The World Views a Failure by Rick Burdette
1 Corinthians 1:18-1:25
4 Views from the Cross – The World Views a Failure
1 Corinthians 1:18-25 (p. 793) March 6, 2016
Suppose I showed up one day from a foreign country and said I’ve got an amazing story I want to share with you…
A Peruvian peasant by the name of Carlos was put to death in the electric chair in order to pay for your sins.
I’ve even written a song:
[“Carlos was there on that horrible chair.
They tied him down with bolts
and zapped him with 40,000 volts.
It was for you Carlos fried and died.
The wisdom of the world has been rejected
because Carols electrocuted.
He is my Savior and my lamp
because he absorbed every deadly amp.
Now I know that God does care
because He sent Carlos to the electric chair.]
You would say, “That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard in my life.”
That’s the most foolish religion anyone has ever invented – you have to be absolutely crazy if you expect me to believe something like that…what kind of fool do you think I am?
In fact it’s more than foolish…it’s downright offensive.
“You expect me to believe that some itinerate preacher peasant named Carlos was sentenced to death in the electric chair as my Savior? Good and righteous people do not die in electric chairs!”
Now imagine I’ve shared this “good news” with you and you don’t have 2,000 years of Christian history to hear it through…all you’ve got is how you’ve always thought about electric chairs and who dies in electric chairs.
That’s how people viewed the message of Jesus dying on a cross.
In the 1st century crucifixion was a thing of shame….reserved for only the worst of society…when Jewish people heard about the cross they remembered Deuteronomy 21:23 which says “Anyone who hung on a tree is under God’s curse.”
The Romans viewed the cross as a punishment for the most lowly crimes and the most violent criminals…or for those who continually had a life of crime.
The image of the cross evoked the most horrible and embarrassing death possible.
So when the Apostle Paul comes to Corinth with his story he understands how both Jews and Gentiles see the cross…the world saw Jesus as a failure, and even worse, a fool for dying on a cross.
I. THE MESSAGE OF THE CROSS DIVIDES AND UNIFIES
“The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it the power of God.” (v. 18)
The message of the cross creates a division within humanity: Those who are perishing…those who are being saved.
It doesn’t matter who you are…the color of your skin or your economic status, or the language you speak…you fall into one of those two groups.
There is no halfway house, demilitarized zone or neutrality…every single person will be condemned or saved by what they do at the foot of the cross.
And the stumbling block for every one of us who stand there involves a little three letter word called “sin.”
[I grew up with an amazing dad…he could fix anything…or he would stay with it until he figured out how to fix it…He taught me how to use tools, weld, cut and measure… (twice). As I got older he used to say, “Rick Tic let me show you how to do this.” And my independent spirit would say, “I know how to do this…I’ve got this Dad.” I hated admitting I couldn’t do it on my own…or didn’t know how…shockingly, something I still struggle with.]
I believe it’s that attitude within every single human heart that makes accepting the message of the cross so hard to accept.
It’s why Paul shares a quote from Isaiah 29:14 where God says “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.”
The first sin in the garden of Eden involved a desire “to be like God and have their own knowledge of good and evil.” Satan’s war for control in heaven involved his pride…and Adam and Eve’s sin in the garden involved theirs. “I know how to do this…I don’t need your help dad.”
Whether you are a Roman, a Jew, or an American, this spirit of independence lives in your heart….the Greek world tried to answer the questions of life with deep philosophy. The Jews tried to answer it with the covenant and the hope of a conquering Messiah…one thought “with enough information and knowledge we can figure it out on our own. The other thought…we have a heritage that guarantees our salvation…and pretty soon God will send us a warrior to put us back on top…both were wrong…and the cross would be the proving ground.
“Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to the Jews and foolishness to Gentiles…but to those whom God has called both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.”
The Jews had already figured out what kind of Messiah they wanted…one like King David…they wanted a Messiah who would come overthrow the Romans, restore their power and territory…This Messiah would marshal an army and lead them to success and victory…Jesus performed all kinds of miracles and signs: healing the sick and blind, raising the dead, reaching out to the lowly and outcast…but these weren’t the signs they wanted…and the cross got in the way.
They believed if they were good enough by keeping the laws they didn’t need a Savior. Especially one who “is cursed by dying on a tree.”
