Welcome to Calvary Albuquerque.
We pursue the God who is passionately pursuing a lost world. We do this with one another through worship, by the word, to the world.
In a few moments, we're going to be taking the Lord's supper together. I'm going to be reading from the Book of Acts in chapter 10, where Peter is addressing a Roman centurion by the name of Cornelius.
He is in his home-- Cornelius's home-- and Peter says, that word you know, which was proclaimed throughout all Judea, and began from Galilee after the baptism which John preached-- how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him. And we are witnesses of all things which He did, both in the land of the Jews and in Jerusalem, whom they killed by hanging on a tree. Him, God raised up the third day and showed Him openly, not to all the people, but to witnesses chosen before by God, even to us who ate and drank with Him after he rose from the dead. And He commanded us to preach to the people, and to testify that it is He who was ordained by God to judge the living and the dead. To Him, all the prophets witness that through his name, whoever believes in Him will receive remission of sins.
There were two farmers. One was from Texas, and one was from Georgia. The Texan farmer was visiting the farmer in Georgia, and the Georgian farmer pointed out to the edge of the horizon to show him how big his farm was. And that farmer from Georgia said, you know, if you go past those trees and along that stream that you see in the distance, and over those hills and back to the left to where the main road is, and come all the way back to this spot, that's how big my ranch is.
The Texan farmer said, well that's impressive. Now let me tell you how big my ranch is in Texas. He said, if you get in a pickup truck at daybreak and you drive all day long, take a break for lunch, get back in the truck, keep driving, take a break for dinner, keep driving in that same direction, by midnight you'll go from one end to the other end of my ranch in that pickup truck. And the farmer from Georgia said, yeah, I once had a truck like that, too.
What was good to the farmer from Texas wasn't so good in the estimation of the farmer from Georgia.
Somebody asked me a question a few years back about Good Friday. They said, what's so good about it? I mean, why do you call it Good Friday? It's like the biggest misnomer of anything you could name anything. I mean, you're celebrating death. You're celebrating a violent crime that was committed. You're celebrating torture. We know what happened on Good Friday. What's so good about Good Friday?
And then, some people will even say, as you are celebrating the death of this religious leader-- the founder of your religious movement-- it would seem that because He was killed, that would end the movement altogether.
Of course, that does betray an ignorance, right? We know about Jesus sufferings. What began on Thursday culminated on Friday. After the Passover meal with his 12 most intimate friends, Jesus was then arrested in the garden of Gethsemane. He was arrested because Judas betrayed him. Jesus was then taken and incarcerated. And later that night, into the early next morning, Jesus underwent six separate trials. They were all rigged. They found him guilty before the trial even began.
Finally, Pontius Pilate, who knew that Jesus was innocent and tried to free him, gave him over to crucifixion, for the writer, Luke, tells us that the voices of the people and the voices of the chief priests prevailed. One of the saddest verses in scripture. He knew what was right. He knew Jesus was innocent, but the voices of the people were too much for him, and so he gave in. Jesus was scourged, beaten. Then He walked with the upper part of his cross to Golgotha, where from 9:00 in the morning till 3:00 in the afternoon Jesus hung, and then He died.
So, what's so good about Good Friday? It's what Good Friday points to that makes it so good.
Now, when a person says, well, what's so good about Good Friday? I understand-- that's a fair question. I understand where they're coming from. I understand that they don't understand. I understand that they don't get the fact that God is so perfect and we are so imperfect so as to demand the payment of penalty due to our sin that Jesus was the only solution.
You see, in gathering here on Good Friday, and in taking communion, there are certain things that you recognize-- you know to be true. You know that you are a sinner and that I am a sinner by nature, as well as by nurture-- by birth, as well as by behavior. It's what we are by nature, and it's what we do according to our nature. It's who we are, and it's what we do.
So, Good Friday-- the death of Jesus Christ-- was necessary, as theologians would say, to placate the wrath of God on humanity, and be able for Him to freely, graciously, grant eternal life to anyone who would believe in Him from that time all the way into the future.
That is the good news and that is the gospel. And also, Jesus dying on the cross is not the end of the story like that old sermon that begins by saying, it's a Friday, but Sunday's coming. It's certainly not the end at all. We know how this ends.
Good Friday-- the term-- comes linguistically from hundreds of years ago when the term "good" was a term that equaled sacred, or holy, or righteous. In fact, years ago it used to be called Sacred Friday. So, Good Friday was a term hundreds of years ago that meant it's a holy Friday, it's a sacred Friday. It's something that is set aside as special because of the one who died.
