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#3 A Message With Power

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(A Sermon Series on I Corinthians)

Westgate Chapel 3/8/98a.m.   I Corinthians 1:17-25

PROPOSITION:  The message of the Cross of Christ has power to save those who are perishing, power to save those who believe, and power to make wise those who are called.

I. introduction

-     THE wisdom of our world leaves a lot to be desired. Knowledge may be doubling every five years....where it used to double every hundred years....but are we any the wiser for it?

*     We have a health care system that is second to none in the world. They can re-attach severed limbs, do heart surgery on a baby inside its mother’s womb, and cure some forms of cancer.

•     But when they stand next to a patient taking his last the face of death they have no answers.

•     For all their knowledge about the body, they know nothing about death.

•     They can offer no hope for tomorrow.

•     So much for the wisdom of the world.

*     We have an educational system that takes a back seat to no country in the world.

•     But in that system we have sex educators....experts in raising the young of our land....telling them that it is expected and OK to have sex outside of marriage.

•     Use condoms, they tell you, they will prevent you from contracting sexually transmitted diseases.

•     What these experts don’t have a remedy for however, is the emotional bankruptcy and scarring that multiple sexual encounters leave in the soul of our young people and our nation.

•     So much for the wisdom of the world.

*     We have psychological therapists....experts in the inner man.....telling the distressed and depressed of our nation that they need to seek themselves, discover the vitality of their heart, maximize their potential, fulfill their aspirations....that the solution is within.

•     What they neglect to tell you is that we have a nation of self-absorbed, self-directed, self-fulfilling selfish people choking to death on their own image and greed.

•     And as long as you keep yourself at the center of your are going to need that therapist for the rest of your life.

•     So much for the wisdom of the world.

*     We have political pundits telling us that a president’s moral character has nothing to do with how he governs the nation....that there is no connection between character and leadership.

•     There isn’t a third grader in the building who couldn’t tell you that a bad person makes bad decisions....and a good person makes good decisions.

•     So much for the wisdom of the world.

*     We have more books published now than ever on having a good marriage.

•     But there are more broken relationships and more broken children now than ever before.

•     So much for the wisdom of the world.

*     We have financial wizards who can predict the rise and fall of stocks or the Dow Jones, a Federal Reserve that believes it can prevent another depression, and infomercials telling you how to get rich with no down real estate purchases.

•     But when any one of us gets into trouble financially....all they know to tell us is to get a debt-consolidation loan for our credit card debts or file bankruptcy.

•     So much for the wisdom of the world.

*     We have designed an internet that allows electronic mail between our office and the Bowen’s in the twinkling of an eye. You can be connected with just about anybody in the world at any time via a computer and telephone line.

•     But we have more lonely people than in the history of our nation.

•     So much for the wisdom of the world.

*     We know all about saving whales, and the seals that threaten salmon the salmon run at the Ballard locks, but our nation aborts 1.5 million babies a year.

•     And we have a president that believes it is OK to harvest tissue or organs from a partial birth abortion, while the baby is still alive.

•     We have trees in this state that are protected better than unborn babies.

•     So much for the wisdom of the world.

-     WE have powerful business people like Donald Trump, or Bill Gates, who are worth billions of dollars, but couldn’t buy the most important things in a happy marriage, or health.

*     Bill Gates is worth 45 billion dollars....the richest man in the world.

*     But if his wife came down with a rare form of cancer, could all his money buy a cure.

*     If one of Donald Trump’s children became a drug addict, would the Trump Tower do him any good then?

*     So much for the power of the world.

-     WE have powerful entertainers like Kurt Cobain, or Jerry Garcia....people flocking to hear their music from all over the world.

*     But none of their fame could buy any one of them any lasting happiness.

*     Kurt Cobain ended his own life, chased by personal demons.

*     Jerry Garcia killed himself with years of drug abuse.

*     So much for the popularity of the world.

-     WE have found cures for broken bodies....and expect life expectancy to reach the 90’s soon....but we can’t do a thing about broken hearts.

-     SO much for the wisdom of the world.

-     TURN with me to I Corinthians 1:17-25 (page 1128).

-     YOU will find the words, wisdom, wise, intelligence...used 15 times in these 9 verses.


ii. power to save the perishing

-     CORINTH is a sophisticated, wealthy Greek city, full of high culture, elaborate entertainment, and an educated citizenry.

-     THE Corinthians were proud of their accomplishments, proud of their political advances in democracy, even under the Roman empire, proud of their intelligencia.

-     SOME of the entertainment in these Greek cities was to be found in the philosophical debates in the market the intellectuals matched wits with each other in matters of politics, religion, philosophy and the sciences.

-     THE most respected men in these cities were the intellectuals.

-     SO wisdom was supreme.

-     NOW let’s start reading, I Corinthians 1:17,

      “For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel-- not with words of human wisdom, 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.’” (I Corinthians 1:17-19)

-     FROM the day that Eve thought she knew better than God, and ignored His instruction about the forbidden has been convinced that he knows best.

-     CAIN thought he knew best about what to offer God as a sacrifice....but he ended up becoming the first murderer.

-     ABRAHAM believed his way of protecting Sarah, his beautiful wife, from Pharaoh’s harem was best....even if it meant lying.....but it cost him dearly.

-     NADAB and Abihu thought they knew best about where to get the coals for the incense offering to God....and it cost them their lives.

-     KING Saul thought he knew best about the spoils of battle that God has said to destroy completely....but it cost him the kingdom.

-     FROM the Old Testament, to the New.....and on into our day man has believed that HE had the knowledge and wisdom to handle the real issues of life....and it has cost him dearly.

