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The Offense of the Cross

by David A. DePra

     If you tell people that to be a Christian, all they need to do is

follow the teachings of Jesus Christ -- they will think it is wonderful.

Tell them that God loves them unconditionally -- and they will hear

you. Tell them that God desires that all people be saved and come

to the knowledge of the Truth -- and they will likely agree. But tell

them about the Cross -- and the room will go silent.

     Why? Because in order to tell people about the Cross of Christ,

you have to tell them about their sin. You have to tell them that

THEY are dead sinners in need of a Saviour who bore their sin and

died THEIR death. You have to tell them that they have nothing to

offer God. You have to tell them the real meaning of being saved,

apart from their works, solely by God's grace.

     That isn't politically correct, is it? It offends people. It makes

them feel bad about themselves, and "attacks their dignity." It

wounds their respectability and perhaps their self-esteem. It strips

them of their religiousity and leaves them naked before God. And

we sure wouldn't want to do that, would we?

     Nope. In fact, let's not. I'll tell you what, instead of preaching all

of that negative stuff, let's preach a gospel which makes people

feel good -- especially one that makes them feel good about

themselves. So here it is: You are a wonderful person. God not

only accepts you just as you are -- but is happy to keep you just as

you are. God understands all of your sin and immorality, and all of

your unbelief. That's just human. He forgives you just the same,

and as a result, don't worry yourself about changing any of it. After

all, God is love. You just go along and do the best you can do to be

a nice person. Keep the ten commandments the best you can, that

is, unless it costs you something. And that is all that God wants. He

is so loving and understanding that when all is said and done, we

are all going to heaven and spend eternity with Him anyways.

     There are millions of people, many of them professing Christians,

who like this kind of gospel. They go to church every Sunday. They

serve in churches. Many of them are really nice people, too. Would

never do anything really bad. But the minute you begin to talk about

the possibility that THEY are a sinner, something happens. It is

almost like you have insulted them. They act offended and hurt.

Some get mad. Others just push the suggestion away.

     Now, don't get the wrong idea. I'm not talking about pointing a

finger in someone's face and saying to them, "YOU are a rotten

sinner!" No. That would be rude. But there are Christian people

today who -- as incredible as it may seem -- have little or no real

conviction of sin. They simply do not see themselves as THE

sinner God says we all are. And you can't disturb them. If you try,

they cannot bear it. They cannot take it. Some will hate you for it.

     Notice what I'm saying here. I'm not even yet addressing the fact

that the WORLD will hate you if you suggest they are sinners. I'm

talking about Christians hating you. Yes, there are many who

profess to know Christ that will be offended if you suggest they are

in need of the Cross of Jesus Christ.

     There is a great need today for Christians to sober up. To begin

to realize that what we are talking about here is the most serious

thing possible. The fact is, unless we have met Jesus Christ in our

sin -- in our desperate need -- it is a question as to whether we have

really met Him. Jesus is not merely a wonderful teacher. He is

the Lamb of God who came to take away OUR PERSONAL SIN.

And unless we see Him as that, we don't see Him as our Saviour.

We don't.

     There are thousands of Christians right now who believe in the

Biblical DOCTRINE of Jesus Christ as Saviour. But the problem is,

their faith is in the doctrine. They believe the doctrine and trust that

it is true. But have never seen the Jesus Christ is THEIR Saviour.

They have never see it, because they have never seen their sin.

They have only read about it in the Bible. Beyond that, there is no

conviction or sense of need.

     The Cross of Jesus Christ is our deliverance from sin. It is the

ONLY deliverance God offers. Yet it offends so many. It offends

because it strips us of everything about ourselves -- even the good

things -- which we might use to make ourselves acceptable before


     This is the offense of the Cross. That you and I have nothing --

indeed -- that you and I ARE nothing before God. That no good

works and no respectable religious conduct can save us. Only if we

take our sin to the Cross and see our old man DIE there in Christ,

can we be raised with newness of life. God offers us no other

means of salvation.

Blind to Grace

     One of the reasons why the Cross offends people, is that our focus

is out of balance.  We are not taught that seeing Jesus Christ as
our crucified Saviour -- yes, exposes us as sinners -- but also reveals
to us the forgiveness and salvation which comes through that same

Cross.  We often catch a glimpse ONLY of the fact we are sinners -- if

even that.  But then we don't see the way out of our condition in a way

that is redemptive.  There is a hopelessness about that.

     Many Christians feel like they are being left laying in a pool of

blood -- their own -- when they are told they are sinners. If you say

to them, "You are a sinner. You have no hope. Nothing about you

is good. Nothing you do can save you!," you would actually be

telling them the Truth.  But then what? Where do they go from there?

