You know here at MRC we work really hard to introduce you to the magnitude of The Cross. We want to introduce you to the amazing gift that our Heavenly Father gave us through Jesus. This is our primary objective, to help people push through the complexities of religion, and the pain and hurts and confusion of mistakes and sin and to help people see just how simple, how loving, and how pure a relationship with Jesus can be. It’s an amazing feeling to come to the place where you realize the enormity of God’s love. It takes the weight of the world off of you to realize that yes I mess up, yes I am a sinner…but God loves me, and gave us salvation through His son Jesus. You see we stay so focused on grace because we know it’s the hardest thing to really wrap your head around and center on…the idea that God loves us so much that He would send His one and only son to this Earth to die for our sins with no strings attached. The purest love, the ultimate sacrifice, and we gain eternal life by simply believing. This is what it’s all about. This is why we exist. This is the thing that keeps Ken us up at night. This is why we planted MRC here in Dillsburg and why we are now planting another MRC in Gettysburg. We want people to be introduced to this truth. We want to tear down all the nonsense so people can actually find Jesus in a very real way. We want people to see the Gospel message and live in it! It’s what we do. It is the mission of Christ that we carry out into the world! Now salvation is an amazing gift…it is THE amazing gift, it’s all about the Cross and always about the Cross. This is where we want people far from God focused…on grace, on the gift of Jesus’ unconditional love and ultimate sacrifice on the Cross. But for those of us who have asked Jesus into our lives and are saved into the Kingdom…there is something very important for us to remember about The Cross. Yes Jesus died on the Cross a long time ago. Yes we are saved through that event…but the cross didn’t just happen, it can be and needs to be a daily part of our lives. I believe this is one of the hang ups for people in their Christian journey. They forget that this spiritual journey is a daily one, and life is different when the Cross goes from something I did to get out of spending eternity in Hell, to something I go to each and every day. This is where we center our lives as we grow spiritually, it’s the key and many miss it. So the place to start is here with a question…
How do you view The Cross?
I think for a lot of us we would say something along the lines of what we already discussed. The Crucifixion of Jesus was Him taking my punishment for my stuff. Jesus literally taking on my sin so that I could have eternal life. Which is so beautiful and so true…and just amazing! It’s what we celebrate in here every week. But what if I told you there was more?
You know in a lot of ways as we jump into Paul’s letter to the church in Corinth we see the Corinthians in a spot where they have found salvation through Jesus but now as we get into Chapter 2 of this letter we see Paul coming back to them with the same thoughts I’m bringing to you today. Paul is saying to them, you’ve got the salvation thing down…but what if there is more?
Do you guys remember Ken’s intro last week to this letter? I hope you were here because that was awesome information and really helps us see who these people were. Let’s face it, they were a rough bunch. This new church that Paul starts is messy. These people were partying, fighting, and doing whatever they felt like doing. They were very self-focused and listen, there isn’t a switch that just magically flips when you ask Jesus into your life as your Lord and Savior that takes that stuff away. I think for a lot of the people in Corinth, they loved the idea of having a savior, I just don’t think they were really all that happy with the idea of having a Lord of their lives too. Jesus as savior I’m all in, but Jesus as my Lord…not so much! I love that quote that we saw from Eugene Peterson in his intro to 1 Corinthians…
“When people become Christians, they don’t at the same moment become nice. This always comes as something of a surprise. Conversion to Christ and His grace doesn’t automatically furnish a person with impeccable manners and suitable morals.” Eugene Peterson
I absolutely love this statement! So many people get jammed up with Christians and won’t engage church or leave the church because they come in with the wrong idea, assuming they will see perfect people! They leave because they hear people say they love Jesus but the people still mess up all around them! Shouldn’t they have it all together? I mean they say they are Christians…No! This is such a set up for people. It shocks people to find out the people inside the church aren’t perfect…when the fact of the matter is we know we aren’t, which is why we know we need Jesus! So yes, the church people will still be messy! This is such a huge set up for people as they find reasons to stay away from the church.
