The Message of the Cross

When I was a teenager and really involved in a charismatic church, I was always looking for some miraculous sign from God about this or that. Should I go to this college? Should I date this boy? Should I befriend this person?

I’ve since concluded that God does work through miraculous signs–but mostly when I’m headed down a path I have no business setting my feet to. Now, instead, I see a bit of miraculous in the way circumstances work themselves out.

Let me explain. Since I’ve been on bed rest the last three weeks, I’ve been reading a lot of fantasy novels. I always like a good story with a good plot. You know, the kind where the author has thought out the end from the beginning and put little clues throughout the book, shaping the plot, chance meetings and key ideas at crucial times. Then it all comes together at the ending and everything is wrapped up, you step back and can see the entire thing, like a tapestry.

I’m beginning to see themes and plot in my life like this, with God as the author and me a character. This kind of well-thought out road — the way several things will all work together in my life to point to one main thing all at the same time — I’ve begun to see as miraculous. Sure, it’s not the dramatic affair of the healing of blind or lame man, but it’s astonishing when I sit back and think about how this had to lead to that for this other thing to occur.

Not that I’ve seen the tapestry of my life, but I’m beginning to see some patterns here and there.

I say all this because the sermon this Sunday tied into my own devotional time again, and I think God is too big for coincidences, there’s something here for me to learn.

In my devotions, I’m continuing through Acts, seeing Peter and John and Stephen give messages that just shake people up and I’m thinking to myself, like some of the more educated persons who heard the disciples message: these men are ‘simple’ uneducated fishermen. Wow.

Then there’s the opposition. The rulers of the Jewish people wanting to quash the message by imprisoning or killing the disciples — these same disciples who, a year before, had not even the courage to stay and be arrested with Jesus — and the disciples saying, ‘we must obey God rather than men’ and preaching in the streets despite the threat of imprisonment or death. (Acts 5:29).

What was it that inspired these men? What was it that had them running for cover? What was it that powerfully moved the people?

Not clever preaching, not persuasive words, but the message of Jesus Christ crucified. That’s what this week’s sermon was about. 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. (1 Corinthians 2:1-5).

The basics. That’s what was moving people and shaking the Jewish leadership. That’s what was changing people’s hearts and making miracles. That’s what caused cowardly men to continue preaching publicly when they knew they would get in trouble.

And, this is the basics: Jesus Christ was God, yet he was born as a little baby in a borrowed barn, to a young family with no prestige. This child grew into a man and never once sinned. When he reached an age, he began his ministry — proclaiming that he was God, that all men are sundered from God the Father by our sins and the only way to heaven, the only way to know God is by accepting that Jesus is the way to God. Because of his message, Jesus was crucified on a cross. He died. Three days later, Jesus was raised to life. He then visited with his friends, preached and taught some more and then, before his disciples’ eyes, he ascended into heaven. And he is coming back again to receive those who believe in him, who claim him as their Lord and to judge those who reject him.

This is the message: Jesus Christ crucified to save humanity from itself. Jesus Christ crucified to save any person from the ultimate outcome of their choices. Jesus Christ crucified to set us free.

And, this message is the powerful thing. Not the way a person tells it. Not the clever arguments or rhetoric a person uses. Not the big, fancy words or short, simple phrases someone may employ. It’s the message itself, the fact that these things happened. So that a believer’s faith does not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power.

That’s what I’m thinking about of late. That’s another reason why God uses the seemingly foolish to proclaim his message. And I wonder, what application this has in my life today.

I wonder what you’re thinking about today? I would love to hear about it!

3 thoughts on “The Message of the Cross

  1. Matt and I just read through Acts and had some similar reflections. I love your write-up on it! Wow.

    Today I am thinking about where I fit in on His plan to take care of the orphan, the widow, and the imprisoned. Can't stop thinking about how I should be doing more….

  2. On bed rest, I feel like one of those 'orphans' or 'widows' who need to be taken care of Ruhiyyih…and you and Matt sent me magazines for my enjoyment…I'll be interested to see any insights you get about where you more fit into His plan for caring for these people as you think about it!

  3. Romans 8:28 "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose."…not all things that happen to us are good, but all things work together, in God's plan, for good. Much like your tapestry, I like to think our lives are like puzzles and our pieces will fit with God putting us together.

    Funny (obviously not a coincidence) how I read your post today, ten days after you wrote it, considering the conversations that we've been having lately about trusting in God.
    God has been reminding me, on a daily (and sometimes several times a day) basis that He is ultimately in control. I don't know His plans but I can rest assured that they are good ones. Isaiah 30:18 tells us that He longs to be gracious to us and longs to love us and plan for us. And so we shall wait on Him and long for Him, and we can rest in the knowledge that He is our ruler and lover.

    That's what is on my mind today. Also, I've already started witnessing to my roommate and other friend. God gave me an opportunity to talk with them about our upcoming Bible study tonight, literally hours after you and I talked about it. It's truly CRAZY and amazing to see God's hand at work. He is totally rocking my world right now!

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