The Cross: An Instrument of Triumph

Steve Viars September 4, 1999 Colossians 2:14-15

- When you think about great athletic triumphs, what games come to your mind?
- If you are into sports trivia, you can probably think of a specific games, maybe a certain college basketball final or a super bowl game...
- maybe when I ask that question, you think of a victory in your sports career, where your little league team won the pennant, or your softball team at work one the league.....
- perhaps when I say victory, you don’t even think of sports, but instead a fine-arts competition you were in, or a debate team victory.

- whatever the case, whether you were a spectator or a participant....can you picture in your mind what it’s like when a team wins a great victory....and they are now sharing in the celebration?
- now let me ask you to add this to the picture....
- what would you say if a person on the team wasn’t celebrating....
- while everyone else is jumping up and down and screaming and having a great time....he’s over in the corner moping around....kind of like Eeoore in Winnie the Poo except with a sports jersey on....
- maybe he’s upset about a bad play he made earlier in the season, or he’s worrying about whether they’ll win again next year.....
- but he’s just standing there, outside of the circle of people celebrating, failing to, or refusing to join in?
- would you agree that that would make for a strange picture....I mean, even the team manager is joining in...and the guys or girls who didn’t play very much are whooping it up....everybody’s joining in the victory celebration but this one person.
- wouldn’t you agree that that was out of place?

- now, let me ask you this?
- what’s going to happen to that guy if he doesn’t snap out of it?
- how’s it going to affect the way he performs next season?
- how’s it going to affect the way he views the past?
- how’s it going to affect his confidence?
- how’s it going to affect his joy?
- how’s it going to affect his impact on his team-mates?

- would you agree with me, this guy needs to learn how to share in the celebration?
- this guy needs to learn how to benefit from the triumph?
- and if he doesn’t....he’s going to suffer, and everyone else is going to suffer?

- now, you might say --- PV, why are you asking us about this?...[did someone in our church fail to celebrate properly when their team recently won a ball game?]
- now, this is much more significant than that....
- see, the picture we’re painting could be true of a person spiritually....
- if you know Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, the Bible says that there’s been a victory.
- and if you haven’t trusted Christ yet, but you’d be willing to, the Bible says that there’s a victory awaiting you as well....
- but here’s the catch....you’ve got to learn how to share in that victory.
- you’ve got to learn how to benefit from that triumph....
- you need to know how all of this is intended to affect the way you view your past....
- you need to know how all of this is intended to affect the way you view the here and now...
- you need to know how all of this is intended to affect the way you view the future...
- and, God has given you a symbol to help us be reminded of such....and I’m happy to be able to speak to you today about how the Cross of Christ is an Instrument of Triumph.

- let me invite you to open your Bible this morning to Colossians chapter 2.
- today we’re finishing a study that we’ve been doing all summer entitled “Embracing the Cross”
- so far we’ve seen that cross is an instrument of peace, and the cross is an instrument of power, and the cross in an instrument of shame, and the cross is an instrument of denial, and the cross is an instrument of glory, and the cross is an instrument of forgiveness, and the cross is an instrument of sacrifice, and the cross is an instrument of identification...[recommend web site]
- tonight we’ll actually be concluding all of this by applying it to the new school year.
- there are many ways in which a church calendar follows the academic year, so in many senses we are starting a new year together as a church family, and I’d like us to work at making as many specific applications of our study to this new year tonight...I hope you’ll be able to join us.
- this morning, we want to study the important theme of how the cross is an instrument of triumph.

- read Colossians 2:8-15

- in the time we have remaining, I’d like us to think about:
I. The Extent of this Triumph
II. The Purposes of this Triumph
III. The Hindrances to this Triumph

- let’s begin with...

I. The Extent of this Triumph


- what Paul is emphasizing to the Colossian believers is, “Look how extensive your triumph is in Jesus Christ.”
- look at all that was won...look at the many areas that were impacted...
- for sake of time, I’ll mention three....

A. Victory over your nature.
- I realize that someone here might be a little uncomfortable discussing circumcision....
- we’ll seek to do it tastefully, but it is a important issue in this text.

- when God made his formal covenant with Abraham, after Abraham had already placed his faith in the revealed promises of God....the Lord instructed Abraham to be circumcised and to begin the practice of circumcision with those who would come after him.
- you can read all about that in Genesis chapter 17.
- circumcision was the removal of the foreskin of the male reproductive organ.
- now that act did not save Abraham, he had already been saved by faith...the book of Romans makes that issue very clear in chapter 4.
- so the circumcision did not save him...it was a symbol of his salvation.

