1 Corinthians 2 / October 7th, 2018 / Jeff Stapleton
In an attempt to be relevant and wow the crowd, we can easily fall into idolatry. We make wowing the crowd our goal. We make our image the goal. We make ourselves the most important thing. When you do this in relation to others, its selfish. But When you do this in relation to God, the stakes are much – much higher.
1. Make the Message of Jesus Central to Your Life
2. Share Your Faith Regularly
3. Let God Create the Wow Factor
Good morning Church Family. Today, I wanted to acknowledge that we have been in a heavy season here at Tabernacle. We’ve had some families struggling. We’ve said goodbye to people in our community. Our pain and our loss are great, but our God is greater.
I have the privilege this morning of not only sharing God’s word but sharing some incredible personal news that many of you have been a part of. My wife, Sarah, and I have been foster parents for four years. We have hoped over the past few years that our foster care journey would end with the adoption of one of the five precious children we’ve had in our home, but it just hasn’t worked out.
A little over a month ago, we tried to discreetly share a need as a prayer request on facebook. We were going to legally intervene in our current foster daughter’s case to hopefully keep her in our home and ultimately adopt her into our family. It was going to be expensive and really nerve-wracking.
The last four weeks have been absolutely insane and incredible. You, our church family, poured out your hearts, prayers, and even wallets. You did fundraisers, you came in surprise prayer mobs, you loved us and showed us what the church coming together in love looks like. You did what only you could do for us. And God did what only he could do for us.
After time in court, time in anxiety, and time in prayer we got news – this very week – that the legal mess is over and hopefully in January, we will be adopting our little girl.
We give all glory to God and a huge amount of thanks to our church family. I tell you this for a few reasons. First, you are our church family who we love dearly. We should celebrate when God does something big. But I also share it to highlight that Jeff and Sarah Stapleton – We get no credit for this.
We came to you broken and in need. We came to you with nothing. And through His church and through His power, he did the impossible and for that HE receives all the glory. That’s how the church and our lives should be.
I could have used this reminder much earlier in life.
When I was a kid, my family would go to “Boo at the Zoo” at the Fort Worth Zoo. For 3 nights, you could go to the zoo and get candy, see little shows, and play carnival games. There was a puppet called Pirate Pete who had stinky feet. He would sing songs, but between songs, he’d heckle the audience. I think that’s where I began to develop my amazing sarcasm skills and really began to embrace jokes that had the potential to flop terribly. Pirate Pete was my favorite thing about Boo at the Zoo until I was in 6th grade and I saw a guy doing street magic tricks. I had seen magicians on TV, but this was the first time I had ever seen real tricks up close…and I was hooked.
Throughout Jr. High and High School, I had a collection of magic tricks that I would perform. Some of them were pretty good…but the problem with a magic trick is once you perform it for a group, it’s really hard to perform again. Sometimes the trick requires a reset of props or cards. Even if it doesn’t, once the group has seen it, the “wow” factor exponentially decreases with each do-over.
And I have another problem. I have ADD…not the hyper kind, but the kind where I in mid-conversation, I just zone out and totally miss whatever it is you are saying. Raise your hand if I’ve done that to you. I’m sorry. So, as much as I loved magic tricks, I didn’t have enough patience to really learn new ones. I gave up my pursuit of being a magician because I couldn’t wow the crowd.
You see, we all want to do things that wow the crowd. It may not be a silly magic trick. It may be your job performance. It may be your looks. It may be the way you present yourself on social media. We want to be relevant. That’s not a bad thing in itself..
The problem is, in an attempt to be relevant and wow the crowd, we can easily fall into idolatry. We make wowing the crowd our goal. We make our image the goal. We make ourselves the most important thing.
When you do this in relation to others, its selfish. But When you do this in relation to God, the stakes are much – much higher.
Always: If your goal is to wow the crowd, you will forever be in pursuit. –
If you would this morning, turn in your Bibles to 1 Corinthians Chapter 2.
How fitting that today I can say he used a little girl and a court case to reveal his glory.
Last week, we talked about how God uses those who the world considers weak to accomplish his purposes. But, God chose the weak, he chose the low, he chose the despised. Three times last week, we heard that the decision to use the weak was God’s choice. He wasn’t stuck with the leftovers. He got first dibs. The #1 draft pick…the entire first round. He chose the nobodies. Why? To shame the wise and strong – and to make His name great.
This week, we read that Paul used his own life as an example. Picking up in Verse 1 of 1 Corinthians 2:
“And so it was with me, brothers and sisters. When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ, and Him Crucified. I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling. 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 human wisdom, but on God’s Power”
I have to admit, I wrestled with this passage the past few weeks for a lot of reasons. On the surface, there was this paradox… this colliding of two things that shouldn’t go together. I’m trying to craft a clever, truthful, and memorable message for you…selfishly hoping its exciting… about a guy who says, “I didn’t use fancy words or slick reasoning. I preached with power about our crucified Christ.”
