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It goes without saying that A.W. Tozer (1897-1963) was “considered by many to be a modern-day prophet. Tozer felt that the church was on a dangerous course towards compromising with ‘worldly’ concerns. In 1950, he was appointed editor of the Alliance Weekly magazine, now Alliance Life (alife), the official publication of The Alliance. In his first editorial, dated June 3, 1950, he wrote ‘It will cost something to walk slow in the parade of the ages, while excited men of time rush about confusing motion with progress. But it will pay in the long run, and the true Christian is not much interested in anything short of that.’” (Quote source here.)
Tozer’s writings read like front page news today, although some of the wording comes from the era in which he lived, yet he had an uncanny ability to see the future in the present day occurrences all around him. One of his articles titled, “The Old Cross and the New,” “has been printed in virtually every English-speaking country in the world.” Written in 1946, it “first appeared in “The Alliance Witness” [now known as Alliance Life or alife] and it still appears now and then in the religious press” (quote source here). The article (printed below) is available on the internet at this link and also at www.aztozerclassics.com and is also included in the book titled, “The Best of A.W. Tozer, Volume 1” (Chapter 43), compiled by Warren Wiersbe (originally published in 1978, republished in 2007).
The Old Cross and the New
All unannounced and mostly undetected there has come in modern times a new cross into popular evangelical circles. It is like the old cross, but different: the likenesses are superficial; the differences, fundamental.
From this new cross has sprung a new philosophy of the Christian life, and from that new philosophy has come a new evangelical technique–a new type of meeting and a new kind of preaching. This new evangelism employs the same language as the old, but its content is not the same and its emphasis not as before.
The old cross would have no truck with the world. For Adam’s proud flesh it meant the end of the journey. It carried into effect the sentence imposed by the law of Sinai. The new cross is not opposed to the human race; rather, it is a friendly pal and, if understood aright, it is the source of oceans of good clean fun and innocent enjoyment. It lets Adam live without interference. His life motivation is unchanged; he still lives for his own pleasure, only now he takes delight in singing choruses and watching religious movies instead of singing bawdy songs and drinking hard liquor. The accent is still on enjoyment, though the fun is now on a higher plane morally if not intellectually.
The new cross encourages a new and entirely different evangelistic approach. The evangelist does not demand abnegation of the old life before a new life can be received. He preaches not contrasts but similarities. He seeks to key into public interest by showing that Christianity makes no unpleasant demands; rather, it offers the same thing the world does, only on a higher level. Whatever the sin-mad world happens to be clamoring after at the moment is cleverly shown to be the very thing the gospel offers, only the religious product is better.
The new cross does not slay the sinner, it redirects him. It gears him into a cleaner and jollier way of living and saves his self-respect. To the self-assertive it says, “Come and assert yourself for Christ.” To the egotist it says, “Come and do your boasting in the Lord.” To the thrill seeker it says, “Come and enjoy the thrill of Christian fellowship.” The Christian message is slanted in the direction of the current vogue in order to make it acceptable to the public.
The philosophy back of this kind of thing may be sincere but its sincerity does not save it from being false. It is false because it is blind. It misses completely the whole meaning of the cross.
The old cross is a symbol of death. It stands for the abrupt, violent end of a human being. The man in Roman times who took up his cross and started down the road had already said goodbye to his friends. He was not coming back. He was going out to have it ended. The cross made no compromise, modified nothing, spared nothing; it slew all of the man, completely and for good. It did not try to keep on good terms with its victim. It struck cruel and hard, and when it had finished its work, the man was no more.
The race of Adam is under death sentence. There is no commutation and no escape. God cannot approve any of the fruits of sin, however innocent they may appear or beautiful to the eyes of men. God salvages the individual by liquidating him and then raising him again to newness of life.
That evangelism which draws friendly parallels between the ways of God and the ways of men is false to the Bible and cruel to the souls of its hearers. The faith of Christ does not parallel the world, it intersects it. In coming to Christ we do not bring our old life up onto a higher plane; we leave it at the cross. The corn of wheat must fall into the ground and die.
We who preach the gospel must not think of ourselves as public relations agents sent to establish good will between Christ and the world. We must not imagine ourselves commissioned to make Christ acceptable to big business, the press, the world of sports or modern education. We are not diplomats but prophets, and our message is not a compromise but an ultimatum.
God offers life, but not an improved old life. The life He offers is life out of death. It stands always on the far side of the cross. Whoever would possess it must pass under the rod. He must repudiate himself and concur in God’s just sentence against him.
What does this mean to the individual, the condemned man who would find life in Christ Jesus? How can this theology be translated into life? Simply, he must repent and believe. He must forsake his sins and then go on to forsake himself. Let him cover nothing, defend nothing, excuse nothing. Let him not seek to make terms with God, but let him bow his head before the stroke of God’s stern displeasure and acknowledge himself worthy to die.
