Introduction: Welcome to Expound our weekly worship and verse by verse study of the Bible. Our goal is to expand your knowledge of the truth of God as we explore the Word of God in a way that is interactive, enjoyable, and congregational.
Pastor Jesse Lusko: I just am thrilled to be here with you tonight, and tonight we're talking about the conquest of the cross. In the New Testament it flows with triumphant language. And even beyond that, back in Isaiah 53 verse 12 it says that God would give Jesus his Son the spoils of a victorious soldier, because he poured out his life unto death, and he made intercession for the rebels.
But when you hear about a conquest, when you hear about war, you can think of a number of things, because there's been a lot of them. According to G. C. Kohn's Dictionary of War, there's been over 3,010 wars in recorded human history. Only 8 percent of history had been peaceful; at some point somewhere in the world there was a war waging. And people love war, they do.
I mean, when you look at what people spend their time on, they make into their hobbies, well, what's pretty common in kind of the generation that's coming up right now is playing games. And the most successful video game franchise today is Call of Duty. And it's grossed 3 billion dollars, there's been 149 million copies of it sold of the various games they've produced, and there's been 1.6 billion hours of online game played logged for Modern Warfare 3 since 2011. That's the most recent game they have stats on. Because people love war.
But digital doesn't cut it for some folks, no, no, no, no, no. Now, there is some people you'll find decked out in, like, medieval attire with their duct tape armor and duct tape swords. And you can go to various parks and watch the—no, I kid you not. They do these reenactments, and I'm sorry, maybe these people have the gift of celibacy or something. I don't know what's going on here. Or maybe they don't realize that's where their destiny is headed, but I once, uh—I apologize for that. I cut that out of my notes and then it just came out. I don't know what happened, but—
I actually saw a bumper sticker before this kind of reenactment thing, and it said: "It's not just recreation, it's re-creation." Oh, oh, now, you're getting serious, right? That's how it is. But there's been a lot of wars fought that have been necessary, that have been noble, that have been fought for good reasons, but there's also been wars that have been completely unnecessary, people dying needlessly.
Just in the last century alone there were 160 million casualties of war. That's a lot of people; that's a lot of bloodshed. But tonight we're going to talk about the fact that Jesus Christ won the greatest war, but he was the only casualty. He conquered all things by giving his life rather than taking it. And as we think of the subject you may immediately be thinking of what's so commonly taught in classrooms today on college campuses, and that's that there's been more war fought in the name of religion than in anything else.
And they cite things like the crusades, the conquistadors who came through this whole part of the world and did atrocities, horrible things. But to a certain degree that bold statement that sounds so daunting, "more war fought in the name of religion than anything else," in some ways it's misleading; it's a bit untrue. Because in just the short 150 years that communism was on the scene, which is at its roots an atheistic movement.
Karl Marx wrote in his manifesto that "religion was the opiate of the masses." And that if communism was really going to succeed, that the notion of God had to be done away with. But just in the short 150 years that it was on the scene, there were over 100 million victims of genocide. Really, it's wild, it's staggering. Under the regimes of Stalin, Mao Tse-tung, Pol Pot, and many others there were 100 million victims of genocide. People starved to death intentionally, executed under that atheistic regime. There were over 30 million casualties of war.
But that doesn't eliminate the wrong things that have been done in the name of Christ. We know what Christ himself taught when he was before Pontius Pilate and he said, "Hey, if my kingdom were of this world, my followers would fight for me. My kingdom's not of this world." We know what Scripture teaches, that "we don't wage against flesh and blood, but against powers, principalities, and spiritual hosts of wickedness."
But Constantine, he kind of got this whole idea wrong. And so many people often like to cite that Constantine claimed that he saw the cross in the clouds and heard a voice saying, "In this sign conquer." But that dude had it all backwards. We don't have to go conquer and kill in the sign of the cross; Jesus did all the conquering at the cross being killed for us. You see, we fight from victory rather than for victory. And tonight we're going to talk about how that's possible and what that means.
Will you pray with me? Father, we thank you that we get to gather and that we can have a triumphant spirit, Lord. We can boast in the victory that we have over death, over sin, and it's all in Jesus Christ. And I pray that if there's people here tonight who don't know you, people here tonight who are still waging a war against you as enemies, dead in trespasses and sins, Lord, I pray that tonight they'd surrender and they'd become more than conquerors in Christ, in Jesus' name, amen.
And I noticed something about myself; maybe you could relate to this, that sometimes as people get to talk about the cross, get to talk about the Gospel in their sermons, we sometimes find ourselves zipping up our Bibles. Right? "Oh, it's the end of the message. Oh, yeah, it's getting to the Gospel, to the cross. Yeah, that's for all the unsaved people. That's the basics. That's where I shut my notebook and I just kind of shut down, and wait till we get to, you know, sing a little song and walk out."
