A while back I had an idea for a post but I just couldn’t quite find the best way to get the idea across. I knew the message was both accurate and important but also delicate. While I never let the “sensitivities” of the hearer deter me, I also do my best not to let a failure on my part to communicate a Truth well interfere with the hearer’s ability to receive it.
This morning, I again had the experience of reading Tozer and saying, “That’s it! That’s the Truth I couldn’t find a way to tell!” Here is the name of the proposed post that was sure to offend: “The Cross, Christianity’s Acceptable Idol.” While I knew this to be true, even I cringed at reading it. As a Christian my whole life, the Cross has played as much of a role for me as it does for any other. Towards the end of my teenage years I began to run sound and recording for the local chapter of the FGBA (Full Gospel Businessman’s Association). While doing this I received my first “Cross in My Pocket” from a stern looking, soft natured older man, Mr. (Glenn) Smith. This little pewter Cross with “God Loves You” stamped on it meant the world to me. I carried it in my change pocket so every time I reached in for a dime or a quarter I would feel and usually see that Cross. Some years later, after seeing me pull out a hand full of change and that Cross, I was gifted with another form of the “Cross in My Pocket.” A poem which, as you can see from the image, I have carried in my wallet ever since.
In the world of Christianity, the Cross is precious, and so it should be… but the cross of the Modern Christian is not the same Cross. It is no better than the Israelite’s “Golden Calf.” This cross is not meant to disrespect God, just to represent Him. We hang it on our walls, wear it on our necks and kneel before it in our churches.
You know how I know this is not the Cross of Christ? Unbelievers hang it on their walls, wear it on their necks and some even go to church on Sunday and kneel before it. How can the God of the moral be celebrated by the immoral? In “Truth Is” we quote 2 Corinthians 6:14 to ask
“What does a believer have to fellowship with an unbeliever about? What do they “have in common”? How can darkness and Light exist in the same place? What does a Faithful member of the temple of God and a worshiper of idols have to agree on? It is clear you cannot follow God and walk in darkness.”
Has the church, in her efforts to be accepted by society, so watered down and even changed the meaning and significance of the Cross that a disobedient world wears it without any sense of condemnation? Not only has Modern Christianity accepted the worship of this image of God within their walls, they have so misrepresented it that those without God embrace it.
On the first point, “worshiping an image of God,” let us get a little help from Mc’Clure’s sermons on the Decalogue:
“ANOTHER species of idolatry is, worshipping God by images, symbols, or visible representations. God is a spirit; he is not comprehended by our senses. Altho’ the works of creation and providence, and the word of God, proclaim his being and perfections, yet we see not God with our bodily sight. But men have invented images, figures and pictures to represent the invisible Jehovah, and worshipped them. The difference between this kind of idolatry and that just mentioned (gross idolatry) is, that this professes to worship the true God in the image, the other worships an image, to the exclusion of the true God. One is the worship of some creature (creation) instead of God, the other is the worship of God in or with a creature (creation).” He adds, to be clear; “God forbids us to worship him by images, figures, statues, pictures, or any visible resemblance of the works of nature or art; for nothing can be made or formed, worthily to represent the infinite and immense Jehovah, the eternal and invisible spirit.”
While I could provide you with the three full sermons Mc’Clure uses to make this case, I think this gets it done.
As to the second part, “the cross of the Modern Church, not representative of Christ.” Here is the aforementioned article from Tozer:
THE OLD CROSS AND THE NEW / A.W. Tozer (emphasis added)
“All unannounced and mostly undetected there has come in modern times a new cross into popular evangelical circles. It is like the old cross, but different: the likenesses are superficial; the differences, fundamental. From this new cross has sprung a new philosophy of the Christian life, and from that new philosophy has come a new evangelical technique – a new type of meeting and a new kind of preaching. This new evangelism employs the same language as the old, but its content is not the same and its emphasis not as before. The old cross would have no truck with the world. For Adam’s proud flesh it meant the end of the journey. It carried into effect the sentence imposed by the law of Sinai. The new cross is not opposed to the human race; rather, it is a friendly pal and, if understood aright, it is the source of oceans of good clean fun and innocent enjoyment. It lets Adam live without interference. His life motivation is unchanged; he still lives for his own pleasure, only now he takes delight in singing choruses and watching religious movies instead of singing bawdy songs and drinking hard liquor. The accent is still on enjoyment, though the fun is now on a higher plane morally if not intellectually. The new cross encourages a new and entirely different evangelistic approach. The evangelist does not demand abnegation of the old life before a new life can be received. He preaches not contrasts but similarities. He seeks to key into public interest by showing that Christianity makes no unpleasant demands; rather, it offers the same thing the world does, only on a higher level. Whatever the sin-mad world happens to be clamouring after at the moment is cleverly shown to be the very thing the gospel offers, only the religious product is better. The new cross does not slay the sinner, it redirects him. It gears him into a cleaner and jollier way of living and saves his self-respect. To the self-assertive it says, “Come and assert yourself for Christ.” To the egotist it says, “Come and do your boasting in the Lord.” To the thrill-seeker it says, “Come and enjoy the thrill of Christian fellowship.” The Christian message is slanted in the direction of the current vogue in order to make it acceptable to the public. The philosophy back of this kind of thing may be sincere but its sincerity does not save it from being false. It is false because it is blind. It misses completely the whole meaning of the cross. The old cross is a symbol of death. It stands for the abrupt, violent end of a human being. The man in Roman times who took up his cross and started down the road had already said goodbye to his friends. He was not coming back. He was going out to have it ended. The cross made no compromise, modified nothing, spared nothing; it slew all of the man, completely and for good. It did not try to keep on good terms with its victim. It struck cruel and hard, and when it had finished its work, the man was no more.
