The Cross As An Instrument of Peace

Steve Viars July 10, 1999 Colossians 1:20-23

- This morning we’re beginning a brand new series that will take us through the rest of the summer entitled “Embracing the Cross”.
- I’d like to study a number of passages with you in the coming weeks that highlight the cross-work of Jesus Christ.
- There are a number of reasons why I believe it would be good for us, at this point in the life of our church to have this emphasis---let me mention of couple of them to you.
1) Friends, the cross provides simplicity in a complex world.
- We are living in a day where there is access to so much information that it can easily become overwhelming.
- when the internet providers ask the question -- where do you want to go today?....they’re serious......
- you can go anywhere in the world without leaving your chair...and get information about anything....
- with that information comes an incredible number of theories, and ideas, and world-views....along with a host of problems, and issues, and dilemmas.....
- how could someone commit such a crime?, what is the point of that aspect of history?, how could a nation behave that way?  what is the solution to that problem?
- it’s perplexing, and confusing, and overwhelming, and complex.....
- But rising above all of that is the old rugged cross, where my trophies at last I lay down...I will cling to the old rugged cross, and exchange it some day for a crown.
- James Boice, the pastor of Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia wrote in his book “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.”
- I hope that as we face a new millennium, and Y2K, and who knows what other complicated issues our culture will bring our way, that we’ll be helped by a study of the cross which provides simplicity in a complex world.

2) We could also say that the cross provides direction in a busy world.
Paul said in 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.
- the Hymnwriter said it this way --- 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?.....

- those words are spoken by individuals who have embraced the cross....
- they understand the centrality of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ....
- But may it never be that I should boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ

- see, each one of us would do well to ask the question....what is it that excites me?....what is it that drives me?....what is it that I organize my life around?
- what makes me happy, what gives me joy? what gives me direction for living?
- Friend, in your case, would questions like that reveal a heart that is embracing the cross?

- we live in a very busy world and the demands on our time are greater than ever before, and the range of options available to us is greater than ever before....
- and a concern that ought to grip our hearts is whether we’re making wise choices in this busy world in a way that will help us give a good account at the judgment seat of Christ.
- I’m talking about direction, ....so we don’t just waste our time, we invest it.....
- we don't just waste our money, we invest it....
- we don't just waste our gifts, we invest them.....
- the cross provides simplicity in a complex world.
- the cross provides direction in a busy world.

3) Thirdly, the cross provides motivation in an apathetic world.
- we’ve been looking at a series of professionally produced commercials that can be used by churches to reach out to people in the community that don't yet have a church home.
- its not something we’re going to recommending in the near future, but we’re just talking about it.
- one of the commercials shows a busy city sidewalk.....and the camera is trained on the front window of an appliance store.......
- there are rows of televisions in the window, and we’ve all seen the stores that have all these screens lined up......
- in this particular commercial, what is showing on all the screens is the crucifixion of Christ.

- and it’s done pretty graphically, and it ends with someone cynically saying, “Isn’t there something else on?”.....and he takes the remote and shuts off all the sets.
- then the trailer comes on and say, “Haven’t we turned Him off long enough”?

- you could debate whether that would be effective as an outreach tool or not.....but one of the ways that commercial impacted me was by thinking, how often would that attitude be present in the heart and life of a person who called themselves a Christian?
- their heart is not moved by the cross.....they are not embracing the cross?
- it is not evident in their schedule....it is not evident in their lifestyle....
- it is not evident on their faithfulness....it is not evident in their witnessing.....
- it is not evident in their service.....it is not evident in their giving.....
- Isn’t there something else on?......
- their hearts have become cold and apathetic to the central things of God....

- so a study of the cross is important......
- it provides simplicity in a complex world, it provides direction in a busy world, and it provides motivation in an apathetic world.

- this morning I’d like to invite you to open your Bible to Colossians chapter 1.
- we’re going to begin all of this by studying how The Cross is 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.

- 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

- did you see how it was emphasized in these verses that the cross is an instrument of peace....
- I would encourage you to meditate all through the week on those marvelous words....”Having made peace through the blood of His cross.”

- in the time we have left, I’d like us to organize our verses around these key ideas....
- the need for peace, the possibility of peace, the means of peace, and the purpose of peace.

I. 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......

- 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 ---
1) you were formerly alienated.
- the Scripture teaches that God is a Holy God....and that human beings are born in sin.....
- sin has separated us from God.....and we walk around with a profound sense of alienation from God.
- that by the way leads to a sense of alienation from people.
- isn’t it interesting that one of the common threads in the Kansas City Bombings, and the shootings at Columbine, and this most recent tragedy last weekend of the fatal shootings of several people right here in Illinois and Indiana.....
- is that in each case the perpetrators spoke of being alienated from society....
- from not knowing where they fit in and wanting to do something that would make a name for themselves....

- whether they realized it or not, that sense of alienation from people was a direct result of their alienation from God....
- 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.

2) he also reminds the Colossian believes that they were hostile in their minds.
- the 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 it, 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.

3) and then there’s the end of verse 21.....the being “engaged in evil deeds” part.
- 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.

- now, this passage doesn’t only speak to us about our great need for peace, but secondly it emphasizes....


II. The Possibility of Peace.


- verse 20 says.... through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace....
- we’ve been all been in situations where we having problems with another person, where words had been said, or deeds had been done.....and now there’s a breach in the relationship.
- and as a result, there’s anything but peace.
- can you think with me about words that describe that condition?  [could take input]
- turmoil, frustration, anger, bitterness, hurt, misunderstanding, hopelessness, sadness, fear......
- whatever you envision as the opposite of peace, that’s often what’s happening when there’s an unresolved problem between you and another person.

