This sermon from Feb. 6th is Part 4 in our series on 1 Corinthians. We've been using the concept of the gap between the ideal and the actual as we walk through this remarkable letter. The key verse we'll be looking at is verse 2, where Paul states, "I desired to know nothing among you but Christ and him crucified." Paul reminds the Corinthian church that when he first arrived and began teaching them, not many of them were wealthy, or wise, or powerful according to the standards of the world. And he did not visit with a slick, polished, "wise" message intended to wow them, but rather he came with a message, i.e. the Gospel, had a power that actually did something to them and for them. And they had forgotten that.
Paul is chipping away at their misperceptions to expose the root problem, so that he would then show them the truth. If someone can't or won't acknowledge that they have a problem (be it an addiction, or an abusive relationship, or whatever), then there's really not much you can do for them. So Paul reminds them of their weakness when he first came to them, and their need to get back to basics. Let's unpack this powerful verse.
"I desired to know nothing among you..." There's something that is extremely simple about the Christian Gospel. This simplicity is very attractive, and part of what draws us back to church week in and week out. Very few people visit with me an complain that their lives are too simple. Quite the opposite: our lives are so often way to complex and busy, and what we long for is periods of rest, refreshment, and simplicity. Paul is bringing these Christians back to the very plain and simple truth of the Gospel.
"...except Jesus Christ..." And this Gospel is not a philosophy, not a method of living, nor an system of emotional highs and lows, but it is all about a Person. Simple. What you and I need week in and week out is not to reconnect with an emotion, not an idea, but with a real, live, Person. Jesus is alive today, do you know him? Or more appropriately, does he know you? If the verse ended here, then we would have a very simple message, rooted and grounded in a Person. But it doesn't end there. The difinitive part of knowing Jesus Christ is 'him crucified.'
"...and him crucified." Why make this such a central point to Jesus. He was such a nice guy, can't we just remember his teachings, why the cross? If all we have to the Gospel is the Person of Christ and the need to be like him, then we must ask, "Just how much like him are we?" There's that gap between the ideal and actual again!
Today is Super Bowl Sunday, I'm a big Steelers fan, and here's something a good friend of mine wrote in his blog abou the Steelers. He said he's looking forward to the game, but is reluctant to watch it at the church with his congregation becasue he doesn't want them to see what he's really like when he's in front of a Steeler's game.
We all wrestle with the idea that if peopel really know what I'm like then they wouldn't love me. And so we long to cover up what we're really like. If the Gosepl were simply, "Be like Jesus" then all we would do is be forced to further cover up what we're really like. But because the Gospel is "Jesus Christ and him crucified", it is intended for you to be laid bare to be healed. Jesus didn't come to be an example to follow, he came to be a propitiation for my sins! And by doing so I am enabled to be real with my sins, not cover them up.
That's we like to be around good friends. Because we feel like we can 'be ourselves' around them. We like to be with people who know and love us because they know our shortcomings and such grace causes us to be free, not to be bound and covered. How many of us can open up and be real with the people we are sitting with in church? How readily can you let the facade drop and be vulnerable, and confess and be healed.