The Message of the Cross
Steve Gallagher’s book, "Standing Firm Through the Great Apostasy", paints a startling picture of the state of the American Church. In this interview, he discusses the message of the Cross and the different ways people respond to it.
Mike: I want to just start off by asking you Steve, what your purpose was in writing this book?
Steve: The reason this book came about was because, a few years ago, I was invited to be a keynote speaker at a biblical counseling conference. I was told that the theme of the conference was going to be, 'The Narrow Way.' And as I began studying that theme, what began to emerge was a very disturbing and frightening picture. More so than I had anticipated going into this. As I started studying, first of all what the Word of God clearly says, and secondly, what the writers of yesteryear wrote about these subjects, I realized that the reality is that many, many, many people who name the name of Christ really have never been converted. I started to see that unless something changes in their lives, they're headed into eternal damnation and that's what was so upsetting to me.
Mike: Well Steve I know that part of the motivation of your writing this book was that there would be a wakeup call for Christians, that they would evaluate what they have, whether it's a genuine faith, a real saving faith. In the book, you're really looking at the core of Christianity: The Message of the Cross of Christ. Give us a picture, if you will, of what happened at the Cross.
Steve: Mike, I think one of the reasons people are not more effected in their Christianity is that the Cross isn't very real to them. The reality is, we can hardly describe it in terms that befit it. It was a horrible thing, the physical abuse that He took was just terrible. It was barbaric. But there was something much deeper than that. The thing that struck horror in His heart in the garden was that, the Innocent One, the One who was pure was going to, somehow, take 6000 years of sin and crime and every despicable thing imaginable that has ever happened packaged into one bitter cup that He was forced to drink. What He recoiled at in the garden was the reality of taking that filth into His being. Actually, Paul said in 2nd Corinthians 5 that it wasn't just that He took the sin upon himself. He became sin. Now this is conjecture, but some people think that Him becoming sin was something that people could actually see. At the very least, His Heavenly Father could see, and He turned away from in disgust. But yet, this is the reality of what Scripture teaches. He took sin into His being. He had to, because He was the Sacrificial Lamb. So, what was the reality of Him taking that sin upon Himself? I don't know exactly, but it must have broken the Father's heart. "My Father, My Father, why are you forsaking me?" You know, at His time of greatest need, His father turned away from Him.
Mike: Peter solemnly instructed us to conduct ourselves in fear. You mention that this, perhaps, was one of the reasons: Jesus having done this for us. To treat this flippantly, should be a very fearful thing.
Steve: That was the whole point of beginning the book with the reality of what really happened at Calvary: to kind of shake us out of this flippant, nonchalant attitude about Calvary and what happened there. You know, our attitude, not everyone, but with many, is, we have developed this entitlement attitude with God as if He owes it to us. That if we said the sinner’s prayer, go to church on Sundays, that He owes Heaven to us. That attitude is in many hearts today. It's quiet and it's subtle. We don't ever really think that through, of course, but it's very subtle. And when you start to come into the reality of what God had to do to His Son, how He had to exact His wrath upon His Son, it makes you sit up and take notice and have a much greater reverential fear of what the implications of that Cross mean.
Mike: In talking about The Message of the Cross, you started by looking at a difference between what was real in the life of Judas, and what was real in the lives of the other eleven disciples. Talk about that a bit.
Steve: Well, we know that some months before Calvary, Jesus began to warn His disciples of what was to come. In Luke 9 He said, "The Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders, and chief priests, and scribes, and be killed." He was telling the disciples what was coming. Apparently, He would remind them on different occasions because, you know, we're all kind of dumb and we forget things. And who wants to think about something like that anyway. It would have been indiscernible to you or me, but Jesus could see inside people's hearts. He could see that there was a different reaction going on in Judas's heart towards this message than there was in the other eleven.
Mike: Even though outwardly, they looked like they were all with Him.
Steve: Yeah, well, let's face it. On the night that Judas betrayed them, they were all asking, "Is it me?" They couldn't even figure out that it was Judas. There was nothing about Judas' life that stood out to tell them that he was a traitor. There was nothing to show he was rejecting the Message of the Cross and Christianity as it was being offered to him. He was rejecting Him, but there was nothing in His life to identify that. You and I wouldn't have seen it either. The wheat and the tare plants look identical when they're seedlings.
Mike: You know, we hear that, but if we're in the church and we hear that, we just automatically assume we aren't the tare, even though we can't discern the difference outwardly. Because we're looking at our lives outwardly, we just automatically assume it isn't us.
Steve: That is the purpose for this book. I had to make it so clear that any sincere person, even if they are a tare and they're sincere, but have never really looked at themselves, that they could not escape the truth.
Mike: You mentioned in comparing Judas with the other eleven what it was that was different about him.
Steve: Let's look at the eleven first. Now, they were immature, they were spiritual babies. You know, they were all a big mess. Thomas was depressed about everything. Peter was a loudmouth. They all had their issues and their baggage, just like we do. They were just men, but there was something in their hearts that responded in a positive way to the message of sacrifice and self-denial intertwined in the Christian message. But when Judas would hear those things, there was a different reaction inside. There was a resistance, there was a pulling away, there was a rejecting going on inside. But again, outwardly he was doing everything right. He would fit right in with today's church. That's the thing people don't understand is, they've got him made out to be some kind of a monster. But the truth is Judas would sit in the pew with us and we wouldn't think a thing of it. He's really no different than many so-called Christians that are in our churches today.
Mike: You wrote, "The life of Judas represents those of all ages who desire the Heaven of Christ, without the Cross of Christ." You've already hinted at as to what that means. What does that mean?
Steve: The bottom line between real Christianity and pseudo-Christianity is this: Who is on the throne of your heart? We can talk the talk, but there's a reality inside that Jesus is looking for that is the determining factor about where we're going to spend eternity.