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The Message of the Cross

The Message of the Cross

Words of Faith 4-24-17

Dr. Jeffrey D. Hoy © 2017


Faith Fellowship Church - Melbourne, FL

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1 Corinthians 1

[17] For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel--not with words of human wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.

[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. [19] For it is written:

"I will destroy the wisdom of the wise;

the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate."

How do you get past petty church arguments and squabbles? That was the task for Paul in his letter to the Corinthians. In Corinth, there was wrangling over which leader was the best and who baptized who. There were prideful claims of one group over another. Folks were quibbling and dividing over who had the greatest spiritual gifts. Some were more enamored with the personalities of leaders than they were with Jesus! What was the answer? The Cross.

Paul knew that these people had come to Christ through the preaching of the cross of Jesus and he sought to draw the believers in Corinth back to the very basic truth of the Gospel. A new relationship with God in Christ is about many things but first and foremost it is about the cross of Jesus. Our life in Christ comes about through the power of the cross and is always fundamentally about the cross. No fancy words should ever blur that truth.

The Cross of Jesus is the one thing that is baffling to those who are not saved. Those who are perishing just don't get it. Since our human nature is so driven to self-preservation, it cannot begin to understand self-sacrifice. In our flesh, we do not understand the sacrifice of Jesus until we are born again by the Spirit of God. We don't understand people who follow after Jesus and sacrifice of themselves.

Those who are not born-again do not understand the call of the Gospel to find life, in losing our lives. Jesus said, "For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it" (Luke 9:24).

The Corinthians needed a renewal of their minds. Paul instructed in his Roman letter-- "Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will" (12:2). They were trying to live their Christian lives the same way that the world does, which is self-seeking, self-serving, and ultimately self-destructive. That is why Paul sought to draw them back to the Cross of Jesus.

Paul made it clear that his primary charge was to preach the gospel not with words of human wisdom but with clarity concerning the Cross. Brilliantly persuasive eloquence may win a person's mind but not his heart, whereas the unadorned words of the gospel, though seemingly foolish by human standards, are made effective by the Spirit of God.

Jesus was very clear. "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it" (Mark 8:34-35). There is no other way.

The message of the Cross cuts to the heart of self-centeredness. The Cross is the message of self-renunciation, of obedience to God which may lead as it did in Jesus' case to humiliation and death, but which ultimately leads not to self-destruction but to preservation and exaltation.

Paul illustrated his point through an example of the Nation of Israel, which following humanly wise counsel formed an alliance with Egypt as a defense against Assyria. But in fact, it was only the miraculous intervention of God that was able to save them. "I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate" (Isaiah 29:14; 2 Kings 18:17-19:37).

It is not hard to see that this is a message that we desperately need in the church today. The message of the Cross is not at all popular today even in Christian culture. Across the broader landscape of Christendom we are still a people enamored with personalities, preferences and popularity.

Today there is a multi-billion dollar Christian market which is targeted by businesses as well as ministries. The appeal is rarely to self-sacrifice. We are a consumer Christian culture, often more interested in self-indulgence than in discipleship. The message of the church is often shaped to sell and the result is an increasingly self-centered "gospel" where the cross does not fit at all.

What is the answer? It is not in words of wisdom or a slick new package. Paul said that even such attempts empty the cross of Christ of its power. The answer is the Cross. Giving ourselves wholly and completely to the Lord. Not seeking our own way, but the way of the Jesus. Complete surrender to Him rather than to our wants and whims. Total focus on what pleases the Lord rather than what pleases us.

There is power in losing our lives in Him and then finding life that is real. This is knowing Christ. Paul wrote to the church at Philippi-- "I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death" (3:10). It is in dying to self that we find life in Him.

Father, teach me the path of the Cross. Show me the way that sacrifices self in order to find life. Guide me on the road that denies self so that I may discover who I really am in You. In Jesus' name.