THE WALK OF THE CROSS III
God is calling for his true followers to step up to a higher level. It is time to graduate from “middle” school and go on to high school and college. To be an overcomer in any period of the past or future it has – and will, require a spiritual maturity that goes far beyond religion and the occasional thought of being raptured. We like the idea of reaching out to touch the hem of His garment not because we want to obey – but because He has blessings for us. This is not the WALK of the cross. Through uninspired teaching, much of the church has watered down the cross into a pleasant but deceptive idea. We have focused on good works and everything else religious under the sun to please Him except the very thing that He has always wanted. His highest desire is that we might build our life on the SOLID ROCK of His cross because it is the only way to truly KNOW HIM. “Not all who sound religious are really Godly people. They may refer to Me as “Lord”, but still will not make it into heaven. For the decisive question is whether they obey My Father in heaven. At the judgment many will tell Me, Lord, Lord, we told others about you and used your name to cast out demons and do many other great miracles. But, I will reply, You have never been mine. Go away, for your deeds are evil.” (Mathew 7: 21-23 TLB) To live independently WITHOUT the awareness of the cross of Christ cannot be substituted with a church service or giving offerings. The crucified life is breathing, thinking, talking and acting within the eternal truth of His cross. When this becomes our determination, His cross becomes our cross – our entire purpose and destiny. We have an open invitation to the crucified life and it will “only” cost us the will of our flesh! “One thing you lack: go your way, sell what you have and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me.” (Mark 10:21)
The cross is an offence to many because it reveals the agony and blood that seems barbaric and cruel to our socially acceptable culture. The same concept of being offended with our feelings being hurt is the same Greek word “skandelon” that actually causes people to avoid, hide and run from the gospel of the cross. The message of the cross is too closely associated with pain, torture, humiliation, loss, violence and the deep fear that whoever embraces it will also have to suffer. Most of the religious world would be content to be “rocked to sleep” with going to church and living a moral life without even getting their hands dirty. If you notice the beautiful and expensive clothes and jewelry that is worn to church it is obvious that no one is planning on kneeling, lying prostrate, laying on hands, foot washing, casting out devils, dancing in worship, weeping, cleaning, cooking or working in any shape, form or fashion. The true reality of the cross is spiritual warfare that is found in the trenches of deliverance, anointing the sick, fasting, the prayer closet of intercession, bible study, loving people, having the character of Christ, confessing God’s Word, meditating and sacrificial giving. Many will follow the fishes but who will take up their accountability of the cross? We love to sing the music and listen to a pleasant sermon but then leave and forget about it until the next “show”. If church is no more than entertainment, then how is it any different from any other venue of paying to see a production? The church is filled with spectators but the cross is for participators. Selah. Everybody wants to go to heaven – but nobody wants to carry his or her cross! Each disciple may have a unique cross to bear but ALL will be transformed by its power. If we are not being CHANGED by His cross then we are not carrying our cross! “For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but to us who are saved it is the power of God.” (I Corinthians 1:18)
It is like putting the cart before the horse if we pray for the fullness of the Spirit but have not first placed ourselves under the divine power of the cross! Selah. This why the majority of the church is not filled with God! If the mind has not been renewed and the old nature is still in control, how can we also be overflowing with the character of Christ? We can obtain as much of Him as we desire but it is that very desire which is in question. Selah. Just think of the one hundred and twenty disciples. The crucifixion of Christ had touched, broken, and taken possession of their entire hearts. They could speak or think of nothing else, and when the crucified one had shown them his hands and his feet, he said unto them, “Receive ye the Holy Ghost” (John 20.22). And so, with their hearts full of the crucified Christ, now received up into heaven, they were prepared to be filled with the Spirit. They proclaimed to the people to repent and believe in the crucified one and they also received the Holy Spirit. Christ gave Himself up entirely to the cross. The disciples also did the same. The cross demands this also from us – it would have our ENTIRE life. To comply with this demand requires nothing less than a powerful act of our will for which we cannot boast, and a powerful act of God of which the disciple may be assured who casts himself helpless but confidently on God. All glory to the King of Kings!
