Monday, December 13, 2010

The Cross

Once you add anything to salvation you have abandoned the salvation that is found in Jesus Christ. Anything added, whether it be baptism, church membership, good works, a holy life, communion, or a long list of religious rituals, poisons the salvation that is only found in Jesus Christ. Works, as defined by acts of love toward fellow humans substantiate faith, but they are not only unnecessary because Christ’s redemptive work is finished and complete, but they revert back to Moses and leave Christ. Paul is very adamant in this teaching, and in fact insists that whosoever drags any part of the law (works) into the New Covenant has “fallen from grace” and that “Christ shall profit you nothing”. That is very serious business.
When a family has issues they deal with them internally and offer remedies from punishment to counseling and other kinds of help. But when you sit down and discuss your son’s misbehavior, you do not say, “Listen, unless you straighten up you are no longer my son”. Or even worse, “Listen, when you were born we made you part of this family based upon the precondition we would approve of things you do.” Your child was born of your flesh and upon conception he was indeed your God given child.
So it is with all who are born of the Spirit. The sooner a sinner realizes that any good works he thinks he has are not only substandard, they are filthy menstrual rags as it pertains to gaining the acceptance of a Holy God, the sooner he can turn to Christ and Christ alone for his salvation. Salvation by works, or faith and works, is usually the hallmark of cults. Either Christ’s work is sufficient or it was a big first step. Do the Scriptural math.
The Roman Catholic Church teaches a salvation by works including all sorts of bizarre religious rituals. It does not mean that all Roman Catholics are not saved, but it does mean that if they are saved they were born again through faith alone and fail to see clearly the error of Catholic teaching. I have met brothers and sisters like that. During the first millennium the early church moved steadily away from salvation by faith in Christ and began to adopt all sorts of religious obligations that were meant to control the ecclesiastical proletariat and elevate the Ecclesiastical Bourgeoisie. As is the design of man’s flesh, the church left Christ and became a controlling religious institution.
God then used a man named Martin Luther, a demonstrably flawed man in many respects, to give a rebirth to salvation by faith alone. I believe God used such a man so that Luther would not be given the glory, however many revere him above that which is appropriate. We must always sense the Spirit in all things and never elevate any man, regardless of how wonderfully God has used he or she. Sadly, in today’s culture of idolatry, all it takes is for a person to record a hit Christian song and they immediately gain a following. And mirroring the Church at Corinth, the western church divides as they follow different preachers and personalities. I am of Warren; I am of Osteen; I am of McArthur; I am of Bell; and on and on goes the list.
But the bastion of our faith is redemption through Jesus Christ alone and by faith alone. That must never be compromised or negotiated in the slightest. The glory of Christ's cross is that it was complete and is offered by faith alone and without any ancillary works of man. When man’s works are inserted into Christ’s work at Calvary, redemption withers up and dies. The vegetables of Cain must never touch the blood of the Crucified and Risen Christ.
As time goes by, and as movements that claim to be Christian spring up more and more, listen for the cross. If they have a new age twinge, and if they seem to be intellectual and incorporate words and practices from other religions, and if they are presenting something new and fresh without the cross of Jesus Christ, reject them soundly. And if they rely heavily upon Jewish rabbis from long ago, view them as very suspect. Make no mistake, the evangelical community is expanding its parameters to include all sorts of spurious teachings and movements. People, both professing believers and others, are being attracted by the sparkle of today’s evangelical message of family, finances, altered states, eastern practices, inclusivism, and all sorts of new, new, and more new. Much of evangelicalism could be considered Mormon as they focus of the family, finances, morality, politics, and all sorts of western lifestyle accoutrements.
We do not need new, we need to drink much deeper from the old, rugged cross. We who still cling to the message of the cross are now Christian refugees. We have been driven from the mainstream evangelical tent, not because we have aberrant teachings and views, but because the visible church began a journey away from Christ and His cross and we would not go with them. In a discussion on another blog, the administrator claimed “the resurrection is more important than the cross”. What?? Without the cross there is no forgiveness of sins, and without the cross there is no resurrection. The man that made that statement holds Rob Bell in high esteem which explains his comment.
Brothers and sisters, the end is near and Christ is at the door. The signs are all here, and one morning we will awake to find some nation has lobbed a nuclear bomb into their neighbor and all hell will break loose. One morning we will awaken to find Israel has bombed nuclear facilities in Iran. But we do not have to wait until “one morning”. Tomorrow morning we will again awaken to a hedonistic and idolatrous church that commits all sorts of sins, moral and financial, and whose pulpits treat the cross gingerly because it seems so unsophisticated and archaic. Most preachers have sources for jokes with which to lighten up their messages. And when asked if they really believe men and women are going to hell without Christ they present their doctrinal phylacteries as proof but continue to preach soothing messages designed to enhance this present life.
But where is the cross? Is it a doctrinal tenant or is it our life? Except for some past event that serves as proof of our salvation, the cross is relegated to obscurity. “Take up your cross and follow Me!” says our Lord. But what does that mean in today’s culture? Is there no difference between those who follow Christ and those who do not? And with so little distinctiveness and distinguishing features, just who are we following, the culture or Christ? The blessed and glorious cross of the Redeemer Christ is now a religious relic, safely tucked away in doctrinal archives and statements of faith.
Sit for a few months and listen to the pulpits of Saddleback or Lakewood or Mars Hill or Word Centers or most of the evangelical churches in America. Listen and weep as you hear all sorts of nonsense and narcissistic advice that sounds like a religious Home Depot mixed with philosophy and psychiatry. The cross, the only fountain of redemption, sits silently among the religious folk and if at all, is only asked to make a pitiful cameo. What transpires on Sunday morning in America has long since left being defined as Christian. Couched between breakfast and lunch, the perfunctory oblation is observed, usually driven by excellent worship music, but without the spiritual conflagration emanating from the pulpit.
And as the congregants scuttle to their cars, they leave without being challenged by God’s Spirit concerning the life that carries the cross and dies every single day. Constantine incorporated the cross into the culture, and even used it as a talisman for war. I dare say he has become the mentor for the western church. God forgive us for how we have treated that cross. God forgive us for defending it with words that in large part stand alone, while we enjoy the customs and pleasures of the heathen. God forgive us for not meditating upon that cross and allowing the Spirit to infuse its meaning and power into our very beings. God forgive us for a cross that finds its home on paper and not in believers. God forgive us for placing the cross at a round table where Buddha, Allah, and other false gods meet to find common ground.

