Scripture: COLOSSIANS 1:15-23
Travelling within some of the largest cities in the world in China last month, I was constantly looking to the horizon to gain some bearing as to where I was. I was looking for a reference point. I tell tourists to Sydney to look for Centrepoint Tower as a reference point. If they can see Centre-point, that 1000" tower with revolving restaurants, they can always find Wesley Centre at the base of it. A reference point stops a tourist from going in a wrong direction. Nations need to have a clear reference point in the midst of the confusing moral and ethical situations in which we find ourselves.
Parliamentarians need to discover a clear reference point for their expenditure of public money. I heard two of my family playing a word association game. When one said "Parliamentary..." the instant reply was "rorts"! It is little wonder when 20% of the State Government are before ICAC.! Businessmen face constant ethical decisions that cannot be decided simply on the basis of which delivers the largest profit. Governments must find a reference point to aid them in decisions about land rights, aged care, programs for the unemployed, abortion, medical health insurance and a dozen other dilemmas. Young people need a reference point to help them direct their lives into some purpose and avoid the traps of drugs, alcohol abuse, sexual depravation and the mind-deadening time wasters of Sega World, Nintendo, and Time Zone.
China decided upon the world's greatest social experiment in 1949 under Mao Zedong. The world's most populous nation was to decide everything by reference to communist dogma.
Henceforth, everything - economic theory, international relations, agricultural policy, educational procedures, family birth control, factory outputs, farming practice, and so on, would be decided by communist dogma. Later it was reduced to the slogans in "The Little Red Book."
Today, the Communist Party is in tatters like its model in the Soviet Union. The dogmas of Marx and Lenin have not stood the test of time. Portraits of Marx and Lenin which adorned the walls of every public building and school in two of the world's largest countries lie in store rooms amid other junk. The giant statues of Stalin who murdered untold millions, lie in metal scrap yards. The communist reference points have been broken and the world's largest populations are disintegrating. No wonder the populations of the Soviet and of China are turning to Christianity in unprecedented numbers.
Our country, has in a minor way, stumbled between left and right with major political parties claiming the centre ground as theirs and economic rationalism as their guiding light. In reality, this is no more a reference point than Mao's Little Red Book! We need an alternative reference point to life. We need a central reference point by which our lives are lived, our morals are judged, our motives are examined, our business, political, legal, social and cultural ethics are aligned.
There is such a reference point that has guided untold millions of people in effective service and enjoyable living over the centuries. It is the Cross of Jesus. The Cross of Jesus has become for many a reference point by which all of life is judged.
The men who drew the maps in the time of Christopher Columbus, thought the world was flat like a plate. It spun round a central point, the Cross of Calvary. This was the central reference point for the world. There is a deep symbolism here.
1. THE CROSS BECOMES OUR POINT OF VIEW.
Centrepoint gives Sydney a marvellous point of view. Christians since the first Good Friday judge life from the viewpoint of the empty cross of Christ. The risen Jesus changes your point of view of every aspect of life. That cross is the symbol of human sin, suffering, cruelty, betrayal, denial, expediency - His death symbolises all the wickedness and weakness of humanity. But His resurrection and triumph over the cross gives us a new point of view into courage, bravery, hope, life and love. The cross changes our point of view on the issues of life and behaviour.
So Paul could write: 2 Cor 5:16-17 "So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!" The disciples changed their point of view after the first Easter. The empty cross made them look with a different perspective. Fear gave way to courage. Despair changed to hope. Guilt changed to forgiveness. Death was now vanquished by life.
We today live in a world of suffering, confusion, expediency and shame. Men are no different from those who crucified Christ. But when you view life from the perspective of the cross of Jesus you see things with different eyes. The Cross has become our Christian point of view.
2. THE CROSS BECOMES OUR POINT OF REFERENCE.
High towers always become points of reference. So too the Cross of Christ has become a reference point for Christians in how to conduct their lives, how attitudes should be formed and how relationships to others should be guided. The empty Cross is the reference point by which everything else is judged.
In 1936 Rear-admiral Richard Byrd, lived by himself at an advanced base near the South Pole. In his book "Alone", he tells how he would climb out of his little hut deep beneath the surface of the snow to check his weather instruments. In the polar night, everything would be black even at noonday. He stopped himself from being lost in blizzard and polar night by building little mounds of snow every few feet. These he called his "reference points". By feeling one, then another, he could move round his instruments without getting lost. To be lost was to die in darkness. His reference point saved his life.
