Coleta United Methodist Church

The Empty Cross: Power



1 Corinthians 10:11-14 11 These things happened to them to serve as an example, and they were written down to instruct us, on whom the ends of the ages have come. 12 So if you think you are standing, watch out that you do not fall. 13 No testing has overtaken you that is not common to everyone. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength, but with the testing he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it. 14 Therefore, my dear friends,[c] flee from the worship of idols.

It was when I worked at Barrington Good Shepherd Hospital as a chaplain. On the first day of orientation we took a picture and got ID cards that we had to have with us always. The ID card had a barcode on the back side of it, and the person who was making those IDs for us, the new chaplains, told us that with that ID card we could go anywhere we need to be. Doesn’t that sound awesome? I’d never had that special permission before! It felt so good! I felt so good that I could go to the places where only the authorized Personnel are allowed. Hahaha I am authorized! I am very special! And you know what? I don’t know what they thought when they built that hospital, or designated the rooms of the hospital, the chaplain office was in between two rooms, one was morgue and the other one was the place where the families of the deceased could see and stay with their loved ones before the funeral staff comes to take the body. Why? Why do they put the chaplain’s office in the middle of the morgue and almost morgue-like place? And that place was at the very corner of the hospital where no one would never come to there. Why? Once I was on call and that night there was an unidentified body in the morgue and there was someone who came to see the unidentified body to see if that was their family, so I had to be present at the moment that they took the body out of the morgue to show the body to the person. And then the person didn’t claim the body and left, and I had to stay in the chaplain’s office all night knowing that there is a body right next to the room! Why? Anyway, having that authorized card is pretty amazing. I am not medically educated, I am not part of the medical system that runs that big hospital, but I have the card! I could go to ER directly with that card! I could use all the short-cut ways that have this sign everywhere “Only Authorized Personnel Allowed” to get to the places I needed to be! It is pretty awesome, isn’t it? At every corner I turn, there is this sign “Only Authorized Personnel Allowed” and I am an authorized person allowed to be there. How awesome that is! When we believe in God, those who believe in God, those who believe in Jesus who call upon his name, he has the right to be called “Children of God.” In other words, you are authorized personnel. Sure that does not mean that we can go anywhere in the hospital but as far as in God’s eyes, you are authorized personnel! By God’s grace, we are qualified! By the blood of Jesus, our sins are covered and forgiven!
You see that God has changed our position. When God looks down from heaven at me, God doesn’t see the way Sophia is, or was, or even will be. God sees Sophia as the perfect one. In God’s eyes, I am perfect. Haha. In God’s eyes, you are perfect. Isn’t that great? Do you want to repeat after me? Let’s put your name and repeat after me. (slide) “Sophia is perfect.” That’s how God looks at you and me. Our position has changed, but that’s not all of the story.

The cross you see is empty, right? The cross is empty and the power that raised Jesus Christ from the dead is available to us today. The power is available. Look with me how Paul puts this in Romans 6: 22. (slide) “22 But now you are free from the power of sin and have become slaves of God. Now you do those things that lead to holiness and result in eternal life.” You might want to circle the word, power. You are free from power of sin. Why? It’s because power of God is at work with us. If you call upon Jesus today, if you say “yes” to Jesus, then, the power of God leads your life! And that changes our position, and also changes our CONDITION! You see God changes our condition that we were ahead to hell, and now we are ahead to heaven. Now what do we we? We just wait here to heaven? Is that what we are doing on earth? No! God is here to change us from inside out to change our condition as well. For many of us that means rescuing us from hell that we are living in. God wants to do that today. But there is a battle going there, isn’t there. There is a battle going on for our souls. If you figure this out yet, let me tell you. The access to evil is Satan, evil, and ourself. Right? Don’t you agree? Those are threats to undo us because God might do some great work in you, and then you start to be tempted yourself and you pulled away all these different direction. Sin is enticing us and we entice ourselves to sin and evil, too. The Bible calls it temptation. In Matthew’s Gospel, Matthew calls the devil “the tempter.”

So today we are going to talk about God’s power over temptation because God wants us to have victory today. (slide) How do we experience God’s power over sin’s temptation? We need to know this, don’t you agree? Because God wants to give us pardon. We find pardon, we found pardon last week when we brought this during my sermon. But I want you to think about what do you need power to overcome? What temptation is there that you need God’s power? There is temptation everywhere. Do you know what kinds of temptation you are facing today? Can you envision it? We all have temptations. What is it for you? Money, power, anxiety, despair, anger? What today is threatening to undo the good work of God in you? Is it jealousy? Quick temper? Selfishness? Impatience? Self-pity? Gossip? Alcohol? Drugs? Crispy Cream donuts? Chocolate? That’s mine. And yet with this in mine, do you believe the power of the cross? Do you believe what the Bible says we are more than conquerers. Do you believe that God has the ultimate power? Do you believe that the Spirit of God who raised Jesus from the dead lives in you? It’s in the Bible! That’s why we see transformed life around here!

