Not only is the cross the only beacon of light for a fallen world, it is also a clarion call for those who claim allegiance to Christ to pick up their own cross and follow in their masters footsteps. There are, however, “enemies of the cross.” Philippians 3: 18 – 19: “For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things.”
Let’s go back 2000 years, when the cross became a reality and Jesus was about to be crucified. Initially, the hopes and aspirations of many Jews was at an all time high. A carpenters son from Nazareth seemed to fulfil the criteria of the long awaited messiah. By the time Christ entered Jerusalem during his final days on earth, crowds spread their cloaks and placed branches on the road praising Jesus as he entered Jeruslam proclaiming: “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” Matthew 21:19
A short while later, it is highly likely that many of those same people who shouted Hosanna to the Son of David! now shouted crucify him! and chose a criminal by the name of Barabbas to be pardoned over Jesus. (This is a marvelous picture of the gospel; the guilty are freed because an innocent man has been condemned and taken their place)
Many of the Jews thought that Christ had come to seize political power and ease their burden under Roman rule, but Christ’s kingdom is not political, neither is it of this world. Jesus made this clear to Pilate: “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.” John 18:36
Many hoped that this prophet who changed water into wine, fed 5000, walked on water and raised the dead, would take the throne and fulfill their dreams of a restored kingdom. Life in Israel would be far more comfortable after their messiah had freed them from Roman oppression. This was however not the purpose of Christ’s first coming, and dreams were shattered when the Lion of Judah became a Lamb, and was silent when charged, thereby fulfilling Isaiah 53:7: “He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth”
This was not the time for a crown, but for the cross; it was not the time to restore the kingdom, but for the kingdom to reject him. The Jews expected all the prophecies concerning the messiah to be fulfilled at his first coming. They failed to understand that many prophecies, specifically pertaining to the kingdom, would literally be fulfilled during and after his second coming.
Today we still find enemies of the cross, and many are within the visible church. They are those who teach the prosperity gospel, word of faith heresy, and all the self appointed prophets, pastors and teachers in the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR). The NAR specifically, like the Jews at the time of Christ, are hoping for the kingdom of God to be fleshed out on earth to such an extent that kingdoms will be brought under the messiah’s rule. They are looking for political, social and economical transformation; they are seeking the comfort and security of a world that has been transformed through the “Seven Mountain Mandate.” They make the same mistake as the Jews did in believing that prophecies relating to the millenial reign of Christ on earth can be obtained now, and even worse , they believe that they are able to usher in this new dispensation. For this to take place, God is apparently raising up a new breed of anointed people: they are lifestyle evangelists and revivalists who roam the streets with cameras in tow, recording their so called exploits for God. At times they are probably a few blocks away from hospitals where terminally ill patients who could do with a miracle are conveniently ignored. Far from “bringing heaven to earth” they instead prey on the weak, hurting and ignorant, leaving a trail of false converts or disappointed people in their wake.
This new breed, who are intent on engineering revival, have been activated into what they believe is a supernatural power. Prophetic activations, downloads and impartations are big business these days and like Simon the sorcerer, passionate yet gullible people are paying to receive impartations from men. Supernatural schools are flourishing as young people from around the globe are attracted to the idea of creating a legacy, as they transform the planet through their supernatural powers. They have been told that their works will make the works of Christ seem ordinary, and with their miracles alone they will spark revivals and transform cities. What they have not been told is that true revival comes when the message of the cross is preached. This is a far cry from the current methodology of revivalists who merely stretch legs and perform subjective miracles and exclude the message of the cross. What they offer is “another gospel” – one that offers a crown instead of a cross, a throne for self in place of a grave for the carnal nature. Furthermore, this culture of “taking risks” when it comes to stepping out in the supernatural opens the door to spirits that are not from God. Manifestations that are clearly demonic or resemble a seizure are seen as the hand of God. There are no boundaries in the NAR when it comes to chasing after the supernatural.
Enemies of the cross have their minds set on earthly things. Peel away the spiritual veneer of these anointed celebrity apostles and prophets and you will find their minds are set on earthly things. Not the blatant sins we can easily condemn, but subtle sins such as seeking honour among people, pride and boasting in their experiences. The revenue they receive from peddling their books, conferences and courses enble them to live in comfort. Every year they come out with a new teaching, a new method, a new prophecy. Like addicts their followers ultimately pay to receive the latest information that promises victory, intimacy with God, assorted impartations etc, yet they are never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.
Compare the lives of these comfortable and sought after modern apostles and prophets to the real biblical ones; there is no comparison whatsoever because the way of the cross is absent.
