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It was my birthday. My staff surprised me with a little celebration in the office along with a gift. It was to be the first of many such gifts I would receive over the next thirty-five years – a coffee mug.
I now have literally dozens of coffee mugs of every shape and design you can imagine decorating my office. It was the picture and the words on this first coffee mug that made my day and is relevant to this blog.
It has the picture of a little man straining to lift barbells over his head with the words, “No Pain, No Gain.”
We live in a culture that avoids as much pain and hardship as possible.
This is seen in the plethora of commercials advertising medications that relieve suffering of every imagination. Parents hover over their children ensuring they are protected from any possible painful experience.
This obsession with a painless life has found its way into the pulpits of the Christian church.
Contemporary preachers declare it is God’s will for every child of God to live a pain-free life filled with His bounty and good treasures.
It is true, God does desire for every son and daughter to experience His bounty and His good treasures. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who has blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ” (Ephesians 1:3 KJV).
It is not true that He has promised us a life free of pain and hardship; quite the opposite.
The Lord Jesus said, “These things I have spoken unto you that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33 NKJV).
He also said, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:10 NKJV).
The Apostle Paul wrote to his spiritual son, who was struggling with discouragement, “Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution” (2 Timothy 3:12 NKJV).
The Apostle Peter wrote these encouraging words, “Beloved, do not be surprise at the fiery ordeal that is taking place among you to test you, as though some strange thing happened to you. But rejoice insofar as you share in Christ’s sufferings, so that you may rejoice and be glad also in the revelation of His glory” (1 Peter 4:12-13 MEV).
There is a strange empty space in much of the contemporary preaching and writing.
The promises of God are proclaimed clearly; declaring with much assurance the great hope for every believer, “life and that more abundantly.”
What is that strange empty space?
The gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ, also contains the message of the cross. Yet, message after message and entire books written about the good life Father has for us, has no mention of the cross.
The Apostle Paul wrote, “Now, brothers, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which you have received, and in which you stand. Through it you are saved, if you keep in memory what I preach to you, unless you have believed in vain. For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received; how Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, was buried, rose again the third day according to the Scriptures…” (1Corinthians 15:1-4 MEV).
Do you catch the Apostle’s warning?
He wrote, “Unless you have believed in vain.”
Is it possible an entire generation of the church is being led to an empty faith because they are being taught a gospel that is absent of the cross?
“Exaggeration,” you may say or think.
Week after week crowds are filling auditoriums to hear sermons declaring God has nothing but love, forgiveness and good things for you.
They are amazing motivational talks that lift the emotions and give positive feelings. There is no mention of the great price that was paid for mankind to live the good life.
The gospel without the cross leads a person to believe their sin is not so sinful. The awfulness of sin in these sermons is photo shopped and the “wages of sin” are anesthetized.
The gospel without the cross nurtures pride in the heart of the disciple, thinking they are not so bad. That spiritual pride produces insufficient repentance, causing them to receive an inoculation of the faith experience, without a true born again experience that will makes a new creation.
The Word of God still declares, “For the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23 MEV).
The Word of God still demands, “Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness” (Hebrews 9:22 MEV).
Pride, self-will, stubbornness, and rebellion will cause a person to insist upon having the final say in their life and to resist the authority of God. The individual will demand the right of redress and hold on to their cherished values contrary to the urging of the Holy Spirit. God declares this is the same as witchcraft and the worship of idols (1Samuel 15:22-23).
“Now the works of the flesh are revealed, which are these: adultery, sexual immorality, impurity, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, strife, jealousy, rage, selfishness, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, carousing, and the like. I warn you, as I previously warned you, that those who do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God” (Galatians 5:19-20 MEV).
The devastation of these sinful activities is extreme:
- Children struggling with feelings of rejection and poor self-image even into adulthood because their parents divorced
- Spousal abuse and child abuse resulting from drunkenness
- Ravaged lives because of addictions
- Domination, intimidation, control and manipulation out of fear and selfishness
- Bigotry, hatred, and violence
- The death of a parent, a child, or a teenager because of a drunk driver
All of this and worse is because of the sinfulness of human hearts.
The horror of sin are greatly visible on Golgotha. Look at the cross!
See the man with nails driven into His hands and feet. See His back, sides, and hips shredded to the bone by the cat of nine tails.
See the blood squirting from his wounds with each pump of the heart, drenching his body, staining the wooden beams, and gathering on the ground.
It is “the wages of sin.”
Mankind’s selfishness, stubbornness, and indulgence is so extreme Almighty God took upon Himself human form. Jesus Christ is one hundred percent God and one hundred percent man.
He lived a perfect sinless life for one reason; He might become the eternal sacrifice for sin. “The Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6 MEV).
Jesus Christ, who did not sin, became sinful for you and for me, so that we could become the righteousness of God through His sacrifice (2 Corinthians 5:21).
Take the cross out of the message and you do not have the Gospel.
A person’s faith will be empty.
They will still be in their sinful condition with a false hope.
The Apostle Paul wrote, “I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which you have received, and in which you stand. Through it you are saved, if you keep in memory what I preach to you…” (1Corinthians 15:1-2 MEV).
What did the Apostle preach to them?
He declared the truth that Jesus Christ was crucified for the sins of mankind; He was buried; and that He was raised from the dead on the third day; all of this according to the Word of God.
That is the gospel and that is the only hope for mankind.
Yes, God greatly desires for every person to live the abundant life filled with the blessings of Heaven.
It did not come without a great price and no one, but no one, can enter into that life without coming by the way of the cross.
No pain, no gain.
It is the priceless treasure.
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