That's how we can be sometimes; myself included. But the truth is it's not just the basics. You don't outgrow grace. There is no graduating beyond the Gospel. Any time you try to go beyond the Gospel you're going backwards. I notice that some of the most profound verses on the cross, many, if not most of the most powerful verses on the cross weren't in sermons of Jesus' to unbelieving crowds, weren't in the preaching of the apostles to unsaved masses, they were written to churches.
You could probably think of some of them like: "God demonstrates his own love towards us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us"—written to the church. "He made him who knew no sin to become sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in him"—written to the church. "Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God"—written to the church. "He became obedient even to the point of death, even death of the cross. Therefore God has also highly exalted him"—written to the church. "He loved us and washed us from our sins in his own blood"—written to the church.
These are just a few examples; there's scores of them. We're going to be in Romans, chapter 3, tonight. And Romans is essentially—has eleven chapters that are a treatise devoted to explaining the Gospel to who? To the saints, to the saints. Now, I'd ask that you track with me, I mean, I think I'm onto something here. I think I may have come to a bit of a conclusion. I was dropped on my head a bit as a baby. You know, I did get banged around a little bit, so I might be way off, I don't know.
But this is what I think, I've surmised: that Christians need to hear the Gospel just as much as the world, that Christians need to hear the Gospel just as much as the world. C. S. Lewis said this: "We have to continually be reminded of what we believe. No belief will automatically remain alive in the mind. It must be fed. And as a matter of fact, if you examined a hundred people who had lost their faith in Christianity, I wonder how many of them would have been taken away by honest argument? Don't most people simply drift?"
The author of Hebrews would agree. He said, "We must pay careful attention to the things we have heard, lest we drift away." Even as Christians we often weigh in either rebellious or religious, don't we? We either kind of go over into loose living or into legalism; into unrighteousness at times, or self-righteousness. We sometimes teach imperatives, but we leave out the indicatives.
You know, you can find many parents who tell their kids what not to do and what to do, but they don't tell them why. We find ourselves in those positions. You know what? The message of Christ dying for our sins, it deals with our rebellion and our religion. It deals with our rebellion because it tells us that God is good, that he is trustworthy; and it deals with our religion because it tells us that we're not.
I also think the reason why I find myself being unmotivated to transmit the Gospel, to speak the Gospel, to share the Gospel is because I don't take time to treasure the Gospel. And, so, I can become the guy who, you know, just likes to jump straight into the application, but tonight it's going to be a bit more about adoration, just savoring the cross. And I want to be clear here, it's not some mindless repetition, some ritual. No, there's always something new; there's always something fresh. Martyn Lloyd-Jones a great preacher from Britain in the last century, he said this: "There is no end to this glorious message of the cross, there's always something new, something that one has never seen before."
Tonight's not going to be so much about application; it's going to be about adoration, more about worship than about work. See, if we take time to look upon Jesus Christ, we're going to find that we start to look like Jesus Christ, that gazing on the crucified King will motivate you more than anything else to go for his kingdom.
So, our first point tonight is: we shatter the image of glory. We shatter the image of glory. Look in verse 19 of Romans, of Romans, chapter 3. "Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and that all the world may become guilty before God." Paul's just finished implicating everybody. Like, he just finished pretty much, like, chalking up this list where he masterfully weaves two passages from the Old Testament together.
And it implicates both Jews and Gentiles, and that kind of makes all of us, that kind of just gets the whole bunch, nails everybody right there. And it's a pretty bleak picture; it's kind of rough. I mean, he says that we're unrighteousness, worthless blasphemers with a grave for a throat, a deceitful tongue, poison lips, mouths full of cursing, feet that shed blood, and that misery and destruction falls in yours and my wake. It's pretty tough, sounds like something maybe an ex-girlfriend might write in a high school yearbook, you know. It's like, ee-ah-uh not very nice there, Paul.
And some people might be thinking, "Oh, yeah, there goes the Christians, there goes the Bible trying to make us feel guilty." But the Scripture's not really out to make you feel guilty; the Scripture is meant to tell you that you are guilty, and I am too. And that's kind of something necessary for the Gospel, for us to really grasp it, for us to understand it.
Now, some of us might object and go, "I'm a pretty nice guy. I'm with Modest Mouse. I'm on a 'karma payment plan.' You know, I'm, like, doing all right. Okay. So, if God only got to know me, I'm sure he'd really like me." That's how some of us might feel. But the law doesn't judge you based on the good things you do; the law judges you based on the crimes you commit. And we're meant to keep the law at all times.
Image you're, like, speeding down Unser, or maybe if you live up in the heights, Tramway. Or wherever you are you're just speeding, you get pulled over, "flashing lights, lights, lights, lights." No, no, sorry. I can't quote that in the pulpit, it's bad; bad Jesse. No, but you get pulled over to the side of the road, and the cop comes up to you. And he walks up and he goes, "Hey, I saw you run through that red light back there." And you respond to him, "Well, I know I ran that red light, but think of all the times I stopped."
