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The Peril of Cross-less Christianity

Mark  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  26:42
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The topic of my message this morning is The Peril of Cross-less Christianity. We have two Scripture lessons this morning. The first is from Mark 8:31-9:1:
Mark 8:31–9:1 ESV
And he began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again. And he said this plainly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But turning and seeing his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.” And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? For what can a man give in return for his soul? For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.” And he said to them, “Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God after it has come with power.”
Our second passage is from 1 Corinthians 1:18-25:
1 Corinthians 1:18–25 ESV
For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.” Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.
The message of the cross has never been popular. For Jews, such as Peter, it was a scandalous message. How could the Messiah, suffer such a shameful death? This is why Peter took Jesus aside and rebuked Him for suggesting such a thing. To Gentiles, the idea of following a king who was crucified was foolishness. In their eyes, Jesus was a failure and no one in their right mind follows a failure. Most people then and now want “The Best Life Now,” a life characterized by “health, wealth and success.”
The result of this nearly universal negative response to the message of the cross is that the majority of people either totally reject Christianity or they will practice a form of “Cross-less Christianity.”
When I say, “Cross-less Christianity,” I am not saying the cross is totally absent. Most people who call themselves Christians worship in churches with a cross somewhere on or in the building, they adorn themselves and their homes with crosses, they will even profess that Jesus died on a cross. It is not that the cross is absent, but that it does not matter. The message of the cross is not central to their Christianity. The sermons they hear, the books they read and the songs they sing, have little or nothing to do with the cross.
This is the type of Christianity that dominates the liberal, main-line denominations and it is increasingly the type of Christianity that is found in churches that call themselves Evangelical.
If you are tempted to go down that path, consider these three points taught in our passage from Mark’s gospel:
Cross-less Christianity is Satanic
Cross-less Christianity is Delusional
Cross-less Christianity is Powerless

Cross-less Christianity is Satanic

In our text we find Peter taking Jesus aside and rebuking Him for suggesting that He must suffer, Jesus’ response is shocking:
Mark 8:33 ESV
But turning and seeing his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”
Jesus was not saying that Peter himself was Satan, but rather, He was saying that Peter was being motivated by Satan. There could be no warning more strong than this one as to the perils of cross-less Christianity.
There is great diversity among Christians and it is a great tragedy that there is such hostility over minor issues, but some issues are not minor and this is one of them!
It is no accident that Satan wants to suppress the message of the cross; it was at the cross that Jesus destroyed Satan and undid his evil plan.
Having failed in his initial effort to overthrow God, Satan and his army of fallen angles have resorted to a “scorched earth” tactic. His aim is to destroy this planet and human beings who are made in God’s image. It is not a tactic motivated by any reasonable hope of victory, but rather by pure hate and malice. This is why Jesus calls Satan, “a murder from the beginning.”
Satan does not care if people practice a form of religion that teaches morality as long as that teaching distorts or opposes the cross. In all four gospels, the leading opponents of Jesus and His message were the Pharisees. The Pharisees were the most religious and moral people of their day. They were the type of people who make good neighbors and good citizens. Although we use the title “Pharisee” in a negative way today, such as, “He is such a Pharisee!” I dare say, if you met a Pharisee you would like them and think they were a very good person, but looks can be deceiving. Jesus called them “white washed tombs,” they looked good on the outside, but inside they were full of decay and death!
Decay and death is exactly what cross-less Christianity is full of, because Satan himself inspires it!
This brings us to the second point:

Cross-less Christianity is Delusional

The second shocking thing that Jesus said in response to Peter was this:
Mark 8:34–36 ESV
And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?
Cross-less Christianity is most commonly seen in America in those churches and in the message of their preachers who promise you the best life, right here and right now. Anyone who reads the Bible carefully recognizes that the promise of the “best life now,” is blatantly false. The general pattern both the Old and New Testaments teach us to expect is suffering now and glory later. It is not as though the Bible teaches we will not enjoy many blessings in this life. By God’s common grace and love, life is filled with many good things that we should enjoy with thanksgiving. However, the best is yet to come and in this life, we will suffer.
This pattern was clearly seen in the life of Jesus. If you go back in time and met Jesus, you would meet the happiest most positive person you had ever met, however, you would also met the most hated and vilified person you had ever met. Isaiah prophesied that Jesus would be a “man of sorrows,” and He was!
We see this pattern in Mark’s gospel and in our text today Jesus clearly says we must “take up our cross and follow Him,” but in following Him we will find life. We will find glory! Paul wrote to the Romans:
Romans 8:16–17 ESV
The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.
So you see, a Cross-less Christianity is delusional; but not only is it delusional:

Cross-less Christianity is Powerless

Jesus goes on to say:
Mark 8:38–9:1 ESV
For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.” And he said to them, “Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God after it has come with power.”
There is indeed the promise of the best life possible. In fact, the promise is of glory; a glory that transcends our wildest imaginations. Paul goes on to write in Romans chapter eight:
Romans 8:18 ESV
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.
Don’t you want the best possible life? Don’t you want glory?
Of course you do. We all do.
There is only one way to get it—faith in Jesus who died on a cross to atone for the sins of others.
Although chapters 8 and 9 serve as the pinnacle and hinge to Mark’s gospel, the key verse is found in chapter ten:
Mark 10:45 ESV
For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Jesus did come as a conquering Messiah, but He came not to conquer the Romans, but Satan, and the only way He could conquer Satan is by going to the cross.
When we take the message of the cross out of Christianity, we empty it of its power. This is why in our second Scripture lesson this morning were read these words:
1 Corinthians 1:18 ESV
For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
I want to close my message today by challenging you with this question, “What type of Christianity are you practicing?”
Is it a Christianity that glories in the cross or is it a Christianity that ignores it or even denies it?
This is a personal question. I think it is plain what type of church this is; this is a cross believing, cross preaching church, but you can attend this church and practice a cross-less Christianity.
Be warned if you are practicing a cross-less Christianity, you are practicing a Christianity that is powerless, delusional and worst of all Satanic!
Let us pray.
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