Violence, Not Poetry
The Cross was VIOLENCE, not POETRY. It Brought Decision.
As you come to grips again and again and again with what Christianity is in your heart, in your life, and in the world around you, there are certain things that you grow in an understanding of, and there are certain levels of maturity where you come to grips with a different aspect of Christ and who He is and what that means specifically to your life.
It’s very easy to make Jesus’ death on the cross into some poetic thing. So, we do this, and we do that, and we sing and we pray and we have the Lord’s Supper—and isn’t that all “nice.” BUT, do you understand that this is blood we’re talking about? This life that we’re leading, this direction we’re going in, isn’t birthed out of poetry and “right” things to do.
You have to understand that Christianity is birthed in blood. There’s something at stake here. We make Christianity into some sort of symbolic formalism, and we lose the fact that Christianity means blood and betrayal. Christianity was not birthed in some sort of poetry. You think you want a different kind of Christianity? I don’t think so. There isn’t another kind. Do you know what happened on that night he was betrayed? Chaos. Noise. Shouting. Voices. Accusations. Trumped up charges that were totally untrue. Human emotions screaming. This is a violent thing that we’re talking about.
The cross of Jesus is an act of violence. I don’t mean that it was based on Jesus being arrogant, presumptuous, and purposely trying to cause division and chaos. That’s not Christianity, and that’s not what I’m talking about. We’re just so accustomed to a cultural American environment of being a nice, happy church like other happy churches. Somehow it escapes us at times how all this got started.
A fleshly appetite for entertainment has been carefully cultivated in our lives since we were born in the world that we live in, in the nation that we live in. We want to be entertained. We want to be lighthearted. We don’t want anything to conflict with our peace of mind. We want to be in total control of our situation and everything around us. We don’t want intruders into our rights, our feelings, our sleep habits, or our personal possessions. We’ve had all that carefully cultivated into us by the world around us for our entire generation and for generations before that.
The generation we live in has been from start to finish a self-centered one. So, we forget that the cross was bloody and violent. And I’m saying to you that the only kind of real Christianity involves a group of people who realize they are not above their teacher. Do you know what it means to be “not above your Teacher”? That doesn’t mean just being humble and admitting that you don’t know everything Jesus knows. To not be above your teacher means that you’re not more spiritual than Jesus. If it cost Him His life to live this way, then it will cost you, too. It will cost you because you’re not more spiritual than Him—you’re not wiser than him, you don’t love people more than He does, and you’re not more compassionate than He is. Nobody is more compassionate and loving and kind and generous than Jesus, and it cost Him His life. There was blood involved.
If you want a kind of Christianity that just skips right over that part and has a happy church, then you’re looking for the wrong thing. “Woe to you, curses on you if all men speak well of you.” Oh, you want to be free from pain? You want to be free from conflict? Fine. But, you don’t need to be a Christian then—because you’re not above your teacher. You want to be free from controversy? You want to blend in? You want everybody to love you and speak well of you? Great, but don’t be a Christian—because you’re not above your teacher. You’ll never pull it off. If you’re true and faithful to His Word, His Life, His Character, then it will cost you. (I don’t mean being arrogant and trying to hurt people and being better than them. Jesus wasn’t like that. But you’re not wiser than Him, you’re not more spiritual than Him, you’re not more compassionate than Him, and you’re not more loving than Him.) You cannot live the way Jesus did and have everyone think well of you in your family, in your neighborhood, and in other religious organizations. It’s going to hurt.
The “Lord’s Supper”? That is a cup of blood that you’re drinking. Are you really willing to drink that cup? Is that the cup you want to drink, or do you want a happy-church cup? A cup where everyone thinks well of you, and you can just be an American Christian? No conflict, no pain, no turmoil, no loss in your family. Your parents love you to death; they think you’re a wonderful person, better than ever. Everybody thinks well of you. You don’t have any conflicts at work with anyone. There’s no religious tension between those who would rather have pretense and compromise. You just blend in nicely with them. Everybody likes you. “Oh, I have a new song to share with you. Oh, that’s a happy song. I have a tape. Would you like a happy tape? I just read a great book. Wonderful book. Let’s all be a happy church, and let’s just all get along.” Well, you’re not above your Teacher. And if the most compassionate, loving, wise person that has ever graced the face of planet earth by ten thousand-fold more so than we shall ever be in our own lives…if He couldn’t pull it off, don’t you think that you’re so wise and loving that you can. This means a cup of blood.
That was a night of violence. There was violence, hatred, chaos, conflict, name-calling, and conjured up accusations. There was a testing that had to happen. And if you start wanting to sell yourself for being a man-pleaser (people speaking well of you, blending in, not having conflict), if that’s your main goal, then either you’re very arrogant and you think you’re wiser and more loving than Jesus, or you’re very deceived and you’re going to compromise and sell what God has for your life. You’ll blend in and be just fine. You may even be able to find some slick way to be viewed as a radical and still blend in.