Will that get you anywhere? "Oh, I know I cheated on my taxes, but think of all the times I've paid them." No, you're going to be headed to the slammer. You know, you're going to be doing some time downtown or something. You have to keep the law at all times. It's not like high school, you know, God doesn't grade on a curve; neither does the justice system. You might think, "Oh, I'm passing with at least with, like, a C- or something. I mean, I'm trying to keep those Ten Commandments." Yeah, most people can't even name them let alone keep them. That's where we find ourselves; "that all the world might become guilty."
Now, jump with me down to verse 23. "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." The best definition I've ever heard for sin is that "sin is simply failure to glorify God." Now, "glorify" sounds like a fancy word, but essentially what it means is to give attention where attention's due, to kind of give credit where credit is due. In the law it's meant to be a whole. If you break the law in one point, you still broke the law.
It's kind of like a pane of glass, James says. And it kind of works out for the way we're meant to be. It's this pane of glass meant to show us who we're supposed to be. And we're, in a sense, supposed to be like a pane of glass that reflects the image of God, that reflects his communicable attributes, his mercy, his love, his kindness, his righteousness, his holiness.
And some people might ask, "Well, how many times do I have to sin to fall short of the glory of God? How many times do I have to do it?" I'd say the answer is something along these lines: How many times do you have to drop your iPhone on concrete before you shatter the screen? Probably just once. How many times does a rock have to fly and hit your windshield before it becomes an issue? Eh, not very many times. A fissure spreads. See, you break the law in one area; you've still broken the law.
And every one of us, we fail to reflect the glory of God the way we were meant to be created. So, you can kind of sit there and be like, "Well, I'm trying to keep at least the biggest commandments, okay. I mean, I don't murder people. I'm not, like, out committing adultery. You don't see me with, like, the jungle drums worshiping the tiki man from Night at the Museum. You know, I'm not an idol worshiper." Feel like you're doing pretty good, right?
But what did Jesus say the greatest commandment was? Don't murder? No. Did he say, "Don't commit adultery"? No, he said, "The greatest commandment is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength." And then right there with it, you're supposed to "love your neighbor as you love yourself." See, God doesn't want you to come visit him a couple times a month on Sunday, or if you're really cool, coming on Wednesdays. You know, come cruising in there.
No, God wants the entirety of your being, your thoughts, your affections, your decisions, your actions that they'd all be for his glory, for the love of him. We'd have exchanged the love of God for the love of self along with our great-grandfather Adam and Satan before him. We've put ourselves in the position that God ought to be in, and it is a miserable substitution. You see, God's greatest glory is man's highest good. When God's most glorified, we will be most satisfied.
But when you have seven billion people living for themselves, there's going to be a lot of head-on collisions. And our lives are strewn with the wreckage of seeking to do our own will instead of God's will. God is the one who's entitled to the glory. Revelation 4:11 says, "You are worthy, to receive glory and honor and power; because you created all things, and for your will they are and were created." Your will is what you think is good for you; God's will is what he knows is good for everyone.
And our world is littered with just the chaos and the confusion, and the broken marriages and the devastated families, and the pain and the difficulty of living lives doing our own will. You may think of the star who recently passed away. He was kind of living the high life, living his own way to the max, to the top. And his name was Cory Monteith; he was a star of Glee. He was living the high life; but even at your very best, attaining to success and riches and wealth, and getting with women, and doing whatever you want—still ends in emptiness.
You hear about a thirty-one-year-old guy dying in a hotel room alone in Vancouver. You see, our sin against God is evidenced by our sin against people made in his image. And we see it in our own lives; we see the pain, and the symptoms, and the difficulty of it. But this text, it says that the whole world is guilty. Look at verse 20. "Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in his sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin."
Yeah, you could try to work hard and keep the law. You'd be like, "Well, I didn't know about this law. What was this?" Well, it's written in all of our hearts. It's in our conscience. But you say, "Well, I'm going to try really hard now. I'm going to keep that law. I'm going to be extra nice. I'm going to get on Pinterest and, you know, make some people some cakes and like, knit them and crochet them things. And I'm just going to be the love guy now. I'm gonna work so hard."
But it says here that the law gives the knowledge of sin. And when you know you're a sinner, when you know you're guilty, all your motives become tainted by that guilt so that even your best deeds, they're dead deeds. That's what the author of Hebrews writes. He writes and he says that only the blood of Christ could cleanse our conscience. He offered his blood "through the eternal Spirit" and he says this: "Cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God."
When the goal of your dead works is to get rid of your guilt, who are you serving? You're still serving yourself; you're not serving God. But you have 54 percent of Americans say, according to Barna Research Group, that all you have to do to get to heaven is do good things. See, trying to be good enough for heaven won't lead you to the heart of heaven. Trying to be good enough for heaven won't lead you to the heart of heaven; it'll just make you love yourself and look down on other people.