So today I want to focus on something that is so important. Actually I think we may be talking today about the one thing that keeps most people from growing in their relationship with God. So if you are out there and you feel stuck, I think today is a big Sunday for you. Listen, just because we are saved doesn’t automatically mean I will LIVE differently. My actions and my way of living doesn’t just magically change the day I ask Jesus into my life. We all have patterns, and habits, and stuff that we deal with. I love the way Peter speaks of these things…
1 Peter 1:13 So roll up your sleeves, put your mind in gear, be totally ready to receive the gift that’s coming when Jesus arrives. 14 Don’t lazily slip back into those old grooves of evil, doing just what you feel like doing. You didn’t know any better then; you do now. 15 As obedient children, let yourselves be pulled into a way of life shaped by God’s life, a life energetic and blazing with holiness. 16 God said, “I am holy; you be holy.” MSG
This implies that we have work to do right? We must roll up our sleeves and get our mind in gear and break out of the old patterns of living…moving towards holiness. We have patterns. We have appetites and desires that are screaming to be fed…and frankly this is what Paul is dealing with in the early goings here with his church plant in Corinth. Today we look at the first 5 verses of Chapter 2.
1 Corinthians 2:1 Dear brothers and sisters, when I first came to you I didn’t use lofty words and brilliant ideas to tell you God’s message. 2 For I decided to concentrate only on Jesus Christ and his death on the cross. 3 I came to you in weakness — timid and trembling. 4 And my message and my preaching were very plain. I did not use wise and persuasive speeches, but the Holy Spirit was powerful among you. 5 I did this so that you might trust the power of God rather than human wisdom. NLT
Paul always centers on the Cross. Everything he does and says is always going to come back to the Gospel. So before we break these 5 verses down today, I want to go back to this thought…
What if there is more to The Cross than just our salvation? What if the Cross isn’t just something that happened? What if The Cross is actually happening daily? What if it’s a place a disciple must visit each day? Listen, Salvation is an amazing free gift. The Cross is so much bigger than anything we would ever do. It’s always about Jesus, the blood stained cross, and the empty tomb…but what if we do have something to do in this process of growing towards holiness and maturity. See Paul is trying to address something with these young Christians that people today are still struggling with and missing…and I will tell you this is the challenge and the secret for everyone’s Spiritual journey, and I think it’s easy to miss. It’s the part of the cross that Jesus explained here in Luke…I think this is a big moment, yet for many this comes across as either confused or just missed, or in some cases it may even be ignored.
Luke 9:23 Then he (Jesus) said to them all: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. 24 For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it. NIV
Listen, when Jesus went to the Cross for us he took our sin from us. We are saved by simply believing in Him we are given the gift of eternal life. We know that Jesus told us that He came to give us life and life to the full…we know this because we talk about it often but maybe the key to our growth and maturity as Christians is found here. Jesus tells us there is something else…we are to carry our cross too. We must die to ourselves pick up our cross and follow Jesus. Now, this isn’t you giving up your health to serve Jesus and run yourself into the ground. This isn’t you allowing the world to destroy you…you are to live a healthy life. This is you dying to your fleshly desires and literally following Jesus as your LORD and Savior…not just your Savior. Let’s read that again in the Message version, it’s really clears it up…
Luke 9:23 Then he told them what they could expect for themselves: “Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat — I am. Don’t run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I’ll show you how. 24 Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to finding yourself, your true self. MSG
For so many of us this is the missing piece. We like the saved by grace thing! We tell people that we have Jesus as our Lord and Savior and we really like the idea of having a Savior but if we are really honest, we aren’t into the whole Lord leading me thing. This is the struggle that we face. Will we die to ourselves, and our will and follow Jesus. This is the hang up for many of us, and it is where the Corinthian people are too.
