Extreme Righteousness

No Other Message

Paul said it. Many have tried to follow his example. “I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.”

Usually, I’ve heard that applied by someone saying that was all they were going to preach. Or, a salvation message would be worked into every sermon they preached. I think that’s a narrow view of what Paul meant. In fact, that’s somewhat what this blog is about.


I went to Africa with Jimmy Hodges Ministries (now called Reaching Souls International). We preached a clear evangelistic message in market places and villages for two weeks. Nearly 30,000 responded to the Gospel message.

Is that what Paul meant by knowing nothing else, but Jesus Christ and Him crucified? Paul’s own description of his ministry among the Corinthians suggests a broader application. And his other letters do also. Jesus said it best: “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me.”

The daily cross is not a salvation message per se. (I am convinced, however, that if Christians would take up their cross daily and live the “crucified life,” lost people would be less confused about both how to become a Christian and how to live as one. But, that’s a whole ‘nother post.) The daily cross is about denying self. It’s about dying to self. It’s a difficult message to teach for several reasons.

  • Most people don’t really want to hear it. We’re selfish. That’s why we need the message. That’s why we don’t want it.
  • We’re scared. It means change. And most of us don’t like change, at least not when it means changing us. We’ll rearrange the furniture. We’ll change jobs. We’ll change lots of things in our lives. Just don’t ask us to change anything at a more fundamental “me” level.
  • We’re scared because of what it represents, too. Death. Suffering. Loss. Not too pleasant a picture. And you want me to live that way? Daily?
  • We don’t understand it. How does it apply in our day to day living? How do you die to self?

I put that question to one of my mentors. Dr. Jack Gray was a missions professor at Southwestern Baptist Seminary in Ft. Worth. He was saved in his youth and entered the ministry at the age of 17. He was one of the godliest men I ever knew. He just had a heart for God. He loved God. He was 75 years old when I asked him if he could give me a better way to describe the crucified life when someone asked. He thought a moment and replied, “I’m not sure I can come up with a succinct answer, because I do not have a completed experience.”

Books have been written about it. Among the best in my opinion:

  • The Christians Secret to a Happy Life by Hannah Whitall Smith
  • The Centrality of the Cross, The Climax of the Risen Life, Life Out of Death, and The Cross – the Touchstone of Faith – all by Jessie Penn-Lewis
  • You’ll find it in many of Andrew Murray’s works – Abide in Christ, Like Christ, and The Blood of the Cross
  • Key to Triumphant Living by Jack Taylor
  • The Normal Christian Life by Watchman Nee
  • Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis (I’ve had this book a long time, started reading it a couple of times over the years. Just finished reading it all the way through – I highly recommend it.)

For that matter, a strong case could be made that this very subject is what the Bible is all about. The Old Covenant points us to the law as a standard that is beyond our capability to live. The New Covenant points us to God’s provision. He took on humanity to bring righteousness into the pool of human experience. He died and then rose again to become executor of His own will. And He puts that will in our hearts and gives us His own support, help, companionship and ability to live it.

There really is no other message. If you want to teach people how to be good, it takes Jesus and the message of the cross. If you want people to live holy lives, it takes Jesus and the message of the cross.

It’s really not so scary if you open yourself to it. As Lewis put it: “The more we get what we now call ‘ourselves’ out of the way and let Him take us over, the more truly ourselves we become. There is so much of Him that millions and millions of ‘little Christs,’ all different, will still be too few to express Him fully…. It is when I turn to Christ, when I give myself up to His Personality, that I first begin to have a real personality of my own.”

What does “death to self” or “denying yourself” mean to you? Is it easy? Is it hard? Is it in someways both? What books would you add to the list above?

Extreme Deity

Is It Reasonable to Believe in God?

I’m not sure where it’s coming from. It’s nothing new for a young person to reject their upbringing when he/she goes off to college. However, in the past, by my observation, young people would adopt a worldly lifestyle. Yet, they still considered themselves “Christian.” They would drop out of church. They might go at Christmas and Easter. It was rare that they would totally reject the existence of God.


Now it seems that is not enough. Now, many young people not only reject the existence of God, they become aggressively vocal about it. Maybe it’s college and university professors who teach from an atheistic viewpoint. Maybe it’s the preponderance of atheist blogs and websites. Maybe it’s just the cultural environment.

At any rate, when I’ve referenced spiritual truth in conversation with several different atheists, they have generally asked something like: “Whose truth? Every religion claims to have the truth. So, what makes yours right?”

Although they generally prefer a “scientific” answer, with no reference to religion, they have just asked a religious question. Since you asked about spiritual truth and faith, I’m assuming that I can involve “religion” in the answer.

God is. Think about that (not what anyone has said about Him, positive or negative):

  • Think about Him
  • Think about the implications of one entity being God – creator of the universe, creator and life-giver to mankind.
  • Assuming such a Being exists, consider His character – primarily that He is perfect and holy. Yeah, I know we could ask, “what’s holy?” But, c’mon. Most people have a pretty good idea what that means whether they accept it as a description of God or not.
  • If God is, then there is no one and no thing greater than Him.
  • Such a God is worthy of our attention, dare I say even our devotion.

Just for a few minutes, honestly and sincerely and seriously consider what the implications would be if it is true that this Being truly exists.

Now, if you’ve taken a few minutes to consider Him, what is the absolute best thing He could do for you or give you. Would it not have to be Himself?

Hebrews 11 says, without faith it is impossible to please God, for he that comes to God must faith that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him. He is. He exists. And He exists as God. And He is willing to be known. Seek Him, and your search will be rewarded.

The Old Covenant was a covenant of law. The real point was here’s a standard. You cannot possibly live up to it in your own strength. Some of the OT characters came to God on the basis of faith, but many never did. The point of the New Covenant is that God by His grace made a way for mankind to experience righteousness and abide in His presence. It’s by grace through faith, not by law or works.

In my studies of comparative religions, here’s what I’ve found.

  • I’ve not found any besides Christianity and Judaism, and perhaps Islam, that worships God – God only – God as God.
  • The god, even the highest form of deity, of all others is something that God created – usually the sun, the moon, a river, or some mythical explanation of the seasons, etc.
  • Some may have an “unknown god” as the Athenians did – some god who is above all others. Even though they acknowledge this great spirit, their religion still revolves around worship of the creation.
  • In the case of atheism, it’s generally either man (humanism) or mother earth (environmentalism).
  • Of all religions, only Christianity offers a relationship with God based entirely on faith in the finished work of the Redeemer.
  • All others, even Judaism, try to please or appease God or their gods, through laws and/or rites, rituals and liturgy. Sadly, many Christians live this way, too.

Does that mean Christians can throw out the Law and live anyway they please? No, it means there is nothing greater than God. Why settle for less? Why settle for the things the world offers? Christianity is about knowing Him, growing into a deeper, richer, more meaningful relationship with Him. This isn’t done by rituals. It isn’t done by following a set of rules or laws. Whether you derive your lists of rules from the Old Testament or the New,  it’s still law, it’s not grace. You are separating yourself from grace and rendering yourself of no effect (see Galatians 5:4).

If you have you walked away from your faith in Christ: What experience served as a catalyst for that decision? Were you abused by someone within the church? Did the teachings of science cause you to doubt? Did scripture just never make sense?
If you are still actively following the Lord: Have you had conversations with those who have rejected Christianity? What insights do you have for how to converse with them? How do you respond to someone who only wants to accept “scientific evidence?”