saul.
But God insisted that Ananias go to Saul, despite his resistance and notwithstanding his hesitancy, saying (Acts 9:15).
He is a chosen instrument of Mine, to bear My name before the Gentiles, and kings and
The sons of Israel; for I will show him how much he must suffer for My name’s sake.
Ananias went, and Saul listened to his words and responded immediately. cf. Acts 22:16 with Acts 9:18
Arise, and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on His name … And he arose and was baptized./
Saul’s receptivity speaks volumes about the authenticity and power of this encounter with Jesus.
From this point forward we never see Saul of Tarsus looking backward.
Perhaps the only exception was to think or speak words similar to those he wrote in Philp.3:7-8 - -
Whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ.
More than than, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord…
From the Damascus road onward Saul of Tarsus - - Saul the agitator and
Saul the aggravator - - is henceforth transformed into Paul the apostle.
From that day forward he appears transfixed by the cross of Christ.
I think we can safely say that no one has ever been more fixated on the cross of Christ than the apostle Paul.
His message is “the word of the cross” (1Cor.1:18).
His determination is such that he chooses to “know nothing…except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified” (1Cor.2:2).
I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins… (1Cor.15:3).
Perhaps nowhere do we see this fixation encapsulated more than in Paul’s brief letter to the churches in Galatia.
No doubt this is because the focus of that letter was to combat those who were interested in negating the cross.
The epistle to the Galatians was likely Paul’s first epistle and as such, it serves as a “mission statement” of sorts.
In this epistle (to the Galatians) we meet one affirmation after another, all anchored in the cross of Christ.
In this epistle, which epitomizes the entire life of Paul, THE CROSS IS PERVASIVE.
Gal.1:3-4 / grace to you and peace from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for
our sins, that He might deliver us out of this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father.
In the cross we have SALVATION.
Gal.2:20-21 / I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life
which I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and delivered Himself up for me.
In the cross our lives experience CHANGE.
Gal.3:1 / You foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you,
before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified.
In the cross is the heart of Paul’s PREACHING. cf. 1Cor.1:23 / we preach Christ crucified.
Gal.3:13 / Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us - -
for it is written, ‘cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree’.
In the cross we have REMDEPTION by means of SUBSTITUTION. On the cross Christ bore our curse.
Gal.5:14 / Now those who belong to Christ have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
In the cross we can achieve HOLINESS.
Gal.6:12 / Those who make a good showing in the flesh try to compel you to be
circumcised, simply (so that) they may not be persecuted for the cross of Christ.
In the cross we are blessed with TRIALS and even PERSECUTIONS.
Gal.6:14 / May it never be that I should boast, except in the cross of our Lord
Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.
The cross is our only cause for BOASTING.
On this last note we will close, after a few more brief comments.
We humans tend to be a boastful bunch. It seems to be a part of our humanity - - engrained in our DNA.
We like to brag. We enjoy boasting. We get a fix out of being the first and the best.
Toward the end of August I found myself dwelling on how great the Indians’ pitching staff was - -
the only team in baseball with five starters with 10 wins or more. I found myself taking great pride in that stat.
Our pitchers were stunning - - stifling and stupefying our opponents - - just mowing them over.
But with the dog days of summer and the arrival of September, all of a sudden we’re hurting.
Salazar is out. Tomlin is iffy at best. Baeur is somewhat unpredicatable. Carrasco is struggling and may now be out.
What was a juggernaut of five dynamite arms, has suddenly been reduced to Cory Kluber and the tired and untested.
We’ve now won 85 games, but I want more. I want to be the best in the American League (Texas has won 88).
And boasting is greedy - - I want to have more wins that any other team (in the NL Chicago Cubs have won 94).
I like to think I’m good at scrabble. I can regularly bests the bots (robots / the computer) by 100 points of more.
But lately I have been getting put in my place. The other day I lost five games in a row to a lady in Connecticut.
I was getting pulverized. This lady was throwing down seven letter words to the tune of about three per game.
I discovered after the third game that my opponent was 85 - - she smiled, saying “you get better with age”.
I know this is all silly stuff. Whatever it is that causes us to boast or brag really doesn’t amount to much.
Whether it’s being good at scrabble … or being a fan of a winning baseball team … or having the prettiest wife …
or the greenest lawn … or the shiniest or coolest car … or having the biggest muscles … or being Homecoming King …
or getting the best score on an ACT exam … or being the brightest and the best in a variety of ways … etc.
None of this really amounts to much except when it comes to this all-important matter of salvation and redemption.
On this vital subject we must acknowledge, accept and affirm
in no uncertain terms that it is not about US and our skills or accomplishments.
When it comes to being right with God, all we can do is humbly kneel in prayer and ask for grace and forgiveness.
Based on our own merits or our own moments of excellence, not one of us has a leg to stand on.
But God in His rich mercy invites us all to STAND TALL IN JESUS.
And this new standing is only given to those who chose to stand beneath and in the cross of Christ.
The cross (Latin, crux) is our only basis for glory - -the crux of our boasting.
May it be our fervent and constant prayer that God would always keep us near the cross.
There and there only is the source and grounds for our boasting and our glory.
“God made (Jesus) who knew sin to be sin on our behalf,
that we might become the righteousness of God IN HIM.”