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The cross of Jesus Christ is man’s only hope, Merritt says

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)–Pastors should spend more time from the pulpit preaching about the cross and its meaning, James Merritt said Oct. 14 at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky.
“We are living in a day where in pulpits all over America, we are being told that man’s problem is a lack of self esteem, and what he needs is encouragement,” Merritt said. “Some say that man’s problem is ignorance and what he needs is education. Others are saying that man’s problem is property and what he needs is welfare.
“The Bible says that man’s problem is sin and what he needs is salvation through the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Merritt’s chapel address wrapped up Southern’s first Heritage Week and also kicked off the seminary’s Pastor Appreciation Day. Other keynote speakers for Heritage Week were former Southern Baptist Convention president Adrian Rogers and Cleveland, Ohio, pastor Alistair Begg.
In addition to Merritt’s chapel sermon, Pastor Appreciation Day featured a complimentary luncheon for pastors and seminars by seminary faculty. About 200 pastors participated in the daylong event.
Preaching from Galatians 6:14, Merritt said ministers should teach about the cross because there is glory in the person who died on the cross, glory in the purpose declared by the cross and glory in the power demonstrated by the cross.
The power of the cross, Merritt said, can be seen in how its image has changed through time. Two thousand years ago, the cross was offensive to the three major cultures of Paul’s day: the Romans, Jews and Greeks.
“Crucifixion B.C. was a symbol of shame,” Merritt said. “It was a symbol of sin and shame. Crucifixion A.D. is a symbol of greatness, glory, power and praise.”
The act of crucifixion is an example of the Christian faith, he said, because it is the one form of death that cannot be self-inflicted.
“Crucifixion is something that … you must surrender to,” he said. “That’s why the cross is really the key to the Christian life. It is only in surrender that you find victory. It is only in death that you find life. It is only in faith that you find reality.”
Paul should be the example for ministers when preaching about the cross, Merritt said. He joked about ministers who brag about buildings, baptisms and budgets.
“If anybody had a reason to brag, Paul had a reason to brag,” he said. “When he wrote those words, he was the world’s greatest preacher. He was the world’s greatest evangelist.
“Yet Paul said ‘there is only one thing I want to brag about, and that is the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ.'”
Merritt said Christians should glory in the person who died on the cross because of who Jesus was: the only person ever crucified as a savior. All other crucifixions, he said, were done to sinners.
“We need to get back in our pulpits and make it plain, clear and simple that there is no way out of hell and there is no way into heaven except through the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ,” he said.
Merritt said people see earthquakes, rapes and murders on television and ask themselves, “Where is the love of God?” The answer, he said, is found in the purpose declared by the cross.
“Do you know why this world can’t find the love of God?” Merritt asked. “They’re looking in the wrong place. The cross is all you ever need to know that no matter what happens in this world or what happens to you, God loves you.”
The law of God was satisfied through the cross, Merritt said. Ezekiel 18:20 (the soul who sins shall die) and Romans 3:23 (all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God) blend together to form the purpose of the cross.
“If the soul that sins has to die, and if every soul has sinned, then that can mean only one thing: every soul must die,” he said. “Therefore, there are only two options. Either everyone has to die in their sins, or someone has to die for the sin of everyone. That is where the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ comes in.”
Merritt said the cross gives Christians power over three foes: the world, the flesh and the devil.
“Through the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ we have guaranteed victory over all three,” he said.

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  • Michael Foust