Sunday, September 22, 2013

The Cross Fades as the King Prepares

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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: 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: Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:
Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God:
But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:
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!


michael said...

I came from a middle to high end family into this word you are writing today back in 1975. In my area of Northern California the hippies of the Bay Area were settling in. We have one town that refuses even today to move into modernity. You can come to this area today and see hippies with all that genre just like it was in the sixties when I grew up there as a boy.

There was a lot of misfits, intellectuals from Berkley and Stanford finding solace here. The Vietnam war was becoming clear to these late teens and early twenty something hippies to be something abnormal. A lot of these hippies were wealthy and were buying up large tracts of land and opening their property up to whosoever! The misfits fit right in with this easy climax free love and agricultural lifestyle! Back to all natural and of course all organic.

There was also a Jesus movement in the works so some of these communal property owners, being opened minded started responding to the word you are describing in this post, becoming followers of Christ and denying their lives for the good of all. If you came in peace and wanted to learn about Jesus you were welcome to be a part of this "Jesus community".

I got radically lost in a selfish pursuit to be and not only to be but to BE. Well this pursuit fell flat, crashed and burned and I was left broken, miserable lost and hopeless dropping out of college then and only until then the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit guided me to a Christian commune, the Lighthouse Ranch on Table Bluff over looking the Pacific Ocean! Awe inspiring and restful and peaceful and joyful with daily Bible studies and singing, just what I needed to experience the restoration of my soul.

Boy did the Spirit jack me up! I found out getting high on drugs was nothing like being filled with the Holy Spirit!!

At this Christian community I was made alive and experienced this to be life changing truth:

Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ. (Ephesians 5:15-21 ESV)

That way picking up the cross and denying my selfish life! EUREKA! I was found and saved from myself set free to serve and love my neighbor as myself!

What seems to me to be unfolding today is as I was taught back then. What was I taught? Back then as I went to Bible Study the Word was opened up and made plain. What we are seeing play itself out in the world today and all across the nations of the world is as the Apostle wrote in 1&2 Timothy, chapter 4&3.

I'd encourage reading those chapters from both 1&2 Timothy to gain some intense insight into the way the world and the shallow church are going to substantiate your post.

Do we not see all those things Paul wrote Timothy now emerging in both the world and religious societies?

Yes, yes we do and sadly as the devil's world becomes more and more evil in nature yet appearing outwardly moral, demanding peace for communities, a right to affluence and a good education for our favored children and bread winning, a right mind you only good for me and us fortunate and to hell with the disadvantaged, those bad people who always make our comfortable lifestyle miserable.

We will not spare them nor help them out of their poverty of mind or flesh!


The Good News is still good and Christ's Gospel message is still just as powerful today to change hearts and minds as it did a lot of weary soul of the Jesus movement of the sixties and seventies.


Chris Baumgart said...

The Church has hit a point of deception that because it does enter in to the role of the Cross, it searches out other vanities to sooth itself. Calvinism, Reformed, Emergent are some of the "new" ways the Church is swayed. Spiritual Trends to follow, deceiving itself into believing it is maturing as the Bride of Christ, but in Gods eyes it is becoming the Bride of Frankenstein. Dying to self, dying to the lusts of this world is what the Cross teaches. Someone today would say of Christ that He isn't a success! Not driving an expensive car, nor living in an expensive house in the burbs, not married to a fashion model he just sits at his old apartment praying for people... Examples abound in contrasting the two worlds. Prosperity teaching has made mammonists out of the majority of Christians today. They fight this evidence when you witness to them. The Cross is a difficult place to go to. But once you lay yourself down, God's Spirit moves mountains around you, moving His work forward.

Anonymous said...

excellent read brother Rick...I am finding the closer you walk with the Word, the more lonely you get as a follower of truth...

The world wants nothing to do with you and neither do your brothers and sisters...

30 years ago or better you were "rebuked" at your place of fellowship for talking about anything but Christ after the service...

Today, it's just the are avoided when trying to talk about the Lord...

It's so bizzar...I weep late nights sometimes asking God what is wrong with me...I long for the deep fellowship between brethren...but all you get is -

* are you going out to eat after the service?

* doing any hunting this year?

* how's business?

* going on vacation?

* here's my business card

* want to see my new boat, car, travel trailer?

I'm so lonely sometimes...

Anonymous said...

Warm greetings, Brcorcoran

My witness is the very opposite of what you are saying. God isn't lonely. The very opposite is the case. In fact His love is available to cleanse us from loneliness. The closer you walk with the Word the more fulfilled, the more meaningful and God honoring you'll life will be.

True brothers and sisters want something to do with you. Never lose hope in that.

What I am reading from your report is feedback from mostly worldly minded people! Be encouraged, for Christians truly care about Christians!

Be encouraged your longing for a deep fellowship between brethren is a blessing of God but in my opinion you'll need to be more attentive, so that God can draw you to a fervent believer.

Make it your prayer that God would draw you to a fervent believer for fellowship and persevere patiently until He brings it about. In the meantime wipe your tears away and praise Him for being gracious to you.

Josef Sefton

Anonymous said...

@Josef...thank you for those kind words...

the tears come because friendships in Christ have been severed...

when standing against the "7 Mountain Mandate", "Dominionism", "Church Growth Movement" and such, and have brothers tell you "Good luck in searching for your relationship with your God" breaks my heart...

Fellowship is totally misunderstood by modern day Christianity...

I can go to the local bar hall and talk about sports all day long with an unbeliever...that isn't fellowship so why do we believe it's fellowship just because we spend all day talking about sports with a just isn't...

I would love to see a blog entitled, "What is Fellowship" and see what type of responses it would get...

Our fellowship is with the "Father" (God-Spirit) and His Son Jesus Christ (Word-Truth)...

Thank You Josef...

Anonymous said...

Warm greetings, dear explorer for truth.
Our fellowship is with the "Father" (God-Spirit) and His Son Jesus Christ (Word-Truth), the Holy Spirit and true believers.

It is most important for us to invest most the energy God blesses us with into our family and into true believers, thereafter we will have some over to preach the Gospel to the unreached and untaught and all those in need of hearing God's Gospel of Grace.

Josef Sefton

Anonymous said...

Very strong commentary from Rick.

I believe the dangers of Humanism are immensely underestimated worldwide by multitudes. There are certain strongholds in my opinion which are very hard to be delivered from. One such stronghold is the false belief that man is the measure of all things.
Once entramped by this Satanic way of thinking it isn't long before the human body, mind, will and emotions are idolised by many of the deceived.

God, however, commands man to have no idols. If we are to take turning from our sinful speech and behaviour seriously and cherish the great courage and compassion of Jesus Christ for dying a substitutionary death on a cross on our behalf, then we will need to be willing to be taught by the LORD that He is the owner of our body and soul.

We need to repent and, with His gracious help, stop living as if we were Lord of our body and soul. The good news is that our heavenly Father is still drawing sinners to believe wholeheartedly in His beloved, sinless Son.

Josef Sefton