United in Christ…We Preach Christ Crucified (February 9, 2020

SERMON Text: 1 Corinthians 2:1-5

Pastor Philip Bigelow

“Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.”[1]  “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”[2]  “And so my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country.”[3]  “Yesterday, December 7, 1941—a date which will live in infamy—the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the empire of Japan.”[4]  

That was four brief quotes from some of the most famous and most important speeches given in the history of the United States of America.  Some of them were big, grand, speeches that took days and weeks to prepare like President Kennedy’s inauguration speech that included the famous quote, “Ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country.”  Others were responses that were quickly pieced together in the moment like President Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address that lasted all of two minutes, if he were giving the sermon it would already be over, and President Roosevelt’s response to the attack on Pearl Harbor.  What does each quote from those speeches have in common?  There are a number of things.  Each of those speeches were delivered at a time in our nation’s history of major historical importance.  Each of those statements came from the lips of an important and influential person in our history.  Finally, each of them delivered a powerful message.  You mix all of those ingredients together and you have a recipe that stands the test of time.  Here we are over 150, 70, and 50 years later and we are still talking about it and we still recognize those words.  I bet as soon as I began reciting each of those quotes many of you could finish them because they have been repeated and learned throughout history.

You could say that those people and those messages had the power to influence a lot of people and in some cases even directed the course of history.  I don’t think there are too many of us here that would put ourselves on the same level as Martin Luther King Jr. and Presidents Lincoln, Kennedy, and Roosevelt when it comes to our influence and our ability to deliver a powerful message.  Have you ever thought about that?  Have you thought about the message that you have to deliver?  Have you thought about what you have to contribute to the conversation of life?  Maybe you have, maybe you haven’t.  Maybe you are thinking, “I really don’t think I have much at all to contribute to others and don’t have much to tell them that they want to hear about.”  So, if you weren’t thinking those thoughts, now you are.  You’re welcome.  And today is a very blessed day for you because our lesson is going to talk about these things today.

 We are continuing our readings in the book of 1 Corinthians and the theme that runs through it that we are united in Christ.  Last week we heard the truth that we have no reason to boast before the Lord.  We cannot boast in the presence of God based on ourselves and what we do, but only in what God has done for us and in what God accomplished for us on the cross.  That is the only way we boast.  Now, Paul, who wrote the book of Corinthians which was a letter sent to the church in the city of Corinth, takes that idea to the next level today as he establishes what his message is based on.

Paul spent 18 months in the city of Corinth telling them about Jesus, which doesn’t sound very long to us today, but that was one of the longer stops for Paul as he traveled from city to city sharing Jesus with people.  Right away he reminds them when he was there and says, “Hey, guys, remember when I came to you?  Remember when I told you the things that God has done for you because he loves you?  I didn’t come as a prominent speaker or razzle dazzle you with the wisdom of life.”  Why does Paul say that?  Why does he point out what he specifically didn’t do in sharing the message of God with them?  That’s what they valued, but it wasn’t what changed their hearts.  The Greeks, which is where Corinth is, loved their wisdom.  They loved listening to ideas and powerful, influential speakers.  They loved doing mental gymnastics and the more difficult the better.  They wanted to hear the fresh, new, and interesting ideas that the wisdom of the world had to offer.

 It wasn’t that Paul couldn’t do that.  Paul was highly educated.  Paul was no dummy.  It wasn’t that Paul wasn’t smart enough.  He didn’t come to those people in Corinth thinking the Word of God wasn’t enough or that it had to be added to in some way in order to change their hearts and lives.  Sometimes do we fall into that trap?  When we have opportunity to bring someone the message of Jesus Christ and his love for them and what he has done for them do we find ourselves with this thought bouncing in the brain, “I don’t know what to say.”  Has that almost become the unwritten rule of sharing Jesus with someone?  It’s kind of along the lines of, “If you can’t say anything nice then don’t say anything at all,” but when it comes to sharing Jesus we tweak it a little bit to, “If you don’t know what to say then don’t say anything at all.”  So, sometimes we don’t.  We don’t say anything.  Why?

