We care so much for the people around us. We want so badly for them to have a better life. To have enough. There are so many who don’t. By natural extension we worry about their afterlife. We want people to miss hell. It would be so horrible for anyone to go there–especially after having a bad life here.
We try so hard to convince them to want to go to heaven. We put it in their language. Make it colorful. Make it sound good. We present it as something that is easy to attain, as their right to have. Hell is a bad place to go so we make heaven sound like fun.
We make it man-centered all the way.
We do this at our own peril. Our Gospel message begins to soften. We soft-sell it. We try a new angle. We will do anything to help someone to work up a desire to do something so they can slide into heaven. We change the nature of God. Dumb Him down, if you will. He becomes the anxious lover, the nervous suitor, the father always longing, always searching, always ready to forgive and forget…even when the people in question never fully come to Him. He will endlessly pursue, stand at the door and knock, respond to anything that they say or do that shows that they just might have the slightest desire for heaven (not for God Himself but for the comforts of heaven). He becomes a genie working overtime, ever ready, ever watching, always anxious to pluck another person out of the grasp of hell. The faintest whisper of the sinner’s prayer is the only ticket they need. “Just do this and say that….” “Come forward, say a prayer.” “…heaven can be your home and you can miss hell.”
Is that what we think the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ is all about? Missing hell?
The Gospel isn’t about our missing hell; it’s about the Cross. It’s about God being glorified. God didn’t send Jesus to the Cross so that we could miss hell or make it to heaven. God’s wrath wasn’t vented on His Son so that we could have a happy life here on earth or a comfortable after life. God isn’t anxiously waiting up in heaven hoping that we will do the least amount possible so that He can nudge us over the line from lost to found. The Gospel isn’t about us at all.The Gospel is about God’s glory not ours.To say otherwise is to sinfully make it man-centered.
The Cross is where we must begin and end our theology. We need to preach the Cross again and again. It needs to take center stage in our preaching. The older preachers knew this. Spurgeon was once told that his sermons all sounded alike. His response? “That may be so. I can take any verse in the Bible and make a bee-line for the Cross.” We need more men of God to do that today. They need to forget themselves, forget numbers, forget church growth and concentrate on the Cross.
We try to preach people out of hell, when we ought to be saying, “The Cross—look at the CROSS!” No one will ever be saved simply because they don’t want to go to hell. Nobody wants to go to hell. The devil has known for a long, long time that hell is his eternal destination and even he doesn’t want to go there. We cartoonishly present Satan as ‘lord’ of hell when he himself would still love to go to heaven–if only God wasn’t in charge. Most of us don’t want God anymore than he does.
God deserves to be glorified simply because of Who He is, because He is God, because He is the Great I AM.
He deserves to be glorified and praised endlessly because of the Cross.
Understanding the Cross is to understand Christ. Understanding Christ, you understand God. Understanding Him is all that we are told that we ought to glory in.
The Cross is all that matters. Anything else is digression.
The Gospel must center on God and His glory. The Gospel must center on the Cross. When preachers preach that once again, we will once again have an understanding of sin. Then, and only then, will we have true repentance among the people supposedly coming to God.
A man truly converted to God will take one look at the Cross and heart-broken, fall to his knees. There he will stay, and as repenting gives way to praise, he will crawl to Calvary and beg God, “Give me one! I beg you. Give me a cross. Jesus bore the Cross for me. I want to bear a cross for Him. Crucify me with Him. Give me a cross!”
The converted man will gladly give up all of his so-called rights. On the cross there is no chance for self-promotion, pride or a physically abundant life. Nothing else here on earth will ever matter to him again–not like it did before his he took up his cross. The things of God will consume him. For the crucified man there can be no other way.
God’s Will will now be all encompassing. Once on the cross, God’s man can no longer go into the world and participate of it. By God’s grace, he won’t want to. Christ died for him so how can the world hold any further attraction for him? The things that once brought him so much happiness will now be seen as they actually are: instruments used by the devil to bind him and lead him to eternal death.
The Cross, the Cross will be his cry, his plea.
When the man of God looks at the Cross and fully realizes that Jesus’ beard was plucked out because of his gluttony, that His back was lashed because of his pride, that He was beaten unmercifully because of things he lightly called “addictions”, the torment will break through his soul like so much water through a broken levy. When he completely comprehends that Jesus suffered in quiet agony because of his covetousness, that He was thrashed with rods because of his “little white lies”, that His head was pierced with a crown of thorns because of his enslavement to money, His hands and feet were nailed to the Cross because of his lust, repentance will flow and keeps on flowing. His proclamation from that moment on will forever be “Worthy is the Lamb!”
The Cross shows God’s love, His mercy, His justice, His wrath like nothing else ever has or could. To see the Cross, to know the Cross, to understand the Cross is to understand God.
The Old Testament points towards Christ and His Cross. The New Testament reveals it. If heaven itself, if the Triune God-head is so consumed by the Cross, shouldn’t we be?