Written in collaboration with Michael Sullivan
“The Cross splits the world. Either you look at it and think – that’s pathetic or you look at it and you think – that’s powerful. If you think it’s pathetic, Paul says you are perishing. But if you think it’s the ‘Power of God’, you are being saved. But it’s one or the other” ~ Billy Graham
“Our faith must begin and end at the Cross. The trouble is that many Christians have bypassed the Cross and are trying to be moral by their willpower and self-effort rather than trusting in the indwelling power of Christ to transform them (Galatians 3:3) But if we attempt to build our spiritual life by any other foundation than Christ crucified, we are doing so by our natural strength.” (Newman, Peter, “The Meaning of the Cross”, 11)
“Are you so foolish? After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh?” Galatians 3:3 (NIV)
“’We preach Christ crucified.’ This is the focal point of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It is a picture of blood flowing from Christ’s veins as He hung on the cross. The message of shed blood is repugnant to many, and they turn from such a gory sight, feeling that their delicate sensibilities have been outraged. Many people will accept Christ’s character, but they reject His crucifixion.” (Decision Magazine; April 2007)
“For the message of the cross is foolishness [absurd and illogical] to those who are perishing and spiritually dead [because they reject it], but to us who are being saved [by God’s grace] it is [the manifestation of] the power of God.” 1 Corinthians 1:18 AMP
Note: This article is reprinted in it’s entirety with the express permission of the author, Reverend Nolan Harkness. For more information about Reverend Harkness Ministry please go to: www.verticalsound.org .
A Crossless Christianity Is the Real Issue
By Rev. Nolan J Harkness
I was sitting on the beautiful St. Lawrence River in a small rowboat fishing just as the sun was setting over Canada. A vibrant mix of reds and oranges with scattered patches of various shades of sky blue created a breathtakingly magnificent sky scape to my North. Majestic mountains of great white and grey thunderhead cloud formations towered to the south over Goose Bay. Just as I felt I was going to be raptured out of there in a Heavenly experience, the sun broke through the fresh rain mix, creating a full seven colored rainbow, reaching out what seemed like miles from end to end. As I was in the middle of praising God for the beauty of his handiwork, His still small voice interrupted in a clear and somber tone and said to my heart: “Nolan, unless the cross of Jesus Christ becomes the most beautiful thing you have ever seen, you will never complete all that I have called you to do!” My head and heart dropped in immediate repentance saying, “Yes, Lord by your grace may it one day be!”
Hanging on the wall of my home are several crosses, from different acquisitions at separate times in my life. My favorite is one I just call “The Old Wooden Cross”. Soon after I rededicated my life to the Lord in my early twenties the Holy Spirit began to clean up my life. I had in my season away from God been a bartender and a bouncer in a nightclub near Williamsport, Pa. From there I moved to Jacksonville Florida in 1979. One night at Diamond Head Night Club in Jacksonville, I met the sister of a member from a internationally known rock band. We dated for about six months. It was during the highs and lows of that relationship that I finally came to the end of myself. It was while I was struggling with suicidal thoughts that I gave my life fully to Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. In addition, I was also very powerfully filled with God’s Holy Spirit.
A few days ago, I was sitting on our little patio enjoying the fresh air and morning sunshine while working on part two of False Preachers, Teacher’s and Prophets. I began on a writing frenzy about how we, as mere lay people, can’t always know the truth of the Word of God if we don’t know how to read, study, and understand it to begin with.
I headed inside for a coffee refill; I felt led to my bookcases in search of a reference book or two to help me with this article. I sort through a stack of “TableTalk” Magazines[i] – on the top of the stack is the February 2018 “Doing Theology”. I opened and read the short article just inside the front cover entitled, “Doers, Not Hearers Only” by Burk Parsons. My first thought… Thank You Holy Spirit for confirming yet another article.
