Friday, April 09, 2004


Good Friday. Or, as I heard it so wisely put by Dwayne Cline this morning, GREAT Friday.

My mom has, over the last few weeks, completed the transition from the Church she called home for nearly 20 years (Philpott Memorial Church) and moved on to a new home, West Highland Baptist Church. She invited the whole family to attend their Good Friday service, which is actually co-ordinated between 8 local baptist churches. Pastor Cline, who pastors Hughson Street Baptist, delivered an absolutely AWESOME message explaining why Good Friday should be called Great Friday, as Jesus put paid to all of our sins past, present and future. His powerful illustrations and obvious love of God created in me a renewed spirit.

Which was nothing compared to the challenge put forth by Pastor Deric Bartlett. He seriously questioned why the modern Church couldn't deliver the message of Mel Gibson's Passion of the Christ. He posits that the Church, in its desire to reach out to the unchurched, have pushed the Cross to the background. I agree.

The Message of the Cross is not an easy one to hear. It says that we as humans are unable to do enough to satisfy God. We are ALL sinners who, as it says in the book of Romans (Romans 3:23, to be exact, caps mine):

"For ALL have sinned and fall short of the Glory of God".

It doesn't matter if the sin is "small" or "large". In God's eyes, a person who shares a bit of gossip over coffee is just as guilty as a mass murderer. So, if that's the case, what are we to do? This world of ever-increasing temptation leads us into sin more and more and we are slowly becoming deluded by the "good person" argument (i.e. "I am a good person, kind to everyone, charitable, good spouse, loving parent. Nothing wrong with me.") that we can use to tell ourselves we're OK.

Not in God's eyes.

That's why we need the Cross. Romans 5:8 says "While we were still sinners, Christ died for us". Substitute your name for "us" to help drive it home. Romans 8:1 (one of my favorite verses) states that there is " condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus". BOO-YAH, says I. The love of God and the Holy Spirit is a transformational power which, when asked for with an open heart, is freely given. When Christ hung from the Cross for 6 hours one Friday (tm Max Lucado), he completed the work of his earthly Ministry, taking on every single failure of every single person and accepting God's wrath for us. Mel said it in his interview with Diane Sawyer:

DS: "Who killed Christ"
MG: "I did"

So did I and so did every other human who has walked, is walking and will walk this earth until Christ's gloriuos return, as foretold in Revelations. We are all guilty of murder, but Christ wants to forgive us and then stand in the gap for us when God asks us why we did the things we did, forcing Him to send His own Son to death.

If that's not a transformational message, I don't know what is.

See, a seeker is looking for something different. They're tired of the ways of the world. I know this because that was my experience back in 1995. I had a string of fractured and dysfunctional relationships trailing behind me, I wasn't really going anywhere and I needed to find a direction. In other words, I was ready to be transformed. Steve Baldry, along with my parents and my brother and sister, introduced me to the Cross and the transformational love of Jesus Christ. I was hit between the eyes with a challenging message and saw it for what it was. Sure I was skeptical, angry and resistant, but that was the guilt that Satan puts in the heart when one is confronted with the real truth.

Today, we're trying much too hard to avoid being confrontational with the Gospel. We put on message-free events, create services that make little mention of the name of Jesus Christ, wrap it up in a snazzy package and make everything nice and presentable to the masses. My question is, should we? The road Christ walks is rough, gravel-covered and filled with potholes. It is not an easy life. Along each side of the road, Satan has placed nice, soft grass to walk on. It's comfortable and, if you're tired, you can lie down and get comfy. People need to see that, even though it's nice and soft on the sidelines, there's something special about following the leader along the gravelly, potholed road. We need to convince them that, while it's uncomfortable and painful and long, the reward at the end will be much better. Instead, I think we're drifting onto the grass to make our argument and finding that it's kind of nice having one foot off the road and, maybe, it might not be a bad idea to walk on the grass, just for a little while.

The metaphor's not the best, but I think it makes the point.

Don't lose sight of the Cross. It's important to reach out, but before we reach, we need to make sure we are well-tethered to those two pieces of wood upon which our sin AND our forgiveness is hung.