April 1, 2017

(From now through the 21st the readings are on The Cross, but then go back to being on God’s Provision. The cross is God’s ultimate provision for our salvation!)

1 Corinthians 1:18, 25 For 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.
For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength.

The Gospel is absurd on the face of it. Why would omnipotent God come to earth as a frail human being in the first place? Why then would He die in shameful agony in our place? It simply doesn’t make sense to human intellect, and must be received by faith. This passage is of great importance to anyone who is confronted by those who ridicule the Gospel – which is to say, most of us. Far too many Americans are cultural Christians, accepting the Bible as mythology rather than as objective truth. That doesn’t do them any good at all. I have come to the conclusion that a major reason God designed salvation the way He did was precisely so that no human being could take personal credit for their own salvation. Paul brings that out again and again, not just here but in Ephesians 2:8-10 and elsewhere. Pride is one of the greatest hindrances to salvation. To be saved, we have to accept that there is no reason other than love that God would have sent Jesus to the cross, because the cross was really our penalty, not His. That really annihilates pride. Understanding this is so important that long ago the Church decided to expand the commemoration of the cross from Passion Week to Lent. Whether a formal structure is the best way to do that is open to debate, but it is undeniable that without the cross we have nothing, because we would be totally unqualified and unable to approach God, much less become His children. Too many Christians, and even preachers, “tone down” the message of the cross so as not to offend, not realizing that they are abandoning the foundation of everything. The message of personal sin, accountability to God, and God’s grace is offensive to those who will not humble themselves before God. We cannot change that, and so must not fear giving offense by proclaiming the Gospel.

I have to confess that I have let fear of offending keep me quiet more times than I could count, and really more times than I am aware of. There are some evangelists who seem to delight in offending. Some are “shocked into faith” by that, but more are turned off needlessly. I am not to seek to offend, but I must not fear offending more than I fear God, or fear the person I am talking to going to hell. That can be a hard call at times. Japanese society values interpersonal harmony very much, so the risk of offending by proclaiming the Gospel is very high. However, people have watched us, watched this church, for years, and see that we are motivated by the love of God. That is the best counter to offense. It was God’s love that caused Him to send Jesus in the first place, and it must be His love that motivates us to share the Gospel, whether people are offended or not.

Father, I ask for wisdom and anointing for sharing the Gospel, especially in this neighborhood, where the people are so warm to us. I don’t want them just to like us, I want them to love You, repenting of their unbelief and receiving Your salvation. I pray that in the months ahead Your Spirit would both prepare hearts and speak through us so that many may be drawn into Your kingdom, Your family, for their salvation and Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!

About jgarrott

Born and raised in Japan of missionary parents. Have been here as an adult missionary since 1981.
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