The Message of the Cross (Part One)

1 Corinthians 1:18

For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God (NIV)

The twenty-first century is a great time to be a Christian! Though there are many challenges in a world that is increasingly anti-Christian, we have many opportunities to tell everywhere the good news of Jesus Christ. So, we should rejoice! But with the joy is the essential issue that the church must face in our time. What should the church be proclaiming in our age? Here the errors of the two previous centuries rise to trip us up. Many think the church should do anything but tell the good news.

  • Some wrongly view Christianity as a means of political revolution for oppressed people.
  • Some wrongly view Christianity as a tool to undo “social wrongs”, like poverty, homelessness, illiteracy, etc.
  • Some wrongly view Christianity as a crusade for morality.
  • Some wrongly assume that Christianity is a political movement to have an easy place to live.
  • Some wrongly think that Christianity should just shut up and go away or at least confine itself to “private” ceremonial matters, such as birth, marriage and death.

But what does God’s Word, the Bible, say that our message must be? It plainly says that the message of true Christianity is the message of the cross of Jesus Christ. God does not argue for our approval with this message nor does he say that people will like it. But he does clearly say, “This is what I want you to tell all people everywhere in every age of human history.”

The message of the cross is considered foolishness by the world (1:18). They logically, though incorrectly, reject the message of the cross as foolish because of their basic assumptions. The worldly person has a human-centered view of truth (1:22b, 20a).

  • They think that humans can and must verify anything and everything by human reason in order to be considered as true. Humanity becomes its own measuring stick. The problem is that humanity is too small and twisted to measure anything accurately.
  • They think that humanity can solve its own problems by its own wisdom. This truly is foolish. What of all the domestic violence and abuse? What of the growing dependency on drugs to cope with life’s problems? What of all the wars between people? What about the way that humanity is polluting its own world? If you stop and look at what is happening, you see how ridiculous and utterly laughable the idea that humanity can solve its own problems is. And I didn’t even mention our basic problem with our war with God!
  • The result is a very closed system from closed minds. Any message from God is deemed impossible by assumption. When people desire to suppress the knowledge of God (Romans 1:18), we should expect this situation. It should also show us that we need the power of God to break through their presupposition.

The worldly person has an experiential view of truth (1:22a; cf. Matthew 12:38-39; Mark 8:11-12; John 6:30). Their attitude is “Show me a miracle and I’ll believe!” Oh, really? Just what miracle do you think that God should do for those who mock him? What would you do to someone who was trying to humiliate you? And God has already done the greatest miracle of all, and you haven’t believed yet? Why should God do another for you to reject?

God sends us to people with these attitudes. What does he want us to tell them? Our mission is to tell them the message of the cross. They need to hear that the only way to be right with the true and living God rests on Christ and him crucified. We cannot make this appealing or acceptable to human wisdom. Yet it is this message that is the power of God to salvation (Romans 1:16). Are we convinced of the absolute, bottom-line truth of the message of the cross? If we are, then let us tell it to all people everywhere.

Grace and peace, David

Fluctuations in a Broken World

IMG_3228Psalm 9:13-20

Life in our world is inconsistent. Circumstances vary like the changing of the wind. Winners become losers, and losers surprisingly win. The powerful suddenly fall, and the lowliest rise to rule. Years of good health unexpectedly end, while others have their strength renewed when recovery appeared hopeless. We have learned from this psalm about the Lord’s certain triumph, but the bright prospect of eternal joy does not mean that the walk of Christ’s people through this broken world is a pleasure tour. We can expect the ultimate victory of Jesus the Messiah, but God’s chosen path to that end is a journey of ups and downs. David willingly wrote about this aspect of the true story of God’s glory.

Life’s changes make us renew our prayers (9:13-14). In the previous verses, it seemed that David was very confident (9:7-12). He believed that God would act for his good. However, hope is not equivalent with instant deliverance. David was still in the midst of suffering at the hands of his enemies. For this reason, he continued to call out to God. Consider his requests.

  • He prayed for compassion. He wanted the Lord to look and see his condition. Because he knew that the compassionate God (cf. 2 Cor 1:3) would pity what he was going through, David could talk this way because he believed that God was able to see and to act in our broken world. His experience of God was not theoretical but real.
  • He asked the Lord to rescue him from the jaws of death. He knew that the Lord could save him even in his desperate situation. This kind of confidence comes from walking daily with God.
  • He promised to tell what the Lord had done for him. Here praise and mission join in his heart. He wants to help others have faith in God.

Next, David prophesied about the destiny of the wicked (9:15-18). In this section of the song he used a number of “prophetic perfects” that view the outcome as already accomplished. This is necessary in the life of faith. In our present circumstances, we might not see the immediate downfall of the enemies of the Lord and his people. As the old hymn says, “Oft the wrong seems oh so strong, but God is the ruler yet”. Notice that David wrote that the wicked unwittingly contribute to their judgment. They fall into the pits that they dug for others. An example of this is wicked Haman in the book of Esther. The wicked “return to Sheol” (9:17 HCSB). Sheol is the realm of the dead. Since sin and death are partners (Romans 5:12), their destiny is the fullness of the realm in which they have lived. David boldly states the final fluctuation. Though the present may be very difficult, the needy and the afflicted who trust in God will never perish.

Finally, David prayed for God to act (9:19-20). Prayer is not wishing for life to get better. It is communication with God to act for his glory and our good to make life better. He called upon God to “arise”. This word occurs a number of times in prayer, and is a bold way of telling the Lord to get up and act quickly. Yet the Spirit of God led David to pray in this bold way (2 Samuel 23:2). So then, we should follow David’s example and present our requests with boldness. He also asked the Lord to produce a change in the attitudes of their enemies. The nations need to know that God rules over all. They are not in charge; God is. In the chaos and confusion of the world, we can pray this also. Perhaps some will come to repentance when they realize that Jesus and the gospel will prevail over their schemes.

Grace and peace, David