But, if your heart is through and through devoted to Jesus, without compromise—with His love and grace for sure, but without any compromise—then it is inescapable that you will share His cup of blood. The cross was an act of violence, not an act of poetry. It was an act that brought chaos. It brought decisions to people in the midst of a night of yelling and screaming—a frantic, passionate, crowd screaming, “Crucify him. Crucify him.” Christianity is not some little sing-along thing.
And the only way you’re going to be able to make your way through all of this is to have deep convictions in your heart that are rooted in a personal relationship with Jesus, no matter what the cost. Oh, to be able to hear His voice. If you’re truly born a second time, there is an anointing on you that’s real and not counterfeit. And if you’re willing to shut out the other voices and go back to the basics—the foundation of the Word of God, and a personal, current, real-time leading of the Holy Spirit of Christ that dwells in you…if you’re willing to listen for that voice, then the anointing that’s on you, that’s real and not counterfeit, will guide you straight on through.
You won’t have to be unstable, tossed to and fro like an infant always being deceived and deceiving. You won’t have to go through all this roller coaster of junk and garbage in your life. And God made the provision for you so wonderful, so full, so blessed, that you can’t miss it if you really want it. Romans 1 says that every man is without excuse. That implies that God has seen to it that you and me and any of us have the ability by God’s grace to make it through this maze. And if we choose not to make it through the maze, then it is not because of a misunderstanding, it is because of something in our heart that we’ve sold. He’s given us everything that pertains to life and godliness. He’s given us every spiritual blessing in Christ Jesus. He’s made the provision so full and so free that we’re never tempted or tried beyond what we can bear. He’s made sure that there’s always a way out. You can’t sell it unless you intentionally sell it.
You can’t (because of some misunderstanding) accidentally miss what God’s doing. And that’s good news to me. That’s wonderful news! I can’t accidentally miss it. I can’t miss it because He loves me so much that I’m without excuse. He loves me so much that I’m never tried or tempted beyond what I can bear. Nothing ever comes at me that I can’t still hear His Song if I want to. If the sights and sounds and smells and tactile sensations of Egypt are what draw your heart, if that’s what you want, then you’ll find a way either to bail out in despair or justify yourself. You’ll justify your position with a religious energy that says, “I’m right, and you’re wrong.” And if you choose that path and “sear your conscience as with a hot iron,” then God’s capable of giving you over to the delusion so that you can really dance with energy to Egypt’s song—all the while feeling good about it in Jesus’ name. You’ll still be doing miracles in His name, no doubt (as Jesus said was possible).
But, if you want to hear His Song, somewhere down in your heart you can see the chaos, and violence around Jesus’ crucifixion, and you can hear the accusations being shouted from all directions….and you can still turn and say, “NO! To whom shall we go? HE has the words of Life. I’m not going anywhere. Say what you want. Confuse my head. But in my spirit, my heart, I know.” I don’t care what I hear; I refuse to let my mind control my spirit. My spirit will be controlled only by the Holy Spirit, and my mind will be subject to my spirit. To whom shall we go, You have the words of Life.” “The mind controlled by the spirit is life and peace.” You can hear the Song.
Can you drink My cup? Can you undergo the baptism? That’s what He’s saying to each of us. Or do you want to have it your way? You want to have some good things, some neat teachings, some happy worship, but “don’t test me. Don’t put me in a position where I have to make a decision. Don’t put me in the fray of the battle. I don’t want to do that. I want to be a layman. I don’t want to deal with that. Let somebody else deal with that, and then I’ll judge how well they did. I’ll evaluate them to see if they did a good job. I’ll judge whether they properly carried themselves and properly answered these things. But, I won’t enter the fray. I won’t get involved. That’s too dangerous. And I can justify it because I’m a layman.” Do you know how wicked that whole thought process is? What it allows you to do is to never pay any price. To never participate in His cup. To never undergo the violence yourself of “filling up the afflictions of Christ in your own body.” But instead you can sit around and judge other people by how well you think they did. And then you can sit on the throne deciding which way you’re going to go depending on how well you think everyone else did.
Do you see the fallacy of that? He’s looking for people who will also drink the cup and undergo the baptism. People who will also pay the price of the conflict in the heat of the battle. That they too will risk a loss of reputation. They’ll too risk the misunderstandings and all the elements of confusion and frustration and the violence of the night that He was betrayed. You see, if you won’t pay that price, then you won’t make it. If you won’t be the betrayed, then you will be the betrayer. I want to say that in a way that you can understand. If you’ll pay that price of risking it ALL, then you’ll be the betrayed. If you won’t pay that price because you want to have your cake and eat it too, then you will be the betrayer. You won’t be neutral; you will betray with a kiss those who have been willing to die for you. You will do that—I guarantee it.
If you won’t be a vessel of honor in the household, then you will be a vessel of wrath. God will still work through it—others’ lives will be changed, good things will happen—but you will be a vessel of wrath instead of one of honor. You’ll test the hearts of men and those who are victorious will undergo that test. Those people who were willing to die for you, just the way Jesus was with Judas, will stick out their cheek and let you betray them with a kiss. The kindness, the mercy, and the patience that was extended to Judas month after month after month was totally forgotten on that night he reached up and kissed Jesus on the cheek—thinking he was doing God a favor because all the religious “experts” thought that Jesus was a renegade. Totally out of hand, young whippersnapper, only thirty-three, what does he know? If you won’t be betrayed, if you won’t drink the cup with Jesus, then you’ll betray Him with a kiss, thinking that you’re doing Him a favor.
