The Cross As An Instrument of Power

Steve Viars July 17, 1999 1 Corinthians 1:18

- This morning I’d like to begin our time by asking you if you agree or disagree with this statement.
- The same object, person, or event can be perceived one way by a person over here, and in an entirely different way over there.
- Do you agree or disagree with that statement?.....I think we would agree.

1) For example, if I say the word “baseball”.....
- would everyone’s response in this room be the same?.....either universal excitement or universal disgust?
- No.....some people would think --- I love baseball, there’s nothing I would rather do on a Saturday afternoon than watch a baseball game on TV.....
- others would say ---- baseball drives me crazy, I’d rather be tortured than made to sit and watch an entire game.

- now why is that?......we’re talking about the same game.....
- same rules, same bases, same bats, same balls.....
- but the principle is.....its not just the event or the object.....its the way the person perceives/ interprets/ chooses to think about the object or event.

2) Here’s another example....have you ever sat through a meeting or a discuss, and then talked about what was said with another person who was there.....only to find that the way they heard it was entirely different than the way you heard it?
- same room, same speaker, same agenda, same temperature, same lighting, same wallpaper......
- yet one person goes out the door having heard one thing and another goes out the same door having heard something entirely different.
- and you have that conversation later in the week and you kind-of scrunch up your nose and say....were you in the same meeting, or did you just arrive from a different planet?

- see, what an event or person or object means to one individual can be radically different than what an event, person, or object means to someone else.

3) When I was a teenager, my dad and mom would often take walks in the late evening together...[probably to get away from me and my sisters for a while....]
- but we lived in a real safe neighborhood and they would often walk after dark......
- one night, which happened to be the evening before trash day.....my dad and mom return and my dad is carrying this new found treasure.

- one of our neighbors had been throwing away this perfectly good tool box, and so my dad brought it home with him.
- I said, my own dad is a garbage picker!....and I probably threw something sarcastic in there like, what are you going to do next, start gathering our meals that way.....
- to me, that was disgusting, to him -- that was stewardship.....
- to me, he was being cheap --- to him, he was being smart.....
- there sat the toolbox......but the difference in the way we saw that object could not have been more pronounced.
- now, why are we talking about this?
- its because the Word of God speaks about a particular object, where the way it is viewed by different people is especially pronounced......
- to certain individuals, its this.....but to others, its something entirely different.
- I’m speaking about the cross of Jesus Christ.

- and each of us will have to answer the question this morning, What is the cross of Christ to you?......
- in the two distinct categories of possible response outlined in God’s Word, in which category do you fit....and what would have to be different in the days ahead so that you could be positioned more in the category that God desires.
- with those thoughts in mind, let me invite you to open your Bibles to I Corinthians chapter 1.

- last week we began a brand new series entitled “embracing the cross”.
- we’re asking the question, what does the Bible tell us about the cross work of Jesus Christ and how should that information affect us on a daily basis?
- what does it mean to “cling to the old rugged cross”.....what does such a believer look like at the end of the 20th century?

- last week, we looked at Colossians chapter 1, which speaks about the cross as an instrument of peace.....I encouraged you to meditate on that great phrase in the middle of verse 20 -- “having made peace through the blood of His cross.”
- its an instrument of peace.....
- this morning we’d like to study I Corinthians chapter 1, and see how the cross is an instrument of power.
- please look at verses 17-18 [read]

- I’d like us to divide our time this morning into the context of the cross, the contrast of the cross, and the challenge of the cross.

- let’s begin with.....


I. The Context of the Cross.


- its pretty obvious from the verses we just read that we sort of jumped into the middle of a discussion.....
- we did that on purpose, but a good question to ask now would be, what was Paul talking about that would motivate him to mention the cross twice in two verses?
- let’s back up and see.....
- please look at verse 10....[READ 10-17]

- the context of the discussion of the cross in this passage is the problem of the division in the Corinthian church.
- there’s a relationship between “embracing the cross” on one hand and “being a unifying influence in the church” on the other.
- now, please notice the argument, or flow of thought.....Paul clearly believed that God desired unity in this church....did you see how many times that was emphasized?
- in verse 10, he says --- you should all agree
- there should be no divisions among you
- he says, I want you to be made complete in the same mind
- he says, I want you to be made complete in the same judgment
- you see the same argument in verse 11 --- I have been informed that there are quarrels among you...
- he says in verse 12, there are even people choosing up sides, where one group says “I’m of this person”....and another group says, “I’m of that person”
- in chapter 4 verse 6 he says, I was transferring this to myself and Apollos for your sakes.....in other words, it’s possible the teachers they were following weren’t the exact ones Paul mentions....he just didn’t want to specifically name them.....
- but the point is --- they were trying to show the superiority of their wisdom by saying ---- the teacher I’m following in the church is the best one.....
- and the fact that I’ve chosen him shows that I’m superior, too.
- of course that played right into the culture in which they lived which loved to exalt human wisdom, and philosophy, and man-made ideas.

