Posts Tagged ‘Cross of Christ’


As I look ahead to 2013, I was reminded of something I wrote in March of 2011:

Will You Go Outside the Camp?

My question is, if Christ delays his return another two hundred years – a mere fraction of a day in his reckoning – which of you will have suffered and died so that the triumphs of grace will be told about one or two of those 3,500 peoples who are in the same condition today that the Karen and Chin and Kachins and Burmese were in 1813? Who will labor so long and so hard and so perseveringly that in two hundred years there will be two million Christians in many of the 10/40-window peoples who can scarcely recall their Muslim or Hindu or Buddhist roots?

May God use his powerful word and the life of Adoniram Judson to stir many of you to give your lives to this great cause!

We must keep advancing to Him, to His altar which is outside the camp!

self interest christianity The entire essay is here

Too Much Self-Interest

It was that essay which worked in me a desire for real growth among the Christians I Pastor and minister to. I see too much self-interest among the Christians of America. Ministries are self-focused. Growth is selective and selfish. Even our attempts to “sacrifice for the sake of Christ” are mis-guided trips of self-piety. We have so much, that our ide of sacrifice means an entirely different thing than to Christian refugees in Africa (for example). Sacrifice to many in the world is not “sacrifice,” it is the way they live. Running water? Nice carpet in the house? No, they are used to getting their water from a well or a pump station. Their floors are compacted dirt. They aren’t sacrificing, they are living! This brings me to consider what true ministry should involve, what my ministry should be in 2013.

Paul’s Philosophy of Ministry

what-are-you-willing-to-sacrificeAs I look toward 2013, I am reminded of Paul’s philosophy of ministry. In 2 Corinthians 12:15 he states: “I will most gladly spend and be spent for your souls.” Paul never considered how His message was going to affect the big givers, the successful businessmen, or the rich widows. He never worried about tweaking his ministry to achieve maximum community impact. His ministry was all about wasting himself for the souls of others. Paul gave and gave and gave for the souls of those he ministered to. He did not consider his income requirements, mileage reimbursements or housing allowance. He did not worry about funding for his missionary trips. He was not on the look out for a larger church where he could have a more visible ministry.

The Budget of the Empty Pocket

spend and be spentPaul was always on the lookout for ways in which he could use his talents and resources to save and build up the souls of others. Cost was no object. Inconvenience, sickness, lack of sleep, imprisonment, whatever the cost, Paul could not wait to pay it! The only budget that Paul knew was that of his empty pocket. If he still had money in it, he had not done enough. When it came to Paul’s philosophy of ministry, it was nothing about his interests or comfort. He held on to nothing and held nothing back. He gave everything up! He continued to explain in 2 Corinthians 12:19: “it is in the sight of God that we have been speaking (ministering) in Christ, and all for your up-building, beloved.”

Ministry is Not a “Sacrifice…”

adoniram-judson-missionary-1-GoodSalt-prcas4999Men like Adoniram Judson and the Apostle Paul did not consider their ministry a “sacrifice.” They did not go on missionary trips so they could learn to appreciate what they had, or experience what the world was like. Their ministry simply reflected their love for Jesus and love for the souls of men.

If you think Ministry is a “Sacrifice”, you haven’t been ministering

The world looks at their lives and says “what a waste!” They looked back on their lives and thought, “I wish I could have given more!” When you get to the place where your life no longer matters, then and only then are you really able to minister to others in the Power of Jesus Christ. If you are still thinking “O what a sacrifice this is,” you haven’t really been ministering to others. You have simply been pleasing yourself. There is no sacrifice to the one who has experienced the crucifixion of the Cross. One who has been crucified for Christ is dead. This life and it’s comforts no longer matter. There is only the desire to reach the souls of people who are perishing or struggling with life. One who has been crucified keeps his eyes on the Savior, for nothing else matters. What worse can happen? Jesus spent everything, so why should we hold on to anything?

Hannah Discovered True Worship

Hannah-prayerHannah had prayed and stressed about having her own baby for years. God finally gave her a baby boy, Samuel. She could now hold in her arms her own baby boy. He was the realization of every longing of her heart and soul. How she held him tight to her breast. As he toddled about, what joy she felt as he grew and explored. When he first said “mommy!” her heart melted! Yet Hannah did the inconceivable. She gave her little boy Samuel to the Lord. No longer would she tuck him in at night. No longer would he call for her when a storm woke him up. She took him to the Temple to be raised by the High Priest. He was only 3 or 4, freshly weaned. I can see the tears pouring down her face as she walked away, hearing the cries of her baby boy, seeing his outstretched arms as he cried out “Mommy, Mommy!”

hannah-6hanna mother childWas this a sacrifice for Hannah? No! This was her simple worship to God. For 1 Samuel 1:28 says “and they worshiped the Lord there.” Instead of sorrowing over her brave “sacrifice,” Hannah worshiped God! Only when our dearest possession can be freely given to God without thought of the sacrifice or loss will we know True WORSHIP! Worship always follows in the shadow of the Cross! At the Cross God is All and in all! When we are crucified at the Cross of Christ, all that we hold dear falls from our hands, and our focus turns to God! That is true Worship! True Worship leads us to spend and be spent on behalf of the souls of others!

There is no more thought of sacrifice, for we have already given everything up to God at the Cross!spend and be spent selfless service

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“Though” and “through” differ only by one small letter—the letter “r.” In American Sign Language, “r” is made by crossing the middle finger over the index finger. But crossed fingers have a history as sign language that far predates ASL. In the first centuries of the Church, when Christianity was illegal and Christians were vigorously persecuted, believers found ways to communicate their faith in subtle ways. Accompanying a greeting or farewell, crossed fingers were a code sign, identifying Christians to one another as “people of the cross.” The crossed fingers were a mute symbol for the cross of Christ and the redemption Christ’s death on that cross brought to all people. Today, crossed fingers mean something very different. When placed behind one’s back, they mean that one does not mean what one is saying. When held in one’s lap, they mean one is hoping something will or will not happen. Russ Chiodo, Director of Emergency Services for Beaver County, PA, was the person in charge of picking up the body parts from the 132 people who died on the ill-fated USAir Flight 427 that crashed on its way from Chicago to Pittsburgh. When asked what it was like to bag body parts with no human faces left, Chiodo confessed to the sight that affected him the most. “The thing I’m not going to be able to forget for a long time is finding a hand with its fingers crossed—as if for luck.”

Isn’t it ironic that the gesture of crossed fingers, first instituted by the early church as a symbol of the Cross of Christ and a certainty of the promises of God in Jesus, has digressed to represent the exact opposite…mere luck. In the completed work of Christ on our behalf we have the 100% absolute assurance of our salvation and the absolute guarantee of an inheritance “incorruptible and undefiled, reserved in heaven for us” (1 Peter 1:4). Luck has absolutely NOTHING to do with it.

The Cross in Genesis 1-11

Understand that Jesus was in the world from the Creation! This study will confirm that Jesus has been the way of Salvation from the very beginning, through the “Principle of the Cross!” A Principle that mankind for the most part rejected, just as they rejected Jesus in the flesh.

John 1:1-5 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

John 1:9-18 The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. 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. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth…And from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.

Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and He is the Word of God. He has been in the world since He created it. Yet the world did not know Him. But all who received Him, who believed in His name, He gave the power and authority to become children of God. The Word became flesh, and we beheld His Glory. As we read last week, His Glory began at the Cross. At the Cross we see the Word of God full of Grace and truth. Because of the Cross we receive grace upon grace.

In 1 Corinthians 1, the Cross is described as a dividing point, a stumbling block, and a point of folly. So too is the Word of God.

