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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Dr. Charles Stanley » Charles Stanley - Why We Believe

Charles Stanley - Why We Believe

Charles Stanley - Why We Believe

One day, I was sitting in my study, and I was thinking, "Well, we need to give this thing a name besides just the First Baptist Church". I looked over to my left, and there was a Living Bible translation. They had titled this Bible "In Touch". I looked at it and I thought, "That's the name". "Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify God who is in heaven". I thought, "Well, God, that's what I'm up to. I want to get as many people as possible in touch with Jesus Christ and his way of life". I had taken the leadership team up to the mountains, and we'd been praying and asking the Lord to give us direction, and I'm reading the twenty-eighth chapter of Matthew, which I had read in many, many times, and somehow, it's like it just came off the page and grabbed me.

I thought, "Now, Lord, did you really and truly mean the whole world"? It's like God said, "Yes". I believe that's what God wants us to do. And that is he wants In Touch in every country in the world, and let's trust Him to do it within two years. And that week, we went every single country in the world in some fashion. Here's the mission of In Touch. My goal has always been to get the simple truth of the gospel to as many people as possible, as quickly as possible, as simply as possible in the power of the Holy Spirit, because I know that's the only way it's going to work, to the glory of God.

Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. Grow in our knowledge and grace. I know that if you listen to In Touch, if you listen to the message week after week and you take notes and you apply these notes, you are going to grow in your knowledge and understanding of the Word of God, your knowledge of and understanding of who God is, and your knowledge and understanding of how to live the Christian life. That much I know.

Whatever you're facing in life, sovereign God of this universe is gonna hold you safely and bring you through it no matter what.

What I want you to see is this, this loving God, all-knowing, all-forgiving, loving God loves us with a love that's eternal, unfading, never-ending, so strong, so powerful that He's willing to forgive all of our sins, and when we die, they can say of us "Absent from the body, present with the Lord," amen?

I'd want them to say, "He believed the most important truth in his life is obey God and leave all the consequences to Him. And it appears from what we see and heard, that's the way he lived". I'd like for it to be that way.

I am home in heaven, dear ones, all is so happy, all is so bright. There's perfect joy and beauty in this everlasting life. All the pain and grief are over. Every restless tossing passed. I am now at peace forever, safely home in heaven at last.

Well, if someone should say to you, "Why do you Christians place so much emphasis on the cross? Isn't that rather negative? I mean, shame, suffering, and death". Well, why do we? Certainly, you would seem to want to be more positive than that, to be talking about somebody's death. "Why don't you emphasize His preaching and His teaching and His healing? That seems to be far more positive than emphasizing His death". Well, that's a good question, and I can certainly understand why people would ask that question because that's the very question that people were asking Paul in his day as an apostle. And if you'll recall, he said, in fact, the preaching of the cross is a stumbling block to Jews and it is also very foolish to those who are Greeks.

And so, I thought about that many times and tried to put myself in their place, and it would sorta be like saying today in the twenty-first century, it'd be like saying, you know, "Jesus died for my sins, and when He died in the electric chair, it made it possible for me to be saved". "In the what"? "In the electric chair". Electric chair today would be as obnoxious and as repulsive as the cross was in that day, because it was the most horrible way to die. It was the most shameful way to die. It was the way criminals died. "And you mean you're telling me that I am to believe in someone who died a shameful death as a criminal, that I'm to place my faith in Him for the forgiveness of my sins"? It would be like us saying today, "Dying in the electric chair, He made it possible for me to be saved".

So, you can understand why they had a very, very difficult time with that. Yet, in spite of that, it is the very heart of everything we believe as Christians. And the Apostle Paul made a very strong statement about his conviction about the cross in Galatians chapter six. And I want you to turn there, if you will, for one verse, this, the fourteenth verse of the sixth chapter. And what is happening here is right before he is sorta chiding those Judaizers in the Galatian churches there, who were boasting about their circumcision and boasting about keeping the law, which he knew they could not. And all of their boasting was in vain, and so here's what he said. In comparison to what they were boasting about, Paul said in verse fourteen, "But," he says, "may it never be that I would boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world".

Look at that. He says, "May it never be, God forbid that I would boast in anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ". Now, why in the world would the Apostle Paul make such a statement? Because he understood the meaning of the cross. Because he understood that it was central to everything he believed. Because he understood that it was central to the very message of the gospel, the good news of the Lord Jesus Christ. That's the reason he made that statement. And so, what I'd like for us to do is I would like for us to look at this question ourselves. That is, why do we make the cross the central focus of our faith? Why do we place them on our church steeples and why do we have 'em hanging around our neck, and why do we have 'em imprinted on our Bibles? What is this cross all about?