So, I want to challenge you as a person, as an individual. Get in or get out. It’s a good opportunity. You need to make some choices. In John 6 there was a crowd of people that wandered away from Him saying, “Hey, I don’t care much for this; I don’t like it very much.” And Jesus said, “If you want to go, now is a good time.” And He wasn’t being sarcastic about it. He was saying, “Look, you guys have got to hear my Song. If you want the other song, if you want a mixture of all of these things, then you’re making a big mistake. I’m the wrong guy because this is going to cost you. It’s not just going to cost me. The things they’re saying about me, they’ll say about you, too. You, yourself, will be dragged in front of the high priest, the religious experts, and the orthodox religion. You, yourself, will be dragged in front of them and accused.”
Now, what are YOU going to do? If you hear your Father’s voice and don’t consider what to say or how to say it, but if you listen for His voice, then you’ll walk through Life with dignity, with stability, with peace, with growth, and with a testimony of God’s power that they can’t refute. If you listen to my Father, then He’ll give you words on that day. If you get caught up in the battle of trying to be a man-pleaser, if you have mixed motives, if you want peace because it is an idol in your life, then you’re going to miss it. You’ll betray with a kiss, if you won’t be betrayed with a kiss.
SO, if you want to be a Christian, if you want to partake of “His cup,” then you need to know that it is one of chaos and betrayal. It’s a cup of confusion and loud noises. It’s a cup of torches in the night and shouting. Men falling backwards and scriptures floating around all over the place. “Is that accusation true or not true?” “Well, I don’t know. If it’s true what do I dooooo? Twenty thousand people can’t be wrong, can they?” If you won’t listen for His voice, then you might as well walk away like Jesus said for the twelve to do in John 6 because you’re not going to make it through all the competing noises and smells that are coming on down the road. You’ve got to choose to listen to His quiet voice calling.
So, consider not just that He forgives sins (which He does), but consider that “on the night he was betrayed, He took the cup, and He offered it to them.” And Jesus is offering you a chance to drink that cup. That’s what this is about. It’s a covenant of walking with Him. Not being above our master, but drinking the cup along with Him. The redemption of men’s hearts and souls is a costly thing. And if you want to follow Him, it’s going to cost YOU, too. Like Simeon said to Mary, “A sword will pierce your heart, too.” You’re not above your Master. It’s going to happen. SO, accept the covenant of His Blood and His Forgiveness with Joy in your heart. And accept the cup and the baptism that He’s extending to you as well… “Will you drink my cup? Will you drink my cup? Will you drink My cup?”
This has to do with God’s future for your life. It says in John 3 that the Bridegroom owns the Bride. She belongs to Him. He can do whatever He wants with that. SO, if you’re willing to participate with Him in that cup of blood, of violence, of forgiveness, of redemption, then you have to know that it’s a lamb that’s been SLAIN that brings about that redemption.
Lord, Jesus, we want to exalt you. How you EVER did that…How you ever pulled that off without trying to justify yourself, without calling 10,000 angels to destroy them, without backing out but extending your hands to those who would pound nails in them and your cheek to him who would kiss you thinking he was doing God a favor. How you did that is unbelievable to us. We’d never know how you did that except that you put your Spirit in us—the ability to defy the principalities and powers through the cross and to make an open show and a public spectacle of them. You put the capacity to live that way in each of us that have called on Your name and have bowed our knee to You. And we believe You. You’ve given us everything that pertains to life and godliness. Everything that we would need to overcome sin in our life. Everything we would need to bear your cross and to endure the scorn. Despising the suffering and the shame, but seeing the joy set before us and hearing the Song. You’ve put that within us. And we want to learn how to listen better and how to help each other and how to serve You. We want to learn how to be committed and loyal to one another in spite of the junk that is swirling around us. And while I understand these things are prophetic in the sense that there’s only one tiny, tiny, tiny bit of physical evidence that any of these things even apply, we trust You. We trust that as you bring the consummation of the ages, that these things will apply in such measure that it will be unbelievable. And we want to be ready for that. We thank you that you do nothing without first sharing it with your people, your friends. So, prepare our hearts. If we die and meet you before all of this comes to pass, then HALLELUJAH…let there be a torch that’s been passed on to our children that goes way beyond anything said here. Let these things just be seeds for a mature, stable future. But, Father, if these things are next week, we’ll pray that you’ll have mercy on those who are only just now making the decision to drink Your cup. Not just the cup of forgiveness, but the cup of Your suffering, rejection, conflict, noise, and violence that the world offers to those who truly follow You. Father, it’s our prayer together that the application of these things wouldn’t escape a single set of ears or a single heart. Teach us by Your Spirit how to Hear Your Song. Amen.
spoken from the overflow of the heart on March 15, 1992… and recorded here