Hebrews 4:11-13 Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience. For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

The Word of God is a sharp two-edged sword. It reveals the thoughts and intents of our wicked and deceitful hearts. No one can be hidden from the Word, for it exposes us to the one to whom we must give account.

Just as the Cross was lifted up above this world, so the Word of God is lifted up above mankind, and the Word of God will be our judge. The Word of God will judge believers and unbelievers alike.

The Word of God separates unbelieving men from God. The Word of God separates unbelieving Christians from resting in God. That is why Christians are encouraged to strive to enter the rest of God through the Word of God, because it is living and active, able to cut away the dross of the world and leave that which is pure before God.

A.W. Tozer: “Our uncrucified flesh will rob us of purity of heart, Christ-likeness of character, spiritual insight, and fruitfulness; and more than all, it will hide from us the vision of God’s face, that vision which has been the light of the earth and will be the completeness of heaven.”

The Word of God has this power the same way that Jesus Christ had the power to bring sinful men to Holy God, through the Cross! In fact, it is because of the Cross that we have the Word of God! As W. A. Criswell famously said, “throughout the Bible there runs a Scarlet Thread of Redemption!”

Because of the Cross…We Have the Word

As we look at all we have “Because of the Cross,” we need to remember three Principles of the Cross:

1. The Cross is the Wisdom & Power of God.

    • The Cross reveals the Heart of God, His delight in mercy, justice and righteousness.

2. The Cross is opposed to the wisdom and power of man.

    • The cross requires humility. The cross strips man of all rights and powers. The Cross reveals the foolishness of man’s attempts at standing and self-righteousness.

A.W. Tozer: “The man who is crucified is facing only one direction… He [cannot] look back. The crucified man on the cross is looking only one direction and that is the direction of God, and Christ and the Holy Ghost… The man on the cross… has no further plans of his own… Somebody else made his plans for him, and when they nailed him up there all his plans disappeared… When you go out to die on the cross, you bid good-bye–you are not going back!

We want to be saved but we insist Christ do all the dying. No cross for us, no dethronement, no dying. We remain king within the little kingdom of Mansoul and wear our tinsel crown with all the pride of a Caesar; but we doom ourselves to shadows and weakness and spiritual sterility.”

3. The Cross is the Perfect Blood Sacrifice required by God

    • God declared that life is in the blood. To bring life to ‘dead in sin’ mankind, a perfect blood sacrifice had to be made.

A.W. Tozer: “The old cross is a symbol of death. God salvages the individual by liquidating him and then raising him again in newness of life. God offers life, but not an improved old life. The life He offers is life out of death. It always stands at the far side of the cross.”

We will see the Principle of the Cross throughout the Old Testament. The Principle that death leads to resurrection. The principle of “death with a view to increase” that characterizes the Gospel.

First death, then life. Death [leads to] resurrection. When we consent to death, then the life of Jesus can flow unhindered from us. It is never the other way. We cannot claim resurrection life first, and then by means of that put the flesh to death. We must first bow to the cross, and then God will effect the resurrection. (Ray Steadman)

With these three Principles in mind, let us see that “Because of the Cross…we have the Word of God!

In the Garden

Genesis 3:6-7 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.

Something happened to Adam and Eve when they disobeyed God. Their eyes were opened and they could see their shame. Therefore, in their wisdom, they made some clothing out of fig leaves sewn together.

This is what I think happened. Psalm 104 1-2 says that God is clothed in splendor and majesty, covering himself with light as a garment. Adam and Eve, created in the image of God, were clothed in light. When they sinned, the light was gone, and they felt the shame of their sin. They attempted to cover up their shame. This is man’s wisdom. No repentance, simply cover it up, cope with it, pull yourself up by the bootstraps and move on.

Here is where we see the Cross first lifted up.

God calls out to Adam and says, “where are you?”

Adam says:

Genesis 3:10-13 And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.” He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.” Then the LORD God said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”

Sin has entered into the hearts of Adam and Eve. Instead of open fellowship with God, they feared Him and even hid from Him. Instead of repentance and return to God, they blame someone else.

God’s response is to place a curse upon man and woman and even the serpent.

But God’s solution to sin was the Principle of the Cross.

Genesis 3:21 And the LORD God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them.

Here we see the first sacrifice for sin. Adam and Eve had to watch as God took one of those peaceful animals that they cared for, and kill it. They had to watch blood flow for the first time. Can you imagine how they felt? An innocent animal had to die because they disobeyed. They had to wear that animal’s skin. It was a constant reminder of God’s plan. Sin is always answered with sacrifice. Moreover, Sacrifice always results in Grace.

  • God covered them in Grace. (His provision allowed them to live)
  • God expelled them in Grace. (He did not want them to live in sin forever)

God must have instructed them in the Way of the Cross and the need for blood sacrifice to keep their relationship with God.

When they had children, they taught them about the need for an acceptable sacrifice unto God.

Cain

In Genesis 4, Cain, the oldest, brought a sacrifice from the fruit of the ground. He decided there was no need for a blood sacrifice.

Abel brought the firstborn of his flock. God accepted Abel’s offering, but disregarded Cain’s. Cain became angry.

Genesis 4:6-7 The LORD said to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.”

The purport of the divine rebuke to Cain was this, “Why art thou angry, as if unjustly treated? If thou doest well (that is, wert innocent and sinless) a thank offering would have been accepted as a token of thy dependence as a creature. But as thou doest not well (that is, art a sinner), a sin offering is necessary, by bringing which thou wouldest have met with acceptance and retained the honors of thy birthright.” This language implies that previous instructions had been given as to the mode of worship; Abel offered through faith (Heb 11:4).[1]

Therefore, Cain, instead of humbling himself to God and offering a sacrifice for his sin, reacted in pride and offered what he thought was appropriate. He used his wisdom instead of God’s instruction. God rejected the sacrifice, for there was no provision for sin.

God would have accepted his offering if it had been accompanied with a blood sacrifice. But without blood, there is no remission of sins. Without the cross, we have no standing before God. God disregards us because of our sin.

Cain’s pride led to greater anger. Instead of offering a blood sacrifice to God, he shed the innocent blood of his brother. The Bible says, “Cain rose up against his brother.”

Instead of humbling himself before God in the shadow of the Cross, Cain rose up in pride and arrogance and murdered his righteous brother. Pride is always the enemy of the Cross.

Jude speaks of people that follow the “way of Cain”

Jude 1:10-11 But these people blaspheme all that they do not understand, and they are destroyed by all that they, like unreasoning animals, understand instinctively. Woe to them! For they walked in the way of Cain and abandoned themselves for the sake of gain to Balaam’s error and perished in Korah’s rebellion.

The way of Cain applies to all those who approach God in man’s wisdom and man’s pride. The way of Cain denies the mercy of God found through blood atonement.

We can see this in the lineage of Cain-for it is the glorification of the flesh and all that man can do.

Look at the ability and pride of Cain:

  • Genesis 4:17, he is a builder of cities.
  • Genesis 4:21, he is the father of music.
  • Genesis 4:22, he is the father of craftsmen in brass and in iron.

As W. A. CRISWELL says:

Civilization without God is the line and the seed of Cain. It is the story of Sodom; it is the story of Gomorrah; it is the story of Babylon; it is the story of every great city and every great civilization that leaves God out of it. That is the story of Cain. It is the glorification of what man can do apart from God.

Seth

Therefore, Cain continued to multiply the kingdom of man. The Kingdom of man is represented by the line of Cain. The kingdom of man is represented by the mark upon his forehead. The kingdom of man was corrupting God’s kingdom. So God appointed a man, Seth.

Finally, after 130 years, Seth was born to Adam, a son in his own likeness, a son that God had appointed. Seth had a son Enosh, and at that time people began to call upon the Name of the Lord. (Gen 4:26)

Perhaps the Kingdom of God could be built now. But no, sin was at work.

