The Message of the Cross
By Bob Williford, former director of the Hope Migrant Mission Center at the Migrant Farm Labor Center near Hope, Arkansas (a ministry of the Arkansas Baptist Convention), and author of Fence Post Digest blog.
The only solution for sin is the Cross of Christ
When one has failed while doing everything to keep from failing only darkness and confusion remain. Because the Lord is NOT the author of confusion without Him life becomes unbearable in a tumultuous sea of storms.
Everyone knows failure at some juncture and will give some kind of advice about how to succeed, but the truth is, they do not know. Many who claim to know Christ give advice about how to live and have no idea what it means to live ‘in Christ’. Because of this I find it difficult to believe that a born again Believer in Jesus Christ cannot or does not live for the Lord. If a Believer does not understand the message of the Cross there is no direction about how to live for God.
Paul writes that if we place our faith in anything apart from Christ and Him crucified that He will be of no value to you. “that if you receive circumcision, Christ will be of no benefit to you.” (Galatians 5:2).
Clearly, the work that we attempt apart from faith in the Crucified and Resurrected Christ will amount to nothing.
“Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” (Galatians 5:19-21).
If the Believer does not understand the Cross of Christ these “works of the flesh” will manifest themselves in life. However, many Christians ignore each of them believing they simply cannot apply today because our culture has ‘matured’.
There are some things in circulating in churches that guide folks to false victories which are anything but the Christ and His Cross. I would suggest that the “Government of Twelve,” the “Word of Faith,” and others that are simply are not true. Certainly these methods of living good lives are filled with bible texts, but are leading folks away from the Cross where the Power of God is found. I say this because Christian leadership has taken on Corporate America models for Christian direction that have nothing to do with God’s Word. Seems to me that the Church must follow the plans given us in His Word. Corporate America is filled with immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these. And Paul writes, “as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.”
The point that I must make is that any guidance produced by man as a ‘guide’ to bible truth cannot be of God and therefore must be a work of the flesh. Any way apart from the Word of God and Christ and Him Crucified is sin by its very nature. While reading and studying the word of God in relationship to the finished work of Christ at Calvary the works of the flesh become clear.
For this reason alone, read the words of Paul to the church in Corinth: “Therefore, since we have this ministry, as we received mercy, we do not lose heart,2 but we have renounced the things hidden because of shame, not walking in craftiness or adulterating the word of God, but by the manifestation of truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God” (2 Corinthians 6:2).
The answers to all of life’s problems can only be found in what Christ did at the Cross.
Paul writes in his letter to the Colossians, “For it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven. And although you were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds, yet He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach–” (Colossians 1:19-22).
Here we find that we have a sin problem. Paul is not writing to unbelievers, but rather to Believers and says to them, “And although you were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds, yet He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death…..”. As Believers we are to seek to live for God and we must begin at the Cross where we find the blood of Christ. There is nothing in the Christian life that does not begin apart from the Cross of Christ. True enough we find strength in the fullness of the Spirit, but without the discovery of the Christ at the Cross the Holy Spirit cannot be found.
Paul said, “Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin;7 for he who has died is freed from sin” (Romans 6:3-7).
“For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not in cleverness of speech, so that the cross of Christ would not be made void. For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:17-18).
The importance of these words is that there is a notable difference between born again Believers and professing Believers. Foolishness and salvation.
“but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men” (1 Corinthians 1:23-25).
The key thought s here are ‘stumbling block’ and ‘foolishness’. Professing Believers who are not Believers see the truth found in Scripture difficult to believe and understand. For this reason they are Professing Believers, but not in word and practice.
The joy of the Followers Christ know the power and wisdom of God in daily living.
“And when I came to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God. For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling, and my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God” (1 Corinthians 2:1-5).
Believers in Christ will seek nothing apart from the Crucified and Resurrected Christ and not the wisdom of men. We are NOT to seek after the wisdom of men while seeking direction from God. We are to separate ourselves from the evil of unbelief.
Paul continues with the same thought, “But may it never be that I would boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. For neither is circumcision anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation. And those who will walk by this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God” (Galatians 6:14-16).
The message to be proclaimed by every Believer is the Cross of Christ and nothing more. To stand on proclaim anything different is to speak foolishness. Our boast is to be only in the Crucified and Resurrected Christ for He alone is our Message.
After the Resurrection the Disciples were not convinced that He was resurrected from the dead. But, He appears to two of His Disciples as they were en route to Emmaus. These two do not recognize Him and think of Him only as a stranger along the way.
“And He said to them, “What are these words that you are exchanging with one another as you are walking?” And they stood still, looking sad. One of them, named Cleopas, answered and said to Him, “Are You the only one visiting Jerusalem and unaware of the things which have happened here in these days?” (Luke 24:17).
I find it interesting and disturbing that people within the membership of local churches do not recognize Jesus and this is because they have chosen NOT to follow Him, but only to profess Him behind closed doors. For the Christ has said that if we do not profess Him before men He will not profess us before His Father (Matthew 10:32-33).
“Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just exactly as the women also had said; but Him they did not see.” And He said to them, ‘O foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken. Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to enter into His glory?’ Then beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures” (Luke 24:24-27).
Do not miss this phrase, “Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just exactly as the women also had said; but Him they did not see.” They saw the Empty Tomb, but because of their apparent unbelief they ‘did not see’. The same was true for the Disciples along the way, they simply could not believe that He was Who He claimed to be.
The Cross of Christ is principle upon which all doctrine is substantiated. The Cross Event is the Cornerstone of Redemption. “knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ. For He was foreknown before the foundation of the world, but has appeared in these last times for the sake of you21 who through Him are believers in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God” (1 Peter 1:18-20).
Every Bible doctrine must find foundation upon the Christ and the Cross. The sad truth is that far too many churches rely upon bad information for their building stones because they are following men of personality and programs of the world rather than the Son of God of the Bible.
“According to the grace of God which was given to me, like a wise master builder I laid a foundation, and another is building on it. But each man must be careful how he builds on it. For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work”
(1 Corinthians 3:10-13).
Paul’s revealed foundation which is the Word of God must be the foundation of everything within the framework of the Lord’s Church. When men attempt to build upon what already had been construction, confusion and disorder erupt. May this never be so with you.
Jesus is Lord