Today’s Scripture:

In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them. 2 Corinthians 4:4

Introduction:

With Thanksgiving coming up this Thursday…I thought that this might give us something to talk about so that when it comes our turn at the dinner table to give something we’re thankful for…we might be able to avoid that awkward silence as we think of something profound.  Then again, as Christians we always have one thing to be thankful for…and that’s the fact that we serve a God that’s like no other in the world.

God makes much of us. But the point is to draw us out of ourselves to enjoy his greatness. In this 3-day devotional, John Piper pushes readers beyond the acts of Jesus’ love to see the goal of his love.

I just thought it would be a good idea to take these next couple of days to focus on the goodness of God, and hopefully help those of us (I’m ashamed to admit I’m one of them) who aren’t quite in the holiday spirit yet…to finally get into the spirit of the season…

So…I pray that this series will help us to discover some joy and happiness, and help get us ready for all the holiday festivities, Christmas parties, and dinners with family…and the dreaded Christmas shopping.  So…without any further delay…let’s get into the first message in this three-part series.

Today’s Message:  “Did Christ Die for Us or for God?”

Well, here we go.  If you’re sitting at a family dinner this Thanksgiving where one of the traditions is to give something you’re thankful for…here’s a great place to start.  I know many people will give the vague and classic answer of being able to fellowship with family…many of which we may have not seen in quite some time.  I understand that’s an important part of this holiday, and I’m really not making fun of anyone that says they’re thankful for family…it’s good to be thankful for family…because for the most part unless you’re working on multiple marriages…the family you have is the only one you’re going to get…so it’s good to be thankful for family.

However, I don’t know about you…but I can’t think of anything I could be more thankful than Christ’s death, burial and resurrection.  I am thankful for the Cross because without it…there really isn’t anything to be thankful for…is there.

Seriously.  Have you ever thought about this question:  What if there wasn’t ever a Cross?  What if Jesus never came, lived a sinless life, and became the spotless Lamb to be slain and sacrificed for our redemption?  What if Jesus never was made to be sin so that we could inherit His righteousness?  What if there was no sin atoning Blood of Jesus?

I believe that above all…this is the single most important thing that everyone (believer or not) should be thankful for because with out the Cross…there’s no good news, there’s no hope, and there really isn’t anything to be thankful for…because of the second point there…with out the Cross…we have no hope.

You know, I always pose this question to the atheists and agnostics:  “What if us “Jesus Freaks” are right?”  What if there is a Heaven and Hell, and those who reject Jesus really will die and go to Hell?  But…just for the sake of the opening thought of this message…what if the Atheist’s are right?  What if there isn’t any such thing as life after death…and when we die there’s just an empty nothing?

So…if everyone is giving the patented answer about being thankful to be able to fellowship with family…maybe you can be the one to stick out at the dinner table and shout out:  “I’m thankful for the Cross!”…Amen!?!

Test yourself. What is your mindset? Do you begin with God and his rights and goals? Or do you begin with yourself and your rights and wishes?

For many years…I could take this test, and to be honest…my first thought was indeed myself.  I mean think about the up coming “New Year’s Resolutions”…most of them are centered around personal goals…like losing weight or quitting smoking or working towards that promotion or finding a better career path.  Believe me, I’m not scolding anyone here…I’m guilty of the same thing.  I’m guilty of thinking of myself when it comes to goals or dreams, but last year that changed.

Last year was the first year that God spoke to my heart a theme that He had in mind for me for the year, and as many of you have read…it was simple:  Getting Serious About Being Serious With God, and from that Christlike Ministries NWA was born.  Almost a year later I’ve written just shy of 260 messages, and we’re going to be pretty close to 300 by the year’s end.

I find that I’m starting to have goals like spending more time in prayer, spending more time reading the Bible, spending less time watching television, and I can already tell you that one of my goals for next year is to do a better job of maintaining consistency with these messages.  I want to do a better job of starting and finishing these devotional series we do on time…without taking too many days off, but being diligent to start and finish them on time.  How many of you know if we take more time to take care of the little details of life…the bigger things tend to work themselves out.

I know another goal I’m going to have after the Holiday’s is getting off my butt, and spending time in the fitness center that I have a free pass to.  I know that come March or so that softball is going to be starting again, and I want to be in better shape physically for a couple of reasons.  One, because the Bible is clear that we ought to do a good job of trying to keep our “temples of the Holy Ghost” as healthy as possible.  Two, I realized during the short fall season that I was out of shape and lost a couple of steps…but that could be corrected with a little bit of commitment and work.  Third, I don’t like my expanding waist line.

The most important things to me however…is trying to become the best ambassador for Christ that I can be.  I recently wrote a friend of mine who is a powerful evangelist that I’m extremely young and inexperienced in ministry, and want to learn.  I want to learn to be a better minister and make sure that what I’m saying is sound doctrine.  That I think of him and my own pastors as mentors, and that I’m trying to learn from them so  that I can be a more effective minister and example for Christ.  I am sick and tired of playing around, having one foot in and one foot out…I want to be totally sold out for Jesus, and that’s what John’s talking about here.

Are your goals and dreams just about you…or are they about God?

