Outside The Camp


    Two types of messages seem to have gained popularity in the church today.  The first, many would call inward.  It's one that emphasizes all that Christ can do for those who come to and receive Him.  Better lives, better families, better marriages.  A message that bears a lot of resemblance to the old Coca-Cola slogan, "Things go better with Jesus."  The second message would be considered an outward one.  Get outside of yourself, see others, win others, take Jesus to where the people are, and help them come to see their need for Him, and guide them to receiving Him.  There is truth in both of the messages. Everything is better if Christ is truly your Savior, but it's a better that He reserves the right to define, and carry out. And yes, we are to be a living witness for Christ, living for Him in the midst of a people who desperately need Him.  Yet, I think that both of the messages are missing something, and that something amounts to everything.  The cross.
    I don't think either of the messages purposely ignores the cross, but both seem to easily overlook it.  I know because I've been a proclaimer of both, Many is the time, intended or not, that I made Jesus Christ seem to be a "cure-all" for everything that we don't like about life.  "Come find out just what His 'wonderful plan' for your life is."  I heard someone once say that His "wonderful plan" for us is His holiness, and that, friends, can only be found at His cross. I've also proclaimed, and often to the weariness of my listeners, the outward message.  Be a witness, get outside of yourself where you work and live. Walking more miles than I can count passing out church literature, putting up booths at community gatherings.  The problem was, and remains, that the return, and we do expect a return, was so often disappointing.  Christ in our hearts and lives is not a guarantee against suffering, loss, pain and disappointment.  Activity, no matter how noble or well meaning doesn't obligate Him to move in response, and so, fill our, my church.  The flaw in both messages is an emphasis on self, and not Christ.  Self-gratification in the first, and self-dependence in the latter.  It's easier for us to both proclaim and hear these messages because neither, at root, really offend the flesh.  The cross, on the other hand, always will.  The cross can only be come to "outside the camp."
    I think most of us will say that we do indeed proclaim the cross, but do we really?  How much of the message we proclaim really calls those who listen to His cross?  I heard it said that when Jesus calls us, "He bids us to come and die."  On His cross.  How much of our message really contains that?  How many of our listeners really want to hear that?  If they do, how many do we think will come back to hear it again?  Many are willing to work.  Many more are willing to receive.  Very few are willing to die........to everything but Him.  The writer of Hebrews says in 13:13, "So let us go out to Him, outside the camp, and bear the disgrace He bore."  Christ was crucified outside the camp, because such a death was unacceptable to all those inside.  It still is, and those who will truly bear His message and life have to be willing to be found outside the camp with Him, even if it means bearing His disgrace, as it surely will.  Christ does bring both an inward and outward message, but before either, He brings us an upward one, and that one can only be heard and received outside the camp, at the cross.  It means a life lived outside the camp.  A disgrace to the flesh, but a glory to our spirit, and to His.  He calls us to join Him there, and oh the life we will enter into.  Will we join Him?  Not just for what we get, or for who we might win, but for Him.  Only and all for Him.  

Pastor O
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   May 2019   
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