The Father Proclaims His Son Crucified for Us
Text: Galatians 6:14
God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.
You have seen them—bumper stickers that read: “My child is an honor student at Middlebury Junior High School!” You have read them—Kudo sections of the newspaper that report: Angie Miller made the Dean’s List for 1st Semester at Northern Iowa State University. You have heard them—proud fathers shouting out: “That’s my boy” after little Johnny scores a goal in pee-wee soccer. We human beings tend to boast about a good many things…things in which we take pride, or successful people with whom we are associated. But I would guess you have never seen a bumper sticker boasting: “My son died in the electric chair at the Texas State Penitentiary” or heard anyone boasting: “My best friend was executed for blasphemy.” Why, then, would the apostle Paul tell the Christians in Galatia, “God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ!” Jesus died the death of a condemned criminal—a horrible, excruciating death. Why boast about that? The reason lies in the depth of the Father’s love for us, which led to that death. God the Father loves us so much that He permitted that death and now proclaims His Son crucified for us! Our Lenten theme this year is based upon our liturgical hymn “How Deep the Father’s Love for us,” and in the third stanza this evening we sang: “I will not boast in anything—no gifts, no pow’r, now wisdom, but I will boast in Jesus Christ His death and resurrection.” Let us this evening ponder the Father’s love once again—a love so great that it would lead us to boast in nothing other than the cross of Jesus Christ…a love so great that it would lead us to crucify our own desires to become part of this world and its sinful pleasures.
I would have you note, first of all, that God loves us is so deep that He is willing to risk telling us the truth about ourselves in the Bible. Telling the truth often times puts a person at risk, because many times people do not want to hear the truth. People many times want the truth “sugar-coated,” if they want it at all. They want to be affirmed…even as they sin, not condemned for their sin. Consequently, in the name of “keeping the peace” a lot of people overlook sin and a lot of people tell lies rather than the truth. Even when people decide to tell the truth about someone’s sins, they tend to “beat around the bush” so as not to hurt that person’s feelings or get that person mad at them. God, however, is so concerned about us and our future, that He does not “sugar-coat” the truth or “beat around the bush.” When His Spirit speaks to us through the Psalmist David, He leads David to say categorically as a representative of all people, “Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me” (51:5 NIV). The other night as I was driving home I tuned in to Sean Hannity on the radio. He was bristling because someone reported that a teacher had informed his class that “conservatives” by definition was “selfish” people. That made Sean Hannity mad, but Jesus says of all people by nature, “Out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murder, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies” (Matthew 15:19). God knows that unless we understand the stark reality of our sinful condition, we will never come to appreciate the need for God’s drastic solution for our sin.
In view of our sinful nature, after all, we deserve God’s just judgment—death both physical and eternal! But God’s love for us is so deep that He planned a drastic solution to deal with our sin. In eternity He determined in connection with His very own Son to rescue us from our sin—Jesus the Christ. He sent Jesus down from heaven above to take on our human nature and submit Himself to all of the demands and threatened punishments of the law (cf. Galatians 4:4-5). He did this so that He might redeem us from the curse of death. The writer to the Hebrews says that Jesus died so that He might “through death destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil” so that we might be freed from the fear and bondage of knowing that one day we will die (cf. Hebrews 2:14-15). Isaiah says that the punishment necessary to bring us peace with God was laid “upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed” (53:5).
This then reveals the depth of the Father’s love—He allowed His Son…He sent His Son to suffer death by crucifixion for us. Death by crucifixion was a horrible way to die in and of itself. Those crucified suffered incredible pain. Spikes were driven through the victim’s hands and feet to secure their bodies to the cross. Searing pain was followed by intense cramping of the muscles alternately of the arms and the legs as those crucified struggled to relax their lungs, breathe, and ward off asphyxiation. Death came slowly after many hours and at times after several days. Crucifixion was indeed a horrible way to die! But the physical aspects of the pain suffered by Jesus during His crucifixion were only part of the story, for as we observed several weeks ago, Jesus suffered the immense pain of hell when He was forsaken by His own Father. Jesus suffered the physical, emotional, and spiritual pain we all deserve, so that we might be set free from death!