Having done this let him gaze with simple trust upon the risen Saviour, and from Him will come life and rebirth and cleansing and power. The cross that ended the earthly life of Jesus now puts an end to the sinner; and the power that raised Christ from the dead now raises him to a new life along with Christ.
To any who may object to this or count it merely a narrow and private view of truth, let me say God has set His hallmark of approval upon this message from Paul’s day to the present. Whether stated in these exact words or not, this has been the content of all preaching that has brought life and power to the world through the centuries. The mystics, the reformers, the revivalists have put their emphasis here, and signs and wonders and mighty operations of the Holy Ghost gave witness to God’s approval.
Dare we, the heirs of such a legacy of power, tamper with the truth? Dare we with our stubby pencils erase the lines of the blueprint or alter the pattern shown us in the Mount? May God forbid. Let us preach the old cross and we will know the old power. (Source here and also at www.aztozerclassics.com.)
YouTube Video: “The Old Rugged Cross” sung by Johnny and June Carter Cash:
Photo credit here
Last night I watched a movie about the early years of Johnny and June Carter Cash titled, “Walk the Line.” While I’ve never been a big Country Western music fan (I was born with Rock ’n Roll pulsating through my veins), Johnny Cash looms larger than life on the American musical landscape even ten years after his death on September 12, 2003, a scant four months after his beloved wife, June Carter Cash, died on May 15, 2003. They married on March 1, 1968, and were married until the time of her death.
The movie portrays his early life starting with his childhood and the death of his older brother, Jack, when he was ten and Jack was twelve, which devastated him along with the rocky relationship he had with his father. The movie continues through the years leading into his musical career, his first marriage to Vivian Liberto (from 1954 to 1967), his drug addiction, divorce and eventual marriage to June Carter Cash in 1968. He first heard the singing voice of a ten-year-old named June Carter on the radio as a young boy and it was a voice he never forgot.
To say his life was complicated is an understatement. Yet, “the Man in Black” connected with young and old, famous and infamous, Presidents and prisoners, and he was a champion of the underdog. According to a quote in Wikipedia, “Cash felt great compassion for prisoners. He began performing concerts at various prisons starting in the late 1950s. His first prison concert was held on January 1, 1958, at San Quentin State Prison. These performances led to a pair of highly successful live albums, ‘Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison,’ (1968) and ‘Johnny Cash at San Quentin’ (1969)” (quote source here).
In an article by Dave Urbanski in Relevant Magazine published on what would have been Johnny Cash’s 81st birthday on February 26, 2003, titled, “Inside the Complicated Faith of Johnny Cash,” he stated:
“Johnny Cash’s musical accomplishments are storied and staggering. He occupies spots in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the Songwriter’s Hall of Fame, and the Country Music Hall of Fame—he, in fact, was the youngest living person ever inducted into the latter. He sold 50 million albums, recorded more than 1,500 songs, boasted fourteen number-one hits, won scads of awards, and is mentioned in the same breath as The Beatles when it comes to musical impact. . . .
“But more importantly . . . he always stood up for the underdog (the poor, Native Americans, prisoners, and others) and always stood up to the oppressive; and he beat just about every odd that was stacked against him” (quote source here).
Urbanski also stated:
“Cash lived long enough and hard enough to embody a host of personas—and they’re all true. Songwriter. Six-string strummer. Storyteller. Country boy. Rock star. Folk hero. Preacher. Poet. Drug addict. Rebel. Sinner. Saint. Victim. Survivor. Home wrecker. Husband. Father. And more.”
Actually, much, much more. The article continues with the following:
“As songwriting friend Kris Kristofferson recently said, ‘He’s as comfortable with the poor and prisoners as he is with presidents. He’s crossed over all age boundaries. I like to think of him as Abraham Lincoln with a wild side.’
“Cash’s cluster of enigmas was so impenetrably deep that even those closest to him never got to see every part of him, every thought, every emotion.
“‘I think Johnny’s as complex as anything God or man put on this earth,’ his brother Tommy once noted. ‘He’s a man of uncommon characteristics, mentally or physically. Even though you’re his brother, or his wife, or his mother, you never know him completely. I’ve felt myself at times trembling because of my inadequacy around him'” (quote source here).
Of course, regarding his marriage to June Carter in 1968, “the 35-year marriage of Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash is one of the great love stories of the entertainment industry. The movie ‘Walk the Line’ is about their being there for one another during the tough times” (quote source here). While the movie actually ends at the point where they married in 1968, their life together lasted another 35 years ending at her death in 2003 followed by his death four months later.
