Saturday, October 20, 2007

# 223: The Cross

Though we hear much of the cross of Christ in Scripture, the cross is the least preached when it comes to the cross the disciples of Christ are instructed to bear. The cross as used in modern times as an ornament around the neck or as a pin, along with the subtle worship of the cross by many who call themselves Christians, is a disgrace to the actual meaning of a cross.

If I am not mistaken, the cross as an object/ornament of worship was started by the Roman Catholic Church. That belief/practice supposedly was to fulfill the command to carry our cross daily. That practice could be one of the most widely practiced desecrations of Holy Scripture.

Against that background of use, this post will unequivocally display the meaning of the cross as described in the New Testament. Let's start by giving Webster’s meaning of the cross in context as it is presented in Scripture. "Cross: any trouble or affliction that one has to bear; also, anything that thwarts or frustrates."

First are the verses that command Christians to take up their cross in order to qualify as followers of Jesus:

Matthew 10:38. "And anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me."

Matthew 16:24-25. "Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it.’"

Mark 8:34-35 is identical to Matthews 16:24-25, except Mark made a little addition: "whoever loses his life for me and for the ‘gospel’ will save it." Mark also uses the word “save” instead of “find.”

Luke 9:23-24 is identical to Matthew 16: 24-25, except Luke adds the word “daily”: "take up his cross ‘daily’. . . "

Galatians 6:12. ". . . the only reason they do this is to avoid being persecuted for the cross of Christ." As the word “cross” is used in Scripture, it signified suffering, hatred, persecution and trouble.

Luke 14:27. "And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple."

Plainly, the cross is a word symbolizing disagreeable circumstances; that is the stigma the cross represents. No one in their right mind purposely would want any of these unpleasant conditions to come their way. That is the main and only reason the truth of the cross is not preached or practiced in these modern times. We want our lives to be pleasant and easy.

Ask yourselves this question: Why did many, if not most, of the religious leaders and many of the Jews hate Jesus Christ? One very simple answer: John 7:7. "The world cannot hate you but it hates me [Jesus] because I testify that what it does is evil." Are we as disciples of Christ commanded to make Jesus our role model? Yes, at least 6 verses require that He be our only paradigm. This above verse is telling us, in no uncertain terms, that if we live and act as Jesus did, we will have our cross, which may be with us daily.

Also, John 7:7 is the powerhouse of a verse that inspired this author to go public with the evil the religious world is and has been doing from the beginning. Being as bold as this blog has been, especially against the religious hierarchy, has made this the most hated blog/website or any other Biblical Internet information center in the complete World Wide Web. And the only reason is because it exposes the shenanigans (cotton-candy-and-holy-bull gospel) the majority of organized religion has been engaged in by brainwashing the laity into believing what they preach is gospel truth. What they proclaim from the pulpit may sound reasonable enough to the spiritually naive, but what they don’t preach converts their silence into a pleasant but demonic heresy.

In the next month or two, a post will be published simply entitled "Omissions," telling what most have never heard and will never hear from the pulpit. This post on our cross is one of them which we are commanded to bear. Of course, if the majority who are not aware of or turn a blind eye to (remain silent) what is being passed off as genuine Christianity, they will continue to believe that carrying their ornamental cross around their neck is enough evidence to display they are Christians. Ha-ha!

The New Testament dictates that we, as disciples of Christ, must bear the bad circumstances the cross symbolizes. Again, why don’t we see these evil things happening to those who take on the name of Christians in America? I ask this question: What are these generic "christians" doing that would infuriate—as Jesus did and this blog does—any of those in high religious positions? Simply put: nothing. That is the crime against God which we are now exposing. The only thing is, what weight will this “still-small voice” carry among millions of people that like their religion the way it is? And if some believe it is not our place to rock the boat, that may mean that they may be part of the problem or that they are indifferent (a subtle form of hatred) to Biblical truth. And yet, I am sure there may be other ungodly, though seemingly logical, reasons for our inaction and silence.

Before we get into describing the tough part of the Christian life, let’s look at the wonderful life that will become a reality when we play by the rules. Above and beyond the difficulties our cross will bring us, the Christian life can only be describe as “life at its very best.” This sounds like a contradiction in terms. Here is the reason why: Jesus Christ will be living His life through us, by His Holy Spirit. What is it like when we live for the desires and motivations of another (Jesus Christ)? There is so much good which is derived from living the Christian life as it was meant to be, that it overrides and is able to glorify the difficulties of our cross. How? Because we have been allowed to participate in God’s Divine Nature. This fact is an incredible truth, to actually be sharers in God’s nature. 2nd Peter 1:4.

First and foremost, the realm of love we are living in: This God-type (agape) love we receive from God allows us to live with an attitude of unbelievable security: not only the security we have for all eternity, but a love that gives us strength and confidence, regardless of what the world throws at us. What I mean is that we become invincible—or it at least seems that way—against all the schemes and plots of the devil. I believe it would take volumes to describe all that God’s love is able to accomplish. The best way to describe this love is that it is not even close to the human love many of us live by. If human love was valued at one dollar, the love we receive from God is worth one billion dollars, and even that is not a good comparison. That love gives us the ability and desire to love our hurting neighbors and even our despised enemies. This love must actually be experienced to be understood.

