You know here at MRC we stay focused on keeping things simple and introducing you to the magnitude of The Cross and I will just say it, I think we do a pretty good job of pointing to the Gospel message on a weekly basis. We want to introduce you to the amazing gift that our Heavenly Father gave us through Jesus. We want you to know it, and more than know it, we want you to feel it, and experience the new life that comes as God’s grace pours into and all over your life. This is our primary objective, to help people push through the complexities of religion….to help people find hope in the middle of these messy lives that we all live…to help us find God’s grace in the middle of all the hurts and all the pain and all the confusion that life on this planet as an imperfect person can bring. We all mess up, we all sin. We want to help people see just how simple, how loving, and how pure a relationship with Jesus can actually 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. This is why we stay so focused on the concepts of God’s grace, because we know it’s the hardest thing to really wrap your mind around and center on…I mean I think for most of us who have walked through so much in life, we know we aren’t perfect and we know we are sinners, and it makes this one idea, 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 a very difficult thing to wrap our minds and hearts around, which is all we would ever want for you. I mean, God’s love and grace just doesn’t always compute does it? I mean love this pure is just hard to understand. A sacrifice this big is hard to comprehend and the truth that we gain eternal life by simply believing, well that is just amazing. This is what it’s all about. This is why we exist. This is the thing that keeps us up at night. This is why we planted MRC in Dillsburg 18 years ago and this is why we are planting MRC Gettysburg, so that people can hear, learn, and experience God’s grace. This is why we do it, because there are people all around us who need to know the truth that I just laid out for you. We want this simple and clear truth to get out. We want to tear down every barrier in the way of this truth, so people can actually find Jesus in a very real way. We want people to see the Gospel message and live in it! This is the mission of Christ that we carry out into this world! And here today on Easter, we are really going to slow this thing down for a moment, and really hit on the idea of how big this truth is.
So Salvation is an amazing gift…it is THE amazing gift, and everything we do will bring us back to Jesus, a blood stained cross, and an empty tomb which we are celebrating today. If you know me well, you have probably heard me say things about Easter Sunday, like it’s one of my favorite 52 Sunday’s of the year. I say things like that because I think we celebrate the Gospel message every week…and I think it should be part of our everyday. Not just something in the forefront of our minds one time a year. I’m thankful for Easter because it is a time to really reflect and focus on Jesus ultimate victory over sin and death…but I believe that should never be too far from our daily thoughts and prayers, and it’s my prayer that the gift of Salvation always is held close to our hearts. I think there is something very important for us to remember about The Cross. Yes Jesus died on the Cross a long time ago. Yes we celebrate his victory over death today. 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. This means it needs to be part of everyday life…not just one Sunday morning a year, and not just one day a week when we come and do the church thing. Jesus, the blood stained cross, and the empty tomb should be part of our everyday…not just the day we wear pastel colors and do Easter Egg hunts, and get together with family. This Gospel message needs to be central to our every-day.
I believe this is one of the hang ups for many Christians who struggle to navigate through their spiritual lives and often feel stuck and frustrated spiritually. They forget that this spiritual journey is a daily one, it isn’t a yearly one, or a one day a week type thing where we bang out a church service then leave it there. Our spiritual journey is interwoven into every aspect of our lives and The Cross itself should be as well. So life is different when the Cross goes from something I went to years ago to dump my sins and get out of spending eternity in Hell, to something I go to each and every day. Do you see what I’m getting at? This is where we center our lives as we grow spiritually, it’s the key and many miss it. Your spiritual life isn’t like getting your driver’s license…you pass the test and your good, and you never need to retake the test. (Unless you really are not a good driver, or like to speed) no the Cross, your Salvation, God’s grace, is part of all of your life, and needs to be central each and every day. So with all of that said I think the place to start is with a question…What is your view of 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 so amazing! It’s what we celebrate in here each and every week. But what if I told you there was more?
So today, I would like to hang out with Paul, and really walk you through a lot of his thoughts found in his letter to the church of Corinth. I told you last week that Paul always seems to bring everything back to the Gospel, that no matter what he talks about he will end up back at Jesus and what the Cross means to him and us and that is really where I want our thinking. Paul grasps the importance of holding his salvation close, and is always reminding us of just how huge the Gospel message really is to our everyday life.
