A New Look at the Old Rugged Cross

Bible Book: 1 Corinthians  1 : 18
Subject: Cross of Christ; Salvation; Service, Faithfulness

The cross of Christ has gone through a kind of transformation across the ages. Shortly after the death of Christ the idea that one died there to save the world became a laughingstock to the Romans. In a Latin Inscription class a professor showed the class a picture of a donkey dying on a cross and a man kneeling before it. Underneath were the words: "Aleximenas Worships His God." The professor explained to the class that this is what the ancient world thought of the cross of Christ. Indeed, the Bible states that the cross is a stumbling block to the Jews and an offense to the Greeks.

To believers the cross is a symbol of our faith. Early on the Church took note of the fact that God made much of the death of his Son. Someone has pointed out that biographies of great men like Daniel Webster and Abraham Lincoln may run on for hundreds and even thousands of pages, but only a few pages will mention the death of the great figure. I have just finished reading an 800 page biography of the life of Lt. Colonel John Paul Vann, who was a heroic soldier in Vietnam. Only a dozen pages contain the story of his death and burial! But this is not the way it was with Jesus. At least 1/3 of Matthew, 1/3 of Mark, 1/4 of Luke and half of John's gospel tell the story of Christ's last days and hours. God made much of His Son's death and so did the early church. Even though the world despised the cross, the early believers preached it with great enthusiasm. Why? They did so because this was a crucial event for the salvation of the entire world.

Does the world understand the meaning of the cross? As I was saying, the cross has gone through a transformation. Once despised, then revered, it can now be said that it is neglected. It is nothing to see someone in the Hell's Angels or a prostitute on the street wearing a cross without any thought to what it means. I am not sure which is worst: that the cross is despised or that it is neglected. Some even go so far as to belittle it as unimportant. An artist, a few years ago, place a crucifix in a bottle of urine and it was displayed in a museum as an exciting work of art.

Today I want us to a new look at the old rugged cross. We must never forget what it stands for and what it means to us. We must never forget the message it preaches to sinner and saint alike! Note with me three things in our text about the cross of our Lord.

I. The Righteousness of God

Paul plainly tells us that through the sacrifice of Christ we have become the Righteousness of God. Christ did not just save us, He cleansed us! He did not just cleanse us, he converted us! He did not just touch us up, He transformed us! I have been made the righteousness of God in Christ! As Christ knew no sin but had my sin imputed to him, just so I who knew no righteousness have had His righteousness of God imputed to me! Glory, what a thought ‑ what a reality for the believer. Now let’s see what this means and how it was achieved.

A. Condemnation

The cross was a place of condemnation. The two most awful judgments that this world will ever see are seen in the picture of the Great White Throne Judgment found in The Book of Revelation. This is the place where the lost of all the earth are judged and cast out into eternity without God. The other most horrible judgment took place at Calvary. Here the Lord of glory, who had never known sin, became sin for us. He was in fact judged for the sins of the world. "Why hast thou forsaken me?" Even the Father would not look upon Him in that moment. Christ was condemned for your sin and mine at the Cross! In this way he became our substitute.

B. Substitution

In essence, Jesus died in our place. We are not saved because we are good, religious or moral. One can only be saved by the blood of the Cross. Spurgeon was fond of saying, "Morality can keep you out of jail, but only the blood of Christ can keep you out of Hell!" Indeed !

One man said, "I do not need the blood, all I need is an example.” The preacher said, "Okay, let’s begin with 1 Peter 2:22. Can you follow that example?"

"Well", the man said, "I know I have sinned but..".

"No, No! If you cannot be sinless then you do not need an example, you need a Savior!"

A great parliament of religions was meeting in Chicago and practically every known world religion was represented. Learned discourses were given. Dr. Joseph Cook stood and said, "Gentlemen, I beg to introduce you to a woman who has blood on her hands and has found no way to remove the stains. The blood is that of murder. She has been driven to desperation in her distress. Is there anything in your religion that will remove her sin and give her peace? " A great hush fell on the large assembly. No one replied. He then raised his eyes toward Heaven as if speaking to someone there and said, "John, the apostle, can you help this poor woman to be rid of her awful sin?" The he waited as if he expected an answer. Suddenly he cried out, "Listen, John is speaking, 'The blood of Jesus Christ cleanses from all sin.'" (I John 1:7)

A young woman was saved who had lived a very sinful life. Shortly afterward she became ill and in a few short weeks was at the point of death. Just before she died, while very weak, she felt her brow over and over again. Finally she spoke, "There are no thorn marks there, for he bore the crown of thorns for me." Then she began to feel of her side, "There is no mark there for he took the spear for me." Finally, she felt the palms of her hands with her fingers, "There are no nail prints there for he took the nails for me.” Shortly afterward she slipped away to meet God! Jesus took her judgment, my judgment and your judgment at Calvary!

Let us ever remember that Christ was condemned as our substitute so that we might be forgiven and live! Only those who come by way of the cross will ever be saved and live with God forever.

