By Francis Frangipane
In our modern era we have a different version of Christianity than that which Christ founded in the first century. Our version secures a hope in the afterlife but does little to change us in the present life. We are still as easily offended and as unloving as those who do not know Christ -- and we are certainly just as divisive.
Yes, we marvel at what Christ accomplished at Calvary, but we shrink from what He desires to fulfill in us. We desire His blessings but not His backbone. Because we have diluted the full purpose of Christianity, which is functional conformity to Christ (Eph. 4:24), the power to transform us is likewise diluted. As a result, our leaders fall, marriages fail, and the gospel is reduced to a course on ethics, which we can take or leave since God forgives us anyway.
As awesome as being forgiven is, the Son of God did not lay down His life only to secure our forgiveness; the eternal goal of His sacrifice was to secure our full transformation. Forgiveness is but the first stage of transformation.
Thus, when Paul writes of knowing the "power of [Christ's] resurrection," he unites resurrection power with "being conformed to [Christ's] death" (Phil. 3:10). Conformity to Christ's death is the purpose of the disciple's cross; it is the gateway into the resurrection power of Jesus Christ.
The Anthem of the Cross
Why do we not hear more messages about the disciple's cross? We hear much on inner healing; we know basically how to lead people to Christ. We have even adopted and adapted into our Christian theology terminology from modern psychology -- we know when something needs "closure" or the problems associated with "dysfunctional families."
But when will we discuss the power of Christ's cross? When will we rediscover the power of the crucified life?
It is not as though the symbol of the cross is absent from our culture; on the contrary. The cross sits majestically on top of our great cathedrals and it adorns our most humble worship centers. It embellishes Bible covers and religious books alike. Not only is it incorporated into the sacred emblem of our many ministries, it is also the insignia for numerous charitable foundations, hospitals, and relief agencies. Row upon row, it stands guard in our cemeteries. It has even become a popular jewelry item, worn by Christians and non-Christians alike.
Yet when was the last time you heard a sermon on the disciple's cross? Or asked the clerk at the Christian bookstore for the section on carrying the cross? Or when did you last participate in a worship service that included just one song about triumphantly bearing the cross? Apart from a hymn or two, the emphasis on the cross is missing.
Yes, we hear of faith, hope and love; we seek spiritual gifts, blessings and prosperity, but why is there so little emphasis on the disciple's cross? My goal today is not to expose what is lacking with Christian music or bookstores. From my heart I commend our psalmists for their majestic melodies; their worship songs truly communicate deep and intimate adoration of God. But where is the anthem of the cross? Where are the musical scores that centralize and exalt the very crest of Heaven, the triumphant sign of the Son of Man? When will we hear songs that, like banners, unfurl before the army of God, inspiring us to embrace the life and redemptive path of our crucified King?
In truth, we lack lyrics about the disciple's cross because we avoid teaching the disciple's cross. Our minstrels are only writing songs inspired by current theology. The fault lies in the pulpit and with those of us who are Christian leaders. Under the guise of compassion for the weak, we have presented a gospel that's weak. We present comfort, but not challenge and sympathy without standards.
My friends, let us not deny the weak their comfort nor the infirm their healing, but let us also press toward the full stature of Christ. Jesus said uncompromisingly to His disciples, "If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me" (Matt. 16:24). It is time to get serious with God, to pick up the cross and discover again the power that accompanies a crucified life. The cross is the power of God.
Lord Jesus, for too long I have lived in spiritual immaturity. I have sought to be coddled instead of crucified. With all my heart I desire to become like You, Jesus. Forgive me for being so easily distracted and so addicted to comfort. Hear my heart, O Lord, and restore me to true conformity to You in all things. Amen.
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You might consider getting the book This Day We Fight as a companion in developing your warfare posture. www.arrowbookstore.com