Archive for the ‘1 Cor. 1:18-31’ Category

It’s Not About You…It’s About the Cross!

Sunday, March 4th, 2018

Lent 3 B, March 4, 2018
Rev. Brian Henderson-pastor of
Trinity Lutheran Church,
7210 Lisbon Street
San Diego, CA 
92114

Click here for audio of this message

“For the word of the cross is a scandal to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” [1 Corinthians 1:18]

We Americans are no strangers to scandal, and we know a scandal when we see it. Just look at current affairs within our nation; whether it involves a politician, a Hollywood star, a sports figure, or even a church leader, scandals are, unfortunately, a common part of our society. Whether the Scandal involves shameful, distasteful, offensive behavior, or something that’s legally wrong and causing general public outrage, scandals in this day and age are common. That being the case, why would St. Paul refer to the cross of Christ as scandal or folly?

Our text this morning confronts the scandal of the Christian faith. God’s Word makes it clear that to this sinful world, the cross is a scandal, a stumbling block. St. Paul makes that clear in our text. Listen to the Word’s of our text again and hear this truth ring out: “For the word of the cross is a scandal to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” [1 Corinthians 1:18]

St. Paul was writing to the church in Corinth, which was smack dab in the center of a Roman climate that was engulfed in “godless morality.” The city was known for its depravity. The poor members of the congregation were tempted to either look the other way, or allow themselves to become comfortable in that climate of depravity while they waited patiently for Jesus to come again (1 Cor 1:7). And I’m afraid, from God’s point of view, we Christian Americans are in a very similar place today.

We Christians who are trying to hold onto our faith in the middle of this scandalous society can sometimes find ourselves looking the other way, or maybe we find ourselves questioning God for allowing all of this evil to not just live among us, but to even thrive. When God seems silent in times like these, we discover the truth that His ways are not our ways. God’s thoughts are not our thoughts, nor are they even like ours. We aren’t even in the same neighborhood. I mean, we’re worried about preserving our body and He’s working on saving our souls. We dream of a pay raise and He wants us to dream on the raising of the dead. We work hard to avoid pain and seek peace and God uses pain to bring peace. “I’m going to live before I die,” we say, and He says, “Die so you can live.” We love things that rust, He loves what endures. We rejoice in our successes and He rejoices at our confessions.

Our thoughts are not like God’s thoughts and our ways are not like His ways.

God has a different agenda. He dwells in a different dimension. But through the gift of faith, we can see through Christ’s eyes and see the cross of Jesus, which the world calls foolish, scandalous, and through it we can see God’s love for sinners like us.

Instead of being intrigued by the power and wisdom of the world, the cross captivates us with the power and wisdom of God as shown through Christ’s suffering and death…that is until we forget that God’s ways are not our ways, and His thoughts are not our thoughts; if that happens, well.. we’ll begin to think like the world.

Dear friends, God knows how easy it is for you to slip into that mindset. He knows what a strong temptation it is for you to follow the pack and eventually have your eyes turned from Your Creator and instead look to that which is created as your source of wisdom and strength. That is why he has repeated so many times that He will destroy the wisdom of the world. Listen to just a few of the ways God states this very thing: Through the prophet Isaiah He says, “therefore, behold, I will again do wonderful things with this people, with wonder upon wonder; and the wisdom of their wise men shall perish”. [Isa. 29:14 ] In the book of Job, God says that, “He frustrates the devices of the crafty, so that their hands achieve no success. (And) He catches the wise in their own craftiness, and the schemes of the wily are brought to a quick end.” [Job 5:12, 13] And through the prophet Jeremiah God says, “The wise men shall be put to shame; they shall be dismayed and taken; behold, they have rejected the Word of the Lord, so what wisdom is in them?” [Jer. 8:9]

And how does God do all of this? Well, He does just as the prophet Jeremiah said, He does it through His Word; through the Law and Gospel.

God’s Law comes to us under two tables of stone that can never be broken.

One table demands that we must love God with all of our heart and mind, and the other demands that we must love our neighbor as we love ourselves. This foolish world thinks they can do this through careful living and their best effort.