Genesis 6:1-4 When man began to multiply on the face of the land and daughters were born to them, the sons of God saw that the daughters of man were attractive. And they took as their wives any they chose. Then the LORD said, “My Spirit shall not abide in man forever, for he is flesh: his days shall be 120 years.” The Nephilim were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of man and they bore children to them. These were the mighty men who were of old, the men of renown.

The sons of God (Seth’s line) started marrying the daughters of man. (I know most people think Angels intermarried, but Jesus made it clear that Angels’ can’t reproduce). I believe that the Godly children of Seth who were to raise up God’s Kingdom design intermarried with the fleshly Kingdom of Man line of Cain. This produced mighty men, men whose pride and abilities knew no bounds. The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. Instead of humble men offering themselves to God, proud and arrogant men walked in the “Way of Cain.” The pride and arrogance of man was opposed to humility and sacrifice before God. They denied and even rebelled against the Principle of the Cross.

Therefore, God was grieved, for He was not able to practice mercy, justice and righteousness because of the sinfulness of man. But “Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord.” Noah alone was following the principle of the Cross. (Gen 6:8)

Noah and his family alone survived the worldwide flood that God sent upon sinful man. Through the flood, God reformed His creation, and brought forth a family that would follow the principle of the Cross.

1 Peter 3:18-20 For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit; in which also He went and made proclamation to the spirits now in prison, who once were disobedient, when the patience of God kept waiting in the days of Noah, during the construction of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through the water.

Noah preached the principle of the Cross, but man in his wisdom refused the message of the Cross.

He preached through Noah “when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah.” For 120 years, Noah had preached the Word of God. He saved his family but no one else. It was the Spirit of Christ who spoke through Noah in Noah’s day. In Christ’s day, those who rejected Noah’s message were in prison. The thought is that Christ’s death meant nothing to them just as it means nothing to a great many people today who, as a result, will also come into judgment.[2]

After the flood is over and the ground has dried, God opens the Ark and Noah and his family walks upon the cleansed Earth. Noah immediately builds an altar and offers sacrifices of all the clean animals and birds on the ark. This is the first time the word “altar[3]” is used in the Bible—Genesis 8:20.

3mizbēaḥ: A masculine noun meaning the altar, the place of sacrifice. It is a noun formed from the verb zāb̠aḥ, which means to slaughter an animal, usually for a sacrifice.

This is the principle of the Cross. It is the picture of redemption. The blood is poured out upon the altar and the animal is consumed in a fire unto the Lord.

Genesis 8:21-22 And when the LORD smelled the pleasing aroma, the LORD said in his heart, “I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth. Neither will I ever again strike down every living creature as I have done. While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.”

God’s creation was restored through the principle of the Cross. The wisdom of God had prevailed over the wisdom of man. Man had survived the flood through the provision of God. Man was now offering the right offering to God in humility and praise. The burnt offering signified that this was a complete offering to God!

Nimrod

Now it does not take long to see man’s pride rear its ugly head in God’s renewed creation.

Genesis 10:8-10 Cush fathered Nimrod; he was the first on earth to be a mighty man. He was a mighty hunter before the LORD. Therefore, it is said, “Like Nimrod a mighty hunter before the LORD.” The beginning of his kingdom was Babel, Erech, Accad, and Calneh, in the land of Shinar.

Nimrod’s Kingdom was not built on the principle of the Cross, but on rebellion and pride. In fact, the idea that Nimrod was not a mighty hunter before the Lord, but rather a mighty hunter AGAINST the Lord.

(Adam Clarke) His name Nimrod comes from ‏מרד‎, marad, “he rebelled”; and the Targum, on 1 Chronicles 1:10, says: Nimrod began to be a mighty man in sin, a murderer of innocent men, and a rebel before the Lord. The Jerusalem Targum says: “He was mighty in hunting (or in prey) and in sin before God, for he was a hunter of the children of men in their languages; and he said unto them, Depart from the religion of Shem, and cleave to the institutes of Nimrod.” The Syriac calls him a warlike giant. The word ‏ציד‎  tsayid, which we render hunter, signifies prey; and is applied in the Scriptures to the hunting of men by persecution, oppression, and tyranny. Hence it is likely that Nimrod, having acquired power, used it in tyranny and oppression; and by rapine and violence founded that domination which was the first distinguished by the name of a kingdom on the face of the earth[4]

Nimrod was building a kingdom opposed to the Lord, opposed to the principles of the Cross. This kingdom was all about man, and what man could do. It was a kingdom built on the foundation of Cain, a Kingdom that did not need God, did not need to sacrifice to Him.

Genesis 11:4-6 Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.” And the LORD came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of man had built. And the LORD said, “Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them.

God saw that man could do anything and the wisdom of man was united against the wisdom of God. Therefore, God did a “BLAH” thing. People started speaking “blah blah blah.” Once again God had displayed His power and wisdom to man. Once again, man ignored Him.

As we continue with the next phase of God’s redemptive plan, we will see a man called out of idolatry and man-worship. We will see a man whose very life was lived in the shadow of the cross.

The principle of the Cross is the thread that runs throughout the Bible.
  1. The Cross is the Wisdom and Power of God
  2. The Cross is opposed to the wisdom and power of Man
  3. The Cross is the perfect Blood Sacrifice

We have seen that God’s plan for this world and for us His creation has always been fellowship and life. Yet that must be done in humility and holiness. When sin entered this world, it made us men that rebel against God’s ways. We are inclined to stray, to be independent, to seek our own welfare. Humility, dependence, repentance are foreign to our nature. Therefore, we rebel against the Cross. We refuse to sacrifice to God in His way. We want to maintain control. Therefore, we deny the power and wisdom of God.

Without Christ, our lives are a sequence of “blah blah blah” to God. We are ants scrambling over the excrement of our pride and arrogance. All this can be changed by submitting to the Cross.


[1] Robert Jamieson, A.R. Fausset, David Brown, A Commentary: Critical, Experimental, and Practical on the Old and New Testaments, (Toledo, OH: Jerome B. Names & Co., 1884), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, Under: “GENESIS”.

[2] J. Vernon McGee, Thru The Bible with J. Vernon McGee, (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1983), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, Under: “Chapter 3”.

[3] Warren Baker and Eugene Carpenter, The Complete Word Study Dictionary – Old Testament, (Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 2003), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, Under: “mizbēah.”

[4] . Adam Clarke, A Commentary and Critical Notes, (New York: Abingdon-Cokesbury Press, 1826), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, Under: “Genesis 10”.


A young boy once accompanied his mother to worship. During the sermon, the boy was listening very attentively to the lesson that day. The preacher’s sermon on the crucifixion of Christ was so moving that the boy began to weep. Soon he began to cry aloud. His mother became so embarrassed that she whispered to him, “Don’t take it so seriously.”

Oh, that we would take the cross more seriously.

  • If we take the Cross from the Bible, we have no Bible.
  • If we take the Cross from God, we have no God.
  • If we take the Cross from Jesus, we have no Savior.
  • If we take the Cross from our lives, we have no Salvation.

This morning we want to lay the Foundation of the Cross: “Because of the Cross…we have Jesus.”

When Jesus was on the Cross, suspended between God and man, the Bible records something the jeering crowds said to Jesus:

Mark 15:29-30 And those who passed by derided him, wagging their heads and saying, “Aha! You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself, and come down from the cross!”

Not only did they tell Jesus to save himself, they also said:

Matthew 27:42 “He saved others; he cannot save himself. He is the King of Israel; let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him.

The crowd was calling for Jesus to come down from the Cross. They said “save yourself” and we will believe in you.

