Posts Tagged 'enemies of the Cross'

THE CROSS OF CHRIST, PART 7

The Enemies of the Cross

For, as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things. (Philippians 3:18, 19)

It is a terrible thing to be God’s enemy. It’s terrible and it’s arrogant to be an enemy to the greatest of all manifestations of the love, wisdom, and compassion of Christ: His Cross. To be an enemy of the Cross of Christ is to be God’s enemy. It is to openly rebel against against God’s merciful desire to save a sinner from his sins by the atoning death of His Son.

Most right-thinking people have no problem honoring Jesus as a baby in a manger, yet they routinely deny His Cross. These people love to sing Christmas carols chock-full of doctrine and theology about the Incarnation, but they don’t like songs about the blood of Christ shed on the Cross. A lot of people, so-called Christians included, may not be the “pronounced” enemies of the Cross, but they are certainly ashamed of it. The question we would like to ask such people is this: Why are ashamed of Jesus’ death but not of His birth? The reality is, Jesus Christ was born to die; He came to earth for the express purpose of giving His life as a sacrifice for sin.

But there have always been people like this. Otherwise harmless, often religious people, who are counted among God’s enemies. The apostle Paul encountered them almost everywhere he went and in Philippi they were part of the Antinomian movement that had taken root in the church there. They professed to be Christians but lived sinful lives. The belief is as old as the church, but it was Martin Luther who coined the term “antinomianism.” It’s a tricky heresy because it espouses salvation by faith alone but without the accompanying change of lifestyle. Antinomianism is alive and well in Church of Jesus Christ today, although antinomian pastors and church leaders would never admit it. Anybody that preaches the wonderful doctrine of “justification by faith alone” without the accompanying obligation to holy living is at least flirting with the antinomian heresy.

This kind of people claim to love God yet never try to live up to the demands of the Cross, which include this:

The Spirit however, produces in human life fruits such as these: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, fidelity, tolerance and self-control—and no law exists against any of them. Those who belong to Christ have crucified their old nature with all that it loved and lusted for. If our lives are centred in the Spirit, let us be guided by the Spirit. (Galatians 5:22—25)

They claim to love God but won’t be crucified with Christ. To shun the Cross is to be its enemy because they shun what the Cross stands for:

1. Divine sacrifice, 1 John 4:9, 10

To us, the greatest demonstration of God’s love for us has been his sending his only Son into the world to give us life through him. We see real love, not in that fact that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to make personal atonement for our sins.

The Son of God, coming and dying on the Cross, was God’s way of revealing His heart to mankind—a heart moved to infinite sacrifice by agonizing love. We are familiar with this kind of love; it manifests itself in different ways. For example, an entrepreneur who loves an idea will sink his all to start his business in hopes that it will be successful. God loved sinful man so much that He sunk His all in the transaction that occurred on the Cross: the life of His Son for yours! But in God’s case, there was no risk of failure; it was not speculation, but a purposeful, planned expenditure of divine grace and love that secured your soul.

To reject what God did on the Cross is to be an enemy of the Cross; it is to throw God’s love and grace back in His face.

The antinomians in Philippi showed their enmity by living lives full of self-indulgence. Their God, Paul observed, was their bellies! In other words, they pretty much did whatever made them feel good; whatever gave them a sense of satisfaction. Self-indulgence is dangerous for all kinds of reasons, not the least of which is that it stands in complete opposition to the self-sacrificing spirit of the Cross. The Cross of Christ is the greatest example of not only self-sacrifice and self-denial, but it is also the best example of the use of free will. Willingly, without any persuasion, Jesus gave everything He had to save sinners. To live a life opposite to that kind of spirit is to deny it. The carnal mind—the mind set on worldly things—is at war against the mind and spirit of God.

Those who live for themselves are living in rebellion against the purpose of the Cross and the Spirit of the Cross. To be more concerned about the body than the spirit is like being more concerned about the wood of the Cross than the Man who hung on it.

If you call yourself a Christian, the Cross not only saves you, but it shows you how to live!

2. Divine holiness

The intensity of God’s hatred to sin is revealed by the death of His Son on the Cross. The greatness of sin demanded an even greater sacrifice! That’s the equation we’re all familiar with, but there is another way to look at it. The greatness of God’s sacrifice shows the greatness of man’s need—and God’s need. The need was great on man’s side because of his sin, but the need was great on God’s side because of His holiness. Something had to come between the fires of man’s sin and the divine holiness of God; Someone who was equally sinless and holy needed to stand between these two opposites. Only One man, Jesus Christ, the Son of God and the Son of Man, was qualified to do the job.