Well, I want us to think about it because there are a lot of people out there who ask the question "why," and sometimes a Christian will say, "Well, that's just what we believe". Well, to an unbeliever, that's not a very acceptable answer, and I don't blame them. And it's not a very good answer and it's not very clear answer, and it may be that you're one of those persons who, likewise, maybe you're not a believer or maybe you are and you've wondered what all this emphasis about the cross is all about. Well, I mean, we know Jesus died on the cross, but why all this emphasis? So, we'd like to answer that question. And this fourteenth verse is certainly a strong verse, a strong statement by the Apostle Paul. And if you'll notice the intensity of it. He said, "May it never be, God forbid that I would ever boast in anything except the cross of Jesus Christ". Why?

Well, let's look at it for a moment because we have to ask ourselves the same question. First of all, because the cross, listen, because the cross is the heart of what we believe and, listen, the reason that's true for us, it's because it holds such a preeminent position and place in the entire New Testament. Now, look at the Gospels for a moment. The Gospels are not histories, they're not biographical sketches of the life of Jesus Christ, and they're not works of literary art. The Gospels are treaties or, shall we say, treaties, they're theological treaties. That is, the whole message of the gospel is to identify who Jesus Christ is and His death at Calvary and its impact upon our life personally. And if you'll think about the Gospels for a moment.

If you start reading them, you'll find that in the very beginning of them, they're all heading in one direction, and that's toward the cross. And that anywhere from one sixth to one third of the four Gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, all deal with events around the cross or are implying the cross or indicating something of the death, the passion of the Lord Jesus Christ. So, it isn't just one position at the end of the Gospels, though the word cross is only mentioned eight, the word is only mentioned eighteen times in all four Gospels. But what I want you to recognize, and I want to give you an example in a moment, that all through the Gospels, the cross is there. The message of the death of Jesus Christ, because that is exactly why He came. And so, we say that the cross is the heart of all that we believe because of its place and position in the Word of God.

So, what I want us to do, I want us to look through the four Gospels for a moment. I want us to look at four verses specifically and for a reason that neither of these verses have the word cross in 'em, not any of 'em. They don't even have the word cross in them. But what I want you to see is this is just an indication how the Gospels are filled with the passion, the death of Jesus Christ, the shedding of His blood. It permeates the entire Bible from beginning to end. So let's go through so you'll have a little background so you can have something that you might be able to discuss with others. So, let's begin in Matthew chapter sixteen for a moment. Sixteenth chapter of Matthew, and here Jesus, speaking with His disciples, He's just asked them, "Well, who do people say that I am? What do they think of Me"? And in the process of answering that question, of course Peter says, "You're the Christ, the Son of the living God".

And then He begins to say to them, in verse twenty-one of Matthew chapter sixteen. Notice the word cross isn't mentioned, but I want you to notice this whole Gospel's moving toward the cross. Jesus said, "From that time Jesus began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised up on the third day". All right, that's just one verse, there are many of them. We don't have time to take them all. Let's go to Mark for a moment. Mark chapter ten, Mark chapter ten, and look, if you will, in the forty-fifth verse. Jesus speaking here. Here's what He said. He said, "I even," He says, "For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many". That is a payment, an exchange. And so when He died on the cross, He paid sin's debt.

Now, listen carefully. Jesus did not pay off the devil, when Jesus Christ died at the cross, He satisfied God's requirement of the shedding of blood for the payment of sin. And the only person who could die for the sin of mankind is someone who had never sinned. That's why I want to show you this. That in John's Gospel, he starts out in the very first chapter of the very first few verses, and he says, "In the beginning was the Word," speaking of Jesus, "and the Word was with God, and the Word was God". If that were not true, then the crucifixion would have been meaningless. He would have been just another person. He had to be the sinless Son of God and He had to be deity Himself in order for the crucifixion to effect what God intended, and that is the forgiveness of man's sin, satisfying the requirement of the death.

Then, for example, if you'll look in Luke. A little different kind of verse in the second chapter of Luke. Here again, Jesus has been taken to the temple as just a babe now, and Mary and Joseph meet two people there, a prophetess and also a prophet, the prophet by the name of Simeon. And so when he saw her with Jesus, the scripture says he took Him in his arms and began to bless the Lord and make some statements about Him. And then the scripture says in verse thirty-three, "And His father and mother were amazed at the things which were being said about Him. And Simeon blessed them, and said to Mary His mother, 'Behold, this Child is appointed for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and for a sign to be opposed,'" then he said, "'and a sword will pierce even your own soul, to the end that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.'"

