“ON EAGLES”WINGS MINISTRIES”
“See how I bare you on eagles’ wings and brought you unto myself.” Exodus 19:4
Royce Kennedy ◊ 909 Whistling Duck Drive ◊ Largo, MD 20774
“I glory in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ” Part 1. August 2011.
As a matter of being a conversation piece, we sometimes discuss whether Christ was nailed to a cross, like a capital T, or on a pole called a tree by Peter’s statement that he took our sins in his own body on the tree. 1st Peter 2: 24. Does it matter one way or another? Whatever the source of the origin for belief in a cross consisting of an upright tree or log, with a cross beam to form the shape of a cross, the fact of his death remains unchanged. My personal choice is that I like to know the source of what I believe, because, usually, if the source is wrong, the resulting beliefs are also wrong. It does not change the hope of my salvation, but it shines a light on the path that I am treading.
Without delving into various technicalities and burdensome research, let us just say that the cross and the sign of the cross originated back among the Chaldeans and the Egyptians. It began with the letter T representing the god Tammuz, who was an ancient deity worshipped in Babylon as a god of agriculture and flocks. One prophet drew attention to this entity: “He said also unto me, Turn thee yet again, and thou shalt see greater abominations that they do. Then he brought me to the door of the gate of the Lord’s house which was toward the north; and, behold, there sat women weeping for Tammuz.” Ezekiel 8: 13, 14.
Many practices adopted by the Papacy had their origin in ancient Babylon and Egypt, such as what is supposed to be Mary and the baby Jesus, and when we research water baptism, we find that it was practiced in ancient Babylon as a form of induction into the Babylonian Mysteries. The worship of saints and praying to Mary are ancient practices that were slowly brought into the Roman Church, and of course, they trickled down the corridor of time to our present day. To render some form of Christianity, the upright figure like a capital T that represented the worship of Tammuz, had the top cross bar lowered slightly to signify a cross. I just finished what I hope will be my third book, and it is based on the saying of the apostle Paul, “By his grace I am what I am.”
In this study we are going to feature this man’s approach and his mindset concerning the cross of Jesus Christ, with the intent that we may align ourselves with the apostle’s personal convictions. Here is the apostle’s profound declaration that gets very little or no attention today, among the believers of Christ both as members of the laity, and the clergy, borrowing a term that had its beginnings with the Papacy, or the Holy Roman Church:“God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Was this mere sentiment or a collection of plausible words befitting the time, place, and a personal agenda? Here is the meat of the issue! By whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.” Galatians 6: 14. I began doing a little preaching in 1956 and until today, I have never heard a preacher of the gospel or a Sunday School teacher make this declaration out of a personal conviction and commitment.
I have preached this verse as a sermon many times, but it was always about Paul’s conviction and personal surrender to the cross of Christ, yet it was never my own. Thank God for Paul! And it is always brilliant to rehearse what this amazing apostle espoused from his encounter with Christ on the Damascus road. It was about the fact that although he could have been the next ruler in Israel, Paul forsook all and counted it as dung so as to “win Christ.” How many believers are being encouraged to win Christ by all means? Couldn’t Paul find something to boast about? Much like some of the boasters we see around us today?
This man stood out head and shoulders above the rest and here his own account! “And profited in the Jews’ religion above my equals in mine own nation, being more exceedingly zealous of the traditions of my fathers.” Galatians 1: 14. Here is more to be added to the apostle’s resume! “If any other man thinketh that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more: Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; and touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.” Philippians 3: 4-6. Against this background that amounted to celebrity status, Paul could have placed value and precedence upon his accomplishments, his high level of training, on how he excelled above his equals in the Jews’ religion. As mentioned before, he could have been the next ruler in Israel. Consider for a moment the lifestyle and attitude of our frontline ministers today, on the world stage by way of worldwide television outreach! Can you wonder in contrast how Paul would utilize this technology in giving glory to God? One well known and well established minister so much on his cars, his clothes, and his bank account, that I simply had to quit watching his broadcasts.
Suppose you had so much going for you like Paul had, what would you glory in? He gloried in the cross of Christ not because it offered a life of glitter and buoyancy. To the contrary, it represented death on both sides of the equation. By it he became dead unto the world; and by it the world became dead unto him. How many of us are willing to let go of the things that matter most in our lives, and in our future? You see, my Friend, it is no big deal to stand behind a pulpit or in front of a blackboard and expound on the noble sacrifices simple people who rose to change the world made.
