J. T. Pugh -- 1923--2010 -- The Wisdom and Power of the Cross
With the passing of Brother J. T. Pugh, I am drawn to some memories that I have of him. I mentioned yesterday how that I had about a 30 minute conversation with him back in September, 1997. We were at a licensing seminar and he was the main speaker. After lunch I did not have a session that I was required to teach at the time and so just he and I were at a table in the fellowship hall of the church.
It was during that time that he was writing the book, The Wisdom and the Power of the Cross, which is one of the most incredible books I have ever read. Over the years, I have picked it up over and over and re-read various portions of it and now as I flip through some its pages, they are quit marked up and have numerous comments written out in the margins.
As he was writing this book, he told me a story about a bridge in Michigan. From that particular bridge 100 people have jumped in an attempt to commit suicide. Of those 100, 87 have died and thirteen have lived. Of those thirteen who lived, they have gone on to become very successful people in business and finance, education, and so forth. One of the thirteen was asked what it was that had made the change in his life. He related that the “shock” of the water, how cold that it was, how that he suddenly realized that if he did not swim that he was going to die. From this shock, he found the motivation to give life his all.
Brother Pugh then told me that the Cross brings a similar shock to our lives. Once men gain the understanding of the Cross Principle, it forces them to come to terms with their soul. What are we going to do with the shock that takes place with conversion? Will it have the capacity to change us? Will it direct us or will we direct it? Will it cause us to reach beyond ourselves in a spiritual sense for God or will we fritter away our opportunities?
The Cross brings the following to our lives:
The Shock of Contradiction -- No matter what we may tell ourselves or that others may tell us, the power of the Cross gives to us an identification of our own sin.
The Shock of Repentance -- Suddenly finding our lives convicted by the Spirit, we must do something. That something is the emptying of our hearts of the vile things that are generated by the flesh.
The Shock of Self-Surrender -- This goes against all that we have ever known. To give up, to give in to the call of God. Self-preservation is not the real focus of the kingdom. When self-surrender occurs, suddenly we began to overflow to others what God has given to us. Self-surrender helps us to understand that there is something of higher value and a greater cause in life.
The Shock of Holiness -- The power to overcome the wickedness of the flesh not on our own but by the drives of the Spirit.
Galatians 6:14 -- “But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.”
Jesus reached the conviction that He must bear the Cross. He could not come to terms with the world, but was compelled by love to renounce deliverance and bear the Cross.
To take up the Cross:
Means to take sides with Christ.
Means to stand with Him at all hazards.
Means to oppose the worldly spirit even until our death.
Means you will have to bear some shame and loss what this world has to offer.
Means you will have to have far more courage than those in the world.
The Lord leaves us no room to doubt that every true follower of His must bear a Cross. It has to be a definite act of faith and taken up to follow him.
This was the gist of the conversation because as soon as it was over, I went and took my marble notebook and scribbled down all that I could remember that he had said. In the conversation, he did mention Brother Kilgore as a man who had entirely lived out the Cross Principle in his ministry. Today as I write this, it comes to me that both of these stalwarts grew up in incredible poverty and determined to change their worlds with the help of God. What does this say to our generation who has so much of an entitlement mentality? Will our entitlement mentality sink us whereas those who grew up in great poverty become world changers?
Here are some excerpts from that book that I underlined:
Ours is the generation that has witnessed the death of the American dream. The dream died because it was based on economic growth, technological progress, and military prowess. There is nothing in this to cause us to reach beyond ourselves in a spiritual sense. (p. 9)
The basic principle of self-giving is symbolized in the cross of Jesus Christ. The cross stands for self-sacrifice. The cross is a principle that spawns true Christian character and generates the only energy that drives the church in evangelism and missions. Church history reveals that the church is healthy, balanced and invincible when the cross is the center of all its considerations. (p. 11)
Often the children and successors of vanguard champions do not share the same vision and this first flaming zeal is reduced to a smoldering nostalgia. (p. 11)
How can we be captured by a new biblical vision of the future? How can we begin to truly live out the faith that we claim? The first step to a closer walk with God is repentance. This involves turning our backs on the current agenda of the world and all it embraces. It means to recognize and unmask the selfish motives of the flesh that are a major part of mere religion. Mere religious function must be put away in a hungry quest for a real personal relationship with Jesus Himself. To that end have I written this book. (p. 12)
Jesus had not clothed the task of evangelism with romance and glory but had introduced it in rough garments of duty. (p. 28)
Just last night, I stood on the parking lot at the Texas District camp meeting and, for over an hour, poured my heart out to a very promising young preacher. One of the things I tried to point out was the difference between a man who is only a preacher and another who may be both a preacher and a minister. I did my best to show that no preacher attains a ministry without suffering. Only in the folly of the Cross does our vision clear and our hearts truly “burn within us.” (p. 45)
There are a host of other things in this book that I cannot place here but you owe it to yourself to get it and read it over and over again.
On a closing note, I share with you some of the comments that I wrote in my copy of Brother Pugh’s book, The Wisdom and Power of the Cross, which he also signed for me:
The life totally devoted to God is a lifetime process, primarily because we often lack knowledge of what God is attempting to do. As our knowledge increases, often our commitment increases. This has to be applied to my life every single day! To become one who longs for and chases after the Kingdom of God. Often the pursuit of God’s kingdom takes us through humiliation, defeats, distresses, pressures, but as we go through these rites of passage, we become God’s man!