-     NO wonder Isaiah the prophet records these words of God in Isaiah 55:8-9,

      “‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the LORD.(59) ‘As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.’”

-     THE believers in Corinth were understandably impressed with the advances and wisdom and intellect of the culture of their city.

-     BUT without shame or embarrassment, in the middle of this sophisticated environment, Paul says,

      “Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel-- not with words of human wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.” (I Corinthians 1:17)

-     IN the middle of the wisdom and impressive advances of our world there is still only one message and it is the message of the cross of Jesus Christ.

-     AND it cannot be effective based on words of human wisdom or oratory.....because it is a message that carries with it its own power.

-     AND this power of the message of the cross is the ONLY answer verse 18 says,

      “...for those who are perishing.”

-     AND the Greek tense for the word, perishing, does not only mean the wrath of God at the end of time.

-     PERISHING means those who are “dying on the inside at this very moment.” Although they may not even be aware of it because their pain is masked for now by the things of this world.

*     When your bank balance fails and it feels like your life is over, you are perishing.....the message of the cross promises you an inheritance kept in heaven for you that will never fade or crash in the stock market.

*     When your spouse is unfaithful to you and your marriage is over, and all you can feel is rejection and anger.....the message of the cross gives you instant access to the only Comforter who can heal you better than new.

*     When your doctor shakes his head and says, “I am sorry, there is nothing else I can do.”....the message of the cross applies the blood of Jesus for your healing in this life or in His presence forever (either way you win).

-     THIS message of the cross is power to save those who are perishing.

-     THE problem is that the people who are perishing and need, more than anything else, the power of the cross....are the ones who think it is foolish. (Verse 18)

-     WHY does the message of the cross appear foolish to those who are perishing?

-     PAUL writes in 2 Corinthians 4:4,

      “The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.”

iii. power to save those who believe

-     IN verse 20, Paul asks some powerful rhetorical questions,

      “Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?

-     THE answer to these questions is so obvious, Paul doesn’t even venture an answer.

-     IN the presence of the cross, the wise man wilts like a dandelion on a hot summer day.

*     Man will not be saved from his broken condition by the wisdom of the world.

-     THE scholar (and the word used here comes from the Jewish scribe who knew the Scriptures) can say nothing in the presence of the cross.

*     Man will not be saved from his sinfulness by knowing Scripture alone.

-     THE philosopher (and the word used here is the debater who loved to argue points and enjoyed the debate more than coming to a viable solution) falls silent in the presence of the cross.

-     NO amount of worldly wisdom, scholarly knowledge of Scripture, or philosophical debate will save you. It actually becomes an obstacle to faith.

-     VERSE 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.” (I Corinthians 1:20-21)

-     WELL, how are you saved?

-     THROUGH the message of the cross....which seems like foolishness in its least to the heady intellectual of our day.

-     THE Father loved  you so much....even when you were a sinner and rebellious....that He sent His Son to die on a cross and take the punishment for your sin.

-     THAT is the message of the cross?

-     YES!

-     WHAT do I have to do?

-     ACCEPT the free gift the cross faith.

-     BELIEVE and you will be saved.

-     WHAT power!

-     NOTHING else could do that for you!

iv. power to make STRONG AND wise those called

-     PAUL goes on to describe some of the opposition to the message of the cross in verse 22,

      “Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom...”

-     JEWS wanted some spectacular arrival of the kingdom of God that would make them the rulers of the it was in David or Solomon’s time.

-     THEY wanted to see some of the things prophesied in the Old Testament....the moon turning to blood, signs in the heavens, and a triumphant Messiah ridding them of the Roman rule.

-     THAT is what they were waiting for.

-     THE Greeks wanted to be impressed with a religion they could debate in the market place...something heady, intellectual, stimulating, leaving you with a sense of your own importance.

-     THIS was what they were waiting for...then they could just add Christianity to all of the other philosophies they enjoyed debating.

-     BUT Paul writes in verse 23,

      “.......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 man's wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man's strength.”

-     IT is the cross of Christ!

-     THE cross was the opposite of what the Jews were looking for. Their Messiah would never suffer that kind of humiliation. They were looking for a triumphant king....not a suffering servant.

-     THE cross was a joke to the Greeks. Their gods would never stoop to mixing it up with riff raf. The cross would have been beneath their dignity.

-     PAUL says in the face of a culture that roundly refused to consider such a notion as a God hanging on a is the power of God.

-     TO those who are called.....the cross is the POWER of God and the WISDOM of God.

-     YOU want power and wisdom?

-     THEY are to be had ONLY in the cross of Jesus Christ.

v. conclusion

-     THE cross of Christ.

*     Power to save the perishing.

*     Power to save those who believe.

*     Power to make strong and wise those called.

-     NO wonder  Isaac Watts wrote,

      When I survey the wondrous cross

      On which the Prince of Glory died

      My richest gain I count but loss

      And pour contempt on all my pride.

-     IT was Andrae Crouch that wrote about the blood of Jesus, that,

      It reached to the highest mountain

      It flows to the lowest valley

      The blood that gives me strength from day to day

      It will never lose its power.

-     IN what I believe to be one of the classic books of this century,  The Cross of Christ, John Stott writes,

      “That God was reconciling the world to Himself in Christ is a mystery whose depths we shall spend eternity plumbing; partly because it would be most unseemly to feign a cool detachment as we contemplate Christ’s cross. For we are involved. Our sins put Him there. So, far from offering us flattery, the cross undermines our self-righteousness. We can stand before it only with a bowed head and a broken spirit. And there we remain until the Lord Jesus speaks to our hearts His word of pardon and acceptance, and we, gripped by His love and brimful of thanksgiving, go out into the world to live our lives in His service.”

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