This is the choice that has confronted mankind since Adam and Eve. Do we trust in God for our salvation? Or do we trust in our own efforts and seek to save ourselves? Jumping off the Cross was not the miracle that Jesus was going to use to save mankind or himself. The Cross had a work to do in His life, and it has a work to do in our life. As we discover all that is available to us “Because of the Cross…” we will come to cherish its work in our lives, just as Jesus realized what it was working in His life.

The Cross was not incidental to Jesus Christ. It was no “book-end” to His great teachings. He was not a “martyr” for his cause. The Cross defined everything about Jesus Christ. Because of the Cross…we have Jesus.

We will look at three major aspects of Jesus’ life here on Earth, and we will see how each one is defined by the Cross. We Will Look At His Mission, His Message And His Ministry.

A. The Mission of Jesus is defined by the Cross.

It was a 99-degree September day in San Antonio, when a 10-month-old baby girl was accidentally locked inside a parked car by her aunt. Frantically the mother and aunt ran around the auto in near hysteria, while a neighbor attempted to unlock the car with a clothes hanger. Soon the infant was turning purple and had foam on her mouth. It had become a life-or-death situation when Fred Arriola, a wrecker driver, arrived on the scene. He grabbed a hammer and smashed the back window of the car to set her free.

Was he heralded a hero? Arriola reported, “The lady was mad at me because I broke the window.” “I just thought, What’s more important–the baby or the window?”

This world scoffs at the Cross as if it was no big deal. They are like the mom who is more concerned about her car than the baby. They see the Cross as some aberrant part of Jesus life, but ignore the impact the Cross has upon the way we live. They would rather have their life intact than subject it to the work of the Cross that they might be saved.

To Jesus, the Cross defined His very purpose for coming to the Earth. The Cross defined His very mission.

Philippians 2:7-8 but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

Indeed, when the time appointed approached, Jesus set His face like a flint:

Luke 9:51 When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem.

This is a reference to a prophecy in Isaiah:

Isaiah 50:7 But the Lord GOD helps me; therefore I have not been disgraced; therefore I have set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be put to shame.

As hard as the hearts of men are toward God, so was Jesus determined with every strand of His DNA to go to the Cross!

Ezekiel 3:8-9 Behold, I have made your face as hard as their faces, and your forehead as hard as their foreheads. Like emery harder than flint have I made your forehead. Fear them not, nor be dismayed at their looks, for they are a rebellious house.”

B. The Message of Jesus is defined by the Cross

We often associate the Message of Jesus with John 3:3 or John 3:16

John 3:3 Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

Actually, the Message of Jesus was demonstrated in actions rather than words:

1 Peter 2:21 For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps.

We can see this is true because of this common theme in His preaching:

  • Matthew 10:38 And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.
  • Mark 8:34 And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.
  • Mark 10:21 Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me.
  • Luke 9:23 And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.
  • Luke 14:27 Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.

As we look at the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke and ask, “What is the message of Jesus Christ?” The Cross is the defining message of Jesus.

Not only did the Cross secure our forgiveness from sin, but the Cross is the basis of our fellowship with God and each other. Not only did the Cross enable our New Birth, but the Cross enables us to follow and serve Jesus. The Cross is the basis of our living as a Disciple of Jesus Christ.

The Cross is in the Sermon on the Mount.

Matthew 5:3-11 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. “ Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.

  • Take away the Cross and there is no poor in spirit, only pride
  • Take away the Cross and there is no mourning over sin.
  • Take away the Cross and there is no meekness.
  • Take away the Cross and there is no Righteousness of God available.
  • Take away the Cross and there is no mercy.
  • Take away the Cross and there is no way to be pure in heart.
  • Take away the Cross and there is no possibility of peace.
  • Take away the Cross and there is no persecution for Righteousness sake.

Look at any message or command of Jesus Christ and it becomes meaningless without the Cross.

C. The Ministry of Jesus is Defined by the Cross

“Let a man preach with the greatest ability and zeal everything in the Bible but the Cross, he shall, as to the great end of preaching, preach in vain. While, on the other hand, the honest preaching of the Cross – though in great weakness, and even when accompanied with great deficiencies as to a full declaration of the counsel of God on some other subject – has usually been accompanied with the divine blessing. The leading object of the preacher should be to keep the mind and the heart of his hearers steadily fixed on Christ Jesus – Christ Jesus crucified[1].”

Most ministries today seek the glory of man. The emphasis is on production, media, and ratings. Ministry has become “professional.” Ministries today say, “Look how great our _____________ is.” It can be numbers, the facilities, the preacher, the TV ministry, radio. Ministry in America is corrupted by a man-centered view of effectiveness.

In the meantime, our Nation is not impacted for righteousness. We are not producing “fruits meet for repentance.” Pride in ourselves and our accomplishments will always interfere with enjoying the Righteousness of God!

Luke 3:8 Bear fruits in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham.

You visit third world countries where the Gospel is spreading and people are coming to Jesus, they do not put money into facilities, they do not brag about numbers, they give glory to God for what He is doing, and then they add there is still so much to do. They do not have much money, they do not have anything to boast in, but they have Jesus!

Jesus revealed His ministry strategy in John 12:

John 12:23-26 And Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.

  • Jesus said His glory was revealed in His death.
  • Jesus said if anyone serves Him, they must follow Him.

Where is Jesus? Is He in our beautiful buildings? Is He sitting comfortably on a padded chair or padded pew?

Hebrews 13:8 reveals where Jesus is and where those who serve Him are to go:

Hebrews 13:8-13 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. Do not be led away by diverse and strange teachings, for it is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace, not by foods, which have not benefited those devoted to them. We have an altar from which those who serve the tent have no right to eat. For the bodies of those animals whose blood is brought into the holy places by the high priest as a sacrifice for sin are burned outside the camp. So Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood. Therefore let us go to him outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured.

Servants are not to be led away by teaching which is contrary to Jesus’ Life! He is the same yesterday, and today and forever. His ministry objective never changes!

Jesus is all about the Cross.

Jesus suffered and died outside the camp, away from the padded pews and the central air. He died outside to camp to bring righteousness to sinful people through His sacrifice. If we are to see righteousness and revival, we must go to Him outside the camp and bear His reproach. If we are to follow Jesus, we must bear the reproach of the ministry of the Cross.

D. What then is the Mission, Message and Ministry of the Cross?

  • (How can we experience the power of the Cross that Paul spoke about?)
The Cross is the Wisdom of God as opposed to the Wisdom of Man

1. The Cross Reveals the Wisdom & Power of God

1 Corinthians 1:17-21 For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power… For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe.

a. God’ wisdom is revealed in the Cross.

Are you facing a difficult decision? Do you really need God’s Wisdom for a particular situation? Do not ask God for wisdom if you are not willing to apply the Cross to your life. He will not give it, for His Wisdom ALWAYS involves the Cross.

Unfortunately, just as the Cross is foolishness to those who are not saved, so it can be foolishness to Christians who in their pride refuse to submit their lives to the Cross.

That is why Paul adds the qualifier to verse 18:

1 Corinthians 1:18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

Regeneration is a onetime occurrence, but Life, or Salvation (sozo) is an ongoing, continual process. Many Christians are overcome by the world, (lost in the wilderness) because they fail to submit to the Cross of Christ.

Galatians 6:14 But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.

If you are to be continually saved from this wicked world, you must continually submit to the power of the Cross.

b. God’s Power is Revealed in the Cross

Just look at what happens in the lives of people when this message is preached and taught.

  • …Murderers become martyrs…
  • …fighters become lovers…
  • …hate-mongers become peacemakers…
  • …drunks become evangelists…
  • …gang members become church members…
  • …addicts become soul-winners…

and the list could go on and on and on! The very power of God is released in those of us who are being saved by the message of the Cross!Our lives, our wisdom, our objectives, our quarrels, our work, our play our families are all to be defined by the message of the Cross! When life is out of sorts, when turmoil and trials are surrounding you…Look to the Cross! There is peace at the Cross.