Then comes the completeness we become aware of. What is meant by this is that we don’t need or desire the admiration and approval of others to make us feel good about ourselves. In short, we don’t need the things that bring satisfaction and a sense of accomplishment that the world so dearly needs: things that puff us up inside; in our own small way, we feel as if we must keep up with the Joneses (keeping in style with all the latest fashions, etc). The best way to describe this completeness is that, we Christians are so full of God-given greatness which nothing outside of us can complement. Let me tell you a secret: We all unknowingly desire this completeness, and in an attempt to satisfy our desire for wholeness, we pile up material things and attitudes so that the world will think we are the greatest. Continuing with the secret. . . we can tell how empty people are of real value on the inside by the amount of material things they have accumulated. Inwardly wealthy people (genuine Christians) don’t need—or better yet, don’t desire—any of that stuff, since they are inwardly satisfied with spiritual treasures.

And thirdly, this one is important for people who are concerned mostly, if not only, with their own spiritual welfare. We were not saved, born again, sanctified, justified, etc. by God as a means in itself. Though our holiness is necessary and important to God, it is a means of bringing others to God by how we live, what we say and how we love. That must be the Christian’s first and main concern. You see, we don’t count. Don’t get me wrong; God loves us with an undying love. But His concern is more so for the souls of the lost; somehow through our continued effort, God can convince them that His way is the only way to living a complete life.

These Godly attributes are the things that make our cross nothing more than pesky mosquitoes, if you will. We will survive the mosquitoes. And even if they bring our human body to the grave, we lose nothing, but actually gain real life. We must at all times keep in mind that this life is only a prelude/prologue to eternity. For that reason we must not place too much emphasis on this life, but keep our energies on all that God commands. For they are what will keep us walking the line Jesus Christ marked out for us, even though no one loves it when it seems the whole world is out to get us (the cross). It is in God’s plan, and for our own good, to bear the cross. If there is no cross in the lives of some, that is a good indication that their lives are not being lived in compliance with a God-ordained necessity, be it in the first century or in our present freedom-of-religion type of atmosphere. Let me paraphrase John 7:7. If the world hates us, it is because we testify that what it does is evil. Of course, we won’t know what evil the religious world is doing if we don’t make our life one with God’s Word, the New Testament. Don’t believe this blog, except for the New Testament verses; then check for yourself to see if they are in context with the rest of Scripture.

There are many, many verses that clearly describe the vile events that will follow those who willingly take up their cross daily. The following 25 verses are such: They may be boring and unreal in this culture with our freedom of religion. In America, that freedom we so treasure may have contributed to our lackadaisical attitude in continuing to proclaim and live what Christ started. And yet, when people in America and elsewhere adamantly live a lifestyle of obedience as commanded in the New Testament, many disagreeable situations (the cross) will follow them.

The majority of church-going people will never hear a sermon on these verses from the pulpit, regardless of how loving and godly the preachers may seem.

Romans 8:17. "Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his suffering in order that we may also share in his glory."

Acts 14:22. "We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God."

2nd Timothy 3:12. "In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted."

Hebrews 12:7. "Endure hardships as discipline: God is treating you as sons."

Matthew 10:22-23. "All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved. When you are persecuted in one place, flee to another."

Matthew 24:9-10. "Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other."

Matthew 5:44: "But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you . . ."

2nd Corinthians 1:3. "Praise be to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God."

Luke 6:22. "Blessed are you when men hate, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man."

Luke 21:17-19. "All men will hate you because of me. But not a hair of your head will perish. By standing firm you will save yourselves."

Luke 21:12. "But before all this, they will lay hands on you and persecute you."

Luke 11:49. "‘I will send them prophets and apostles, some of them whom they will kill and others they will persecute.’"

John 15:18-20. "If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belong to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you . . . If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also." Who Is Jesus referring to by the word “they”? Is it not the religious leaders? Things haven’t changed much in the last 2,000 years. Many of them are still the culprits.

John 17:14. Jesus speaking to our Heavenly Father: "‘I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am not of this world.’"

Acts 11:19. "Now those who had been scattered by the persecution in connection with Stephen. . . ."

Acts 12:1 "It was about this time that King Herod arrested some who belonged to the church, intending to persecute them."

Romans 12:14. "Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse."

1st Corinthians 4:12. "When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it."

Romans 8:35. "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardships or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?"

2nd Corinthians 4:9. ". . . persecuted but not abandoned . . ."

Galatians 5:11. ". . . why am I still being persecuted?"

1st Thessalonians 3:4. "In fact, when we were with you, we kept telling you that we would be persecuted."

2nd Timothy 2:3. "Endure hardships with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus."

2nd Timothy 4:5. ". . . endure hardships, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry."

Revelation 2:3. "You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary."

All these will be the result of carrying our cross, which most often is a blessing in disguise. There are at least two reasons we don’t see this cross in America: This country has become a nation of religious tolerance because of our freedom of religion, and secondly, the cross we are commanded to bear is not preached from the majority, if not all, of organized religion. Our cross has several specific purposes: Romans 5:3-5. "And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us."

Finally, even though this post on the cross, which openly displays what every genuine Christian must be prepared to bear, has been in the Bible for over 2,000 years, I am certain this teaching will seem new and therefore may be rejected by most, believing it is not relevant in our modern society. This may seem true, but if a good number of disciples of Christ started to become adamant about desiring to live as Scripture requires, and start exposing what many churches remain silent on, they will, in no time, be carrying their crosses. Amen.

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