Preaching The Cross Reminds Us That We Are Sinners

Preaching the Cross Reminds Us That We Are Sinners

If you are new to this blog, we are focusing on what it means to keep the cross in the center of our preaching schedule.  Here’s the first post in this series.   In this post we are going to consider the reality that preaching the cross reminds us that we are sinners before a holy God.   In other words, the cross teaches us that God only works through people who realize that they are nothing without grace and without the empowering presence of the Holy Spirit in us.

This is humbling.  There is something that is very wrong with us–that’s what we learn when we come to the cross.  We are, by nature, twisted, dysfunctional, and so tangled up in our own iniquity that no amount of therapy can unravel us, no amount of surgery can cure us.

Billy Graham

Billy Graham put it well at the inauguration of Bill Clinton, the 42nd President of the United States.  Those of you who saw it remember how that aging ministry leader slowly made his way to the podium.  He looked like he was carrying every one of his 50 plus years of ministry on his aging frame.  His purpose on the program was to offer a prayer  for the nation at this changing point of the country.  He began his prayer this way: “Oh God,” he began, we have sinned.”

That’s it!  This is what the cross tells me.  I am a sinner.  I am twisted by sin.  My actions and words and motives will always be scrambled with sin.

Preaching the Cross for Recovering Pharisees

One of my favorite books is titled, 12 Steps for the Recovering Pharisee (Like me).   John Fischer is the author.  Step 1 is pertinent to this discussion,   I must realize that I like to judge people, almost more than anything else.  We don’t like to think of ourselves as failures, as less-than, so we look at others and say to ourselves, “I may not be perfect, but I’m not like him or her.  I’m not a murderer.  And I’m not a thief.”

You see,  preaching the cross reminds us that we are sinners in the presence of a holy God.  When we have been to the cross we realize that we can’t look down on anyone.  We are sinners.   The definition of a Pharisee is one who identifies a level of holiness that he or she can keep, and then looks down on everyone else.

There was a cartoon in the New Yorker many years ago that makes the point well.  Two men in suits, carrying briefcases, are walking by a cross where Jesus is hanging.  The one man says to the other, “If I’m okay, and you’re okay, what’s he doing up there?”

God Meets Sinners At the Cross

I can remember even now the night that God revealed this to me in a powerful way.  I had sinned, and I was trying to minimize my sin to myself and to others.  These words came to mind: “I did this thing, but I didn’t do that!” referring to what I thought was a worse sin.  God met me one night and showed me my sin.  God, the righteous judge met me.  I was crushed.

It was then, however, that I realized the second great truth: When we come to the cross we find that God loves us more than we could ever imagine.  He gave us hints about this when he introduced the sacrificial system in the Old Testament.  Thousands upon thousands of bulls, goats, sheep and birds were killed and their blood sprinkled on the altar.  Millions of gallons of blood shed to teach the people a simple truth.  The only way to deal with our sin-twisted character is to shed blood.  Then God sent his son to become one of us, and then die on a cross, the symbol of a criminal’s death.

The Bottom Line: Preaching the Cross reminds us that we are sinners

You see it, don’t you?  You must come to the cross before you preach the love of God.  People need to know.  You could be a great speaker, or a good friend to people, and you would still fail as a preacher.  Preaching the cross reminds us that we are sinners in need of a cross to save us.  Preach that, and God will bless.