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After wrestling with the emotions that invaded my life after my Dad’s death on Good Friday, and dealing with the extreme shortness of time for all of us to fulfill our missions on the Earth, and also considering the reality of eternity, I’m finding myself freshly challenged.
(By the way, check out a new site under development in honor of my Dad at www.johnburton.net/bobburton.)
I was scheduled to minister on Good Friday at my friend’s church in Sarnia, Ontario, Canada on this topic that’s stirred me more since my own Dad went home that very day. The topic? The church and the cross.
That seems to be a likely subject matter to minister on the day set aside to remember the death of our Lord Jesus. However, the message is different than what you might expect. It’s a message of concern for the church. A message that calls for deep personal analysis. It’s a message that clearly reveals the necessity for radical reformation in the church.
Matthew 21:8-11 (ESV) 8 Most of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9 And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” 10 And when he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up, saying, “Who is this?” 11 And the crowds said, “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee.”
The masses, upwards of 1/2 million people, were crying out for a better life. They were desperate for salvation. They cried out to their only hope, SAVE US!
So far, so good! We have the same cry resounding now in our nation and around the world. Desperate people are seeking relief, peace, abundant life.
We know that Jesus offers all of that and much more! I’m a huge believer in the grace of God, in extreme joy, in freedom. It’s a significant mark of my ministry. My mission statement is, “Making it easy for people to thoroughly enjoy God.”
It’s very good to seek the blessing of God. We are commanded to be blessed—to be a blessing! Life in Jesus should be phenomenal!
Jesus heard the prayers, the requests, the cries of the people on what has become to be known as Palm Sunday. He was very much intent on “saving them.” He was in agreement with their need to cry “Hosanna.”
In the modern church it has become quite acceptable to appeal to the Palm Sunday masses with promises of excellent programs, wonderful teaching and an edifying and comfortable environment of worship. For many, Palm Sunday is the goal. People crave an exciting atmosphere full of committed and desperate people.
The problem? Jesus knew that 1/2 million worshipers in a Sunday worship ‘service’ was not the goal. There was no way their desire for freedom and salvation could be realized without another radical element. The cross.
On Good Friday the 1/2 million group diminished to only 2. It couldn’t even be considered a cell group.
The call to the cross was not what the masses wanted. Their demands were unmet. They rebelled against Jesus because they weren’t willing to embrace the cross.
If people are “Palm Sunday Christians” we have a very serious problem. Without the cross, we cannot be Christians at all. There are many who have been appeased and affirmed in their participation with other worshipers… all while they may not be saved at all! Without the cross, the masses on Palm Sunday were absolutely hopeless. The same is true today.
I’m wrecked. How often do people choose their church based on how good the children’s program is, or how friendly the pastor is or what the church can do for them and their family? How often do churches actually maximize this “Palm Sunday” scenario by offering everything the people are looking for?
It’s time the cross returns to the church, and the church returns to the cross. It’s time to raise the bar. It’s time to leave our demands behind and take up our cross and die—daily.
The revival and refreshing and abundant life that our cities and nation needs can’t come through big ideas, amazing programs or by meeting the needs of the people—as great as all of this sounds.
Revival comes through a death and resurrection. It’s through a baptism. It will arrive through zealous people who leave their desires behind and serve with passion. It will come through gutsy leaders who are willing to leave the large crowd behind and lead the few to the stinging, painful, demanding cross of Christ.
You see, it’s that cross that will turn us from death to life, from fear to faith, from apathy to revival that will rock this planet.
Time is short. We’re all almost done here on the Earth. We have to see reformation come if we hope to see abundant life flood our churches.
Let’s leave our Palm Sunday dreams behind, dismiss our plans for the huge crowds and lead whoever is willing to the cross.
Leaders, that means much will be at risk. Our salaries, our positions, our freedom of time. We may have to get a second job. We may make a lot of enemies. People will talk. People will leave. But, if we do it, many, many, many will be saved.
Others, this means that much will be required. You may not get to choose the ‘perfect church’. Your children may not have the best programs. It may be a challenge to respond to the extreme call. Your time may be treaded upon as the call to ministry increases. But, believe me, it will be worth it.
We must set a precedent for the next generation. We have to embrace God’s desire to bring reformation and restoration to his beloved church.
What do you think?