John 1:11 tells us “He came to His own but His own did not receive Him.”
If you don’t think you need a Savior because your sin isn’t that bad…the cross doesn’t look powerful…it looks weak and like a failure.
Still today many would like to bypass the cross, and make their own Messiah. We want a Messiah that provides what we want…success…happiness…victory. Sin is never dealt with. We might have heard “All have sinned and fall short” (Romans 3:23) but, I just barely fall short, so I don’t need too much forgiveness…so I’ll do some good things…say a prayer…get baptized to make people happy…or come to church.
Sin is prettied up…the cross becomes gold and shiny…sin is excused by justifications…we don’t really need a Savior dying on an old rugged tree for my little “accidents.”
Jesus didn’t die on Calvary and raise gloriously from the dead to make good people better…He died and rose again so sinful dead people could have forgiveness and life eternal.
Either we are still perishing in our sin or we have been saved by the power of God through Christ crucified.
The cross is where we decide to live in our own righteousness…our own wisdom…or God’s
II. THE CROSS IS WHERE PEOPLE DIE
[Pretend that you’ve driving a car and all of a sudden you see Jesus standing on the corner calling to you…so you pull over and open the back door, invite him in so you can chauffer Him around…He just stands there…so you open the passenger seat…you’ll let Jesus ride “shotgun.” But, still He just stands there waiting…and finally it dawns on you what he wants…but doing it involves giving up control of the journey…it’s this crossroad where you have to decide to get out and let Him drive or not.]
In our text it says, “But to those whom God has called, Christ becomes the power and wisdom of God.”
How does God call to us?
When Jesus was here on earth He would personally say to those who would be His disciples “Come follow me.” James and John, Peter and Andrew left their fishing boats and did just that…Matthew left his tax collecting booth to follow Jesus…He stood before crowds and said, “All of you that are weary and burdened…come to me and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28) He would also say “If anyone would follow me as a disciple he must deny himself, take up his cross and follow me.” (Luke 9:23)
Self denial and crucifixion. Jesus and Joel Olsteen offer some very different perks of discipleship.
Jesus went to the cross for one reason as the sinless Son of God. “God, the Father loved us and sent His son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” (1 John 4:10)
The cross where Jesus died is where every sin is paid for…atoned for…the word “atonement” means “made one again, payment for a wrong for injustice.”
Jesus paid it all…all to Him I owe…Sin had left a crimson stain He washed it white as snow.
As Jesus died on that rugged cross…His last word was “tetelistai” it literally means “Paid in full.”
The outstanding payment for all sin… “Death” was paid in full, once for all on Calvary.
ROMANS 3:22-26 (p. 784)
There’s no difference in being Jewish or a Gentile where sin is concerned…all have sinned….and a perfect God demanded perfect justice: death…So a loving God became flesh…lived a perfect life and died for every Jew and Gentile…He demanded justice for sin…He became the one who paid the price…atonement….reconciliation is now possible through faith.
So how does God call us to come to Him in faith now…Jesus died, was buried, rose again, and ascended back to Heaven. How does He call us now? Listen to what Jesus promised would happen…after his death, burial, resurrection and ascension.
JOHN 16:7-11 (p. 753)
The Holy Spirit is not bound by a body…He is God at work, Jesus’ advocate (His representative). He deals with sin…righteousness and judgment…mine…and God’s.
He is how God calls us to faith…but showing us our need…for a Savior.
[The Holy Spirit as “Advocate” means He’s God’s lawyer…when we are living outside of God He is a prosecutor…pointing out our crimes, our sin and also pushing for the death penalty…repentance comes from being guilty…acknowledging those crimes and humbly realizing in brokenness that the death penalty is deserved…crying out for mercy…He points us to the cross…He points us to someone whose paid our judgment. It’s then we decide to surrender in baptism…to join Him in a death, burial and resurrection…As soon as we do, the Holy Spirit moves inside us as a “defense” attorney. The promised gift of God pleads our continued need for forgiveness…and continually empowers us with hope because the judgment has been paid…for eternity…brokenness becomes repentance…repentance leads to a new life “not guilty!” “Not guilty” comes from God the Father as He looks at His Son…and those who have made Him Lord and Savior.]