The cross and the world

Author: Dr Martin Holdt
This is the first part of a sermon transcribed, in the series, The Cross, by Dr Martin Holdt, entitled: The cross and the world.
Galatians 6: 1 – 8 “Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfil the law of Christ. If anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. Each one should test his own actions. Then he can take pride in himself, without comparing himself to somebody else, for each one should carry his own load. Anyone who receives instruction in the word must share all good things with his instructor. Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.”
If you hear me say things that I’ve said before, please forbear. I say them because it is important that they be said and don’t we all concur that if the truth is worth saying once it is worth saying a thousand times over, provided it comes to us with fear and conviction and we take it to heart and live it out for the glory of God. So, I am going to repeat a few things that you have heard me say before, I do it because it is a burden on my heart and I happen to have discovered what I am sure every minister of the gospel has discovered here. People forget so soon.
I have been taking my church through the letter of Jude. It was to me so striking again to see that Jude actually changed course soon after he began writing his letter, when he said in verse 3: Behold although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. So Jude is saying “I am saying things again”, because you need to hear them again.

Our text: Far be it from me to boast to glory except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ and then the latter part of the verse: by which the world has been crucified to me and I to the world. Have you ever pondered that part of the verse? I am going to be quite honest and tell you that for years it puzzled me. I did not quite know what the apostle Paul meant. Maybe it has puzzled you too and if it has, I hope that I can contribute just a little to your understanding of that part of the verse, so important as it is.
The Christian, at his best, clashes with the world. That will never change. There will never be a compromise with the world. Why? Let me begin by telling you that the world’s way of salvation is different. The Christian has a way of salvation. He gets it out of the Bible. He evangelises with it. He goes into the world and shares the gospel, way of salvation with men and women who are enemies of God and need to be reconciled with God.
But the world is a religious world. If you have never realised that, wake up, it is. As you drive through the towns and cities and even villages of our country, you will see temples and mosques and other kinds of religious buildings which all tell you we are living in a religious world.
There are very few atheists in this world and those who say that they are atheists are fools, because they suppress the truth, as we are taught in Romans chapter 1. They suppress it, they put the lid on it. Francois Voltaire, the famous French atheist, was once walking with a friend and as he looked at the brilliant sky and the stars and the moon, he was caught napping for a moment. His friend got quite a shock when he said: “You know there must be a God” and he had hardly said it when he rebuked himself and said: “No, there isn’t, there isn’t”. That is suppression of the truth. The vast majority of people have a religious bend and they will find ways, other than God’s, to think themselves into a piece of mind, but false, counterfeit and they live and they’ll die and they’ll go to hell, because they have clutched onto something which is false.

When Paul wrote his letter to the Galatians it was all about people who had a false religion. Do you know, just to warn you, it had a veneer of Christianity even then, under the mighty ministry of the apostles. It was of course what is commonly known as the Galatian heresy. You can read about it in the Acts of the Apostles. In Acts chapter 15, in verse 1, for example. Some men came down from Judea and were teaching the brothers. They said: “Unless you are not circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved”. That’s why the apostles had to come to a decision and sent out this message: (verse 11) “We believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus”. Period. Nothing more.

In chapter 1 of his letter to the Galatians, you will remember the apostle Paul put it this way: “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you in the grace of Chris, and are turning to a different gospel. Not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ but even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preach to you, let him be accursed.” The apostle Paul could have and probably did get into trouble for being so outspoken. In our day and age of pluralism if you are as outspoken as the apostle Paul you would also get into trouble and the sad thing is you might get into trouble in the very church where you worship.

It is a worldly view that we are thinking about. The Christian view – Galatians chapter 2, verse 20 and 21: “It is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me and the life I now live I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me. And verse 16: We know that a person is not justified by words of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ so we also have believed in Jesus Christ in order to be justified by faith in Christ, not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.”

I am going to be specific. I said a moment ago we live in a religious world. Let me give you some examples of the religious deception which is blinding the minds and hearts of millions of people and they die and wake up in hell because of it. Can I begin with Roman Catholicism. Why are we so soft on Roman Catholicism? I love reading Spurgeon. I notice how often, in so many of his sermons, he flies into what he called the papists. We don’t use that term today, but he know what he was talking about. Dr Martin Lloyd-Jones: if you’ve never read his sermon on Roman Catholicism, read it. It is brilliant. He sums up the problem with Roman Catholicism with three words: the damnable plus. Just like the Galatian heresy. Then it was faith in Christ plus circumcision. In Roman Catholicism, yes there may be a word about faith in Christ, but not alone. It is plus. Plus the mass. It is the Scripture plus. Plus the statements the pope makes ex-cathedra and so on and so forth. Calvin was clear about it. God sent him to deliver the masses from the yoke of Roman Catholicism. God knows my heart, I don’t hate Roman Catholics. I have got some friends who are that and I love them to bits. I am anti-Roman Catholicism.
The Reformation was absolutely essential to deliver the masses from the religion of the world. That’s what Roman Catholicism was then. Do you noticed the pope nowadays, it is absolutely pathetic. With his garb, in the pope mobile, he travels the world and makes political statements. Have you ever heard him preach or teach the gospel, as you know it? You won’t, because it is a worldly religion and what he sprouts forth is papal nonsense.
And the Reformers took on Roman Catholicism and they did it so effectively that not thousands, but hundreds of thousands and millions of people were emancipated from the horrible, heavy yoke of a false religion. And so should we, because it is damning people to hell. But let me move on.

