Folly of the cross

This is my reflection on 1 Corinthians 1:18-31.

We are completely confounded. What we label as wisdom has been turned on its head. What we desire as indicators is beyond belief. But the reality remains. The truth of who Christ is and what he has accomplished stands above all of our reason and mysticism.

No one may boast in his presence. God chose to do things in a fashion that is glaringly absurd. It is beyond logic and the greater folly might be when we attempt to make it logical… It all points to the cross. The intersection of disbelief and the horror of our disobedience’s earned reward. It is this place that we preach, it is this tool of freedom that we declare, it is this true work of grace that we proclaim. Many will call it silly. More will call it delusion. But He calls it purpose. He calls it a plan. He calls it an instrument of His glory.

We know the truth of the saying that this message of the cross is folly; then why do we not preach it alone. Why must we toy with truth and tinker with revelation so we might seem more clever and practical by worldly standards? Should we not reclaimed the “folly” of what the apostles preached?

We have spent too much time boasting in the wrong things. In systems, in numbers, in finances. It is time we boast in the folly. Turn others toward it. Make it our plan for life and not just a ticket to paradise. The cross, the truth of the gospel is absolutely absurd to those unchanged by God’s spirit but to those being save – catch that “being” it is ongoing – it is the power of God.

Let us pursue that power.

Pick your scandal

This last week I had the great opportunity to preach at “The Stand” a youth gathering at a church in Camas, Washington. My good friend Steven is the youth pastor and he set a theme for the night as “Scandalous” which was influenced by the book by the same name by D.A. Carson.

I focused on the division between Romans 1:18-23 and 3:21-24, that of sin and the cross. The message was that there are two scandals and we are to choose the one we will embrace.

The first scandal is one all of humanity takes part in. It is the scandal of sin. A perfect creation despises the creator and turns from him in pursuit of our own pleasure and glory – but the perfection is ruined and we have hearts of darkness missing what we were made for. You have no choice but to experience this scandal but there is another where you can find hope.

This hopeful scandal is the scandal of the cross. A perfect God presents himself, Jesus Christ, as the sacrifice needed to cover the scandal of sin and reconcile creation to him. It is a bloody, messy and undeserved cross but Christ takes it on and defeats sin, defeats death and gives those that believe in him new life.

These are the two scandals you get to choose from. There are no other roads. The absolute truth is that you are faced with the path of death or the path of life.

Just as I challenged the youth to choose the scandal of the cross, I hope that you too will live in response to the cross. Embrace the scandal…

The Cross We Deserve

We have entered the season of Advent and we wait with growing expectation to celebrate the birth of our savior. But in the midst of the present buying and carol singing I am struck by the amount of reflection I am doing on the Cross of Christ.

Whether in texts for school or small group conversations I am drawn to dwell on the significance of the Cross where Jesus finally covered us in redemption and forgiveness. The Cross however was not a clean exercise in death. It was devastatingly gruesome and disturbing. Other do a much better job at fully describing crucifixion and the agony it would entail. We even have the modern word ‘excruciating’ which was created to describe the pain.

It was gory and despicable. There must be a reason Christ came at that point in history and experienced what he did. If he had come today, would he have been “lethally injected” and succumbed to this “humane” form of execution? How would we respond to Christ’s death had it been “easy” in light of the fact that we are the ones that deserved to die?

The gruesome nature of the Cross has me realizing what I deserve. Because of sin I am the one that deserves to be tortured and maimed. I deserve humiliation and condemnation. I deserve the suffocation from my own weight and shame. But I don’t face this death because God himself stood in my place, and yours, to atone for our prideful turning from our creator.

The weight of the Cross is hanging in the air like a fresh winter snow for me. Just as the snow covers the ground in purity, Christ’s blood covers me in grace and righteousness. Because of the Cross I am availed to relationship with the one that hold the realms of life and death, earth and universe. May the weight of the Cross draw me further to repentance and belief in Jesus.

Without the birth there is no Cross, and without the Cross there is no (re)birth. Let us be about the anticipation of Christmas and the realization of the Cross.

What is the Gospel?

I just flew through Greg Gilbert’s first book, What is the Gospel?, and loved it. It honestly challenged my articulation of the Gospel and what elements I keep as the main thing.

I have been convicted as of late that too much of what we do in the modern church is about maintaining our comfortable culture and sadly this has been at the detriment of the Gospel. And in the midst of this reality Gilbert’s 122 page book is a solid reminder and call back to the Gospel.

Gilbert has been a pastor at DC’s Capitol Hill Baptist Church and is assuming the pastorate at a church in the South soon. I think he would have been a great person to get coffee with while we were in DC but this will have to wait until he swings through Portland.

The book is clear and digestible outlining the elements of the Gospel as “God, man, Christ, response.” This is a recognition that God is amazing and has created the universe for his glory; man was brought on the scene and sinned leaving a wedge of pride between us and the creator; to restore this relationship,┬áChrist sacrificed himself on the cross dying for our sin and defeating it in his resurrection (this is the key part); and we are called to repentance and faith in Christ as a response to the Cross.

We have spent entirely too much time contextualizing and shifting the Gospel to issues we think might be more comfortable for those around us but Gilbert slices through all that with words of truth that we all need to meditate on.

As I finished the book this morning one paragraph stuck me. I have noticed the trend that suggests we should simply follow Jesus’ teachings and nothing more, but I think this is a graven approach that discounts Christ’s deity and sacrifice on the cross. The Gospel calls people to repentance not friendly living…

The fact is, a person can be a self-professed “Jesus-follower” or “kingdom-life liver” and still be outside the kingdom. You can live like Jesus lived all you want, but unless you’ve come to the crucified King in repentance and faith, relying on him alone as the perfect sacrifice for your sin and your only hope for salvation, you’re neither a Christian nor a citizen of his kingdom.

The way to be included in Christ’s kingdom is to come to the king, not just hailing him as a great example who shows us a better way to live, but humbly trusting him as the crucified and risen Lord who alone can release you from the sentence of death. At the end of the day, the only way into the kingdom is through the blood of the King.

That section alone made the book worth the purchase for me and I live to share this Gospel so that others might come to a repentance and faith in Christ.

Gilbert works carefully through the elements of the Gospel and then gives us recommendations on how to respond to it and live it out.

How long has it been since you looked up from the earthly details of life and came face to face with the Grand Canyon of what God has done for us in the Gospel – his unfathomable grace in forgiving people who have rebelled against him, his breathtaking plan to send his Son to suffer and die in their place, to establish the throne of the resurrected Jesus over a kingdom of perfect righteousness, and to bring those who are saved and redeemed by his blood into a new heavens and new earth where sin and evil will be forever conquered!

Let us go and come face to face with this Gospel and glorify God by living it.