Jesus Christ is resurrected from the dead!/// Here’s a story for those who feel lost and alone, and not sure which way to turn … ~ it’s time to find your way home, a place of belonging, a place of comfort…
Billy Graham tells the story of a police officer on night duty in a city in northern England. As he walked the streets, he heard a quivering sob. Shining his flashlight into the darkness, he saw a little boy in the shadows sitting on a doorstep with tears running down his cheeks. The child said, “I’m lost. Please take me home.” “I’ll be glad to take you home. Where do you live?” the officer replied. But the little boy was so tired and so scared that he couldn’t remember his address. The policeman began naming street after street, trying to help the boy remember where he lived. He named the shops and the hotels in the area but the little boy could give him no clue. Then he remembered that at the center of the town stood a church with a large white cross that towered high above the rest of the city. The policeman pointed to the cross and said, “Do you live anywhere near that place?” The little boy’s face immediately brightened up. He said, “Yes, sir. Take me to the cross and I can find my way home.”
In this scripture we see Paul’s message (READ 1 Cor. 2:1-2), his method (READ 1 Cor. 2:3-4), and his motive (READ 1 Cor. 2:5).
Let’s start with his motive. What prompts Paul to do what he does? What about my motive? What about your motive? What about the motive of this Church? Or any Church? As Paul shows us, it’s more about others and less about me! we are misguided unless we care about the people we are privileged to serve, to talk to, to meet and greet. “so that your faith…” I’m learning to say along with Paul, I want more for you ~ I want you to have a stronger faith, a faith that is all about the power of God. In order to rightly represent Jesus Christ, we have to care more about the people we are serving than gaining an advantage for ourselves… to be loved, to be accepted, to be forgiven… (read story of the pastor caught in adultery from Jerry Cook’s book, "Love, Acceptance and Forgiveness" ~ sorry, to readers of this message, I don't have it available in digital format, it's a story of a pastor caught in adultery and a year later after he was re-married how he was turned away from church after church after church and deeply needed to be loved.)
Our job as a church is to point the way to the cross so that lost people can find their way home. Our motivation must be to love people, care about people, this is why we are here! I’m pretty sure that is why I am on earth! It turns out that my wisdom is not enough, my charming personality will eventually disappoint people, my good looks are superficial ~ the only power to really change you and me is the power of God ~ the best I can do is to point to the cross, for that is where you find real power to fundamentally change your life.
Only God can take a person trapped in sin and set him free.
Only God can take a person chained to alcohol and drugs and set him free.
Only God can do it. Only he can take a heart of stone and replace with a heart of flesh.
Only he can give life in the place of death.
God has given us the easy job ~ to love people. That’s it. God alone has the power to change the heart. I just want you to trust God, that is my motivation.
Paul’s method. ~ weakness and a plain message. //God values weakness….I am grateful for about a dozen folks in this church body that seem to have the ministry of praying for me and asking me, “how are you doing?” the truth is I don’t know how I make it through each week… I can only say I do my best, try to pace myself, but it is God…every week my assumption is that the worship service, the message will be flat, unless the spirit of God does something in the hearts of those who gather. I understand Paul saying, “I came to you in weakness ~ timid and trembling. My message and my preaching were very plain. I did not use wise and persuasive speeches, but the Holy Spirit was powerful among you” (1 Cor. 2:3-4, NLT)…sure takes a lot of pressure off me to perform!
Paul’s plan for us to reach our community for Christ: “fear and trembling. Plain and simple. Let God be God. ” Thank goodness God doesn’t depend on our performance! Have you ever tried to talk to someone only to find that your “tang” gets all “tongueled” up? Do you ever get a prompting from the spirit to say something but fear of failure or looking foolish stops you? We need, as one person called it, “holy nervousness”. I’m telling you, you have more to say than you think you have to say. There are folks who need to hear your voice, see your faith in action….
If our motive is right for others to find their way home to the Lord, and our message is to point the way to the cross, we must not let our fears stop us! If you feel afraid and unqualified to point others to the cross of Christ, if you sometimes get worried about what others will think, join the club.
The Heart of the Matter is the Message: “When I first came to you…I didn’t use lofty words and impressive wisdom to tell you God’s secret plan. For I decided that while I was with you I would forget everything except Jesus Christ, the one who was crucified. (1 Cor 2:1-2 NLT).
BTW, what makes the best sermons? Memorable? Entertaining? Smoothness? Eloquent words? I like the little story of the man who patted the preacher on the back after the sermon and said, (you may need to think about this ), “Wonderful sermon Pastor, every sermon you preach is better than the next one.” We get caught up in human ways of evaluating things. We get caught up in competition. I know what it is to crave human approval. So do you! To want to be recognized. / affirmed that you did a good job in leading this or organizing that, presenting this, teaching that… You know what the criteria of a good sermon is according to these verses…or any effective testimony for that matter? Does your service point to Jesus Christ? Are we pointing to the cross?
One person summarizes Paul’s preaching with these three words: clarity, simplicity, boldness. Through the fear and trembling, with the desire for people to find their way home to God, may we be clear, simple and bold as we point the way to Christ! May it not be about us, not about the great program or superior preaching, but about pointing the way to Christ. “Take me to the cross and I can find my way home.” Our job is simply to love people with the love of Christ, accept people, forgive people…
If God sees fit to use us in a small way to bring people to himself, what a tremendous honor... Our job is to point people to the cross, to point the way to Jesus Christ. If somebody hears a message and goes away with even a small amount of encouragement that God loves them, or a Holy Spirit conviction to change their ways, or see God with a bit more clarity, that’s pretty satisfying. In everything we do, may our purpose be to point the way to the cross of Christ, for people who are searching, struggling, lost and confused…
Paul was simple ~ he spoke plainly about what Jesus Christ accomplished in his death on the cross. And he was bold in stating that truth over and over again. He was a man of one message. God has given us the task of pointing to the cross and then let him work in the hearts of those whom he is calling to himself...
God himself came to earth in the person of his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. When Jesus died on the cross, he took our place, dying where we should have died, taking our sin upon himself. And in his death he won our salvation. Then he rose from the dead on the third day, proving all his claims to be true. Hallelujah, he is RISEN!
This is the message unbelievers need to hear. This is the message believers need to remember! What good will it do to say to an unbeliever, “Be nice” or “Try harder” or “Clean yourself up.” Sure it will help to make better choices, but the ultimate transformation takes place in the heart through Jesus Christ. We need Christ. We need a home, a place of belonging, and home with God can only be found through the cross!
Here is the message of the gospel in ten words:
Christ died for our sins and rose from the dead.
That’s the whole gospel. As I gain more experience I want to become more simple, more clear, more bold. Won’t you join me in pointing to the cross so people can find their way home! If we can help people in practical ways that is terrific. But let’s be more bold (I am talking mainly to myself), let’s take more risks. Fear should not stop us because that is part of the method.
Christ died for our sins and Rose from the Dead! There is more than enough truth in those words to save the whole world. Go ahead. Say them out loud: Christ died for our sins and rose from the dead…. Now do it again: Christ died for our sins and rose from the dead. This is the heart of the gospel. This is our message. This is what we must proclaim to the world.
Do you know people who are struggling to find meaning? How about you? Do you feel lost? I have no power to help you! But I know the one who does: Jesus Christ. Christ died for our sins and rose from the dead. If you will allow me, I’d be honored to help you find your way to the cross, so you can find your way home! Amen.
(The video below was shown as a separate message during the service as an example of the unconditional love of Jesus Christ)