But if you give this passage more than a passing glance, you’ll realize that’s not really what Paul is saying. Let’s dig in deeper
Verses 1 and 2 “And so it was with me, brothers and sisters. When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ, and Him Crucified”
Immediately here, Paul is drawing a line – drawing a divide – between his way and the worlds way.
In the ancient world, when a public speaker came into a city for the first time, it was a big deal. This was a world pre-social media, pre-mass media, pre-printing press. These speakers were a major source of entertainment. They were called Sophists – they were wise. And they would make a living by going around and speaking and debating at public gatherings, banquets, and parties. They would come with a nugget of truth wrapped thick with fancy logic and clever presentations.
When they debated, it wasn’t always about who was right, it was about the greatest presentation. Creative Showmanship was a battle for credibility. And these speakers knew how to work a crowd. As a hub of the Mediterranean world, Corinth was a geographic and cultural goldmine for these types of speakers. Paul finds himself right in the middle of this scene. And this is a place where Paul COULD have dominated. He was an educated man with great reputation. He was an expert on the law. His writings show he was an expert at persuasion.
But Paul says “I came to you nobodies as a nobody. I didn’t try to impress you into faith. I didn’t try to argue you into faith. I didn’t even come up with anything new to say to you…except for the testimony of God.” Paul made an intentional choice to go against the grain. The message and its presentation were to be far different than everybody elses. The message – wherever it was preached – was not for applause or recognition. He was telling God’s story – that Jesus’ death on the cross was God’s saving event for the entire world.
The story itself was still raw. It was a bit touchy. Jesus and the cross didn’t have tradition yet. It wasn’t in the foundation of culture yet.. On its own, that message of Jesus was still shocking. Imagine getting up in front of a group of people to tell a far-fetched story using strange words about an event that happened a few years ago where the leader died, but it is the secret to everything.
And Paul vowed to make that his primary message. He was willing to put aside everything – his own knowledge, his own literary skill – to tell the story of a man who was put to death on a cross.
He says in Philippians 3:8 “I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ.”
Paul has made a lifestyle out of lowering himself for the gospel.
In verse 3 he continues
“I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling.”
In the middle of a world where the wise are wowing the crowd, Paul admits his weakness. Especially in that first-century world, admitting weakness would have lowered dignity among the people. It could have even discredited him. But he was being honest here. This was real talk..he knew first-hand the dangers and difficulties of proclaiming Christ in the first-century world. He was beaten and imprisoned for his boldness in proclaiming the Gospel over and over again. So he was fearful.
His appearance apparently didn’t do him any favors either. In a world that puts a lot of emphasis on the show, Paul’s appearance was not impressive, and his enemies tried to use that fact to discredit him.
He admits it himself in 2 Corinthians 10:10 – “For some say, ‘Paul’s letters are demanding and forceful but in person he is weak, and his speeches are worthless!” There’s a 2nd Century historical text that speaks of Paul as ‘a man of small stature, with a bald head, strongly built maybe rotund, with bowed legs, eyebrows meeting and nose somewhat hooked.”
So we’ve got this guy who may have an unfortunate appearance – well only partly unfortunate -, with a purposefully weak presentation of a crazy message. Why? Why would Paul make such a big deal about his weakness? Why would he put his own wisdom aside? Why is he worth listening to?
Look with me at verses 4 and 5:
“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 human wisdom, but on God’s Power”
When Paul appears less, it serves to magnify God’s power out of such an unlikely vessel. He isn’t excited about his weakness or poor health or whatever else is going on with him – but they were evidence that the power was from God and not from himself.
This is not a humble brag from Paul. This is a recognition of his total dependence on God.
Paul was speaking to the first century Corinthians, but the message rings loud and clear today. “You have been astonished by the empty actions of others. You’ve been fed fluff and falsehoods and you cant…get…enough because there is NOTHING of substance to take from it. Look at me. Are you not impressed? Are you not entertained? No! I’ve got nothing for you except the message of God with the Power of God. That might not dazzle and wow, but it leaves you filled and satisfied every…single…time.”
How many of you have ever been to a Disney theme park? You may have experienced the “Disney Paradox.” Imagine that we put a modern device on your wrist that monitors and logs your happiness levels. Every minute, it records your happiness level and at the end of the day, you can look back and study the log. I would imagine for the majority of those moments, you would actually have been happier at home, watching Netflix. It’s not as humid on your couch. It’s not as crowded. You’re paying waaay less. Your kids aren’t acting like maniacs. There is a lot less yelling. There is a lot to be said for the couch.
But, your memory of that trip is that its one of the highlights of your year. We’re not crazy to think that. Psychologists know a few things about the way we remember experiences. Over time, a lot of the details slide out of our memory. Its called “Duration Neglect.” And, we’re left with snippets or scenes of an event. You can’t remember the whole thing, you only remember peak moments and the beginning or the end of something… So you leave your vacation remembering the majestic entrance, your daughter hugging princesses, and the fireworks show at the end instead of paying too much for a place that’s too hot and crowded with lines that are too long for rides and shows that are too short. Disney wows you, tricking your perception and influencing your future decisions. Disney is the ultimate modern-day sophist.