- now this is very important....what was a symbol of?  [everything God does He does for a reason]...what was it a symbol of?
- it was a symbol of how, when a person places their faith and trust in God, their very nature is changed.
- the Bible is very clear about this....before salvation, we are dead in trespasses and sin...we are separated from God, we are lost....we are hopeless and helpless....
- the message of the Scripture is that sin is a terrible thing, and that it has a terrible impact on us.....
- but not only are we dead in trespasses and sins ourselves, we are also unable to reproduce anything but the same kind.
- we understand that the sin nature is passed on biologically from one generation to the next....
- that’s why Paul said in 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--

- that’s why it was so important, by the way, that Jesus Christ be born....of a virgin.

- so human beings are born in trespasses and sin, and even worse we reproduce after our kind....but the message of circumcision to the OT Jew was that when you place your faith and trust in God, your entire nature is changed.
- John MacArthur said it this way in his commentary on Colossians....”Circumcision was the outward demonstration that man was born sinful and needed cleansing.  The cutting away of the male foreskin of the reproductive organ was a graphic way to demonstrate that man needed cleansing at the deepest level of his being.  No other part of the human anatomy so demonstrates that depth of sin, inasmuch as that is the part of man that produces life--and all that he produces is sinful.  From the beginning, circumcision was used symbolically to illustrate the desperate need man had for cleansing of the heart.”

- now, after the resurrection of Jesus Christ, that aspect of the ceremonial law was no longer necessary.
- the problem was, there were still false teachers running around saying that you weren’t saved unless you were physically circumcised.
- of course that was creating huge division in the church between the Jewish believers who would have already been circumcised and the Gentile believers who were not.
- that’s why Paul says in verse 11 - [read 11-12].

- his point is, no, you don’t have to be physically circumcised and those who are saying you do are detracting from the Person and work of Jesus Christ...
- but more importantly, look at the triumph that the cross had over your nature.
- the very orientation of your life has been changed by your trusting Christ...
- that decision to trust Him affected the direction of your life, and it affected the impact you can have on those around it....it truly was a circumcision made without hands.

[if time, chase this same theme through Ephesians 2:11-21]

- now, what else does Colossians 2 tell us about this triumph?
- it was also a:
B. Victory over your sin.
- look please again at verse 13....
- one of the marvelous truths of the Scripture is that it is possible to be forgiven of your sin.
- that’s the kind of God we serve...He’s not a mean, hard-hearted, capricious god who’s aloof and indifferent to our sinful condition....
- He is full of mercy, and compassion, and love even for creatures who have rebelled against Him.
- think about some of the things the Bible tells us about forgiveness (this victory over your sin).
1) God’s forgiveness is gracious - Romans 3:24 - being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus.
2) God’s forgiveness is complete - Ephesians 1:7 - We have been forgiven “according to the riches of His grace.
- there’s no one who could say, I’ve messed up too badly, I’m beyond God’s grace and forgiveness --- no, where sin abounded, grace did much more abound ---- it is complete.
3) God’s forgiveness is eager - Ezek. 18:23 - “Do I have any pleasure in the death of the wicked," declares the Lord GOD, "rather than that he should turn from his ways and live?
- cf. Psalm 86:5 - For Thou, Lord, art good, and ready to forgive, And abundant in lovingkindness to all who call upon Thee.
4) God’s forgiveness is certain - Acts 26:18 - to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God, in order that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith in Me.'
- all of this is based on the promises of God, and his willingness and ability to keep those promises.
5) God’s forgiveness is unequaled - Micah 7:18 - Who is a God like Thee, who pardons iniquity And passes over the rebellious act of the remnant of His possession? He does not retain His anger forever, Because He delights in unchanging love.
6) God’s forgiveness is motivating - Ephesians 4:32 - And be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.

- when we talk about the extent of the triumph of the cross, there’s no question that there was a victory over your nature, and a victory over your sin.
- now, as we move into verse 14, this victory over your sin is described in an incredible fashion.
- to set it up, let me ask you a pretty difficult question....
- how many things were nailed to the cross?
- that is not an easy one.....let’s make a deal, I’ll answer that one, if you’ll answer the one that my answer leads to.
- the answer to the first question --- how many things were nailed to the cross is, “three”
- what question does that lead to?...what three?
- well, please tell me....

- we know that Jesus was nailed to the cross....Acts 2:23 among other passages states specifically that Jesus was nailed to the cross.
- but what else?
- there was a sign that was hung on the cross in derision....Jesus of Nazareth...King of the Jews.
- King Pilate had that written, and when the Jewish leaders told Pilate they didn’t like those words because he wasn’t their king, Pilate said, “what I’ve written, I’ve written.”