     And this is the point. Many do not know where to go from there. So

they retreat back into their respectability and religiosity. They get


     The great irony is, if the Holy Spirit is showing me that I am a

sinner -- I mean, really showing me that -- I SHOULD feel utterly

hopeless. I SHOULD feel that I am totally and completely lost. If I

have any inkling, at that point, that I can do ANYTHING about

myself, I am not yet convicted like I need to be. I must still be

brought to the place where I see I have NOTHING I need, and have

no way of getting it.

     Now, that IS terrifying. But it is reality. If I come to that place, I am

actually seeing things the way they are. I am seeing myself the way

I really am. I am lost. I am dead. And to see myself as that is

actually necessary, and quite good.  It will lead me to repentance.

     If I think that I can embrace the grace of God through any other

means, I am kidding myself. You don't embrace the grace of God

by reading the Bible. You embrace it by experiencing what the

Bible says: Your own desperation. Your own spiritual poverty.

Then you are ready. You willingly receive what God freely gives.

You are ready to receive HIM. His mercy and forgiveness.

What we see here is that, yes, God shows us our great need.

But He doesn't show us JUST that. He doesn't leave us without a

solution. He also shows us Christ. He shows us the Cross. He

shows us His grace.

     God, in His mercy, wants to shock us with a vision of our own

need. He wants to so totally convince us that we have NOTHING

to offer Him that it will change us forever. But that is the whole point.

When God convicts us of sin, He always shows us Christ. He

always shows us the Cross. Yes, He will show us that we have NO

way out of sin except through death and resurrection. But He wants

to show us that this is wonderful news. It is THE way out that He

offers. And it is a complete deliverance from sin itself.

     Thus, we have a parallel conviction. That of our sin. But that of

the Cross that puts us to death. And consequently, we see that the

way out of sin is through Jesus Christ.

     But note that there is, in this process, a possibility of offense.

Some of us, when we see our great need, and the Cross which

would put us to death, take offense. We won't face it. It is too terrible

for us. And so we never push through to the freedom which God

has for us on the other side of the Cross.

Focusing Upon Christ

     There is something about human beings that makes us think we

must feel good about ourselves. If we do, then we are happy. If we

don't, then we aren't happy.

     Notice that the focus here is on ME -- on self. What I think about

ME is the engine which drives happiness. And we think that it is

normal for things to be this way.

     It is normal for someone born in Adam. But it is not the way God

originally created human beings to be. You see, there is a third

option besides being happy with myself, or unhappy with myself.

Do you know what that option is? It is to LEAVE MYSELF ALONE,

and to rejoice in the Lord.

     Sounds pretty impossible, doesn't it? In fact, it may even sound

so idealistic that it deserves ridicule. Yet that is exactly where God

wants to bring us. None of us will get there fully in this lifetime. But

we can start the journey anytime we want to.

     This ties into the issue of the Cross. When the Cross is preached

to us, and God begins to convict us, we are naturally going to feel

bad about ourselves. We ought to feel bad about ourselves, too.

We ARE bad. But you see, at this point, our choices are not simply

to live IN some kind of downtrodden condition. Neither is it to push

away the Truth about our sin, gain our composure, and feel happy

with ourselves once again. What God wants is for us to get our

focus off of ourselves onto the true source of all happiness: HIM.

     The brutal fact is: Focusing on myself is itself a sin. It is the

result of self-reliance and unbelief. It is part of what is wrong with us

in Adam. It is WHY we are unhappy.

     True faith in Jesus Christ will result in a growing focus away from

myself as the source of esteem, security, and especially

righteousness. I will more and more cling to Christ and rely upon

Him. And it won't be some psychological game I'm playing. I'll do

this because I will KNOW it is the Truth.

     Often we hesitate coming to the Cross because it initially makes

us feel the burden and weight -- and ugliness -- of our own sin. This

is -- again -- the offense of the Cross. And our sin is so terribly

heavy. But if we will just BELIEVE -- we will push all of that weight

and burden onto Jesus Christ. HE bore our sin. We need not bear

it. And if we will believe, we will experience that burden being lifted

from us.

Sin and Separation

     We take offense in the Cross in basically two ways. Both are of

the SAME source: Unbelief. The first way is when we do not

believe that Jesus took away all of our sin. Thus, we continue to

try to take it away. Out of this manifestation of unbelief comes

legalism, and those of us who live under condemnation and fear.

     Those who walk in this kind of unbelief never get free from the

notion that their sin is standing between them and God. Because

they "feel" like sin is still there, to them, it must be there. They tend

to believe their feelings and mind rather than what God says.

     Of course, the Bible says that our sin has separated us from God.

Quite true. But Jesus took away ALL the sin of the world, didn't He?

Yes. ALL sin. All of your sin and all of my sin. And if that is really

true, then guess what? There is NO sin left between you and God.


     Now, either Jesus took away all sin or He took away no sin.

