01.18.2015 1 Cor. 2 - How to Address the Questions People Ask about God and Life
20th January 2015
Lord, we thank You that You are the one who draws us near – that is our desire, to be close to You and to continue/abide in relationship with You. This is eternal life – that we might know the Father, the Son, and the Spirit, Lord, that we might know You – and to experience relationship with You. That is our hope for today – that we would be closer to You – to be more intimate/connected/reliant upon You – to know Your justice/compassion, righteousness and holiness as a result of this time together.
1 Corinthians 2: And when I came to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God. 2 For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. 3 I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling, 4 and my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5 so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God.
As we read this passage – it could be misunderstood if it is not taken in its overall context with an understanding of what is going on in Corinth and the approach that Paul needed to take. What Paul is not saying – is not that we should not speak with wisdom and eloquence – but He is addressing the issues and values that the Corinthians relied upon and trusted for purpose and significance in life – the very things they prided themselves in.
There were philosophers and orators in this region – and they were the ‘rockstars’! It was the philosophers and great communicators that people came to see in the theaters – which held 20-25000 people! Every two years, they held the Olympic games there! So he is addressing the things that the city and the people worshiped: Speech and communication.
He is trying to show how the gospel comes into that and speaks to that mindset. They believed that wisdom/strength/speech would save them – but Paul is saying that salvation comes from that which is weak and foolish – the cross. It was a sign of humiliation – the symbol of Rome’s power. And Paul is saying, in a backhanded way – the great power of the Roman Empire was being destroyed and overturned by this message of shame and humiliation. This very symbol of power is what is going to bring them down.
Paul is speaking here, not just of the power of the gospel, but first – it has the power to challenge what is honored and valued in society. Second – it exposes what is false and unreliable in our thinking. The gospel exposes what is false and unreliable about how we view the world. For the Greeks and Corinthians, it was through the power of speech. The gospel reveals what people really trust in for salvation. They were trusting in their power – military and economic. Third – the gospel provides a way of thinking and living that turns our world on its head. What about our world? What do people in our world really rely upon? What do they really worship? In what do they trust for salvation?
Right after 9/11 – President Bush – someone asked him – something along the lines of – how should the average American respond? How should we live? And one of the things he said – was – go shopping. The terrorists attacked our way of life – capitalism – and his answer revealed a hidden reality of what we really worship – what really counts – what we really rely on in our culture. Economic prosperity. People think this will save us! Watching Fox8 news – they had a story – on an elderly couple who won 323 Million dollars – with one of those massive checks – and now they are superstars – and my initial response – I am not proud of this – “That would solve a lot of problems” – that would make life better”
Be on guard against every form of greed – even when one has an abundance – his life does not consist of his possessions. Wealth adds nothing to your life. – Jesus
We do not believe that. I don’t think it is possible, because we are so blinded – in our culture. My heart said – o wow – that would be nice (winning the lottery).
Jesus said – blessed are the poor. WHAT?
Technology and science. I think a lot of people believe that these will save us – from asteroids, disease – and sin. But it will not deliver what people believe it promises. I am not against technology and science – there is value – but to many, it becomes God.
Medical science – has healed diseases – but in reality – everyone eventually dies! And the one thing it does not do? It has done nothing to help people face death with hope. There is only one way to go to death with hope – and that is with the Gospel.
Political/military power. If we just enacted the right laws, people would be saved! How‘s that working out for you? Does your approach to power – military/political/sex/celebrity – do these things cause you to act more like Jesus and to believe the Sermon on the Mount?
When you are watching the news and some politician pushes a policy or says something that makes you boil inside – does that make you pray for/bless/honor that person? Jesus said to pray for those you disagree with! Your enemies! It is okay for people to disagree with issues – but it is not okay to not love your enemies. This is what it means to be a follower of Christ.
Some practical little things – how to present the gospel of the cross as good news – with the power to change things – both in our speech and behavior. It is not just a speech thing – but how we live.
I’m going to read some of these:
We must present the good news to our culture first without attaching any cultural baggage to the message. In presenting to our culture – our lives and message – it must be done in such a way to not have the baggage that is around us. Like believe the gospel and you will be rich thing – that is just baggage.