- so Jesus was nailed to the cross, and the sign proclaiming Him the King was nailed to the cross.....but what is the third thing?
- its something you couldn’t see, but according to our text, its something very, very important.
- the verse says that there was a certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us.....
- but this verse says that the certificate of debt was canceled, and taken out of the way, because it too was nailed to the cross.

- what’s the image here?
- in Bible times...when you owed a debt you were often required to make your own IOU.
- it was a certificate of debt....
- it screamed out all that you owe....

- think about a certificate of debt that catalogued all of your sin....
- how big a document would that have been for you?
- how many pages?.....would it have been so brief it could have been attached with a thumb-tack or would it have been so big it would have needed a rail-road spike?
- can you take just a moment and think about what would have been on that certificate?
- what’s the worst thing on there?
- the thing you hope no one ever finds out......
- what else is on there....how bad is it?
- friend, according to the Word of God, for believers in Jesus Christ, all of the ways you have violated the law of God were canceled, wiped away clean, and nailed to the victorious cross of Christ.
- we’re not talking about a celebration after Purdue beats Notre Dame in football....
- we’re not talking about the NCAA basketball final fours, we’re not talking about the super bowl.....
- we’re talking about the greatest victory that’s ever been won.....
- a victory over your nature, and a victory over your sin....

- one other idea about the extent of the victory...did you see it in verse 15?
- victory over whom?
C. Victory over your adversary.
- remember that satan is not omniscient [all-knowing]
- he is powerful, but he is not all powerful....
- after he rebelled against God and was cast out of heaven, his strategy was masterful, but it was not perfect....
- he knew God was holy, and that a holy God could not have fellowship with sin...
- that what got him kicked out of heaven....and that’s why he delights in human beings living in sin and being separated from God too.
- but satan’s grave error was that he never understood the cross....because at that moment, when satan thought he won, he lost....
- when satan thought Jesus was killed, He came back to life....
- when he thought mankind was doomed, now those who would believe on Christ would be saved....
- which is why Paul could say, Jesus Christ disarmed the rulers and authorities, making a public display of them, having triumphed over them through Him.
- see, if we’re talking about the extent of the triumph, God’s Word emphasizes that the cross of Christ was a victory over your nature, and a victory over your sin, and a victory over your adversary.
- that’s why believers in Jesus Christ love Him....that’s why we want our lives to be centered around Him, that’s why we want to know Him and make Him known...because there is no victory that is even comparable to the victory of Jesus Christ...and we want to join in the celebration of triumph, and join in it fully, and wholeheartedly.
[cf. 2:9-10 - sufficiency of Christ]

- now you might say, PV, what practical impact should this have on the way I’m living today?
- that’s a great question, let’s move now from the extent of this triumph, to:


II. The Purposes of This Triumph


- Friend, I’m wondering how many of us are joining in the victory celebration, benefiting from the triumph the way God desires, and how many of us may be outside the circle of celebration.
- now you might say, what do you mean by that?
- let’s start with the obvious?

A. What about those who are outside because they’ve not yet trusted Jesus Christ?
- you might be here this morning and would say, I’m not sure my sins been forgiven.
- I’m not sure I’ve trusted Jesus Christ as my Savior and Lord.
- I’m not sure I have a personal relationship with God.

- friend, we’d like to invite you to the celebration....more importantly, God would want to invite you to the celebration....
- you might say, but I think I’ve been on the wrong team....God’s got a new jersey waiting for you.....God’s got forgiveness waiting for you....He’s got a new life waiting for you....
- you know what it like to live with defeat, and discouragement, and the natural consequences of sin and unbelief.....
- why not place your faith and trust in the shed blood of Jesus Christ.

[could develop these commercials that athletes often appear on with a white mustache - Got Milk?.....rephrase that....God a Savior?....Got a Lord?....Got victory?
- all of that and more is available in and through the person and work of Christ.

- but what about the person who would say, PV, I’ve trusted Christ....but I’m not sure I’m benefitting from the triumph the way I should.
- let’s talk about that---what are some of the other purposes of this triumph for believers?

B.  How about this one --- to free you from your past.
- I wonder how many of God’s people wallow around in their sins of the past, and wallow around in the sins of their past.....
- Friend, God doesn’t want that to be the case....

- in fact, Pastor Aucoin is doing a series right now on Wednesday evenings entitled “Handling your past biblically” that I’d encourage you to attend.

- but God doesn’t want you to sit around beating yourself over the head with wrong things you did in the past.
- and if you’d say, but mine was really bad.....well, join the club.
- the story of this church is not that we’re a bunch of perfect people with perfect pasts....
- we’re a story of a bunch of people with rotten pasts who have a personal relationship with a perfect Savior.
- and yes, we’re trying to grow, and we’re trying to live now in a way that pleases Him, but some people wallow around so much in what they did in the past that they can’t put effort into growing today like they should.