Colossians 1:20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.

2. The Cross Reveals the Folly of Man

Just as the crowd taunted Jesus to come down from the Cross, it is not natural for us, even Christians, to submit our lives and possessions and goals and aspirations to the Cross.

  • Look at this exchange Jesus had with His lead Disciple:

Matthew 16:23-24 But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.” Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.

If you are to set your mind on the things of God, you must submit to the Cross. It is because of the Cross that we can be acceptable to God.

  • Look at this exchange Jesus had with a prospective disciple:

Mark 10:21 And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”

The Wisdom of Man is opposed to the Cross.

Philippians 3:17-19 Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us. For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things.

3. Because of the Cross…we Have Jesus

1 Corinthians 1:17-18 For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied (kenoo) of its power.

Kenóō The word kenóō, to make empty, is used metaphorically as meaning to bring to nothing in the sense of not accomplishing what one set out to accomplish as in Rom. 4:14, the faith not accomplishing its purpose. Used as an adj. in reference to the cross of Christ, meaning the cross not accomplishing its purpose, The antithesis of plēróō, to fill.[2]

The power of the Cross is what it provides for us – God’s Grace!

As we empty ourselves of our pride, we are filled to overfilling with God’s Grace!

James 4:6-10 But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.

It is the Grace of God that is to Fill us and Lift us UP, not the pride and wisdom of man!

We are not to pick ourselves up by the bootstraps!

“Exalt” does not mean you will have glory and honor, as man defines it. We seek not our own, for we seek God’s Wisdom. We seek to die to self and humble ourselves and all that we want before God. When He is given freedom to work in your life, then He will bring His glory to you.

Just as Jesus could not enter the Glory of Heaven without being lifted upon the Cross, so too we cannot enjoy the Glory of God upon us unless we humble ourselves to the Cross, and allow Him to lift us up.

Here is a picture of this verse:

Mourners and penitents lay on the ground, and rolled themselves in the dust. When comforted and pardoned, they arose from the earth, shook themselves from the dust, and clothed themselves in their better garments. God promises to raise these from the dust, when sufficiently humbled[3].

J Vernon McGee paints a more graphic picture:

I observed a lifeguard once as he hit a drowning fellow with his fist and knocked him out. The lifeguard explained that the drowning man was struggling and that he could not help him until he gave up. I think sometimes God gives us the fist so that we just give up and let Him take over.[4]

So how do we experience the Mission, Message and Ministry of Jesus?
How do we experience Jesus?

We MUST EXPERIENCE the Cross!

Philippians 2:1-8 So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

Every step of Jesus on this planet took Him one step closer to the Cross.

His first step was what we call the “self-emptying”. Jesus, Son of God, Creator of this Universe, became nothing.

From the insignificant birth, to an insignificant childhood, to a ministry to an insignificant people. He sought no fanfare. He sought no audience with Kings. He sought no titles. He sought no riches. Jesus sought the Cross. (Jim Tompkins)

The life of Jesus began with His willing and loving release of privilege and power…those two things that mankind places great importance in. This was the wisdom of God.

The world, through its wisdom, cannot understand a wisdom based on sacrifice, love and grace.

  • How foolish and weak it sounds to “turn the other cheek” in the face of an adversary’s threats.
  • How foolish and weak it sounds to speak of “loving your enemies.”
  • What kind of craziness is it to forgive others seventy times seven?
  • What foolishness it is to speak of “loving your neighbor as yourself”?
  • How silly it is to want to see yourself as a “servant” rather than as “the one being served.”

This is not the way of the world, but it is the way of the Cross!

Because of the Cross…We Have Jesus!

If you want to experience the grace and love of Jesus to the point that peace reigns in your heart, and His love pours through your life, you must choose whose wisdom you will follow.

Your choice is to live life in your pride and your own worldly wisdom, or to empty yourself, and submit everything to the Cross of Christ.

  • Apathy toward the Cross is pride.
  • Indifference to the Cross is pride.
  • Ignorance of the Cross is pride.
  • Neglect of the Cross is pride
Pride will prevent you from experiencing the Grace and Power of the Cross-Life!

Followers of Christ experience Jesus “Because of the Cross!”

  • We have Peace because of the Cross.
  • We have Unity because of the Cross.

Wherever there is disunity, hatred, gossip, slander, you know there is pride, there is selfishness, and the power of the Cross is made useless.

Only one thing can be done to lift up and restore the power of the Cross. Death to self and pride by repentance and humbling ourselves to will of Christ and His Cross.

2 Chronicles 7:14 if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.

Earn this... Earn it

Most of us have seen ‘Saving Private Ryan’. The captain, played by Tom Hanks, and most of his squad end up fatally wounded after trying to hold a bridge; but at least their mission has been accomplished: Private Ryan is safe. The dying words of Tom Hanks’ character have to be some of the cruelest last words on film. Hardly able to speak, the dying captain whispers to Private Ryan his final command: ‘Earn it! Earn it!’ In other words, live such a life that gives purpose to these men’s deaths. ‘Earn it!’ They are cruel words, for they placed upon Private Ryan a terrible, heavy burden. The film then closes with a scene in the present day as the now elderly Ryan kneels at the captain’s grave in a Normandy war cemetery. Tears stream down his cheek as he says to his wife, ‘Tell me I’ve been good. Tell me I’ve lived a good enough life.’

“Can you imagine if Jesus’ dying words on that cross were, ‘You all earn it!’ Can you imagine how much greater the burden would be? To earn the death of the one we worship as God! The pressure would be overwhelming. We could never do it. Instead, Jesus cried, ‘It is finished.’ The message of the cross is simply that we can never earn it; nor do we need to. How do we respond to that? Well, in one sense, we can’t. It’s too much. In another sense, there is only one way – to love our God with all our heart, mind, strength and soul. In other words, to worship our God. Not to earn God’s love, but to revel in his love; not to persuade God to love us, but to delight in his love.” (Mark Meynell, “Cross -Examined” IVP, 2001, Leicester, pp.181&182)


[1] John Brown, D. D., An Exposition of The Epistle of Paul The Apostle to The Galatians, Banner of Truth, 2001, p. 370.

[2] Spiros Zodhiates, The Complete Word Study Dictionary – New Testament, (Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 1993), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, 857.

[3] Adam Clarke, A Commentary and Critical Notes, (New York: Abingdon-Cokesbury Press, 1826), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, Under: “James 4”.

[4] J. Vernon McGee, Thru The Bible with J. Vernon McGee, (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1983), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, Under: “Chapter 4”.


Pressures work to develop us as a Disciple of Jesus Christ. How you respond to pressure says a lot about your character, but more than anything, it allows the virtue of Jesus Christ to be your virtue. None of us is born for crisis, or pressure. None of us can naturally handle pressure. If you think you can handle pressure, then you have a wrong attitude toward discipleship. Discipleship is not about building you up so you can handle pressure; it is about humbling you into total dependence upon the one who can handle all pressures, even the ones that are most damaging to us, the Reproofs of God.

Pressure refines the Dross from our life, revealing the Gold

God always designs Pressure to produce His Righteousness in us. The key is HIS righteousness! He has placed Gold in our veins, in our Spirit, and in our Soul. Our fleshly wisdom and ideas, our wrong friends, our wrong habits, our pride, our foolishness, all get in the way of that GOLD shining! He wants us to be GOLDEN, and gold requires the refining process to reveal it. You are already GOLD if Jesus lives in you; God simply wants to reveal him. Moreover, that requires the pressure of the refiner’s fire.

