How do we reach this materialistic self-satisfied Post-Modern Post-Christendom generation with God’s love? In many respects our world in this the third millennium is more similar to the world of the Early Church than it is to English society was even a century ago. Then we were a nation with one faith. Now we live in a supermarket of beliefs. Across the centuries we can learn from the Apostle Paul and the way he shared the gospel, particularly as he explains his approach in 1 Corinthians.
1 Cor 2:1 ¶ When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. 2 For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.
THE CROSS IS OUR MESSAGE
Our society has elevated the individual above God. We are a society trapped in sins of selfishness and greed. And there is only one antidote to the self-centredness which is at the heart of the way the world is today. The only challenge to the relativism of postmodern thinking is the good news of Jesus Christ. The only hope for our lost neighbours lies in the historical facts of the incarnation, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
> People who think they have the right to live as THEY think best need to hear that God became man for us and for our salvation. The history of humanity is eternally bound up in the history of God. We cant live as we like! We are accountable to God!
> People who think that it’s alright to choose what’s best for them and “devil take the hindmost” need to hear that Christ died on the cross for their sins, for their selfishness.
The cross of Christ is God’s rebuke to the selfishness of our consumer culture. Christ’s perfect sacrifice exposes greed for the sin it is.
> People may think that they can go on living as they choose and it doesn’t really matter. But the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead proves that there is life beyond death, that what we do in this life has eternal significance, that we are spiritual beings as well as minds in bodies.
This is the message the world needs to hear! Christ was born. Christ died. Christ is risen! This is the truth which will set people free! The message of the cross!
A MESSAGE OF FORGIVENESS
1 Corinthians 1:30 It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become
for us wisdom from God- that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.
Good News Bible: 30 But God has brought you into union with Christ Jesus, and God has made Christ to be our wisdom. By him we are put right with God; we become God’s holy people and are set free.
1 Peter 1:9 But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
Once dead – now alive. Once blind – now seeing. One God’s enemies. Now God’s friends, a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God!
John Bunyan said in his timeless Pilgrim’s Progress, “I saw in my dream that just as Christian came up to the cross, his burden loosed from his shoulders and fell from his back and began to tumble till it came to the mouth of the sepulcher, where it fell in and I saw it no more. Then was Christian glad and lightsome and said with a merry heart, “He has given me rest by his sorrow, and life by his death.”
So the cross is
A MESSAGE OF HOPE
The cross is our only hope of escaping from the traps of what A.W.Tozer memorably calls “the hyphenated sins of the human spirit, self sufficiency, self-pity, self-absorption, self-deception, self-exaltation, self-indulgence, self hatred, the everlasting burden of always having to get our own way” The cross is God’s way of setting sinful human beings free to become the kind of people he wants us to be and we want to be. Hope for the hopeless!
1 Corinthians 1:26 Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28 He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things- and the things that are not- to nullify the things that are, 29 so that no-one may boast before him.
In a 3rd-century debate on Christianity, Celsus said to Origen, “When most teachers go forth to teach, they cry, ‘Come to me, you who are clean and worthy,’ and they are followed by the highest caliber of people available. But your silly master cries, ‘Come to me, you who are down and beaten by life,’ and so he accumulates around him the rag, tag and bobtail of humanity.”
And Origen replied: “Yes, they are the rag, tag and bobtail of humanity. But Jesus does not leave them that way. Out of material you would have thrown away as useless, he fashions men, giving them back their self-respect, enabling them to stand on their feet and look God in the eyes. They were cowed, cringing, broken things. But the Son has set them free.”
20 years ago the South African evangelist Reinhard Bonke sent a gift of an evangelistic booklet to every home in England. That book was called “From Minus to Plus”. And that is what the Cross of Christ offers to each one of us – to turn the minuses in our lives into plusses. I believe it was actually part of God’s great cosmic master-plan that the sign which mathematicians decided to use to represent addition is just a simple upright cross. The cross which changes our lives from minus to plus, and gives us life in all its fullness.
But as we say last week the message of the cross is also
A MESSAGE OF FOOLISHNESS
1 Cor 1:21 For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. 22 Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling-block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24 but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.
The cross is God’s answer to all of man’s questions. The idea that sinful human beings can be put right with a Holy God by the sacrifice of one man on a cross has always seemed a foolish idea to a rebellious world. But the cross IS God’s answer to mankind’s problems – for every generation in every age!
Some Christians seem to have lost confidence in the power of the gospel to change lives, the transforming power of Jesus Christ which can save “from the guttermost to the uttermost.”
1 Cor 2:1 ¶ When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God.
Too many preachers today deal in eloquence or put their trust in human wisdom, especially some of the popular American Christian leaders who rely on style triumphing over substance. As we thought last week, we don’t need eloquence or human wisdom. All we need is the power of the Cross of Christ who is the power of God and the wisdom of God.
One danger is that Christians look too closely at the problems of world and of our neighbours and try to find answer to those problems ourselves. But God has already provided the RIGHT answer to all these problems – the cross and resurrection of Christ!! God’s wisdom is so much greater than ours! God knows the right answer!! Our challenge is not to invent new clever answers, but to find the right way to communicate the timeless message of the cross to people trapped in their post-modern problems!!!
