It's Passover and with Good Friday and the crucifixion of Christ on the minds of millions worldwide, I just ask whatever happened to preaching the cross? I don't wont to go on a big assessment of evangelicalisms failings here rather my main goal is to celebrate the most significant event in the history of the world, the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. However, the sad but true fact is that many of our churches are going to skip right over a serious contemplation of what the cross of Christ really means. Why? For a number of reasons, all which seem to be rooted in this one biblical verse:
"But if I, brothers, still preach circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? In that case the offense of the cross has been removed." (Gal 5:11)
What Paul refers to as he refers to "still preach circumcision" is a system of justification by works. Interestingly he says if I teach circumcision why am I being persecuted? Aside from the obvious that he would be right in step with the Judaizers, I think persecution would be eliminated because the natural man can manage law. Just tell me what to do. Believe in Jesus and do x, y, and z and you will be right with God, if that is what Paul taught like the Judaizers then " In that case the offense of the cross has been removed." Why? Because it is Jesus and me cooperating for my salvation, something I can manage, the natural man loves this stuff. Why else are millions upon millions of dollars spent on 12 step books by Christian and non-Christian authors (saying the same stuff just a different language game)? How do you grow a church today? Give people (x) days or (y) steps to purpose or "Find the Champion" in them, or how to get your best life now, and they flock.
Ultimately Luther classified such theology as a "theology of glory". The natural man is very pleased to embrace a theology of glory, one that gives him specific steps and promises success if followed thus the person has grounds for glorying in themselves in a sense. This is precisely what the church growth movement thrives upon, giving people what they want, a spirituality that they can manage themselves. The offense is removed.
Why would Paul call the cross an offense? Because it destroys all theologies of glory, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Catholic, Theraputic evangelicalism, etc. The cross says that not the labors of our hands but the death of a substitute ALONE is what reconciles men to God. The cross says that no one will do enough "good" and tip the scales in their favor, but says to man "This was done in your place." One can see what this implies about our righteousness...it is "filthy rags"
"We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away." (Isa 64:6)
Yikes! That's not exactly the "Find the champion in you" message that we naturally are inclined to embrace. However, it is passages like this that give the cross its meaning. "Mine mine was the transgression, but Thine the deadly pain." We are transgressors, and deserving of Gods wrath yet "He has made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God in Him." (2 Cor 5:21) The offense surfaces the cross makes a blow at our righteousness (glory) putting the natural man to death, but in doing so it raises us to life in Christ who gives us His own perfect righteousness as a free gift. Thus God alone gets the glory, this Luther called this "the theology of the cross", in opposition to the theology of glory.
Thus we come as beggars to God with Christ and His cross as our plea for mercy, again this is opposed to a Theology glory for no one wants to be a welfare case. I find people get really edgy when I start talking about us being beggars before God. I don't know how many times people had to burst in saying "But we need to remember were God's children" implying that we aren't beggars. Well there's truth to that, and I don't want to minimize adoption, however that follows as a benefit of coming as a beggar through trust in Christ and having the blessing of the cross applied.
"But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God."(John 1:12-13)
This is the essence of the gospel, this is Christianity: That through faith alone in the sacrifice of Christ in our place on the cross we are made right with God. The glory of Christ is manifested in the cross: He who judges the universe humbled Himself to be judged falsely by men. He who alone is infinitely exalted, sunk lower than any other man has or will by bearing our guilt. He who is infinitely good and perfect, became the most sinful man ever to exist. He who alone did not deserve God's wrath suffered greater wrath than anyone. It's really humbling to know that that is what is saving our souls from hell.