Throughout many of my articles, and in some stories in my Book, I make the statement “I am not a Theologian”. After reading this short article, I must now stop doing that. What first leapt off the page I read was, “…everyone is a theologian — the question is whether or not we are good theologians. The fundamental problem in our day is that many professing Christian don’t think they need to study theology, while many others don’t seem to care about theology or are simply too lazy to study it. Christians, however must care about theology. How could we not, when it tells us about the One that saves our souls?”[ii]
This is in continuation of the previous couple articles about false teachers, preachers and prophets. I think in my own mind I am trying still to answer the question of why it is so easy for false teachers and preachers to take hold and deceive the Church with their lies. Why doesn’t the Church recognize it?
I did some research and here was some enlightening information.
In a 2017 Gallup survey, 75% of Americans claim to be Christian, yet only 24% of them believe the Bible is the literal Word of God. “Fewer than one in four Americans (24%) now believe the Bible is “the actual word of God, and is to be taken literally, word for word,” similar to the 26% who view it as “a book of fables, legends, history and moral precepts recorded by man.”
Why are so many denying the Word of God? Why are so many denying the TRUTHS of the Bible – the creation, the fall of man, the flood of Noah, the Ten Commandants, God’s covenant with Abraham, the exodus from Egypt, Israel enters the promised land, Saul, David, Solomon builds the temple, Jesus is born and baptized, Jesus begins his three year ministry, the sermon on the mount, the transfiguration, His triumphal entry into Jerusalem, the last supper, Jesus’ betrayal, trial, and crucifixion, Jesus’ ascension, Holy Spirit comes at Pentecost, Saul’s conversion, John’s revelation of Jesus’ return for His church… and that just names a few of the hundreds of Biblical TRUTHS.
This is part two – in continuation of last week article “The TRUTH of False Teacher, Preachers and Prophets”
We all want to think that the preacher we sit under is an anointed man of God and he is there to teach and speak the TRUTHS of the Word of God. But sometimes things happen and that person (man or woman) stumbles or falls. Somehow they begin following the wrong path. Perhaps it is greed, the allure of notoriety, the attention, or the perceived worship of an entire congregation of folks wanting to hear what they alone have to say… perhaps it is arrogance or pride… whatever it is; sometimes our leaders fall. Sometimes they take on the mantle of being the singular authority in all things Biblical. Their interpretation and understanding becomes TRUTH; and while it is acceptable and palatable to those listening, it may not be the TRUTH of the Bible.
Accurate and sound doctrine is fundamental to our salvation and increase in spiritual development. God warns us many times in the Scriptures to be alert and watchful of false teaching. As Christians, we need to be able to identify counterfeit teachers in order to know when we are being led down a wrong path. As an individual, we should be already in tune with the urgings, or promptings of Holy Spirit. Call it intuition if you want, but you know when something just isn’t right. You recognize the small voice inside telling you to be warned. When that feeling deep in you starts to stir, what then?
2 Peter 2:1 “But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction.”
Matthew 7:15-20 “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.”
Our first responsibility as followers of Jesus Christ is to the TRUTH. We are called to speak it, teach it, write about it, and if annointed, preach it… but most of all we are to live it. And we aren’t to do this for a season or when it’s easy and comfortable – we’re called to do it until. Until when… until the Word of God is spoken to the four corners of the globe… until every ear has heard the TRUTH of Salvation through Jesus Christ.
Early in February 2018, the Holy Spirit woke me in the very early hours of the morning and impressed these words onto my heart… “Speak the TRUTH to the whole world”. I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to do next. So with an open mind and heart and with pen in hand, I prayed. I prayed for guidance about “TRUTH”. This is something which has been on my heart for quite some time. My desire to write an ongoing series of articles was born from a story I wrote in my book – “Refined by the Fire” – called “TRUTH”. The book was published in September 2017; it has taken me until February 2018 to begin the “TRUTH” series. And while I’ve hit some snags… I am discovering the articles which had the most impact were ones that flowed easily from my pen. The difficult articles took days and days to write, while struggling over words and defining the direction of the article, they did not flow as easily as I wanted, they were a clumsy and awkward read. It didn’t take long to realize that I had to take me out of the decision making process of what to write. I have taken the direction and subject of the articles out of my hands and now pray for guidance and let the Holy Spirit lead.