We can conduct workshops on the life of Paul, or Peter, or John, and at the end of the session we walk away completely mesmerized by the exploits of the characters we studied; but all of that is history! That was their day, and today is our day! It is our turn to step up to the plate, as they say in baseball. Don’t get me wrong, because I mean to be kind, and I only want to shed more light on where we’ve been, and where we need to be.
So the question is this! “After we have spent half or more of our lifetime talking about people a long time dead, what have we become as a matter of character and embodiment of the people we teach and preach about?” You see, the real impact of grace is never simply talking about it. The reality boils down to us becoming the embodiment of grace.
The grace of God that brings salvation has appeared unto all men. That means Jesus Christ! He brought salvation in such a real form that when he entered a man’s house, he was able to say, “Today is salvation come to this house!” That truth was so real that the good man of the house began to confess his faults, and freely promising to make amends if he had wronged anyone. We have no choice but to read and teach what the apostles wrote, but they are all dead. So what does that mean? It means that we quote their words and use them as ladders as we climb to the top where God waits as in Jacob’s dream. We don’t worship those who are dead, but we use their words and the faith they possessed to replicate their vision and their success, showcased by them being dead unto the world. They left for our benefit, foot prints in the sands of time, and it is time for us to stop talking about them, and become what they taught us. I used to say in sermons that Dorcas made fine coats and other garments but she cannot produce them today. There is no point in gathering for a sewing lesson, and simply read about Dorcas. We need someone to sew like her today, so that the ladies sewing auxiliary can display a wide range of beautiful garments.
We know that Christ has called us to take up our cross daily and follow him. I think it is safe to surmise that the majority of Christians believe that the call of Christ to pick up their cross and follow him, means to follow him to a place called heaven. I am sorry! Not one bit so! The cross never at any time represented an entrance into heaven. Look at the cross from any perspective and it boils down to one thing; “Come follow me and die.”
Paul was absolutely correct in attaching death to the cross because there is no other meaning or interpretation that will make sense. The apostle did not see this as simply a matter of theory or a metaphor that related to other realities. Did he really that by the effects and reality of the cross he was actually dead unto the world, and the world unto him?
Was it simply a catch phrase or a saying that sounded good to the ear but without substance? Not by a long shot, and what amazes me, is the fact that Paul did not have a big time evangelist to stop by his home to teach him these tenets of truths. Neither did he visit the church library or a religious book store on the corner of Elm Street and Broadway, where he picked up the latest edition written by a well known religious author who already made a name for himself by selling a million copies of his/her latest book.
One single event that overtook Saul of Tarsus, changed his life forever, and he simply could not be the same anymore. Here is another of his personal accounts! “But I certify to you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man. For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ.”
Galatians 1: 11, 12. Look at the lives of two men who lived thousands of years apart, who never attended “Hebrew Religious Seminary” in Jerusalem, or Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Oklahoma, or Brigham Young University in Salt Lake City, Utah; but they both came face to face with Divinity, as it were, “At the backside of the desert.”
Moses had to relinquish all fame and learning he acquired in Egypt, so that when God knew he was ready to go back to Egypt and deliver the Israelites, he confessed that he could not speak; even though after 40 years in Egypt, he had become a man mighty in words and in deeds. Acts 7:22.
Paul on the other hand confessed: “But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea, doubtless, and I counted all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I suffered the loss of all things, and do count them as dung, that I may win Christ. And be found in him, not having my own righteousness, which is of the law (salvation by works) 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.” Philippians 3: 7-10. This commitment is as bold and as thorough as it gets. Sometimes in live services I’d say to a full sanctuary, “We sing the song, All to Jesus I surrender, all to him I freely give.” Come on! You know that is not true! How many things do you have right now that you are hoping Jesus will not see, and certainly will not ask you to let them go? Someone said, “He who has given up all for Jesus, can expect all from him in return.” The apostle did not simply teach about losing all for Christ!
He walked the walk to underscore the talk that he talked. He showed the way by example, not by mere theory. Paul’s concept of the cross amounted to much more than an exercise in philosophical conjectures that he learned within the ranks of Jewish religion. The concept was so real and meaningful to him that he announced publicly: “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me: and the life I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” Galatians 2: 20. To expound on the subject for more support, we turn to his letter to the Romans. “Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.”
That is walking in a new life because the old life was spent and ended when Christ died; that is, if we believe that we died with him. As if to drive the point home even further, Paul penned another dynamic letter on the subject saying unashamedly: “For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. Now watch this glorious conclusion! When Christ, who IS OUR LIFE, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory, or in his glory. Colossians 3: 3, 4. Just about here, I want to shout and dance! Rest assured that the apostle was not grasping in vain and beating the air in search of the truth of the cross and what it really means.
