July 19, 2012 – Devotion Sharing (1 Corinthians 1)

Submitted by Debbie F. from Gracepoint Austin Church

1 Corinthians 1:22-24

Why would the message of “Christ crucified,” be a “stumbling block” (i.e., “offense” or “scandal,”) to the Jews and “folly” to the Greeks?  How do the revealed truths of Christ Jesus transform our notions of power and wisdom?

The world’s understanding of majesty, power, glory, honor, strength, and God, is one of dazzling displays of might.  We think of huge armies, towering fortresses, ivory towers of academia, bursting bank accounts, impressive displays of verbal prowess (or any prowess), sparkling possessions. So when God comes to us crucified amongst criminals, it goes against everything that we’re taught to believe, it seems offensive to our worldly senses.

But when delving into the gospels, and coming to know Jesus, the fact that God weakened himself to die on the cross, an act that seems so foolish as to be a stumbling block for many, is precisely what blew Satan’s power out of the universe. This really is the secret of the universe–the impossibility of sinful man being in the presence of our holy God could actually be overcome by Jesus bearing the cross on our behalf, suffering the separation from God that should be ours, and then being exalted in resurrection.  What we receive from it is redemption, righteousness, and the hope of sanctification.

These truths and ways of God, then, are what I’m invited to also embrace.  I need to dispense of the worldly understanding of power and wisdom, which is usually what I see as accompanied by recognition, respect, admiration, and acceptance.  God’s not interested in all our displays of strength and might, because they don’t accomplish what He’s looking for, which are saved souls.  His ways are the way of dying, of the cross, of sacrifice and humility and love.  This is so hard to completely embrace, as I still struggle with comfort, which in itself is a worldly position of “power.” No one in the world seems to understand why someone would suffer a loss of comfort for others unless they understand love, which is God’s vocabulary.  When it comes to loving others, when it comes to fighting for someone’s salvation and sanctification, the way of the cross is the only way.  I want to embrace the way of dying all the more, because I’ve seen and experienced the joy of redemption and sanctification, for myself as well as for others.

1 Corinthians 1:29-31

What is behind boasting?

Boasting is basically “work hard and earn the right to boast, to set yourself above others and feel empowered.”  What’s behind boasting is unrestrained pride and self-satisfaction about one’s achievements, possessions or abilities.  Boasting is wickedly inappropriate because it really is blind to the reality of our interdependence, our neediness of so much help and resources that have been given us, from all around us.

What is it about the gospel that cuts out all grounds for boasting?

The gospel cuts out all grounds for boasting because of the basic fact that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, that there is no one who is righteous, not even one.  We’re all on equal ground, as broken sinners before God, with no merit other than being experts at sinning, and we all have a loving Father in heaven who demonstrates his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

This week, I just shared a sweet time of fellowship with some of the students recently. Aside from all the joking and jabs throughout the evening, there was a point where they were each sharing how thankful they were for their relationships, and how the gospel is what made so many of these current friendships possible, having all come from very different backgrounds and personalities. And looking around the room, that was so true, as it is true with my own peer relationships.  The gospel is what showed us that all of our worldly strivings would have left us further and further from loving one another, because the world strives after reasons to boast, which distances us.  But the gospel humbles us, reminding us that at the core, we’re all sinners, broken, with each of our own sins and strongholds, but we’re all loved dearly for who we are, warts and all, and God has a hope and future for each and every one of us.  And that’s what brought these sisters together: the gospel of truth. The world finds it foolish to confess your sins and faults, and the world says to prop up any boast, any worthy attribute.  But these ways rob us of love relationships, which is what God desires with us and for us.  Love can only happen before the truth of the cross that tells us the truth of who we are.

Looking at my life, the most miserable times were when I tried to hold onto any reason I could find in me to boast, the self-preservation, the competitiveness, the envy, the evasion of confessing truth about my sins.  And on the flip side, the times when I experienced the most freedom was when I accepted the fact that I’m a sinner who sins, and therefore was able to confess my faults, and experience God’s forgiveness, and the amazing fact of His grace, that He wanted to keep working with me.

What does it mean to boast in the Lord?

This is why I will boast in the Lord.  I will boast in the fact that, yes, I’m a sinner, I fail many times, BUT I have a God who calls those who are not as though they were (Rom 4), a God who looks at me and says, “I love you, sinner. Be forgiven, be free from your sin, and now prepare to see how I want to and will use you.”  I can look back on my own history, and proclaim that I have a God who actually changed, in many ways, this sinner, turning her from someone who was a stubborn, immature, selfish rebel into someone who can actually love other people, and He’s still working on me, He hasn’t given up.  This gospel and this God of salvation, redemption and sanctification are my only hope and joy, and in this and in Him I will boast.

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