Monday, October 18, 2010

The Cross

Beneath the cross of Jesus I fain would take my stand,
the shadow of a mighty rock within a weary land;
a home within the wilderness, a rest upon the way,
from the burning of the noontide heat, and the burden of the day.

Upon that cross of Jesus mine eye at times can see
the very dying form of One who suffered there for me;
and from my stricken heart with tears two wonders I confess:
the wonders of redeeming love and my unworthiness.

I take, O cross, thy shadow for my abiding place;
I ask no other sunshine than the sunshine of his face;
content to let the world go by, to know no gain nor loss,
my sinful self my only shame, my glory all the cross
.


I Cor.1:17-24 - For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect. For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.
For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent. Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?
For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom: But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness;
But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.
Oh dear ones, where is the cross? Why have we sold our hope for a mess of pottage? Why do we preach morality and patriotism and family and finances and everything else under the Sun, but backpedal the cross except for some perfunctory asides that make us feel good about our doctrinal selves? Watch as some well known pastor is invited to be on Larry King and listen as they speak of homosexuality, abortion, moral values, traditional marriage, and the political issue du jour. But cup your ear and see if they spend any time speaking about the cross. Sadly, your ears strain in vain.
Do we not believe the cross and its power survived the Industrial Revolution? Do we now believe the preaching of the cross is so unsophisticated to the modern mind that we must now use other means that are more palatable to the unsaved spiritual taste? I mean, what idiot would converse with Stephen Hawkings and share the cross of Jesus Christ with his massive intellect? We might be mocked for such an archaic idea. So many churches have become circuses designed to either ignore the cross altogether, or slip it in the back door so as to avoid any real offense. The cross has become an offense to the visible, western church. God forgive us.
We have become so wise in our own eyes, and so crafty and cunning. Experts in the art of communication, entertainment, effective lighting, moving music, and relevant preaching, we have abandoned that which the Apostle says is the power of God. And jettisoned along with the cross of Jesus Christ is any cross bearing in our own lives. We desire the resurrection, or at least the newness of life, without the suffering and shame of the cross.
Most Christian television and radio is an affront to God and His message. The Christian bookstores have no conscience and Biblical compass; they are nothing more than money making enterprises. But so are many churches. Ask your church for the list of sermons and sermon series over the last five years and see how often the cross is the theme as compared with earthly themes. And more personally, think about how often you worship Christ for that cross in your daily walk, and recall any time where you actually shared that cross with a lost person in the last five years.
Compared with the cross, we have no problem sharing with a lost person how Jesus can help his life. But a crossless Christianity is no Christianity at all. And I do not mean just having the cross as a conspicuous part of our religious creed. There are many “orthodox” churches who have as part of their creed the words “Jesus died for our sins upon the cross”. Oh yes, we believe that! We are not liberal or emergent and our statement of faith proves that and reveals how orthodox we really are. But as I said, in mixed company and when on the national stage, the cross doesn’t even make the topic list, much less be the core theme.
The cross is our life, and it should be the banner of God’s people. Should Jesus tarry the cross will continue to be ignored and even maligned. Many emergents have suggested it represents defeat and even cosmic child abuse. Many modern day thinkers no longer embrace the cross as wholly redemptive, and many now suggest it is a spiritual example of what we should not do to others. But those things are easily recognized as deceptions and departures from the obvious teachings of Scripture, but there is a more subtle deception. When we take solace in the fact that we see that deception and remain steadfast doctrinally concerning the cross, we are deceived as well. You see, when the evil one cannot get a people to deny the cross or change its redemptive message, he showers them with pride while they themselves move away from the cross, not doctrinally, but in their words and lives.
And voilĂ ! The cross has become a doctrinal relic that no longer actually has a discernable place in our everyday lives, and is a fringe issue in many of our gospel presentations. Let’s be honest, the idea that a dead Jew on a Roman instrument of extreme public torture is unsavory and sounds so out of place in any reasonable discussion of spiritual things. With the rise of education, and with the advent of technology, and with the elevation of our standard of living, the message of the cross seems so primitive and unrealistic. So unless we actually believe the words of the New Testament, we are left to our own wisdom and spiritual strategies, which in fact, is exactly what Paul warns against.
And faced with such a dilemma, we can only address our own plight while praying for the body of Christ collectively. It just may be that the western church will not return to faithfulness to Christ and His gospel, but God only holds you personally accountable. And meditate upon this thought: If I was the only believer on earth right now, how would Jesus desire me to live and speak? And if I was the only believer on earth today, when I died would Christianity die with me? Is there anything concerning Jesus in my life right now that would warrant persecution? Are people around me affected by my walk in Christ, either positively or negatively?

The cross of Jesus Christ is the power of God.

And take notice of these last two lines,

Content to let the world go by to know no gain nor loss
My sinful self my only shame, my glory all the cross.

Beneath the cross of Jesus I fain would take my stand,
the shadow of a mighty rock within a weary land;
a home within the wilderness, a rest upon the way,
from the burning of the noontide heat, and the burden of the day.

Upon that cross of Jesus mine eye at times can see
the very dying form of One who suffered there for me;
and from my stricken heart with tears two wonders I confess:
the wonders of redeeming love and my unworthiness.

I take, O cross, thy shadow for my abiding place;
I ask no other sunshine than the sunshine of his face;
content to let the world go by, to know no gain nor loss,
my sinful self my only shame, my glory all the cross.

3 comments:

mikeratliff said...

Amen Rick, thanks brother. Yes, how astute that you perceived my need for encouragement... Again, thanks for sending me the link to this.

Anonymous said...

... foolishness to Greeks and a stumbling block to the Jews...

The cross is rejected by the world's wisdom and by its religious spirit; but adherents of both will readily wear crosses - even have them tatooed on their bodies...

Steve said...

Your words spoke directly to my spirit, brother. Thank you, and Him who speaks in you.

Steve