THE CALLING OF THE CROSS
Matt.16: 24 Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.25 For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.
The heart, the soul, the core, and the very life of the faith has given way to manmade schemes and desires of the flesh. No longer does the church follow hard after the cross. No longer do we embrace hardships and sufferings like a badge of discipleship for Him. Now we wallow in evangelical games which profit nothing and lead us away from that magnificent tree. Oh the shame of it all! Oh the profound treason!
But, dear friends, let us take a journey once again and implore the Spirit to emblazon this cross upon our very hearts so that we become its willing prisoner. In an insidious strategy the religious flesh has taken what must be our life and made it a doctrine. But that cross, this cross, radiates a spirit which seeks ears that can hear and eyes that can see and hearts that will open. But beware, this spirit leads to a place of suffering and death. It is a place of profound spiritual delight wrapped in profound anguish. It calls us to die.
How can we describe the Creator with human words? He alone is infinite and all powerful. He has no guides. He needs no advice. He does not think because He knows all of time from its beginning to its end. His glory is blinding. His beauty is breathtaking and challenges the imagination. His glory burns the soul. He is august and untouched by any imperfection. He is THE magnificent being. Oh how can we even speak at such a vision?
All things are within His plan and all things were created at His breath. All things still consist by Him alone in some unsearchable way. His dwelling place, if we can even call it that, is the expanse of heaven itself. The most beautiful beings ever created hover around Him calling Him holy. To say that sight must be spectacular is to diminish the fathomless sight of the Risen Christ whose very face lights up eternity. So how and why would such a Being desire man? What is man the He is mindful of him?
The incarnation. A miracle of miracles. Reduced to infant sentimentality by the church, this baby was where deity kissed humanity and eternity stepped into the temporal. This was Yeshua veiled in human flesh. This was the Word made flesh. There can be no mistake…this was God come down to find and save His sworn enemies. Can you even bring yourself to embrace such a thought? God comes as a man and dwells among men. Step away from the stifling effects of organized Christianity and just look at what we say we believe. It is profound. It is preposterous. It is scandalous. It is foolishness. But it is the Truth that alone can set men free.
But there would be a price. But what kind of a price would mean anything to the Being who made everything? He who made and owns all the gold and silver in the universe, and He who could make as much as He desired, had to pay a price to redeem mankind. But let us be honest as we parade around our “orthodox” credentials about this thing called redemption. We are children pretending we know it all. We are blind men describing what we see. We are deaf men tapping to a favorite song. Because in the long run redemption with all its layers soars above and beyond our pitiful religious minds.
This Jesus, this Redeemer, this cross is the mystery of all mysteries. Men like me attempt to showcase its wonder and beauty and blood and yet when all is said and done it stands unvarnished by human thoughts and words. Human words inspired by God’s Spirit can draw us closer to the cross, but nothing can add nor subtract from the sheer wonder and penetrating spiritual force which has no equal. And it is the deepest of tragedies to watch as man’s church has taken the cross down from the centerpiece and replaced it will all kinds of earthly issues and things of human interest. And in so doing professing believers no longer seek the cross nor do they feel a real sense of its necessity in our daily lives. But there is no faith without the cross, and men and women by the millions walk in a counterfeit faith.
But the cross in all its resplendent mystery saves the soul to those who believe and thrills the heart to those who seek it again and again. There is no redundancy when you see that cross. The Divine Being, the Son of God, writhes in pain and bathes in His own blood. The scene shouts anything but redemption. It is the zenith of injustice. It is repulsive on every level. But a partner in communicating this event is God’s Spirit. In fact, He is more than a partner. He is the essential communicator and the One who can reach men’s hearts with a message that cannot be truly believed in the natural.
Dig deep into its mystery. Dig deeper. Dig deeper still and you have only just begun. Its power and glory are without measure. And this is the cross that Christ commands us to pick up and carry. In fact, it carries with it a stigma.
Gal.6: 17 From henceforth let no man trouble me: for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.
The Greek word for “marks” is stigma. The Apostle bears the stigma of that cross in his body. But in this technologically sophisticated world what kind of foolishness is this? Who speaks of the cross in public? Do you hear conversations at restaurants about the cross? Do you hear many sermons about the cross these days? Do you see professing believers deny their earthly rights so that the cross of Jesus can shine through them?
The vast majority of church members love the resurrection and they even use it to suggest power and success and new beginnings in their earthly lives. But the cross is hard to assimilate into an earthly life. It seems like yesterday’s news and an accomplished event which cannot be duplicated today. While that event was a once in the universe event its power and glory and manifestation should be observable and real through a believer’s life. And when men ask us why we follow Jesus it should be an invitation to speak about the cross. This is no doctrinal dissertation. This is the cross from which eternal life flows.
But if we are to actually deny ourselves and walk in the power of redemption then we must seek the humility and the humiliation which Christ openly displayed upon that cross. That must be foundational however that is a difficult journey which goes against everything we have been taught and everything our flesh tells us. No one can really know Christ without knowing the fellowship of His sufferings. But our natural man recoils at suffering and avoids it at all costs. In fact because the faith has become so diluted and powerless we suffer very little persecution. And to suggest that issues like Chick-Fil-A or Hobby Lobby are persecution of our faith is an embarrassing display of our understanding of the cross.
Jesus is mocked. Jesus is scorned. Jesus is whipped. Jesus is spit upon. Jesus’ beard is plucked. Jesus is punched. Jesus wears thorns. Jesus is nailed to wooden beams. Jesus bleeds. Jesus is speared. Jesus dies. And yet we live in virtual luxury and wear our culture proudly? And yet our view of suffering is when the air conditioning goes out? How can we claim to understand, much less carry, that cross if we complain about things so small? What kind of insult do we do to Golgotha when we live so invested in a culture that hates Christ?
This, my friends, is the faith. And if we are unwilling to seek that which Jesus taught then we cannot claim to follow Him. And it is impossible to know Him and yet not strive to follow Him. The church is filled with those who know about Jesus but do not know Him. And at the very center of the church’s rebellion is a repudiation of the cross and all it did and taught.
But to the believer who has ears the Spirit calls us to that cross. Either we embrace that journey or we create a journey all our own. John the Baptist gave a great one sentence essay on discipleship when he said, "He must increase but I must decrease". But the Spirit takes it a step further.
We must die and He must live.