C. Here’s a third purpose of this triumph....to give you confidence to work at changing sinful habits today.
- if you join in one of those athletic victory celebrations, its not long before you’re shouting “bring on the next opponent”....
- and I realize the illustration can start breaking down in sports.....
- but for a believer in Jesus Christ, it is perfectly appropriate [and even necessary] to face the sinful habits that God wants you to change with an element of confidence in Christ.

- I wonder how many of God’s people are not putting the effort into changing that they should in part because they have concluded, there’s no hope for me.
- cf. Jim and Cindy Hodge last Sunday evening, a great example of people showing how God is a powerful God, and He delights in helping people get to a better place.....
- Jim started by saying something like, if you had told us four years ago that we’d be standing in a church, still married, giving glory to God for what He had done, we would have laughed....
- but guess what, there they were, four years later, standing in a church, as a couple that was still married, giving glory to God for what He had done.

- friend, let me ask you --- are you in the victory circle?
- are you benefiting from the triumph secured for you at Calvary?
- and are you letting that develop confidence in you as you seek to put off sinful habits and replace them with godly ones.

- you could ask it this way --- in what are does God want you to be triumphing spiritually, and are you doing so?
- or are you moping around outside the victory circle as if the triumph hadn’t been won?

D. Here’s a fourth purpose....this triumph should give us confidence as we step out to serve God.
- this church family has been entrusted with a lot of gifts....
- and we have also been entrusted with a lot of opportunities....
- and one day, we will have to give an account for the way we served, and the way we used the gifts and opportunities God has given....
- using those gifts with confidence is critical.....
- taking on those opportunities with confidence is critical....
- and I wonder how many of us hide our gifts under a bushel basket out of fear....
- or we hide our light under a bushel basket because of fear.....
cf. Leroy Randolf’s secretary //// blind man healed by Jesus
[apply to teaching, serving, and how fear can hinder us from stepping out to accomplish things for God]
- Friend, I asked you a few moments ago, in what area of growth does God want you to be triumphing in, and are you?
- Now I’d like to ask, in what area of service does God want you to be triumphing in, and are you?

- now there’s one more principle we need to bring in to this, in order to properly set this in its context....
- we’ve talked about the extent of the triumph, and the purposes of the triumph, let’s conclude with....


III. The Hindrances to the Triumph


- there were two primary reasons why Paul wrote all of this to the Colossian believers, and both of them can hinder everything we’ve studied today....and I have a great concern for how they could affect this church.

A. Legalism.
- definition --- adding ideas to the Bible and then making them a test of someone else’s spirituality or salvation.
- the Colossian church had all kinds of people wanting them to think you had to obey a bunch of man made rules in order to be right with God.
- to get a taste of this (no pun intended), look at verse 16 [read 16-23 as time allows]

- the problem with legalism is that it takes the attention of our sufficient Savior.
- it takes our focus off the victory we can have in Him and places it on the victory we can have in ourselves.

- everything we’ve been talking about this morning places the focus on Christ, it directs the authority to Christ, and the glory to Christ.....
- but legalism places the focus on man, and gives the authority to man, and the glory to man.
- and legalism will take a person out of the victory celebration about as quickly as anything.

- can I just talk to you honestly as a pastor....
- God is blessing us with solid growth as a church....and that really is a blessing...
- but one of the potential dangers we always have to be watching out for is legalism....
- on the part of those who have been around here for a long time....
- or on the part of those who are newer....

- for example, someone is new may bring with them an idea that, this is way everyone ought to be....
- not just, this is the way I’ve chosen to be, or our family has chosen to be...but the way everything ought to be....
- and its amazing how many of those “ought to be’s” can’t be found anywhere in the Bible....

- conversely, people who have been around here a long time, and may have grown spiritually in a number of ways....can look around at someone who’s new and say....they ought to be just like me, over night...and not just in the ways I’m trying to obey and follow God’s Word, but even in some of the implications of God’s Word I’ve drawn for myself.

- friend, that will kill a church about as fast as anything in the world.....

- develop --- school options.....


B. Empty philosophy.

- read 2:8

- you and I live in a world who’s philosophies and psychologies, and world views often run contrary to the wisdom of Christ.
- and every one of us has to decide, are we going to confidently follow Christ, our sufficient and victorious Lord....or are we going to nibble around at the pagan philosophies of the world?

- and the trick is, the world wants to say that its winning, whether it is or it isn’t.
- liken to Purdue beating Notre Dame...then Notre Dame acting like they won anyway
- the only thing worse would be a Purdue player going over and celebrating with them.

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 two 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