THE CROSS FADES WITHIN THE CHURCH
KING PREPARES HIS ENTRANCE
So much of evangelicalism today downplays and even ignores the cross. Some “orthodox” churches teach that Christ only suffered and died for a small handful of sinners and thereby they diminish its glory. The cross itself is now viewed as an archaic relic of doctrines of days gone by. Now man’s lusts and desires must be exalted and the church is consumed with achieving man’s success.
No longer are we looked upon as bondservants for Jesus or unprofitable servants indeed. Now we hear fairy tales about ascending the cultural ladder and accumulating as much wealth as possible because God is in all of that. Instead of humble and outwardly innocuous servants of Christ we see preachers who look and prance like runway models and who speak great and swelling words that tickle then ears and appeal to the flesh. The evangelical world has become little more than a religious appendage to a hedonistic culture.
And as I said the cross is no longer the core of our theology to say nothing of being the absolute pursuit of our lives. Humility is now a sign of weakness. Self denial is now legalism. Poverty is now an enemy. And love is now for oneself. Because this condition has come upon the church both rapidly and slowly we are blind to the depth of the apostasy that now openly permeates within and without the church that calls itself “Christian”.
And what used to define and even consume a believing follower of Christ has all but vanished. A walk of holiness; a life of constant prayer; a cross bearing walk; a unquenchable hunger for God’s Word; and a life that is deeply and daily committed to be like Jesus are all gone now and the carnal tongues of gifted men and women soothe the conviction that the Spirit wished to bring. And in the midst of this worldly transformation the cross has been relegated to a subordinate status. It is now the ghost of Christmas past.
The teachings of Jesus which were supposed to be the light which the world could see are now compromised by hedonism, self esteem, and nationalism. Love and meekness and kindness and mercy and an astonishing commitment to the poor and downtrodden have given way to an industrialized, capitalistic expression which seems to be openly at odds with the teachings of the One we say we are following. Individualism has muscled out any observable community which is so different from anything else on earth that it at least should draw some interest and curiosity. But alas, the essence of Christ and His calling has been so diluted and so compromised and so lost that the church has long since left any thought about seeking a return to Christ which is unaffected and uninfluenced by the things and thoughts of this fallen world.
And acknowledging these things have taken place and are now mistakenly accepted as the true faith, we must see that true Christianity is very rare in the west and is probably practiced primarily by individual people rather than churches as a whole. The evangelical church in America is addicted to an earthly narcotic. It is called POWER. It is achieved through communication outlets, large crowds with mailing addresses, promises of material blessings, slick books and other materials, and of course money derived from people through creative manipulation. In essence it is based upon Carnegie’s book called “How to Win Friends and Influence people”. Find out what people want, create a program which promises those things, and like magic you have power over people. And now we have many preachers whose word is much greater than God’s Word for many millions of listeners.
And then we return to the cross. What has this generation done to the importance and primacy of the cross of our Lord Jesus? I realize that the cross does not fit into this technological and wealth accumulating culture. But that is exactly the point!
I Pet.2: 9 But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light;
We are supposed to be different. Not just a little religious, but drastically different. And as the culture manifests more and more of its depravity the difference should become more and more striking. But instead the church feeds alongside the goats and partakes of their pasture of self indulgence and self affirmation and we fill our bellies with the food of devils. And instead of being a peculiar people we blend in nicely with the conservative heathen. Choosing to carry the banner of a few moral issues we eschew the rich teachings of Jesus which reveal a transformed life. In short the church has become the religious wing of a hedonist culture where the cross of Christ is found in jewelry and refrigerator magnets rather than a living expression through a redeemed follower of Jesus.
And so we are left with a choice. We either follow the world or take up our cross and follow Him. There is no subset between the two. No common ground; no mix of the sacred and the profane; no some light and some darkness. The choice is stark and demands of us to become living sacrifices for Christ. The two paths never cross and never meet. They are parallel one to another. One path leads to death and the other leads to life. And in a stunning irony the path which leads to life demands our death, and that path which leads to death accommodates the earthly life.
Phil.2: 5 Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:6 Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God:
7 But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:
8 And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.
Within those verses lives the Christian life which mirrors our Savior’s life. As the Baptist said, “He must increase but I must decrease”. The power which comes from the Spirit comes through self denial and through being clothed with humility. It is everything the modern church is not. Think on this: How can the essence of the cross find expression in our lives? Unless we die to ourselves our spiritual expressions are carnal and fleshly and are everything the cross is not. But if we die daily we become a conduit for the greatest event and the greatest power the world has ever known. Everything is found in His cross and in heaven He still bears the marks of remembrance which redound to the glory of His grace…forever.
As the cross fades into oblivion within the church and the lives of professing believers, He who wore the crown of thorns prepares to make His glorious entrance to once again reveal the majesty of His sacrifice.
He came as a suffering servant but He returns as the King of all Kings!