There is no in-between here. It is either true that, "It is finished," or it

is not. And the fact is, Jesus was the Lamb of God who did take

away all sin. He bore sin in His body. Indeed, He bore all the sin

He is ever going to bear. Every sin. All sin from the foundation of

the world, projected forward into eternity. YOUR sin.

     This tells us something. It tells us that if there is sin between you

and God that YOU put it there. Yep. Is God going to put the sin

Jesus took away back where it was? Not hardly. So if there is sin

between you and God, then it got there by YOUR choice, not God's.

     Here is where we misunderstand. Many people who are reading

this will immediately think that what I'm saying is that we put sin

between us and God by sinning. They will think that I mean that

Jesus took away sin, and that we put it back between us and God

by breaking God's law. But that is exactly what I DON'T mean.

     Do we actually think that God took away sin through Jesus Christ,

but was naive to the possibility that we were still going to sin? Not

hardly. In fact, God says through John, "If we say we have no sin,

we deceive ourselves, and the Truth is not in us." (I John 1:8)

     God is way ahead of us. He says, "My little children, these things

write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an

advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous." (I Jn. 2:1)

     Here we find the key. We discover how we can put sin between

us and God. Not by sinning. So how? By refusing to believe that

God has taken all sin away. By refusing to believe that God has

forgiven all sin!  This is UNBELIEF.

     But wait. How does THAT put sin between us and God? Does it

cause God to pull back His forgiveness of us? Does it cause Him

to put back our sin? No. In fact, it doesn't cause God to change a

thing about the fact that He has forgiven us and taken all of our sin

out of the way in Christ. It IS finished. And it remains so.

     Not believing that God has forgiven sin puts sin between us and

God because our unbelief IS sin. It is as a NEW sin. Formerly, we

committed many acts of sin. We had attitudes of sin. And we had

the sin nature. All of these made it impossible for us to fellowship

with God. Or to even come to Him. They were between us and God.

But God, through Christ, removed these by the Cross. Unbelief,

however, refuses to embrace this Truth. And that refusal IS sin, a

kind of NEW sin which transcends all of my other sins.

     Do you see this? Unbelief doesn't undo God's forgiveness. It is

the refusal of His forgiveness. And that makes it a NEW sin that

falls outside of God's forgiveness in Christ.

     Now, most of us don't realize we are doing this at the time. We

put sin between us and God because we still think God is basing

His forgiveness upon US, and what we do. But He is not. He is

basing it solely on Christ. Forgiveness is one hundred percent by

His grace.

     But when I will not embrace the grace of God -- and believe that

there is nothing between myself and God -- I am sinning. I am

putting a new sin between myself and God -- unbelief.

     The amazing part about this is that, yes, the sin of unbelief is

between myself and God because I have put it there. But it likewise

only remains between myself and God because I allow it to remain.

God is evermore faithful to us because of Christ. I need only repent

of my unbelief, and embrace Christ.

     The sin, therefore, is that I WON'T. I continue to take my sin and

my conduct and place it between myself and God. And thus, I

remain guilty of unbelief. I won't approach God despite the fact that

in Christ, there is nothing which can separate me from Him.

     As incredible as it may seem, those who continue to put their sin

between themselves and God do so because they are self-

righteous. Really? Yes. That may seem odd to say, for those who

do put their sin between themselves and God sure don't feel very

righteous. In fact, they feel continually UNrighteous. But you see,

they are not embracing the grace of God. They are not embracing

HIS righteousness, based on HIS finished work. Rather, they are

still insisting that their sin is greater than the Redemption. God

could not take it away. To them, it is still there.

     Those who do this usually then embark on a continual campaign

to try to take away the very sin they themselves have put between

themselves and God. We, through unbelief, put the sin there. Then

we, through unbelief, try to take it away. We try to remove it through

works, suffering, and all kinds of religion. But it won't be taken away

through those means. And so we often end up blaming God. This

is self-righteousness. From beginning to end, all of this routine

is authored by, and depends upon, ME. It is completely apart from

the only true righteousness: That which is in Christ.

     What could be worse than trying to take away sin that is already

taken away? What could be worse than trying to put to death a

corpse? What could be worse than trying to defeat a defeated

enemy? Not much. Such are the deceptions of the enemy of our

souls. He desires to create a unending circle for which there is no

resolution whatsoever -- a false reality and mirage.

     If I am still waiting for God to take away my sin, I am wasting my

time. If I am still praying that God would remove the sin which is

between me and Himself, I am wasting my time. ALL sin HAS been

taken away. It IS finished. Therefore, we can stop asking God to do

what IS done. And we can start BELIEVING. Faith is the key.

Crucified With Christ

     While the offense of the Cross motivates some people to try to

do for themselves what only Christ has done, some of us are

motivated in another way: We won't admit we need the Cross in

the first place.

