The Cross as an Instrument of Peace

Dr. Steve Viars March 31, 2019 Colossians 1:20-23
Outline

3 truths that will help us value the power of the cross

I. Reject the Deceitfulness of Worldly Power

A. Despite the attractiveness of some gifts

1 Corinthians 1:12 - Now I mean this, that each one of you is saying, “I am of Paul,” and “I of Apollos,” and “I of Cephas,” and “I of Christ.”

B. Despite the connection with certain leaders

1 Corinthians 1:13-16 - Has Christ been divided? Paul was not crucified for you, was he? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, so that no one would say you were baptized in my name. Now I did baptize also the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized any other.

C. Because it results in divisions

1 Corinthians 1:10-11 - Now I exhort you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all agree and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be made complete in the same mind and in the same judgment. For I have been informed concerning you, my brethren, by Chloe’s people, that there are quarrels among you.

D. Because it results in minimizing the cross of Christ

1 Corinthians 1:17 - For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not in cleverness of speech, so that the cross of Christ would not be made void…

II. Embrace and Communicate the Power of the Cross

A. Because the message of the cross results in salvation to those who believe

1 Corinthians 1:18b - …but to us who are being saved it is the power of God…

Romans 10:9-10 - …that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation…

1 Corinthians 1:21 - For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe.

1 Corinthians 1:24-25 - …but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

B. Because the message of the cross remains foolishness to those who reject

1 Corinthians 1:18a - For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing…

1. The cross was an instrument of death, not life

2. The cross was an instrument of shame, not glory

3. The cross was an instrument of ending things, not beginning things

Acts 5:34-39 - But a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the Law, respected by all the people, stood up in the Council and gave orders to put the men outside for a short time. And he said to them, “Men of Israel, take care what you propose to do with these men. For some time ago Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody, and a group of about four hundred men joined up with him. But he was killed, and all who followed him were dispersed and came to nothing. After this man, Judas of Galilee rose up in the days of the census and drew away some people after him; he too perished, and all those who followed him were scattered. So in the present case, I say to you, stay away from these men and let them alone, for if this plan or action is of men, it will be overthrown; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them; or else you may even be found fighting against God.”

4. A savior crucified does not rescue because He dies

1 Corinthians 1:19-20 - For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the cleverness of the clever I will set aside.” Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?

1 Corinthians 1:22-23 - For indeed Jews ask for signs and Greeks search for wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness…

III. Praise God for the Results of the Power of the Cross

A. Knowing that God chose you so that He would get the credit

1 Corinthians 1:26-29 - For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, so that no man may boast before God.

B. Knowing that you are in Him

1 Corinthians 1:30 - But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption…

C. So that we would have a unifying purpose

1 Corinthians 1:31 - …so that, just as it is written, “Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

- A couple of years ago I was having a conversation with someone about how I could improve my speed when I was out riding my bike…

- I’m certainly no great athlete but I like to get outside and I do enjoy jumping on road bike when the weather permits – I’ll spare you any pictures because I think the words pastor and spandex should never be used in the same sentence…

- but anyway – someone was telling me that I could improve my speed if I would thoroughly clean my chain and coat it in paraffin wax…

- what I liked about that idea was that I could go faster without any additional effort on my part…and that approach always appeals to me…

- well anyway – I rarely have time to do things like playing around with bike chains – but one cold evening as the winter was setting in I decided to try that as part of the fall maintenance I needed to do on my bike anyway…

- I immediately ran into a problem and that was – how do you get the chain apart because you have to have it off the bike to do the work…

- back when I was a kid – you did that with the biggest screwdriver you would find…

- well – I found the master link on my chain and realized right away – if I tried to muscle that off with a screwdriver I was just going to damage the chain which like many of my repair projects would mean – I successfully removed it but it was never going to go back on again…[when it comes to fixing things – let’s just say I’m better on the front half of the humpty dumpty story than the back half]…

- so I did a little research on this dilemma and you’ll never believe what I learned…somebody has invented a tool for this very purpose, and this very purpose alone…

- you want to see it – don’t you?...

- this is a Park Tool MLP 1.2…and whoever invented this should receive a Nobel Prize or something…

- you want to see how it works, don’t you?...

