My opening text is Mark 16:17 ~ These miraculous signs will accompany those who believe: They will cast out demons in my name, and they will speak in new languages.
My question to you is: believe what? What is it that these people were to believe that would release the power of God?
Our confession of faith unto salvation is Romans 10:9 ~ If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. Verse 10 continues: For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by confessing with your mouth that you are saved.
Paul expands on this idea in his first letter to the Corinthians:
For Christ didn't send me to baptize, but to preach the Good News--and not with clever speech, for fear that the cross of Christ would lose its power. The message of the cross is foolish to those who are headed for destruction! But we who are being saved know it is the very power of God. As the Scriptures say, "I will destroy the wisdom of the wise and discard the intelligence of the intelligent."1 Cor 1:16~19
Paul calls the cross the very power of God. The cross has the power to save. If we diminish the cross in any way we diminish its transformative power.
Hebrew 10:14 says: For by that one offering he forever made perfect those who are being made holy.
Derek Prince, expositing on this passage, put it this way: this one sacrifice provides total, perfect, all sufficient provision for every need of every human being @ any time & any place forever.
We will be looking @ the provision provided when we come to discuss the blood. For now I want you to practise the Hebrew word selah. Selah is another of those lovely untranslatable Hebrew words but it is probably a combination of these various meanings: to pause, to weigh carefully in the balance the meaning of what we have just read & then to lift our hands & praise God. Nowhere is that more appropriate than when we come to consider the cross.
Wherever you were when Jesus poured his blood over you, redeemed you from your sin & sealed you with His Holy Spirit, all of that is only possible because of the cross. No cross, no redemption.
All the evil of this world came upon Jesus that all the goodness of God might be available to us. Come to Isaiah 53:10. I am using Young’s Literal Translation as this expresses most clearly the work of the cross.
And Jehovah hath delighted to bruise him, He hath made him sick, If his soul doth make an offering for guilt, He seeth seed -- he prolongeth days, And the pleasure of Jehovah in his hand doth prosper.
Jesus sacrifice took sickness upon His body that we might be healed but He also bore the guilt of our souls that we might be freed from the power of sin. Hebrews 9:22 states In fact, according to the law of Moses, nearly everything was purified with blood. For without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness.
These spiritual principles are found in the old testament & ratified in the new.
Leviticus 17:11 clearly states: 'For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you on the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood by reason of the life that makes atonement.'
It is Jesus blood by reason of His life that makes atonement. Hebrews again [12:24] You have come to Jesus, the one who mediates the new covenant between God and people, and to the sprinkled blood, which speaks of forgiveness instead of crying out for vengeance like the blood of Abel.
2 Corinthians 5:21 says God made him [Jesus] who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. And Romans 8:32 goes on to say Since he did not spare even his own Son but gave him up for us all, won't he also give us everything else?
The cross is central to everything about the Christian life. It is central to our salvation, our healing, our provision, our righteousness. Remove the cross & you remove the abundance of God’s mercy & grace. What do I mean?
I mean you cannot come to God in your own righteousness, your own works, on your own terms for all our righteousness is as filthy rags in His sight. Isaiah 64: 6
It’s been tried. A good part of the Mosaic Law was about enabling people to approach a Holy God. They were so good at being a Holy people they had to have a special day each year [the Day of Atonment], when the High Priest made atonement for the sins of the people ~ & he did this every year because the sacrifice of lambs & goats could never remove sin, only cover it over. The priests always stood to make the sacrifice but it is said of Jesus He made the once & only sacrifice then He was seated ~ & He could be seated because His sacrifice never needed to be repeated. It never will be repeated. He has accomplished everything that needed accomplishing for all time & all people everywhere.
When we keep the message of the cross at the centre God’s supernatural grace is released in our lives. This is because the Christian life is not a set of rules to be kept but a relationship to be entered into. It requires supernatural grace because When we preach that Christ was crucified, the Jews are offended & the Gentiles say it’s all nonsense. But to those called by God to salvation, both Jews & Gentiles, Christ is the power of God & the wisdom of God. 1 Cor 1:22~24.
It is only when we come to the end of human wisdom, the end of our pride & knowledge, & resources that we become humble enough to accept the wisdom of God which has the power to transform us.
Don’t believe me? Listen to the numbers of our elite in our universities who speak disparagingly of our *imaginary friend*, of the bible being *myths & legends* put together by archaic old men, denying with their words the very power & wisdom of God.
The thing is though we are tempted to keep trying to do things our way & in our own strength. As soon as we do we step outside of God’s grace. The cross reminds us that "Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing. John 15:5
The way of Holiness is to be crucified with Christ & letting Christ live in us. That is God’s grace ~ until we think we can do it ourselves, by our own efforts & in our own strength. It is only when we reach the end of ourselves that we can let go & let God. We will never get anywhere so long as we think we can manage it ourselves. This is why so many Christians continue to struggle. They have never learnt how to die to themselves. They do not know how to continue to abide in Christ & until they do satan is going to have a heyday with their sins & their minds & they will never walk in the Freedom Christ died to obtain for us.
The last thing I want to mention today is that the cross releases the supernatural confirmation of God when Christ crucified is preached.
We all remember the 3,ooo converted @ Pentecost when Peter preached but there is a salutary lesson to be learned from Acts 17 & 18. As modern Christians we think of Paul as one of the great men of God ~ as indeed he was ~ but would it surprise you to realise his contemporaries did not hold him in such high regard? Some of what is believed about Paul comes from the apocryphal work "Acts of Paul and Thecla," so perhaps should be taken with a pinch of salt.
It is believed +that he was short & bald. He was bow~legged. He was a Roman citizen & an overeducated Jew, a pharisee of pharisees ~ remember we have talked before about how he was a pupil of Gamiel, one of the greats teaching Torah. He wasn’t particularly eloquent by his own testimony but he had an excellent working knowledge of Greek stoic philosophy & Rabbinic teachings. He was a smart man. It wasn’t enough. He learnt that in Athens.
In Acts 17 we learn that Paul spoke daily in the public square in Athens & even debated with some of the Epicurean & Stoic philosophers [v18] I have an enormous amount of respect for someone brave enough to do that, take on philosophers at their own game. He ended up before the High Council with a *Please explain*. The way my NLT puts it It should be explained that all the Athenians as well as the foreigners in Athens seemed to spend all their time discussing the latest ideas.
However, smart as he was Paul was laughed at in contempt [v32] & only some became believers.
When he moved on to Corinth it was a completely different story! Paul put aside all his cleverness & makes this most extraordinary statement for a man of his abilities: For I decided that while I was with you I would forget everything except Jesus Christ, the one who was crucified.
He resolved to preach the cross & only the cross, the story of God’s love demonstrated through the sacrifice of His only son. The result was, apparently, quite remarkable. The whole of Corinth was stirred & impacted & it is believed that the church @ Corinth very quickly grew to number 25,000 believers. What made the difference? Paul himself tells us.
1 Cor 2:4 YLT~ and my word and my preaching was not in persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power…
You see the Spirit can be demonstrated. That’s quite literally what Paul is saying. He says it again in Romans 15:19 They were convinced by the power of miraculous signs and wonders and by the power of God's Spirit. In this way, I have fully presented the Good News of Christ from Jerusalem all the way to Illyricum.
The full presentation of the gospel is accompanied by the power of God’s Spirit. It is demonstrated through signs & wonders just as Jesus said it would be. Never underestimate the power of the cross. Mention the cross, mention Jesus’ sacrifice & the Father is all attention, eager to confirm the Truth of the gospel with signs & wonders.