The Message of
“the offense of the cross” Gal. 5:1
“As many as desire to make a fair shew in the flesh, they constrain you to be circumcised; only lest they should suffer persecution for the cross of Christ” Gal. 6:11
“For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature.” Gal. 6:15
People have invested their natural life force in what they think is the word of God. Because of this, it is virtually impossible to reach them with the message of the cross.
Success or no success, I know of no point short of final glory in which the message of the cross must not remain foundational to our guidance or that we become free from the ever-deepening experience of its reality in us.
In the 20 or so years that I have been saved, I’ve come to have dealings with the word of God on a wide range of levels. As a “fundamentalist,” I came to know the word in terms of the Scriptures with all its issues, plus the preaching and exposition of it from many pulpits. Later, as a “Spirit-filled charismatic,” I came to also know the word in terms of present-tense prophetic revelation through the body, and (more importantly) as an intimate personal vision of reality tailored to every facet of my humanity.
In other words, I came to know God’s Word in terms of His specific purpose for my own life through dreams and visions.
As I grew in spirit through this maze of levels, however, I came to discern that, while there were many things that did change about the operation of God’s Word from level to level, there has been one thing that never changes from level to level. Because of its constancy, I consider it to be the fundamental reality concerning God’s word to man—and I wish to write about it here today in my letter to you.
Behind every word of God of every sort and level is a fundamental Word that never changes and must become part of our experience if the “secondary word” is to have any validity in our lives. This fundamental word is the word that was manifested by the life of Christ, exposited by the apostle Paul, and, for lack of better description, I will call it the “Message of the Cross.” Today, I want to talk to you about that message.
“I have not written unto you because you know not the truth, but because you know it.” I Jn. 1:21
“Wherefore I will not be negligent to put you always in remembrance of these things though you know them and are established in the present truth.” II Pt. 1:12
“To write the same things to you, to me indeed is not grievous, but for you it is safe.” Phil. 3:1
There were some things that the apostles felt they just could not say too many times. As one with an apostolic call on his life, I feel the same way. My experience in the word of God always brings me back to a core reality that I feel I simply just cannot overstate. I feel compelled to share and re-share this message as it deepens in me over my own encounters with the word. The more I encounter it, the more persuaded I am of it, the more compelled I feel to communicate it if by any means I might help somebody else keep on course in God.
Today, you see, the word of God abounds as never before—through dream, through revelation, through vision, through prophecy. But even more amazing to me is the outstanding missing foundational element from most of this word. Because of this missing “message of the cross,” the present word of God is proving to actually be more of a curse and a stumblingblock to an unbelieving people than it is a blessing. The word of God in North America today is actually doing more to seal mankind in unbelief than it is doing to work faith.
Now I realize you have heard me write about the cross before. You’ve heard me discuss different types of the Word of God before. So perhaps you are tempted not to read this letter. But I hope you will not say “I’ve already heard this:” first—because you feel you can always use one more affirmation about what you know to be true; second—because each time I expound this, it’s because I have something even deeper to bring out that you’ve never considered before and that will cause one more hidden question you had to fall into place.
Let today’s letter be no exception.
Message of the Cross: White Grain versus Whole Grain Bread
The word of God is likened to “bread” in Scripture. Now then. There are different kinds of bread, and there are different kinds of bread. What I mean is this. Breads can be differentiated by grain. You have rye, oat, wheat, pumpernickel, etc.
But there is another type of differentiation. Bread can be differentiated by processing affecting nutritional value. First you have whole-grain bread, full of nutrients. But then you have white bread made from bleached flour. This bread is made of flour that has been stripped of virtually all nutritional value.
The point is this: The first thing we have to understand about the message of the cross is that you do not compare this message with other messages (like the “faith” message or some doctrine) as if it were simply a bread of a different grain. No. Not at all. Rather, the message of the cross is the “word behind every word of God” that gives every secondary word its nutritional value.
This means that, no matter what topic God’s Word is dealing with on the surface, if you have the word of the cross in operation behind it, then your word has nutritive value. But if the message of the cross is not the underlying dynamic behind a word, then that word is the equivalent of “white bread” made from bleached spiritual flour. It has no lasting spiritually nutritive value—whether a scripture, or a doctrine, or a revelation, or a prophecy.
