Wednesday, May 5, 2010

The foolish cross that saves


Imagine if we pooled the leading minds of every field to invent a new religion. All the Fortune 500 CEOs.  Presidents of our most prestigious Ivy League universities. Neuro-surgeons and astro-physicists. Artists, philosophers, and New York Times bestselling authors. All these people are gathered together and commissioned to invent a new religion. They would need to design a God and determine what he would be like. They would need to write a holy book and determine a whole system of ethics.

After much research and discussion, what would they come up with? It would be interesting to see if they could arrive at any consensus at all. But one thing's for sure: they wouldn't invent Christianity.

As we saw last Sunday, the message of a crucified Messiah defies all human wisdom and understanding, and yet it is the only message with the power to save us from sin. We saw three elements that make the gospel unique:
  1. A pathetic cross (1 Cor. 1:18-23). To unbelievers, the cross appears 'foolish' (moria, from which we get our word moronic!). Devout Jews continue to stumble over the message of a cursed, crucified Messiah. Philosophy-loving Greeks find the message utterly absurd. In the first century, the Roman author Pliny called Christianity "a perverse, extravagant superstition.' Two thousand years later, Christopher Hitchens says, "Christianity is a wicked cult, and it's high time we left it behind." The US Army's recent decision to disinvite Franklin Graham from the National Day of Prayer is just one more proof that this world wants nothing to do with a crucified Christ who demands our exclusive faith.
  2. A powerful Christ (1 Cor. 1:24-25). Though the cross is pathetic from a human perspective, to those who believe it is a powerful message that saves. The cross is powerful because Jesus conquered death, and because He can forgive and radically change us. The cross is wise because it was the only way to judge our sin and yet simultaneously show mercy. As the hymn says, that old rugged cross has a 'wondrous attraction' to us.
  3. A profound cause (1 Cor. 1:26-31). Why would God use such an unconventional means to save us? So that we would have no cause for boasting. Christ will not tolerate proud people in His kingdom. When people trust in their own wisdom and good works, man gets the glory. But when we humble ourselves and look at a bloody cross for salvation, God gets all the glory. Thus, forever and ever, we will boast in the Lord and celebrate His sovereign grace in saving us.
Questions for thought and discussion:
  • How do you know for sure you are saved? Are you relying on anything besides a crucified Christ?
  • How did you view the cross before you were saved?
  • Should we grow discouraged or stop sharing when people sometimes reject the Gospel?
  • How do churches sometimes 'water down' the gospel or turn to pragmatic methods to make the cross more appealing to unbelievers?
  • Read 1 Corinthians 1:26-31 again, noting every time Paul says 'to' or 'so that.' According to these phrases, why has God chosen to save through a cross?
  • How does this gospel provide a powerful antidote against the pride and quarrels mentioned in 1 Corinthians 1:11-12?
Sunday's sermon is available for free download on our podcast site.

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