II. The Responsibility of Grace

A. Workers with God

With this wonderful salvation comes an awesome responsibility. We are workers with God. God, through the cross, has taken us into partnership! We are now co‑workers with Him. We want to say with Peter, who fell down in the fishing boat, "Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord". We can say with Paul, "I am chief among sinners." Yet Christ calls you His fellow worker. We have the responsibility to be faithful to Him.

B. Wasters of Grace

But Paul warns us that we can be wasters of Grace. We can receive the grace of God in vain. What does that mean? It means that we may never be that which God saved us to be. We may be saved and on our way to heaven, but not be the responsible Christians we are called to be, and therefore, waste grace! How horrible a thought! When Jesus died on the Cross, he did not just die to save you from hell, He died to forgive you and give you victory over the devil. He rose to give you the power to be all you were meant to be in eternity! "I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live, yet the life which I now live, I live by faith of the Son of God who love me and gave himself for me!"

We must not be guilty of wasting grace or of taking what God has given and failing to be responsible with it!

Count Zinzendorf owed much of his spiritual fervor to the causal sight of a picture of the crucifixion, with the single inscription, "All this for thee: how much for me?" He saw Jesus speaking from the cross saying, “I did this for you. I took all the suffering for your sin. How much are you now doing for me?”

Twas not the law that saved my soul,

Nor yet the deeds of virtue done,

Twas Jesus Christ, the Gift of God

He bled, He died, my soul he won.

Oh, hallelujah, praise His name!

Twas Jesus Christ Who made me whole;

He rescued me from sin and shame,

He bled, He died, He saved my soul.

Twas not my works that saved my soul,

Nor yet my zeal, my prayers, my tears,

Twas Jesus Christ, The Son of God

He bore my sins, he calmed my fears.

III. The Reciprocation of Generosity

A. He Heard You When You Prayed For Salvation

When you asked the Lord to save you, He did! He did not postpone or delay. He loved you and acted upon your request. Now He asks you for response. He wants you to act quickly! Will you and I be as responsible to God as He has been to us? This is the reciprocation of generosity.

A nun went to a bishop and said that she had seen Christ. He required proof by asking her to ask Jesus the next time she saw him what sin he had committed. Several months later the nun appeared once more and told the bishop that once again Christ has appeared to her. He asked if she had questioned him concerning the last sin the bishop had committed. She said that she had asked him. The bishop wanted to know the answer. The nun said, "He told me he could not remember." How is it that you and I are so forgiven? When he ask Him, He hears and answers us! What about when He asks us for a response, are we as faithful to Him as He is to us?

B. He Hears You When You Pray For Strength

In the book Iron Shoes by Roy Angell, the story is told of a young black boy who was sent to America to study so he could go back to his own people and preach the gospel. When taken on the campus he was shown around by a professor. He came to the track and fell down saying, "Is this the cinder running track that they told me about in Africa? Can I possibly run here with the other fellows?" He was taken out to meet the track coach. He ran faster than everyone. Then the day for the big track meet came and the African American was to run in the last race. If he won it they would win the meet. At first he lagged behind. The suddenly he burned up the track and won by inches over the best opponent in the state. The coach asked how he was able to make up so much ground at the end of the race. "I was praying,” he told the coach. “I told the Lord that if He would pick 'em up, I would put 'em down." God comes through for us time and time again. Do we do that for Him? He always “picks ‘em up,” but so many of us done “put ‘em down!”


Christian, we need to take a new look at the old rugged cross. When we see what He has done for us, it should motivate us to do more for Him. We must not take His grace and love for granted. Let us not waste the grace of God through indifference and apathy. Perhaps something or someone has hurt you in God's work and you have backed away from total commitment. Remember what our Lord endured at the cross. You will never suffer for Him the way He suffered for you. Renew your commitment. You will meet Him one day - probably sooner than you think. Face Him on that day with a faithful life and hear Him say, "Well done, good and faithful servant!"

And, there are some listening today who have never trusted Christ as your Savior and Lord. This world is fleeting. Everything in it is passing. But Christ is forever. After he died for your sins, He rose from the grave and gives the assurance to those who trust Him that they will live forever with Him. You know you have sinned – all of us have. He is the only one who can wash you from the inside-out!

Two friends went for a boat ride one day and suddenly the boat flipped over, throwing both of them into a deep, rushing river. The man who owned the boat had taken along two life jackets. The owner was wearing his; however, his friend had simply tossed his life jacket aside without a thought. The man with the life jacket lived, but his friend died in the rushing water that day. Salvation is like that. You must put on the life jacket before the waters of death sweep over you – and trust me, you and I will drop off into the waters of death one day. I secured my life jacket long ago. I trust Jesus as my Savior. I told him that I was a sinner, that I believed that He had died in my place and that I wanted to accept Him and follow Him as my Lord. Great peace came over me that day. I have known the wonderful security of salvation since them. You can know that, too. Trust Him today!

A man came to a preacher and asked, “What can I do to find peace with God?"

"You are too late," the preacher said.

"Too late?" the man asked.

"Yes,” said the preacher, “you can’t DO anything to find peace because it has already been DONE for you – it was accomplished at Calvary where Jesus died for you! Accept what He did for you, and He will give you peace!"