Do you want to know who the most dangerous human beings in the Universe are? Do you want to know who can be used of the devil to such an extent that they can destroy Godís work and testimony in the Earth and injure Godís precious servantsí hearts in a part of their hearts that no one else can touch? Do you want to know who are so dangerous that they can cause spiritual death and hardship and place the most treacherous stumbling block imaginable before the feet of Godís holy remnant? You need to know who these people are for there are many in the world today, and they move absolutely undetected to the eyes of even some of the most enlightened. You need to know the signs of these perilous ones, for they can be used by the enemy of our souls to form an expanse of evil that is unfathomable, unless you have seen its dark borders.
Here is a description of these dangerous ones: they are born again, "Spirit filled" Christians who have some of the soundest doctrine in Christendom. They are disciplined and self-sacrificing and spend time daily in prayer and bible study. They invest much time and effort in the work of the Lord, and they have spent much time reading books, listening to teaching tapes and watching videos of true men of God. They may travel great distances to be where God is moving and to sit under the ministry of men of God, as well as to fellowship with one another. They may have even spent many months sitting in and worshiping in a place filled with Godís presence, and they may earnestly seek and long for what they believe to be God and true revival. They donít party on Saturday nights, no way, for these are not brazen in hypocrisy, but live good clean Christian lives. They give, witness, serve, preach, tithe, study, pray, help, and they believe that you can have Christ without loosing your life.
In short, they are the godliest people on Earth who have embraced the modern gospel of Eternal Life without the cross. Oh, of course, they believe in the cross, donít get me wrong. They believe, like yourself, that Jesus died on the cross thereby paying the price for our sins that we might be reconciled to God. Thatís not the issue with them, of course, for remember, their doctrine is very sound. No, they are not heretics. They simply believe that they can have Jesus without losing their lives on the cross. They have not become apostate. However, they are the most dangerous individuals in the Universe, and they have embraced the most dangerous gospel known to man: this modern gospel of Christianity without the cross, which perhaps you yourself have embraced.
In Mark chapter 8, when Jesus began to reveal to His disciples that He would be handed over to wicked men, be killed, and rise again on the third day, Peter (the rock) rebuked Him (Mark 8:31,32). Because Peter could not fathom the work of the cross, he rejected Godís plan, and Jesus turned to him and said, "Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men" (Mark 8:33 NIV). Jesus then went on to say, "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it" (Mark 8:34,35 NIV). Because Peter rejected the work of the cross, because he was unwilling to deny himself and take up his cross, because he had in mind the things of men rather than the things of God, he was so open to the devilís influence, that Jesus basically called him a devil. Jesus turned to Peter and addressed Satan directly. In these words, Jesus calls our attention to the danger of a disciple who will "follow" Jesus, but reject the cross. He calls our attention to the danger of a person who "follows" Jesus, yet refuses to lose their life. Do you want to know who the most dangerous person in the Universe is? Itís a Christian who deep down in his or her heart, desires to save his or her life.
The true gospel message is a message of the cross: the cross that Jesus bore for us, and the cross that we must bear for Him. Any other gospel message is a modern hybrid; a seed that bears sterile fruit that cannot reproduce life. Itís a message of hope for those who desire to escape hell, as well as escape the death that Christís followers are meant to constantly bear about in their own bodies. This modern gospel is one that provides an escape from death and judgement. Those who embrace this modern gospel truly believe that they can escape the judgement of the throne while escaping the judgement of the cross. They believe they can escape the death of hell while escaping death to self, the death of the cross. Jesus made it clear that He had a cross to bear and that anyone who would come after Him would also have a cross to bear, a cross born not for self, but for Christ and others, for a cross born for self would be no cross at all.
