The Cross of Christ: Never Needed So Badly Among Believers

I was recently asked, "What happened to the cross of Christ? Wasn't this supposed to always be at the forefront of Protestantism?"

Yes, 'the Cross of Christ' was always intended to be intrinsic to the Protestant message. This insight, especially strong in Lutheranism, is the understanding that you and I must go through our lives being prepared to 'bear our crosses' and being prepared to 'lay down our lives' for others. This is right at the heart of 'the sermon on the mount,' or 'the law of Christ' as it is sometimes called (Matthew 5-7). It is about, well, let us read for ourselves what Paul states about this way of life:

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God - this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is - his good, pleasing and perfect will. For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. (Romans 12:1-3).

How strongly this contrasts with the 'success, comfort and prosperity' teaching so prevalent among so many modern believers! Today's 'Bible teachers,' so often, seem to be saying, 'be triumphant, you are all winners for Christ! Sit back and enjoy the health and prosperity which you have every right to receive!' To say that this is a different message from the message of the Cross of Christ is a huge understatement, to put it mildly. There is a certain glossy glamour, boastfulness and brashness about too much modern evangelism, but what did Paul say?

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).

Paul and the other Apostles counted it a joy to be considered worthy to suffer for Christ, but the whole idea of suffering and bearing our crosses daily throughout life has been carefully removed by the yelling, silk-suited triumphalists of our day. They often preach a new message, carefully tailored, for an affluent and more selfish society. We are no longer being told, 'not to conform to the pattern of this world,' but to jump in, get right at the centre of things, especially in the world's concern for money, comfort and prestige! But the Scripture is clear and cannot be overturned:

Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? Or what does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: "I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people." Therefore, "Come out from them and be separate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you." And, "I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty." (2 Corinthians 6:14-18).

It is certainly not that health and success are bad, far from it, those things are obviously very, very good; but Christian believers are not to confuse the message of the Gospel with a different message which might have more immediate appeal to a different society and age. Following Christ is a hard road; Are we going to say that Paul was wrong about this? No, he was not wrong, neither were the 'church fathers,' nor countless Christian writers down through the ages who were very clear about the Cross of Christ, and what that meant during this present age. Let us give ourselves another brief reminder of what the disciples had to go through:

Then some Jews came from Antioch and Iconium and won the crowd over. They stoned Paul and dragged him outside the city, thinking he was dead. But after the disciples had gathered around him, he got up and went back into the city. The next day he and Barnabas left for Derbe. They preached the gospel in that city and won a large number of disciples. Then they returned to Lystra, Iconium and Antioch, strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith. "We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God," they said. (Acts 14:19-22, NIV throughout).

Contrast that with the blatant triumphalism coming from all too many modern "evangelists" who never appear to have comprehensively studied their Bibles in all too many cases. Our lives as Christians can never have any meaning apart from the Cross of Christ, this is where we must go to meet our Lord, this is where He died for Mankind. An easier message for a godless age which is about helping us to feel good about ourselves, or about helping us fulfil our potential has no power to save sinners.

Robin A. Brace. July 10th, 2014.