PASTOR’S PERSPECTIVE: “THE CROSS OF CHRIST STILL TOWERS OVER THE WRECKS OF TIME!”
By: Ron Woodrum
The year was 1970, the tail end of the wild ’60’s in American history. Dr. E. Stanley Jones, the famous Methodist missionary/author/evangelist was asked to name the number one problem of the Church. He replied quickly, without hesitation-“the number one problem of the Church today is irrelevance!” He went on to say that most of the opposition to the Church today stems from disappointment. We promise to make men different-but somehow leave them indifferent! The promise goes largely unfulfilled. Dr. Jones went on to tell the story of a millionaire who said, “If Brother Stanley cannot convert me, I will sue him!” half in jest, and half seriously. Dr. Jones explained, “What the world is saying is that if the Church cannot deliver on the message it preaches, we will sue you for breach of promise. You promised this, now deliver. Show us you can convert us, there is no other hope any other direction”. A fairly recent Gallup poll reports that 77% of those surveyed feel that the Church is losing its influence in America. George Barna puts it very bluntly: “Let’s cut to the chase. After two decades of studying the Church in America, I am convinced that the typical Church as we know it has a rapidly expiring shelf-life!” In 1998 he predicted that the Church would experience a massive revival or major ruin! Nearly twenty years later you be the judge! Have we seen a massive revival? Or a melt-down of ruin? Have we seen penetration or metrification? Explosion or Implosion? The Church in America has lost its influence. As the world has grown darker we have neglected to fan the flame, and reflect the Light of our Glorious Lord into that darkness. G. Campbell Morgan remarked, “The Church did the most for the world when it was least like the world”.
Ephesians is the N.T. parallel of the O.T. book of Joshua. In Joshua, as he began to lead the People of God, into the darkness of the Idolatry of the Land of Canaan, God told him, “Every place your foot shall tread on that land have I given you, as I told Moses” (Joshua 1:3). Joshua and the people of God, in the Old Testament were commanded to walk in the land and every step would be a conquering step by the power of God, dispelling the darkness of the Land with the Glorious presence of the LORD. Today as Paul tells Christians to Walk in Life, in Liberty, in Light, and in Love that is more than verbiage and imagery. It is the power of God, sending us out into the kingdom of darkness. Each step replaces death with life; each step replaces defeat with liberty; each step replaces darkness with light; each step replaces despair with love! In Philippians Paul told the Philippians to rejoice because all of his seemingly adverse circumstances had “fallen out unto the furtherance of the Gospel!” (Phil. 1:12). The word “furtherance” is the word-prokope-which means “advance forward”.
Instead of retreating in our influence, God wants us to have a walk that will take us forward into the world. One that is anointed with His power. One that will conquer with each step! We can see this happen as a slow but saturating sunrise, or a slow but systematic shining. David told his son Solomon that God can penetrate darkness in the way he does it every twenty four hours! In Proverbs 4:18 David said, “The steps of the righteous are like the rising sunlight, which shines a little, and a little more, until the day dawns, and the full day arises and shines in its fullness!” Or we can do what Jesus said, “Let your light so shine among men that they will see your good works, and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matt. 5:16). Or what Paul wrote in Philippians 2:15-16 “be harmless and blameless Children of God…shining as lights in a crooked and perverse world, holding forth the Word of Life”.
At one of the darkest times in his life, one filled with anxiety, depression, and drugs, Hank Williams captured this truth in his familiar Gospel Song-” I wandered so aimless, life filled with sin; I wouldn’t let my dear Savior in; Then Jesus came like a stranger in the night; Praise the Lord-I saw the Light!” That same light, emanating from our Glorious Savior, reflecting off the faces of His dear children, who make up His Church, still has the power to light up the darkness! Don’t ever doubt that. C.S. Lewis said, “I believe in Christianity like I believe in the Sun. Not just because I see it, but by it I see clearly everything else!” God’s light has a way of doing that still today.
When Robert Louis Stevenson was a young child he was sick a lot. He couldn’t go out and play with the other children much. He spent a lot of time watching at the window. One evening he sat there while the sun was going down, and darkness was setting on the town. He watched as a man, the lamplighter came down the street lighting the gas lamps. His nurse came upon him and asked what he was watching. He said, “I am watching the man punch holes in the darkness!” It must have seemed like that. Each newly lit lamp dispelled the area darkness until soon the entire town was aglow with the warm light of the lamps. Our nation, our state, our city, our neighborhoods could use a little “punching of holes in the darkness”. We can do it one step at a time, while we wait for the sunrise! Amen?
On the south coast of China, on a hill overlooking the harbor of Macao, Portuguese settlers once built a massive cathedral. But a typhoon proved stronger than the work of man’s hands, and some centuries ago the building fell in ruins, except for the front wall. High upon that jutting wall, challenging the elements down through the years, is a great bronze cross. In 1825 Sir John Bowring was shipwrecked near there. Clinging to the wreckage of his ship, at long last he caught sight of that great cross; it showed him the path of deliverance, safety, and salvation. After his dramatic rescue he was moved to write those familiar words, that later became his hymn that has blessed millions:
“In the cross of Christ I glory,
Towering over the wrecks of time;
All the light of the sacred story,
Gathers round its head sublime”.
That is why the Apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians-“I am determined not know anything among you, save Jesus Christ, and Him Crucified” (I Cor. 2:2). Helmut Thielicke wrote about the secret of the greatest preacher the world has ever seen-Charles Haddon Spurgeon. He wrote, “In the midst of the theologically discredited nineteenth century there was s preacher who had at least six thousand people in his congregation every Sunday, whose sermons for many years were cabled to New York every Monday and reprinted in the leading newspapers of the country, and who occupied the same pulpit for almost forty years with any diminishment in the flowing abundance of his preaching and without ever repeating himself or preaching himself dry. The fire he thus kindled, and turned into a beacon that shone across the seas and down through the generations, was no mere brush fire of sensationalism, but an inexhaustible blaze that glowed and burned on solid hearths…fed by the eternal Word. Here was the miracle of a bush that burned with fire and yet was not consumed”. When asked the key to his powerful preaching Spurgeon said, “I announce my text…and make a bee-line for the cross!” THAT CROSS TOWERS OVER THE WRECKS OF TIME-AND BRINGS RESCUE AND RESTORATION OUT OF THOSE WRECKS! LIFT IT UP HIGH…THE WAY OF THE CROSS LEADS HOME!