     Now, you are never going to meet a Christian who will tell you

they don't need the Cross. No. We have our religious vocabulary

quite in order. We know how to say the right words, and how to

recite the doctrines of the redemption, and the teachings of the

Bible. But it is quite possible to do all of that, all the while standing

aloof from the real Cross.

     You see, it is one thing to say that Christ was crucified for me.

But it is another to see that I must also be crucified with Christ. It

is much different.

     Somewhere along the line, Christians have gotten the idea that

because Jesus died, we don't have to die. In the ultimate sense,

that is true. But we need to rethink this. The Bible never says that

we escape the death of the old man because Christ died. No.

Rather, we are told that because Christ died we are able -- and

MUST -- die in Him. Our old man must be crucified with Him.

For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we

shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection. Knowing this, that

our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be

destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. For he that is

dead is freed from sin. Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe

that we shall also live with him. (Rom. 6:5-8)

     Does this sound like we escape death? No. We are being told

that we must be crucified -- our old man must -- in Christ. We are

told that this is the only way in which we can be raised in Him to

newness of life.

Glory in the Cross

     There are many of us who think that Christianity is nothing more

than a lifestyle. It is, for instance, "following the teachings of Jesus

Christ." Somehow we forget that included in the teachings of Christ

are impossible commands -- impossible without the Cross. At the

top of the list is Jesus' command that we pick up our cross and

follow Him. At the top is also Jesus' command that we repent of sin

and believe the good news.

     A Christian is NOT someone who merely "follows the teachings

of Jesus Christ" as a lifestyle -- something which we have already

seen is impossible to begin with. No. A Christian is someone who

is IN CHRIST. That means we must both die in Him and be raised

in Him. This means MORE than religion or lifestyle. It means a

new birth.

     The only way we can experience this is through repentance of

sin. It is by seeing that I am a helpless sinner who is in desperate

need of God's grace. This is, of course, where the offense of the

Cross comes in. It is not easy to see oneself like this. It cuts to the

heart and core of religious pride. It leaves you naked before God.

     We actually think this is bad. But it is good. It is what freedom is

all about. But some of us won't face it. We are still trying to maintain

a certain level of righteousness and merit before God.

     If you have never repented of sin, you are not a Christian. It does

not matter how nice of a life you have lived, or how much serving

you have performed. A "Christian" who has never repented is like

a vegetarian who eats meat. It is a contradiction. By definition, a

Christian is a person who has repented of sin. That's how they

became a Christian.

     "But I accepted Jesus Christ as Saviour!" You did not, unless

you accepted Him through repentance. Why? Because to accept

Jesus AS Saviour means you see you need a Saviour. And that

means you see you are a sinner before God. Again, repentance.

     To sidestep the Cross, and try to receive Jesus without

repentance, denies our fundamental accountability before God. It

suggests that the real problem between God and man was God.

It creates a salvation which is more of a convenience, rather than

a deliverance from sin. It suggests that we don't really need Jesus

Christ, but that we had better embrace Him, lest we lose some of

the perks of being a son of God.

     Does God have to drag you and I to the Cross? Is sin still

something God is trying to talk us out of? Or have we finally seen

that we need deliverance? Repentance of sin is NOT the outcome

of a nice religious argument. Or of a threat of punishment. It is the

outcome of seeing I am a sinner who needs deliverance.

     Repentance means to have a change of mind. It means that

you changed your mind towards sin and towards God. To say that

you don't need to repent suggests that you can have the same mind

towards sin and towards God as before -- but still embrace Christ.

     By definition, this is nonsense. You cannot have the same mind

and a changed mind both at once. You must repent of sin -- change

your mind about it -- and take it to the Cross.

     This offends people. They don't want things so simple. They

want to salvage some level of dignity out of themselves. Fine.

But this is nothing more than trying to save your life. Jesus said you

will therefore lose it. The only way to truly save your life is by losing

it in Jesus Christ. All of it.

     The big surprise is that once we lose our life in Christ, we find

a brand new life, equipped with a brand new perspective. Gone are

all the bondages of trying to protect our dignity and self-esteem.

Instead we have HIS righteousness and are focused upon Him.

     There is freedom in this because there no longer do we have

anything we need to protect. There is nothing between us and God.

And it will reflect in all that we do, and all that we are.

     The offense of the Cross, is, afterall, only an offense to the old

nature. To the new man in Christ, the Cross is the means to life.

As Paul says, "God forbid that I should glory, save in the Cross of

Jesus Christ." (Gal. 6:14) Rather than be offended in the Cross,

Paul gloried in it.  Quite a change. Think maybe Paul knew what

he was talking about?

     In the final analysis, we are either going to face the offense of the

Cross or we are not going to face it. We are either going to let it

bring us down to the dust where we belong, or we are going to get

offended at the possibility. If only we would see that being brought

down is the first step to resurrection. It is the way to Life.

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