Because we don’t know what to say?  We might think, “I don’t know what to tell them.  I’m not sure how to start the conversation.  What if the conversation goes to a place I don’t know how to answer?  Then I’ll be really uncomfortable.  What if they ask me a question about the Bible that I don’t have the answer to?  What if they ask me what I think about some controversial issue and what the Bible says about it?”  Is it easier to just say to ourselves, “I’d rather not go there?”  So, our strategy is to lock it up and throw away the key and keep Jesus our little secret because our strategy to avoid putting ourselves in a situation where I don’t know what to say is to not say anything at all.

 Maybe we don’t say anything because we are afraid of the reaction we could receive?  So, what are the reactions we could receive for telling someone about Jesus?  There are many ways that people can react to the message of Jesus but basically, they all fall into one of two options.  And do you know what the good news is for us about those two options?  We already know what they are.  Paul tells us because it happened to him.  When he visited Corinth and shared Jesus with the people this was the reaction, “But when the Jews opposed Paul and became abusive, he shook out his clothes in protest and said to them, ‘…From now on I will go to the Gentiles.’  …and many of the Corinthians who heard him believed and were baptized” (Acts 18:6, 8b).  The options are that they listen to the Word and God works faith in their hearts or they tell us that’s foolishness and they don’t want to hear it.  So, the reactions aren’t a surprise to us.  And when someone tells us they don’t want to hear it then we do what Paul did and we tell then next person what Jesus did for them and his love for them.

 We are so blinded by our arrogance and selfishness at times that we don’t even realize it!  If we are concerned that we don’t know what to say so we will not say anything at all what’s really at the heart of that?  Thinking that God’s Word isn’t powerful enough.  It needs me to add a bit to it in order to be effective.  We are relying on the power of how we say the Word or that it’s dependent on us to say just the right thing and not relying on the power of the Word itself.  And to that we need to hear there is only one Savior and we are not him and it’s sinfully arrogant to think otherwise.  We might be afraid of the reaction we could receive in sharing Jesus, but have you thought about the result for that person?  If they don’t know Jesus, they are headed to hell.  How sinfully selfish to be more concerned about the reaction we might get instead of souls that don’t know Jesus.

 What is the solution to that arrogance and selfishness?  Let the Word of God be the Word of God and let the power of God be the power of God!  Paul didn’t need to add anything to the Word.  “For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.  I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling.  My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power” (1 Corinthians 2:2-5).  Paul says, “Here is what I want you to know: Jesus Christ and him crucified.  Look at Christ!  Don’t look at me.  I’m weak, afraid, and trembling.  I wasn’t wise.  I didn’t persuade you with my speech.  It’s all about Christ and his power.”

 What a comfort that is to you and me!  What is the power of God?  He takes sinful, broken, shattered lives and he heals us.  He takes sinners like you and me with pasts that sometimes would make the demons blush, sinners like you and me that were headed for the gates of hell, sinners like you and me that sometimes think that God isn’t strong enough and isn’t powerful enough and needs a little help.  He takes all of that and puts it on Jesus.  He is the only one that can heal the broken and shattered, the only one that can rescue us from hell, the only one that is strong enough to take our punishment and declare us forgiven.  That is the power of God, period and it needs nothing from us to make it any more powerful.  That is why we preach Christ crucifiedbecause that is the power of God.  That is nothing short of a miracle and God allows us to be a part of it.  Isn’t that amazing!

You might say to yourself, “I’m not very historically significant.  I’m not very important.  I don’t have a powerful message to deliver like Presidents.  Wrong, wrong, and wrong.  You and I have the message that turns hearts, lives, and eternities around.  Go and share.  Not by your power, by the power of Christ crucified.  Amen.

[1] The Gettysburg Address, Abraham Lincoln. http://www.abrahamlincolnonline.org/lincoln/speeches/gettysburg.htm

[2] “I Have a Dream” Address Delivered at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom” Martin Luther King Jr.  https://kinginstitute.stanford.edu/king-papers/documents/i-have-dream-address-delivered-march-washington-jobs-and-freedom

[3] “Inaugural Address” President John F. Kennedy  https://www.jfklibrary.org/learn/about-jfk/historic-speeches/inaugural-address

[4] “President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “Day of Infamy” Speech” https://www.archivesfoundation.org/documents/president-franklin-d-roosevelt-day-of-infamy-speech/