… we preach Christ crucified… (1 Corinthians 1:23 ESV)
I’ve noticed in America most general talk about “God” is acceptable. Some famous speakers have thousands listening to them each week talk about God. However, in many cases and places, the talk of Jesus is disdained or discouraged.
One might wonder why the insistence on preaching Christ crucified. If talking about “God” is okay, why not just talk about God, and not “preach Christ crucified?”
I’ll put it to you plainly, dear friend, we who preach Christ crucified do so because only preaching Christ crucified will lead to genuine, saving faith. There’s no other way to come to God except to come by Christ. There’s no way to come to the living Christ except to begin with the necessity of crucified Christ.
One cannot receive spiritual life from the living Christ if one does not allow the crucified Christ to pay for the spirit-killing sin each one of us has.
Jesus is the most crucial part in the entirety of all things seen and unseen. Without him, we’ll never understand how we or anything fits together; there’ll always be something out of whack within us and with us.
With him, we continually grow in our understanding of our place and things and everything else’s place in the scheme of things.
Once, when Israel was trying to determine her place among the nations; fearing world events, she tried to align herself with Egypt. The failure of Israel was she was measuring her strength, finding herself weak and looking to strengthen herself by adding another nation’s muscles.
Israel’s condemnation, then, was that she did not depend on God. She’d forgotten her place in the scheme of things.
Israel was out of touch.
The prophet Isaiah was led of the Spirit to say, “Because you have said, ‘We have made a covenant with death, and with Sheol we have an agreement, when the overwhelming whip passes through it will not come to us, for we have made lies our refuge, and in falsehood we have taken shelter’; therefore thus says the Lord GOD, ‘Behold, I am the one who has laid as a foundation in Zion, a stone, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone, of a sure foundation: ‘Whoever believes will not be in haste.’” (Isaiah 28:15-16 ESV)
In other words, “Israel, you’ve built on and with the wrong stuff. I’m going to remind y’all what is missing.”
The Psalm writer had previously mentioned this, saying, “I thank you that you have answered me and have become my salvation. The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. This is the LORD’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes.” (Psalm 118:21-23 ESV)
See that? Either the stone is what we build on or the thing we trip over. The stone is Jesus. He is either a strong tower of safety or a crushing weight of conviction. He is either the missing piece that makes life work or he is the missing piece that is, well, missing.
Notice this little / huge detail from Ephesians 1: “In [Jesus] we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.” (Ephesians 1:7-10 ESV)
Jesus is the stone that brings the building of all things together.
We can make all the same mistakes Israel made. We can stumble over the stone. We can miss how things fit together. We can trust the strength of someone / something else besides the Lord. We can miss the significance of Jesus. We can stop waiting on him.
We can refuse the piece that unites us in peace with God and all that he has made.
Soak in this, “For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.” (Ephesians 2:18-22 ESV)
Jesus makes it all work, and without Jesus, it just doesn’t.
Tim Bowes is executive director of Roxboro Youth For Christ. Questions and comments may be sent directly to Bowes at twbowes. firstname.lastname@example.org