And we all know them. You know, maybe in school we did the goody-two-shoes girl: "Oh, I'm so much better. I would never do that. Oh, my gosh!" You know, she's looking down on everybody thinking so highly—and we can become that way as Christians. Religious people can be the worst sinners. If sin's failure to glorify God, and these religious people are so often full of themselves, taking glory instead of giving glory, loving themselves instead of loving other people, and we all can find ourselves in that position from time to time.
But the question to be raised then is: "What the heck was the point of the law? I mean, it kind of takes up, like, a lot of pages. I don't know what the deal was. If it can't justify me, what was the point?" Well, he says the law comes with the knowledge of sin, that the law makes our condition more pronounced. It makes our guilt more apparent. It makes it more obvious that we're sinners.
You know, Nate Heitzig was out here on stage, and Nate and I have been friends, like, our whole lives. And Nate was actually skating on campus with his dad once, okay. He was skateboarding on campus and very, very sadly, tragically, it was horrible, Nate broke his leg, broke his knee severely while doing this. And I saw a picture, I think online or something, of Nate's knee x-ray. And we actually have a picture of it right there.
And I saw that, and I thought, "Oh, that doesn't look that bad. It's not that big of a deal. I mean, it looks like a knee, kind of, to me. I don't really know what a knee's supposed to look like, but that looks like a knee to me." So, then I googled a healthy knee—Oh my! Oh, dear! Oh, this is a problem, right? Somebody get that guy to a doctor. Everybody, let's pray for Nate. You know, gathering everybody around. That's essentially what the law does.
That x-ray of a healthy knee can't make your jacked-up knee any better, but it can convince you, like, "Maybe I should go to a skilled surgeon. Okay, maybe I should find somebody like that." And that's how it is. I mean, we feel the symptoms, but we suppress the truth in unrighteousness. We push it down. We try to ignore them. The law makes it unmistakably clear—you got some problems; you need to get to a doctor.
Look at verse 21. "For all have sinned and fall"—or 23 rather. "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God"—man, I got totally mixed up. You'll have to forgive me, 21, I was right. "But now the righteousness"—I have that verse underlined in my Bible, okay, can you give me a break, guys? Just, come on, cut me some slack.
Verse 21, "But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and Prophets, even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference," it goes on. The surgeon who's able to make us righteous, who is able to set us right what's dislocated, he's able to set it in place, he's been revealed. And the whole Bible, all the Law and the Prophets is meant to be a referral, saying "Get to that surgeon."
It's like Isaiah came and he came on the scene and he said, "Ooh, man, you guys gotta lot of issues. I don't know, but, hey, there's a surgeon coming; he can put you back together. There's a Savior. There's a Messiah. Moses, all the Law and the Prophets together were pointing us toward that physician. And that surgeon is Jesus Christ, and he can make every man, every woman right with God. But just like going to the doctor, you've got to trust him. You've got to trust him.
You can't just believe that the doctor exists. No, you have to believe and trust him enough you're willing to sign that little medical release form, go under the anesthesia, and let him take control. That's the kind of faith that saves "to all and on all who believe."
Our next point, we kind of talked a little bit about that, we're going to jump to verse 24. And our next point is: He satisfied his fury. He satisfied his fury. Verse 24, "Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Jesus Christ." Now the word "justified," many of you know it, it kind of conjures the imagery of a courtroom. Think, like, Jag, you know, if your way thinking back then. You could think, like, CSI Miami, or something. You're thinking into a courtroom, okay, that kind of a setting. And it has the idea of God acquitting us, saying, "Not guilty."
But there's more than that—it's the righteousness of God being applied to your account. You probably heard—"just as if I never sinned"; but it's also—"just as if I'd always obeyed." And there's a verse that just blows my mind that talks about justification in chapter 4. You could probably just look across the page. In verse 5 it says, "To him who does not work but believes on him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness."
The NIV puts it, "justifies the wicked." Woe, why would he do that? Right? Justifies the—declares the wicked righteous? Why on earth would he declare the wicked, the ungodly, people like you and I righteous. Well, the answer is found in verse 24. We see it in our text: "freely by his grace." Simply because he's gracious. Simply because he's kind.
We hear about grace so much we can grow so callous, be like, "Eh, amazing grace? What's so amazing about it? I've seen better. You know, the new Spider Man movie—that was amazing. You know, we can start thinking that way, amazing grace. We can become jaded. Familiarity breeds contempt. But let those words sink in—"justifies the wicked." But that's what God does for you in Christ.
Well, how's he able to do that? That doesn't sound right. That sounds kind of, like, unkosher. It's a little shady there, God, why you doing that?" See, he was able to erase the debts on your account by transferring them to someone else's. That debt that we had accumulated, that penalty, it's been paid by a substitute. Somebody's gotta pay.
