May 15, 2017

The Offense of the Cross

On our vacation, we have seen many statues and paintings of Jesus Christ. Most of the paintings are of the Christ child and in only one of them was He wearing any clothes. The rest, except a few, showed Christ on the cross as did all the sculptures. Only one painting depicted the risen Christ, and none of them showed an empty cross.

Today’s devotional says Jesus’ death and resurrection offends people. It is true. We are sinful human beings — sin is doing everything my way, not God’s way — and insist that we can save ourselves. On that line at the time of the New Testament, a group made circumcision an important aspect of salvation, something they could do themselves. They didn’t like the cross and persecuted those who preached it. For this, Paul wrote to the church that was listening to their lies:
“In Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love. You were running well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth? This persuasion is not from him who calls you. A little leaven leavens the whole lump. I have confidence in the Lord that you will take no other view than mine, and the one who is troubling you will bear the penalty, whoever he is. But if I, brothers, still reach circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? In that case the offense of the cross has been removed.” (Galatians 5:6-11)
His epistles use the term ‘cross’ in a broad sense to cover its message, a message that denounced good works as a way of salvation and instead announced salvation is by faith alone. We are saved from sin by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Paul knew the power of this message. He was also aware of its offense:
“For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power. For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, ‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.’ Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, ‘Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.’” 1 Corinthians 1:17-31 ESV
Lest I think I’ve got this totally solidified in my heart, God reminds me of those occasions where I did something good and no one noticed, AND I was annoyed. I can easily boast in myself too. This does not mean I am trusting my good deeds for salvation, but he did say that a little leaven will permeate the entire lump. Self-effort is an easy addition to salvation.

Jesus, it is easy to be long on self-glory and short on humility. Thank You for the Cross. Keep my focus there instead of such sinful self-glory. I am totally grateful for Your amazing grace — and that You died for me. I do not deserve nor can I earn Your blessings.

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