- here you go – Show the Tool Video…

- we’ve all been in this situation, right – where we learned that having the right tool makes all the difference in the world…

- now let me ask you this…

- our theme this year is Growing What God Has Given…

- and early in the year we studied that theme in two different but equally important ways

- The Exciting Growth of Christ’s Church

-  where we walked through several passages in the book of Acts and saw that in the days of the birth and development of the church, the Lord made sure that specific numbers were used to emphasize the people God was drawing to Himself through the finished work of His Son…

- these men and women who were admitting their sin and then placing their faith and trust in Christ were souls who were going to spend eternity somewhere…and it was exciting, and it is exciting to see the growth of Christ’s church…

- and we want to accept the responsibility and embrace the privilege of Growing Christ’s church at the various ministry platforms around town the Lord has given us…

- then we pivoted in our study and began thinking about the care of our own souls…our own spiritual growth…we looked what the Bible says about How People Grow…or the doctrine of progressive sanctification…and we were challenged to accept that responsibility and embrace that privilege of growing the souls, the spiritual walk, the Christian life that God has given each one of us…

- so you look at those two tasks…church growth and individual growth – and it’s kind-of like staring at a rusty bike chain that you’re not even sure how to take apart…and it’s not long before you’re asking…are there any tools that make these tasks more attainable…

- and the answer to that is – absolutely…the Lord never challenges us to do something without giving us all the resources to do it well…

- and the list of possible answers to that question – what tools are available to help us grow – is long and varied…but the one I’d like us to consider this morning is that of achieving peace with God…

- with that in mind – please open your Bible to Colossians chapter 1 – page 156 of the back section of the Bible under the chair in front of you…

- this third emphasis in our annual theme is entitled Embracing the Cross…this is the foundation of our growth and we’re looking forward to studying key aspects of the cross-work of Jesus Christ throughout the Easter season…

- this morning we’re taking about The Cross as an Instrument of Peace.

- when you think about what was accomplished on Calvary, one of the first words that should come to mind is the word “peace.”

- Paul is writing to these dear folks in the church at Colossae.

- It is probable that he has never met them personally, but in verse 3 he says that he has been giving thanks to God since he heard of their faith in Jesus Christ and the love they have for all the saints.

- he goes on to say in verse 5 (read 5-8).

- so here’s a group of people who obviously have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

- in verse 9, as in many of Paul’s letters, he tells these dear folks how he has been praying for them.

- read down through verses 9-19 – [point out evidences of our annual theme]…

- now all of those verses are great and contain marvelous truths, but what I’d like us to concentrate on this morning is found in the next 4 verses....

- read 1:20-23

- with the time we have remaining – let’s use these verses to find three responses to one of the key results of the cross-work of Jesus Christ.

I. Be Honest about the Need for Peace

- Did you notice in our verses how Paul reminds these dear folks in several ways just how much they needed peace.

- where is that especially found?

- in verse 21...and why does Paul remind them of those things?

- because one of the shortest routes to apathy on the part of a Christian is forgetting how bad it was to not know Christ.

- you will not embrace the cross if you’ve forgotten how badly you needed it.

- let’s look closer at verse 21......he says ---

A. You were formerly alienated.

- the Scripture teaches that God is a Holy God....and that human beings are born in sin.....

- sin separated us from God.....and without Christ we walk around with a profound sense of alienation from Him.

- that began as early as the garden of Eden…because the lie of the devil is – you can rebel against God and you won’t surely die…

- death in the Scripture always involves separation…

- so as soon as Adam and Eve took that bait – the funeral began…

- they covered themselves and hid from God…that relationship was dying…they were alienated from the Lord who had made them…

- they started blaming their sin on each other…and now their marriage is dying….

- alienation from God will inevitably involve alienation from people…

- and where alienation exists…war is not far behind…

- the Garden of Eden became anything but a place of peace…

- Romans 5:12 - Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned—

- and all of us could speak, to one degree or another, or what that alienation felt like.

- the impact of sin on our relationship with God and our relationship with people was real, and profound.....