Listen for a Christ follower the Cross isn’t just what Jesus did, it should be the place we go to take our mess, our selfishness, our fleshy desires to die each and every day. We take them to the cross and we leave them there…this is a daily fight against those grooves of evil we were talking about, and I can tell you this…as you nail them to the cross daily, each day it does get a little easier than the day before. Jesus calls us to join Him in this journey to the Cross…it’s a journey to kill our selfishness and this is the thing that is often missed and overlooked as we get so pumped about The Good News! Which we should be pumped about. It’s the daily part of the Cross that we need to see and apply to live that life to the full thing out! This is what Peterson was addressing in that quote from earlier and what Paul pushes on us often.
Romans 6:6 Could it be any clearer? Our old way of life was nailed to the Cross with Christ, a decisive end to that sin-miserable life — no longer at sin’s every beck and call! MSG
This is when we get to truly live…life to the full comes as we die to ourselves so that we can truly live in Him. It comes when the Cross becomes more than something that happened for you years ago to get you into Heaven…but when it becomes the place where we can go daily to give over our mess, our worldly desires, our competitive spirits, our hurts, our anger, our sin to God…we take it there and we nail it to the cross each and every day so we can walk without that weight through that day. It’s the weight he can carry, that we just can’t.
Listen, I’m not saying this is easy to do…it’s not. It’s not easy because everything in this world and our culture pushes against the mentality of laying your life down and serving or allowing anyone to lead! Living a life crucified with Jesus sets us free from all of those things but it is so hard to do. First we would never have the time to engage God daily, and second if I ever lived the life he describes everyone would get out ahead of me right now…right? It’s tough, living in a world that is so opposite, a world that is constantly pushing against God’s will. This world screams at you to live for you, to keep competing, to keep pushing…to be successful in the now. Paul says this…
Philippians 2:1 If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, 2 then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. 3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. 4 Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. NIV
How could Paul tell people to do this in a world that is always pushing, always racing, always competing with each other? I mean if I do what Paul asks I would get behind right? Well this is so interesting, you may “lose” or get behind by today’s standards in this world but, and we’ve talked about this a lot lately…the worlds ways and God’s ways run completely opposite. So it would make sense that the way to life and life to the full would be the opposite of what we think too wouldn’t it? This is why Jesus made these types of confusing statements…
Matthew 10:39 If your first concern is to look after yourself, you’ll never find yourself. But if you forget about yourself and look to me, you’ll find both yourself and me. MSG
Do you see it? The death of self is the key, it’s often the hang up for so many. We love Jesus, we believe in Him…but we continue to live life our way and it just doesn’t work. Remember the poise, the peace, the love, the patience that Jesus walked with? Do you remember a few weeks ago when I let you in on his secret? I told you a couple of weeks ago that Jesus told you why he could do that do you remember?
John 6:38 For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. NIV
So let’s jump into these first 5 verses of our letter today because this is exactly what Paul is pushing in on, a bunch of people who love Jesus and have accepted him as their savior…but they are still struggling with the idea of allowing Him to lead their lives. They love Jesus, but they aren’t picking up their own cross on a daily basis and engaging life God’s way…they are still doing life their way. So here we go…
1 Cor 2:1 When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. 2 For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. 3 I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling. 4 My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, 5 so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power. NIV
It doesn’t seem like there is a ton going on here but it’s a very important chunk of this letter…first as always, everything is centered on Jesus…it always comes back to the Gospel with Paul…it always comes back to the cross. If we jump ahead a bit to 1 Corinthians 4, you see Paul say this…
1 Corinthians 4:9 But sometimes I think God has put us apostles on display, like prisoners of war at the end of a victor’s parade, condemned to die. We have become a spectacle to the entire world — to people and angels alike. 10 Our dedication to Christ makes us look like fools, but you are so wise! We are weak, but you are so powerful! You are well thought of, but we are laughed at. NLT
So what’s Paul after here…well He is saying Hey, Jesus didn’t die on the cross so that you can succeed by the standards of this world! This culture is opposite of God’s! He is saying true life is found in Jesus…the way of the cross is the way to live your life. It’s seen in your actions changing! It’s seen in your life change and it only happens when you die to yourself just like Jesus asked us to do…just like what Paul is modelling for them! He saying it’s always about Jesus it’s simply never about us! Paul is trying to show us a Christian life is a life of the Cross. It’s where we take our pride to die. It’s where we take our self-centeredness, and our boasting, and our greed, our people pleasing…our sin to die. We go to the cross daily. This is how Paul could endure anything from embarrassment to pain in this world…because He lives a life centered on this mind set…and he wants us their too…and he reveals a lot here in the first part of Chapter 2.
v1 When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God.