But let me tell you why it's good. Good Friday points to a good person, it points to a good plan, and it points to a good purpose.
First of all, it points to a good person. Peter said that Jesus went around-- in verse 37 and 38-- and He went about doing good and healing all those who were oppressed by the devil. Nobody is greater when it comes to being the personification of all that is good more so than Jesus Christ. He is the ultimate good person.
Nathaniel once asked, can anything good come out of Nazareth? And Philip said, come and see. Then the rich young ruler came up to Jesus and he said, good master, what must I do to inherit eternal life? Jesus's answer is interesting. He said, why do you call me good, for there is no one who is good except for God.
Now, in that statement, Jesus is saying something about Himself, and he's saying something about everybody else. He's saying something about Himself. He said, why do you call me good? There's only one who is good, and that is God. Jesus is either saying, I'm no good, or he's saying, I am God. For He said, no one is good, except for God.
So, it's as if Jesus looks at that rich young ruler and says, there's something about me that you recognize for you to call me good master. What is it? He's drawing him out to a confession.
But it also says something about us, not just about him. For Jesus said, no one is good except for God. How many times have you heard people say, well, I think I'm good enough. I'm good enough to be saved. I'm good enough to get to heaven. Question-- are you as good as God? And nobody can make that boast. Nobody can make that kind of statement, except one, and that is Jesus. Jesus isn't just a good man, He is the good man, because he is the good God. He is the God man. So, Good Friday points to a good person.
Even when Jesus was on the cross, the Centurion who was there-- it says he glorified God and said, truly this man was a good man, a righteous man, as he watched Jesus die. So, Good Friday points to the only good person.
And-- Peter says here in Acts chapter 10-- that he went about doing good, and he tells us specifically what good things he did. He went about healing all those who were oppressed by the devil, for God that is God his Father was with him.
I love the fact that the one who wrote the Book of Acts is none other than Luke, who was a physician. And he says of Jesus, in effect, this man did what no other person could do-- what no other doctor could do. He healed people who were oppressed of the devil. He healed them of their diseases, and he cast out their demons. He healed all those who were oppressed by the devil.
You remember what Jesus said. He said of the devil that he has come to steal, to kill, and to destroy. But then Jesus said, but I have come that they might have life and have it more abundantly, or life to the max. Life to the full. So, what a contrast between the devil and Jesus. The devil wants to take from you, Jesus wants to give to you. Satan wants to rip you off, the Lord wants to bless you abundantly. So, Good Friday points to a good person.
Second, Good Friday points to a good plan. In verse 39, Peter says to Cornelius, the Centurion, "and we are witnesses of all these things that He did in the land of the Jews and in Jerusalem, whom they killed by hanging on a tree."
God's good plan was to substitute Jesus Christ, the only good person, for all of us bad persons. That was his plan. It's a good plan. Jesus was the only perfect person who ever lived. He lived a sinless life, therefore He could die an atoning death. It's the plan of substitution. All of the bad people that are in the world, Jesus could say, you can be-- you can be, not automatically are, but you can be-- by faith in my son, you can be justified, you can be declared righteous, you can be brought to heaven if I substitute the only good person for all the bad persons.
Peter put it this way in 1 Peter chapter 3, "Christ suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God."
There it is. The just for the unjust. The perfect for the imperfect. The righteous for the unrighteous. The sinless for the sinful. The good person-- the only good person-- for all the bad persons. It's that beautiful teaching, that doctrine of atonement, substitution.
And you probably know that one of my favorite verses on this subject is 2 Corinthians 5:21. By now, you know it by heart. You've heard me say it so many times. God made Him-- if you know it, say it-- God made Him, who knew no sin, to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
In other words, God the Father decided to treat Jesus as if Jesus were guilty of every sin ever committed by every person. God the Father treated Jesus like we deserved to be treated so that He could treat us like Jesus deserves to be treated. God made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
Isaiah 53 will put it this way. "He has born our griefs. He has carried our sorrows. He was wounded for our transgressions. He was bruised for our iniquities." So, the perfect one bore our sins, so us imperfect ones could bear his righteousness.
Somebody noted to me years ago, they said, boy, you know, Christianity is a bloody religion. I said, well now you're thinking. You're absolutely right. In fact, somebody put it this way-- cut the Bible anywhere and it will bleed. It's all about sacrifice. It's all about this teaching. It is repeated from the beginning to the end. It was anticipated by Moses. Moses foreshadowed it as he brought his son Isaac to Mount Mariah and almost slaughtered him on the very place Jesus would be slaughtered years later.