The world has more than that to offer. The world is like a religious supermarket. You can go and you can take your pick and you can look at this and look at that and listen to the next thing and you can decide for yourself what suits you. Behind it all is the god of this world who is blinding the minds of people. People are falling for it, hook, line and sinker. While God teaches as I tried to point out earlier, that without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sins.

Let me just give you some of these things in this world supermarket of religion. The Baha’i religion, which tells you that you only need nature as an offering. I remember going to the Baha’i temple in Haifa. It was so pretty. Flower petals, just the kind of thing to appeal to men and women. Nice smelling things here and there. I did not know much about it then, but I know today that it is precisely Cain’s religion. Can you just imagine Cain’s offering, ostensibly to God, but in the process offending God. The fruit and vegetables must have looked something like a mini harvest festival, those of you who have it in your churches. I remember from the days when I was in the Lutheran church and I was always so impressed with what was put out there. By the way, I am not against harvest festivals. They do serve their purpose, if it is thanksgiving to God for what He gives.
I am just trying to paint a picture. Cain. Baha’i. It is the world. Ah, yes, Islam with its vigorous discipline, the Koran, the Ramadan, and its false god. It’s the world. Its militancy, is the world. While the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but spiritual to the pulling down of strongholds.
If it is not that, it is Hinduism, with its panoply y of gods, one of them bound to be the right one, they say. And so it is a big religious gamble. People are fascinated by it and it appeals to them and they take that route only need find themselves, only to be let down in the end and condemned to a Christ-less eternity.
Closer home. Formal and dead Protestantism. People who think and sometimes alas are taught that the sacraments are safe. Just keep the sacraments and you are all right. They do not look beyond the sacraments to Christ and Him crucified. I know what I am talking about, I have been there myself and it grieves me to think of people who are clutching onto the sacraments, like the Israelites, in later years, clung on to the bronze snake and it offended a holy and a righteous God. For your information, if you have never realised it, hell is populated with lost and damned Protestants.

You know, if it is not these things, then it is another kind of a religion. It is plain hedonism, people who live for pleasure. People who think and believe that the be all and end all of life is simply having a good time and they are so well supported by existentialists. Isaiah had to contend with people like that. In Isaiah chapter 22 from verse 12 to 14 In that day the Lord of hosts called for weeping and mourning, for shaving of heads, for wearing sack cloth, and behold joy and gladness, killing oxen, and slaughtering sheep, eating flesh and drinking wine. Let us eat and drink for tomorrow we die.”
Get the best out of life while you can. It is short. Surely we are not meant to be a bunch of miserable human beings? Are the things that are there, not there for us to enjoy? As a man, maybe not precisely in those words, said to me, not too long ago. And it never dawns on them that Jesus said what shall it profit a man if he gained the whole world and lose his soul. What have I been doing, telling you these things, just telling you that the world has a way of thinking about life and religion.

Now the apostle Paul comes and he says that what the cross of Jesus Christ and its significance does to him is exactly this: it is that by which the world has been crucified to me and I to the world. We have nothing in common and we will never compromise with the world. If they want to get on with us, we will set the standard and we will call for repentance and we will call for faith in Jesus Christ alone and if they will not heed that call, too bad for them. We cannot and will not compromise. The world crucified to me, is another way of saying as far as I am concerned the world is dead to me and I to the world. Why? Why I to the world? Well, because by contrast I have and hold and cherish a gospel. A gospel which is unique, a gospel which amounts to the cross of Jesus Christ. To tie it all up, with his Letter to the Galatians, a gospel which is all about the doctrine of justification. Let me read those verses to you again. Chapter 2, verses 15 and 16: We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners, yet we know that a person is not justified by words of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ. So we also have believed in Jesus Christ in order to be justified by faith in Christ, not by works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified.
This, my friends, is the gospel. The new birth is not the gospel. Hallelujah, for the new birth, but it is not the gospel. Conversion is not the gospel. I praise God that I was converted as a 19 year old. But that is not the gospel. What is the gospel? It is what God has done in Christ. It is called by the apostle Paul “justification”. Just so that you can understand where we are at, because I don’t think that all of you have got this sorted out. Please allow me in as simple terms as possible to tell you.
(to be continued)