Outside of Jesus Christ, there is nothing except darkness, despair and death. We are lost. But through the cross of Jesus we have a new viewpoint, a different point of reference for all our judgements, and we are saved. The empty Cross of Jesus shows us love, light and life. Jesus said to His followers, Matthew 28:19-20 "Go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." They would never be lost because He would always be with them. The empty cross was a sign and symbol of His presence with them.
3. THE CROSS BECOMES OUR POINT OF ATTRACTION.
High towers like Centrepoint in Sydney, and like the high towers in Paris, Pisa, London, Toronto, San Antonio, Tokyo or even back at Babel always attract people. There is an attracting power of the Cross. Jesus had said: John 12:32 "But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself." Ever since, the Cross of Christ has drawn millions of people to Himself. As Paul wrote: Col 1:17-20 "He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. .. 19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross." The empty Cross attracts us, holds us, and presents us before God as His reconciled people.
4. THE CROSS BECOMES OUR POINT OF POWER.
Many people cannot understand this. But the Cross is the world's strongest power point! Paul had seen the power of the Cross drawing people to Christ and transforming them. He knew that the Cross of Jesus could change individuals and empires. Individual lives were changed by the power of the cross. Paul wrote: 1 Cor 1:17-18 "For Christ.. sent me to preach the gospel--not with words of human wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power. 18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God." Ever since individuals have brought to the Cross of Jesus their points of weakness and sin, and found the power to overcome. Ever since, believers have found through the resurrection of Jesus over death, the power to overcome everything that debilitates: alcohol, obsession with sex, drug addiction, greed, hatred.
But God's power through the cross was also able to change empires. In 312AD the Roman Emperor Constantine was engaged in a deadly battle with his enemy Maxentius. Constantine had a vision of a flaming cross at the Milvian Bridge over the River Tiber. He heard a voice saying "In the sign of this cross, conquer!". Constantine had the Cross painted on the shields of the Romans and won a great victory. That cross and saying marks the badges of every military chaplain to this day. There is power in the cross for individuals and empires.
God's power is released through the Cross into the lives of believers. As Charles Wesley taught us to sing:
"He breaks the power of cancelled sin,
He sets the prisoner free,
His blood can make the foulest clean,
His blood avails for me!"
Through the Cross power has been liberated into the world to fight against injustice, greed, exploitation, permissiveness, racism, exploitation, and moral pollution. The cross is our power point!
5. THE CROSS BECOMES OUR POINT OF LIFE.
God raised Jesus from the dead, but not only Jesus. Through our faith in Jesus Christ, God promises to raise us from the power of sin and death also. All who have faith in Him can find life also. The empty cross becomes our point of life. To accept the Cross of Jesus gives the rest of life some point. John 3:16 "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." That is what Easter is all about. Not just Jesus coming to life, but you coming to life also. John 14:19 "Because I live, you also will live."
Easter is the story of how God puts life into your existence. For your past, God offers you forgiveness. For your present God offers you power for living. For your future, God offers you eternity. Jesus said John 10:10 "I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full." Jesus offers you life that is full and free and abundant. The empty cross dominates the world. The empty Cross can become the central reference point to your life.
When you visit the Colosseum in Rome, there is a huge old cross in the centre of the arena where so many thousands of people died for their faith. That cross goes back to 391AD when there was a terrible gladiatorial fight under way. Men were drafted into killing each other for the pleasure of the crowd. While the gladiators fought, an old man in the crowd stood up and appealed for the gladiators to cease fighting each other. The crowds laughed at the old man as he made his way down to the arena floor.
Then old Telemachus held up his arms and shouted: "In the name of Christ, stop." The crowd booed. He entered the arena and stood between the gladiators. Then one huge gladiator swung a great sword and severed the old man's head. As his blood spilled upon the arena, some of the crowd got up and left. Then more. The trickle of people became a torrent as the Colosseum emptied. Never again in the Roman Empire were gladiatorial combats fought. A wicked practise ended because of the power of a Christian fully committed to Christ.
Today, at the foot of that cross is a message "In the spirit of this cross lies the hope of the world." The cross of Jesus Christ becomes our reference point and the hope of the world.
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