Saturday, April 11, 2009

The Cross: Your Best Life Now?

"If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it. ~Luke 9:23-24

"God wants us to prosper financially, to have plenty of money, to fulfill the destiny He has laid out for us." ~Joel Osteen

What brought you to the Cross? What motivated you to become a Christian? Was there an emptiness within that the world could not fill or a longing for purpose in life? Perhaps you were driven by a fear of hell or inspired by an emotional sermon to accept Jesus into your life in order that your sins could be forgiven. Or, was it the power of the Gospel that brought you to your knees before a Holy God, revealing your sinful condition and need for salvation? Whatever it was, one thing is certain; The Christian life is not about having your best life now. It's not about finding happiness and having all of your earthly needs met. It's not even about comfort.

The abundant life Jesus promised us (John 10:10) was not a reference to the good things of life according to worldly standards. In fact, Jesus reminded us often to avoid being consumed with the things of the world. He also made it clear that to follow Him meant to deny ourselves and expect to be hated by the world (Matt. 10:22). That doesn't sound like your best life now does it?

Christ went to the Cross to suffer and die for us. The ultimate expression of love. The ultimate sacrifice. He paid the ultimate price; the payment required for our sins in order that we might be saved from God's just wrath. In order that we might be restored to the Father. His work on the Cross was the completion of His purpose on earth...

When he had received the drink, Jesus said, "It is finished." With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. ~John 19:30

Those who followed Christ during His earthly ministry continued to do so after His death and resurrection. They remained "in Him" and they paid the price for their commitment to the Cross...

- Matthew was killed by the sword in Ethiopia.

- Mark died in Egypt after being dragged by horses.

- Luke was hanged in Greece.

- Peter was crucified upside down.

- James (the Just) was beat to death after being thrown from the Temple.

- James (the Greater) was beheaded.

- Bartholomew was flayed to death by whipping.

- Andrew was crucified.

- Thomas was killed by the spear.

- Jude (the brother of Jesus) was killed with arrows.

- Matthias was stoned then beheaded.

- Barnabas was stoned to death.

- Paul was beheaded.

- John was boiled in oil although he lived to die as a prisoner on Patmos.

Followers of Christ living their best life now.

When Christ told us to "take up our cross", He was referring to giving our entire lives to Him. Complete dedication to Him. Living for Him and not for self. His suffering on the Cross was much more than the physical suffering; It was experiencing separation from God and receiving the full wrath of God intended for us...

About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, "Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?"—which means, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" ~Matthew 27:46

Through Jesus Christ, we have forgiveness of sin and reconciliation to God.

Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God's wrath through him! For if, when we were God's enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! ~ Romans 5:9-10

The entire message of the Bible points to the completed work of Jesus Christ on the Cross. Fallen man, lost in our sins, unable to save ourselves, unable to attain righteousness before a just God. God simply cannot forgive sin without payment for those sins. Because of our sins and rebellion from God, we deserve the full wrath of God. The perfect Law of God demands death for sin. Christ stepped in and took our place to save us. That is the purpose of the Cross.

Sadly, the true significance of the Cross has been watered-down over time. The Gospel message softened in order to not be so offensive. In striving to bring people to Jesus, many have left out the reasons behind the Cross and instead, focused on what Jesus can do for you in the here and now.

Consider all the programs and marketing strategies of churches today designed to draw people in. Church has become a place of entertainment to some extent. A place where your ears are tickled and your senses massaged with all sorts of feel-good topical presentations. The new approach to evangelism is meeting needs and focusing on social issues rather than getting to the root of our problems; sin. The Gospel of 21st America is no longer about slaying the sinner; It's about renewal, redirection and rediscovery. The Cross should be where we die and where we are reborn. This should be a daily process in the life of the believer. It should cut us to the heart and make us squirm. The Cross is where the old life ends and new life begins. No turning back to the false appeals from the world but instead, moving forward to the abundant life found only in Christ.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. ~ Galatians 5:22-25

The faith of Christ does not parallel the world, it intersects it. In coming to Christ we do not bring our old life up onto a higher plane; we leave it at the cross. We who preach the gospel must not think of ourselves as public relations agents sent to establish good will between Christ and the world. We must not imagine ourselves commissioned to make Christ acceptable to big business, the press, the world of sports or modern education. We are not diplomats but prophets, and our message is not a compromise but an ultimatum. God offers life, but not an improved old life. The life He offers is life out of death. The cross that ended the earthly life of Jesus now puts an end to the sinner; and the power that raised Christ from the dead now raises him to a new life along with Christ...Let us preach the old cross and we will know the old power. ~ A.W. Tozer



GodisFreedom said...

If you read this, you may never say again that you didn't know, you never heard. This was real straight forward, strong, and accurate. It is simple when it matches the Word. I like the AW Tozer at the end, my kinda guy. Nice cherry on the Gospel pie. Weird to see all the neat ways the walking dead had of killing those alive in Christ. When it begins here in the U.S., I wonder how many will still be "Christians" ?