And when you look at the death of Christ, what happens? Does your joy really come from translating this awesome divine work into a boost for self-esteem? Or are you drawn up out of yourself and filled with wonder and reverence and worship that here in the death of Jesus is the deepest, clearest declaration of the infinite esteem of God for his glory and for his Son?

I promise you that I started writing before I even read any of what Mr. Piper wrote, but here we are getting back to my opening thought of this message.  The greatest thing of all that we as Christians ought to be thankful for is the Cross.  That should give us all the joy and happiness we could possibly need…especially if we’re whosoever’s who have called upon the name of the Lord and are sozo’ed.  I don’t know about you…but if God never did another thing for me…having Jesus die in my place so that I could have a relationship with Him, and not have to worry about where I was going to spend eternity when I die or when Jesus comes back to get me…that’s all I need Him to do.

I’m being sincere here.  If all God did for me was send Jesus to die in my place…that would be enough for me to be thankful for the rest of my life.  I was once an alien to God, but now I have citizenship in Heaven.  I was once I child of disobedience…now I’m  the child of the King of kings and Lord of lords.  I was once lost, but now I am found.  I was blind, but now I see.  I mean what can be more important than knowing your eternal destination is secure…because you’re in Christ Jesus!?!

If you can think of anything more important then that…I’m all ears, but I’m pretty sure that anything you might be able to come up with…all I have to respond with is…what about Jesus?  What about the Cross?  What about salvation?  What about grace?  I think Jesus has anything you could think of beat…Amen!?!

Here is a great objective foundation for the full assurance of hope: the forgiveness of sins is grounded, finally, not in my finite worth or work, but in the infinite worth of the righteousness of God, God’s unswerving allegiance to uphold and vindicate the glory of his name.

I can’t get away from the point that what God did through the Cross what the greatest thing of all because the atoning Blood of Jesus flows from it.  It’s the Blood of Jesus that washes us white as snow, and cleanses us from ALL unrighteousness.  It’s the Blood of Jesus that God used to purchase every single one of us who calls upon the name of the Lord to be saved.  It’s the Blood of Jesus that God sees every time He looks at me, and why He no longer sees my sin…but the Blood of His only Begotten Son.

The Cross is the foundation of everything because without it…there’s no hope.  There’s no forgiveness of sin, there’s no Holy Ghost, there’s no redemption or hope of His glory.  If there was no Cross then we’d still be under the law, and there would be a whole lot of people (including myself) whom God would’ve had to strike dead because He couldn’t look upon or tolerate sin.

There’s nothing more valuable than the Cross.  There’s nothing more precious than the Blood of Jesus…I sure hope I can get an Amen or two from that…Amen!?!

I appeal to you with all my heart, take your stand on this. Base your life on this. Ground your hope in this. You will be free from the futile mindset of the world. And you will never fall.

Take our stand on what?  Base our life on what?  Ground our hope in what?

When God’s exaltation of God in Christ is your joy, it can never fail.

Jesus!  When you’re unashamed to stand for Jesus because even though you may not be able to fully comprehend just how valuable His Blood is, and what it did for you and still does for you…it gives you a reason to rejoice, and be thankful…and humble because you realize that it wasn’t just for the world to receive…but it was for you.

The Cross!  I can’t not think of the Cross without having some kind of reaction.  Some times it’s awe.  Some times it’s tears.  Some times it’s joy.  Because of everything I’ve already spoken of in this message and more.

So…when it comes your turn at the dinner table, and everyone’s given their answers about being able to spend time with loved ones, maybe a promotion they received at work, that new car they got, the new house that they moved into, and you know all the other stuff that’s said…be the one that is unashamed to say:  You know what…I’m thankful for all those things everyone has just said, and it’s clear that we all have a lot to be grateful for.  And I don’t know about anyone else…but I am so thankful that Jesus went to the Cross for me.  It’s so amazing that if there wasn’t anyone else in the world He would’ve still gone to the Cross just for me.  Because of Jesus I have right standing with God, and I know my eternal destination is secure.  That’s what I’m thankful for…

Anyone else feel that way?

Conclusion:

Well…I think maybe that could be a bit of a challenge for us this Thanksgiving.  Instead of making it about material possessions or worldly stuff…why not stand out…and be what for many of us could be the first to say something about being thankful for Jesus.  You never know what kind of impact that can have.  There may be one of your family members at the table who might need to hear that…and they may want to know Jesus as a result of your being unashamed to speak out.  Then again, everyone at the table might roll their eye’s and think “oh…no…there goes another one of them Jesus Freaks”, but I always remember that the less ashamed of Jesus I am before man…the less ashamed of me He is going to be when we’re standing before His Father on that day…and I don’t know about you…but I would much rather Him not have any reason at all to be ashamed of me…Amen!?!

Let’s Pray:

Father, thank You for the gift of Your Son.  Lord, as we sit around our Thanksgiving tables this week, I ask that You would remind us of the sacrifice of Your Son, and how valuable to all of us that should be.  Thank You for the Blood, Thank You for the Cross, Thank You for securing our eternal future, and Thank You for providing a way for all of us to be Your son’s and daughter’s.  In Jesus’ name we pray…Amen & Amen