A Cancer in the Body

On June 25, 1973 a young attorney who had served as White House Counsel began his testimony before the United States Senate Select Committee on Presidential Campaign Activities (the Watergate Committee) with a the following quote….

“I began by telling the president that there was a cancer growing on the presidency and that if the cancer was not removed the president himself would be killed by it.”

John Dean’s opening statement is today acknowledged as the first legal tug on the loose thread of corruption that eventually unraveled the presidency of Richard Nixon, and resulted in the first and only presidential resignation (to date) some fourteen months later.  What had been referred to as “a third rate burglary” developed into a sweeping malignancy that sullied everything and everyone it touched.  A simple acknowledgement in an open forum set the wheels of accountability in motion, and the entire nation – some say the entire world – was paralyzed by it’s effect.  Whether or not one agrees with the statement from President Ford’s subsequent inaugural address that…

“….our long national nightmare is (was) over”

…..there can be no doubt that we did indeed turn a page and move on.  We went back to enjoying our Hee Haw and Laugh-In, listening to our music and watching our movies, and smirking at our then new president’s comparatively mundane shortcomings as he repeatedly sight-gagged us with bungled staircases and Chevy Chase impersonations.  Isn’t it interesting that the secular American ethos ‘gets’ something that we still haven’t gotten in the Body of Christ after all these years?

Long ago – no one seems to know how long – the Church was infected by a ‘third rate burglary’ of it’s own.  It was one that had been successfully carried off countless times before, and remained in the enemy’s arsenal as a ‘go to’ weapon of mass destruction.  It’s first use was at the cunning footsteps of the yet to be cursed serpent as he tempted the first evangelized human with his pernicious lie, and men have fallen prey to it’s insidious harm ever since.  The ‘thread’ that started the ‘cancer’ that would eventually cost mankind his paradise and, infinitely more damning, his physical access to the creator?…..the lie that sin doesn’t necessarily bring death!  In fact, the entire swath of deception that would sweep across creation intimated that it was possible for man to eventually become like God if not become a god himself – and every tin-horned pretender from before Nimrod to after Joseph Smith has contextualized that poisonous lie to his own deceptive ends.  No one starts out intending to ‘drink the Kool-Aid’.

So, how does this have anything to do with our pious little religious communities that just want to live good, clean, wholesome lives and go to heaven some day?  Well, the answer is as simple as it is vulnerable – neither of those desires addresses our purpose!  We were not created as inanimate trophies of the omnipotent God’s abilities, nor were we placed here as if in the green room for our inevitable appearance in heaven.  We were and are made as an extension of His glory (Isaiah 43:7), and any life apart from that identity is an assault on the very nature of God himself.  King Solomon, for all his purported wisdom and through all his exploits, came to the conclusion that the only worthwhile life was one of honor and obedience to our maker (Ecclesiastes 12:13, 14).  Therein is the malignancy identified, and the simple effectiveness of the enemy’s ‘burglary’ explained.  If he can just get man to look in the metaphorical mirror before he looks out his assigned window (John 4:35) – to be more concerned with himself than his purpose – then he has ostensibly soiled the ‘glory’ of God himself!  This battle is MUCH bigger than us, and the consequence is that the soldiers do the dying.

When the foot-soldier falls out of formation, he becomes vulnerable and is easily picked off by the superior force arrayed against.  When the Christian falls out of formation, and ‘goes off on his own’, presuming that he will be rescued once again before the enemy takes him out, he forgets that Christ died “…ONCE, for all” (Hebrews 10:10, referring to Jeremiah 31:34), and that his security IN Christ is vouchsafe by his fellowship WITH Christ – the very thing that sin seeks to break!  The false presumption that sin somehow loses it’s sting since Christ died for us ignores the fact that Christ didn’t die ‘for’ us as much as He died ‘because’ of us.  He died for our sins (1 Corinthians 15:3) so that we might have life, not immunity.  It was God’s glory that raised up Jesus from the dead (Romans 6:4), and God’s glory is the source of life for us all.  That’s why we’re told that ‘….in His presence is fulness of joy’ and that there are ‘….pleasures for evermore’ (Psalm 16:11) at His right hand – this in marked contrast to the fact that there are pleasures in sin ‘for a season’ (Hebrews 11:25).  The ‘…wages of sin is (still) death’, whether you are a believer or an unbeliever, but ‘…the gift of God is (indeed) eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord’ (Romans 6:23).  Actually, the NIV gets it right as it translates the Greek preposition ‘en’ as ‘in’ rather than ‘through’, and brings together the thought that we are ‘….complete IN (emphasis mine) Him, which is the head of all principality and power’ (Colossians 2:10).  Christ is the cure for sin, not the cover!

There is a indeed a cancer growing on the Body of Christ today, and that cancer is the embrace of the repeatedly offered lie of sin’s inevitability and lack of culpability for believers.  This is in direct contravention of Christ himself when He says that ‘….whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin’ and goes on to unambiguously explain that the servant ‘…abideth not in the house forever’, but that the ‘…son abides forever’ (John 8:35).  While we remain here we have been given the ‘…spirit of adoption’ (Romans 8:15), but we have not yet been ‘glorified’ as is promised for those who actively ‘suffer’ (be acted upon in a certain way) with Him here (Romans 8:17).  The presumption of eternal security is that in some way we have already been ‘glorified’ in some small measure, though it’s proponents would never use that language.  Even though we have already received the ‘down-payment’ on our ultimate redemption (see Ephesians 1:14b), we must ‘…endure to the end’ in order to receive the full measure of salvation (Matthew 24:13).  The Apostle Paul’s predicate for that wonderful ‘pressing toward the mark’ declaration is that he ‘…count(s) not (himself) to have apprehended’ (Philippians 3:13) – it’s that exact wording that he used to encourage young Timothy to ‘….lay hold on eternal life’ (1 Timothy 6:12).  This should be the motivator for Christian living rather than presumptuousness about the very issue that necessitated Calvary.  That means we recognize, realize, and repel the real enemy of our soul — sin!  It cost mankind his paradise, nations their peace, and eventually Christ His life, but it has indeed been defeated by that sacrifice….now if we will only but embrace the full measure of Calvary’s gift to us in the presence of the One who gave it.  The key is in being ‘in Christ Jesus’ (Romans 8:1) – sin ALWAYS brings condemnation and death precisely because it severs that fellowship – that ‘in-ness’ – and makes us hide among the religious trees when He calls just like Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:8).  The good news is that ‘…the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death’ (Romans 8:2).  The old law was fulfilled in Christ, in that we are freed from that old nature (Romans 6:6) that made us slaves to sin, and are indeed free (John 8:36) to live lives of ‘…holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord’ (Hebrews 12:14b).

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