The great problem today in Christianity is not that people aren’t hearing from God. The problem is that most of what people are hearing is not founded in the message of the cross. And those who have received that message at one time or other have since departed from it as their foundation, considering it to be merely one among many equal words from God.
Consequently, our land is “full of bread,” but it is bread that cannot sustain the spiritual life of a laboratory rat, never mind a human.
How the Message Works: A Candy-Coated Pill
“Take it, and eat it up; and it shall make thy belly bitter, but it shall be in thy mouth sweet as honey.” Rev. 10:9
If you have followed my writings at all over the years, then you know that I have taught that the foundational purpose of God’s Word is to change us into Christ’s image. God’s word does this by “killing” our natural life and replacing it with Christ’s life which it carries within itself. This is in essence what the Message of the Cross is all about. It is a message of painful exchanging of life for Life, and blood for Blood.
But what we have to understand is how the word of God comes to us. The difference between the purpose of God’s Word and the way it comes to us is as great as the difference between medicine in a pill and the coating on the pill that enables us to enjoy swallowing it.
Haven’t you ever taken one of those pills for a cold that was coated with a sweet coating? I remember when I was a kid. My dad would give me this blue pill that tasted sweet. One time, I sucked on it before swallowing it because I wanted to see what it really tasted like underneath.
After a bit, I got to the real pill—and it was bitter! Quickly I downed it to get that taste out of my mouth! Never again would I do that. In any case, it was clear that, were it not for the sugar coating, there’s no way in the world anybody would take that pill.
If you understand this illustration, then you can understand how the message of the cross works underneath the coating of the word of God. You see, the true medicine behind every word of God is the message of the cross. It is a bitter message and accomplishes its life transforming work through a process of suffering within the soul.
But on the surface, that’s not how the Word of God comes to us. Not at all. In its approach to us, the Word of God comes to us on the level of our natural life—it appeals to us on the basis of what our natural life can appreciate and desire, like a sweet coating.
For example, consider God’s promises to us, both in scripture, and through prophecy, and through personal vision and revelation. He promises to give us the desires of our heart. He promises us great ministries and opportunities of service for Him. And when these promises come to us, they come and we receive them on the level our natural life can appreciate them. They stimulate a certain natural response from us in the form of natural expectation and desire for certain things to come to pass. We say, “Wow! Yes! I want this Lord!”
It all sounds so glorious to our natural ears. Eagerly therefore and most gladly therefore do we embrace the words.
But what happens? After we swallow the word that David calls “sweeter than honey in the honeycomb,” we suddenly find ourselves feeling sick in our stomach with bitterness as life itself turns against us for the sake of the words we have embraced.
What is happening? The medicine has been released into our soul. The bitter message of the cross has begun its deadly work of crucifixion. In fact then, what we do not realize is that the word of the cross actually comes in to destroy the natural life force by which we so gladly swallowed the sweet word of promise that coated it. Before the promise can come to pass, the life by which we first gladly received it must be bled out by the word behind the word.
That is how the message of the cross works. Its operation doesn’t come to us at face value. We would never swallow such a word. It comes coated in the myriad of lesser truths, doctrines and promises that are first able to appeal to and arouse some response from the natural life force within us that it is destined to destroy and replace with Eternal Life.
Despite its bitterness however with its suffering and alienations, it is the message of the cross behind the words of God that gives every word its true medicinal and nutritive value as applied to our souls.
(As an aside, we could note how different ministries alter the chemistry of this pill according to their own bent. Some, as we have seen, remove the inner bitter medicinal value altogether, substituting nothing but a pure candy pill. Others oppositely remove the candy coating from the real pill, preaching a “message of the cross” only in its raw bitter form, one that nobody could swallow, and that not even they would have swallowed had it first been presented to them that way. But we won’t get off on this here.)
written at Merrimack, New Hampshire
First Love Ministry
- a ministry of Anglemar Fellowship
Page created June 26, 2015