The business owners in our gospel lesson surely thought that they were honoring the first table of God’s Law by providing goods and services that the Jewish worshipers would need to worship once they entered the temple. They bought their permit to do business and began to sell livestock and birds that would be needed for private and corporate sacrifice for the forgiveness of sins. There was one problem though…they forgot that they were already in God’s temple. You see, they set up shop in the court of the gentiles. This was a place where non-Jews who were in the process of learning about God went to pray and learn more about their new faith; now they had to worship God in a stock yard.

These same business owners also must have thought that they were fulfilling the second table of the Law by offering a service to their neighbors who needed to change their money into temple currency. There was one problem with that, they were charging outrageous exchange rates that God’s Law called usury!

Every time the unbelieving wise and powerful of this world thinks they are doing pretty well, God’s Law breaks in like a mirror and shows them their true condition…they are ugly sinners! Every time they feel pleased with themselves, God’s Law barges in and overturns their tables of comfort and deceit, and demands, “Take these things away!” “What things Lord,” they may ask? To which His Law responds, “Your self-righteous, and self sufficient attitude!” “But Lord” they reply, “we have done our very best”. And to that he takes the whip of His Holy Law and drives them from His presence.

Dear friends, when God’s Law terrifies the sinful unbelieving world, they run from Him just as the merchants fled from Jesus that fateful day in the temple. Just as the merchants were forced by the Son of God to run out of the sanctuary, so sinful unbelievers today run from their Holy and all-powerful Creator. So what can be done to free our society from this awful terror? The same thing that must be done for us; instead of running from Jesus and His law, we must run to Jesus and His forgiving and loving heart. We must turn to the very thing that dying sinners laugh at and belittle…

We must turn to the cross and our crucified and resurrected Savior Jesus Christ!

Friends, when the unbelieving world ridicules you for your simple faith in Jesus Christ, do not be discouraged or disappointed; they are not ridiculing you but instead they are laughing at the very means that God has provided for you and them as the sole source of rescue from the house of slavery to sin and the terror of His Holy Perfect and Accusing Law…and that is the cross of Jesus Christ alone! People out side of Jesus Christ cannot understand how something so simple and repugnant can take away the terror of sin and ultimately death. They cannot understand why you as a Christian feel no terror in God’s Law. They cannot understand how you can be thankful in situations where they would experience only fear and worry. They can never understand these things unless through God’s Word and the working of the Holy Spirit they are given the gift of faith to see that Jesus is not only God’s best way of saving them, He is God’s only way!

God would have us remember that while the unbelieving world may look down on us as being simple minded and weak, we must never do the same to each other. We must not let the ways of the world divide us. We must learn to put aside any personal, political, cultural, or economic differences that we may have with each other and be of one mind and one heart. The mind and heart we must have must be that of Jesus Christ! And where is His mind and heart? It is with those very same people that belittle His cross; the place where He suffered and died for them. For this is the will of (the) Father, that none should perish, but that all should reach repentance. (So) that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life.

There once was a reporter who went to an asylum for the criminally insane to gather information for a story. He was a bit surprised to find that there were only three guards to take care of a hundred inmates. He said to one of the guards, “Aren’t you afraid that the inmates will unite, overcome you, and escape?” The guard said, “No were not, you see lunatics never unite.”
Perhaps lunatics never unite, but spiritual lunatics do! This sinful, crazy world we live in is united against our Lord and what they perceive to be the scandal of the cross and the folly of our faith. They want to shut us up, because they feel if they can do that, then they have shut out the message of the cross.

Isn’t it time that we too united with the sole purpose of taking God’s message of the cross to a dying world? How can we do this and succeed when we are up against such a powerful force? Well, it’s not about you dear friends, it’s about the cross! You see, we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block and foolishness to (the unbelieving world), but to those of us who have responded to God’s call of faith, Christ crucified is the power and wisdom of God unto salvation!

