Contending for the Faith

by David Ravenhill

An excerpt from Chapter 1 of his new book, Blood Bought.

"Beloved, while I was making every effort to write to you about our common salvation, I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly or the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints. For certain persons have crept in unnoticed, those who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation, ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ."
Jude 3, 4

Enter any jewelry store and you will find crosses for sale. Prices range from just a few dollars to thousands. They come in every material known to man from wood to plastic or from jade to gold, from plain to diamond studded, from small to large. Whatever strikes your fancy, there is a cross available. Yes, the cross is now an ornament to display with pride. Something that hopefully will enhance your overall appearance and make you “look good.”

Two thousand years ago the Cross was to be feared, dreaded, shunned, and avoided at all cost. The Cross conveyed only one message, DEATH. How times have changed! Today the Cross is simply viewed as a free pass that will guarantee you access through the pearly gates when the time comes. Some consider it a lucky charm that offers some form of protection when worn around the neck. Sadly the church has failed to proclaim the true message of the Cross.

As A. W. Tozer writes in the following excerpt, there is a vast difference between the old Cross and the new.

The Old Cross and the New
“UNANNOUNCED AND MOSTLY UNDETECTED, there has come in modern times a new Cross into popular evangelical circles. It is like the old Cross but different: the likenesses are superficial; the differences, fundamental.

The old cross would have no ¹truck with the world. For Adam’s proud flesh it meant the end of the journey. It carried into effect the sentence imposed by the law of Sinai. The new cross is not opposed to the human race; rather, it is a friendly pal and, if understood aright, it is the source of oceans of good clean fun and innocent enjoyment. It lets Adam live without interference. His life motivation is unchanged; he still lives for his own pleasure, only now he takes delight in singing choruses and watching religious movies instead of singing bawdy songs and drinking hard liquor. The accent is still on enjoyment, though the fun is now on a higher plane morally if not intellectually.

The new cross does not slay the sinner, it redirects him. It gears him into a cleaner and jollier way of living and saves his self-respect. To the self-assertive it says, “Come and assert yourself for Christ.” To the egotist it says, “Come and do your boasting in the Lord.” To the thrill seeker it says, “Come and enjoy the thrill of Christian fellowship.” The Christian message is slanted in the direction of the current vogue in order to make it acceptable to the public.

The old cross is a symbol of death. It stands for the abrupt, violent end of a human being. The man in Roman times who took up his cross and started down the road had already said good-bye to his friends. He was not coming back. He was going out to have it ended. The cross made no compromise, modified nothing, spared nothing; it slew all of the man, completely and for good. It did not try to keep on good terms with its victim. It struck cruel and hard, and when it had finished its work, the man was no more.

The race of Adam is under a death sentence. There is no commutation and no escape. God cannot approve any of the fruits of sin, however innocent they may appear or beautiful to the eyes of men. God salvages the individual by liquidating him and then raising him again to newness of life.

We who preach the gospel must not think of ourselves as public relations agents sent to establish good will between Christ and the world. We must not imagine ourselves commissioned to make Christ acceptable to big business, the press, the world of sports, or modern education. We are not diplomats but prophets, and our message is not a compromise but an ultimatum.

God offers life, but not an improved old life. The life He offers is life out of death. It stands always on the far side of the Cross. Whoever would possess it must pass under the rod. He must repudiate himself and concur in God’s just sentence against him.

What does this mean to the individual, the condemned man who would find life in Christ Jesus? How can this theology be translated into life? Simply, he must repent and believe. He must forsake his sins and then go on to forsake himself. Let him cover nothing, defend nothing, excuse nothing. Let him not seek to make terms with God, but let him bow his head before the stroke of God's stern displeasure and acknowledge himself worthy to die.

Having done this let him gaze with simple trust upon the risen Savior, and from Him will come life and rebirth and cleansing and power. The Cross that ended the earthly life of Jesus now puts an end to the sinner; and the power that raised Christ from the dead now raises him to a new life along with Christ.

(A. W. Tozer, Man, the Dwelling Place of God, 1966) Used by permission of the Alliance Witness.

There is little doubt in my mind that the writers of the New Testament would cringe in horror if they were to attend the average church meeting today. The message of the Cross has undergone major modification over the ensuing centuries. We have gradually changed its message from God’s purpose to man’s pleasure. Instead of the Cross being a means of death it has become a means of desire.

Allow me to explain. In Jude’s epistle, Jude sets off to write about “our common salvation” but then changes his mind and writes, “I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once delivered to the saints.” He then seeks to expose those who “turn the grace of God into licentiousness and deny the only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.” Jude is deeply distressed by those within the church who were teaching a message of “greasy grace.” (The belief that we can go on sinning because we remain under God’s protective grace.) He is also deeply troubled by those who refuse to acknowledge Christ as Master and Lord. Lordship has been taught as an optional extra. You can accept Christ as Savior, and if you care to go the second mile, as Lord & Master. Accepting Christ as Savior is not an option if you intend to make it to heaven, but Lordship comes with certain “restrictions” that tend to place limitations on what one can do with his life. As Americans we are raised on the belief that this is the “home of the brave and the land of the free.” Who then wants to have their freedoms restricted?

Today we want a “Cross” that will work for us, not against us. In other words, we want to have our own way and the old Cross doesn’t allow that.

Before closing this chapter I want to look at the story Jesus told of the two men who built similar houses. One, you recall, was built on the sand; the other built his house on the rock. Both houses were fine until the winds, rain, and floods came. It was only then that their differences became apparent. One was swept away and destroyed while the other remained steadfast and immovable. According to Webster’s Dictionary the word sand is defined as: “loose granular material resulting from the disintegration of rock.” In other words, sand is small pieces of rock that were once a part of the whole rock. There is a grave danger in building our faith on “fragments” of God’s Word, avoiding those areas that fail to meet with our best interests.

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Blood Bought