January 15, 2009
My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power. We do, however, preach a message of wisdom among the mature …
1 Corinthians 2:4-6a
For the last several months we have seen government leaders publicly speak about how stable the economy is, only to discover that it is shakier than we could have imagined. This just is one indicator of the limitations of men’s wisdom. We might want to imagine that behind some oak-paneled doors, or in some scientific laboratory, or in the hallowed halls of higher education, or down the corridors of political power, that somewhere somehow some people have it all figured out, that they have uncovered the great mysteries of life, and that such knowledge will lead to our betterment and ultimate salvation.
Such confidence in the capacity of human beings to grasp the greater problems of our planet and to offer the solutions we need is ill-placed. The truth is that even the brightest among us stumble along the path of discovery more often than they walk upright. Whatever field of study we might care to examine – whether biology, economics, psychology, or whatever else may come to mind – we find that we people do not have the right answers to the great mysteries of life. We do not even have the right questions.
But God’s Spirit knows what we need to know for our redemption, that Christ came and lived and died and rose, all for our forgiveness and that we might have real life. The center of the good news is not an idea conceived by people, nor even uncovered by our searching, but revealed by God through Spirit-moved prophets, written in his word, and affirmed in our hearts by the Spirit whenever this story is proclaimed. The message that changes lives is essentially a story taken from the history of God’s dealing with us, the message that God has acted through Jesus of Nazareth in space and time to redeem us from our sin.
Once I stood with other pilgrims near the site of Calvary, outside the ancient walls of Jerusalem and listened to a man proclaim the truth, that upon that cross one man died at one time for all men of all time. It was as the prophet foretold,
He was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities,
the punishment that brought us peace was upon him,
and by his wounds we are healed.
We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to his own way;
and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
The ancient story touches the scholar as deeply as it touches the uneducated man, it touches the rich as well as the poor, the Westerner as well as the Oriental, and here is why: because it rests upon the plan and achievement of God and is affirmed by God’s Spirit in our hearts.
One man complained to me about the gospel that he had trouble believing in it because it was like nothing he had ever heard before. My response was that, of course, the news that can really change us must be like something we have never imagined before; it must come from God as a witness to our hearts. Furthermore, it must bear a witness deep within our hearts to God’s love for us, at the level of our private conscience, so that we might respond in faith to God. But this is what the Spirit does and that is what Paul meant by the phrase “Spirit’s power,” the power of the Spirit to convict us of our need of God, to convince us of his love and of the life and work of Christ for our salvation, and to convert our hearts to repentance and faith in him.
Our faith does not stand upon the flimsy foundation of human thought or discovery, rather it rests upon the redemptive life and death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Our salvation is settled by God, sustained by his faithfulness, continually appealed for by our ascended Lord in heaven, and continually evidenced in this life below by the tastes and touches of the eternal glory that awaits us above.
My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.
I dare not trust the sweetest frame
But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.
When darkness seems to hide his face
I rest on his unchanging grace.
In every high and stormy gale
My anchor holds within the veil.
His oath, his covenant, his blood
Support me in the whelming flood
When all around my soul gives way
He then is all my hope and stay.
When he shall come with trumpet sound
Oh, may I then in him be found.
Dressed in his righteousness alone
Faultless to stand before the throne!
On Christ and solid rock I stand
All other ground is sinking sand.
All other ground is sinking sand.
“Solid Rock” by Edward Mote
Lord, I thank you and praise you for our salvation and your greatness. Our faith stands upon the work of Christ, rests upon your character, and is assured by your promises found in your word, as your Spirit bears witness to our hearts. You are with us now and forevermore, and let this fact give us hope today and everyday until you call us home to be with you forever. Amen.