We have left the cross and do not even realize it.
God forgive us.


Anonymous said...

Great teaching. I completely agree. There was one part I don't fully understand.

It does not mean that all Roman Catholics are not saved, but it does mean that if they are saved they were born again through faith alone and fail to see clearly the error of Catholic teaching.

Are you able to be saved and be in so much deception? How does that work? The scripture that can to mind was that "My sheep know my voice". Would the Lord not tell his flock in deception to come out from among them?

Just trying to understand.

Thanks Rick.

Rick Frueh said...

Almost every deception is avaiable to believers. The Church at Corinth was filled with carnal believers who practiced any number of deceptions which the Apostle Paul addressed. I believe believers should come out from the Roman Church, however some do not.

You can find believers in denominations that teach salvation through baptism, or transubstantiation, or soul sleep, or anihilation rather than hell, etc.. However, in the end, the Lord knows those that are His. I have known some Roman Catholics who exhibited much fruit and had a born again experience, conversely I have met Baptists whose only "fruit" was a committment to their local church.

"Would the Lord not tell his flock in deception to come out from among them?"

Yes. But like us, they do not always here His voice.

Josef Sefton said...

Let's turn to Christ and trust in Christ alone for our salvation.

The glory of Christ's cross is that His prefect, fnished work is our sufficiency.

By faith alone and without any ancillary works of man do we honour Christ Jesus' glorious, triumphant, redemptive, reconciling work on the cross.