Saturday 6 June 2015

1 Corinthians 1 v 17/25

This morning I want to speak about the Cross. Each religious faith has its own symbol. Muslims have the crescent moon; the Jews have the Star of David, but for Christians we have the Cross. We display it on and inside our Churches; it is embossed on bibles and prayer books.

Ladies wear a Cross as a decorative item of jewellery, although for the first Christians this would be horrifying, for it represented the most cruel death devised by men, it would be like wearing a model of the gallows; yet it is still acceptable to people. People have taken this so much for granted that the cross has lost much of its meaning and power. We see people living the most immoral kinds of life, yet wearing a cross around their neck. Everyone wearing a cross should think deeply as to why they are doing so.

Ladies also wear the Cross to display their faith, and this is where it becomes unacceptable in today’s Britain. Despite the Prime Minister telling us of his Christian credentials, he authorised government lawyers to challenge in the European Court, the right of a woman to wear the Cross whilst at work, but it would be discriminatory for other faiths not to be allowed to wear what they will.

This morning we are studying Paul’s Letter to the Corinthian Church. Corinth was a cosmopolitan city with which has been described as the Soho of its day. It was a trading centre and there was much wealth and a style of living which did not match up to Christian standards. The Church, which had started with much power, was allowing some of the culture to invade the Church, and some members were influenced by the rhetoric of some preachers who were deviating from gospel; this caused division and dissension within the Church.

We have a similar situation here where there are men/women, occupying the most prominent position in the Church, openly accepting and even encouraging Christians to adopt the morals of society, despite the fact that the Bible expressly condemns doing so.

Paul wrote to give advice and admonishment, and is showing us in this passage how the Cross is involved in human affairs and thinking.

Paul begins this passage by saying Christ sent him to preach the gospel, not with profound words and high sounding ideas, for fear of diluting the mighty power there is in the simple message of the Cross of Christ.

It is not often that a sermon on the Cross is heard, if at all. Indeed, a lot of sermons have only a tenuous reference to the gospel message. The Bible places high importance on the preaching ministry. In Acts we read how the Apostles stressed that their duty was to spend time preaching and teaching, leaving other social duties to lay people. The Bible asks, how can people believe in the gospel if no one is preaching to them?’

Writing to the Galatian Church Paul stated, ‘God forbid that I should boast about anything except the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ’, to indicate how much he prioritised the Cross.

When Billy Graham first started preaching he was not satisfied with the response he was getting and discussed it with a friend, who told him talk of the Cross. He did so in every sermon he preached over the next forty years as he became the greatest and most successful preacher in Christian history.

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
If you accept the Cross and its meaning, you are accepting you are making a judgement on whether you believe in truth or not.
If you tell people that all their efforts and achievements will not put them right with God, and the only way is to believe the death of Christ on the Cross is the means by which they are saved, they would say you are being ridiculous.
The message we have to take is that Jesus was born a man, in a unique and supernatural way; He performed the work God gave Him to do; He was unfairly tried for a crime He did not commit, and was crucified on a Cross as a means of salvation to all mankind.

Paul said he understood how foolish it sounds to those who are lost when they heard that Jesus died to save them, but God had said He would destroy all human plans of salvation no matter how wise they seem to be to men, even the most brilliant of them.

Paul asks where is the wise man, where is the scholar, where is the philosopher of this age has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world

The Jewish scribes dedicated their lives to study the writing of wise men. The Greeks loved debating. We have a situation in which debating is carried on in University and Theological Colleges on the veracity of Scripture, with it being analysed and taken apart. Then they go out write books, reach high Office in the Church and confuse everyone. We had an Archbishop who was so clever and learned that few could understand what he was trying to convey, it was all so convoluted; all in contrast to Paul’s desire to speak in simple terms.

Paul said the Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look to wise.
This was a stumbling block which could not be overcome by Jews or Gentiles, but to those who do believe it is a message of power.
The Jews demanded that what Paul was teaching should be proved by some miraculous sign. Jews could not ever accept that the Messiah would be crucified; it was totally contradictory to their belief. The Greeks placed so much influence on human wisdom and intellectual ability to be the means of salvation. God chose a way which ordinary people could understand. Abraham Lincoln once state God must have loved ordinary people because He made so many of them. Paul gave them an ordinary and simple message, believe in Jesus Christ who gave His life to be crucified on the Cross and you will have eternal life. If we had to be very wise and academic, millions of people would never have come to know the Lord.

But there are still people who want to see some proof for what we preach. The Bible states, by grace you shall be saved through faith’. If you have to see signs or other proof to believe, you don’t need faith. True faith is believing in what you cannot see.

God said, ‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate’.
The message of the world sees us as self-sufficient beings; there is no need of God. We have the ability to think and reason which will prove sufficient to eventually solve all of our problems. Obviously God doesn’t think so much of it.

Just where has all the wisdom of the so-called wise brought us? How well have we done in solving the world’s problems? Have we eradicated poverty? Has all our research and expertise in the fields of science and medicine rid our world of disease? Have we found a cure for cancer? There is more suffering now than history records.
With all the highly educated professional educators, how can we still have ignorant people wandering our streets, graduating from our schools and colleges not knowing basic maths or English?
Look at the enormous amount of hatred in the world with many of the Arab countries wanting to wipe Israel off the face of the map; the barbarity of Islamic militants.

Paradoxically hatred has been introduced into our society by legislation. The (inequitable) Equality and Diversity Bill has caused considerable distress. Consider the hate mail and persecution experienced Christians who do not wish to surrender their beliefs to society’s morality. The unfortunate reality is that for all our so-called sophistication, we have not been able to solve the basic problems of society–– problems that have been around since the beginning. Certainly, we have been able to see great advances technologically. We have great new gadgets. But on the really important issues of life, we don’t even have temporary solutions.

But to those whom God has called, both Jews and Gentiles, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God.
The Cross upon which Jesus died not only was a place where he bore the sins of humanity and paid the penalty for those sins, it is also a way for our lives by his power. And the reason it looks foolish is because of its paradoxical nature. It is a paradox. It is something that seems contradictory. It is like saying that the way up is down. In fact, that is precisely what it says.

It is saying that God became weak in order to save us. It says that when we surrender our lives we truly find them. The way to true exultation is true humility. The world looks at this and says it is foolishness. But when we believe it and stake our very lives upon it, we tap into this undiscovered power and find it to be real. It is the very power of God, concealed from the so-called wise and sophisticated and revealed to those who come as a child, in simple faith and trust.

For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength
Today the cross of Christ is still a cause of offence. The message of the cross of Christ is still foolishness to those who are perishing. To them the cross is the weakest link. In the Cross, we see the power of God displayed. God was powerful enough to become weak. And it will take the power of God in our lives to humble ourselves in complete surrender to him. The good news is that God has given us his power. As we surrender to him, we experience his power to live, to love, to serve, to really matter. Never mind that it seems like foolishness to the world. They will not have the last say in the matter.

There is one underlying message running right through this passage. ‘There is only one way to heaven and that is through Jesus Christ’. God gave His only Son that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.
We do not earn our right to heaven by all the good things we do, being saved is a gift from God, if we could earn it would not be free. God accepts us when we believe in Christ.

We who believe therefore can stand before the throne of judgement with confidence with having nothing to fear, for God is on our side.



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