That’s why God cannot save a sinner apart from the Cross. If He could have, He would have answered Jesus’ prayer in Gethesemane differently. It was the love God had for a lost and dying world that caused His Son to drink from His cup of death. It was the holiness of God that would not let that cup pass from His Son. And it was God’s holiness that caused His Son to cry out:

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from the words of my groaning? (Psalm 22:1)

Good works and good words do nothing to atone for sin. Those who think living the good life will get them safe passage through the pearly gates couldn’t be more wrong. You can be a good person and still be God’s enemy if your goodness proceeds from something other than the Holy Spirit within you.

To shun the Cross is to shun holiness; it is to choose the antinomian way of living the way you think is right. To embrace the Cross is to embrace the spirit and attitude of holiness and holy living.

3. Divine riches, Romans 8:32

He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?

The death of God’s Son on the Cross is God’s promise to all believers that everything they need will be within their reach. If you are born again, nothing you need will be denied you. You have God’s promise on that.

For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich. (2 Corinthians 8:9)

Jesus sacrificed all so you could have all. The storehouse of God’s riches has been open wide for us by the Blood of His Cross. These spiritual and eternal riches are not only what God has, but of what He is. He not only gives us gifts, but He makes us, through faith, partakers of His divine nature!

His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. (2 Peter 1:3, 4)

If we make the kingdom of God our pursuit in life, whatever our needs may be, they will be met. Every temporal and eternal blessing finds its fulfillment in the Cross. So, to shun the Cross is to refuse God’s best.

But, there are those who only want worldly things; they have no desire for anything spiritual. Their pursuit is for things confined to this world. They have no concept of “heavenly blessings” because they haven’t experienced any because they aren’t looking for them. This person shuns the Cross because they can’t see its value.

4. Divine ultimatum

Going back to Philippi for a moment, Paul writes that there is only one end for those antinomians—those enemies of the Cross—and it is death. There is no other destiny open to some one who shuns the Cross of Christ. When a person—even a good, clean living person—rejects the Cross of Christ, he is rejecting God’s terms of salvation.

Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved. (Acts 4:12)

Salvation is not found under the name of a church or a philanthropic organization. It is not found in good works or good living. To reject the Cross is to choose sin, and as we know by now, the wages of sin is death. The writer to the Hebrews nailed it with this rhetorical question:

…how shall we escape if we ignore such a great salvation? (Hebrews 2:3)

God’s terms are unalterable.

Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God… (John 1:12)

THE CROSS OF CHRIST, PART 6

The Offense of the Cross

For consider, what have the philosopher, the writer and the critic of this world to show for all their wisdom? Has not God made the wisdom of this world look foolish? for it was after the world in its wisdom failed to know God, that he in his wisdom chose to save all who would believe by the “simple-mindedness” of the Gospel message. For the Jews ask for miraculous proofs and the Greeks an intellectual panacea, but all we preach is Christ crucified—a stumbling block to the Jews and sheer nonsense to the Gentiles, but for those who are called, whether Jews or Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. And this is really only natural, for God’s foolishness” is wiser than men, and his “weakness” is stronger than men. (1 Corinthians 1:22—24, JBP)

A really interesting phenomenon takes place when a believer and non-believer look at the Cross of Christ. The believer sees a sign of ultimate victory and final salvation. But the unbeliever sees the exact opposite. To him, the Cross of Christ is nothing but two pieces of wood nailed together with a some poor schlemiel hanging on it. To the unbeliever, the Cross offends his sensibilities for it makes no sense. This was something Paul discovered and mentioned to his friends in Galatia:

And as for me, my brothers, if I were still advocating circumcision (as some apparently allege!), why am I still suffering persecution? I suppose if only I would recommend this little rite all the hostility which the preaching of the cross provokes would disappear! (Galatians 5:11, JBP)

Yes, sometimes the preaching of the Cross of Christ provokes hostility, and if we are faithful to the truth of the Cross, sometimes we will offend people because, to some people who are trying to be saved by their works, the Cross of Christ which we cherish so much, is a stumbling block. Why is this so? It’s because the Cross of Christ reveals how misguided and how wrong those people are, and nobody likes like to be told they are wrong! The Cross proclaims freedom and liberty from the very things these people are doing to gain salvation.

But to those who have seen the light; to those who have recognized the necessity of “grace alone” in their salvation, the Cross of Christ stands for life and liberty. How sad it is that some folks will stumble over the Cross into Hell.

1. Why is the Cross such a stumbling block to some?

This is actually a very good question because to genuine believers, the Cross should remove the stumbling block of sin from our lives. How, then, does it become the stumbling block?

Death is not an attractive thing to behold. There is nothing nice about watching a loved one die. But Christ’s death was the most pathetic death of all. It’s a staggering thought that the sinless, perfect Son of God should die such a horrible, scandalous death on behalf of the people who killed him. A more staggering thought, however, is that all this took place in the providence of a sovereign God. The tiniest detail of the Cross of Christ was planned and executed according to the will of our Heavenly Father.

When this fact is not understood by people, then the Cross is looked at as a shameful, tragic thing. Or worse, the One on the Cross is looked at as a sad victim of His own principles. “He must have been a good man,” they say, “But he should have kept his mouth shut!”