May God continue to lead us through His Word and continually to His cross as our sole source of strength and wisdom. In Jesus name…AMEN!

 

Debt Paid in Full!

Sunday, March 8th, 2015

Lent 3 B, March 8, 2015

Rev. Brian Henderson
Pastor-Trinity Lutheran Church,
San Diego, CA
http://www.tlcsd.org

1 Corinthians 1:18–31

Click here for audio of this message

This morning in our Epistle lesson (1 Corinthians 1:18-31), St. Paul declares the cross of Jesus Christ to be both foolishness for people who are dying in their sins, and the power and salvation of God for those of us who are being saved by that cross.

Now the cross in and of itself is simply two pieces of wood fastened and bound together, or in a darker sense it is simply a means of execution for a criminal, much like our electric chairs.  But for you dear Christian it is both the instrument and the pulpit where God not only reconciled sinful men and women to Himself, but from that platform, high and lifted up He declared it so clearly so that all sinners would understand:  “It is finished!”  The debt of sin has been paid in full.

This morning, we will look at both the work and word of the cross from two different perspectives; the perspective of sinful men and women who will not be saved, and the perspective of sinners who have received God’s pardon and gift of new life.  And we will also look at three different areas where these differences play out, and how ultimately God works to move your entire being to praise Him and boast to others about His unfailing power and glory.

First, let’s talk about True Power, not as the world sees it but Christ the power of God. What is power?  What I mean to ask is what does the average person think of as true power?

In a world of conflict and war, a nuclear weapon is true power; not simply if it is used, but even the threat of its use is powerful.  In the world of politics, a secret is true power; it can garner you position, influence, and wealth.  In our community today, we could say that education, image, and reputation are powerful.   They can help you with employment and advancement.  But what happens when a nation doesn’t have a nuclear weapon, and know’s it never will?  What happens when a politician either can’t obtain or chooses not to traffic in the currency of secrets?  And what of those in our community who have no education or reputation?

Where do you suppose those who are powerful would advise these people to turn to?

Those in power always ask the weak and less fortunate to turn to them for both care and protection.  In fact, not only will they advise it, but through their perceived power, they may even insist on it.  In their estimation, those of us who they see as weak and downtrodden have no other choice than throwing in with them.  And when we refuse to put our trust in them and instead declare that we will trust in the Lord our God alone, they will always scoff at our choice and ask us to show how our God’s power is greater than theirs.  They laugh at Christ’s cross and death, and they will point out that their lives are much better than ours.  “But to those of us being saved (by the cross of Jesus Christ), it is the power of God (a power that brings us forgiveness of sins and eternal life).

We who have been saved by the power of God’s grace, which comes to us through the the Son of God, Jesus Christ and His cross, are those who can read our Old Testament lesson (Exodus 20:1-17), without fear.  Instead of hearing the voice of an angry God demanding perfection, we hear the voice of a loving God who says, “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out…”  We can think back on the mess we have made of our lives in the past and even cringe at the possible messes we’ll make in the future, and because of the cross of Jesus Christ we remember that our God is a God who not only brings us out of our sins, but He sustains us in the midst of a sinful world and daily transforms us into His righteousness all because of the cross of Christ and the power that has been poured out upon us as we walk with and trust in that power alone.

While it’s true that those who trust in the power of the world will never understand the power of God and His cross, it does not mean that God does not desire that they should be saved; rather God is relentless and will not cease to confront them in their sinfulness so that the power of the cross can transform them as well.  And how does the power of the cross come to those who are powerful?  The Same way it comes to those who are wise.  Through the preaching of the Word of God, which is the message of the cross.

True Wisdom does not come as the world desires it, but through Christ the wisdom of God. “Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?”  For God has declared, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.”

Now the wise people of our day would counter, “Where was that done?  How has God silenced us?  And the answer is, “He is doing it right now in the preaching of this message about the cross of Jesus Christ!”

Those who will not receive the message of the cross, or those who will change the message of the cross so that it is not offensive to themselves and others, only manage to do one thing, they rob the cross of it’s power to save sinners.  A cross with out the suffering and payment for sin for the entire world is no cross at all.  It becomes merely a symbol.  That kind of cross does not address the purpose of the cross, which is to pay for the sins of the world.

