Wednesday, February 27, 2008

No Cross to Bear

And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me. (Matthew 10:38)

Vast swaths of the professing church have no cross to bear. Through both word and deed they reject the hard demands of Jesus and opt instead for an easy believism that says "You can have your cake and eat it too, brothers and sisters!". These blind guides of the blind teach their itching ears followers a sickly sweet compromised gospel that assures them of their Best Life, NOW!"

Smiling like crocodiles and with a glimmer in their eyes they send their deceived congregants home week after week singing of a heaven they'll never see and praising a Jesus Who will will rebuke and condemn them on judgment day.

And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity. (Matthew 7:23)

What does the Lord mean here when he rejects the workers of iniquity and who are they?

in-ik'-wi-ti (`awon; anomia): In the Old Testament of the 11 words translated "iniquity," by far the most common and important is `awon (about 215 times). Etymologically, it is customary to explain it as meaning literally "crookedness," "perverseness," i.e. evil regarded as that which is not straight or upright, moral distortion (from `iwwah, "to bend," "make crooked," "pervert"). Driver, however (following Lagarde), maintains that two roots, distinct in Arabic, have been confused in Hebrew, one = "to bend," "pervert" (as above), and the other = "to err," "go astray";

Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.


Few there be that find it.

We can see that the Lord is rebuking a group of lawbreakers, a group who is guilty of committing lewdness, crookedness, and perverseness in contradistinction to being straight, upright, and moral according to God's Holy commandments. I should point out here that I'm not advancing a works based salvation. Salvation is by grace through faith and is a miraculous and sovereign work of God alone. Yet God's holy demands are irrevocable and it is His Spirit that empowers and enables the regenerate to holy and righteous living before His face.

It's interesting to note in the verses leading up to verse 23 a group is described who will call Jesus "Lord" and who will recite a litany of good works they've performed in His name. Still more interesting in this discourse we see that the Lord does not deny or make any effort to refute the works claimed, nor does he dispute that the lawbreakers did the works in His name, rather He simply commands them to depart from Him and summarily states that He never knew them! Clearly Jesus is the omniscient God Almighty so He mustn't mean that He has no idea who they are, rather He is unequivocally stating that He was never in a relationship with them. They are strangers to His covenant of grace, and hence are guilty and condemned covenant breakers.

I have little doubt that this stinging rebuke and rejection of the King of Glory strikes the unregenerate false believers as a complete and utter surprise.

They believed they knew Him!

They claimed their good works were performed in His name!

And the Lord doesn't even deny their claims! Is there some mistake here? Is the Lord guilty of unreasonably and arbitrarily rejecting true, regenerate born-again Christian men and women? God forbid!

The truth of the matter is that the false believers pictured in this terrible and frightful verse in Matthew are typical of the sort of lukewarm Laodician Christian who is so prevalent in the modern professing church. Today's church is a hothouse within which "shallow root", "weedy" false Christians thrive. These are the tares sown by the enemy which spring up alongside the true wheat of the Lord. This is the false church which exists side by side with the true invisible church. These are the stooges and pawns of the enemy who trust in themselves that they are righteous. They are self righteousness exemplified, an object lesson in damnation.

I personally believe the Lord doesn't bother attempting to refute their works claims because their claims are truthful and accurate as far as they go. By the measure of man they probably did many admirable and noble works in the Lord's name during their time on the earth. They were probably model citizens, faithful church attenders, good parents, community volunteers, and cheerful givers. No doubt within their ranks were pastors, deacons, elders and church leaders and congregants of all stripes. I would imagine they were a congenial and generally wonderful group of people while on this side of glory.

But they had a spiritual problem. They didn't know Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord.

Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.

What does this verse mean? We can clearly see here that Jesus is addressing the very type of person who verbally and/or intellectually assents to Christ's truth claims, but fails to submit to Him as Lord and Savior. This describes the exact types of false believers - the very same individuals - that are rejected by the Lord in Matthew 7:23!

Trusting in Jesus Christ as one's Lord and Savior isn't simply repeating a "sinner's prayer" or "believing in God". Trusting in Christ is believing God and acting on that belief through repentance and humble submission to His Word, including His hard commands. It's the total abandonment of self to apprehend Christ.

And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. (Luke 9:23)

Jesus was serious about people surrendering their all in order to follow Him. He didn't preach a gospel that allows men to keep one foot in heaven and the other foot in the world, quite the opposite in fact. Jesus challenged men to be willing, able, and even eager to give up all their worldly comforts, their families, wives, children, reputations, inheritances, even their very lives if called upon by Him to do so. His message was so important, and His demands were so strident that scripture records how time and again He turned away the half-hearted adherents, the curious hangers-on, and the "seekers" by the thousands.

Had they been around in those days there's no doubt that many within the ranks of our modern "evangelical leadership" - so called - would have criticized Christ and counseled Him to soften His approach because of His habit of turning away so many "prospects", so many "seekers". They would have upbraided the Lord and critiqued His application based on His paltry numbers and the puny - and motley! - crew He actually managed to attract and retain during His earthly ministry. I can almost hear them now:

"Aw, c'mon Jesus! You had at least 5,000 men out there, probably 15,000 total when you count the women and children who were literally eating out of Your hands! You had them so engaged in the message, they were practically fainting out there! Oh, and You blew it, You just blew it!

Just think of all the tithes and offerings we could have received from them! And did you stop to consider all the programs we could have implemented and how many churches we could have planted with all that help! You've got to loosen up a little bit and show a little more tolerance for those who don't believe like You do! You're a little overly focused on doctrine, everything isn't black and white You know, we have to be able to operate in the gray areas and speak the truth in love! Sometimes we have to be willing to re-think things and meet people where they are, You know, compromise a little here and there. After all, a little give and take never hurts anything! We shouldn't let a few little doctrinal disagreements cost us fellowship! You have to be careful not to let Your spirituality become a divisive issue that could be construed by other people as being abusive. Let's try to work together to find common ground and seek to gain an understanding of what others think and how they feel so we can have more unity!"

Does this aforementioned line of reasoning sound familiar? It should because by and large today's Bible-lite circus churches are measured and managed like for-profit corporations as opposed to being carefully and lovingly tended as Christ's little flock. These are those who are more interested in obtaining a false temporal "unity" through compromise than they are in counting the costs and serving the Glorious Risen Lord with abandon, dedication, and unwavering singleness of heart. But, I suppose when you answer to the bottom line instead of answering to the Creator it becomes easier to seek after nickels and noses and ignore the weightier matters of the Gospel of grace.

With no cross to bear today's false professing Christians shamefully abuse themselves and call it the "liberty of the Lord". They profess Christ with their mouths but deny Him in their hearts. And just as sure as the sun will rise tomorrow lest they repent of their sinful ways they will someday hear those awful and terrible words ..."depart from Me"...