Monday, April 12, 2010

Preaching Christ Crucified


In Greg Gilbert's new book What is the Gospel? he writes one of the best sections I have ever read in a book. So I'd like to share with you and hopefully get you excited about sharing the true gospel of Christ crucified and also encourage you to go get this book. Here is an excerpt from the chapter Keeping the Cross at the Center:

"At the end of the day, I wonder if the impulse to shove the cross out of the center of the gospel comes from the bare fact that the world just doesn't like the cross. At best they think it is a ridiculous fairy tale, and at worst, a monstrous lie. Really, that shouldn't surprise us. Paul told us it would be the case. The message of the cross, he said, will be a stumbling block to some and foolishness to the rest!

Add to that the fact that we really want the world to be attracted to the gospel, and you create enormous pressure on Christians to find a way not to have to talk about 'bloody cross religion' quite so much. I mean, we want the world to accept the gospel, not laugh at it, right?

But really, we should just face it. The message of the cross is going to sound like nonsense to the people around us. It's going to make us Christians sound like fools, and it most certainly is going to undermine our attempts to 'relate' to non-Christians and prove to them that we're just as cool and harmless as the next guy. Christians can always get the world to think they are cool - right up to the moment they start talking about being saved by a crucified man. And that's where coolness evaporates, no matter how carefully you've cultivated it.

Even so, Scripture makes it clear that the cross must remain at the center of the gospel. We cannot move it to the side, and we cannot replace it with any other truth as the heart, center and fountainhead of the good news. To do so is to present the world with something that is not saving, and that is therefore not good news at all.

The Bible actually gives us very clear instruction on how we should respond to any pressure to let the cross drift out of the center of the gospel. We are to resist it. Look at what Paul said about this in 1 Corinthians. He knew the message of the cross sounded, at best, insane to those around him. He knew they would reject the gospel because of it, that it would be a stench in their nostrils. But even in the face of that sure rejection he said, 'We preach Christ crucified' (1 Cor. 1:23). In fact, he resolved to 'know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified' (1 Cor. 2:2). That's because, as he put it at the end of the book, the fact that 'Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures' was not just important, and not even just very important. It was of 'first importance' (1 Cor. 15:3).

And what if that brings on the ridicule of the world? What if people respond better to a gospel tilted toward the renewal of the world instead of toward the death of Christ in the place of sinners? What if people laugh at the gospel because it's about a man dying on a cross? So be it, Paul said. I'm preaching the cross. They may think it's ridiculous; they may think it's foolish. But I know 'the foolishness of God is wiser than man's wisdom' (1 Cor. 1:25).

Paul made sure the cross was the central point of the gospel he preached, and we should do the same. If we let anything else become the center, we might as well be saying, 'Here, let me give you a hand jumping over that wall. Trust me. You'll be fine.'"

Grace upon grace,
JRL

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