Only a cross that pays for all of the sins of the world; only a cross that brings all of mankind back to a right relationship with its Creator God is the true cross.  The world will not accept this cross; they will not accept the message of this true cross because it is both foolishness and an offense to them.  It is foolishness because it excludes the fantasies of an educated mind, which insist that mankind is able on it’s own to bring order to a world of chaos.  It is offensive because this kind of cross, this kind of message insists that all men must bow before this suffering Servant Savior, who died as a criminal, and then they must confess their sins to Him, and further they must confess Him to be their Savior and God.”

“For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe.”  Throughout the history of the world, sinful mankind has failed completely to obtain the one great thing it needs to be saved: They have failed to know God.

The world has never been able to get a hold of this real knowledge of God, because they will not know Him as He presents Himself. When he speaks to the world in the gospel even today, they laugh; they do not think that it is God speaking to them. Like the Jews in the temple who Jesus drove out because of their sinfulness (John 2:13–22), they talk and boast about their god, but their actions and life styles prove they have never really known the One True God.

Why don’t they know God?  Because they lack faith, and without faith the message of the cross is not only lost but rejected.  Only by faith, which comes through the proclaimed Word of God can a sinner see a need for the cross and receive the Savior God who died upon it for him.  God’s wisdom is just to simple and easy for great minds.  The world’s wisdom always goes off into its own proud, self-sufficient, self-glorifying paths, and when it does, it blinds itself to God’s wisdom which is all around them.

The astronomer gazes at the miracle of the stars for years and then tells us with great certainty that he has found no God. The natural scientist announces that the apes are his ancestors and declares that all life has evolved from a tiny cell that came from pond scum. New Agers proclaim: “God is all, and all is God.” So the collective “know it all’s” of this world along with the powerful elite proclaim that their message is one that will truly bring world peace and replace the antiquated wisdom of God.  And then they sigh and say, “If only the ignorant Christians would give up their superstitious belief in the cross and their Lord, then everything would be better in this world.”

Sadly this wisdom of man has already begun to effect the church. When the wisdom of scientific revelation is received within the ranks of believers even though it is in complete disagreement with scripture, these “new breed” Christians are quick to concede that scripture must be wrong.  This thought is then quickly endorsed by their learned so called theologians who agree that in this case or that case, worldly wisdom must trump Divine wisdom.  But what they fail to understand is that when the authority of God’s Word, even a portion of it is replace with the wisdom of men, the power of the cross is lost along with the salvation that it brings.

Since the world has continually and foolishly rejected God in favor of it’s own wisdom, God chose to use the “foolishness” and silliness of preaching the Word of God and the cross, to save sinful men and women.  He chose to call sinners unto salvation through a Word, a Word that would declare the cross as the only means of making them saints.

The foolishness of God declares that we who receive the message of the cross are both Sinner and Saint at the same time.  This will only make sense for us when we learn to stop looking at our selves and instead see Christ working within us.

Through Jesus Christ and His cross, God demonstrates His presence in this fallen world with both power and inconceivable wisdom.  Jesus alone served as God’s perfect prophet, the Living Word of God, which He uses to bring His message of love to his people. He demonstrated this message of ultimate love through the human form and flesh of Jesus Christ. Jesus is both the message and the Prophet. For God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself (2 Cor. 5:19) by the blood of his cross (Col. 1:20). He demonstrated his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Rom. 5:8).

This message is a message of foolishness and weakness from the standpoint of fallen human creatures. God chose what is foolish and weak in the world’s eyes to shame the wise and the strong (1 Cor. 1:18–30). The crucifixion of the Lord of glory (1 Cor. 2:8) reveals both the ultimate love of God and the foolishness and impotence of this world’s attempts at mastery.