- and Paul sums it up with the word alienated…please let that word roll around your heart and mind this am…

- he also reminds the Colossian believers that…

B. You were hostile in your minds.

- the original word there is echthros, and it could also be translated “hateful”.

- do you remember what it was like before you knew Christ......did any of you experience hostility toward God, or toward the Bible, or toward Christian people?

- “I didn’t want to hear God/the Bible, because it reminded me of the turmoil inside....it reminded me of the lack of peace.....and the gospel demanded that I admit I couldn’t handle life on my own, and that I needed someone to pay for my sin, and take charge of my life....”

- and I was hostile toward such a notion.....

- many of us could give living technicolor illustrations of the truth of that point.

- and then there’s the end of verse 21.....

C. You were engaged in evil deeds.

- that one wouldn’t be hard to prove......

- can you think about some of the things we did before we knew Christ to drown out that alienation and lack of peace?

- and we’d say those words....and there would be temporary relief, but the guilt was terrible...

- or we’d think those thoughts, or practice that behavior, or run with those friends....but it sure didn’t satisfy.....

- the way of the transgressor is hard, and some of us know the truth of that verse all too well.

- the point is that people who embrace the cross never get too far away from the great need we brought to the equation.

- and I’m not talking about wallowing in the sins of our past....I’m not talking about reviewing them and beating ourselves over the head with them.....

- but I am talking about a humility that comes from remembering the immensity of the need.

D. How this impacts our soul care

- now please tell me this – we saw powerful evidence of our annual theme a Paul developed this argument, didn’t we?...in places like…

- Colossians 1:6 - which has come to you, just as in all the world also it is constantly bearing fruit and increasing, even as it has been doing in you also since the day you heard of it and understood the grace of God in truth;

- Colossians 1:10 - so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God;

- that sounds a lot like “growing what God has given, doesn’t it?”…

- here’s my question – how are those thoughts related to God having – Col. 1:20 – …made peace through the blood of His cross…?

- and the answer is – any attempts at more surface level soul care (which is really a contradiction of terms when you think about it) is futile without first finding a way to make genuine peace with God…

- that’s the argument that James makes in his pivotal discussion in chapter 4…

- James 4:1 - What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you?...

- that question has universal appeal…why?

- because we all have quarrels and conflicts…

- and the default answer is – because of the craziness of the person quarreling with me right now…he needs to change…she needs to change…

- and when you have 2 people saying that exact same thing at the exact same moment but about each other…that’s a recipe for frustration for sure…

- which is why there won’t be a whole of our growing what God has given as long as that is the position everyone is taking…

- which is why James’ next question is so shocking…

- James 4:1 - What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members?

- wait, what?...you mean the fundamental problem isn’t the other person – it’s the conflicting desires and motivations and lusts and idols in my own heart?...

- that’s both bad news – because it’s hurts, and good news – because it’s true, and it’s something I can focus on fixing regardless of what the other person is doing [which can be incredibly liberation if you allow it to be]…

- but that answer leads to another crucial question – why do I have so many conflicting and competing desires raging in my heart?...

- the biblical answer to that is, in part, because of a lack of peace…with God Himself…

- conflicts with others reveal a conflict with Him…

- James 4:4 - You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.

- the point of that verse – in its context – is that if you’re letting the world’s values and priorities fuel and direct and determine your desires – you’re at war with God himself…and you can’t solve conflicts with people, and you can’t solve conflicts in your heart…until you make achieve real and genuine and lasting peace with God…

- but plow that the other way – when you have this tool – being at peace with God, in the depth of your heart…you can begin properly ordering your desires because the One you’re at peace with is helping you remake and re-order what you want, and what you value, and what you seek…

- peace with God fuels wise desires which leads to peace with others…which is why Jesus would say…Matthew 5:9 - Blessed are the peacemakers [the opposite of the people in James 4:1], for they shall be called sons of God. [they have peace in their hearts and peace with others because of the fundamental condition of peace they’ve achieved with their God]

- what about…

E. How this impacts our community ministry

- I can’t imagine a church having a more open door of ministry at a community level than we do…

- we’re being invited into all sorts of conversations and initiatives seeking to address poverty, and domestic violence, and addictions, and crime, and racial reconciliation, and family breakdown…

- well – are we just going to stay out on the surface of that…

- especially since the secular world’s answers to those problems typically focus on behavioral modification, or change in environment, or some sort of drug therapy…some of which may have some limited value…

- but which entirely misses the greatest need and our most effective tool…

- that is – until a person has found a way to be at peace with God…lasting change that will honor Him will be illusive…

- Paul said it this way to the Galatians…Galatians 6:14 - But 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.

