So much of Christianity today seems to be either contending with sin or counting the days before Christ’s return. The eyes of men tend to fix themselves upon either ourselves and our shortcomings or upon what some teacher who is willing to tell us what the future holds. Where are Jesus and the cross in any of this? Where is the Gospel of the love of God, for example, in all the talk about the coming of Christ for some believers but leaving behind a bunch of other believers? Is it logical to assume people would be drawn by the love of Christ, when so much fear is preached in his name (2Timothy 1:7; Hebrew 2:15; 1John 4:18)? I never hear about the when, where, or why of Christ’s death in such preaching.
We seem to like to preach of the Second Coming of Christ like some mothers discipline their children, “You just wait until your father gets home, and when he gets here, you’re going to get it! You’ll be sorry for behaving like this!” Aside from hurting the relationship of the father and his child, has this form of discipline worked with our children? I know it didn’t with any of my brothers and sisters or me. Oh, we knew we were in for it when Dad got home, but that didn’t stop us from misbehaving the next time. Why do we assume this kind of preaching will save one soul or bring one heart to repentance? The fact is some have committed suicide, either believing they’ve been left behind when the prophecy failed or others simply killed themselves not wanting to face the fearful events that were prophesied to begin with. Preaching fear cannot reveal the love of God, and it certainly doesn’t lift up Jesus or unveil the cross. It is the cross, not the return of an angry God and threats of impending judgment that saves man.
“And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself.” (John 12:32 NASB)
It is Jesus, and him crucified that saves man. The world mocks the judgment we preach and looks upon our legalism as hypocrisy. We don’t keep the Law, yet we preach it and say that they must keep it. That’s preaching the Old Covenant, not the New. We need to be honest with them, showing we all need Christ. None of us are righteous without Jesus in our lives, not even one. If we showed the world that we need Christ as much as anyone else, I believe they would respect our honesty and take a closer look for themselves. The focal point of all that we do in the world, for the world, or say to the world should always be the cross. Lift up Jesus, not moral behavior. Lift up Jesus, not a future condemnation for the disobedient. Paul said that our knowledge of the future is not perfect (1Corinthians 13:9-12), therefore shouldn’t the focus of our message to the world be on that which is perfect?
What sort of person is the Christian? What has the cross done for us who claim Christ as our Savior? Legalism seeks to repair what has become corrupt. There is no transformation in the Law. The Spirit teaches that all who have the Spirit of God dwelling within them should live to be good ambassadors of God. That is, we should fulfill the destiny for which we have been created – to reflect God (Genesis 1:26-27). The temptation has always been to do a work for Christ, on my own, rather than waiting for the Spirit’s timing. Just as it was wrong for Abraham to do the work of God through his own understanding, it would be wrong for me to do the work of God without the Spirit of God. It took God’s work in man to produce Isaac. In his own strength, all man could do for God was to produce Ishmael. The Scriptures remind me that, as a child of God, I should wait upon the Spirit’s leading and not the impulses of my flesh, coming from the inherited life of Adam (Romans 8:9, 13-14). Lifting up Christ (John 12:32) and fixing our eyes upon him (Hebrews 12:1-2) will allow the Spirit to do his work.