And what he was referring to is he knew that His mother was going to see His death, His crucifixion, of course, which she did. Then if you'll look in John, for example, the Gospel of John. You haven't heard the word cross at all, but all these verses refer to the cross. You'll recall in John chapter one when John, speaking here of John the Baptist down at the Jordan baptizing. And you'll recall what happens. Look, if you will, in verse twenty-eight, "These things took place in Bethany beyond the Jordan, where John was baptizing. The next day he saw Jesus coming to him, and said, 'Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!'"

Now, watch this, all down through the Old Testament from the beginning in the garden of Eden when God gave Adam and Eve skins to cover them. From the very moment of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, when the earthquake came and the veil in the temple was rent from top to bottom, God did it, and opened the veil to all mankind. In the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, He was the Lamb of God, listen, the Lamb of God slain before the foundation of the world. Which means, listen to this, in the mind of God, Jesus was already a slain Lamb before the creation of the world. That was God's plan for mankind. So God's redemptive plan, the cross, wasn't something that God thought about after Adam and Eve sinned. It was, listen, it was pre-planned, foreordained before it ever happened.

And so, when you look at the Gospels and you see one verse after the other, and this is just one verse in each Gospel, but all through the Gospels, the key, everything is moving toward the cross of Jesus Christ. That is the climax in each one of the Gospels. But there's a second reason. The second reason is this, and that is, it is by the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ, listen, it is by the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ that we experience, listen, that we experience spiritual liberty in our life. Listen, something happens in our life. And when I think about what the Apostle Paul said here when he said, he said, "God forbid that I should boast of anything else," why? Because it's the heart of what we believe.

It, listen, it is the liberating power of our personal life. There is no liberty, there's no freedom. For example, the problem man has to face is a problem of sin. And so therefore, since everybody has sinned against God, and since the penalty of sin is death, and since he says, "How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation"? and the wrath and the condemnation, the judgment of God before every single person who denies Jesus Christ as their personal Savior. Man has an awesome, he has an awesome, uncertain future. And it isn't because God is an unloving God. God is a very loving God, and He says, "You know what, I have made provision for your salvation. I have done the one thing that no one else could do for you, and that is I've come into this world in the person of My Son to lay down My life in order that you might be forgiven of your sin".

This isn't some denominational doctrine. This is the heart and core of the Bible from cover to cover. And not only that, it is, listen, it is the key to our walking in liberty every day. Here is the power of the death of Jesus. That death was so awesomely powerful that any person who accepts Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of their sins, they, listen, they are immediately forgiven, past, present, and future, of all sin so that, listen, that's the kind of pardon that is absolutely, listen, it is eternal pardon. That is, once and for all, eternally secure because the basis of our salvation, our forgiveness, is not what we did, but what He did at Calvary once and for all, in one awesome, unforgettable event, the shedding of His blood bought us our forgiveness. So, one of the reasons we say it's the heart of what we believe is because it permeates the scripture from beginning to end, and secondly, because, listen, it liberates us and frees us from the penalty of sin in our life.

We are saved by it. But Paul went one step further. Listen to what he said. He said not only that, look at verse fourteen in chapter six again, "But may it never be. God forbid that I would boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ through," listen, "through which the world has been crucified to me and I to the world". Now, what did he mean by that? He didn't say, "I crucified the world". He said, "The world's been crucified to me". Here's what the Apostle Paul discovered, what so many Christians will live their entire life and never, never, never understand, that when we come to the cross and God forgives us of our sins and indwells us with the Holy Spirit, listen, the same, listen, the same blood of Jesus that purchased your forgiveness and cleansing and eternal life is the same blood of Jesus Christ that has made provision for us to walk in victory day after day after day.

When he says, "The world's been crucified to me," here's what he said. He says, "When I got a glimpse of the cross and I began to understand the cross," he says, "the world lost its appeal. When I began to understand that, through the cross of Jesus Christ, everything I will ever need, my God will provide. Every desire of my heart that fits the will of God for me, God will provide". Because you see, it is by our relationship, it is by our relationship to Jesus Christ that you and I come to God in prayer. It's because of our relationship to Jesus Christ, we can expect Him to meet all of our needs. The truth is that every good thing that comes our way, some of them may be painful, many of them are not. Every good thing that comes our way comes by the grace of God. What makes it possible for God to love and forgive and to cleanse us? The shedding of His blood. He said, "The soul that sinneth, it shall die".

