If there is one thing that really bugs me about some preachers today it’s that they lie I mean they don’t just tell little lies, they tell great big whopping lies. theological lies and spiritual lies. They tell their people things that aren’t true, and things that are heresies. And the biggest heresy that is preached today is that Christianity is the be all end all of life.
These preachers would have us believe that all we need is a little dose of Christianity and everything will be alright. And they tell us that if we are good enough, and holy enough and spiritual enough, and give them enough money then God will make us healthy wealthy and wise. And then they tell us that when we accept Christ into our life as Lord and Saviour that everything will be alright, and nothing will ever go wrong, and that we’ll always be happy and that we’ll never be sad, and that my friends is a lie, a lie conceived in hell to discourage believers. In that type of preaching Christ has become a genie in a bottle and Christianity is the crazy glue that is always ready to patch up all of life problems.
Dietrech Bonhoffer was a theologian who died in the concentration camps of Nazi Germany and he had a term for these promises, he called it “Cheap Grace, forgiveness without repentance, salvation without remorse, life without sacrifice” And I really don’t think that is what Paul had in mind when he wrote in the letter to the Galatians 2:19-20 For when I tried to keep the law, it condemned me. So I died to the law—I stopped trying to meet all its requirements—so that I might live for God. My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me.
Paul writes about being crucified and that doesn’t sound like cheap grace to me, so this morning I want to look at some of the marks of a crucified Christian.
1) If You Are Crucified: You Are Heading In One Direction. If you are going to get anywhere in life there are two things you are going to have to do. The first is that you are going to have to establish a goal. It sounds a bit simplistic but you’d be surprised how many people out there haven’t got a clue where they are going. The second thing that you have to do is head in the direction of your goal.
Doesn’t matter what area of life we are talking about those two criteria have to be met. Set a goal and then head in that direction. If you’re going to take a trip then you need to know where you’re going. If you wanted to go to Toronto you’d need to head west. Makes sense doesn’t it if you headed north you’d get wet and end up in Labrador, if you headed east you’d get wet and end up in Ireland, If you headed south you’d get wet and end up in the West Indies. So you head in the direction of your goal.
The same applies to your career, your family and your life. You need to establish a goal and then head in that direction. In our Christian walk our goal is heaven, and the road to heaven is your Christian walk. And once Christ sets you on that road through salvation the quickest and easiest way to get to your goal is to stay on the road.
The year I graduated from college I accepted a position as minister of young adults in a church in up state New York. While we were there some good friends of ours got married back in New Brunswick, considering that both Angela and I were in the wedding party we decided that it would be appropriate if we actually attended the wedding. The problem was that I had to be back for the Sunday Morning Worship at First Wesleyan and so I left Saint John at four in the afternoon figuring on a 12 hour drive. Half way back I heard forecasts for freezing rain and snow through New Hampshire and Vermont and thought to myself, “self maybe the mountains wouldn’t be a good place to be tonight.” so I took a right turn in Bangor and headed up to Quebec. Before I was through my 12 hour trip took 16 hours. Why? Because I got side tracked.
The prophet writes in the book of Isaiah 35:8-10 And a great road will go through that once deserted land. It will be named the Highway of Holiness. Evil-minded people will never travel on it. It will be only for those who walk in God’s ways; fools will never walk there. Lions will not lurk along its course, nor any other ferocious beasts. There will be no other dangers. Only the redeemed will walk on it. Those who have been ransomed by the Lord will return. They will enter Jerusalem singing, crowned with everlasting joy. Sorrow and mourning will disappear, and they will be filled with joy and gladness.
Now as far as I can tell the prophet is telling us that we are safe on the highway. In the will of God you are safe from falling. There may be ups and downs on this road but if you walk it in obedience then you won’t get side-tracked. And if you stay where God wants you then you will be safe from a spiritual fall.
The trouble comes of course when you climb down off of that highway and start playing in the gutters of the world. When my kids were little if you were to put them in ten acres of spotless purity with a single mud puddle in the middle they would find the puddle. It’s like dirt radar.
There are Christians like that! They can be walking along that long, wide, clean stretch of highway and that one puddle of sin looks so good that they just have to get off the highway and wallow in the puddle. And then they wonder why they are so dirty. We gotta stay on the road.
One of my favourite characters in the Old Testament is Abraham and we read a little bit about him in Genesis 12:1-3 The Lord had said to Abram, “Leave your native country, your relatives, and your father’s family, and go to the land that I will show you. I will make you into a great nation. I will bless you and make you famous, and you will be a blessing to others. I will bless those who bless you and curse those who treat you with contempt. All the families on earth will be blessed through you.”
Pretty neat promise isn’t it? Now I don’t know about you but I would have had problems with the I will make you into a great nation part. I may be a little slow, but I would figure that a great nation would require a little bit more then one old man, one old lady and their household help. But Abraham took God at His word. He put his share of the town house that he shared with his dad up for sale with century 21 BC, loaded all he owned into his U-haul camel and hit the road.