This cross that His followers must bear is not hardship or want or suffering, for one can gladly endure all of these for Christ and yet save their lives. The cross that His followers must bear is that which will bring an end to their self-life. That innate inertia of self-preservation that is the strongest instinct in the human nature must be mercilessly impaled and buried out of site. In the words of Frank Bartleman, self must be buried six feet under face down, the harder he scratches, the deeper he will go. The great work of the cross that we must bear is to put to death the self-life that will never savor the things of God, but only the things of man. Therefor, a gospel that allows that which will always oppose God to live on is a false gospel that favors manís agenda over Godís. Itís a false gospel that moves men to commit all manner of evil against Godís plans and desires (which are not ours, for His thoughts are not our thoughts and His ways are not our ways) and against Godís holy servants who are His instruments in carrying out those high plans and desires.
Christians who refuse to die are the easiest targets on the planet for the enemyís use and eventual destruction. Not only will the enemy freely use such Christians to oppose Godís plans and to hurt Godís servants, but he will by doing so, bring death and destruction to the lives of these poor unsuspecting Christians. When Jesus turned to Peter and called him Satan, He was actually showing us that we donít wrestle against flesh and blood, for though it was Peter who did not have in mind, did not savor the things of God, it was Satan that Jesus rebuked. Flesh and blood simply cloaked the real enemy, and Peter, who was close to Jesus and was taught of Jesus, spent the rest of his self-life denying, striking with the sword, running, and avoiding the cross at all cost. Peter was a dangerous man, as long as he resisted the cross.
It matters not how sound a Christianís doctrine, if they resist the death of the cross, the enemy can delude them into seeing and believing the most unfathomable lies. Think about it: Peter, a mere man rebuked God to his face and told Him He was wrong! A Christian who seeks to save their life has no fear of God or of Godís authority, for they see through deluded eyes. Because they have no fear and because the enemy can so easily delude them, they become the most dangerous instruments of evil possible, especially if they occupy a place of spiritual authority. Those who were closest to Jesus had the greatest potential for betraying Him, didnít they?
We love Christís cross with all our hearts donít we? Yet, we avoid our cross at all cost. What then is the cost of avoiding our cross? Jesus Himself said, "whosoever will save his life shall lose it." We avoid our cross because we have dreams and hopes and we have expectations. We have desires and aspirations, some of which are quite "spiritual". Yet, if we save our lives, we will lose them. All of our dreams, hopes, expectations, desires and aspirations must go to the cross, the cross of surrender. Until we embrace the cross, we resist Godís way and we remain a danger to ourselves and to others and to the eternal purposes of God.
Our modern gospel of salvation (salvation from hell rather than sin) without the cross has produced a dangerous breed of Christian; a breed of Christian that is open to strong delusion and therefor open to the devilís employment. The dangerous Christian is not difficult to spot, for although they may seem quite sanctified, they are lacking one prominent feature: a pierced ear (Ex. 21:1-6, De. 15:16,17). They have never surrendered their very life in a surrender of love to their master and therefor to their brother. They still own their life, for they have never "sold" themselves into slavery. They have never embraced the cross and the work of the cross and therefor, like Peter, they donít mind the things of God, but the things of men.
"Join with others in following my example, brothers, and take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you. For, as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things" (Phil. 3:17-19 NIV).
My longing is to embrace the cross and its wonderful and terrible work, that I, like His disciples of old, might know Him in the fellowship of His sufferings and in the power of His resurrection. Letís consider the words of one of those blessed disciples (who once fled the cross) as he approached the place of his own literal crucifixion:
"Andrew, going toward the place, and seeing afar off the cross prepared, did change neither countenance nor color, neither did his blood shrink, neither did he fail in his speech, his body fainted not, neither was his mind molested, nor did his understanding fail him, as it is the manner of men to do, but out of the abundance of his heart his mouth did speak, and fervent charity did appear in his words as kindled sparks; he said, ĎOh cross, most welcome and long looked for! With a willing mind, joyfully and desirously, I come to thee, being the scholar of Him which did hang on thee: because I have always been thy lover, and have coveted to embrace thee.í"1
Today we have a dangerous breed of Christian spawned by a false gospel of Christianity without a cross. May we, like Andrew of old, covet to embrace the cross.
1. John Foxe, Foxeís Book of Martyrs, Whitaker House, 1981, pg. 9