Monday, April 25, 2011


The European Court of Human Rights has ruled that Italian Public Schools have the right to display crucifixes. Had the Court ordered the Crucifixes removed, it would have meant that all religious symbols in European institutions were in violation of the European Convention on Human Rights. While at first glance the ruling may seem like a cause worth celebrating, Charles Colson of BREAKPOINT is warning that the ruling is actually a "very mixed blessing."

It turns out that religious liberty was not the basis of the Court's ruling. Rather, the court in its great wisdom determined that "the crucifix is not really a religious symbol." As Professor Stanley Fish observed in the New York Times, "Who knew?"

The Court decided that that crucifix is an "identity-linked," "historical and cultural symbol," that stands for "the liberty and freedom of every person, the declaration of the right of man, and ultimately the modern secular state."

The Court went on to state, "In Christianity even the faith in an omniscient god is secondary in relation to charity," which makes the cross an inclusive symbol.

Confessing Christians are rightfully concerned. But the offense of Cross is not new.

The Apostle Paul spoke of it in his letter to the Galatians. "Why do I yet suffer persecution? then is the offense of the cross ceased." (Galatians 5:11)

The Cross is an offense to men who consider themselves wiser than the wisdom of God. They reject His absolute Truth and His unmitigated Authority. For them the simple Gospel is just too simple. Spoiled by their "vain philosophy" they, along with that Mars Hill gang, scoff at the necessity of Savior.

A few years ago Pastor Rob Bell was offended when someone suggested that Ghandi was in hell. "Really?" the Pastor questioned. This leader of the Emergent Church has no problem tossing the clear teaching of the Lord Jesus and replacing it with his version of a "new Christianity." How pitiful. A shepherd of Christ's flock who rejects Christ's teaching, "And these [the unrighteous] shall go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into life eternal." (Matthew 24:46)

The Cross is an offense to men who consider their behavior to be better than it actually is. Moralistic men who judge themselves by comparing themselves with others ridicule those of us who sing, "nothing in my hand I bring, simply to Thy cross I cling." They cannot, or will not accept the notion that apart from the Cross they would be "without God" and "without hope." They hope that God will take note of their good works and consider them righteous. But listen to the Apostle Paul, "By grace are ye saved, through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not of works lest any man should boast."

The Cross is an offense to men who consider their importance to be greater than it is. Proud men are sure that if the Cross is necessary, it would most certainly be only for people who are as good, or as smart, or as wonderful as they are. I like the way Spurgeon put it, "The cross makes rich and poor enter by the same door, the cross makes the philosopher and peasant walk on the same highway of holiness." If a self-righteous man complains, "Am I to walk close to a prostitute or side with a drunkard on the road to heaven, then I will not go to heaven at all." If that's the way he thinks, he will have it his way. For the ground is level at the foot of the cross. And whosoever will may come.

The Cross is an offense to men who are sure that their Church, or some particular ritual, or their godly ancestry, will secure their place in heaven. The crowd that shouted "Crucify Him!" were sure that Christ was wrong. They thought that their connection to the Temple, their commitment to circumcision, and their family ties to Abraham would save them. But "the just shall live by faith." "Whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life."

The German Pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a martyr for the cause of righteousness, wrote in THE CALL TO DISCIPLESHIP, "WHEN CHRIST CALLS A MAN, HE BIDS HIM COME AND DIE."

And here is the offense of the Cross. Unless we die to our wisdom, our self-righteousness, our self-importance, and to every claim we may think have to salvation, we simply cannot, and will not be saved.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011


Jesus headed straight for the Temple. The "hosannas" of His triumphal ride through the Eastern Gate were only a blessed memory.

Some had wondered if Jesus would even make it to this week's Passover. He would not have missed it for the world.

The Sandhedrin (the ruling Jewish authority) was determined to destroy Jesus. The High Priest was unequivocal, "it is expedient for us that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not." (John 11:50).

As He walked onto the Temple Mount the Lord's eyes fastened once again the moneychangers. They were back. Three years earlier He had driven them away. "Make not my Father's house a house of merchandise!"He cried. (John 2:16)

Quickening His pace Jesus exclaimed, "It is written, My house is the house of've made it a den of thieves!" (Luke 19:45). The moneychangers offered feeble protest then scrambled away as their tables were turned and their paraphernalia rolled on the pavement.

We shake our heads and point an accusing finger at these rapacious predators, but I cannot help but wonder what the Lord would think of the scandalous exchanges we have made in God's House.

They exchanged sacrifices for cash, but WE HAVE BARTERED AWAY OUR CONVICTIONS FOR CONVERSATIONS. The self-styled "Emergents" tell us that we are too convinced. They propose a "conversation" rather than a definite conversion.

Pastor Rob Bell of the Mars Hill Bible Church belivesw that Christians are too sure of themselves. He wonders if the Bible is accurate. He suggests that the verses about hell and judgment are not literal. He is quoted in the recent Time magazine syaing, "I have long wondered if there is a massive shift coming in what it means to be a Christian...something new is in the air."

He's right. There is a shift. But it is not new. It is as old as the Garden of Eden. Listen to the deceiver, "Hath God said?" Adam and Eve bit into his lie.

They exchanged sacrificial lambs for coins, but WE ARE SOLD ON PARTIES AND FEASTINGS IN EXCHANGE FOR PRAYER AND FASTINGS. First the church had a party. Now the party has church--and Church Lite at that! Gone is the conviction of sin. Gone are the tears of repentance. Gone is the sanctifying influence of the Church in our culture.

The moneychangers were driven from the Temple for making God's house a house of merchandise, but last Sunday professing Christians went to churches and purchased dinners, pastries, coffee and soft drinks, religious books and even religious jewelry. The ringing of the Church bell has been exchanged for the ringing of the cash register.

The moneychangers were anxious to set up their tables right in the Temple Court so that they could sell to worshippers. Tragically the professing church has been infliltrated with a love of the world that renders holiness of heart and as optional by most. It is particularly grievous to see Christian leaders mocking the holy life. WE HAVE TRADED AWAY HOLINESS FOR A WORLDLINESS THAT RENDERS THE CHURCH DEVOID OF PURITY, POWER, AND PURPOSE!

And what has happened to our zeal to seek and to win the lost? Winning souls is no longer our all consuming passion. We are at ease in Zion. WE HAVE EXCHANGED OUR ZEAL FOR EASE. The shrinking Church in America is not only evidence of cultural decay, it is an indictment of a church that is too lazy to labor. Jesus said, "The harvest is plenteous," but "the laborers are few." How true.

What have we accomplished for these exchanges? Are we seeing great revival? Are we witnessing souls being swept into the Kingdom? Are our pews filled to overflowing?

Jesus asked "What will a man give in exchange for His own soul?" We would ask, "What will a Church give in exchange for its very existence?"

We have heard of a popular program called "Extreme Makeover." In one version people are dramatically changed through special diets, new wardrobes, and make-overs. In another version delapidated houses are torn down and replaced with lovely new homes.

It seems to me that it is time for another version. EXTREME MAKEOVER: TEMPLE EDITION! May the Risen Christ send forth His Spirit into His Church and "Revive Us Again!"