So Paul says something really cool here. He says that he didn’t come with amazing gifts, nothing flashy, nothing spectacular did you notice that? He says he didn’t come with an amazing speech or with the kind of wisdom that would get everyone excited about him. He wasn’t worried about appealing to the world, and he certainly doesn’t want people responding to his own greatness or strength. So he came as simply as he could. (Basically opposite of how people would come to become a success…always opposite isn’t it?) Why would he do that? He tells you in verse 2.
v2 For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.
Everything Paul does must center on Jesus and the Cross…if people celebrate him they are missing it. This is such a challenge in church world today where people want the best church, the best speaker, the best children’s ministry program, the best small group structure possible…all of which can become a huge blocker to our spiritual growth, as we try to learn how to be a mature Christians. It’s always about and only about Jesus and the Cross…it’s not about the speaker. It’s not about the program or the building or the worship…it’s always and only about Him. Listen, I’m not saying you can’t enjoy a small group, but many fall into needing programs, and more programs to keep “growing” instead of focusing on Jesus. If the dynamic speaker is the center, or the program, or the ministry, or the church, rather than Jesus and the Cross…it’s wrong. Listen to me, IT’s FALSE…it’s SINFUL. Not saying you can’t enjoy the message, and not saying you can’t enjoy a program that helps you engage Jesus…but be careful it’s always and only about Jesus and the Cross. In verse 3 and 4 we see something interesting…
v3 I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling. 4 My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power
So I thought a good leader, came with power and swagger? That’s what would look right to you and I right? But see Paul sees with spiritual eyes, and he isn’t coming to get people excited about Him…he wants everything to be about Jesus and the Cross! He just isn’t worried about how much people liked him, well maybe he is actually…he is more worried that people will focus on him rather than Jesus and the Cross! This is a big time danger in our church culture today. It’s never about any one human, it’s always about Jesus and the Cross! This is something Pastor’s and leaders have to be aware of, and constantly praying about…if they don’t their fleshy desires and insecurities can get in the way, and they can begin elevating themselves in the name of Jesus rather than just elevating Jesus. It’s a real trap inside religion and plays on every emotion and insecurity and even the leaders job security itself adds to this challenge. This is all about Jesus. This is why Paul would say he comes in weakness and fear and trembling. He says he didn’t come with amazing speeches but with a demonstration of the Holy Spirit. Jesus himself talked to Paul about the importance of depending on Him and not his working for Jesus in Paul’s own strength. Do you remember that? Paul was explaining that he has this thorn in his side…this literal handicap that keeps bugging him, and he keeps praying for God to take it away, and do you remember what Jesus spoke to him? Listen to this chunk of scripture…again it’s opposite of what you may think. Jesus spoke deep into Paul’s life here and we see him live this out the rest of his days…he gets it.
2 Corinthians 12:7 To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. NIV
For when I am weak, then I am strong…why? Because I am finally living fully surrendered and dependent on God. That’s when God can move…and as we saw in our study today, Paul says he didn’t come in his own strength, and what happened there in verse 4?
4 My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power
The same power that Jesus told him comes out in his weakness…is now shown to people who don’t know God here in Corinth…how awesome is that? Here’s what’s funny and we will see Paul battle this, others will come to these people, and they will elevate themselves and preach different messages, and what is funny (funny as in tragic) is that they appeal to our human eyes more than this amazing Good News that Paul preached, that we must stay focused on today! Living in our weakness and God’s strength is never flashy, and doesn’t look all that good to people. Paul talks about a growing opposition to his message all through his letters, mostly because these people can visibly see his weaknesses. He doesn’t hide them, he actually celebrates them as proof of how awesome God is…and people just don’t get it. The world always runs opposite to this beautiful spiritual message…that I am strong when I am weak.