Johnny Cash was also a Christian (as was June Carter Cash). Regarding his faith, Cash made the following statement in the article titled, “Inside the Complicated Faith of Johnny Cash”:
“‘I don’t compromise my religion,’ Cash once declared. ‘If I’m with someone who doesn’t want to talk about it, I don’t talk about it. I don’t impose myself on anybody in any way, including religion. When you’re imposing you’re offending, I feel. Although I am evangelical, and I’ll give the message to anyone that wants to hear it, or anybody that is willing to listen. But if they let me know that they don’t want to hear it, they ain’t never going to hear it from me. If I think they don’t want to hear it, then I will not bring it up.’
“‘In short, telling others is part of our faith all right, but the way we live it speaks louder than we can say it,’ Cash said. ‘The gospel of Christ must always be an open door with a welcome sign for all.’
“‘There’s nothing hypocritical about it,’ Cash told Rolling Stone scribe Anthony DeCurtis. ‘There is a spiritual side to me that goes real deep, but I confess right up front that I’m the biggest sinner of them all.’ To Cash, even his near deadly bout with drug addiction contained a crucial spiritual element. ‘I used drugs to escape, and they worked pretty well when I was younger. But they devastated me physically and emotionally—and spiritually … [they put me] in such a low state that I couldn’t communicate with God. There’s no lonelier place to be. I was separated from God, and I wasn’t even trying to call on Him. I knew that there was no line of communication. But He came back. And I came back’ . . . .
“‘Being a Christian isn’t for sissies,’ Cash said once. ‘It takes a real man to live for God–a lot more man than to live for the devil, you know? If you really want to live right these days, you gotta be tough.’ What’s more, he’s intimately aware of the hard truths about living God’s way: ‘If you’re going to be a Christian, you’re going to change. You’re going to lose some old friends, not because you want to, but because you need to.'”
“It was through the quiet friendships of men such as Billy Graham that Cash found an alternative to the vanity of shifting celebrity. He found freedom from guilt and the authenticity of the truth in a crucified and resurrected Christ. And he immediately identified with another self-obsessed celebrity of another era: Saul of Tarsus. He even authored a surprisingly good biography of the apostle [“Man in White“], with the insight of one who knows what it is like to see the grace of Jesus through one’s own guilt as a ‘chief of sinners.’
“Even as a Christian, Cash was different. He sang at Billy Graham crusades and wrote for Evangelical audiences, but he never quite fit the prevailing saccharine mood of pop Evangelicalism. Nor did he fit the trivialization of cultural Christianity so persistent in the country music industry, as Grand Old Opry stars effortlessly moved back and forth between songs about the glories of honky-tonk women and songs about the mercies of the Old Rugged Cross.
“To be sure, Cash’s Christian testimony is a mixed bag. In his later years, he took out an ad in an industry magazine, with a photograph of himself extending a middle finger to music executives. And yet there is something in the Cash appeal to the youth generation that Christians would do well to emulate . . . .
“Cash always seemed to connect. When other Christian celebrities tried to down-play sin and condemnation in favor of upbeat messages about how much better life is with Jesus, Cash sang about the tyranny of guilt and the certainty of coming judgment. An angst-ridden youth culture may not have fully comprehended guilt, but they understood pain. And, somehow, they sensed Cash was for real.
“The face of Johnny Cash reminded this generation that he has tasted everything the youth cultures of multiple decades have to offer—and found there a way that leads to death. In a culture that idolizes the hormonal surges of youth, Cash reminds the young of what pop culture doesn’t want them to know: ‘It is appointed to man once to die, and after this the judgment.’ His creviced face and blurring eyes remind them that there is not enough Botox in all of Hollywood to revive a corpse.
“Cash wasn’t trying to be an evangelist—and his fellow Bible-belt Evangelicals knew it. But he was able to reach youth culture in a way the rest of us often can’t, precisely because he refused to sugarcoat or ‘market’ the gospel in the ‘language’ of today’s teenagers” (quote source here).
In the last line of the article, “Inside the Complicated Faith of Johnny Cash,” Cash stated, “I don’t give up … and it’s not out of frustration and desperation that I say ‘I don’t give up.’ I don’t give up because I don’t give up. I don’t believe in it” (quote source here).
Those words are familiar. They were spoken by Jesus Christ in the “Parable of the Persistent Widow” in Luke 18:1-6, specifically in verse 1 when he stated to his disciples “that they should always pray and not give up.”
And so we also should always pray . . .
And–just like Johnny Cash—“not give up” . . .
Don’t ever give up . . . .
YouTube Video: “I Walk the Line” by Johnny Cash:
I keep a close watch on this heart of mine
I keep my eyes wide open all the time
I keep the ends out for the tie that binds
Because you’re mine, I walk the line