Well, then, if the Church is the Divine outcome of the Cross, it must define the nature and meaning of the Cross. What does the Cross do? What is the function of the Cross? We have viewed that in three directions in our previous meditation - God-ward, man-ward and satan-ward. Now, let us see it in one or two other connections which touch all three of these at the same time.
The Cross An End To All Idolatry
Firstly, the Cross puts an end to all idolatry. Take that away and think about it. Idolatry is a long story, and it is a very far-reaching story. I am going to say something which would take a very long time to verify, so far as the data and events are concerned, but which can be verified from the beginning to the end of Scriptures. It is this: if we knew the truth, idolatry lies behind "everything" for which the Cross of Christ came into being, and when the Cross is really made active, what it is doing is to deal with idolatry in some form or another. Now that, perhaps, you cannot grasp for the moment. But we will go a little way further with it.
You see, the Cross, right at its very heart and center, relates to worship. That is the final word, the ultimate matter in this universe, and now the universe has become Cross-centric; that is, the Cross of Christ now, since the Fall, has become the center of this universe, and that Cross is to touch this universe from center to circumference. There is a centrality and universality of the Cross, and at the very center and circumference of this universe the one thing which is preeminent is worship. If you understand what worship is, then idolatry is simply, but comprehensively, anything and everything which in principle takes from, or even tends to take from, the utterness of God as the very life of man. God has made Himself the spring, the source, the center of life, and for his life man is utterly dependent upon God, and can only find his life in God. God has bound man to Himself inseparably for his life, and will not allow man to have life, in the real sense, apart from Himself. He has made it a law in His universe that man cannot live apart from God, in the sense in which God means him to live and in God's meaning of life. God is man's life. Anything which becomes for man a substitute for God in life is idolatry. God Himself is LIFE! Anything that draws man away from God, or tends to draw man away from God, is idolatry in principle: and, mark you, it is God Himself in Person Who is man's life, and man's center. In a moment, I will say more about what that means.
What Idolatry Is
Idolatry is all that is not God as the basis or object of man's life. That is tremendously comprehensive. We think of idolatry, of course, in terms of heathen idols. We might perhaps bring it into a closer realm, where people clearly put things in the place of God but oh! it goes much deeper than that, and, in Scriptures, idolatry is never regarded as merely negative or passive. There idolatry is always seen to be an active thing, inasmuch as it is the work of an intelligence which is opposed to God; and that satanic intelligence is always making it its first object and aim, persistently, continuously, and by every means, to get something into the place of the Lord personally. You see, it is possible to have the things of the Lord in the place of the Lord Himself; and that is idolatry in principle. Yes, it may be the things of Jehovah, not other gods. In place of the Lord, Who is the object of man's life, His things may be given precedence, and in principle that is idolatry, and the Cross is ever being used by the Holy Spirit to strike at everything, no matter what it is, that comes to occupy the place of the Lord Himself, the place that the Lord Himself should occupy. Idolatry is always religious, and it may be the Christian religion as well as any other religion that is marked by idolatry.
I am saying some strong things, but there is a cause. You see, idolatry exists in principle whenever or wherever anything, even good in itself, becomes an object in itself rather than God, the Lord Himself! There are many things which are not only harmless but good in themselves, which have, nevertheless, been allowed to take the place of the Lord Himself, and good things can therefore embody the principle of idolatry in the one in whom the devotion is found. Touch some Christian, or Christian institutions, and let the touch be even in relation to something more of the Lord Himself, and you will find an uprising of jealous regard for the institution which utterly blinds to that possibility of an extra measure of the Lord Himself. You can be so devoted to a denomination, a missionary society, a piece of Christian work, that there is no room for any extra measure of the Lord. The thing itself has become the end, the object for which you live, and when the Lord wants to get you moved on into something more of Himself, the obstacle is that good Christian work, association, institution, tradition, connection. Yes, and that is idolatry in principle, and we see from history how the Lord again and again has had to smite with smashing blows things which in themselves were good, in order to save His people unto Himself personally. Even things which He gave at one time, have had to be taken away or shattered because the gift has become the end, the object. That is what is happening: and a very necessary thing it is too. The Lord is not protecting good things today. If those have become something to which men have become devoted, with which they have become bound up, He is allowing them to be broken and destroyed.
(continued with # 3)