So one of the things we know about the church in Corinth was they were a bit of a mess. They were a young church that Paul had planted. And what we see in our Scriptures is that Paul writes two letters back to his young church plant in Corinth, which we now read as two books of the Bible. So here’s the deal, before these people found Jesus they were partying, fighting, and really 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 all that stuff away. I think for a lot of the people in Corinth, they loved the idea of having a Savior keeping them from the fiery pits of hell for all of eternity, I just don’t think they were really all that happy with the idea of having a Lord of their lives who is commanding them to actually change and live differently. So I think these people were like – Jesus as my Savior I’m all in, but Jesus as my Lord…not so much! If you read the Message version of the Bible, Eugene Peterson writes these capsules about each book which are awesome…and can help you understand context, of that book, and here’s something that he says about this young church plant in Corinth that really stood out to me.
“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, they come in 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 causing them to leave offended because these “church people” should have it all together! This is such a set up for people. It shocks people outside of the church at times (it shouldn’t) to find out the people inside the church aren’t perfect either…when the fact of the matter is we know we aren’t, which is why we know we need Jesus so much, which quite frankly is why we worship and celebrate Jesus, the blood stained cross, and the empty tomb! 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. Remember what we talked about a couple of weeks ago? We looked at these habits we all have…
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. So here’s the 5 verses I want to study with you today.
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 should visit each and every 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 of us this comes across as either confusing or it is just something we either misinterpret or simply miss all together, or in some cases we may even just ignore it…it’s the daily part.
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…DAILY. 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. Let’s read that again in the Message version, it really clears it up…
Luke 9:23 Then he (Jesus) 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 my life thing. This is the struggle that we face. Will we die to ourselves and follow Jesus? This is the hang up for many of us, and it is where the Corinthian people are at 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 old 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 to not slide back into those old habits and old patterns of life. 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! It’s the daily part of the Cross that we need to see and apply so that we can live that life to the full thing out! This is what Peterson was addressing in that quote from earlier and what Paul pushes in on us about quite often, check this out in Romans…
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 a life style. The place where we can go daily to give our mess, our worldly desires, our competitive spirits, our hurts, our anger, our sin, all our junk over to God…we take it there and we nail it to the cross each and every day so we can walk without that weight on us today. 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 submitting! Living a life crucified with Jesus sets us free from all of those things but it is so hard to do. It’s hard to be this intentional in life isn’t it?
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 in life…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 right now, while our focus should be on eternal things to come. So it does feel like we will get behind a bit doesn’t it? Paul talks of pushing away from that idea…
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 get behind by today’s standards but and we’ve talked about this a lot lately…the worlds ways and God’s ways run so 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 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? Death of self is the key, and 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? It’s because He lived His life fully submitted to God.
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.
So let’s jump into these first 5 verses of our letter today that I told you we were going to study 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…
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. 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. 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…Paul would later say this…
1 Corinthians 4:8 You think you already have everything you need! You are already rich! Without us you have become kings! I wish you really were on your thrones already, for then we would be reigning with you! 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 is a life style. It’s seen in your actions! 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 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…
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. This is so important. 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. And many churches fall into this too, what can we do to keep people and they drift into trends, and busyness and lose sight of what matters…which is Jesus, the blood stained cross, and the empty tomb. 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. I’m 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 has to be 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 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 own desires and insecurities can get in the way, and they can begin elevating themselves rather than just elevating Jesus. It’s a real trap inside religion and plays on every emotion and insecurity and even the leader’s job security. This is all about Jesus, and only about Jesus. This is why Paul would say he comes in weakness and fear and trembling. He is letting us see that he is simply a man, pointing to Jesus. We talked some last week about Paul, and his understanding of true strength. Remember this?
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 in the city of Corinth. Here’s what’s funny and we will see Paul battle this a lot, 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 those people will appeal to our human eyes more than this amazing Good News that Paul preached, that’s just so simple. 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 his issues, 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. So why would we do this? Many people ask why plant churches because it seems like it would be easier sometimes not to! 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 one moment! 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 out of 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 actually 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 will and surrender to God’s.
For others there may be real hurts that you just aren’t willing to let go of and forgive. Maybe for you carrying your cross daily means taking that pain 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 so 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, and isn’t just something we celebrate on Easter but that it is 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, all of our pain, all our desires, all our challenges, and all of our sin each and every day in prayer. We take all our 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, we 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. Jesus invites us into life and life to the full. Jesus 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…not just on the day we wear pastel shirts, and have Easter Egg hunts.
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 it, as part of their daily lives.