- and where does the apostle Paul direct their minds and hearts?
- does he specifically identify each of the teachers, and compare and contrast every point each person taught.....
- no, he simply directs them to the cross.
- one of the greatest antidotes to division in the church is embracing the cross.....
- one of the greatest antidotes to division in the family is embracing the cross.....
- one of the greatest antidotes to division in the youth group, or division in the ABF, or division in this ministry or that ministry.....is to have a group of people who are embracing the cross.

- and please notice the way Paul said it in verses 13 and following.....in essence his point is....
- this isn’t about Paul or Apollos, or whoever the particular teacher was....
- this isn’t about baptism, or some other human work, though those things certainly may be important in their place.....
- if you want to talk about the centrality of the matter, if you want to boil off everything from Christianity that is extraneous.....
- what you’re going to have remaining in the center is the cross.....
- the substitutionary death of Jesus Christ for the sins of man....
- His death, burial, and resurrection.


- and notice what he says at the end of verse 17.....if men and women get their eyes off this truth....it is possible, at least in their life and ministry, to make the cross what?
- void......just like you would write on a check......
- in big letters ---- void ---- no longer important, no longer valid, no longer useful.
- its the Greek word “kenow” --- to deprive something of power, to make it of no meaning or effect.

- Paul is saying ---- Corinthian church, that is what you have done to the cross.

- now, that leaves every one of us with a choice.....
- we can either live in a way that embraces the cross, and magnifies the cross, and is centered on the cross.....
- or we can live in a way that depreciates the cross, that ignores the cross, that makes it, at least in our own experience and ministry, null and void.

- now, to understand that more fully, let’s move from the context of the cross, to the contrast of the cross.


II. The Contrast of the Cross


- one of the nice things about verse 18 is that it is very simple.
- there is a clear contrast here.....
- just like my dad’s toolbox....it meant one thing to me, and something entirely different to him.....
- well, the cross means one thing to some, and something entirely different to others.
- what are the choices?

A. To those who are perishing, the cross is what?....[foolishness].
- now please note, the Bible never says that the cross is intrinsically foolish....it says, to those who are perishing.....to a certain kind of person, in their minds they have concluded that the cross is foolish.
- what does that mean?
- it might help us to know that the original word for “foolish” here is the Greek word “moriah”.
- that’s the Greek word from which get our English Word “moron”.
- many in our world have concluded that the Word of the cross is moronic.....
- please let that sink in for a moment.....to them, its stupid, its silly, its ridiculous...
- now, in a few minutes, we’re going to ask whether you or I could fall in a similar trap....so this isn’t just about someone out there......its about whether we, in a particular area of life, might become ashamed of the cross.....more on that in a moment.

- now, let me ask you this.....why would anyone conclude that the Word of the cross was foolish, or moronic?
- well, what do you hear as you talk to others about Jesus?
- what’s so offensive about the cross?
- why is at not universally embraced?
- here’s several possible reasons men and women conclude that the cross is foolish....

1) It requires the admission of personal sin.
- If our salvation could only be secured by the death, burial, and resurrection of the Perfect Son of God.....what does that say about us?
- that human beings are entirely incapable of saving ourselves by our own good works.
- the only way a person can come to the cross is by the road of humility.

- that’s why in the Bible, repentance and faith are two sides of the same coin.
- in coming to Christ, I must admit my sin....I must acknowledge that I need a Savior, and I must express a desire to turn from the way I have lived my life up to that point.

- and friends, the notion of personal sin does not play well in our culture.
- in fact, some seem to have the view that the worst thing a person could do is admit sin.......and the world will provide a steady source of labels and descriptions to remove personal responsibility.

- children no longer misbehave, they have mental disorders that they cannot control.
- so you can open up the DSM IV, and pick from any number of labels.....
[read from ODD]

- the point is, to some, the cross is foolishness because it requires the admission of personal sin.
2) the cross is also foolishness to some because it suggests that human beings should and can change.
- this is one of the strangest twists in our post-modern culture but the notion that human beings can change is actually being called hateful in our world.
- and please understand, that is ground that cannot be ceded by the church of Jesus Christ.