By the power of the cross. The cross bring us the power to even deal with temptation! So please think about what your temptation is. You don’t have to say it out loud, but think of it as we share a message today. Now how do we experience God’s power over this? We are going to look through a passage of the Scripture. It was written for new Christians in the city of Corinth. Look with me number 1. (slide) 1. I have to be humble. You see God’s power is made perfect in our weakness. The Bible tells us God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble. This is what Paul says to those who said yes to Jesus in the city of Corinth. Let’s read it out loud. (slide) 12 If you think you are standing strong, be careful not to fall. (1 Corinthians 10:12) You see when I was young my mom would take me to a roller skating link. I was around 8 and I thought I was really good at roller-skating. Yes, I knew that I was good at that for my age. One day I was bragging my roller-skating skills on the link and yes of course I fell and hit my forehead really hard to the floor. I don’t know you can see this but because of the fall I still have a bump on my forehead. My forehead is not symmetry. Yes, temptation is near us, everywhere. Do you know who is close to? Those who think it’s not near. Those who think “I can never do that!”, be careful! That’s why I have had a bump on my forehead for 30 years! Let’s be humble. When we are humble only by God’s grace we can find victory. It’s not out of our own strength! SO let’s be humble.

Look with me number 2. (Slide) 2. I am not terminally unique. Over the power of sin’s temptation, I have to recognize that I am not terminally unique. Haha, this is going to hurt in a good way. When it comes to temptation, we often think, at least I do, we are the first ones who are ever tempted in such a way. We are the first ones who ever have to walk through this difficult period, this difficult trial, or this temptation. We think Satan creates something brand-new just for us, that we are so different that nobody’s ever been tempted in just the way we’ve ever been! And this is just true, right? Look with me what Paul says, (slide) “13 The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience.” (1 Corinthians 10:13a) Did you get that? Others have gone through what we find ourselves going through right now.

Yes, you are the child of God. You are the beloved one of God. you are very special. There is the only one like you. However, when it comes to sins and temptations, you are not special. I am not either. It’s the same. We journey through the same things. Now the people Paul is writing this to, it’s amazing. I am sure they would say to Paul, “Look, Paul we have got temptation. Okay other people might’ve got a little temptation, but we got really big temptation here.” You see Corinth is a port city and it was known to all of the world as the capital of evil and debauchery. In fact, if there was a Greek play, there is always a character that was depicted from Corinth, and this character is always drunk. That’s how people knew that he was from Corinth. In the city of Corinth, there was a great temple where people come to worship. It was temple of Aphrodite, the goddess of love. And in this temple, there were one thousand prostitutes and this must be a big problem for the Corinthian Christians.

So I can almost hear the new Christians of Corinth whining to Paul, “But Paul, you don’t understand! What we are going through is special. We got the temple, you know.” And he says to them, “Temptation in your life is no different than what other people experience .” Remember, it’s human to be tempted. Was Jesus tempted? Yes or no? Yes he was. He was tempted.

Temptation goes all the way back to the garden of Eden. Temptation is there. We know about the sin. When they ate the fruit from the tree of life, and today I am not necessarily worried about sin. You know what I am worried about? Actually my seminary professor once told this, “Ever since I’ve worried about is the second sin. That’s what I am most worried about.” You know the second sin is one that’s causing us trouble even still today. The second sin is what I am participating in and you’re participating in. You remember the second sin, right? When Adam ate the fruit, God comes looking for Adam, but God can’t find him because he is hiding from God. He’s ashamed. And what does Adam do? God asks him, “What’s going on?” Adam says, “This woman!” Yes, it’s the second sin. It’s the sin of excuses. Excuses. “But God, that woman really made me eat the fruit!” Or “God, my circumstances are…” or “God, I am in trouble…” or “ God I am having hard time…” So sin of excuses. We are not terminally unique.

But here’s good news. Look with me number 3. (slide) 3. It is limited in it’s power over me. See, temptation is limited in its power. Many times we can feel defenseless, when it comes to temptation, right? My temptation is late-night snack. I don’t eat much during the day, but I feel so defenseless at night! I have to eat! I feel like it’s all around me.