Paul realizes that you can’t just trick somebody into following Jesus. What you lead them with is what they keep you with. Do you want them to follow you or do you want them to follow Jesus?
You might be sitting there this morning thinking “Okay Jeff. This has been a nice little walk through the passage. How does it apply to me? I’m not a preacher like Paul.”
Fair enough. I can’t pretend to know everything about every person in this room. But I do have observations that could radically change the way we all look at ourselves in relation to God and that can apply to every person here today.
The first is to Make Jesus Central to Your Life
As I reflected back on my life this week – especially in light of this passage – I was a little disappointed with myself. I may not be a child trying to impress people with silly tricks anymore, but I am certainly still childish. I have spent too many years of my life doing things – good things – even things in ministry so that the crowd will go “wow… look at Jeff. Look at his talent. He’s really doing great things.” There have been times in my life where I ate it up. I’ve thought “I have arrived. I am good. And I Deserve this.”
When I say this, its because I haven’t made Jesus central to my life. I’ve made Jeff central to my actions.
It is such an easy mindset to slip into. The world has a set of values that among other things strives to wow the crowd….but if you are a believer, we’re supposed to do things for God alone. Colossians 3:23 says “Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the lord rather than for men.” Those who are not in Christ don’t understand that God’s values and the world’s values aren’t compatible. And sometimes those who are in Christ forget too.
When the worlds values and God’s values collide in our hearts and minds, we have to choose God’s values or we will make idols of ourselves…
Maybe it’s being obsessed with your image – never posting a picture on Facebook that’s not photoshopped
Maybe it’s constantly broadcasting your successes
Maybe it’s doing things you normally wouldn’t (like youth pastors wearing skinny jeans) just to look cool – when in fact they are terribly uncomfortable and unpractical.
Or maybe its the opposite. Maybe you’ve made your struggles the core of your identity
Maybe you constantly say “Look how sad my life has been.”
I need, I need, I need.”
You might wear your situation as a badge to say, “look at me. Praise me.” Or “look at me, Pity Me. Honor me.” Either way, you are taking the attention away from God. You are robbing him of the glory He deserves
If you are a believer, you need to realize that you are not and cannot be the object of people’s attention. If you are living your life in this way, you really need to consider yourself in relation to your standing with God. You need to examine your heart…because only He should be the object of anybody’s affection.
And then, you need to Share your faith regularly
A recent Barna study concluded that only 8% of Americans regularly have a conversation about faith during any week…and only 23% of Americans will have any faith conversation in a month… You may not be standing on a stage in a church service, but God has put you somewhere.
It has to happen where you are with people you know. It has to be at work, at the ball field, in the stands, doing disaster recovery. It only happens because of you.
Unfortunately, the #1 reason people are afraid to share their faith is the fear of offense. We walk on eggshells in our culture today because we don’t want to upset anybody with our faith. The gospel is offensive.
It requires exclusive faith,
accepting that the savior with through a gruesome death,
and a surrender of your ambitions.
Compounding the problem is that Christians have not always yielded the message with grace. Many people know Christianity more for what it’s against than what it’s for.
That’s why we have programs like Can We Talk that teach you how to share your faith. It’s a great program and we’re starting a new semester in the near future… But on its own Can we Talk isn’t enough. It can equip you. It can prepare you. Some people will faith to Christ because of it, it’s not enough on its own. You have to take what you learn there and use it on your own turf.
I want to take another burden off of your back when it comes to sharing the gospel. You don’t have to do a lot. Let God Create the Wow Factor
If you’re trying to wow the crowd when sharing your faith, then the people come to faith will have you at its foundation – not Jesus. Our wowing of the crowd is not winning people to Jesus, Our wowing is wooing people to us….This is the same game satan plays
Remember, God wants to use you. No matter where you are in life, you have a group of people around you who need to hear the gospel. And in fact, he would rather use you because you are not a Ph.D., Bible scholar – remember. You were his first choice.
The power of the preached word does not depend on superficial packaging, but solely on the power of God to make the word fruitful.
There is a well-known youth pastor, Doug Fields. When talking about evangelism he says “The good news is God isn’t waiting for the perfect talk to do a mighty work through you.”
He goes on to say that youth pastors ”feel the need to try to make the Bible relevant for teenagers. We don’t need to do that, because it already is relevant. Everything that teenagers are looking for, Jesus already is.”
And although that quote is speaking about teenagers, it is true for everybody.
You don’t have to create the wow factor when talking about God. That’s by design.
This series is called “A House Divided.” Division doesn’t start in the house…it doesn’t start in the church, it starts in the hearts and minds of its people. Now imagine, what would happen in your life if you made Jesus central to your life. What would happen if you shared your faith regularly…and what would happen if you let God create the wow factor?
I’ve had the opportunity to see this church live out these principles with my family in the life of our future daughter. Imagine what would happen in our church if we approached everything this way.
It would change everything. Individually it would transform our lives into lives of obedience and unlikely instruments of God’s incredible glory. Corporately, it would be church-changing and revival-bringing.