- you might say --- PV, I know that.....
- when that happens, I can’t sleep.....I can’t eat.....I just can’t stand to be in that condition with another human being.....
- but turn that around to other side....
- what’s it like to get things right?
- what happens to your insides when that happens?....what does that feel like?
- there’s nothing quite like peace between you and another person...
- where hostilities have been addressed, and sin has been admitted, and forgiveness has been granted.
- can you think of situations where that has happened?

- this passage saying that its possible to have that with God.
- through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace....

- now, do you see that other word that is used alongside peace in this verse?...reconciliation?
- what does that word mean?
- it literally means, to change, or make an exchange.

- it is one of the five key words used in the NT to describe the process of salvation, along with justification, redemption, forgiveness, and adoption.
- here’s how they fit together:

1) In justification, the sinner stands before God guilty and condemned, but is declared righteous (Rom. 8:33).

2) In redemption, the sinner stands before God as a slave, but is granted his freedom (Rom. 6:18-22).

3) In forgiveness, the sinner stands before God as a debtor, but the debt is paid and forgotten (Eph. 1:7).

4) In adoption, the sinner stands before God as a stranger, but is made a son (Eph. 1:5).

5) In reconciliation, the sinner stands before God as an enemy, but becomes His friend (II Cor. 5:18-20).

- see, Paul wanted the Colossians to understand the great possibility of peace, through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace....

- James 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).

- So, according to the Scriptures, there’s a great need for peace....and there’s the distinct possibility of peace.... through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace....

- 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.....
- Friend, I want you to know that at our church, we want to be the kind of place where every person that walks in the door is loved.....
- in contrast to our world which so often alienates, and judges, and divides, and forms cliques....
- we want to be a place where every person is loved, because that’s the way God is.....

- 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....
- you can have peace with Him, if you’ll come home.

[illustration from Max Lucado’s book]


- we’ve talked about the need for peace, and the possibility of peace.....but the passage obviously emphasizes:


III. The Means of Peace


- as we said at the beginning, the most important words in this passage are in the middle of verse 20.....”through the blood of His cross.”

- now, we didn’t take the time to do this at the beginning, but its probably important for us to note that the Colossian church was facing several different kinds of false teaching that made it imperative that they understand the importance of the cross of Christ.

- one group was very legalistic, saying that in order to be saved, you had to keep a set of rules of regulations.....they were called Judaizers.....and anytime you have a bunch of man made rules and regulations, invariably the attention is taken away from the cross...
- and the danger of self-righteousness and pride is immense.

- another strain of false teaching believed that all matter was evil, and that Jesus was not truly God, but he was an emanation from God, like a ripple in a pond
- they also believed that God would never become a man, and take on human flesh....because again all matter was evil.....

- well, both strains of false teaching was potentially deadly for the early church.....and its amazing how Paul cut both approaches to the ground with just a few words.....
- “having made peace through the blood of His cross.”

- now, I think we have enough on the table to allow us to begin asking some important questions....
1) 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 needs to 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......

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) Buy some Christian tapes or CD’s that emphasize this theme.

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

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


- now, there’s one last truth we need to see from this text, and that is....


IV. The Purpose of Peace

- did you notice how Paul ends this thought in the middle of verse 22.....
- in order to present you before him holy, and blameless and beyond reproach.

- Having the kind of peace with God we’re discussing this morning ought to motivate us to want to put off sinful habits and replace them with godly ones.
- the parallel verse to this is one we’ll talk about often in this series, 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.


- now a person who didn’t know the Lord might look at the development of this text and say, well, God obviously doesn’t know what He’s doing.....
- if He really wanted to motivate people.....He wouldn’t make salvation a free gift.....He wouldn’t have made it something you could know for sure in advance, He wouldn’t have sent His Son to pay the price Himself.....

- if God wanted to motivate people to live holy lives.....the best way to do that would be to make them earn their salvation themselves, to always keep them guessing about whether they were saved that day or lost, and to practice a three strikes and you’re out policy.
- that would keep those humans on their toes.

- that makes a lot of sense, humanly speaking.....but that’s not anything like the God of the Bible.
- He has chosen to motivate us by His grace.....He has chosen to motivate us with the cross.
- and if you and I stand before Him some day, and have to admit that we weren’t very interested in growing, or weren’t very interested in serving, or weren’t very interested in knowing Him....
- we certainly won’t be able to say that we just weren’t given much reason to.....
- friends, God wants us to embrace the cross.


- if time, could talk about applications to us as a church....or could talk about examples of people who are obviously embracing the cross.

- I really believe that this issue is directly linked to our effectiveness as a church....
- business around here is great.....
- and what I mean by that is, there are things that are happening in our community, and things that are happening in our culture ..... that provide marvelous inroads for the gospel.
- our secular society is unraveling around us and men and women are asking some excellent questions......there is an open door of ministry for local churches....
- this past Wednesday evening we began one of our Intro to Faith Classes which we offer six times a year.
- we assumed that by offering it that often.....we would generally have ten or twelve people.....Wednesday night we had 42 persons signed up!

- interest in the things of God is high......but I am convinced that our church’s effectiveness, and every church’s effectiveness is directly linked to the degree to which we are embracing the cross....the degree to which we have been impacted by, and are being impacted by, the cross-work of Jesus Christ.

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