Sunday, July 13, 2014

Pretty Church

"For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles," 1 Corinthians 1:22-23

I have been to churches which managed to appeal to both Jews and Greeks by this standard, yet preached Christ as a mere example, not as savior.

The Church needs to preach Christ crucified. Christ who died for our sins, who died to save us and redeem us. Christ apart from whom we would be lost in the world, apart from God. Christ by whom alone we can have fellowship with God. Christ who has died so that the hideousness of our sinful selves need no longer separate us from God or humans.

But we give the world signs: good music, beautiful pictures--as the world judges, but to us it is ugly insofar as it lacks the beauty of Christ crucified.

And we give the world wisdom, we preach the proverbs as mere wisdom for humans to live. Things to do, ways to be: law. There is wisdom enough in the world. The world does not need the Bible to know this kind of wisdom. The Bible is not "Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth." It is, rather, God's self-revelation to us that we might be saved and joined in relationship with him. It is for our salvation and sanctification. It is for God's glory.

Human beings are hungry to hear of Christ crucified. So long as we tell them things to do, or give them spiritual highs, or show them the quality of our handiwork, we hide God behind our human skill and wisdom. We give them what they already have.

We have got to extend the hope of the Gospel, that Christ died so that our sins need no longer bind us, and so we need no longer be bound in our sins. We may, because we have Christ's righteousness--because it is about Jesus's finished work on the cross, not our incomplete, inadequate work on earth--we may live free of our unrighteousness which Jesus Christ took and died for so that we might live both now and forever.

And how shall we do this? How have we not been doing this?! They are hungry people. Like we were. Like we are. I write this because I am hungry for it! I am now keenly aware of the lack, and thus hungry for it, and thus eager to feed others so that I may express the excellency of the Gospel. How can we keep silent when we have this treasure?

Yet God's grace exceeds beyond making us eager to do what we ought. We have failed--I have failed. Christ died even for this. Christ died so that we could speak of him, and so that we might not be ashamed of him--because it is not about us. It is not even about our telling of the Gospel. It is about Christ, and our lives are now made to be about Christ. It is not really up to us to do this. Christ will be known. You will not, finally, fail. God will give you grace, and words, to speak. Apart from him we can say nothing--at least, nothing helpful. It is God who calls--through men. We are blessed to participate in God's work. And we are being formed still, to be ready to tell others of Christ's death for us. Are you not ready? Rely on the Spirit to make you ready, through discipleship, reading Scripture, prayer, and communion. Christ died even for our failure to glorify him now. He died for all our sins. May God make us burn with a passion for the Gospel too great to contain.

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