God had to not violate His own principle but answer, satisfy His own demand. And that's what Jesus did. His death satisfied God's demand for the penalty of sin. I will say that probably every Sunday, every Sunday, in every single one of these messages many times, why? Because it is the heart and the core, listen, the heart and the core of the redemptive plan is that Jesus was a substitute for you and me. He paid our penalty, bore it in His body on the tree. Now, when I look at this and think about what Paul was saying here and thinking about how he said it, when we begin to understand the meaning of the cross, here's what happens: we begin to look at it in a different light. The cross is like a mirror. What does it mirror? The cross, listen, the cross mirrors our unworthiness. The cross mirrors our sinfulness. What put Jesus Christ on the cross? Sin! That's the wickedness and the evil of sin, that it nailed to the cross the perfect Son of God.

But it also, listen, it also mirrors God's what? God's love, God's goodness, God's mercy, God's kindness, God's forgiveness. It also magnifies and mirrors the attributes of God, His greatness and His power, and all the other attributes of God. When you look at the cross and you begin to see, what does it say about the Father? What does it say about the Son? Everything it says is fantastically and absolutely wonderful. It talks about a God and His Son who loves us enough to lay down His life in our behalf. It's like a mirror. But not only is it like a mirror, but I think when I look at it, I think about the fact that it's the means of our salvation, as we've spent this whole time talking about. There is no other way. "Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God". He says, "I've come to seek and to save that which is lost". "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved".

Not that He was a teacher and a preacher and a healer, but that He died on the cross for our sins. It is a mirror, it is the means of our salvation, and it's certainly a magnet, it's like a magnet. Listen to this, you remember what Jesus said when He was speaking to His disciples? He said, "And I," He said, "If I be lifted up, I will do," what? "I will draw all men to Myself". And so, what is He doing? He's been drawing men, women, and young people to Himself down through these ages. And what is it that draws us? There's something magnetic about the Son of God, something magnetic about the cross. While to some it's a stumbling block, to others it's foolishness, to us who understand what the cross is, listen, we hang 'em around our neck, we put 'em on our steeple. We have glasses with them or cups with them or shirts with them. I mean, you see the cross hanging on every kind of thing imaginable. And some things I wonder about what it's hanging on, but that's all right. It's the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ. The cross is a symbol of God's love, His forgiveness of sin, and His power in our life to liberate us and to free us to walk a godly life every single day.

Now, the Apostle Paul saw it as a mirror. He saw it as the means of salvation. He saw it as a magnet, but he also saw it as something else, and that is he saw it as a model. Now, you say, "Well, does that mean we're all supposed to go to a cross and die"? No. When I say model, I mean this. What is it He modeled? He modeled sacrificial love, the love of Almighty God for sinful man. And you remember what he said? He said, "By this all men shall know that you're my disciples". What? "That you have love one toward another". What an awesome model, what an absolute... Somebody says, "Well, I do believe that Jesus was a model for good living". No. Jesus was the Son of God. He is the Son of God, the Lamb of God who came and who was slain before the foundation of the world, and it became a reality some two thousand years ago in order that your sin and my sin may be forgiven because He was the substitute for us and bore the penalty Himself. That's who He is.

Now, I ask you a question. Have you ever, at any given time in your life, ever applied the message of the cross to your personal life? What do I mean by that? Has there ever been a time in your life when you, before almighty God, said to Him, "God, I know that I have sinned against You, left You out of my life, rebelled against You, sorta had it my way, God. I recognize that my sin has separated me from you, and I need Your forgiveness. And so therefore, I am accepting Your forgiveness, provided for me through the death of Your Son, Jesus Christ, at Calvary. I do believe that when He died, He paid my sin-debt in full, and I'm accepting Christ and His work at Calvary for the forgiveness of my sin".

And I want to invite you, that if you've never made that decision in your life, listen, this is a key moment in your life. You have heard the heart of the whole Bible. And I want to ask you: Are you willing to ask the Lord Jesus to forgive you of your sins, that you do believe the witness of scripture concerning the cross, and you're accepting His forgiveness by faith? By faith we're saved. We believe what the Bible says. We act on it. Listen, you can believe about it, but until you act on it personally, a confession of your own lips. Yes, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. Yes, I believe He died on the cross for my sins. Yes, I believe my sin-debt was paid in full. Yes, I receive Him as my Savior. In that moment, your whole eternal destiny gets changed. And you can pray that simple prayer in your words any way you want to. And if your heart is sincere, you can't, listen, not won't, you cannot ever be the same again. Hallelujah!
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