It ended up being twenty five years that he followed God before he had the son he was promised, but he was facing in one direction. What we have to realize is that when God points you in a direction he doesn’t always make it a five year plan or a seven year plan. In 2009 we have become super time oriented and we say “I have X amount of time God, so if I can fit your will into that slot then we are in business.”
In contrast to Abraham were the children of Israel. God led them out of Egypt and through the wilderness, and He brought them to the very border of the Promised Land, but they weren’t headed in one direction. They were torn between serving God or serving themselves, torn between easy living and sacrifice and as a result they wandered aimlessly for forty years.
In the Gospel of Matthew we read Matthew 6:24 “No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.
Now the biggest mistake that we can make is to presume that Jesus was just making a monetary statement. An attitude statement, yes. A spiritual statement, yes. A commitment statement, you betcha. But to simply read the words of Christ as pertaining to money is to belittle and demean the intent of Jesus words.
You cannot serve both God and self, you cannot serve both God and work, you cannot serve both God and your wife, I mean spouse. Anything which has control over your life other than God is sin. The question has to be asked, “Would I give it up for God?” If the answer is “no”, or “I’m not sure” than your motives need to be examined.
The Wesleyan Church takes a stand against smoking and drinking and drugs, do you know why? “Well brother, I would suspect that the Scriptures tell us that our bodies are a temple, and because those things can damage the temple we should avoid them” OK, but what about flying and driving do we ban those too? What about shower and bathtub accidents?
The reason that smoking, drinking and drugs are wrong is that they form dependencies. When you can’t go through the day without smoking you are serving the God of tobacco. And you can’t serve both God and tobacco. When you can’t go through the day without a drink then you are serving the God of alcohol. And you can’t serve both God and alcohol. When you can’t live without the next high then you are serving the God of dope. And you can’t serve both God and dope. Amen brother preach it ride that pony.
Do you know that you can’t serve both God and caffeine? Do you know that you can’t serve both God and food? Do you know that you can’t serve both God and sports, or God and dancing, or God and television or God and music? When anything becomes more important than your relationship to or service for God then it is wrong. And it is idolatry just as sure as if you were bowing down to a golden calf.
When you have be crucified your eyes are set in one direction. When you have been crucified with Christ your eyes are set in the same direction as His. Which direction are you heading? Whose interests are you serving?
2) If You Are Crucified: You Have No Plans Of Your Own. Very simply put when you have been crucified you relinquish control. “Well I think I’ll just get down off of this here cross and wander over there for a bit.” Oh not you won’t.
If you are going to be crucified with Christ then you have to give your plans and your desires over to Christ. When I was in College I took some flying lessons and I discovered that the most important words that you could say or hear in the cockpit were “you have control”. And that was to ascertain just who was flying the airplane. Because when you have two different people trying to make one airplane do two different things then you have problems.
Now either you have control of your life or Christ has control of your life but if you are both trying to have control then you are heading for a certain disaster. The problem is as I see it is that God doesn’t always want to do things our way, funny that. I’m sure that Moses wanted to call in the corps of engineers to throw up a bridge over the Red Sea. And Gideon would have been a lot happier to go into battle with 30,000 men rather than the 300 that God had in mind. And I’m sure that Joshua was looking for a celestial battering ram and not a cheer leading squad. But we have to realize that when our plans and God’s plans differ that chances are that His plans are the right ones. We aren’t asking that you check your brains at the door but we are asking that you let God have control. And that doesn’t mean that life has to be a drag. Just because you’re not in control doesn’t mean you have to be bored.
In July of 1981 three of Atlantic Towing’s salvage tugs headed for Little Cornwallis Island, 75 miles east of the magnetic North Pole. The Irving Cedar was towing a 420 foot long, 100 foot wide, 8 story high floating ore processing plant. I was on that tug, but I was just a lowly deck hand. Captain Thomas Pullen, Royal Canadian Navy retired was the ice master, Captain Peter Garland was the tow master, and Captain Robert Pendelton was the tug master. Richard Lambert was the first mate and Rod Cadman was the second mate and by the you got down to where I was you didn’t even get a say in what you wanted for breakfast. That didn’t make the trip any less of an adventure, “well I can’t be in charge so I’m going to sulk and make life miserable for everyone around me.” I chose to go to the North Pole under those conditions, and if I had the choice I’d do it all over again. It was great, beautiful scenery, and an adventure in every sense of the word. Just as our lives were meant to be adventure, after all it was Jesus who said about us in John 10:10. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.
3) If You Are Crucified: There Is No Turning Back. “Hey Guys, I’ve changed my mind, you want to let me down, no, OK.” That’s not the way it works and you’d better make sure that is the direction that you want to go.
Luke 9:57-62 As they were walking along, someone said to Jesus, “I will follow you wherever you go.” But Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens to live in, and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place even to lay his head.” He said to another person, “Come, follow me.” The man agreed, but he said, “Lord, first let me return home and bury my father.” But Jesus told him, “Let the spiritually dead bury their own dead! Your duty is to go and preach about the Kingdom of God.” Another said, “Yes, Lord, I will follow you, but first let me say good-bye to my family.” But Jesus told him, “Anyone who puts a hand to the plow and then looks back is not fit for the Kingdom of God.”