Moses himself articulated it when he said, without the shedding of blood, there is no remission of sins. The levitical sacrifices pictured it as those little lambs were brought, and their throats were cut, and they were bled to atone for the sins of the nation. The psalms poeticized it, as David and Psalm 22 began, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" And a few verses later, "they have pierced my hands and my feet," describing the crucifixion in poetic terms.
And the prophets predicted it. The prophet Isaiah-- I just quoted Isaiah chapter 53. So all of the Old Testament looks forward to that bloody sacrifice on Calvary, and all of the New Testament looks back to it.
When you open your Bible to the gospels, as we noted on Wednesday night, between 20% and 40% of the gospel accounts-- depending on which one, Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John-- between 20% and 40% devote their textual real estate to the suffering of Jesus Christ on the cross. It's an enormous amount of words to tell the story about what He did. So, in the gospel there is the presentation of this sacrifice on the cross.
In the Book of Acts we have the reaction to the sacrifice on the cross as the world hears the message of the Apostles, Peter and John, and Paul the Apostle. As that message goes out around the world, we have recorded in the Book of Acts the reaction. So, the gospel is the presentation, the Book of Acts, the reaction of the world. In the epistles we have the implications of the cross as the apostles tell us what it means and what benefits we derive from it. And then finally, the Book of Revelation is the culmination of the cross, and we discover there in Revelation 13, Jesus Christ, the lamb who was slain from the foundation of the world. So, all of the Bible looks forward, and all of the Bible looks back to it.
So, Good Friday-- why is it good? It points to a good person. It points to a good plan-- God substituting the only good person for all the bad persons. And finally, it's good because it points to a good purpose.
Peter says, "Him, God raised up on the third day, and showed Him openly, not only to all the people, but to witnesses chosen before by God, even to us who ate and drank with Him after he arose from the dead. And He commanded us to preach to the people, and to testify that it is He who was ordained by God to judge the living and the dead. To Him, all the prophets witness that through His name, whoever believes in Him will receive the remission of sins."
You know what remission means, right? It means forgiveness. That's God's purpose. God's person, Jesus. God's plan, substitution. God's purpose, forgiveness.
When you look to, when you receive, when you believe in, when you follow this one, this Jesus, the promise is you will get remission or forgiveness of sins.
You remember when Jesus was put on the cross, the very first statement He made? He said, Father-- what did he say? Forgive them. Very first statement out of Jesus's mouth. It's an astonishing statement. Father, forgive them? Forgive them? This crowd who was shouting for the blood of Jesus-- crucify Him, crucify Him, give us Barabbas instead of Him. This crowd there rejected Him. This city that rejected Him. There was no room for Him in the inn. There was a plot for His death the last few years of his life. It's not natural-- it's not normal-- to pray, forgive them.
When somebody cuts in front of you on the roadway or on the freeway, what is your immediate reaction? Or, if you're about to pull into a parking space and someone zooms right in front of you and cuts you off. Have you ever had that happen before? I pray for them when that happens. But I don't say, Father, forgive them. My prayer is something like, Father, judge them now. May their car break down in Jesus's name. Give them a flat tire. I'm being honest. It's a prayer. God doesn't have to answer it, but He could if He wants to. Just saying.
You know, I've always been comforted by the fact that there are psalms in the Old Testament called imprecatory psalms. Do you know what an imprecatory Psalm is? It's in prayer, the Psalmist calls down judgment. Now, God doesn't have to answer it, but it's the honest feeling of David, or the other Psalmists-- Psalm 58, I remember the first day I read this, I underlied it, thought-- this is in the Bible. And it's where David prays for his enemies, and he's saying, oh, God, break their teeth in their mouth. I was comforted by the fact that that was in the pages of scripture.
But not Jesus. Not this good person. Not this righteous person. He says, Father, forgive them. Why? Because he knows that is our greatest need. It is mankind's-- it is humankind's-- greatest need, to be forgiven.
So, instead of Father, judge them, or hanging on the cross saying, I'll be back in three days and you'll get yours, he says, Father, forgive them, because that's why he came to die. So, his death isn't the end of the story. His death is the theme of the story, because through his death, he can offer forgiveness.
