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This morning I preached at the nursing home for the first time since February 2020, as it only recently opened back up for outside visitors. My theme was redemption, and the message titled “The Three Crosses.” The service Scripture readings were: Psalm 130:1-8, Ephesians 1:3-8, and Luke 23:32-43. I read the Luke passage immediately before my message. Below is a photo of the 3 crosses that I took with me. I made it from scrap wood from my husband’s wood workshop. My cat walked in front just as I took the photo and I decided to share that one!

  • I preached this again and adapted the message a little for a “regular” church audience. I updated the manuscript, and also got audio. AUDIO HERE.
  • Scripture readings were: Ephesians 1:3-8 and Luke 23:32-43.

I brought 3 crosses with me this morning, and my message is entitled “The Three Crosses” because we will look at each cross and what it represents.
We have the center cross of REDEMPTION. This is the cross of salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.

We have the cross of REJECTION because one criminal rejected Christ.

The cross of REPENTANCE because one criminal admitted his sin and his need of a Savior, and turned to Christ. He found redemption from his life of sin.

These crosses on each side of Jesus show us the 2 ways it is possible to respond to Jesus. There is no third option.

First we will look at the cross of redemption. Redemption was mentioned in the Ephesians passage this morning. Ephesians 1:7 said: “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace.”

Redemption begins and ends with God. It is all grace – the undeserved favor of God towards us. “Amazing grace how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me.”

Redemption is the idea of deliverance, and the price of that deliverance. Sometimes it refers to the payment of a debt and sometimes to the liberation of a captive.
For the Christian, this concept has special significance because the price paid for our redemption was the death of Christ on the cross.

To summarize redemption in 3 points:

  1. People are redeemed from something
  2. People are redeemed by something
  3. People are redeemed to something

FROM  —   BY —  TO. Prepositions are important little words!
Let’s look at each of these.

People are redeemed FROM something – and that is sin. Humanity is held captive by sin. Remember the book of Genesis. God made a good and perfect world. God is good! God also gave Adam and Eve the freedom to make choices, and they made the wrong choice, and sin entered this world. Sin infected humanity and all of creation, making life difficult. The book of Romans says that even nature groans due to the sinful state of this fallen world.

But God had a plan to bring redemption. In the Old Testament, God called Abraham and through his genealogy or his descendants, the Lord Jesus Christ would eventually leave the glories of heaven and enter our world.

People are redeemed BY something. In the fullness of time, that is, when the set time by God arrived, God sent his Son – born of a woman – to redeem us from sin. The price of our redemption was the blood of Christ, his death for us on the cross.

In the Old Testament, there was the system of law and sacrifice. They would sacrifice a lamb or other animal to atone for their sin. These sacrifices had to be repeated because people keep on sinning, and a lamb wasn’t a lasting sacrifice. It was a temporary measure to deal with sin.

But then Jesus, God the Son, became the Lamb of God.

Jesus finished or completed the Old Testament system. When Christ said “it is finished” on the cross – it was. No longer would repeated sacrifices need to be made. The price for our sin was paid, once and for all, by the precious blood of Christ.

People are redeemed TO something, which is to a state of freedom. We have new life in Christ. Remember that redemption refers to the payment of a debt or the liberation of a captive.

It is like being unshackled from something that was limiting you or controlling you. You are free from it. We are no longer shackled by sin. That doesn’t mean we are perfect this side of eternity and that doesn’t mean we will never struggle with sin. But Jesus broke the power that sin had over us. Our sin can’t be held over our head. We’ve been redeemed. Our sin is forgiven. As we sang this morning, “My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus blood and righteousness.”

We are freed from the burden of trying to earn or deserve what Jesus already accomplished for us. Remember that grace is undeserved favor.

Jesus gave his life for us, but a dead savior would not be a savior. The resurrection of Jesus is important. Jesus conquered death, and the resurrection demonstrated…proved…confirmed…that Jesus was God the Son. Jesus said to the apostle John in Revelation chapter 1:

“Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death.”

This should give us great comfort, confidence, and security. If we have believed – placed our faith or trust in Jesus – we too have eternal life. We know the keeper of the keys!
As John 3:16 says: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on him should not perish, but have eternal life.”

And that leads us into the next 2 crosses – the crosses on each side of Christ. Each one shows us one of the two ways that we can respond to Christ.

First let’s look at the cross of rejection. The only ones excluded from the possibility of salvation in Christ are those who refuse to believe, and unfortunately there are those who refuse to believe.

In the Luke passage, it says that one of the criminals hurled insults at Jesus. He mocked Jesus. And not only this criminal, but the soldiers and certain religious leaders mocked Jesus too.

We may be shocked by this, but remember that we look at this from the perspective of 2,000 years after the event. I think many of us may have been among the mocking and sneering crowd. Think about it. This was a counter-intuitive way to save the world. God comes to earth and is humiliated and can’t even save himself?

I heard it said that the real miracle of Calvary is that there was NO miracle. Jesus died. But through this public defeat on a cross, an emblem of suffering and shame as the old hymn says, God forged our greatest victory! Our sin debt was paid, and eternal salvation obtained for us.

We may not be mockers, but I think we can be guilty of similar things. The criminal said, “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!”  Haven’t we found fault with the Lord at times when God did not deal with a problem in our life in the way we thought he should? Why didn’t God answer my prayer? Why didn’t God intervene?