Of course we have to avoid burying the message under tradition and jargon. Of course we have to be relevant and not outdated. But we must preach Christ and Him crucified. The cross is our message. We shouldn’t be ashamed of it and we shouldn’t be distracted from it!
Winston Churchill advised, “If you have an important point to make, don’t try to be subtle or clever. Use a pile driver. Hit in once. Then come back and hit again.”
1 Corinthians 1 23 but we preach Christ crucified: … Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. … 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength.
So in all our preaching – the cross is our message, and also
THE CROSS IS OUR EXAMPLE
AN EXAMPLE OF SERVICE
Mark 10:45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
God calls us not only to preach to people but to care for them, to love our neighbours as we love ourselves, not just to tell them about God’s love in words but to show them God’s love in action!
The Cross is AN EXAMPLE OF INVOLVEMENT
Evangelism and witness and service are all about people. Not events. Not activities. Not pieces of paper. People! In the incarnation, Jesus Christ the Son of God got his hands dirty. That means getting involved with people. Helping with their problems – their blocked drains, their lost cats, their broken relationships, their hurts which need God’s healing, their addictions their depressions, their fears. We must be prepared to get involved – whatever the cost.
1 Thessalonians 2: 8 We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us.
9 Surely you remember, brothers, our toil and hardship; we worked night and day in order not to be a burden to anyone while we preached the gospel of God to you.
Sharing our very lives!
AN EXAMPLE OF OBEDIENCE
Sharing the love of Christ with a needy world is never easy. It is costly. And we don’t just share the gospel because we are overwhelmed with love for the lost souls of North Springfield. Sometimes they will be very difficult to love! We share the gospel out of obedience. The same kind of obedience which brought Christ to earth and took Christ to the cross. That was the point Paul made out of that wonderful early Christian hymn in Philippians 2 we looked at on Easter Day.
Philippians 2: 4 Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to
the interests of others. 5 Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:
6 Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, 7 but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death- even death on a cross
This all may sound very daunting to you! Service. Involvement. Obedience. You may feel this is too scary! Be comforted – even the great apostle Paul found preaching the gospel scary! But he still did it!
1 Corinthians 2:3 I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling.
When it comes to evangelism and witnessing, you may feel weak. Paul felt weak. You may feel fear. Paul felt fear. You may be trembling. Paul was trembling. But God gave him the grace to overcome these feelings. If Paul had listened to his feelings instead of acting in obedience to God, there would never have been a church in Corinth!
If we feel nervous – be reassured. We have God’s promises.
THE CROSS IS OUR POWER
1 Corinthians 2:4 My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, 5 so that your faith might not rest
on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power.
THE POWER OF CHRIST’S VICTORY
WE don’t have to pay the penalty for the sins of the world – Christ has already done that!
We don’t have to make a way for sinful people to come into the presence of the Holy God – Christ has already done that!
WE don’t need to defeat the devil and all the principalities and powers – Christ has already done that!
WE don’t need to triumph over death – Christ has already done that!
All WE have to do is tell other people what Christ has already done – to proclaim Christ’s finished work and all He has accomplished on our behalf on the cross – to tell people about the wonderful gift of eternal life God offers us all through Christ.
We don’t need wise and persuasive words. We don’t need eloquence and superior wisdom. It’s not our job to convert people. Our task is simply to tell them the way to be saved – to bear witness to the truth. Because then we also have
THE POWER OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
We heard that last Sunday morning.
Acts 1 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
It’s the Holy Spirit who convicts people of sin. It’s the Holy Spirit who enables them to declare Jesus is Lord. It’s the Holy Spirit who baptises them into Christ. It’s the Holy Spirit who brings new birth. It’s the Holy Spirit who assures us that we belong to Jesus.
So we talk to God about our friends and neighbours in prayer. Then we talk to our neighbours and friends about God. And we trust in the victory of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit to work miracles.
THE POWER OF WEAKNESS
2 Corinthians 4:6 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. 7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.
8 ¶ We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair;
9 persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. 10 We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in
our body. 11 For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body. 12 So then, death is at work in us,
but life is at work in you.
We don’t want people to see us. We want people to see Jesus IN us. The gospel translated into daily living. The word became flesh – and we give our lives to God so that gospel will be expressed in our flesh, in our weak humanity, in our frailty, in our perseverance, whatever opposition or ridicule we may face. And we will face rejection! People will think of us as fools – but fools for Christ! Friends may misunderstand us or laugh at us. Strangers may write letters to the papers about us, or smash our windows or spray-paint our walls. But people will be saved! Because the power or Christ’s victory and the power of the Holy Spirit will be released into our lives through our weakness.
We have the cross as our example of service and involvement and obedience. The cross is our message of forgiveness and hope, foolish in men’s eyes but the perfect expression of God’s wisdom.
1 Cor 2:2 For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified
“Lift high the cross, the love of Christ proclaim, till all the world adores His sacred name!