We expect worldly people to think this way, but there are some in our own ranks who look with some disdain on the Cross. While paying lip service to it, they see nothing attractive in the Man who hung on it. They are repelled at the “blood” that flowed from the Cross. They shun it; they don’t preach it. And they certainly don’t appreciate it. There is no place in their lives for such a barbaric thing. The Cross of Christ can even be offensive to religious people.

Remember what the Scribes and Pharisees said?

Let this Christ, this King of Israel, come down now from the cross, that we may see and believe.” Those crucified with him also heaped insults on him. (Mark 14:32, NIV84)

Like a lot of religious people today, they wanted the Christ without the Cross. But what they don’t understand is that in the great eternal purpose of God, the Christ and Cross will forever be nailed together. The Man at God the Father’s right hand today bears the scars that He got when He was crucified. Who is He? Heaven calls Him “the Lamb that was slain!” Nobody can separate the Cross from the Man who hung on it.

But we try. When Jesus was within sight of His Cross, some of His very own disciples fled from Him. The Cross of Christ was, is, and will always be a stumbling block to anybody who is either self-satisfied or satisfied with a “religious life” because those people are not willing to be crucified with Christ. They will, however, will be in for a shock one of these days:

For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it. (Mark 8:35, NIV84)

2. Who is stumbling over the Cross?

Let’s go back to what Paul said:

we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles… (1 Corinthians 1:23, NIV8)

Neither the proud religious person nor the worldly wise person can pass by the Christ without it affecting them in some way. The two classes of people Paul mentions—the Jew and the Gentile—represent, in a typical way, two classes of people in the world today.

The Jew

Whom does “the Jew” represent? He is the one who was brought up in the ways of religion. Dragged to church every Sunday, he never missed a Sunday school lesson, sat through endless sermons, sang in the choir, is in the habit to this very day of saying his prayers at night and occasionally before a meal. He writes his weekly check to the church and is very orthodox in his beliefs. He doesn’t fellowship with men of “questionable character,” like drunkards or IRS agents. “The Jew” today is an upright citizen; a son of the church. He is a religious man, but the Cross of Christ means very little to him, beyond what he can remember from the Westminster Confession of Faith. He hears about it and may be moved by it, but he doesn’t really see a present need for it.

To this religious man, the Cross is stumbling block. Sermons about the shed blood of Jesus are kind of nasty to him. His mind wanders when the preacher teaches about the Cross. This oh-so-righteous church member has no sense of his own sin and no sense of his need of the atoning Blood of Christ. His life is together; his needs are few, and he certainly doesn’t need much of what God is offering him.

For this kind of person, to open up to the reality of the Cross is to admit his own shortcomings. It would mean the crucifixion of his own goodness. And this would be intolerable to “the Jew.”

The Gentile

Who is “the Gentile”? He is the educated, worldly wise man who knows philosophy and is well-read. To this man, religion is good for those who need it, but he certainly doesn’t need that kind of crutch to get him through his day. In Paul’s day, the egg-heads who lived in Athens were the perfect representatives of this kind of person.

All the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there spent their time doing nothing but talking about and listening to the latest ideas. (Acts 17:21, NIV84)

The so-called “wizards of smart” who think they have a lock on life certainly don’t need the Cross. These are those who have great accomplishments to be proud of; they’re successful in career and marriage. The wisdom of preaching is irrelevant to “the gentile.” The Cross either makes a good doorstop to these people or it repulses them.

3. A real view of the Cross

So, both these classes of people, the religious and the haplessly lost, have their skewed views of the Cross. But what is correct way to view the Cross?

It is the absolute power of God.

The Cross of Christ is the power of God on display and in operation for the salvation of the world. In the Cross, we are able to see all the power that God can bring to bear for the redemption of man from sin and death. The power of God revealed in the creation of the universe pales when compared to the power of God demonstrated by the Cross of Christ.

It is the power of God for us who believe.

This is what Paul told the Ephesians (1:19). We cannot save ourselves; it takes God’s power manifested in and through the Cross to do that. It was the death of His Son that released His power, and to believe in that singular death is to put yourself in the very position to receive God’s almighty power. It is His power that delivers from your sin into His presence.

It is the wisdom of God.

God’s plan for the redemption of sinful man was so perfect—so intricate—that it can only be appreciated in light of the Cross of Christ. That Cross is the full revelation of not only God’s love, His power, but of His wisdom. To look to that Cross is to receive knowledge of God available only to those looking to His Cross.

That’s why no man can find God without Christ. That’s why you can’t have a Christ-less, Cross-less Christianity. Without the Cross of Christ, Christianity is just another religion, full of good ideas and philosophies, but completely void of power.

When we understand the sheer importance of the Cross, we will understand and be able to say along with Paul:

May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. (Galatians 6:14, NIV84)


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