And yet, temptation is limited in its power. Read with me verser 13 that Paul shares with these Corinthian believers. (slide) “13And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand.” (1 Corinthians 10:13b) God won’t allow us to be tempted more than our capacity to endure that temptation. Are you with me? It can be difficult, I know. It is difficult not to despair at times. It’s difficult to not sin. Yes, I understand. Sin has a lure to it.

One day I was full of distress with some sort of problems that were going in my life. For the such a short period of time I had lots of problems in my life, and I was tempted by many many things. And I began to feel very, very unique, very justified. One day I was venting to my mentor on the phone because I was really desperate and needing help because my depression and anxiety were in full bloom. And I was beginning to despair. So I was talking to my mentor how unique I was. And she didn’t buy it. I said, “You don’t understand how hard this is!” “Ok, well why don’t you explain to me? Enlighten me.” So she listened a little bit more, and then he said this, “Sophia, listen to me.” And she quoted 1 John 4:4. (slide) It says, “4 But you belong to God, my dear children. You have already won a victory over those people, because the Spirit who lives in you is greater than the spirit who lives in the world.” And she hung up the phone! Well, what else she is going to say. When temptation comes we feel like it just presses on us, right? I cannot win this! I feel like I will be crushed. The Spirit who lives in you is greater than the spirit who lives in the world.

Do you believe the cross is empty? I do! The same power that raised Christ from the dead is inside of you. So can you face the temptation of money? Or power? Or Jealousy or envy? Or bitterness or rage? Can you face it? Yes! Because in Christ you have victory. Power is available to you today.

Look with me number 4. (slide) 4. I have to see God’s way out. Sometimes when I turn out all the church lights and I am left in the dark sanctuary. And there is only light that I can see. That is the exit sign. We have that here. You know what? In every dark theater of life, there is a neon exit sign that God puts there. Every temptation God turns on the switch. Look with me what Paul says, (slide) Paul talks about this exit sign. Let’s read it together. “When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure.” (1 Corinthians 10:13b) We have to look for the exit sign. We have to look for it. Many times we, you and I say, the devil made me do it. Now is that true? No, I can cooperate with the devil and do it. Or I, we can cooperate with God. Choose this day whom you will serve! You will look for the exit sign and you will find when you run. I guarantee. I have realized that there is an exit sign in the sanctuary until I was here alone in the pitch dark night. It was pitch dark and I stupidly turn out all the lights so I couldn’t see anything. But the neon exit sign is like tada-! Follow me, then you will find your way out! When temptation comes to you, run for the exit! Then God will show your way out! God will cooperate with you!

Let’s look with me number 5. (slide) 5. I have to keep God first. Ultimately it comes down to this. It’s keeping God first. There was one man in the Hallmark store and he asked a clerk to find him the perfect Valentine card. The clerk looked around and “Oh, here’s a good one, Sir.” Then he read, “To the one and only love of my life.” The man was delighted and said to the clerk, “Yes, this is what I need. I’ll take four, please.” What is your one and only love in life? Social security? It’s one of mine. Predictability? I really like that. Happiness? Yes no doubt. No trouble? Good healthy? Money? Good relationships? Everybody getting along? Whatever most important it is in our lives, it needs to be Jesus. It needs to be this empty cross.

Look with me what Paul says. (slide) “14 So, my dear friends, flee from the worship of idols.” (1 Corinthians 10:14) Idol worship is a major sin of the Bible from the time the children of Israel made a golden calf in the wilderness. Temptation for God’s people always has been with some status of idols, and they worship that instead of God. That was idol worship. I am so glad idol worship is done, aren’t you? We don’t do silly things just like the golden calf any more. No we don’t.

I met a missionary who worked in the real dangerous area in Mexico. He has two daughters and the daughters also live there with their dad in the notoriously dangerous place. So one day we asked him, “How do you live there? Aren’t you scared?” He said, “No, I am not because I don’t do idol worships. Stay away from idols.” We were like, “Okay, Missionary, what are you talking about? We don’t understand.” Then he said, “Stay away from idols. Keep God first.” We were like, “Okay, that’s good for you.” One of us said, “We don’t have idols. We don’t do that stuff anymore.” He said “Oh yes, you do.” Said no one. Some of our idols are sitting in our driveway and on Saturday we walk outside and we wax the idol. Some of you might think, “Oh, man, it’s time to close in prayer.” Some of idols have numbers and it sends you a statement every month. Visa card, internet, I phone, … so many idols that keep us from having time with God. What is taking place of God as your first love? If you want to experience God’s power over temptation fall in love with Jesus. Let Jesus love you, let the power of the empty cross be yours today. Do you love the empty cross above all of these? Do you love Jesus more than anything? I pray all of us give our life to Jesus as an offering. Thanks be to God!