LIGHT OF THE WORLD MISSIONS
P.O. Box 37451
Honolulu, Hawaii 96837
Ph. No. (808) 845-4162
May 10, 2011
THE CROSS OF JESUS
The apostle Paul had seen God do many miracles and he himself had cast out devils, healed the sick and raised the dead. He traveled the then-known world for several decades and experienced the wonderful protection God had given him. In 2 Corinthians 11:25, he spoke of suffering shipwreck three times and floating in the sea for a night and a day. He related how he journeyed often in perils of waters, of robbers, by the heathen and perils in the city, in the wilderness, in the sea and among false brethren. V. 26. He willingly braved the danger of the elements and of evil men. He knew first-hand the mercy of God and the power of the Holy Spirit.
Paul sacrificed and suffered much. He spoke of being whipped five times with 39 stripes, being beaten with rods, stoned and left for dead once, being often weary and in pain, having to be watchful of danger often, and of being hungry and thirsty, having to fast often and endure nakedness. 2 Co. 11:25, 27.
He was persecuted by his own people, criticized, abandoned by his followers and denied by the church. This is what he said:
Giving no offence in any thing, that the ministry be not blamed: but in all things approving ourselves as the ministers of God, in much patience, in afflictions, in necessities, in distresses, in stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labours, in watchings, in fastings; by pureness, by knowledge, by longsuffering, by kindness, by the Holy Ghost, by love unfeigned, by the word of truth, by the power of God, by the armour of righteousness the right hand and on the left, by honour and dishonour, by evil report and good report: as deceivers, and yet true; as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and, behold, we live; as chastened, and not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things. 2 Co. 6:3-10.
Paul was widely criticized by many in the church and rejected as an apostle by more than a few. Yet, he persevered in all things. At the same time, he spoke of a race to perfection that all Christians are in. 1 Co. 9:24-27. Although he probably had the greatest understanding of the Word and of God, he was always striving for something which he described as a crown of righteousness that had been laid up for him. 2 Ti. 4:7-8.
Paul spoke at length of his personal longing for Christ. He was a top student of Gamaliel, the greatest teacher of his time, and was headed for great accolades and wealth as chief priest one day. In modern terminology, he had it made. But the apostle Paul gladly gave it all up for Christ.
Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless. But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord; for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, and be found in Him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: that I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being made conformable unto His death; if by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead. Phil. 3:6-11.
The apostle had a goal and vision that was burning in His heart and for which he never gave up. In the end, he made it. 2 Ti. 4:7, 8. At the same time, he also learned how fickle the hearts of men could be, even Christians. Despite the thousands of followers he had, and the multitudes he had saved, healed, delivered and taught, everyone abandoned Paul in his hour of need, except Luke, the physician. "For Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world, ... only Luke is with me." 2 Ti. 4:10, 11. Demas had been with Paul through many journeys, but abandoned Paul in the end. Col. 4:14; Phile. 1:24. Like King David, who had only five faithful and loyal men remain with him at the end of his life, Paul had only one loyal friend beside him. "At my first answer no man stood with me, but all men forsook me; I pray God that it may not be laid to their charge." 2 Ti. 4:16. He forgave them. He had a crown of righteousness waiting for him. The fickleness and heartlessness of men was of no importance to him.
There are many things that prevent Christians from seeking their own crown of righteousness. Each one has his fears, excuses and reasons for abandoning the quest that Paul so clearly described. Few will attain it, much less know what God has in store for them. 1 Co. 2:9. In these last days, it will be no different from the days of Paul. The race has but a few participants.
What was it that kept Paul on course? that allowed him to endure so much hardship, persecution by his own people and ultimate rejection? I believe that it was the cross of Jesus that was ever before Him as he walked the lonely path up the same hill that our Savior walked and was crucified upon. Paul's quest was to join Jesus on the cross on Calvary. He had his own cross to carry and his own spiritual hill to walk. Mt. 10:38; Mt. 16:24; Mk. 8:34; Mk. 10:21; Lk. 9:23; Lk. 14:27.
Few Christians there are today that are willing to carry their own cross and walk up that hill to join Jesus. No, it is not a literal hill; it is a spiritual one but real nevertheless. Paul alluded to that cross time and again. In Galatians 6:14, he states: "But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world." All that Paul accomplished, he attributed to the cross of Jesus Christ. It was ever before him and he was crucified with Christ. Gal. 2:22.