1 Peter 1:6-7 In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

Pressures Reveal our True Hope

More than anything Pressure reveals what are real hope is. And hope is the reason for faith.

JB Phillips translates Hebrews 11:1 this way: “Now faith means putting our full confidence in the things we hope for, it means being certain of things we cannot see.”

Discipleship is all about living a life in total dependence and hope in Jesus Christ.

  • God designs pressures to test what we are hoping in.
  • God designs pressures to reveal that we are hoping in the wrong things.
Health Pressures.
  • You can place your hope and trust in Doctors, but what happens when they make a mistake, or make a wrong diagnosis.
  • You can place your hope in drugs, prescriptive or otherwise, but they can cause problems, or lead to dependence and abuse.
Financial Pressures
  • You can place your hope in the banking system-credit cards, home equity loans, line of credit, but what happens when they fail, or tighten their standards, or the home value is falling?
  • You can place your hope in friends, charity of churches or neighbors, but you can’t keep going to them for a handout.
  • You can place your hope in the Government and its “safety nets,” but what if there are cutbacks?

Relational Pressures – Job Pressures – Church Pressures …All are designed by God to reveal true hope or false hope, real faith or pretend. Most of all, Pressures are designed to Develop you as a Disciple of Jesus Christ and cause you to rely on Jesus Christ.

God’s Way is Enlargement through Pressure

Many Christians do not see God’s purpose for Pressure. Some Christians go out of their way to avoid pressure in their life. “Not good for my health, etc…”

That is not God’s Way. God uses pressure to develop us as Disciples. Psalm 25:4 “Make me to know your ways, O LORD; teach me your paths.” Discipleship is about knowing the ways of God and allowing Him to teach you His paths for your life. We will not learn the paths for our life if we do not pay close attention to the lessons He has for us.

For example, what happened in the fiery furnace that Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were forced into? Three became four. Pressure brought enlargement. Some would find a furnace too confining, so they try to escape. They do not respond to fire, pressure, and limitations. Others accept the pressure, the limitations, and by accepting, make room for a Fourth.

  • Enlargement through Pressure happens when we do not allow difficulties to shut us out from God.
  • Enlargement through pressure happens when we allow them to shut us INTO God.

Either pressure will cause you to reach God’s goal, or Pressure can put an end to your discipleship journey. When the way is too straight, the pressure too great, some escape, give up, commit suicide, while others find fullness and growth. When trials are too tough, some murmur, seeing only their limitations. Others praise God for the trials, and in so doing discover the pathways to enlargement, liberation and abundance of life. On your discipleship journey, is your spiritual vitality being enlarged or is it shrinking? How have you responded to pressures?

The Way of Man often leads to “Spittin the Dummy”

The Way of Man is Losing it – go to pieces, run away, drown your troubles, get high, get low, strike back, kick the dog, hit the wife, lash out. Australians have a saying, you are “Spittin the Dummy” — a “dummy” is Australian for a child’s pacifier. You lost your cool, you spit the pacifier out and now you are crying like a Baby.[1]

The Contrast of David and Saul

In 1 Samuel 28-31, we find both David and Saul under tremendous pressure, overwhelming pressure. One becomes enlarged; the other becomes smaller and dies. One spits the dummy, the other admits he is a dummy and turns to God. When you resist the pressure of God and try to escape in your own way or through your own means, you die spiritually. You become a disciple who “shrinks back,” who takes his hand from the plow, who looks back and turns into a pillar of salt. You become a Dummy “spittin the dummy.”

We often quote Proverbs 3:5 & 6, but we need to go on to 7 & 8.

Proverbs 3:5-8 Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD, and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones.

Lean not on your own understanding means not being wise in your own eyes. Walking in straight paths means turning away from evil. Trusting in the Lord brings healing to this body and strength to our bones. It will enlarge our life if we acknowledge Him even in the midst of great pressure. Accepting limitations and pressures in total dependence upon God will always allow for an addition in your life.

One becomes Two. Three become Four. Pressure enlarges our Life.

David & Saul Face the Ultimate Test for a Disciple

David is Close to Losing it

God is about to force David off the fence.

1 Samuel 28:1-2 In those days the Philistines gathered their forces for war, to fight against Israel. And Achish said to David, “Understand that you and your men are to go out with me in the army.” David said to Achish, “Very well, you shall know what your servant can do.” And Achish said to David, “Very well, I will make you my bodyguard for life.”.

David doesn’t back down, but affirms that he is going to impress Achish as they battle David’s brother’s, the Jews. Achish is so impressed, that he makes David his personal bodyguard for life. David will be fighting right along Achish. David’s pride is dangerously close to causing a fatal error in his discipleship journey.

The Settler, the Skewer, the Stinker was about to be forced into fighting against his own people. God was about to reveal the compromising hypocrisy of a Disciple who had taken his eyes off His Promises. David is days away from facing God’s Ultimate Test for His discipleship.

When a believer compromises his walk with God, it will not only place you in harm’s way, but your pride will cause you to defend the very things that are an abomination to God. David was now defending Achish, a sworn enemy of God and His people.

King Saul is Definitely Losing it

Meanwhile, back in Israel, King Saul is getting desperate. Samuel the Prophet was dead. The Priests were all dead, killed by Doeg at Saul’s command. King Saul had tried to get direction from God, but God was ignoring him.

1 Samuel 28:3-6 Now Samuel had died, and all Israel had mourned for him and buried him in Ramah, his own city. And Saul had put the mediums and the necromancers out of the land. The Philistines assembled and came and encamped at Shunem. And Saul gathered all Israel, and they encamped at Gilboa. When Saul saw the army of the Philistines, he was afraid, and his heart trembled greatly. And when Saul inquired of the LORD, the LORD did not answer him, either by dreams, or by Urim, or by prophets.

Saul is at the end of himself. He is so frightened that his heart is racing (the Hebrew implies). I believe he is experiencing arrhythmia:

  • Palpitations (a feeling of skipped heartbeats, fluttering or “flip-flops,” or feeling that your heart is “running away”).
  • Pounding in your chest.
  • Dizziness or feeling light-headed.
  • Fainting.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Chest discomfort.
  • Weakness or fatigue (feeling very tired).

Was Saul fearful because of what could happen to his people, his nation? I believe the evidence suggests his fear was entirely self-centered. He feared for his life, he was not reacting as a true leader should. As with God, Saul’s focus was upon his needs and concerns, rather than God and His people.

1 Samuel 15:23 For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the word of the LORD, he hath also rejected thee from being king.

1 Samuel 15:26-28 And Samuel said to Saul, “I will not return with you. For you have rejected the word of the LORD, and the LORD has rejected you from being king over Israel.” As Samuel turned to go away, Saul seized the skirt of his robe, and it tore. And Samuel said to him, “The LORD has torn the kingdom of Israel from you this day and has given it to a neighbor of yours, who is better than you.

Samuel made an interesting statement… Samuel told Saul that his neighbor was better than he was.

Does God play favorites??  

What makes one SINFUL MAN better than another SINFUL MAN?

Look at David. He is compromising, he has distanced himself from God, he has disobeyed God, and he has bloodied his sword with innocent blood. Why is he any better than Saul? Why should David be blessed and Saul cursed? Why should David rise to be King and Saul fall in battle?

The Ultimate Test for a Disciple is How You Respond to the Pressure of God’s Reproofs.

This is the key to intimacy with God and knowing and enjoying His Blessing. This will make you better than your neighbor who responds to pressure with a self-focused response.