Sinners tried to put Christ away on a cross, sealed away in a tomb, but he came back, not with vengeance to punish, but with love to save; to end their existence as sinners. He came back to give them new life (Rom. 6:3–11).  Even now within this message, Christ repeats who God is to us within his own person, he pronounces the end of all fallen human endeavors to secure life on our own terms. In this message of the cross and God’s love for us he shatters every hope we have apart from him.

God chose what is foolish and weak so that by faith, you would receive Divine wisdom.  God chose what is weak; God chose you. God called you out of a world of darkness and sin and by His work alone, He declares you a saint.

God chose what is foolish and commonplace and combined it with the power of His Word and washed you clean.  In your baptism, you were not simply cleansed you were recreated.  In the waters of your baptism, “God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being may boast in the presence of God.”

At birth you were not a saint; you were an ain’t; a good for nothing rag-a-muffin.  But on the day of your baptism, God took a lowly base sinner, He took you, and through the washing of the water and the Word, He attached the fruit of the cross, He inserted into you the very righteousness of His Son, your Savior Jesus Christ.  And now you are saved!

In God’s “self-disclosure” through Jesus Christ, life springs out of death. Christ’s power reveals itself in our weakness; it brings new life. His wisdom comes through the ultimate foolishness of the cross. His love is exhibited within the wrath of a Father because of sin, forsaking his Son on the cross (Mark 15:34). His presence moves into our lives through that ultimate forsakenness. His justice and righteousness triumph in the moment of ultimate injustice. The Author of Life dies (Acts 3:15). Precisely at the most fragile and frail point of his humanity Christ reveals the ultimate expression of who God is and how He acts toward us.

This is the God who has paid your debt in full.  Do not let the wisdom of the world undo for you what God declares is finished through Jesus Christ and His cross.  Repent!  Turn to the cross and be saved… AMEN!

Who’s Fool Are You?

Sunday, March 11th, 2012

Lent 3 B, March 11, 2012
Pastor Brian Henderson-Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA

Click here for audio of this message

1 Corinthians 1:18-31

“The Word of the cross (really) is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the (very) power of God (unto salvation).” [v. 18]

One of my favorite “evangelism” stories is the one about the man in Chicago who wore a sandwich board sign on Milwaukee Ave.  Every day for  months during the lunch hour, he walked along the busy sidewalk wearing his sign.  As you approached him, you read : “(1 Cor. 1:18) I am a fool  for Jesus Christ!”  As you approached him, he would make eye contact and say, “God bless you!”  After you passed him though, if you bothered  to turn and see what was on the other side of the sandwich board, you would read this question, “Who’s fool are you?”

So that’s the question that God wants us to answer.  Who do you want to be a fool for?  If you choose the world’s wisdom over God’s wisdom,  beware, because you just may hear these Words from your Savior, “You fool, today is the day God requires your soul!”  You see, in our reading  this morning we have ample warning that ultimately, all wisdom that does not find its source in the cross of Jesus Christ will be laid low, “For it  is written, “God will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning He will [frustrate].”

“Where is the one who is wise?  Where is the scribe?  Where is the debater of this age”  Or we could imagine God saying, “Bring me the talking  heads from CNN, FOX News, MSNBC, PBS and all of the other highbrow agenda seeking news celebrities, and see how they fair against my Word!   Bring me the legal activists that publicly attack my people’s faith and see what will happen to them on judgment day!  Bring out the double  talking politicians who tell you what you want to hear, saying one thing to this group of people and another to that group of people just so they can win votes along with earthly treasure and fame, and see if I do not destroy their lying and self-serving tongues!”

The truth is that many of these people have forgotten the God who gave them their wisdom.  They forget that each one of us was created to glorify God through the talents and gifts that He’s given to us.  Sadly, many not only forget about God, why they even attack the very thought of God!  They belittle anyone who professes faith in a Creator-God as foolish and weak.  They insist that we believe that we evolved out of swamp scum!  And what’s God’s response?  He takes the very idea of a Creator that the world dismisses as folly and makes it even more foolish; He comes to us in power in ways we would never imagine.  And because of our sin, He comes in ways we can never accept.