- and I would encourage you to pray for yourself and for our entire church family – that we steward well the ministry opportunities we have throughout our community – to find clear and compelling ways to honestly discuss our need for peace…Colossians 1:21 - And although you were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds,

- the hymnwriter said it like this -- Am I a soldier of the cross, a follower of the lamb, And shall I fear to own His cause, or blush to speak His name?

II. Be Amazed by the Possibility of Peace

- the more we meditate on the holiness of God and the sinfulness of man…the more moved we should be that peace is even possible…

- and what’s important to note here is that this isn’t some superficial fix…

- it’s not like me spraying a little W2 on my bike chain and walking away because actually taking the chain apart and thoroughly cleaning and coating it would be too hard or require tools I didn’t even know existed…

- and the reason this matters is because all sorts of people say they have “made their peace with God” but not like the way the process is described in this passage…

- [develop – being called to the funeral home by a grieving family and being told – it’s OK – he made his peace with God…]…

A. By true the thorough reconciliation

- did you notice how that word is used twice in this short passage?....

- the typical word that is used in the Bible for reconciliation is katallasso – “to change or exchange”

- in 1 Cor 7:11, it’s used to talk about a woman being reconciled to her husband…

- in Romans 5:10 and 2 Cor 5:18-20, it’s used to speak about a person being reconciled to God…

- you can’t have peace until the problem has truly been solved…

- but the word that is used twice in our passage is actually apokatallasso – a purposely intensified form - “thoroughly, completely, or totally reconciled”

- and that’s connected to what Paul just said in verse 19 about the absolute deity of Christ…

- because if the fullness of God dwells in Him – then full, and complete, and absolute reconciliation is possible through Him…if what?...is something [or in this case]…Someone, dies…without the shedding of blood, there is no remission of sins…

B. Through the sufficient and precious blood of the cross.

- I would encourage you this week, and throughout this series, to meditate on that marvelous phrase – “Having made peace through the blood of His cross…”

- James Montgomery Boice said, Reconciliation teaches something remarkable about the character of God: he befriends his enemies.  He loves those who hate him.  He offers peace to those who have waged war against him.  Although he is the one who has been wronged, he is the one who makes things right.  He does all this while the battle still rages. “When we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to Him by the death of his Son” (Rom. 5:10).

- I’d like to pause for a minute and speak especially to those who are here who aren’t yet sure that you’ve trusted Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord....you’re not sure that you’re at peace with Him...

- first of all – we’re so glad you would come to church in order to think about these things…

- secondly, I know what it’s like to live with doubt and uncertainty…

- [talk about the recent trip to Grand Rapids – having three people in the audience who were from my same high school…and all the memories that surfaced…Chattanooga, Abb Thomas, 1 John 5:13…]

- men and women often make one of two critical mistakes regarding this topic....

1) On one hand, many folks conclude....I’m not that bad....

- in other words....I really don’t need a savior.....sure, I’ve done a few things wrong....but I can still be reconciled to God by my own works.....

- I can get to heaven on my own....I can make peace with God on my terms......

- I don't need a Savior or a Lord.....in other words, I’m just not that bad.

- friend, this passage puts a serious crimp in that theory.

2) On the other hand, many others conclude.....I’m too bad......

- I’ve messed up too badly.....

- I’ve done too many wrong things.....

- or I’ll try to straighten some things out and then I’ll come to Christ....but right now, I’m too bad.

- friend, would you please hear the message of this passage.... through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace....

III. Be Motivated to Steward the Purpose of Peace.

- as you read the Bible – it’s always important to look for the purpose clauses…and there is a key one in verse 22 -- Colossians 1:22 - yet He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach—

- this is very similar to what the apostle Peter wrote - I Peter 2:24 - and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed.