Proverbs 1:22-33 How long, ye simple ones, will ye love simplicity? and the scorners delight in their scorning, and fools hate knowledge? Turn you at my reproof: behold, I will pour out my spirit unto you, I will make known my words unto you. Because I have called, and ye refused; I have stretched out my hand, and no man regarded; But ye have set at nought all my counsel, and would none of my reproof: I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your fear cometh; When your fear cometh as desolation, and your destruction cometh as a whirlwind; when distress and anguish cometh upon you. Then shall they call upon me, but I will not answer; they shall seek me early, but they shall not find me: For that they hated knowledge, and did not choose the fear of the LORD: They would none of my counsel: they despised all my reproof. Therefore shall they eat of the fruit of their own way, and be filled with their own devices. For the turning away of the simple shall slay them, and the prosperity of fools shall destroy them. But whoso hearkeneth unto me shall dwell safely, and shall be quiet from fear of evil.

To Reprove: To voice or convey disapproval of; rebuke

How do you handle the Pressure of Reproof?

Hebrews 12:5-7 And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.” It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline?

King Saul Despises the Pressure of Reproof because his focus is upon himself.

No appeal to God on behalf of the Nation; No appeal to God on behalf of His Name. No appeal to God to deal with the Enemy. No appeal to God for mercy, justice or righteousness. Saul NEVER learned the ways of God. So what does self-focused Saul do?

1 Samuel 28:7-14 Saul then said to his advisers, “Find a woman who is a medium, so I can go and ask her what to do.” His advisers replied, “There is a medium at Endor.” So Saul disguised himself by wearing ordinary clothing instead of his royal robes. Then he went to the woman’s home at night, accompanied by two of his men. “I have to talk to a man who has died,” he said. “Will you call up his spirit for me?” “Are you trying to get me killed?” the woman demanded. “You know that Saul has outlawed all the mediums and all who consult the spirits of the dead. Why are you setting a trap for me?” But Saul took an oath in the name of the LORD and promised, “As surely as the LORD lives, nothing bad will happen to you for doing this.” Finally, the woman said, “Well, whose spirit do you want me to call up?” “Call up Samuel,” Saul replied. When the woman saw Samuel, she screamed, “You’ve deceived me! You are Saul!” “Don’t be afraid!” the king told her. “What do you see?” “I see a god coming up out of the earth,” she said. “What does he look like?” Saul asked. “He is an old man wrapped in a robe,” she replied. Saul realized it was Samuel, and he fell to the ground before him.

Saul is not only “spittin the dummy,” He is “crackin a fruity” (More Aussie slang for ‘Go crazy, insane, weird.’[2] He is so desperate he is acting insane. He needs some guidance and he wants to conjure up Samuel! He goes to a “witch” to do so! 

Saul presses full speed ahead and violates God’s Law, violates his own law, endangers the life of the medium, lies to the medium, and disturbs eternity in the process. If this were a science fiction movie, we would start to see a fissure crack between the two universes.

God had said this: “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live” (Exodus 22, 18). What used to happen was if a person was found to be a witch or a man was found to be practicing as a wizard, God said they must be put to death – capital punishment was carried out.

Now Why Did Saul seek out this Witch contrary to God’s Word and his own command?

  1. Unconverted?: He was never converted to trusting Faith in God. (Some would disagree) Many professed Christians use astrology and even consult ‘psychics’ (Nancy Regan). However, why would God anoint a heathen as the first King of Israel, the throne His Son would later sit upon?
  2. Fear: Fear causes us to do and say things we normally would not do. Lawyers use the term ‘duress’ as a means of showing their clients were not acting in their right mind.
  3. Trusted in Man rather than God: He thought if he could just get Samuel’s blessing, he could prevail against the Philistines. He was hoping in man, just as he had done all his reign as King. He knew the Philistines had him outnumbered. He hoped that Samuel could appeal to God on his behalf.

The Hebrew phrase for find a woman of familiar spirit is “ʾishshâ baʿalâ ʾôb”. She literally is “mother to spirit” or “container to a spirit”. She is able to conjure up a spirit because she is a container/channel of the “spirit world.”

Job (32:19) uses ‘obe’ as a bottle that may burst under pressure. They were searching for a woman who was a container of a conjured spirit. She was a necromancer, able to speak with dead spirits. Often these were people skilled at ventriloquism, able to throw their voice as if someone else was speaking in a room.

ʾôb̠: A masculine noun meaning a conjured spirit, a medium or necromancer; or a leather bottle. The primary use of the word is connected to the occult practice of necromancy or consulting the dead. It is used to signify a conjurer who professes to call up the dead by means of magic, especially to give revelation about future uncertainties (1 Sam. 28:7; Isa. 8:19); a man or woman who has a familiar spirit (Lev. 20:27; 1 Chr. 10:13; Isa. 29:4); the conjured spirit itself, particularly when speaking through the medium (1 Sam. 28:8; 2 Kgs 21:6; 2 Chr. 33:6). The Israelites were strictly forbidden from engaging in such practices or consulting mediums (Lev. 19:31; Deut. 18:10-12). Interestingly, the word is used once to signify a leather bottle that may burst under pressure (Job 32:19). There is no convincing evidence that this particular reference has any occult connotations. Rather, the connection between the two divergent meanings of this Hebrew word is probably that a medium was seen as a “container” for a conjured spirit.[3]

I think it is so telling of God that a man blowing his top in a pressure situation is looking for a woman who contains an ‘obe’, for this ‘obe’ is about to ‘crack a fruity’ all over Saul’s head.

Here are my thoughts on what happened:

Saul disguises himself and asks this medium to conjure up Samuel. She goes into the back room where she does her mumbo-jumbo thing. I think she is about to throw her voice to pretend its Samuel when the real Samuel appears.

The Keil and Delitzsch Commentary on the Old Testament says:

The woman then commenced her conjuring arts. She cried aloud at the form which appeared to her so unexpectedly. These words imply most unquestionably that the woman saw an apparition which she did not anticipate, and therefore that she was not really able to conjure up departed spirits or persons who had died, but that she merely pretended to do so…

Now some people think it was a demonic spirit in disguise, that God doesn’t allow things like this:

The early church Fathers typically took one of two views: (1) Either God Himself raised Samuel from the dead and sent him to Saul (they simply could not abide the view that a “witch” could raise the righteous from the dead), or (2) this was “just demonic deceit, and what appeared was not really Samuel, but a demon in his guise” (Origen and the Witch of Endor: Toward an Iconoclastic Typology)

I do believe there is a powerful unseen world of demons. I do believe that Satan is actively at work in this world. I do believe Christians need not fear as long as they abide in Jesus Christ. That is why I believe it is so important for you to daily lift up the Name of the Lord upon your House, you spouse, your children and grand-children.

  • Proverbs 18:10 The name of the LORD is a strong tower; the righteous man runs into it and is safe.
  • Zephaniah 3:12 But I will leave in your midst a people humble and lowly. They shall seek refuge in the name of the LORD,

When you resist the grace of God in your life, when you rebel against the authorities God has put in your life, when you willingly consult astrology or psychics, even Ouija boards, you are opening yourself to this unseen spiritual world of demonic influence.

Jesus says in Luke 11:20 “But if it is by the finger of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.”

If we are obeying the King and following His designs and laws, the Kingdom of God will protect us against this demonic world. However, if we are not following the King, not being subject to His laws, then we leave His Kingdom and are subject to the demonic kingdom.

That is why there is so great a need for righteous men to join together in binding the evil one from their community. We can unite in prayer to cast his influence out.

I happen to think this was really Samuel. I believe God allowed him to appear, to give Saul one more chance to show he cared for his people. Look at what he says:

1 Samuel 28:15-25 “Why have you disturbed me by calling me back?” Samuel asked Saul. “Because I am in deep trouble,” Saul replied. “The Philistines are at war with me, and God has left me and won’t reply by prophets or dreams. So I have called for you to tell me what to do.” However, Samuel replied, “Why ask me, since the LORD has left you and has become your enemy? The LORD has done just as he said he would. He has torn the kingdom from you and given it to your rival, David. The LORD has done this to you today because you refused to carry out his fierce anger against the Amalekites. What’s more, the LORD will hand you and the army of Israel over to the Philistines tomorrow, and you and your sons will be here with me. The LORD will bring down the entire army of Israel in defeat.”