That's why it says "the redemption that's in Christ Jesus," and that conjures the imagery of purchasing, buying back. And he redeemed us, he bought us back, he paid the price to bring us back from our miserable condition. He willingly accepted liability for all of our sins, and paid their penalty. We had a debt we would not pay; Jesus paid a debt he did not owe.
You're still kind of, like, "Eh, I'm not impressed." Think about how difficult it is for you to forgive someone who really hurts you. Think about how just painful that is and how you don't want to do it. God didn't just forgive our debts, what he did is a step further. It'd be like you paying the bail on the guy that just robbed you. That's what God—and even more than that in Christ.
And it goes on, in verse 25 it says, "Whom God set forth as a propitiation by his blood, through faith, to demonstrate his righteousness." And this answers the question: Who was getting paid, and who was doing the paying? That's what this word "propitiation"—kind of like a fancy word, right? It's kind of nice. I just want to say it again—propitiation. It sound cool because it's so fancy. But really, it's kind of an interesting word. It means "a wrath-appeasing sacrifice." Kind of sounds a little bit strange, a little bit pagan.
And you cannot understand the cross of Christ until you understand the wrath of God. We don't like the idea of God's wrath. Our modern-day culture hates it. But what is God's wrath? Is it a temper tantrum? Does God just, like, get mad and fry people? No, wrath is justice in action, that's what it is, God's wrath. The wrath of man, that doesn't produce the righteousness of God. But God's wrath, it is justice in action. God doesn't just do justly; he is just. It's a part of his character.
You could say this: God gets angry because he's holy. God gets angry because he's holy. You cannot love good without hating evil. An English poem in the sixteenth century put it this way: "A God all mercy is a God unjust." And we kind of hate evil sometimes, don't we? But what we tend to do is we hate the weeds of evil; God hates the seeds of evil. And this is a familiar subject. And when you put the red laser, the target right on your chest it gets pretty intense.
Because we hate murder; God hates it—anger. We hate adultery. "Oh, yeah, that guy cheats, he's doing this." God hates lust. We hate, maybe, idolatry. We think, "Oh, those idol worshipers, they're crazy worshiping their money, worshiping this." God, it says in the Old Testament, he doesn't just hate idolatry, he hates stubbornness. He doesn't hate just witchcraft; he hates the rebellion that's behind it. And God takes it super seriously. Jesus said, "If you say, 'You fool!' to someone, you're in danger of hell fire."
You could say that God takes sin seriously because he takes sin personally. Jerry Bridges said in one of his books that "Sin is to look God in the face and say, 'I don't want to be anything like you.' "That's what sin is; it's to look at God in the face and say you want to be nothing like him. But hell, hell fire? That seems like kind of overkill.
"How could I sin for, like, eighty years and then be sentenced to hell for all eternity?" Isn't this one of the biggest objections you've heard from unsaved friends, from coworkers, from people on campuses? "How could hell be—you know, the punishment doesn't match the crime; that's overkill?" You could tell them this, you could tell yourself this as well if you've grappled with it: the greater the offended is, the greater the offense becomes. The greater the offended is, the greater the offense becomes.
You got a notebook there—what's your name, by the way? Huh? Walter. Well, if I walked up to Walter and I ripped up his notes; it'd be kind of strange, first of all. It'd be like, "Well, he's—I think he just wanted to remember your message or something, Jesse. What's—you're wacko." Well, it'd be mean; it would be unkind if I ripped up his notes. But if I went across the country and somehow I get in and I ripped up the Declaration of Independence, that'd be a whole different story.
Yeah, what's your name over here? This handsome man, yes. Ross. You know, if I walk up to Ross and I slap him across the face, not very cool, right? Maybe he'll get, like, a ra—I probably won't have a job here anymore, first of all. "He's just trying to take pictures. Give him a break. He's not very cool." Maybe he'll get, like, assault and battery charge against me. But if I waltz up to the Oval Office and I slap the Commander in Chief across the face, it's a whole different ball game, isn't it?
You see, when you sin against an eternal God, it demands an eternal consequence. That's the wrath of God, that's justice in action. But it says here that Jesus, he's our propitiation, that he's our wrath-appeasing Sacrifice. Now, there's still several ways we can go wrong in our thinking.
We can kind of think that this is, like, cosmic child abuse. It says in Isaiah 53 that "it pleased the Lord to crush him; to put him to grief." As if God was, like, so mad at us and he just—"Oh you're done,"—unleashed his wrath on somebody, and he took it out on Jesus. It's wrong thinking; it's blasphemous.