God comes to us this morning in great power.  It is power that even the strongest nuclear weapon created by the greatest human minds can’t even come close to.  It is an argument that confounds the keenest minds because of its simplicity.  God comes to us in the spoken Word.  The Word of God spoken by sinful men!  The very same Word that was spoken in the beginning of all things, that created all things, is speaking to you even now!  But if it were just the words of a preacher, why they would be just as hollow as the those know-it-alls who call us foolish.  No, this Word that is speaking to you now is the very power of God unto salvation simply because it is the message about the cross of Jesus Christ!

There’s an area in London, England that’s the geographical heart of the city.  It’s called the Charing Cross.  All distances in the city are measured from this location.  One day a London police officer found a lost child wandering the streets of London, alone, frightened, and crying.  No matter what the officer tried, he couldn’t get the child to remember his address.  Finally, in the middle of his sobs, the little boy said, “Sir, if you will take me to the cross I think I can find my way back home.”  And that is God’s plan for us.  If He can get us to the cross, He has made a way for us to get back home; back into His forgiving love.  At the cross we find God.   But not just any cross will do; no, it has to be the bloody cross of death that the Son of God suffered and died upon for the sins of the world.  It is at the cross of Jesus where the message about His love, suffering and death opens our eyes of faith, so that we can see the love of God.

This message of the cross is the only one that God has given to sinners so that they will know and return to a God who not only created them but also wants to recreate them back into His image.  But in order to have a cross, you have to have the Savior who died upon it.  You have to have the very Son of God in our flesh.  And it’s this very thought of God becoming one of us, and dying for us that causes men wise to the world to turn away from their Creator and Savior.  They will accept the cross as a metaphor of something greater and higher for each of us to strive for, but if you put a suffering and dying Savior God on it they will laugh in your face!

In 1959, Thomas Hoving of New York’s Metropolitan Museum purchased an ivory cross from a Yugoslavian art collector, who had stored it in a Swiss bank vault.  Hoving noticed that it lacked its central figure—the body of Christ.  Because of the missing body, the value of the cross was significantly less.  But on the other side of the world, a figure of Christ carved out of ivory lay in Norway’s Oslo Museum.  In 1969, Florens Deuchler discovered that the seven and a half inch figure of Christ in the Oslo Museum fit perfectly into the five holes drilled for it on the New York museum cross.  But the like the cross, the figure’s value is small without the cross.

You see, the cross without Jesus Christ, the Son of God is only a cross; a symbol.  And Jesus, without the cross is only a historical figure with no power from God.  It is only through the crucified Jesus Christ that God’s plan of salvation centered around His wisdom, power, and glory can be seen and understood by sinners like us.

Sadly, the world sees the cross and a crucified Savior as foolishness, and it uses its own wisdom, power, and glory to create a god in its own image.  But in the cross, God prevents us from making Him into our sinful image.  He does it through the foolishness of the cross.  If you won’t surrender all of your wisdom, glory, and power at the foot of the cross, then you will never see God’s glory.  At the cross, we are bewildered and confounded, but we are bewildered and confounded for a reason.  God wants each of us to see that we all fall far short of God’s demand of perfection.  He wants us to see that our only hope for eternal life in glory is to confess our complete emptiness.  Then and only then can God fill us with the mystery of the cross, which is His message about our salvation.

Do you want God’s wisdom?  Then be prepared to have the world call you a fool, because only the cross can make you wise unto salvation.  Only through the message of Jesus’ cross are you given wisdom from God to see your sin and your Savior who suffered and died to forever take that sin away from you.  In the message of the cross you are given faith to receive God’s promise of righteousness, sanctification, and redemption.  These three gifts of God are all that you need to be assured that you have peace with a God who loves you and wants you to be with Him forever.  Together with wisdom, these gifts are given to you within your baptism, where you were killed and reborn through the washing of simple water and the unfathomable power of God’s Word!

