Now More Than Ever Christians Must Exalt The Cross

“Think for a moment what the power of the gospel accomplished in the early centuries. With no political base in the Roman government, without any majority in the culture, the gospel changed the spiritual and moral climate of the Roman Empire. Christianity competed with paganism and, for the most part, won the hearts and minds of the populace. Christians were radicals in the best sense of the word—radically committed to community in worship, radically committed to serving their pagan neighbors, and radically committed to living out the implications of their redemption.

“Without freedom of religion, without a media presence, and without the ability to redress the wrongs against them, the Christians discovered that the gospel had the power to change individuals, families, and the culture.” —Dr. Erwin Lutzer, in When A Nation Forgets God (emphasis added)

Please check out my review of When A Nation Forgets God by clicking here, and then get a copy for yourself. You can also read other quotes I have shared from this book by clicking here and here.

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The Key Decision For Influential Men

Influence like JesusNo matter how you look at it, being a Dad is hard work! Men have this constant balancing act between being tough and being tender. Guys have to have their game face on at work, and their family face on at home. They’ve got to work hard knocking down work competitors, and then work just as hard building up their family members.

But there is one key decision that will determine how successful a man will be at work, at home, in his social circles, and even in his relationship with God. 

In Acts 10 we meet a centurion named Cornelius. Centurions were professional military officers in charge of a centuria (usually 100 soldiers). Centurions were always “on the clock,” never letting down their guard nor their professionalism.

All of the centurions mentioned in the New Testament have noble characteristics associated with them. Whereas someone might be uncertain how a typical Roman soldier would behave, people felt more assured when the centurion was on the scene. Even Roman governors like Pilate, and Jewish kings like Herod, all seemed to fully trust the judgement, honesty, and resourcefulness of centurions.

Centurions worked hard to get where they were, and had some well-earned perks:

  • Good pay (one built a temple, Luke 7:1-5).
  • “Men of authority” with soldiers and servants reporting to them (Matthew 8:8-9).
  • Opportunity for advancement (Rome was the dominate world force).
  • A certain degree of autonomy (they had their own residences (Matthew 8; Acts 10).

In order to keep this position, they would have to buy into kurios Caesar (Caesar is lord). To do otherwise was to put their position and future advancement at risk.

Yet Cornelius was different. 

He was a trusted centurion, but something unusual stood out about his life. Luke the historian describes him as devout and God-fearing, mentioning his pious activities of prayer and giving to the poor. Cornelius’ own soldiers referred to him as righteous and respected by notable people in the community.

But probably most telling of all: God noticed how committed Cornelius was (see Acts 10:3-4)!

Cornelius had a lot to lose by rejecting kurios Caesar for, as the Christians said, kurios Iesous (Jesus is Lord). Yet after carefully weighing his options, he saw that trusting God was the best thing he could do for his family. His view of the eternal outweighed anything that he could gain in the temporal.

This one decision changed everything! 

Because Cornelius trusted God, look at the expansiveness of his influence, not only at home, but at work, and among his friends and extended family, and throughout his community:

  • His family—ALL his family were devout and God-fearing (v. 2)
  • His employees—a devout soldier (v. 7)
  • His community—respected by ALL the Jewish people (v. 22)
  • His relatives and friends—his relatives and close friends (v. 24)
  • In fact everyone around him—we are ALL here in the presence of God (v. 33)
  • And most importantly, with God—your prayers and gifts have come up as a memorial offering before God (v. 4)

Fellas, you can have this same level of influence if you, too, will decide to live karios Iesous: Jesus is Lord. If you will do that, you can have said about your life what was said about Cornelius and Jesus: “God anointed ___________ with the Holy Spirit and power, and he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him!” (see Acts 10:38).

In Name Only

Brennan ManningPhiladelphia, as most people know is “The City of Brotherly Love.” The original Philadelphia in Asia Minor was founded in the second century BC by a man named Attalus who, quite the contrary to cultural norms, kept his brother in a position of power and influence alongside him.

Where many leaders were suspicious of anyone who could make a claim on the throne, Attalus loved (the Greek word is phileo) his brother (Greek adelphos meaning “from the same womb”), so the city took on this name and attitude as well. After the city was leveled by an earthquake in 17 AD, Emperor Tiberius sent the funds needed to rebuild. Out of gratitude to the emperor’s generosity there was a movement to rename the city Neocaesarea in his honor. But the people liked being known for their brotherly kindness, so the name Philadelphia stuck.

At least it stuck in name only. As the first century progressed, Philadelphians bowed more and more to Rome’s influence and this city once known for kindness to all began to persecute Christians.

This reminds me of the United States of America today. Our pledge of allegiance still includes “one nation under God,” and “in God we trust” is still on our currency, and we haven’t repealed the First Amendment which gives us freedom of religion. It appears that we are a “Christian nation,” but in name only.

Many cast the blame far and wide, but as Jesus addressed the people in the first city of Philadelphia (see Revelation 3:7-13), we see the blame is on those self-professing Christians who didn’t live Christ-like lives. They were Christians in name only.

For those who “have kept My Word and not denied My name” Jesus promises a list of rewards longer than the list for any of the other seven churches addressed in the book of Revelation! Those promises are still in effect for those who will not deny Christ. More specifically for those who by their words and their lifestyle hold true to Jesus Christ.

Brennan Manning was exactly right when he said, “The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians: who acknowledge Jesus with their lips, walk out the door, and deny Him by their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable.”

My prayer is that Christians everywhere would be known not just by the name Christian, but by the way they hold true to Christ and His Word!

Please join me next Sunday as we look at the last of the churches in our series The 7-Star Church.

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