A. Are you a person who is embracing the cross?

- or another way to ask that would be ---- on the average day......how long is it, from the time you open your eyes in the morning, to the time you think of the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ?

- how long is it until you think of the cross?

- friend, I’d like to suggest to you this morning that if the answer is, “a long time”, that that should change.

- so much of what God wants us to do and be is directly related to this matter of embracing the cross.

- there’s often a direct relationship between appreciation for the cross, and living in a way that is humble.

- there’s often a direct relationship between appreciation for the cross, and living a life that is thankful.

- there’s often a direct relationship between appreciation for the cross, and living a life that is joyful.

- there’s often a direct relationship between appreciation for the cross, and living a life that is sacrificial.

- there’s often a direct relationship between appreciation for the cross, and living a life that is obedient.

- there’s often a direct relationship between appreciation for the cross, and being a testimony at work

- there’s often a direct relationship between appreciation for the cross, and loving people who are hard to love

- there’s often a direct relationship between appreciation for the cross, and being a sensitive husband

- there’s often a direct relationship between appreciation for the cross, and being a godly wife

- there’s often a direct relationship between appreciation for the cross, and being a good friend.....productive church member......godly citizen.....

- now you might say, PV, can you suggest any specific steps to take to apply this message.

- if you’re asking that question in your heart right now, you are asking the exact question that needs to be asked.....

- here’s a list of possible steps......

B. Ways to apply practically?

1. Write out the words of Christian hymns and place them by your bed.

- Go to sleep reading or singing the words, or wake up and do the same.

2. Write Bible verses about the cross on index cards.

- Place the cards on your nightstand, your mirror, your computer terminal.

3. Memorize key verses from this series, and review them with a friend.

4. At suppertime, or the end of each day, discuss as a family.

- How did the cross of Jesus Christ specifically impact us today?

- How should it have?

- How can it impact us tomorrow?

5. Buy a book on this topic and read it during this series.

[suggest some and have them available].

6. Pray regularly and ask God to help you grow in your understanding and appreciation of this topic.

7. Determine with the help of God that you will become a more cross-centered Christian.

- you know, there are times as a pastor when you feel very inadequate to put into words marvelous concepts like this…that the cross of Jesus Christ makes it possible for people like you and me to have peace…

- this statement by James Montgomery Boice might explain that -- “The Heart of the Cross” ...

It is impossible to overestimate the importance of the cross of Jesus Christ.  For whether we are thinking about Christ’s words from the cross, His words about the cross, or the biblical doctrines of the cross, in every case the cross is central to Christianity.  Two truths follow.  On the one hand, if the cross of Christ is the very heart and essence of Christianity, we should expect that its meaning is simplicity itself.  And it is.  For example, “Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures” (I Cor. 15:3).  What could be plainer than that?  Or we read, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31).  The Bible often presents the cross that way--simply and with the most direct and pressing demand for faith.

 On the other hand, if the cross is the very essence of Christianity, we might also expect it to stretch our minds to the utmost as we try to probe its depths.  And we find that too.  Indeed, we find that in some measure the full meaning of the cross is always well beyond our grasp.  In this double sense, the doctrines of the cross might be described by the words.....”a pool in which a child can wade” as well as “an ocean in which an elephant can swim.”

- [describe the way Boice died…]

- this Easter season, let’s look for opportunities to wade like children and swim like elephants as we seek to grow by embracing the cross

Dr. Steve Viars

B.S. - Bible, Baptist Bible College
M.Div. - Grace Theological Seminary
D.Min. - Westminster Theological Seminary

Pastor Steve Viars has served at Faith Church since 1987. He and his wife Kris were married in 1982 and have two married daughters, a son, and three grandchildren. Pastor Viars’ gifted teaching ministry, enthusiasm for the Word of God, and organizational skills are instrumental in equipping Faith Church. He oversees the staff, deacons, and all Faith ministries and serves on the boards of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, Biblical Counseling Coalition, Vision of Hope, and the Faith Community Development Corporation.

Read Steve Viars’ Journey to Faith for the full account of how the Lord led Pastor Viars to Faith Church.

View Pastor Viars' Salvation Testimony Video