The Foolish Cross?

1 Corinthians 1:18

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.

Paul tells us the message of the cross is considered foolishness to those who are perishing.  What is the “message of the cross”?  Why would it be considered foolishness? Well, let’s put this verse in its context and see if that will help us::

1 Corinthians 1:17-25 (NIV)

17 For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel—not with wisdom and eloquence, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power. 18 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. 19 For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.” (Cf. Isaiah 29:14) 20 Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know Him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. 22 Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24 but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.

I think Paul is trying to drive home the point that it was incomprehensible to most Jews (and certainly to most non-Jews) that a Messiah … a Warrior King … a Savior and Deliverer sent by God to His people would have been mightier than to have suffered a torturous, humiliating death on a cross.  What kind of Messiah could Jesus have been to have suffered such a fate?  Why would anyone believe in such a weakling? Such thinking is foolishness … beyond irrational.  I think that mindset is what drove Paul (Saul) to persecute the “fanatical” Christians before He encountered Jesus on the road to Damascus.  They were dangerous “lunatics” subverting Judaism and had to be stopped.  But the other aspect that drove the earliest believers to persist in their faith was the resurrection of Jesus.  Had He not been resurrected … this “foolishness” would have long since abated.  Indeed, if Jesus were not resurrected … then our faith would be in vain.  It would be foolish.  But we would still be in our sin as well….  (Cf. 1 Corinthians 15:12-17)

As Paul reasons, God ordained for His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.  Jesus had to die … to pay the wages of sin on our behalf. Redemption had a cost. There was a price for reconciliation.  While the cross “appeased” the justice requirement of a Holy God, it also demonstrated the incomprehensible love of God for us.  He paid the debt we owed for us!  Thus, in Christ Jesus, we see the wisdom of God because the resurrection demonstrates the power of God.  Those who reject the grace of God as foolishness will perish in their pride and arrogance.  But those who believe in Christ Jesus, the power and wisdom of God, received His gift of grace, salvation, and eternal life.  Again, the Prophet Isaiah comes to mind. The Jews should have known from their own Scriptures that the Messiah would suffer and die for their transgressions.  Their blindness became their foolishness….

Isaiah 53

Who has believed our report? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? For He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant, and as a root out of dry ground. He has no form or comeliness; and when we see Him, there is no beauty that we should desire Him. He is despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. Surely, He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His wounds we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; And the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so He opened not His mouth. He was taken from prison and from judgment, and who will declare His generation? For He was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgressions of My people He was stricken. And they made His grave with the wicked—but with the rich at His death, because He had done no violence, nor was any deceit in His mouth. 10 Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise Him; He has put Him to grief. When You make His soul an offering for sin, He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in His hand. 11 He shall see the labor of His soul, and be satisfied. By His knowledge My righteous Servant shall justify many, for He shall bear their iniquities. 12 Therefore I will divide Him a portion with the great, and He shall divide the spoil with the strong, because He poured out His soul unto death, and He was numbered with the transgressors, and He bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.

To the world, the death of Jesus upon a cross is meaningless and foolish. A victorious, warrior King would not have let that happen … certainly not the Son of God.  But the wisdom of God required a demonstration of His wrath against sin and iniquity.  Sin is an affront to His holiness and to those created in His image.  Sin stains.  It mars.  It kills and destroys the souls of man.  And God loves us too much to allow such devastation and destruction to annihilate our souls.  He wrought His own salvation for us through His Son.  Through faith, we just need to trust Him … in His finished work on the cross … and receive His gracious offer of forgiveness and the gift of eternal life.  Faith in Christ Jesus is the game changer; and I can assure you He is the power and the wisdom of God.

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

The Cross of Self-Denial

Luke 9:23-24

Then Jesus said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it.

When I read this verse, all kinds of thoughts came to mind….  Do I deny myself?  Do I pick up a daily cross of selflessness or shame or suffering for the sake of Christ?  This is what it means to follow Jesus.  This is what giving your life for Him translates to in reality.  Jesus asserts whoever WANTS to be my disciple … my follower … MUST deny themselves.  So here is the challenge question for every believer: Do we truly, sincerely, honestly WANT to be a disciple of our Lord Jesus Christ?

We I think any believer would answer, “Yes! I want to be His disciple.”  But I wonder how much we ever really examine ourselves in light of this “requirement”.  I say requirement because Jesus said “must”.  What must we deny in or of ourselves to be a sincere disciple?  What does the cross of self-denial actually look like on a daily basis? Denial in this context means to “refuse to give or grant (something desired) to (someone).  So self-denial means we refuse to grant indulgence in our own sinful desires as we pursue (follow) the righteous desires of Christ Jesus for our lives and for His glory. Thus, I believe the primary expectation is that we “die to sin” which is the very purpose for which Jesus bore the cross.  Paul wrote about the necessity of holiness in our lives:

Ephesians 4:17-24 (NIV)

17 So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. 18 They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. 19 Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, and they are full of greed.  20 That, however, is not the way of life you learned 21 when you heard about Christ and were taught in Him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. 22 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

1 Corinthians 6:18-20 (NIV)

18 Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body. 19 Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.

Disciples will die to themselves (their former natures).  As Paul reasoned, “And Jesus died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for Him who died for them and was raised again.” (2 Corinthians 5:15) And again, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20) If the CROSS represents death, then we must die daily to our former sinful nature and live worthy of the Lord in every facet of our lives. And the implication is that this transformation of our lives is not optional. It is the natural outcome of the rebirth we experience when we come to Jesus in faith and receive His life as our own…. 

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!