Speaking the TRUTH isn’t always popular, but… are we called to be popular… or are we called to speak the TRUTH? The TRUTH of the gift of eternal life and salvation offered only through Jesus Christ… to speak the TRUTH of good news of the Kingdom to a dark and dying world?
I was watching television the other day and a 15 second commercial for a weekly show came on. It was for a show called “Lucifer”. Well it was quite the Holy Spirit moment, as Mike had been telling me about the talk at work in relation to this show and how the guys at works told him (Mike) should watch it… ‘it’s not what you think it is’… ‘it’s a really good show’… ‘lucifer is the devil, but he really wants to be a good guy’… etc.
In this 15-second blurb, lucifer speaks out and says ‘you need to know the truth’. Yes, you’re right… You DO need to know the truth. And with those words, here we are. I have seen so much lately of good being called evil and evil being called good. I feel compelled to speak the truth. I am going to try to keep on point… however please keep in mind that this is a huge subject. There is much Truth to be told. You will find an article I wrote six months or so ago on this subject entitled The Truth of the Enemy on this blog at https://titus345.com/2017/10/04/the-truth-of-the-enemy/
“Jesus said: “I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you” John 16:7
Who is Holy Spirit and where did He come from?
There are many mistaken beliefs about who or what Holy Spirit is, or isn’t. Some view the Holy Spirit as a supernatural force. Others see the Holy Spirit as an impersonal, distant authority that God makes available to followers of Jesus Christ.
“What does the Bible say about of the Holy Spirit? Simply put, the Bible declares that the Holy Spirit is God. The Bible also tells us that the Holy Spirit is a divine person, a being with a mind, emotions, and a will.”
How can Holy Spirit be God? The Bible tells us that Holy Spirit is fully God. Along with God the Father and God the Son (Jesus Christ), God the Spirit (Holy Spirit) is the third member of the Godhead or the Trinity. (more about the topic of the Trinity in another post) We read this in the very first lines of the Bible – Genesis 1:1-2 “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.”
“For the Lord Himself will come down from heaven with a shout of command, with the voice of the archangel and with the [blast of the] trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain [on the earth] will simultaneously be caught up (RAPTURED) together with them [the resurrected ones] in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord!” 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 AMP
In theological terms, the word RAPTURE is defined as: “the experience, anticipated by some fundamentalist Christians, of meeting Christ midway in the air upon his return to earth.”
While the exact word “RAPTURE” does not occur in the Bible. The term comes from a Latin word meaning “a carrying off, a transport, or a snatching away, or caught up. The concept of the “caught up” or the rapture of the church is clearly taught in Scripture.
1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 tells us that at God’s command, with the voice of an Archangel and the trumpet call of God, believers that have already died (the dead in Christ) will rise from their graves. Then the believers still alive on the earth will be “caught up” in the air with the dead in Christ to meet Jesus in the air. Together we will be taken to be with the Lord.
“As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed.”Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, Who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid Him. But go, tell His disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you to Galilee; you will see Him there, just as He told you.’”Mark 16:5-7
“He is not here; He has risen! Remember how He told you, while He was still with you in Galilee: ‘The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’” Luke 24:6-7
“He is not here; He has risen, just as He said. Come and see the place where He lay.” Matt. 28:6
“He was buried, and He was raised from the dead on the third day, just as the Scriptures said.” 1 Cor. 15:4
The crucifixion, death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ stand as the distinct crucial events in all human history that underpins and validates the claims Jesus Christ made about Himself – that He is the Son of God sent to take the sins of the human race upon Himself, so that all that believe on Him will have eternal life. These events are the foundation for the hope of the human soul.