And so it was with me, brothers and sisters. When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human 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. (1 Cor. 2:1-2)
Think about the above for a moment. The Apostle Paul – the Pharisee of Pharisees, the Roman citizen, the well-educated man of the world and religious leader par excellence – did not preach with eloquence nor did he rely on human wisdom and training. Instead, he proclaimed Jesus Christ and Him crucified. Not just once a year on Easter, but all the time. Every time he spoke he proclaimed the testimony of God – that He became flesh in Jesus Christ, lived among us, suffered temptations just like us, and then died on the cross to pay for our sins and triumph over death. And He did all this for us, so that we who are in bondage to sin and death can be set free to live for God for all eternity.
That’s it – Jesus Christ and Him crucified – that’s all Paul talked about. He could have waxed eloquent on the theological themes of the day or given lots of practical advice on parenting, being good stewards, nurturing relationships, or building self-esteem. But he didn’t. Instead he focused on Jesus Christ and Him crucified, trusting that as people recognized their need for Jesus and came into relationship with Him, their other issues would be worked out as they turned their lives over to God.
Think for a moment about the preaching and teaching that you hear in your church or in the Christian media. Are the preachers and teachers focused upon Jesus Christ and Him crucified or do they talk about all kinds of other stuff? Do they – do we – consistently proclaim the incarnation, the cross, the resurrection, and the reconciliation of mankind through the one man Jesus? Do we boldly preach that we are born into sin and need a Savior to rescue us from our bondage to sin and death?
"Let’s offer people freedom from sin, addictions, and hurtful behavior patterns through the cross rather than giving them advice on how to manage them better."
So many times we preachers will beat around the bush, offering theological wisdom and good advice on this, that, and the other thing without zeroing in on the real issue – that each and every one of us is born with a sin issue and only Jesus can deliver us from that inclination to sin. Without Jesus, we are selfish sinners who covet, lust, lie, cheat, steal, and even kill in order to get whatever is best for ourselves. With Jesus and His sacrifice on the cross, we become new creations – born again as saints – who have the power to break the chains of sin and deny our fleshly desires in order to help bring healing to others and glory to God.
So then, when it comes to our preaching and teaching, let’s be careful that we don’t just offer good advice and exhortations to do better. Let’s be sure to offer the power to change – Jesus Christ and Him crucified! Let’s proclaim that God became flesh in Jesus Christ and He is here with us today to help us with the issues of our lives. Let’s offer people freedom from sin, addictions, and hurtful behavior patterns through the cross rather than giving them advice on how to manage them better. Let’s invite people to live in the power of the resurrection and the hope of eternity rather than just coping with life and getting by with worldly wisdom.
We could go on talking about the value of preaching the cross, which is foolishness in the eyes of the world but the power of God to those of us who are saved, but the Apostle Paul does a good job of that in 1 Corinthians so we will simply let you read it there.
For now, though, think about your own conversations with people and, if you are a preacher or teacher, think about what you preach and teach. What message do you communicate when you encourage people individually or teach publicly? Do you proclaim the cross and our need for a Savior? Or do you simply give good advice and strong exhortations to do better?
Let’s Pray Together: Father, forgive us for the times that we have failed to proclaim Jesus Christ and Him crucified. Forgive us for assuming that everyone knows that and talking about so many other things. Help us to focus on Jesus, the cross, the resurrection, the ministry of reconciliation, and being new creations. Help us to discover what Biblical church really is, and what Biblical preaching is all about, and how we can proclaim Jesus and the cross in a way that is both Biblical and relevant to people in this modern-day world. Help us to offer not just good teachings and practical advice, but to offer You and the power of the cross...(continue praying as you feel led…)
What Other Are Saying: Many writers have noticed the trend to discount the cross and teach about other things: “In this America, too, the Christian teaching that that every human soul is unique and precious has been stressed, by the prophets of self-fulfillment and gurus of self-love, at the expense of the equally important teaching that every human soul is corrupted by original sin. Absent the latter emphasis, religion becomes a license for egotism and selfishness, easily employed to justify what used to be considered deadly sins. The result is a society where pride becomes “healthy self-esteem,” vanity becomes “self-improvement,” adultery becomes “following your heart,” greed and gluttony become “living the American dream.” From the book Bad Religion: How We Became a Nation of Heretics by Ross Douthat