by Mike Ratliff
1 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. 2 For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. 1 Corinthians 2:1-2 (NASB)
The manner of our Lord’s death was one designed by the Romans to humiliate its criminals. The cross was a place of shame, disgrace, humiliation, indignity, degradation, and ignominy. The Roman soldiers were experts at this form of execution in which the criminal was beaten, undressed, arms spread and nailed to a cross-beam, feet nailed to a vertical beam, and hoisted above the ground for the world to see. However, as we read in 1 Corinthians 2:1-2 (above), Paul decided to know nothing among those to whom he preached and ministered except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.
14 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. Galatians 6:14 (NASB)
Who would make that our Lord’s crucifixion would be his ultimate boast? The Gospel, the genuine Gospel that is, has no part in what has come to be known as easy-believism. The Gospel is hard and repellant to the unregenerate mind. The world will always scoff at the idea that God became flesh. To those who are deeply into the ways of the world and cherish the accolades of men, the cross of Christ is an embarrassing place to stand, let alone the very thing that proclaims and defines who they are. In fact, even those who should know better, pastors, evangelists, and theologians, motivated by their embarrassment over the stark, black & white nature of the genuine Gospel, actually deny that they know Jesus by taking emphasis away from the cross in their ministries.
How do they do this? Think of the “gospel” messages that proclaim things such as, “Follow Jesus and have your best life now! Follow Jesus and He will heal your marriage! Follow Jesus and be part of our cool church!” You get the idea. None of these and countless other cross-less versions of the gospel are the Gospel at all. The Jesus presented in the phony “gospels” is “another Jesus.” This “other Jesus” is one whom the world loves and is easy to follow because he never offends anyone. This “other Jesus” is often referred to as “bro” or “homie” or “my buddy,” et cetera. He is the Jesus who hangs out with you in that cool coffee shop being with you other cool friends. This Jesus is one who, like you, does not like “institutional church” because it talks too much about those things that bring you down, like obedience and repentance. Living with this Jesus is a cool ride.
The problem is that this “other Jesus” is not Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour. This “other Jesus” is part of a great deception that is at war with the genuine Gospel. The real Gospel is centered on the cross. Preaching the real Gospel will never exclude emphasis on what our Lord did at the Cross. That means that those who believe it are eternally changed by it and must be very careful to never neglect the Cross of Christ throughout their service and devotion and ministry unto our Lord. This means that they take on the reproach of the Cross just as our Lord did at Golgotha.
24 Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. 25 For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. 26 For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? Matthew 16:24-26 (NASB)
This is the call of the disciple of our Lord Jesus Christ. This is a call to die to self and follow our Lord within the separation from the world that is part of that. When we become identified with Cross of Christ this way then we stand in the same ministerial position that our Lord and His Apostles did as they presented the genuine Gospel to a world that hates to be reminded that all outside of Christ are lost and bound for eternity in Hell because of their sin. Christ was crucified because of this. Excluding Judas Iscariot, all of the Apostles but John were martyred for preaching this. The easy-believism version of the Gospel is designed to soften the message and to make friends of the world. However, the real Gospel is a hard message that separates. It is not a message that the unregenerate love, nor will they ever believe. No, that is why God must first draw those who are to be saved to Christ in regeneration, which includes the gift of faith. (John 6:44; Ephesians 2:1-10).
The act of preaching a cross-less gospel is rooted in unbelief while those who preach the Cross of Christ are obediently carrying out the mission given to them by the Lord. Are you ashamed of the Gospel? Are you embarrassed for people to know that you are one of those narrow-minded, exclusive evangelicals who believe in Heaven and Hell? If you are hesitant to share your faith then you are in the throes of a spiritual battle that is designed to neutralize you in this war. Yes, it is a war. We are only effective as “evangelicals” if we, like Paul, determine to know nothing among those we minister to except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. This requires a level of devotion that must begin with an emptying of self. The act of daily taking up ones own cross is accomplished by God giving us the grace to empty ourselves of self-focus, self-protection, and self-orientation. Instead, our focus must be on God, our Lord Jesus, and the Gospel.
Early in my personal revival, I discovered a music artist named Jeremy Camp. On his CD “Carried Me: The Worship Project” there is song on it that I have come to love titled “Empty Me.” This is what I ask God to do with me as I move to take up my own cross each day, to deny self, and follow my Lord.
Holy fire burn away
My desire for anything
That is not of you and is of me
I want more of you
Empty me, empty me, fill me
With you, with you –
by John Mark Comer and Gene Way
Think of it my brethren! What would our daily ministries be like if we had our desires on nothing except that which God had for us. If we walked by faith then we would not walk according to the flesh and unbelief. We would be useful to God in the Kingdom. We would not be ashamed of the Gospel and we would be used by God to bring others into the Kingdom in belief of the genuine Gospel instead of being sucked into the false gospel of easy-believism. If this is to be that which defines our walk then each day must begin and continue throughout with us carrying our own crosses in self-denial and following our Lord wherever He leads us.
Soli Deo Gloria!