Does that sound like an imitator or an evil spirit? Sounds like a perturbed Samuel speaking to a whimpering King who has spit his dummy out, cracked a fruity and is crying “WOEME.” Saul just never learned. He never obeyed, he never responded to pressure correctly and he never reacted to reproof’s acceptably. His desperation never led to humility, to ask God to intervene for the sake of His people and His name. (Refer to the prayers of Moses, Nehemiah, Ezra, Daniel and many others)

When Saul heard Samuel’s message, there was no humility, no turning to God, no repentance, just fear! Saul fell full length on the ground, paralyzed with fright because of Samuel’s words. He was also faint with hunger, for he had eaten nothing all day and all night.

This is the picture of an ungodly man whose roots are shallow and based upon himself. This is not the picture of a man whose trust is in God, and in His word meditates day and night, whose leave’s does not wither, even in the heat of fire and pressure. There is nothing left for Saul but to go on his way and face life the best he can. He has lost his cool, spit his dummy and cracked his fruity. Even the witch has pity in him and makes him eat some food.

When the woman saw how distraught he was, she said, “Sir, I obeyed your command at the risk of my life. Now do what I say, and let me give you a little something to eat so you can regain your strength for the trip back.” But Saul refused. The men who were with him also urged him to eat, so he finally yielded and got up from the ground and sat on the couch. The woman had been fattening a calf, so she hurried out and killed it. She took some flour, kneaded it into dough and baked unleavened bread. She brought the meal to Saul and his men, and they ate it. Then they went out into the night.

After they ate, they went out into the night.

It is an awful thing to go out into the dark, knowing your enemies are about to attack you, that God has abandoned you, and you must face this tragedy alone…

Saul walked out into the night and grew smaller and smaller, until things got so bad, the only way out for him was to commit suicide. The pressure was too great, God too distant. Saul failed the pressure test of a Disciple.

1 Samuel 31:1-6 Now the Philistines fought against Israel; and the men of Israel fled from before the Philistines, and fell slain on Mount Gilboa. Then the Philistines followed hard after Saul and his sons. And the Philistines killed Jonathan, Abinadab, and Malchishua, Saul’s sons. The battle became fierce against Saul. The archers hit him, and he was severely wounded by the archers. Then Saul said to his armor bearer, “Draw your sword, and thrust me through with it, lest these uncircumcised men come and thrust me through and abuse me.” But his armor bearer would not, for he was greatly afraid. Therefore Saul took a sword and fell on it. And when his armor-bearer saw that Saul was dead, he also fell on his sword, and died with him. So Saul, his three sons, his armor-bearer, and all his men died together that same day.

Saul killed himself, because he was more concerned for how his dead body would be treated than how his live body fought the Battles of the Lord. This reveals the Heart of the matter of any Disciple who fails the Pressure Test and spits the dummy or cracks the fruity or simply walks away from the Lord.

He is more concerned about himself than he is about Battling for the Name of the Lord!

Discipleship means you join yourself with the Lord, and you partner with Him in battling against the devil and the world. To battle for the Name of the Lord means you must abandon your self, your comfort, your reputation, for the sake of His Name and His Cause!

Matthew 6:9-13 Pray, then, in this way: Our Father who is in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done, On earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. [For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.]

We must fight to bring the Kingdom of God to bear here on earth as it is in heaven. We must strive earnestly to lift up the Name of God! In every cause that Saul was given – to wait for Samuel, to destroy all of the Amalekites, to not consult with mediums, he put himself first, just as he did in his dying.

To understand God’s Ways join another Group of Men going into the night…

Centuries later, another group of men had their last meal together, and then after singing a hymn, head off into the dark night to the Mount of Olives. Their leader knows the enemy will soon surround them, knows that terror await him, but He is not afraid. It is for this pressure test that He was born. Sure his disciples would fall asleep as he sweat drops of blood, but soon He knew they would be wide awake. Sure, his disciples would run away and shrink back, but He knew they would benefit from what he is about to go through. He knew they would be transformed into mighty Apostles of Christ.

Therefore, Jesus willingly goes to Calvary, enduring the shame, the pain, the suffering. He did not shrink back. He did not turn away; he even refused the sedative on the cross. He took the cup of God’s wrath and drank every drop, turned the cup over and slammed it down, declaring “It is Finished.”

Jesus took the greatest pressure test ever devised by man or Satan, and instead of being just one, He was enlarged to become Many! The Church was born! His Sons and Daughters now live in the Power of the Cross-because that fateful day He did not shrink from the pressure.

Discipleship welcomes pressure!

Luke reveals it in his Gospel when he quotes Jesus as saying, “Strive to enter in at the strait gate” (Luke 13:24). This puts an important perspective on this command of Christ. We do not just open up the strait gate and walk in unopposed. There is a battle that goes on within our souls, because our enemy does not want us to find the way of life. Disciples are going to be in constant battles involving their trust in the Name of the Lord! Paul stated, “We must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22).

In Scripture, the gate is used as a symbol of decision-making and of managing internal affairs.

One Greek word translated strive is agonizomai. From it we get the English word agonize. The word entails contending for victory in public games, fighting, or making warfare. It involves pain in the struggle for a public prize. To strive is to make every effort to achieve the goal, as Paul described in Colossians 1:29 To this end I also labor, striving according to His working which works in me mightily.

The word STRIVING implies that there are hindrances in the development of a walk of faith and that there is a need for intense determination on our part to win the prize. Paul explained this:  1 Corinthians 9:25-Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. Paul goes on to explain:

“So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.” (I Corinthians 9:26–27).

In the Christian life, “striving” is not our performance of God’s will, but it is our surrender to God so that He can carry out His will in us. Striving grows from the Disciple’s Heart of Dependence.

One of the disciples asked, “Lord, are there just a few who are being be saved?” 

Jesus’ answer was that few would find the way of life.

Luke 13:23-27 And someone said to Him, “Lord, are there just a few who are being saved?” And He said to them, “Strive to enter through the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able.” Once the head of the house gets up and shuts the door, and you begin to stand outside and knock on the door, saying, ‘Lord, open up to us!’ then He will answer and say to you, ‘I do not know where you are from.’ “Then you will begin to say, ‘We ate and drank in Your presence, and You taught in our streets’; and He will say, ‘I tell you, I do not know where you are from; DEPART FROM ME, ALL YOU EVILDOERS.’

We are concerned with people being saved, but Jesus was more concerned with people finding the way of LIFE. Salvation is not a prayer, it is a way of living, and that living means we must not run away from pressure, nor seek our own comfort, our own way, we must not spit a dummy or crack a fruity. We must willingly submit to the Pressures of Life and Reproofs that we might be enlarged as a Disciple.

A Disciple must become disciplined to respond to Pressures in the Name of the Lord, Sword in Hand, ready to do Battle for the Lord!

Pressures, even the pressures designed to reprove us, provide Opportunities for God’s Kingdom to Grow and God’s Power to Provide. Is your heart and love for God and His people growing? Perhaps you have stiffened your neck to His reproofs in the past. Perhaps it is time to repent and focus upon the great needs of God’s Kingdom. Are you actively partnering with God to bring His Kingdom to bear on this world? Or is your tiny heart focused upon your own kingdom? 


[3] Warren Baker and Eugene Carpenter, The Complete Word Study Dictionary – Old Testament, (Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 2003), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, Under: “ôb̠”.