Cross-Less ‘Christians’

“The only man who has the right to say he is justified
by Grace alone, is the man who has left all to follow Christ”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

It would be an unusual person who has never asked in some way or other the question ‘Why am I here?’ The answer to that question is however central to the shaping of the Christian life and Jesus answered it for us in two places in particular.

Firstly, he said that his followers are to “Seek first the Kingdom of God” (Matthew 6:33). By which he meant that those that claim to be his disciples (followers) are to focus their lives, and therefore resources, on works that build God’s Kingdom, the very thing that Christians pray for frequently in the Lord’s prayer.

It is therefore an essential characteristic of the Christian life that out of all the things we can use our life for, important though many of them are, we are primarily to be ‘Kingdom Central’ people, people who are called by God out of the ‘World’ to seek to build God’s Kingdom by establishing His rule in human hearts (evangelism) and in society (justice). The degree to which a person does this is one mark of the difference between the ‘church member’ and the ‘Kingdom member’ i.e.someone who is a true disciple of Jesus.

A real disciple is someone who is being transformed by the Holy Spirit (Romans 12:2) into the image of God (Colossians 3:10). That means that they will increasingly reflect God’s heart – i.e. a heart for the lost, a heart from which love flows in the generous and sacrificial use of resources to build God’s Kingdom through the agency God created for this purpose i.e. our local Christian Fellowship.

This leads to the second thing that Jesus said in regard to being a disciple and that is to “deny ourselves and take up our Cross” (Mark 8:34-36). To his hearers to “take up their cross” meant to be prepared to suffer for him. A disciple’s ‘reason for being’ is to build God’s kingdom which automatically means to challenge the Kingdom of Satan. For this reason a true disciple will inevitably experience in some way or other the “sufferings of Christ” (1 Peter 4:13). However, the tragedy is that many who claim to be ‘Christians’ want Christ without the Cross, i.e. are Cross-Less ‘Christians’, which is actually an oxymoron (i.e. not possible). Jesus made it clear that those who are not prepared to ‘take up their Cross “cannot be his disciple” (Luke 14:27), for they are not prepared to be Bonhoeffer’s man “who has left all to follow Christ”. Inevitably in the person who does “deny them self” i.e. give up, let go of, their life preferences and focus on what God wants their life to be used for, there will be seen dramatic change in the use of their God-given resources

Jesus answered the ‘Why am I here?’ question by saying that, for a true disciple (Christian), it is to take up our own cross (i.e. be prepared to suffer) for him, and to “deny ourselves” (i.e. let go of our own preferences). To emphasize the seriousness of his point he added that anyone not prepared to do this, in effect be a Cross-less ‘Christian’, cannot be a disciple of his. Further, one could posit that one of the main reasons for the western church’s decline and lack of missional power is the number of Cross-Less ‘Christians’ who line the ‘pews’. For such the idea of ‘leaving all to follow Christ’ seems like an unreal quaint idea.

2 thoughts on “Cross-Less ‘Christians’

  1. You repeat the importance of changing hearts and using resources in building God’s kingdom. In Mt. 6:33 Jesus’ focus on the kingdom first is a contrast to all the nations who seek such things as what they wear or eat (that is, seek better clothes and food) (the context before 6:33). And the resources mentioned in the Lord’s prayer earlier in Mt. 6 are simply daily bread.

    So I think God does not need much of our resources, but taking up the cross includes giving up the desire (seeking) for such resources and being content to help the most needy among us to have daily bread. Jesus initiated the kingdom of God as the new king, and he had few resources; for his new kingdom (of disciples) was about what God was doing through his teaching and simple acts of compassion. His teaching challenged the greed and self-glorification of those who trumpeted the use of their resources (Mt. 6:1f.); this was part of what led to his cross. In Mt. 19 Jesus challenged the rich man to sell his resources, give to the poor, and follow him (rather than to follow him and then use some of his resources to build the kingdom).

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    1. Thank you for reading my post.

      When I wrote

      “By which he meant that those that claim to be his disciples (followers) are to focus their lives, and therefore resources, on works that build God’s Kingdom, the very thing that Christians pray for frequently in the Lord’s prayer.”

      I was referring to the coming of the Kingdom not “daily bread”.

      Yes it is true that God doesn’t need our resources, or us at all. However, he has called us “to be (that is to exist) for the praise of his glory” (Ephesians 1:14). So while we are not to seek resources for ourselves (indeed deny ourselves) we are to use the resources God has given us and that actually belong to him anyway, including our time for works that establish his Kingdom (rule) by working for a more just society, and his rule in human hearts by proclaiming the gospel. This means sacrificial living.

      My point was and is that many people claiming to be Christians spend their God-given resources on anything but seeking God’s kingdom, rather they spend them on themselves which I think is the point of the “Fool” parable (Luke 12:13-21). And surely the parables of the of the Talents (Matt:25:14), the parable of the “Ten Minas” (Luke 19:11) strongly teach that God demands that we use our God given resources for the purpose of the King and His Kingdom. It is a sign that He is our King that all we have is used for Him.

      In the story of Jesus challenge to the rich man “to sell his resources, give to the poor, and follow him” the primary issue was because his idolatry of his wealth was preventing him entering the Kingdom. Jesus did NOT ask another wealthy man Zacchaeus (Luke 19.1) to give away all his wealth or anything else for that matter. Rather Zacchaeus was convicted of his wrong doing and the need to make reparation, or the act justly.

      God uses wealthy people to build his kingdom eg William Colgate, George Cadbury etc by the use of the resources He has given them. My point is when Christians wealthy or not will not do this the mission of the gospel through churches and mission agencies is diminished. when they do it is a mark that they really have had the spiritual “heart transplant” of Ezekiel 36:26,27.

      Blessings it was good to hear from you.

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