- this gets at the very heart of the gospel.......that God is a God of both law and grace.
- He has divine expectations for the way human beings live, and that failing to do so is personal sin.....
- but that He also stands ready in mercy and grace to forgive those who come to Him and in addition to forgiveness, to help them get to a better place.....
- to help them fulfill the purpose for which they were originally designed....

- law and grace.....
- here’s what you should be....but God stands ready to meet you where you are and take you to where He wants you to be.
- but now in our world, the message of the hope of change is often seen as being hateful and intolerant.

- so you say to a couple that wants to get a divorce but has no biblical grounds....
- listen friends, one the one hand, God’s Word says that you should remain faithful to your marriage vows----you should keep the promises you’ve made.....
- but on the other hand, in and through His Son He will give you the power to make the changes necessary to transform your lives and marriages.....
- some in our world would see that logic as being mean.....as actually being torturous....
- because they don’t want to hear about God, they don’t want to hear about a God who has standards, and the notion that God can help anyone change is foolishness....its moronic, exactly like the Word of God says.

3) Another reason the word of the Cross is often seen as foolish is because its miraculous.
- if what the Bible says about the cross is true, then God has to have the ability to do miracles.
- there had to be the miracle of the incarnation....God becoming man.....
- there had to be the miracle of the virgin birth....because this God-man had to be entirely free from sin....
- there had to be the miracles of divine healing and multiplication of bread to prove the divinity of the Savior....
- there had to be the miracles of the veil in the temple being split in two while Jesus died on the cross....
- there had to be the miracle of the resurrection, the grandest display of the power of God this world has ever known.

- and you realize that there are plenty of human beings that would hear that list and say.....foolishness.....moronic....what nut would believe in that?
- and friends, that affects the way we “do church.”
- because we could decide, you know, in this post-modern culture, we better start soft-pedaling some of this stuff.
- we can talk about the love of God, and the golden rule, and maybe certain societal sins.....
- but stay away from these things the world has deemed foolishness.
- friends, that’s exactly what we cannot do.....
- I am dead serious when I say that we are talking about the essence of Christianity.....
- I’m glad for the golden rule and we ought to keep it.....but that is not the essence of our faith.....
- I’m glad that God id a God of love, but that is not the essence of our faith....
- I’m glad we ought to be kind and we ought to work on communication and on and on, but none of those things is the essence of our faith.....

- God wants us to understand the centrality of the cross.....
- His holiness, our sinfulness, His grace manifest in the death, burial, and resurrection of His Son and the work of redemption He wants to do in us in order to bring glory to Himself.....
- the cross is not moronic, it is central to the Christian faith.

- now the passage gives another option.....
B. To others, it is the power of God.
- literally in this verse, it is the “dunamis”, the dynamic power of God.....
- both to save us from the penalty of sin in the future, and from the power of sin here and now.

- now, you might say, PV, what does all of this mean to the way I live today?
- what decisions do we face and how should this affect the way I live this week?
- those are exactly the kinds of questions we should be asking of this text.....
- let’s move now from the context of the cross, and the contrast of the cross, to.....


III. The Challenge of the Cross.


- where does all of this leave us?
- the challenge of the cross is to be sure that our perspective on this topic is lining up more and more with the perspective of God.
- let me try to illustrate the principle, and then we’ll spend the rest of our time in practical applications.

- I told you about the “toolbox in the trashpile” incident.....but there’s more to that story.
- the Lord put me in a position where I had to change my view of that toolbox.....from what I had believed, to what my dad had believed.
- just a few days after I ridiculed that toolbox, my friends and I were out working on a pool job, and we needed a part from a hardware store right away.....
- so one of our guys jumped in my truck, and went racing off to the hardware store.....
- what he didn’t know was, one of our other guys had taken my toolbox down to get something, and wisely left it, right behind the truck.
- so the guy that was heading to the hardware store felt this fairly significant bump on the way out.....
- when he came back, he had the part from the hardware store in one hand, and one very dented toolbox in the other.
- it wasn’t thirty seconds from the time I saw that toolbox, to the time I thought of someone I really loved who happened to have an extra one.
- my perspective on that object changed dramatically.
- all of a sudden, it was exactly what my dad said it was.......a wise choice, a worthwhile object, an evidence of good stewardship.....and by the way, can I borrow it?