Yet God had His Son suffer such a death in view of His profound love for us—fallen mankind. The Father did not do this because we were worthy of His love. Oh, no! As we have already stated, the Bible makes it perfectly clear we are sinful from our conception and that we sin every day. The apostle Paul makes it perfectly clear as well when he states, “God demonstrates His own love toward us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). The Father loved us purely out of grace and mercy. We did not deserve to be saved, but God allowed His Son to be crucified for us! It is because of this that Paul says and I would pray that we all join him is saying, “God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ!” (Galatians 6:14a) It is because of the Father’s great love for us that He determined that His gospel message to the world was to be a message of His Son, “Jesus Christ and Him crucified!” (1 Corinthians 2:2). Imagine a father, especially God the Father, boasting in the execution of His Son—yet this is the depth of the Father’s love for you and me! To the world this is foolishness, and in fact the world, which does not understand the depth or the seriousness of sin, denies it, but for you and me—the Spirit of God has drawn us to the Father’s love. He has led us to believe in Jesus Christ and to rejoice in the salvation His death has brought us. He has led us to share the Father’s shame, so to speak, so that we too boast in nothing other than “the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ!”
Having been led to boast in nothing other than that cross, let it be said that idle boasting means nothing, if that in which we boast has no affect on our lives. The apostle Paul goes on to say, “The world has been crucified to me, and I to the world” (Galatians 6:14b). What does that mean…that the world is to be crucified to us, and we to the world? Well, to be crucified implies being put to death. We are to put to death the allurements of the world, and our desire for those very allurements is be to put to death. Paul does not mean that we are to try to escape or leave the world. He is not telling us to go off by ourselves and avoid any contact with society. No, God makes it very clear in His Word that we have a significant purpose in this world. But He makes it equally clear that we are not to be “of this world”—in other words to have our thoughts, our goals, our words, or our actions are not to be determined by this sinful world. Rather, those thoughts, goals, words, and actions are to find their source and guidance in the will and pleasure of God Himself! The redeemed child of God cries out, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me” (Psalm 51:10). Help me to be “a living sacrifice” pleasing in Your sight (cf. Romans 12:1).
To say with the apostle, however, that “the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world,” requires determined action. Paul speaks of this earlier in his epistle. He says, “Walk in the Spirit, and you will not fulfill the lust of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16). To walk in the Spirit means to be in daily contact with our Savior. How can we do that? We do that through a daily study of His word—listening carefully to the wonderful things He has to say to us. In our Senior Bible Study we just covered Luke 22, the chapter in which the evangelists records Jesus’ establishment of the Lord’s Supper. Jesus established His supper because of His deep love for us. He wants us to know in visible, physical terms how much He loves us, so He gives us together with the bread and the wine His own body and blood. His forgiveness is just as real as the bread and wine we eat and drink. His promise is just as certain and real as the sacrifice in which He gave Himself for us! We maintain daily contact with our Savior through prayer. He promises to hear and to respond in the best possible way, at the best possible time, with the best possible results!
There are practical issues involved with crucifying the allurements of the world and our desires for the world. Paul speaks of those too. He says, “Now the works of the flesh are evident, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like” (Galatians 5:19-21). As you listen to that list you heard the things that occupy the minds and lives of so many people in the world. Our world is drowning in pornography. It boasts in its idolatry. People sue others at the drop of a hat. People are often angry and incredibly selfish. Violent crime seems to be everywhere, and for many people a good time cannot be had unless too much alcohol has been consumed. But in contrast, Paul urges the child of God to focus on the “fruits of the Spirit—love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, (and) self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23). These are the building blocks of a truly satisfying life. These are the qualities, which enable us to accomplish great things within God’s kingdom. Having mentioned these qualities, Paul goes on to say, “Those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another” (Galatians 5:24-26).
The Father’s goal for us is to experience a life filled with His blessings. That is possible in spite of the sins and sorrows that fill this world and at times overflow into our lives. That path of blessing is found when we come to recognize the depth of the Father’s love for us as revealed in the gospel, which proclaimed Christ’s death and resurrection. It is that love, which moves us to repent of our sins, to rejoice in Christ as our Savior, and to seek to walk ever closer to our God! May we all join the hymn writer in expressing our personal conviction: “I will not boast in anything—no gifts, no pow’r, no wisdom; but I will boast in Jesus Christ—His death and resurrection!” Amen.
—Pastor Paul D. Nolting