We do not need to sell the good news by giving people what they want to hear. The world out there that does not go to church sees right through Christian marketing. We think we have these great techniques to reach people – but they know if you are just trying to get them to join your group or if you really care about their lives.
We have a tendency to present the gospel and live it in a way that justifies and fits our lifestyles. The gospel came to mess up our way of life! In every culture – in every situation!
What I am not saying – I am not talking about starting a cultural war – and sitting up here and condemning what is going on. It is understanding that we are trying to present a totally different way of looking – like when people go to Amish country – you say – these people live in a different world than I do. People should say that about the Church – the difference – instead of cloistering in one area – we should be everywhere – in the same jobs, eating in the same cafeteria – cheering for the same sports teams.
We must be able to give a clear presentation of God’s story in such a way that it is clear and they can understand it – so we can share our faith – in the language of those we are talking to. If you go to Honduras and preach in English – you will reach zero people! We often talk to people in a language they don’t understand!
We need to address the questions people are asking about God and life. People are asking real questions and it is easy to ignore that – that is a nice question – but here is what you need to hear!~ They won’t listen to that unless you address the questions they are asking. Paul said he persuaded people 0- he spoke compellingly. He never tried to get people to believe what they don’t need to believe.
The believing we need to leave to God. Our job is to present the message as best as possible – in a language they do not understand – because those who are forced to believe don’t last – like the seed on rocky soil. It is about trusting God to enter hearts – God is able – He did it with each of us – it was not the persuasive person talking to you – you may have come to Christ through Billy Graham, but it had nothing to do with Billy Graham – he was delivering a message with the power to break through hearts.
1 Cor. 2:, 4 and my [b]message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5 so that your faith would not [c]rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God.
In answering questions – we must also understand that there are many lies that people believe and those lies hinder people from coming to the faith. Tim Keller calls them Defeater Beliefs – things that cause people to shut down to the gospel and things relating to faith. We need to learn what those are with those we are loving and trying to introduce to our Savior, so we can address them – and answer the questions that people are asking.
People really struggle with the great suffering in the world – and they believe that if there is a loving God who is all powerful – there would not be this suffering in the world – either he would not be all-knowing or not all powerful. And this is a real question – and we need to learn to know how to answer it.
Tim Keller and Ravi Zacharias are good resources.
John 8:32 You will know the truth and the truth will set you free.
There is power in that.
In my quiet time – the wolf will lie down with the lamb…. – the nursing child will play by the hole of the cobra – it is speaking about the Millennium – what it will be like – bears eating grass… - the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord.
When the knowledge of the Lord fills the earth – when the lion fully understands WHO God is – he will start eating straw! Our job is to make that knowledge known – because it can’t help but transform things!
Get this message out there and it will change things!
Speak the message in truthful ways – what I mean – proper motives and a right life – not with hidden motives or hypocrisy - and we need to not promise what the gospel does not promise –and to demand what the gospel demands! It may not sell itself that way – but we need to do it right.
We need an inclusive presentation of an exclusive God.
John 14:6 “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
He is available to everyone. He is the only way – but He is available to everyone!
We focus on our verbal witness – people ask questions – what is more important? The verbal communication of our faith or our service and example? This is not an either/or – they are not in competition – ask – what is most important for me? Sharing or living? It is the one you are not doing so well at! If you are speaking the message all the time – and not living it – it is a problem! If you are living it and never speak it – that is a problem! We need both. We need to be doing both.
Jesus makes us magnetic with love so that people are drawn to Him.
It does not mean that we will never fail – but that we are engaged loving and serving people that we are filled with love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness and self-control – people see something different – those who bless those who talk about them behind their backs – and others can’t imagine living that way – but it is in those real living situations that we demonstrate the gospel and give opportunities to speak the gospel.
Reading the Bible at work will cause less attraction than living like Jesus lived! Everyone flocked to Jesus – something they had never seen. When we live like that – they will say – this is something I have never seen.
Lord, you have given us and unbelievable call – on e we fall so short of so soften – but we can get up and start again – lord, teach us to live as You lived – everyday – just a simple things of the day – at work, home, community/school – help us to have our eyes fixed on You – to learn to respond as You responded – when the pressure comes in – to love the enemy – bless those who mistreat us – and curs us – and to value You over money and popularity, fame, accomplishment, success, power control – that You might be seen.