So you know here at MRC, we have come with this same message that Paul taught us so many years ago. We are getting ready to head to Gettysburg to do the same thing, and after that…maybe to another town. So why would we do that? Many people ask that today. Why do another church plant? You guys set up and tore down for 10 years…now you should be able to sit back and relax. No more moving in and out…and now you are going to go do it again! Why? It’s because we want people far from God to come to know this amazing message of grace, of love, and freedom that we have learned and are experiencing too! I can hear people ask Paul…dude, why plant so many churches? Why go through all the pain, arrests, angry mobs, ship wrecks, and lonely nights? Why do this? Well look again at verse 2.
1 Corinthians 2:2 For I decided to concentrate only on Jesus Christ and his death on the cross. NLT
He had the kind of resolve to push through anything for the message of Jesus and the Cross. He wants everyone to know Jesus, and so do we. Think of a world walking in the kind of freedom that comes with Jesus. Can you wrap your mind around that? This is where we are, and what we do. No matter what else happens, we want people to wrap their minds around the magnitude of the cross and once they get this message of Salvation then Paul starts to help them understand that the magnitude of the Cross goes even farther than that! It wasn’t just an event that happened years ago that washes there sin away and gives them eternal life. The Cross still stands for each and every one of us today, and it’s our job now to do what Jesus said. We are to pick up our cross and carry it each and every day. For some of us this means dying to our human desires and pushing through some old grooves of evil that we just seem stuck in…you may be stuck because you don’t realize just how big and far reaching the cross is. You can go there today, and nail that stuff to it and leave it there to die. For others picking up our cross daily may be about a calling. Maybe God has called you into more and you know it, but you still have your plans and your goals for your life…maybe for you this is what you need to take and nail to the cross your control and goals and surrender for His. For others there may be hurts that you just aren’t willing to let go of and forgive. Maybe for you carrying your cross may mean taking that bitterness and anger and nailing it to the cross and leaving that there to die. This is a daily act of a disciple of Christ…and I have to tell you it is often the thing that is holding us Christians back from walking into that whole life to the full thing that Jesus spoke of…we just don’t realize the magnitude of the Cross. We get it in the area of salvation, but sometimes we forget those amazing words of Jesus.
Luke 9:23 Then he said to them all: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. 24 For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it. NIV
There are many well discipled Christians out there today that are stuck in their spiritual journey. I think this is the number one reason why. They either aren’t willing to do this, or they don’t understand what it truly means to carry their cross on a daily basis…they don’t understand the idea of laying down our lives to find our lives…they just aren’t grasping that the Cross didn’t just happen, it’s happening. Or they just aren’t willing to put God first…the idea of being weak to find strength still sounds crazy to them. Listen, the Cross is a place where we can take all our hurts, and pain, all our desires and appetites, all our challenges, and habits, and sin each and every day in prayer. We take all our fleshly mess to the Cross, we nail that junk to it and we leave it there to die.
The magnitude of Jesus, the Cross, and the empty tomb is something that is so hard to put into words. We point to it, celebrate it, and try to help you see it. It’s never about any one person on this Earth. It’s always about Jesus who came to this Earth to save sinners. Who invites us into a life and life to the full and who gives us a place to take all the baggage and weight that each and every one of us carry. This is the gift of God to us…and so many people stay focused on the salvation part which is amazing, but they miss the daily discipleship part. They miss that the Cross is there for us each and every day…and when we submit to God and follow Jesus all the way to a life of surrender and the Cross itself, we don’t have to carry the weight of this world any more. The cross didn’t just happen, it’s happening…and it’s an absolute gift to those that see it and can engage into it.