The righteousness of God is something only He can give to you.  It is the very identity of His Son who suffered and died upon the cross for you.  It is a righteousness that is imputed or injected into you when you were baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.  Your gift of sanctification is the very promise of God that He who began the work of salvation within you will complete that work.  No one can take this promise from you; in your baptism, He recreated you to live a life of good works centered on the love and sacrifice of Jesus and His death upon the cross for you!  And finally, through the cross of Jesus and the waters of your baptism, God gives you redemption.  He gives to you the promise that if you will not turn away from the death of His Son for you, you will one day join Him in His heaven, which will become your home forever.

Now the world will have no part of God’s plan of salvation.  They can’t admit that they fall short of any glory.  They will insist that man’s glory is real and tangible while God’s glory is a fiction for weak minds.  They see no need for divine righteousness, sanctification, or redemption.  In their minds, anyone who clings to these things above the vision of a man-made utopia that science and political order will one day provide is a fool, and they have no time for fools.  But it is the fool who says in his heart there is no God!  Sadly, without the cross of Jesus, they will one day hear God say, “You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. [Luke 12:20]  Bind him hand and foot and cast him into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” [Matt. 22:13]  Who will be the fool then?  But for now, we are not to celebrate what we have at the expense of others.  Instead, God calls us to live for Him as we live out His Word of the cross for our neighbors.  He calls us to share His gift of wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption with the world that comes only through His Word about Christ’s suffering and death upon the cross.

As Paul says to us this morning, we repeat among ourselves and to our neighbors. “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” [1 Corinthians 1:31]  In other words, “Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom or the strong man boast of his strength or the rich man boast of his riches, but let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,” declares the LORD. [Jeremiah 9:23-24]  May God give each of us faith and  strength to continue being fools for Jesus Christ… AMEN!

It’s Not About You…It’s About the Cross!

Sunday, March 15th, 2009

Pastor Brian Henderson-Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego
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“For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” [v. 18]

INTRODUCTION: One thing that becomes evident to every Christian who takes their walk of faith seriously is that God’s ways are not our ways.  God’s thoughts are not our thoughts, nor are they even like ours.  We aren’t even in the same neighborhood.  We’re thinking preserve the body and He’s thinking, save the soul.  We dream of a pay raise and He dreams of raising the dead.  We avoid pain and seek peace, God uses pain to bring peace.  “I’m going to live before I die,” we resolve and He says, “Die so you can live.”  We love what rusts, He loves what endures.  We rejoice in our successes and He rejoices at our confessions.  We show our children the Chargers football star and say, “Be like LT.” and God points to His crucified Son and says, “be like Christ.”  [Idea from Max Lucado-The Great House of God]

Our thoughts are not like God’s thoughts and our ways are not like His ways.  He has a different agenda.  He dwells in a different dimension.  But through the gift of faith, we now are able to look at something the world calls foolishness and instead see the love of God.  Instead of being intrigued by the power and wisdom of the world we have been captivated by the power and wisdom of God as communicated by the cross…that is until we forget that God’s ways are not our ways, and His thoughts are not our thoughts, and we begin to think like the world.

Dear friends, God knows how easy it is for you to slip into the thinking patterns of this world.  He knows what a strong temptation it is for you to follow the pack and eventually have your eyes turned from Your Creator and instead look to that which is created as your source of wisdom and strength.  That is why he has repeated so many times that He will destroy the wisdom of the world.  Through the prophet Isaiah He says, “therefore, behold, I will again do wonderful things with this people, with wonder upon wonder; and the wisdom of their wise men shall perish”.  [Isa. 29:14  ] In the book of Job, God says that, “He frustrates the devices of the crafty, so that their hands achieve no success. (And) He catches the wise in their own craftiness, and the schemes of the wily are brought to a quick end.” [Job 5:12, 13]   Through the prophet Jeremiah God says, “The wise men shall be put to shame; they shall be dismayed and taken; behold, they have rejected the word of the Lord, so what wisdom is in them?”  And how does He do all of this?  As the prophet Jeremiah has said, He does it through His Word; through the Law and Gospel.