Whenever Paul thought of the cross of Jesus, he was able to endure. The whippings, beatings, stonings, shipwrecks, floating on the sea for a day and night, being tossed into prison, persecutions, slanders, rejection and abandonment became as nothing every time he saw the cross before him. The Savior had endured much more for him.
To Paul, the cross of Jesus was the only gospel of salvation. He never preached any other salvation message. "And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling." 1 Co. 2:1-3. The apostle preached in fear and much trembling. He feared lest he might inadvertently preach a different gospel other than the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. "For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God." 1 Co. 1:18. To the apostle Paul, there is no other gospel of salvation but Jesus, and Him crucified. 1 Co. 1:23.
Blessed are those who have seen the cross of Jesus. When I was ten years of age, I attended a Good Friday night service with my parents in an Episcopalian church. I recall seeing the large golden cross on the altar with a black veil on it. I saw Jesus on the cross and I began to cry. I could not stop sobbing and was so embarrassed by it. I promised God that one day I would become a pastor. I completely forgot about that episode until years later when I was about 52 years of age. My pastor and an elder claimed that God told them that I was to be ordained as a minister. I refused. I was an attorney making much money, raising registered Quarter Horses and having a promising future as a businessman. Later, Dr. Kevin Dyson told me that he knew that I was supposed to be ordained and be the pastor of the church when my first pastor left for the mainland. Again, I refused. The third time, Dr. Frank Hultgren informed me that God wanted me to be ordained. When I began to refuse once more, he stated that God had told him that I was disobedient and that I was breaking my promise to Him that I made when I was ten years old. Suddenly the memory of that Good Friday service flashed in my mind. I had never remembered it until that day. I forgot, but God did not. That's how I became an ordained minister of God.
About a year after I became born again, I was standing in church with my hands raised to heaven, singing in tongues. The weeks previous to that, I was asking God if it was true that when Jesus went to the cross he had my name on his mind. Suddenly, I found myself in vision. I was crawling up a hill of dirt and something was in front of me. I didn't know what it was. Something hit my left hand. It was blood. I looked up and saw Jesus on the cross. Much blood was flowing down His face and down His arms and side. There was blood on His feet where the nails had been cruelly hammered in. As I looked at His face, His eyes opened and He looked at me and said, "Son, when I went to the cross, I knew you by your name."
In the weeks that followed, I began to doubt the vision. "It's only my imagination," I told myself. Almost exactly three months later, I came early to church and was standing on the second story landing when I saw a taxi cab drive into the parking lot. A man in a suit stepped out. He had on an English type hat. He walked up the stairs and I greeted him and took him to my pastor. I heard my pastor ask if he would share about Northern Ireland, where he had come from. When the Englishman went up front to share, he said, "Before I share the Word, I want to tell you about a vision I had three months ago." He related the exact same vision in almost the same words I used above. Jesus told him, "Son, when I went to the cross, I knew you by your name."
Imagine that. The God of all creation had sent a man 4,500 miles away to a little church hidden in an office building in an industrial area, with only twenty-five members, to confirm a vision that He had given me three months before. What a wonderful God! I'll praise Him forever. How can I not serve Him with all my heart? He died for me. Yes, He died for the world, but He suffered and died specifically for my sins. He knew me 2,000 years ago when He went to the cross. You too.
The Englishman's name was Keith Gerner, an evangelist who subsequently came to Hawaii a few more times to minister on the island of Maui. That was twenty-six years ago and the cross of Jesus is still before me. No, I'm not a Paul or even worthy of being mentioned in the same sentence. I am far from attaining what God placed before me, but I will keep trying. The only reason I have related my experiences with the cross of Jesus is to encourage you. We can endure all manner of hardship, persecution, rejection, danger, fears, difficulties and struggles when we see the cross of Jesus before us. When we think of all that the Lord did for us on the cross and the sufferings He took for us we can only glory in the cross and move forward. Nothing we do can compare.
Let us all press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. That is what God has placed before you - a crown of righteousness at the end of the race. Let us keep the cross of Jesus ever before us and bear our own cross willingly and with courage to meet Him at the top of the hill. It is the cross of Jesus that we glory in and the inspiration and strength it gives to us that love Him.