Let us read an Excerpt from A. W. Tozer. “The cross of Christ is the most revolutionary thing ever to appear among men. The cross of the Roman times knew no compromise; it never made concessions. It won all its arguments by killing its opponent and silencing him for good. It spared not Christ but slew Him the same as the rest. He was alive when they hung Him on that cross and completely dead when they took him down six hours later. That was the cross as the first time it appeared in Christian history. After Christ was raised from the dead the apostles went out to preach His message, and what they preached was the cross. Wherever they went into the wide world they carried the cross, and the same revolutionary power went with them. The radical message of the cross transformed Saul of Tarsus and changed him from a persecutor of Christians to a tender believer and an apostle of the faith. Its power changed bad men into good ones. It shook off the long bondage of paganism and altered completely the entire moral and mental outlook of the Western world. All this it did and continued to do as long as it was permitted to remain what it had been originally, a cross. Its power departed when it was changed from a thing of death to a thing of beauty. When men made of it a symbol, hung it around their necks as an ornament or made its outline before their faces as a magic sign to ward off evil, then it became at best a weak emblem, at worst a positive fetish. As such, it is revered today by millions who know absolutely nothing about its power.
The cross affects its ends by destroying one established pattern, the victim’s, and creating another pattern, its own. Thus, it always has its way. It wins by defeating its opponent and imposing its will upon him. It always dominates. It never compromises, never dickers nor confers, never surrenders a point for the sake of peace. It cares not for peace; it cares only to end its opposition as fast as possible. With perfect knowledge of all this Christ said: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” (Luke 9:23 NIV) So the cross not only brings Christ’s life to an end, it ends also the first life, the old life, of every one of His true followers. It destroys the old pattern, the Adam pattern, in the believer’s life, and brings it to an end. Then the God who raised Christ from the dead raises the believer and a new life begins. This, and nothing less, is true Christianity, though we cannot but recognize the sharp divergence of this conception from that held by the rank and file of evangelicals today. However, we dare not qualify our position. The cross stands high above the opinions of men and to that cross all opinions must come at last for judgment. A shallow and worldly leadership would modify the cross to please the entertainment-mad saintlings who will have their fun even within the very sanctuary; but to do so is to court spiritual disaster and risk the anger of the Lamb turned Lion.
We must do something about the cross and one of two things only we can do–flee it or die upon it. And, if we should be so foolhardy as to flee, we shall by that act put away the faith of our fathers and make of Christianity something other than it is. Then we shall have left only the empty language of salvation; the power will depart with our departure from the true cross. If we are wise, we will do what Jesus did: endure the cross and despise its shame for the joy that is set before us. To do this is to submit the whole pattern of our lives to be destroyed and built again in the power of an endless life. And we shall find that it is more than poetry, more than sweet hymnody and elevated feeling. The cross will cut into where it hurts worst, sparing neither us nor our carefully cultivated reputations. It will defeat us and bring our selfish lives to an end. Only then can we rise in fullness of life to establish a pattern of living wholly new and free and full of good works. The changed attitude toward the cross that we see in modern orthodoxy proves not that God has changed, nor that Christ has eased up on His demand that we carry the cross; it means rather that current Christianity has moved away from the standards of the New Testament. So far have we moved indeed that it may take nothing short of a new reformation to restore the cross to its right place in the theology and life of the Church.”
“Those who let themselves be controlled by their lower nature live only to please themselves, but those who follow after the Holy Spirit find themselves doing those things that please God. Following after the Holy Spirit leads to life and peace, but following after the old nature leads to death, because the old sinful nature within us is against God. It never did obey God’s laws and it never will. That’s why those who are still under the control of their old sinful selves, bent on following their old evil desires, can never please God.” (Romans 8:5-8 TLB)