The race of Adam is under death sentence. There is no commutation and no escape. God can not approve any of the fruits of sin, however innocent they may appear or beautiful to the eyes of men. God salvages the individual by liquidating him and then raising him again to newness of life. That evangelism which draws friendly parallels between the ways of God and the ways of men is false to the Bible and cruel to the souls of its hearers. The faith of Christ does not parallel the world, it intersects it. In coming to Christ we do not bring our old life up onto a higher plane; we leave it at the cross. The corn of wheat must fall into the ground and die. We who preach the gospel must not think of ourselves as public relations agents sent to establish good will between Christ and the world. We must not imagine ourselves commissioned to make Christ acceptable to big business, the press, the world of sports or modern education. We are not diplomats but prophets, and our message is not a compromise but an ultimatum. God offers life, but not an improved old life. The life He offers is life out of death. It stands always on the far side of the cross. Whoever would possess it must pass under the rod. He must repudiate himself and concur in God’s just sentence against him. What does this mean to the individual, the condemned man who would find life in Christ Jesus? How can this theology be translated into life? Simply, he must repent and believe. He must forsake his sins and then go on to forsake himself. Let him cover nothing, defend nothing, excuse nothing. Let him not seek to make terms with God, but let him bow his head before the stroke of God’s stern displeasure and acknowledge himself worthy to die. Having done this let him gaze with simple trust upon the risen Saviour, and from Him will come life and rebirth and cleansing and power. The cross that ended the earthly life of Jesus now puts an end to the sinner; and the power that raised Christ from the dead now raises him to a new life along with Christ. To any who may object to this or count it merely a narrow and private view of truth, let me say God has set His hallmark of approval upon this message from Paul’s day to the present. Whether stated in these exact words or not, this has been the content of all preaching that has brought life and power to the world through the centuries. The mystics, the reformers, the revivalists have put their emphasis here, and signs and wonders and mighty operations of the Holy Ghost gave witness to God’s approval. Dare we, the heirs of such a legacy of power, tamper with the truth? Dare we with our stubby pencils erase the lines of the blueprint or alter the pattern shown us in the Mount? May God forbid. Let us preach the old cross and we will know the old power.”
If this was true in Tozer’s time, how much more is it true today? We hold this man-made image of God in higher esteem than we do God Himself. If we didn’t, then the Cross we represented to the world would be just as rejected by them as is God, His commandments and Christ Himself. It was the sight of the Cross hanging in the many churches I had recently been in and the sight of that “same” cross hanging around Hollywood’s neck every time I Iooked that reminded me why I had stopped wearing mine and that provoked this thought. While the Cross is present in every church and every “Christian’s” life, how often can the same be said about the True Presence of God?
Above is the image of the Cross I hung around my neck. I stopped wearing it over a decade ago when I first realized what was being done to it, but after completing this post, I think I will return it to its place above my heart. Not as a representation of God, but, like the poem says, as “a simple reminder” that I have declared my death on the Cross with Christ and my resurrection from the Cross to life by Christ. I will wear this “Old Cross” not as a statement to the world that “all are welcome,” but that “all have sinned (and are condemned) and fall short of the Glory of God.” I will wear it as “a daily reminder” that it is not love as defined by man but Love as defined by God and played out in Christ’s sacrifice that is our “Surety.”
© Scott A Caughel 3/6/2019