Blog Archive

Sunday, March 17, 2019

"Emptying the Cross of it's Power"

This was the message I shared with both Renmark Uniting Churches on 17/3/19

Renmark West

Renmark Town Church

1 Corinthians 1:17-25 New International Version (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.
Christ Crucified Is God’s Power and Wisdom
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.”[a]
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.

Sermon: Emptying the Cross of it’s Power
When I first started speaking in Churches it was at the Church of Christ in Grote Street in Adelaide.
Lay people in Churches of Christ are authorised to speak and conduct the communion service and do most things a minister would do provided the eldership thinks you are ready for such things.
I can tell you the first time I conducted a communion service my legs were  really shaking and trembling.
The congregation couldn’t tell because my legs were hidden behind the communion table.
I have since discovered I was in good company.
Paul tells us this in 1 corinthians 2.
“When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God.[a] For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling.”
Todays sermon title and message comes from verses we had read out to us in the Bible reading.
 “For Christ did not send me to baptise, but to preach the Gospel.”
And not with eloquent wisdom “Lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power”.
“Lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power”.
And when you look at some of the other things that were said in these 2 chapters, you begin to see what this means and why it is so important to consider.
For the message of the cross he says in the very next word,
18 For the [g]message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
18 For the [g]message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
Please note what this subject is dealing with is eternal life or eternal death.
Some believe that it doesn’t matter what we believe that we will all go to heaven regardless.
That is an idea called Universalism but this is clearly not right when we read our Bibles.
We have to make a choice while we are alive.
It is too late afterwards.
The message of the cross is the very power of God.
So what was Paul saying to us?
How can we,
 how could he have emptied the cross of it’s power?.
He was the amazing Apostle Paul,
Saint Paul who in all accounts was a very eloquent speaker and debater.
A man with much knowledge of the things of men and the things of God.
So what did he mean and why was he so emphatic about this?
One of the first things he is telling us is that we,
whether we be speaking from a pulpit,
or just sharing with friends and living normal lives in the community,
can empty the cross of it’s power.
It is the cross of Christ that is the key for us all and to all humanity.
The key to our salvation.
So how can a minister a preacher,
 like Paul
or even like me,
empty the cross of it’s power.
We can do so if we are trying to win you over as a friend,
Create a good impression,
Trying to gain brownie points by our clever dialogue,
 and even just being an all round entertaining person,
 who makes you feel good.
If that is all a preacher achieves,
 then they are making it all about them and not the cross.
They are emptying the cross of it’s power.
A famous book is “how to win friends and influence people”.
The principles of that book, no matter how helpful, will not bring someone to Jesus,
to the cross.
A preacher can’t save anyone no matter how much you enjoy having them at your church. 
It is the confrontation with the message of the cross that is absolutely essential.
An opportunity through the cross to meet Jesus.
One of the great preachers of old was George Whitfield.
He spoke to large crowds in a booming voice, long before the days of microphones and loud speakers.
Many responded to his Gospel messages.
I read once how someone came up to him as he was coming down from his speakers platform and said to him.
“That was a fine sermon Mr Whitfield”
He said “I know, The devil already told me that”
He knew the danger of him seeming more important than the message of the cross.
He knew the danger of emptying the cross of it’s power.
He knew the real power of the cross.
He knew the devil attacks us through pride.
Particularly ministers of the Gospel.
So what are some of the ways we have to guard against this emptying the cross of its power?
As Christians we can be doing this without realising it.
When people know we  are Christians we are being watched.
They are looking for us to slip up so they can say to themselves, I don’t need to be a Christian, those people don’t live up to what they are professing.
I am as good as them.
They say they are going to heaven so I will surely go there also.
They don’t realise of course that going to heaven is nothing to do with our good behaviour.
It’s about accepting Jesus and receiving Him as our saviour.
Our language can catch us out at times.
If we are in the habit of saying “Oh my God!” we are really indicating we don’t have a grasp of the cross of Christ,
 or our salvation.
That is pretty much the same as blasphemy where people use the word Jesus as an exclamation mark.
Emptying the cross of it’s power.
Christian bumper stickers were all the go once.
There was one that was popular amongst Christians.
“Christians are not perfect, just forgiven”
A true statement but not a reason or excuse for us to do what we like and then ask for forgiveness.
Emptying the cross of it’s power.
Sometimes people  wear a cross on their lapel or on a necklace around their neck.
The place to wear a cross is really in our hearts.
To some people it is just a piece of jewelry and means nothing to them or maybe something that makes them feel secure.
That they have some belief in God.