Now, in just a moment we're going to pass out to all of you here in the amphitheater-- all of you in the green belt, in the overflow area where the big screen is-- we're going to pass out the elements of communion. When you take these elements, I want you to think of that piece of bread and that little bit of juice like glasses. I don't want you to look at those elements as much as look through those elements. Look at your Savior through the lenses of the bread and the juice.
And as you take, I want you to think of looking back-- looking back to the cross. After all, Jesus said, do this often in remembrance of me. He told us to look back to his sacrifice, to never forget it, to let that be our point of reference as we look back and consider the greatest, most ultimate sacrifice ever made. So, we look back.
But also, we look to the present. After all, it is called communion. In taking these elements, there is a special intimacy we enjoy with the Lord, a special fellowship we have with Him, a special closeness that we garner in taking these elements one with another, and we are saying, the sacrifice that washed me of my sins washed you of your sins, and there is a communion with us, but there's a communion of intimacy with God.
So, we look to the past, we look to the present, but also, we use those lenses of the elements to look to the future. For the Apostle Paul, said, as often as you take these elements of the communion-- the bread and the wine-- you are showing the Lord's death until He comes. So, part of the communion service is to get us to look to the future and remember the great hope of the church. It's not just looking back at the cross, it's looking forward to the coming. Jesus Christ is coming back. He is coming back.
And you want to know something? This is something that just thrills my heart. Whenever we take communion, Satan gets scared, because it tells that Jesus is coming back, and he-- as we take communion-- we're testifying, your day's coming, buddy. Your day's coming. There's going to come an end of your reign, and the beginning of His worldwide empire.
So, we look back, we look to the present, and we look to the future.
Let's pray together. Father, these elements that we're about to take, these are elements that Christians around the world on this Good Friday are partaking of. In this place and at this time, we're aware that we're part of a huge army of believers around the globe. Many of them are persecuted believers. Many of them are not in free nations like we are. Many of them are gathering secretly, and they're taking these elements together in thanksgiving, but in fear and trepidation because of the enemies that surround them. I pray there would be a special communion, a special blessing, that they enjoy with you and with each other on this day. And as we look to the past, and as we have communion with you in the present, we also think of the future when Jesus Christ will come back, and Satan's work will ultimately be destroyed. And knowing that it scares him makes us happier, because he is your enemy, and he is the enemy of our soul.
Father, I want to just pray for anyone who may be here today who doesn't have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. They've gone to church, maybe most of their lives. They've heard the gospel before. They're sitting with a wife, or a husband, or a child, or a parent that believes, but they, themselves-- they're not there yet. They're not a committed follower of Christ. They're not a disciple. They enjoy the songs and they will put up with the messages, but there is not a surrender. There's not a stopping and a turning around, a repentance that has taken place, and I pray that that would take place, right here, right now. Today.
And if you're here at this service, before we pass out these elements, if you don't know the Lord, you have one of two options-- don't take communion if you don't have a personal relationship with Him, because the Bible says, you preach a sermon of condemnation to yourself, or option number two-- best option yet-- you stop dead in your tracks, and in humility you ask Jesus to forgive you of your sins, to cleanse you from your unrighteousness, and by so doing you become a child of God by faith, and the result of that is you have the boldness to not only take communion today, but live for Him in the future, and take it tomorrow, and next week, and next month, because you will be on your way to heaven.
If you've never asked Jesus to be your Lord and Savior, right where you're seated-- if you're watching this on the computer, you're watching this by television, you're out in the park, you're here in the amphitheater-- if you don't know Jesus, ask Him in as your Savior right now.
Say to Him, Lord, I give you my life. I give it to you. It's imperfect. I know that. I have failed in so many ways. I admit that. Lord, I'm a sinner. That's why I need you as my Savior. And I believe in Jesus. I believe that 2,000 years ago He stepped out of heaven and He came to this earth. And I believe that 2,000 years ago He died on a cross for my sin as my substitute. The just for the unjust.
I also believe that after He died and was buried, He rose from the grave, and He is alive right now. I believe that. Therefore, Lord, I turn my life to you. I hand it over to you. I take my hands off-- the hands of my control, the hands of making my own choices for my own benefit-- I give you my life. I seek to be controlled by an alien power, by you. Rule over me. Control me. Superintend my life. I turn from my sin. I turn to Jesus as my Savior. I want to follow Him every day as my Lord. In Jesus's name, amen.
What binds us together is devotion to worshiping our heavenly Father, dedication to studying His word, and determination to proclaim our eternal hope in Jesus Christ.
For more teachings from Calvary Albuquerque and Skip Heitzig, visit calvaryabq.org.