The following is the transcript from the February 28, 2016 service at Little Brown Church, Nashua, Iowa.
**Audio File now AVAILABLE - CLICK HERE **
I once read about a dishonest manager who wanted to hire someone for his accounting department who thought like he did. He ended up with three applicants for the job and he proceeded to interview them the next day.
The first applicant came in and sat at the desk and he and the manager engaged in some small talk. But eventually, the manager asked the applicant this question:
“What does two plus two equal?”
The man was a bit puzzled, but eventually answered, “Well, that’s simple: the answer is four.”
The manager thanked the man for his time and then ushered him out of the office.
The next applicant came in and again the manager engaged him in a pleasant conversation. But eventually he got around to asking this man the same question. And the 2nd man responded,
“Well, there are several possibilities: two and two make four, but so does three and one -- or two point five and one point five -- they also make four. There are a number of ways to arrive at that same answer.”
The manager thought that was a pretty good reply and told him he might get back to him.
Finally, the 3rd applicant came in and again the manager spent some time talking about several subjects, but eventually the man was asked the same question as the others: “What does 2 plus 2 equal.
The man seemed startled by the question. He looked at the manager, cautiously looked around the room, got up out of his chair, went over and closed the door… then he came back and leaned across the desk and said in a low voice, “Tell me, what would you like the answer to be?”
He got the job.
Our series for this month is called “Hard Questions for Lent” and the question for this Sunday is: “Is Christianity Reasonable?” Is it logical? Can you “hang your hat” on what our faith says?
And the answer to that question is this: It all depends. What ANSWER are you looking for?
You see, if Christianity offers the answer you’re looking for… then it IS reasonable. But Paul tells us in our passage this morning that there are people out there who don’t like Christianity because it doesn’t offer the kind of answer that they want to hear.
Paul wrote: “… we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles” 1 Corinthians 1:23
The cross is a stumbling block to many. In fact, there’s something about the message of the cross that make people uneasy, annoyed, upset… sometimes even downright nasty.
• There was the Roman historian Tacitus called Christianity a “pernicious superstition”.
• Freud believed that religion in general, and Christianity in particular, was a psychotic illness.
• People who identify themselves as Socialists call Christianity “the opium of the masses”
• And Bill Clinton’s Attorney General - Janet Reno – declared:
"A cultist is one who has a strong belief in the Bible and the Second Coming of Christ; who frequently attends Bible studies; who have a high level of financial giving to a Christian cause; who home schools their children; who has accumulated survival foods and has a strong belief in the Second Amendment; and who distrusts big government. Any of these may qualify a person as a cultist….”
So Good Morning, folks - welcome to your cult! There will be Kool-aide after services.
Tacitus, Freud and Janet Reno are just a few of those who are offended by the message of the cross. It makes them angry to think anyone would embrace what we believe.
And yet for those of us who understand what the cross means, we KNOW that the cross of Christ is the answer to POWER OF GOD. As Paul wrote,
“the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” 1 Corinthians 1:18
The cross IS the right answer… IF it is the answer you’re looking for.
But, for most of the world, that is NOT the answer they’re looking for.
Many even reject belief in God because they don’t want someone else in control. Or, if they do believe in God, they don’t want a God Who demands change in their lives, they want a God who will change FOR them… they want to say how their lives should be run.
But the cross defies that notion. The cross speaks of death, and suffering, and pain, and loss. It speaks of a world that is often unfair and unjust.
It speaks of a world where even God’s people are often required to endure suffering and tragedy, hardship and pain.
Jesus said: "… In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." John 16:33b
The cross declares that life won’t always turn out the way YOU want it to. But if you are willing to wait on Him, Jesus will carry you through. There’s something better on the other side. If you’re looking for GOD’S answer… then that’s perfectly reasonable.
So, first – the world looks for an answer that allows them to be in control.
Paul wrote that “… Greeks look for wisdom” 1 Corinthians 1:22
They wanted to be able to understand the world on THEIR terms/ according to their wisdom.
The Greeks were into wisdom… their wisdom. They were a culture known for their philosophers and sages. But their philosophers were looking for wisdom based on their perceptions and their views of life.
When it came to God, if they couldn’t explain Him or understand Him on their terms they weren’t going to be happy. God had to fit in the box they had built for Him. I have to have a God that I can understand.
God refuses to be small enough for us to understand on our terms.
In fact, we couldn’t understand Him in that way if we wanted to. In Isaiah 55:8-9 God declared:
"… my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD, as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
God doesn’t fit in a neat little box. He THINKS differently than we do… and He ACTS differently than we do.
And that’s why it is so important to read and study the Bible. It tells us all we need to know about WHO God is and WHAT He’s like. It tells us of a God we wouldn’t have guessed existed.
One of the major characteristics of God is found in the Cross. There was no one else to intercede on our behalf, so God clothed Himself with righteousness and came down to intervene on our behalf.
But the Greeks couldn’t understand that. They couldn’t understand a God who’d sacrifice Himself for them.
The Greeks portray their gods as being selfish and evil beings because these were the kinds of lifestyles the Greeks identified with. These were the kinds of behaviors they could understand. Because this was how the average Greek viewed life itself. It’s how they lived their lives.
The Greeks could not understand a God who would sacrifice Himself for them, because they wouldn’t be willing to do that for others. The Cross declared a God they could not understand in their own wisdom.
You see, first – the world looks for an answer that will give them control of their lives.
Secondly – the world looks for an answer that that allows them to be wise
I Corinthians 1:25 says “… the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength.”
Many in this world want to be strong. If they tell you a story about themselves they come across as the heroes of that story. Folks don’t like to come across as being weak. They don’t like being shown as having failed.
They don’t like hearing that they have messed up. And so they tend to reject the message of the cross because it describes them as having sinned.
Jesus came to die for those who had failed; for the weak and broken and the losers of life. And that’s why the message of the cross is so powerful for people like that.
All the other religions in the world are designed to assure the “righteous”, the “deserving”, that by their own strength and goodness, they can buy their way into a heaven.
But the Cross declares that not only does NO ONE deserve heaven… the only way you CAN get into paradise is by accepting the sacrifice of Christ. You have to admit that you are weak and undeserving and need God’s help.
The world views that as an insult to their reliance on strength. They want power not weakness. But the cross is all about power, it’s just not ours, it’s God’s.
“…the message of the cross…to us who are being saved…is the power of God.” 1 Corinthians 1:18
The cross supplies power the world does not want to accept. It supplies an answer the world can’t provide. The Cross IS our answer to this world, because it is only through the Cross that lives can be changed. And that is the answer the world needs to hear.
First – the world looks for an answer that will give them control of their lives
Second – the world looks for an answer that that allows them to be wise
Third – the world is looking for an answer that will give them strength
Most of us here are Christians. We’ve already accepted the answer of the cross in our lives. But perhaps you know someone who doesn’t accept that; someone who is living by answers that reject the cross.
Isn’t it time we learned to ask these folks:
How’s that working out for you?
Do you sleep well at night?
Do you struggle with sleeplessness because of things you’ve done or said? Do you feel good about yourself?
Do you believe that if you died tonight… you’d be able to stand confidently before God?”
As Christians, we realize that the Cross IS the answer the world needs. We need to say with Paul:
“For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” 1 Corinthians 2:2
The cross gives the answers to all those struggles of life.
But first, you have to lay your life down at the foot of the cross.
Let’s pray together.