It was so real to Paul that he concluded that the old human Paul did not exist anymore. He died, and yet he lives; yet not the man you see before you; in truth, it is Christ who now lives in me. Mt Fried, this kind of powerful confession is not beating the air, or saying something cute to tickle the ear of those who are listening. Even if no one else jumps on the band wagon; if no one else steps up to the front and join Paul, he is ready to stand alone upon that which has been worked not only in his spirit, but also in his flesh. Did you catch that bit about his flesh? Thank you Jesus! He did not say the life I now lived in his spirit, he lived by the faith of the Son of God. I join him in announcing, the life that I now live IN THE FLESH I live by the faith of Jesus Christ.
Listen to Paul’s understanding of the impact of salvation upon our flesh, and bind this truth to your heart and never let it go. “For we which live are always delivered unto death for Jesus’ sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest IN OUR MORTAL FLESH.” 2nd Corinthians 4: 11. For many years I have heard pastors, bishops, evangelists, and exhorters, declare that we should do all we can to save our soul, but forget the body because it isn’t going anywhere. But the scriptures affirm without any controversies, that our bodies will be redeemed as we are changed into a glorious body as that of Christ. (While visiting my website at: www.godfire.net/kennedy/ click on “The earnest of our inheritance” for more on the subject. Ladies and gentlemen hear me good! Dead bodies don’t dictate their future; they do not make their own decisions.
It is in that belief and on the confession that he died with Christ in real time; that upon his contact with the risen Christ that day on a dusty road, that Saul of Tarsus got exposed to divine reality. He quickly knew that he would never be the same again as long as he lived.
He suddenly knew that Saul died, and the man Paul exists only within the context of the cross. It would seem that any entrance into the kingdom of God is marked by the cross of Jesus Christ. This is emphasized in the Master’s teachings. “Except a man deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me, he cannot be my disciple.” So we conclude that any entrance to God through the Lord Jesus Christ is through death. What is the simple truth behind this concept? First of all, whatsoever God touches, must die before it comes to life. Picture yourself out in your vegetable garden with packets of seeds you recently bought at the nursery. There are tomato seeds, cucumbers, and many more, and as you begin the day’s work, you are already envisioning the grand harvest you will have in about six months.
There is, however, one major factor that the farmer or housewife planting her seeds do not consider. The truth is that not a single seed will germinate and grow to yield a grand harvest until it first dies. Without death, it remains alone and over time becomes food for the worms. That is the law of reproduction that was set in place by the wise Creator, and Jesus came along and endorsed that concept. Every increase has to be preceded by death. Without death we abide alone and fruitless. Jesus placed an ominous warning for the fruitless tree; it is cut down and men cast it in the fire. However, even the smallest semblance of growing and bringing forth fruit is augmented to produce even more fruit.
To be realistic, we cannot reckon ourselves to be dead with Christ one day, and the following day we are alive and back to our old mundane ways that God cannot use. Paul’s letter to the Colossian Church suggests that we will (or should) remain dead until Christ who is our life appears in glory and we with him. Let me reiterate the fact that Paul did not view these truths as a mental exercise, or a bunch of philosophical contrivances meant to ease the guilty conscience. These are truths that the apostle exploited for his personal death and growth in God. Theories, no matter how brilliant they seem to be, as long as they remain on paper as blueprints, no one will benefit from them, and are nothing tangible and substantive for God to bless and make to grow in abundance.
We love to preach with assurance and fervor that we have been raised up together with Christ, and are sitting in heavenly places, or in the heavenlies. Is that merely a theory or a transaction and work of the Holy Spirit that we are sure that really occurred? In whatever sense we embrace this we must not forget that the statement that we were raised up together with Christ means to be raised from the dead; and this means we must have died in order to be buried in the first place. So if we embrace, and glory in the thought of sitting with Jesus in heavenly places, we must have gotten a real experience in what the death of the cross really means. “Wherefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered outside the gate. Let us go forth therefore unto him without the camp, bearing his reproach. For here we have no continuing city, but we seek one to come.” Hebrews 13: 12-14. Is there a certain shade of grey that has been cast over the ministries are so visible and active today? Suppose we equate what is being preached today with the gospel that was preached by Jesus Christ and the apostles upon whose foundation the church is built?
Royce O. Kennedy