Or you could think, on the other hand, you know, God was this God of wrath and he was gonna destroy us, and he was to ready to do it. But then the sun comes up and he's, like, hippy Jesus, and he's, like, "No, Dad, don't destroy them. Here—me." You know, we can think of that idea. And people, I've talked to people who have that notion. But that's blasphemous; that's wrong thinking. No, no, no. The Father gave the Son because he loved the world, but "the Son also gave himself because he loved me," Paul writes. They both willingly gave themselves.
But the idea of a wrath-appeasing sacrifice, you know, anybody who's studied, like, anthropology in here, or world religions, or something along those lines, you can think, "Oh, wrath-appeasing sacrifice, that's jacked, you know, that's weird." It's like, "Oh, the gods are angry. Let's throw a virgin in the volcano." You know, and we can think that.
Oh, as if God was just really ticked off. "He unfriended me on Facebook, but I'm gonna get him a gift card and he'll put me back on, you know, he'll add me. It's as if we just gotta bring God a little cheddar, a little—maybe a little fruit basket and he'll be our friend again. That's what propitiation means." That's what the pagans thought. But we didn't give God something to take away his wrath. He took away his own wrath giving himself for us. It'd be totally biblical to say, "God satisfied God."
And this is a mind-blowing concept when you really think about it. Like in Leviticus 17:11, you think, "Oh yeah, well, I thought they gave God gifts on the altar. They gave him all kinds of lambs and bloody stuff and birds and weird—I was here for that Leviticus series, that stuff was crazy." You know, you could start thinking that. But in Leviticus 17:11 it says this, "The life of the flesh is in the blood, and I've given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it's the blood that makes atonement for the soul."
See, he gave them the sacrificial system, not the other way around. Not like God was hungry and he wanted a barbecue. He's, like, "Hey, bring me some food. I'm kind of broke." No, wrong thinking. Think back to Genesis 3 when the consequence of sin are coming and they realize their nakedness. Who is it who slaughters that animal and makes coverings? You jump in your mind to Genesis 22, what does Abraham say? "God will provide himself a lamb." Jehovah Jireh, the Lord provides.
And who was that Lamb? John the Baptist knew it. He saw Jesus walking down to the Jordan River: "Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world!" That's what Jesus came to do. He wasn't just some deterrent to make us not want to sin. Jesus wasn't just some example who was meant to teach us nice things. Jesus is our satisfying substitute. And at this point I think an illustration becomes helpful.
I read about man who won the Medal of Honor and certainly deserved it, served in the Marine Corps. We have a photo of him. His name is Corporal Jason Dunham. And they were in Iraq, and they were looking through vehicles, screening vehicles to see if they had weapons, if these people may have been insurgents. And they find in one Toyota Land Cruiser a bunch of AK-47s. And as those weapons get discovered, one of the people in the vehicle, he jumps out and he immediately starts attacking these marines.
He started trying to take off; doing anything he can accomplish to get away. And Jason starts detaining him with hand-to-hand combat, and he's fighting with him fiercely. And he's trying to get him to the ground not wanting to kill him, not wanting to have to have this situation escalate needlessly. But as he's wrestling him to the ground, this man releases a hand grenade that he had in his clothing, and he pulls the pin, and he sets it on the floor.
Well, Corporal Jason Dunham, he thinks instantaneously fast. He pulls his helmet off his head, he puts it over the grenade, and yells to warn the other marines nearby covering it with his own body. That grenade detonated. Got shrapnel in his brain. He later died. But he managed to save all the marines who were around him. But what's really powerful is that the man who had released the grenade survived too. He wanted to take his own life; he wanted to kill everybody he could.
That's what Jesus did. That's what propitiation is. Jesus absorbed the blast of God's wrath when you and I had pulled the pin. He absorbed the blast of God's wrath when you and I had pulled the pin. You know in those three hours of darkness as he's on Golgotha, actually a darkness that secular historians in Athens described. As darkness covers him, the wrath of God was being poured out on Jesus.
And after those three hours of darkness, and finally after all the silence, you hear a cry come out, and he goes, "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?"—and total dejection, total isolation. You see, this is what Jesus was talking about when in the garden he prayed three times: "O my Father, let this cup pass from me if there's any other way; but not my will, your will be done." This is what he was talking about.
You see, it wasn't the nails that would be pounded through his wrists that he feared. It wasn't the whip that was going to flay his flesh on his back that he was afraid of. See, he was afraid of this cup. This cup that you trace it through Isaiah, you trace it through Ezekiel, you trace it through Hosea, you trace it through the Bible. And it's called: the cup of the horror of desolation; the cup of fury and trembling; the cup of God's fierce indignation; and in Revelation you see it as the cup of God's wrath.
Well, there wasn't any over way. That cup did not pass. Jesus drank the dregs of the wrath of God; he drank it dry. He made him who knew no sin to become sin for you, that you might become the righteousness of God in him. He was forsaken by his Father that he might say to you, "I'll never leave you, I'll never forsake you."