When we talk of the cross, we must talk of justification by faith alone. The clear message of the cross is that we cannot save oursleves; however we should take a step back and ask ourselves: “Why the cross” in the first place. John Stott reminds us that “Before we can begin to see the cross as something done for us, we have to see it as something done by us.” This is the part of the gospel that enemies of the cross ignore. They shout “Hosanna” as they perform their exploits on the streets and in packed conferences, but they ignore the Barabbas that dwells in their gullible hearers. A whole new vocabulary has been invented by these peddlers of the gospel, one that excludes biblical words such as sin, repentance, hell and the wrath of God. Sinners are mere victims, basically good people who have “made mistakes” – they deserve better and the false gospel on offer is nothing less than a personal genie in a bottle. They focus on the “positive” – man needs modification they say, when the truth is we need annhilation of self so that Christ may be formed in us. Enemies of the cross offer a substitute cross; one that promises to save, but not to slay. These enemies of the cross appeal to the carnal nature of their hearers; their ear tickling message is all about self: your dreams, your destiny, your legacy, your purpose. The apostle Peter made no such mistake. In his first sermon he accused his hearers by saying “this Jesus … you crucified” Acts 2:23. Perhaps some of them had actually been involved in the crucifixion, other may have chosen Barabbas to be pardoned, but in effect we all put Jesus on the cross. It was our sins that caused the son of God to sacrifice himself in order to redeem us.
Our DNA can be found on the hammer that drove the nails through his hands.
Enemies of the cross are not merely those who think works can save them, or those who partake in the lusts of the flesh or don’t restrain their passions. Those “whose glory is in their shame” are also regarded as enemies of the cross. That is to say, they boast of things of which they ought to be ashamed of.
When artificial smoke and glitter are exchanged for the real glory of God, we are boasting in flesh and robbing God of his glory. Like Jannes and Jambres who opposed the real work of God and were pretenders, we have apostles and prophets in the NAR who teach from their own vain imaginations and glory in lying signs and wonders. They have no shame, because they have rejected the love of the truth and God has given them over to believe a lie. Their followers are raised in a “culture of honour” where they honour their self appointed apostles and prophets and never question their teachings, false prophecies and tall stories. These leaders evade all accountability for their heretical teachings and false prophecies; their followers have been brainwashed into think that being a Berean and testing their teachings is the equivalent of “touching God’s anointed.” They have their minds set on earthly things, believing that this earth is so good that it is worth saving, whereas Christ himself will come and destroy it. (2 Peter 3) These self appointed prophets and apostles in the NAR are intent on “bringing heaven to earth” to such an extent that when Christ returns, he will have very little to do. While on the surface the intentions of those who teach this may seem spiritual and even biblical, their faulty exegesis of scripture leads to a man centered theology, a breeding ground for spiritual pride. Who would not want this god-like status on offer where it is possible to decree and declare things into existence?
It is ironical that the very thing that this new breed in the NAR rely on to bring people to Christ – that is miracles – is what Christ himself condemned. Jesus said: “An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah” Matthew 16:4. Today’s enemies of the cross are trusting in signs and wonders to transform the world, but they neglect THE only sign necessary, which is the death and resurrection of Christ – the cross. Did Jesus have faith that his own signs and wonders would save people or cities? We find the answer in John 2: 23-25: “Now when he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many believed in his name when they saw the signs that he was doing. But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man.” Thousands followed Jesus when he performed signs and wonders, and although they claimed to believe in him, Jesus knew the fickle nature of man. Once again, it is possible that many of those who “believed in his name” due to signs and wonders were among those who shouted “crucify him.”
In the case of those who teach the prosperity gospel and word of faith heresy, you become your own god, creating the world you choose to live in. Health and wealth are guaranteed, and their messages are mere motivational talks that ignore the message of the cross. The cross that offends has been replaced with one that entices the natural man; the stumbling block has been removed and counting the cost of following Christ has been replaced with worldly benefits.
True followers of Christ are not coveting greatness or status in the kingdom of God. They may be momentarily deceived by these false teachers who offer a crown instead of a cross, but at some point the unavoidable will take place – their cup will come. James and John once asked Jesus if they could be at his side when he ruled. Like those in the New Apostolic Reformation, they were looking for honour in a temporal kingdom on earth: “And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came up to him and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” And he said to them, “What do you want me to do for you?” And they said to him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.” Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?” And they said to him, “We are able.” And Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink you will drink, and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized,” Mark 10: 35-39
“The cup” refers to suffering, affliction and persecution, and it is inevitable that true believers will partake of this cup. Beware of a gospel that offers a crown instead of a cross – a gospel that does not teach self denial but instead elevates self is a gospel from Satan. Many have been deceived by these eloquent enemies of the cross; they have a form of godliness, but deny the power thereof. The comfort and power a crown offers will rob you of a resurrected life only the cross will bring. The cross is an instrument of death, and it is only through death to self that the life of Christ is formed in us. Will we follow in our masters footsteps and choose the cross over a crown?