God’s Law comes to us under two tables of stone that can’t be broken.  One table demands that we must love God with all of our heart and mind, and the other demands that we must love our neighbor as we love ourselves.  This foolish world believes that it can satisfy the demands of God’s Law through careful living and doing their very best.  The business owners in our gospel lesson surely thought that they were honoring the first table of God’s Law by providing goods and services that the Jewish worshipers would need once they entered the temple.  They bought their permit to do business and began to sell livestock and birds that would be needed for private and corporate sacrifice for the forgiveness of sins.  There was one problem though…they forgot that they were already in God’s temple.  You see, they set up shop in the court of the gentiles.  This was a place where non-Jews who were in the process of learning about God went to pray and learn more about their new faith; now they had to worship God in a stock yard.

These same business owners also must have thought that they were fulfilling the second table of the Law by offering a service to their neighbors who needed to change their money into temple currency.  There was one problem with that, they were charging exorbitant exchange rates that God’s Law called usury!

Every time the unbelieving wise and powerful of this world thinks they are doing pretty well, God’s Law breaks in like a mirror and shows them their true condition…they are sinners!  Every time they feel pleased with themselves, God’s Law barges in and overturns their tables of comfort and deceit, and demands, “Take these things away!”  “What things Lord,” they may ask?  To which His Law responds, “Your self-righteous, and self sufficient attitude!”  “But Lord” they reply, “we have done our very best”.  And to that he takes the whip of His Holy Law and drives them from His presence. 

Dear friends, when God’s Law terrifies the unbelieving world, they must flee from Him just as the merchants fled from Jesus that fateful day in the temple.  Just as the merchants were forced by the Son of God to flee outside of the sanctuary, so the blatant unrepentant sin of pride and self-sufficiency of unbelievers separates them from their Holy and all-powerful Creator. What can be done to free them from this awful terror?

They must turn to the very thing that they laugh at and belittle; they must turn to the cross and their crucified Savior!  Friends, when the unbelieving world ridicules you for your simple faith in Jesus Christ, do not be discouraged or disappointed; they are not ridiculing you but instead they are laughing at the very means that God has provided for them as the sole source of rescue from His Holy Law…the cross of Jesus Christ!   They cannot understand how something so simple and repugnant can take away the terror of sin and ultimately death.  They cannot understand why you feel no terror in God’s Law.  They can never understand how you can be thankful in situations where they would experience only fear and worry.  They can never understand these things unless through God’s Word and the working of the Holy Spirit they are given the gift of faith to see that Jesus is not only God’s best way of saving them, He is God’s only way!

Finally dear friends, we must remember that while the unbelieving world may look down on us as being simple minded and weak, we must never do the same to each other.  We must not let the ways of the world divide us.  We must learn to put aside any personal, political, cultural, or economic differences that we may have with each other and be of one mind and one heart.  The mind and heart we must have must be that of Jesus Christ!  And where is His mind and heart?  It is with those very same people that belittle His cross; the place where He suffered and died for them.  For this is the will of (the) Father, that none should perish, but that all should reach repentance.  (So) that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life.

We shall close our message this morning with this short story and a final thought: A reporter went to an asylum for the criminally insane to gather information for a story. He was a bit surprised to find that there were only three guards to take care of a hundred inmates. He said to one of the guards, “Aren’t you afraid that the inmates will unite, overcome you, and escape?” The guard said, “No were not, you see lunatics never unite.” 

Perhaps lunatics never unite but the world we live in is united against our Lord and what they perceive to be the foolishness of the cross and the folly of our faith.  They want to shut us up, because they feel if they can do that, then they have shut out the message of the cross.  Isn’t it time that we united with sole purpose of taking God’s message of the cross to a dying world?  How can we do this and succeed when we are up against such a powerful force?  Well, it’s not about you dear friends, it’s about the cross!  You see, we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block and foolishness to (the unbelieving world), but to those who are called, Christ crucified is the power and wisdom of God unto salvation! 

May God continue to lead us through His Word to continually to His cross as our sole source of strength and wisdom.  In Jesus name…AMEN!  SGD