Emptying the cross of it’s power.
Another way we can be emptying the cross of it’s power is arguing about Christian things with each other and also people we hope to win to Christ.

Paul hints on this when he says he is glad he wasn’t known as one who did many Baptisms.
11 My brothers and sisters, some from Chloe’s household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. 12 What I mean is this: One of you says, “I follow Paul”; another, “I follow Apollos”; another, “I follow Cephas[b]”; still another, “I follow Christ.”
13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized in the name of Paul? 14 I thank God that I did not baptize any of you except Crispus and Gaius, 15 so no one can say that you were baptized in my name. 16 (Yes, I also baptized the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I don’t remember if I baptized anyone else.) 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.

While the doctrine of Baptisms can be an important thing to grasp on our Christian journey debating it with Christians with different ideas can be emptying the cross of it’s power.

 Arguing about issues is a waste of time.

Not when someone’s eternal life is at stake

It is not wrong for  a preacher to preach about such things but we need to let the Holy Spirit convict us of which way to go on some of these things.

Emptying the Cross of it’s power.

Some more wisdom from Paul.

Phillipians 3

15 All of us, then, who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. 16 Only let us live up to what we have already attained."

We can be emptying the cross of it’s power when we look to education and politicians and activists to make the world right.

Politicians will never get it right unless they apply directly the power of the cross of Christ in their policies.
That is not likely to happen as they want to remain in power and don’t want to appear foolish to non believers.
18 For the [g]message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
Education is great but education will not solve the worlds ills.

We should not be pinning our hopes on education.

I once heard a quote that said if you educate a crook all you will get is an educated crook.

There is no calling to repentance in Education.

You see education in itself will not change the hearts of men and women.

I could go on with many more examples how we can unwittingly be emptying the cross of it’s power but I want to finish on a very positive note demonstrating the power of the cross.

We have a neighbour,(just down the road) Rob, who at one stage was our Pastor at the Edwardstown Church of Christ.

He left that ministry some years ago as he felt God was calling him to minister in some way overseas.

He eventually settled on Africa and started up a ministry called Tree of Life.

This was more than 15 years ago now.

Pretty much Rob acting by himself but with some supporters back here in Adelaide.

He has made several visits to Africa.
Burundi, Kenya and Tazania are some of the countries he has been active in.
He has driven taxis and buses to help pay his bills.

His method has to been to identify young men with a heart for the Gospel and to equip them and train them with resources to simply share the message of the cross.

His trainees have largely been lay people with no formal training other than what he has delivered himself.

Many have been active in spreading the Gospel amongst the various African countries.

They have often been in danger from terrorist groups and some have been attacked and threatened.

They are not necessarily part of any organised church and don’t have the backing of some large missionary organisation.

Here is a recent email and photographs I received from Rob.

He says;

“Friends, have a look at this picture.

The man with the hat , Venance , is a recently converted witchdoctor. Word quickly got around that he had changed, and those who had previously
fled the village in fear of him came back to see for themselves.  In fact  Venance welcomed them
into his home and told them what the Lord had done for him. Jonas and Frederick then shared
the Gospel with them and they too believed. People in the village are wondering what power 
it is that is at work in  Venance and Paschal
 a man previously known for his bad behaviour
and drunkenness. Well we know the answer and we thank God.”

“The following group of people are Pygmies from a nearby area. Paschal and Frederick have been telling them how the Lord had changed them and they were very open to the Gospel.
Meschack met with 46 of these people and fifteen called on the Lord to be saved.
There was much joy.

There is now the responsibility to care these new believers and strengthen them in the faith. 
Please pray that God will give wisdom to  Meschack
 and his co-workers and that the Gospel will continue to spread.”

What is clearly demonstrated here is the power of the cross of Christ, the Gospel.

These guys are not using eloquent words of wisdom just the simple message of the Gospel.

Shouldn’t we all be doing the same?

A final challenge for us.

Have we made the move from those who are perishing to those who are being saved?

We do need to respond to the Gospel.

Respond to Jesus.

We are now going to sing our concluding Hymn.

Welcome : Geoff
Call to worship: Worship leader. Psalm 27:4

Hymn: “Morning has broken”
Bible Reading: 1 Corinthians 1:17-25 (NIV) val t at rw,Elaine Ledham in town
Hymn: Hymn 261 AHB  “Were you there when they crucified my Lord”

Prayers of Invocation,confession and intercession various

Hymn: 258 AHB  “When I survey the wondrous cross”
Sermon: “Lest the Cross be emptied of it’s power”
Hymn:  “How great thou art”

Vesper: “May our Lord,God of Peace.” Edelweiss tune



No comments:

Post a Comment