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The Old Cross and The New

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 clamoring 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 good-by 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 cannot 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…

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.

A. W. Tozer ~ Man, the Dwelling Place of God (1966)

Article first appeared in the Alliance Witness (1946).

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John MacArthur Tells Christians: Don’t Fornicate With The World

The church, if it is to be anything, it is to be absolutely distinct from the culture, absolutely distinct from the world, absolutely distinct from unbelievers,” said prominent author and evangelical pastor John MacArthur.

Speaking from the pulpit to thousands of fellow pastors at the Shepherds’ Conference, MacArthur underscored the biblical command not to be yoked with nonbelievers and to be a separated people.

“Paul demands a total break,” he said Wednesday at Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, Calif., citing the apostle in the New Testament.

MacArthur, author of Ashamed of the Gospel: When the Church Becomes Like the World?, grew up in a fundamentalist environment. At that time, the word “separation” was a big word on the evangelical word list. Fundamentalists built high walls in terms of church conduct and relationships, he explained. If those walls or lines were crossed, the violator was vilified.

Even MacArthur was a victim of the highly separatistic fundamentalism. He recalled being stripped off of about 55 radio stations in one day when they felt he was behaving outside their parameters.

The fundamentalism back then was cruel and unbiblical, he said. And it was so cannibalistic that it consumed itself and disappeared.

But MacArthur feels there needs to be a “biblical (not traditional) understanding of separation” among Christians today.

“I think we are very much aware of the fact that there is a distinction between being a Christian and being a non-Christian,” he said. “I don’t think much of evangelicalism understands that. I think the line between a true Christian and a false Christian is significantly blurred.”

As Apostle Paul made clear to the Corinthians, MacArthur noted, Christians cannot live in both worlds – the world of righteousness and the world of unrighteousness, light and darkness, Christ and Satan.

Two millennia ago there were believers who blended Christianity and paganism with the intent of trying to make Christians more palatable and popular and less narrow, offensive and exclusive. It’s the same picture today as churches “import all the styles of the culture into the holy life of the church,” MacArthur lamented.

Such blending simply validates the culture and confuses the church, he pointed out.

“There’s so many of these, whatever they are, they’re not churches. They’re events on a Sunday with a standup speaker who’s got charisma. They don’t understand the church,” he said. “I’m not against evangelism but don’t call it a church.”

A church, he defined, is a group of people who have come to Christ and separated themselves from Satan’s system. It’s a redeemed community of believers, he added, and not an event open “to anybody and everybody where you accommodate the world at the expense of the spiritual life and maturity of the church.”

“You can’t marry the church to the culture,” he said. “Don’t fornicate with the world.”

Separating from the culture and from nonbelievers does not mean isolating oneself, MacArthur made clear. When Paul called for a clean break he did not say to avoid nonbelievers or to not share the gospel with them.

Rather, he called the church to be “an absolutely separate entity from anything that defines or describes the belief system or the behavior of the society,” the popular author stressed.

MacArthur went on to denounce interfaith or multifaith efforts.

“The issue here specifically relates to harnessing believers and unbelievers in any common religious spiritual enterprise,” he explained. “True Christians have to separate from all of that … all matters related to ministry, related to Scripture, related to doctrine and related to worship, right?

“Those who do not confess Christ truly, do not affirm the true Gospel have no place participating in any enterprise that intends to advance God’s purpose and God’s kingdom in the world.”

At the end of his hour-long message, MacArthur explained to pastors that he simply wants to be obedient to God’s word and enjoy His favor.

“I’m not by nature this narrow-minded kind of separatist who wants to chew up and spit out everybody who crosses the lines that I draw,” he said. “But I just want above all things in my life to obey the Word of God.”

“How ungrateful would I be to the God who has taken up residence in me … and in His church … and who has literally poured out endless promises to flagrantly disobey?” he noted.

“He called you to Himself. …What do you owe in return? You owe obedience to Him and honor.”

The Shepherds’ Conference kicked off on Wednesday, March 3, and will continue through to Sunday, March 7, 2010.

By Lillian Kwon

Friday, March 5, 2010

Christian Post

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