It was really good this morning to hear a message preached on the centrality of the cross of Christ. Its something that the Apostle Paul really emphasized in his first letter to the Corinthians. Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 1:
17 For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of no effect.
Christ the Power and Wisdom of God
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,
And bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.”[a]
20 Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? 21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. 22 For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom; 23 but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks[b] foolishness, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.
25 Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.
The central person of the gospel is of course our Lord Jesus Christ. And the central task in the gospel is the work of Christ in dying on the cross for us.
When we stop talking about the cross we have depearted in some measure from true Biblical Christian faith.
It is very fashionable in many churches to assume that everyone knows about the cross and therefore not really talk about it. Instead we may try to sidestep the cross and preach psychology or motivational messages and call that the work of God.This is exactly what Satan wants. Satan is always working to divert our attention from the cross. It was at the cross that Satan experienced a defeat that he will never fully recover from. So Satan tries to obscure that from the minds of men.
Paul wrote to the Galatians in chapter 3
One of the ways Satan works is through witchcraft, and the way Satan seeks to bewitch Christians is to get their minds and their eyes and their conversation AWAY from the cross. This is because it was precisely AT THE CROSS that Satan was defeated and his claims of ownership over the whole race of humanity was destroyed. It was at the CROSS alone that the guilt of mankind was dealt with so that those wishing to return to God could do so without facing the wrath and condemnation of God for past sins. It was at the CROSS that the curse was taken by Jesus. Jesus bore the full brunt of it, so we could go free. It was at the cross that Jesus cried out "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?" Jesus experienced the ultimate in rejection so that we could know God's acceptance, though we don't deserve it in and of ourselves. Jesus took the rejection we deserve so we could be accepted and healed of rejection.
If Satan wants to get our eyes and minds away from the cross, that is a good enough reason for us to periodically devote time to REALLY MEDITATING on the significance of the cross of Christ – Jesus' sacrificial death for our benefit.
There is so much in the cross. It is the perfect work of God to redeem and restore humanity from the fall.
Even though the cross is the source of the blessing of the gospel for us, nevertheless, the message of the cross is not all that ATTRACTIVE to the people of the world. It can seem stupid or irrelevant to some – but that does not mean we should not tell them. No, God is pleased to save people through the "foolishness" of telling others about the death of Christ on the cross and its importance in God's plan for them. Let's not think we have preached the gospel if we have left the cross out of our presentations. Gospel preaching is not generally teaching portions of the Bible looking for life principles and then inviting people to come and "give their life to Christ" or "get right with God". You have to talk about the cross to be preaching the gospel. Paul said that he determined to know nothing among the Corinthians except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. That should tell us just how important it is to have a focus on this message concerning the cross.
Paul said the Greeks seek something intellectually appealing, while the Jews seeks something miraculous and sensational – but Paul didn't cater to either of these preferences. It may be possible to attract bigger crowds by adopting the wisdom of the world, namely "Give the people what they want" – but it will ultimately prove to be detrimental if not fatal to the spiritual health of our hearers if we do so.
Paul had one message for all – the message of the cross.
Paul said that the message of the cross was the power of God for the salvation of those who believe.
As soulwinners or would-be soulwinners, we need to be those who will tell people the seemingly foolish message that this man Jesus dying on the cross is somehow God's answer to all that is wrong in the world today. It makes a little more sense when people REALIZE that the real reason for all our difficulties is that we have as individuals and as a race gotten away from God by following our own paths, not God's.
The passage in Isaiah 53:1-6 which speaks cryptically of the work of Jesus on the cross says "We like sheep have gone astray. We have turned each one to his own way."
This turning away from God opens the door for all the disharmony and evil we see afflicting people and indeed even the earth we live on.
The cross is indeed the power of God and the wisdom of God to those who are being saved. We must keep thinking about this, and talking about it to others who don't believe, even if they might think it is a bit foolish. We are relying on the Holy Spirit to do the work of conversion, and when we preach the cross, we give the Holy Spirit something to work with.
Before the crucifixion happened, there were hints of it in the Old Testament. But God very wisely hid his agenda so that the devil and his angels would not be able to stop it. The Bible says that if they had known what was going to happen, "they would not have crucified the Lord of Glory".
That is why the gospel, or the message of the cross, was hidden away obscurely in the Old Testament until the proper time. If Satan and his people had been unwilling to crucify Jesus in order to stop God's plan, the plan would not have worked. But God outsmarted the devil here in a major way, and I believe we now need to rejoice that God did things as He did.
Dear friends, let us meditate on the cross of Christ. There is much it can teach us. But our greatest benefit through the cross is that Jesus' work there has opened the door for us to ACTUALLY KNOW GOD PERSONALLY. Let us then take hold of all we can of God, since the opportunity to do so came at great personal expense to Jesus Christ, the precious Son of God.