And there is nothing necessarily wrong with such questions. Multiple people in the Bible – like some of the Psalmists, Job, and Habakkuk – cried out with raw emotions towards God. I think the underlying attitude behind our cries and questions is what makes it sinful, or not.  Jesus on the cross, cried out “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” –   And Jesus was sinless, the Scripture makes that clear. Jesus is the unique God-Man, fully God and fully human. I am thankful we have a God that knows what it is like to be human. God can handle our questions, and sympathize with us – as Hebrews 4 states.

But just like the cross, we need to remember that God doesn’t always save in the way we think he should. God’s ways can be very different from our ways.

I think we can reject Christ in another way too, and that is by not making a decision. Christian author Max Lucado wrote this:

“You don’t turn your back on Christ,
but you don’t turn toward him either.
You don’t curse his name,
but neither do you praise it.”

We are either for Jesus or against Jesus. We believe or we do not believe. There is no middle ground. When it comes to Jesus, we can’t stay on the fence. To not decide,  is to decide!  There are people who refer to themselves as agnostic when it comes to belief in God, but that is not an option. To be agnostic is to be on the side of unbelief or rejection.

Like the criminal on the cross of rejection, it is possible to come very near to the Savior and yet be lost.
It is also possible to be far off and yet be saved, and with that let’s look at the cross of repentance.

We see a different response and attitude from the criminal on the other cross next to Jesus. This criminal said to the other mocking criminal:

 “Don’t you fear God since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.” And then he said to Jesus: “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” 

This criminal admitted his actions were wrong and that he deserved the punishment he was receiving for his crimes. He was humbled by the presence of Jesus. He acknowledged the righteousness of Jesus.
He said: “This man has done nothing wrong.”  Not only was Jesus innocent of the crimes he was being crucified for, but his entire life was lived perfectly and without sin. Jesus was the spotless Lamb of God.

I said a few moments ago that it is possible to come very near to the Savior and yet be lost, and it is also possible to be far off and yet be saved.

In fact, I would say that realizing how far away you are from God – how righteous God is and how unrighteous you are – is exactly what is needed for God to come near to you.   In Isaiah 57:15, God says:

“I live in a high and holy place, but also with the one who is contrite and lowly in spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite.”

It’s is another counter-intuitive thing, but we get closer to God by realizing how far we are from him!

We may not be criminals, but we are sinful, and compared to Jesus we fall short. Our goodness can get in the way, and hinder us from believing. It is true that we have done good things, but we still have sin in our life and we need a Savior.

I think true faith arises from a sense of our personal need. An awareness of our sin is not to make us feel bad about ourselves, but to point us to our need of salvation through Christ and to shed light on the amazing grace and love of God. “Amazing grace how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me.”

This criminal repented. He saw the error of his ways and turned to God’s way. Repentance means a change of mind. If you are sincerely sorry for your sin, it should change your perspective. You turn away from sin, and turn towards God.

This criminal said: “Jesus, remember me when you come into your  kingdom.” And Jesus replied to him: “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
– Wow. That is an assertion:  truly,   today,   you will be.
That criminal didn’t have to wonder or doubt or lack assurance about his eternal destiny. It was certain.

And that word paradise is just another way of referring to the dwelling place of God or to heaven. And paradise is a word that points both back to the Garden (or paradise) of Eden and point us forward to the paradise of heaven. The Bible begins and ends this way.

It begins with the original created earth that was good in Genesis, and ends with the new heavens and new earth when Jesus returns in glory in Revelation.

Throughout Scripture it points to the new heaven and new earth as the ultimate goal of history and the eternal home of Christian believers. We are resurrected and get our bodies back, as we say in the Apostles Creed. A sovereign God is moving all of history to this appointed end.

Our lives are not lost in a meaningless cycle of historical repetition that is going nowhere. History is going somewhere, and we can trust that God is at work in this world – even when it might not seem like it.

The new heaven and the new earth is for the redeemed only. Redemption is dependent on a personal acceptance of the Redeemer.

In the Methodist church we sometimes say together in a service:
“Christ has died; Christ is risen; Christ will come again.”

This is the essence of our faith, and it involves the past, the present, and the future. The redemptive work of Christ on the cross is the center of everything.

All ages in the past looked forward to the cross. The Scripture says that Jesus was the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. It was part of God’s plan from the beginning. The cross was not plan B.

In the future, the yet unborn will look back to the cross. And in heaven, the Scripture tells us that the heavenly creatures continually proclaim: Worthy is the Lamb who was slain. The redemptive work of our Lord Jesus Christ will be the focus of our praise for all eternity.

No matter where we are in our biblical reading or the biblical story, we are never far from the Cross, or at least we shouldn’t be. We can unfortunately drift in our focus. We need to remind ourselves every day of how much we need Jesus and all that He did for us through his life, death, and resurrection.

So…this morning we have looked at three crosses: the cross of redemption, the cross of rejection, and the cross of repentance.

We learned that:
we are redeemed from something – that is sin
we are redeemed by something – that is the precious blood of Christ
and we are redeemed to something – that is new life in Christ

As we saw with the two criminals on either side of Jesus, there are two possible responses to Jesus – and two eternal destinies:
paradise with God or eternal separation from God.
We need to turn away from our sin and turn towards Christ.

If you are uncertain about your eternal destiny, if you are uncertain that Jesus could say to you “Truly I tell you, you will be with me in paradise” — please talk to me after the service or get in touch with Pastor Renee when she is back in town.