Billy Sunday was a pro-baseball player in the states who became one of the greatest preachers of all time and he said “When a man starts to follow Christ and looks back it’s only a matter of time until he goes back”
When Moses led the Israelites out of captivity in Egypt and into the wilderness there arose a certain amount of discontentment and they said things like Exodus 14:11 and they said to Moses, “Why did you bring us out here to die in the wilderness? Weren’t there enough graves for us in Egypt? What have you done to us? Why did you make us leave Egypt? and in Exodus 16:2-3 There, too, the whole community of Israel complained about Moses and Aaron. “If only the Lord had killed us back in Egypt,” they moaned. “There we sat around pots filled with meat and ate all the bread we wanted. But now you have brought us into this wilderness to starve us all to death.”
not to mention Exodus 17:3 But tormented by thirst, they continued to argue with Moses. “Why did you bring us out of Egypt? Are you trying to kill us, our children, and our livestock with thirst?”
These people wanted to go back and they weren’t making any bones about it.
Check out the story told in Acts 12:25 When Barnabas and Saul had finished their mission to Jerusalem, they returned, taking John Mark with them. It’s not all there though it kind of carries on in Acts 15:37-38 Barnabas agreed and wanted to take along John Mark. But Paul disagreed strongly, since John Mark had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not continued with them in their work.
Now then, John Mark was a believer and in all probability a very sincere Christian, but he was not aligned with the will of God at that point in his life. He still wanted to be in control. and so he had no problem turning back. The problem was that John Mark needed to be crucified, he needed to nail himself to the cross.
Nine time out of ten when you haven’t been crucified as soon as God’s will and your will conflict then you pick up your toys and go home. Unfortunately that is the easiest thing to do at times, even to the point that if the church is going in a direction that we don’t want to go in, or if the church isn’t going in a direction that we want to go in, or if the church’s plans and our plans aren’t the same then we get a pout on and don’t co-operate, or we stop giving, or stop attending and that is c-a-r-n-a-l, carnal. And if your attitude is “If’n it’s not done my way then I’m not going to support it” then you’ve got an attitude problem and you need to give Jesus a hammer, and handful of nails.
A while back I came upon a beautiful poem that really speaks about what our lives as a believer is often like, perhaps you are familiar with it.
Butt Prints in the Sand
One night I had a wondrous dream,
One set of footprints there was seen,
The footprints of my precious Lord,
But mine were not along the shore.
But then some strange prints appeared,
And I asked the Lord, “What have we here?”
Those prints are large and round and neat,
“But Lord, they are too big for feet.”
“My child,” He said in somber tones,
“For miles I carried you along.
I challenged you to walk in faith,
But you refused and made me wait.”
“You disobeyed, you would not grow,
The walk of faith, you would not know,
So I got tired, I got fed up,
And there I dropped you on your butt.”
“Because in life, there comes a time,
When one must fight, and one must climb,
When one must rise and take a stand,
Or leave their butt prints in the sand.”
Remember John Mark? Well we run into him again when Paul writes to Timothy in the book of 2 Timothy 4:11 Only Luke is with me. Bring Mark with you when you come, for he will be helpful to me in my ministry. And in the book of 1 Peter 5:13 Your sister church here in Babylon sends you greetings, and so does my son Mark. And it’s the same John Mark who wrote the Gospel of Mark. What was the difference? Crucifixion, he had nailed his will to the cross.
4) If You Are Crucified: It Signifies Surrender. Crucifixion of self very seldom happens without a fight. We don’t sing as we go, “Hi ho, hi ho, it’s off to be crucified I go.” It’s not an easy step, but it is one that signifies the surrender of our will into the hands of God. And sometimes that happens all at once and other times it happens step by step, as each area of your will is broken and reshaped by the master. And I believe that crucifixion of self is a place that each one of us has to come. And I also believe that without crucifixion that you become ineffective for Jesus Christ.
And just as some people are lead to salvation by the Holy Spirit and don’t enter in, there are also people who God has told that they need to be crucified and they brace their feet and say no. they refuse to surrender, and they become spiritually barren. They are still a Christian and they are still going to heaven but they’ve lost the joy of the Lord in their soul.
5) If You Are Crucified: It Can Be Painful. Physical crucifixion weren’t no day in the park, and neither is spiritual crucifixion. it sometimes means giving up things you enjoy, and sometimes it means giving up people you enjoy.
For some it means nailing their music to the cross, and I don’t just mean that rock and roll stuff either. Some others need to nail their cigarettes to the cross and for some others it means dropping their bottle at the foot of the cross. Some of us need to nail up our eating habits, the preacher included. And we all need to watch what we are doing with our leisure time. How about your TV viewing habits? Your videos? Your movies?
Nobody said it was going to be easy. But if we walk with Christ, then there will be many times that we have to put His will ahead of our will and to do that often times we’ll need a hammer and nails to hold our will down. Paul writes in Romans 12:1 And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him.
And do you know what the problem with living sacrifices is? They keep crawling off the altar, maybe the answer is that they need to be nailed down.