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Words without the cross
- Jacob Ninan
"The word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God" (1Co.1:18). People are either perishing or being saved. To save those who are perishing, God came with the message of the cross, that they don't have to die for their sins if they would humble themselves, acknowledge and repent from their sins, and receive forgiveness freely because Jesus has been punished in their place already.
Many who hear this message mock at it, because they don't like to hear about themselves as sinners, they think they don't need any salvation, or because they think it's not logical that someone else's death can save them. What they don't realise is that they can't save themselves and that this offer from God is the only way for them.
But the cross isn't just about forgiveness of sins. It's also the way for those who have been forgiven to come to experience the fruit of their salvation in practical life -- sanctification. This is a process by which we are being set apart for God, made more and more holy in life, and become more and more like Jesus in our character. What we need to do for this is to take up our cross daily, deny ourselves and follow Jesus (Mt.10:38,39). If we don't deny ourselves when we are tempted by our desires (Jas.1:14,15) and follow the way Jesus went, we cannot make any progress in salvation or grow up into the likeness of Christ.
Many believers mock at the preaching of this cross. They would rather hear about blessings that are coming their way, the promises God is going to fulfil for them, how God will fight on their behalf (so that they don't have to carry their cross!), etc. They call the preaching of the cross 'legalism' and 'the opposite of grace'.
Salvation is by grace through faith, and not by any works from our side (Ep.2:8,9). We cannot earn our salvation by anything we do. But if we have to 'work out' in our daily life the salvation God has granted to us, don't we have to choose God and His ways instead of the works our flesh would tempt us to do (Php.2:12,13)? We shouldn't think that by pointing out what God wants us to do in order to enjoy what He has prepared for us, we would be going back to works that are trying to earn our salvation!
Sad to say, lots of 'believers' these days don't seem to like hearing anything about what they need to do, whether it is repentance or self-denial, but they like hearing about promises, prophecies of rosy days ahead, etc. Many preachers have caught on to 'what will sell' and adapted their messages accordingly! They studiously avoid the mention of sin, hell, judgment, cross, temptation, self-denial, etc. Instead they fill their messages with stories, jokes, psychology, impressive one-liners, etc. When people who hear perish because of lack of vision or insight (Pr.29:18), their 'blood' will be on the preachers and authors who compromised on their message and chose to be popular rather than helpful.