Thursday, October 16, 2014

Accepting Christ and Rejecting His Cross: A Modern Day Plague


"St Joseph with the infant Jesus" By Guido Reni (1620's)

"And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross." Philipians 2:8



 There's a plague going around. It's spreading fast, infecting people's precious hearts and minds. It's spreading in many churches, books, 'motivational' speakers and false teachings. Jesus is reduced to a mere "feel good" cartoon character, His death on the cross to a fairy tale. If we just accept Him, we will live happily ever after. We are free to pursue our 'bliss', our own happiness, and free to pursue ourselves. Jesus and the Christian walk are reduced to a nice feel good club. What is this plague that is so contagious? Accepting Christ while rejecting His cross.

Accepting Jesus without owning our own sin---without repentance and an open and willing heart that sees the personal need for His atoning cross---is not accepting Jesus. We're accepting part of Him and leaving out the inconvenient parts that require change, somberness, and a change of life. Accepting Jesus as our King means giving leadership to a new ruler over our entire heart and mind. Our whole self is given over to Him, not withholding the parts that we hang so tightly onto controlling. Jesus gave His whole self so that we might gain eternal life, yet we hold back out of stubbornness, fear, immaturity and an unwillingness to be different.

Many people are afraid to speak of the true message of Jesus, so it is watered down, changed to suit the times, the surrounding culture, or to tickle people's ears. When Jesus ministered to many different groups of people, personalities, diseases and stubborn hearts His message was the same to all. It was up to those listening to Him, witnessing His miracles whether they accepted Him or not. But He did not change. He did not say "if the people want more entertainment to draw them to me, let's give them more entertainment." "If you need to make me relevant to pop culture, and change me a little, then by all means do so." 

A sincere and repentant heart---a truly broken heart seeking a Savior, a heart committed to being faithful to the end, is not drawn in by shallow things. The heart is drawn by Jesus and His work on the cross. Knowing that we are sinners in need of a Savior or we have no hope of eternal life and recognizing our need to be made pure and spotless by Christ is essential.

"When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners.  Now, most people would not be willing to die for an upright person, though someone might perhaps be willing to die for a person who is especially good. But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners." Romans 5:6-8

Jesus shedding His blood for us means that every day we lay down our lives at the foot of the cross. Our life is His, we serve Him and live as humble servants to the King of Kings. Who we were before--- selfish, living in bondage to ourselves, past hurts, sins and abuses, we lay all of these down at the cross. Now we are a new creation, no longer serving ourselves. Most of modern Christianity leaves this type of unselfishness out of it's message. It says that we can accept Jesus as a feel good Savior, but leave out the part about taking up our own cross. 

 "Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.  For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.  For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?" Matthew 16:24-26

Self denial, losing our selfish life to live a life of service for God, forgetting self to be refined into a new person and worshiping the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, following Christ's commandments, walking the old paths---these are all part of the Christian walk. It won't always be 'feel good', it will require sacrifice of ourselves and most of the time not being popular.  Christ was despised, rejected, whipped, slandered, not accepted but did it all for the joy that was set before Him. (Heb.12:2) He did it for us, that we may have eternal life, and that we will truly know what real life is, and who He is. He wants us to know Him and accept all of Him, not just partial truths that are convenient when needed.

"Prove by the way you live that you have really turned from your sins and turned to God. Don't just say "we're safe---we're the descendants of Abraham." That proves nothing. God can change even these stones into children of Abraham. Even now the ax of God's judgement is poised, ready to sever your roots. yes, every tree that does not produce good fruit will be chopped down and thrown into the fire." Luke 3:8-9

"For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God." 1 Corinthians 1:18

“And now brothers, I will ask you a terrible question, and God knows I ask it also of myself. Is the truth beyond all truths, beyond the stars, just this: that to live without him is the real death, that to die with him the only life?”
  -Frederick Buechner

“God Hold us to that which drew us first, when the Cross was the attraction, and we wanted nothing else.” -Amy Carmichael "God's Missionary"



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