The Lamb of God, he was offered up in darkness so that we could be raised up in light. The God-man Jesus Christ, he was ripped apart so that God and man could be brought together. He drank the cup of fury so that you and I could share the cup of glory. He bore your hell so you could share his heaven. Jesus the conqueror, he was crushed so he wouldn't have to crush you with his rod of iron.
You want to know how I'm sure he paid it? You want to know how I'm sure he satisfied, that he appeased. I think you know why. Because he got back up, and you could celebrate that. You could put your hands together for that fact. [applause] He got back up. Our final point tonight is: to find resolve in the story. So, you could say, we shattered the image of glory. He satisfied his fury that we should find resolve in the story.
You know, songs are supposed to resolve. If you know anything about music, that's usually how it goes. Stories have resolutions. And I was searching, trying to find a song for a video once. And I was trying to find a suspenseful song, you know. But I kept finding all these really weird songs online that, like, they didn't resolve. They just kept going and going and, like, just building and I thought, "I'm going to have a heart attack this is so stressful. You know, it's happen"—and it just really stressed me out. I mean, imagine it. Imagine the James Bond theme. [hums theme song] Like, what do you want it to do? [hums faster] You know, you want it to resolve; you want it to come full circle.
Well, that's how the Old Testament felt. There was this unresolved tension, this conflict that didn't make sense. And he describes it right here: "To demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance God passed over the sins that were previously committed, to demonstrate at the present time his righteousness, that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus." There was this problem of sin in the Old Testament. People, they knew God was a God of justice, they knew that he couldn't look upon sin favorably.
And sometimes, you know, when the iniquity got filled up of the Amorites, or of the Sodomites, or of people, even the whole earth in the flood, God would take out the trash. And when that can was finally overflowing, they knew he was a God of justice. But so often times they would feel like—"Where is the God of justice?" In fact, they asked that in the book of Malachi. "Where's the God of justice? Why are these Babylonians just getting away with murder? Where's the God of justice? The Assyrians, they ripped us to shreds. Where's the God of justice?"
Don't you hear that cry today? "Where was the God of justice at 911? Where was the God of justice during the Holocaust? Where was the God of justice at Sandy Hook Elementary? Where was the God of justice when I got molested? Where was the God of justice when you were abused? Why didn't he come stop it?
"Why didn't he come like Minority Report and just halt that thing the minute it crept up in Osama bin Laden's mind? or my husband's mind? or my friends mind? or that person that shot up their family? or this or that? Why didn't he sweep in and call it all to a halt as soon as that person had that idea in their mind before they could ever act on it? Where was the God of justice?"
But, you see, if God instantly judged evil, he would have already judged you and I. I've had evil thoughts. Some of you have had murderous thoughts, attitudes that are hateful, lustful, vengeful. And it's not your goodness that holds you back, it's God's grace. But the time came where God said, "You know what? I'm going to show you the God of justice." Three times in this text it said he demonstrates his righteousness. He wanted to be the just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.
See, there's this tension, this unresolved conflict in the Old Testament. Like in Exodus 33, he's with Moses, and Moses said, "Show me your glory." And he responds and he says, "I'm a God slow to anger, abounding in loving kindness, showing mercy to thousands, forgiving iniquity, but by no means clearing the guilty." Whaaat? Seems like opposites, doesn't it? Seems like total opposites. Doesn't make any sense. Jesus, he's called grace and truth. In Isaiah the Lord says he's "a God righteous and a Savior."
Micah, he says he's a God of wrath who remembers mercy. Paul's going to write about the kindness and the severity of God. Talks about this being a demonstration of righteousness, but don't we know that just in a few chapters and a few paragraphs he's going to say that it was also a demonstration. "God demonstrates his own love," and it was somehow simultaneously a demonstration of justice, righteousness, and of love.
See, all the tension in the Old Testament, it came to a climax, to a crescendo, a culmination, and then finally a resolution as Christ was crucified. People say, "Hell sounds so unloving. I thought God was a God of love?" He is God of love, but he's also a God of justice. Yet, at the cross God loved you so much that he endured your justice for you, so that you could become sons and daughters of the Son of his love, you could enter into his kingdom.
Mercy and truth have met together. Righteousness and peace have kissed, and in their marriage atonement is provided for iniquity. God couldn't delete our debts, that wouldn't be just. God couldn't collect on our debts, because that wouldn't be loving; man, that would be hell. So instead he paid them himself.
You might have even read the story about a guy named Hayden Carlo. Hayden Carlo and he's speeding in Texas, in a road in Plano, Texas. He gets pulled over, and the cop points out that not only was he speeding, but his plates were expired, his registration. We've all be there. The guy says, "Hey, why are your plates expired?" And he said, "Well, I've got kids at home, and I had the choice to renew my registration or feed my kids. I'm in a tight spot financially, so I chose to feed my kids."