- and friend, here’s the nature of the choice...either the cross is an instrument of foolishness, or it is an instrument of power.
- now, what are the practical applications of all of this?
A. It begins with what you’re trusting for your salvation.
- Friend, when it comes to the matter of what you believe is going to get you to heaven, are you embracing the cross?
- has there been a definite time in your life where you’ve admitted your sin, and admitted your need, and then placed your faith in the gospel, the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
- perhaps up to this point, its been foolishness to you......
- if so, do you see yourself in this text?
- one of the worst phrases in verse 18 is “those who are perishing”
- people who believe the cross is foolishness are not living in a condition of neutrality.....
- they are dead men walking.....
- and we don't hate them.....we’re not looking to fight with them....
- we want to be loving toward them, which often involves trying to live the truth, and then trying to speak the truth.
- For a Christian, America is not a battlefield, its a mission field.

- if you’ve never trusted Christ, we would invite you to do so today.
- and by the way, the text is clear about what will happen.....
- in addition to your sins being forgiven, and the righteousness of God being placed on your account....
- you will be in a position to begin experiencing the power of God in your life....
- these commercials about “Power for Living” are true....
- Paul said ---- “To us who are being saved it is the power of God.”

- you could picture it like this.....have you ever tried to start your car when the battery had no power?
[use two chairs......rrrr..rrr..rrrr]

- without a personal relationship with God....life and relationships are powerless.....
- the way you communicate leads to fights.....rrrr..rrrr..rrrrr
- the habits you develop drag you down.....rrrr..rrrr..rrrrr
- your fear of death and eternity are haunting.....rrrr..rrrr..rrrrr
- attempts to change are short-lived.....rrrr..rrrr..rrrrr

- but when you come to Christ alone, by grace alone, through faith alone.....
- its like hooking your car up to a bank of brand new die-hard batteries.....
- and now you have peace in your heart.....varrrom!
- and now you can break the chains of sinful habits......varroom!
- and now you have direction in relationships......varroom!
- now you don’t have to fear death......varroom!
B.  What about for the Christian, the person who has already come to trust Christ?
- I believe we face this same choice on a day by day basis......
- what’s your perspective on the cross?
- is it an object of foolishness, or an object of power?

- the cross isn’t simply an instrument involved in your salvation ---- its an instrument involved in your daily sanctification.....your daily growth of becoming more like Christ.
- that’s why Christ said --- if you’re going to be one of my disciples, you’ll have to deny yourself, take up a cross, and follow me

- Paul said - Galatians 2:20 - "I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and delivered Himself up for me.

- you say, well, PV, what does that look like in the life of a believer?

1) Picture this....you’re having a disagreement with another person.
- you’ve said and done some things you shouldn’t have, and so have they......
- and you’re at an impasse....you’re butting heads.....

- friends------push the pause button for a minute......
- the question we’ve been asking all morning is staring you in the face.....
- what’s your view of the cross.....

- because it order to break this logjam, someone needs to deny themselves.....someone needs to take up their cross....
- someone needs to be willing to ask forgiveness....first
- someone needs to take the first step of reconciliation.....

- and the world, and your flesh, and the devil are screaming out ----- the cross is foolishness.....the cross is moronic.....don’t give in.......you don’t have to take that.....
- and there you sit ---- stubborn, silent, sulking.....rrrr..rrrr..rrrr

- but there it in [in the other chair]......there’s the cross......
- there’s the cross of self-denial.....
- there’s the cross of crucifying your desires and pride and lusts.....
- there’s the cross of giving in first, and loving first, and opening yourself up first.....
- and let me tell you something....its not going to be easy.....but when you embrace the cross.....varoom!
- you’re going to take off.......
- the power of God is real.......
- the principles of God work.....and they work every time.....

- and you say -- well, what’s the other person going to do/
- that’s not the issue......
- people on the cross don’t say --- but what about him?
- people on the cross say, father forgive them.......


- could develop other ideas ----- cf. person facing a sinful temptation, evangelistic opportunities.....

- could conclude with story about Fred at the County Home

 


-

Steve Viars

B.S. - Bible, Baptist Bible College
M.Div. - Grace Theological Seminary
D.Min. - Westminster Theological Seminary

Pastor Steve Viars has served at Faith Church since 1987. He and his wife Kris were married in 1982 and have two married daughters, a son, and two grandchildren. Pastor Viars’ gifted teaching ministry, enthusiasm for the Word of God, and organizational skills are instrumental in equipping Faith Church. He oversees the staff, deacons, and all Faith ministries and serves on the boards of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, Biblical Counseling Coalition, Vision of Hope, and the Faith Community Development Corporation.

Read Steve Viars’ Journey to Faith for the full account of how the Lord led Pastor Viars to Faith Church.

View Pastor Viars' Salvation Testimony Video