[b]Called to the Cross[/b]
Forsake Cowardly Christianity
By: [i]Jesse Morrell [/i]
And he said to them all, if any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. (Luke 9:23)
The cross is a modern symbol of popular fashion but an ancient weapon of cruel death. The cross was never meant to be worn on a Christian necklace but to be worn on a Christians back. The cross was not intended to be hung on the wall but men were intended to be hung on it.
This cross, this instrument of pain and death, is the entry fee and the continual price of following Christ. The cross is not for selected Christians or only for mature Christians, but it is for all Christians who will follow in the way of their Master.
As fundamental as any Christian doctrine, the truth that all Christians are to carry their crosses is absolutely essential and undeniably necessary for the true Christian life. This doctrine of the cross is not only that Christ died for us but that we are to die daily for Him.
We live in a day when Christs cross, in its reality with its power to cover and also to cleanse sin, is seldom taught. But we also live in a day when the Christians cross is even more uncommonly taught. Christianity without the Christians cross is Christianity without a Christian. But in America, Canada, and other parts of the world, the Church is in the sense of the Christians cross almost entirely cross-less.
Christ taught that the man who follows Him must take up his cross daily (Luke 9:23). A cross-less Christian is a Christ-less Christian, and is in fact no Christian at all. The promise given to followers of Christ is not a nice new set of friend or a happy community to raise children in, but the promise given by Christ is a cross. Pastors promise seekers happiness, fulfillment, luxury, pleasure, reward and everything else if they come to Christ. But the wisdom of the world is not the wisdom of God. Christ promised agony of flesh, rejection by the world, and finally death to self to those who sought to follow Him. And in the end, He promised eternal life.
But the suffering Church of the New Testament will not suffice for our worldly appetites today. We must have a successful Church. The persecuted Church of the New Testament does not meet the requirements of our standard for living. We must have a prospering Church. This deviation has caused the cross of self-denial to be abandoned and the cushion of self-gratification has risen in its place.
A true Church is a crucified Church. The cross affects every single aspect of the crucified man. The man who hangs on a cross is radically impacted by the cross that his family, his money, his comfort, his entire life does not go untouched. The cross covers a man from top to bottom, from his head to his feet, and there is no escaping this. There is no beautifying the cross. It is rugged wood stained with blood and reeks with the odor of death. And Christ says, Get on it.
This cross of the Christian includes the battle against the flesh, the battle against the world, and the battle against the devil. Opposition from authorities, opposition from false brethren, opposition from family members, was apart of normal Christianity in the days of the disciples. And these are still characteristics of the normal Christian life today. Just as surely as Heaven is promised to the Christian, so also is opposition promised to the Christian, but so also is the strength to overcome and be more then a conqueror promised to the Christian.
I perceive many unspoken attitudes in the hearts of Church-goers today. Ill live for God so long as it doesnt damage my reputation. Ill live a holy life so long as it doesnt negatively affect my relationship with my family. Ill pray for Gods Kingdom to come so long as it doesnt touch my finances. Ill preach the gospel so long as it doesnt land me in prison. Ultimately this is saying, Ill follow Christ so long as there is not a cost, so long as there is no cross.
All of these attitudes stink with the stench of the wisdom of men. They smell of the fragrance of the spirit of the world, and are entirely contrary to the wisdom and knowledge of God. This is the cowardice which has replaced Christianity. But the wisdom of God, the knowledge of the Lord is not to seek to save your life, but being ready and willing to lose your life for Christs sake. (Luke 17:33).
Christianity begins when men and women are willing to lay down all that they have for the purposes of Christ. Until a person gets to the point where they are willing to be crucified with Christ, to be willing to let go of all in order to gain Him, they have yet to reach even the entry level of Christianity. This mentality of total abandonment unto Christ is not to be the exception for the Christians life but is to be the rule for all Christian lives.
Being a follower of Christ, boldly and loudly proclaiming the gospel, living a holy life, will surely cost you your entire life. The path of Christ is the path of martyrdom. The path of Christianity has always been lit by the light of burning martyrs. Though not all Christians will die the death of a martyr, all Christians are to live the life of a martyr.
The modern comfortable Church must be transformed into a conquering Church and that will happen only when this heroic spirit of Christianity is recaptured. We must so value souls and so love Christ that the anthem of the Church becomes His Kingdom at any cost!
As an old hymn says,
There is a love constraining me
To go and seek the lost;
I yield, O Lord, my all to Thee
To save at any cost
But when our Christian encouragements consist of, just stay out of trouble, dont get arrested, dont make people angry, be safe, dont be a nuisance, dont be a martyr, then its no wonder the devil and his kingdom continues to advance and gain more and more power in our country and in the rest if the world. The salvation of souls must be viewed more valuable then the securing of our own lives. A soul winning Church is a Church that would rather see their own lives taken then to see the souls of lost men to be damned.
Cowardly Christianity never poses a threat to the powers and principalities of darkness. Cowardly Christianity never grabs hold of a generation and re-shapes history. Only Courageous Christianity is Kingdom Christianity. A pampered Church is never a powerful Church. A comfortable Church is a crippled Church. But Christ wants a crucified Church, dead to the love of praise, practice of sin, and pleasure of the world.
E. M. Bounds once wrote that a Christian must throw himself, with all the abandon of a perfect, self emptying faith and a self-consuming zeal, in his work for the salvation of men. Hearty, heroic, compassionate, fearless martyrs must the men be who take hold of and shape a generation for God. If they be timid time-servers, place-seekers; if they be men-pleasers or men-fearers; if their faith has a weak hold on God or His Word; if their denial be broken by any phase of self or the world, they cannot take hold of the Church of the World for God.
The Church which fears neither death nor man but only God is an unstoppable Church. Their very blood becomes drops of water to the seed of the gospel. To silence the Apostles the devil needed to resort to execution. Is that true of us today? Will the decrease of your popularity or favor silence your lips? Will the prospect of suffering and pain hinder your speech? Or will you all the more boldly proclaim the gospel and dedicate your life for Gods purposes? Only once the Church is dead entirely to self and absolutely to the world can it live wholly to the Lord.
Michael Brown once said, You know who wins the battle? You know who wins the war? Whoever is willing to die for the principles they stand for.
We must rid ourselves of all thoughts of self preservation and replace it with actions of self-sacrifice. Our attitude must be that of Christ who said, Not my will, but Thine, be done. (Lu 22:42) Our perspective must be that of Paul who said, For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:17-18)
Lay down your life with all of your hopes, dreams, and desires for the sake of Christ and His gospel and pick up the cross, seeking not to save your own life but to give it for the Kingdom of God.
The gates of hell will shake and the hosts of hell will tremble when the heartbeat of the Church becomes, His Kingdom at any cost!
E. M. Bounds quote found in A Treasury of Prayer compiled by Leonard Ravenhill page 91. Printed by Ravenhill Books in 1973.
Hymn quotation found in Why Revival Tarries by Leonard Ravenhill, page 127. Bethany House Publishing.