And the officer nods and Hayden probably expects some leniency, some mercy. And so the officer walks back to his car, comes back, hands him a citation, hands him a ticket, walks away. Hayden is devastated. He's just at a loss. But he opens up that ticket—and it is a ticket, not just a warning—he finds not only justice in that envelope, he finds mercy, because there was slipped in there a hundred dollar bill to pay that ticket.
That's what God did at the cross. That guy Hayden said that that restored his faith in God, that moment he returned to faith. You see, the eternal Son of God dealt with the truth of your eternal debt so that he could lavish upon you the abundance of his grace. The story—it's been resolved. Jesus Christ has conquered all. And if you've not yet found resolve to your story in "the" story, you can do that tonight. Let's pray.
Father, we thank you for the cross. Lord, it is richer and deeper and more vast than we could ever comprehend. As high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is your love that you have toward us. It's just mind boggling, it's so deep. And in that same sense, in that same breath, your righteousness is higher than the heavens. At the cross you gave us justice and grace, you gave us love and righteousness, and we rejoice in that.
You may be here tonight, you may have heard all this, and you may have kind of felt okay about it, felt like it was pretty interesting. You may see how the story resolves, how it comes all back together to a neat conclusion, and you sit there with your arms folded. You know what's crazy about that story about that marine, is that the guy released the grenade who came out of that blast unscathed, he insisted on dying that day. You wish that the story would end-wow that really brought him to his senses. That, you know, brought him—"I-I-I-I—that guy just did that, man, I should, I should surrender." But no, he ran off and he got shot dead by other marines later.
The Bible essentially says that if you reject the cup of salvation, you chose the cup of wrath. It says in Revelation 14:10 that people will be made to drink the cup of wrath in the presence of the Lamb, the Lamb. Jesus, not the Father, the One who was judged for you, he's going to be the One to judge you. If you reject Christ being forsaken for you, he's got no choice but to forsake you. But there's another option. Your story could be resolved tonight. You can believe on him who justifies the wicked. And some of you, you feel wicked, you feel—"Man, I've blown it. My life is—I've been—I've gone crazy. Man, I don't even think that I'm righteous."
Jesus came just for you. He came for those people, for the people who'd admit that they're sinners. And right now you can do that. You can be born again. Man, if there's one thing you've heard tonight that I've said, I want you to hear this. Because, I mean, this is all kind of—"I've heard this my whole life, yada-yada-yada." You might fall into a different category. You're not some notorious sinner. You might be here tonight and you might be raised in the church the way I was. You think, "Yada-yada-yada, I know, I know, I know."
But you know what? The difference between knowing Jesus, and knowing you need Jesus, is the difference between heaven and hell. The difference between knowing that Christ died for sin, and knowing that Christ died for your sin—that makes all the difference in the world.
And if there's anybody here tonight that wants to say, "You know what? I give up. I want to be conquered. I want to become a conqueror by being conquered. I want to surrender to Jesus. I want to trust in him. I want to know my sins are forgiven. I admit that he died for my sin. I admit that he died in my place, that he bore my hell, and I need forgiveness."
If that's you, I want you to put your hand up right now. Praise God. Praise God. There's hands going up all over this room. Is there anybody else who wants to say, "It's not just I know, I know, I know, it's I need. I need forgiveness. I need Jesus." There's masses of hands going up. Is there anybody else who wants to do it? Anybody else who wants to say, "I need Jesus, I need the cross." Raise your hand up. God bless you all; so awesome.
I'm going to ask you to do something crazy right now. It's kind of crazy, but it's also fun. It's like the things that are kind of scary are also the things that are most exhilarating. And you know, the fact is Jesus, he died for you in public. He died for you stripped naked on a Roman roadside. And he wants you to live for him in public, and that's going to start right now.
Because we're going to have everybody stand up, the band's going sing, and those of you who raised your hand up, I want you to walk down this aisle, and you're going to surrender your life the Jesus Christ. That's you. I saw a bunch of hands go up. I know it's scary, but somebody's going to have to take the first step. And this is awesome! [worship music plays]
Hey, those of you who have come forward. I want to tell you something that's the best news you could ever hear—it's that all your sins are paid for. God's not a God of wrath anymore for you. In Jesus he's given you grace; he's given you mercy. The Bible says the kind of a way of doing this, of making it bold, making it public is just calling on the name of the Lord. It says whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.
That's what you're going to do right now. I'm going to pray a prayer. You can just pray it out loud. It's not hocus-pocus. Man, you can't do anything to pay your own debt. Jesus did all the paying at the cross, and he's risen from the dead, and he wants to give you a new life. Just pray this out loud right now: Lord, I know I'm a sinner, and that deserves death, that deserves hell. But I believe in Jesus, that he died for my sin, and that he rose from the dead. Fill me with your Holy Spirit; make me new, in Jesus' name, amen.