Tuesday, January 7, 2014

10 Things We Would Stop Doing...

...If We Adopted Paul’s Cross-Shaped Resolution

By David Burnette

The apostle Paul didn’t set out to make a New Year’s resolution in 1 Corinthians 2:2, but his words to the believers in Corinth wouldn’t be a bad place for all of us to start in 2014:

“For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.”

If that resolution doesn’t sound odd to you, it’s because you’re familiar with it. To the world, a fixation on a crucified man doesn’t make any sense. And to call that man your Lord and your God, well, that’s utter foolishness.  Only the gospel gives us eyes to see reality in this way.

The Corinthian church was being tempted to adopt worldly standards of success. Instead of admitting that they were weak and that their only ground of boasting was in the death of their Messiah, they were busy trying to one-up each other. They were enamored by the same things that impress the world—lofty speech and wisdom (1 Cor 2:1). Paul rebuked them by telling them of his single-eyed determination—his resolution, if you will—to keep the crucified Christ at the center of his life and proclamation.

Paul’s resolution should be ours as well, and not only for 2014. The entire Christian life is to be shaped by the reality that God has sent His Son to die on behalf of sinners who are weak, unwise, unworthy, and altogether unimpressive. The cross is our only hope; it shapes everything about us.

Consider how drastically different our outlook might be this year if, like Paul, we decided to see all of life in light of the One who was crucified in our place. I want to suggest 10 things we would likely stop doing:

1)   We would stop judging people, circumstances, and events based on outward appearances. Things aren't always as they appear. The God who brought about salvation through the death of His Son turns the world’s expectations upside down. (1 Cor 1:18-20)

2)  We would stop trying to win God's approval through our obedience. Christ's death dealt decisively with our sins, and God now views us as righteous in Him. You cannot add to a perfect sacrifice. (Gal 2:21)

3)   We would stop trusting in our own resources to bring about spiritual transformation. It took the crucifixion of Christ to save us, and it will take the power of the gospel to make us more like Jesus. The cross and resurrection are essential to the daily pursuit of holiness. (Rom 6:10-11)

4)   We would stop worrying about being clever in our presentation of the gospel. Power belongs to God and His message, not the messenger. There is no smooth way to talk about a bloody cross. (1 Cor 1:17)

5)  We would stop considering some people to be beyond God's reach. There is no one whose sin can outmatch the grace of God in the gospel. Christ's death is more than sufficient for the vilest offender. (1 Tim 1:16)

6)  We would stop being surprised that our witness isn’t received warmly. At the heart of the gospel is the emphatic rejection of King Jesus. Why would his servants expect to be treated differently? (Jn 15:20)

7)   We would stop expecting ease and comfort in this life to be the norm. Suffering, hardship, and opposition only make sense when you follow in the footsteps of the Man of Sorrows. (Lk 9:57-62)

8)   We would stop worrying so much about the details our lives. God was willing to give His own Son for us. Why would he be unwilling to take care of everything else? (Rom 8:32)

9)   We would stop thinking highly of ourselves and looking down on others. If the death of Christ was necessary for our rescue, what do we have to boast about? The cross levels the playing field, for all of us are debtors to God's infinite mercy.

10)  We would stop fearing death. The crucifixion put death to death, so those in Christ now have the sure hope of the resurrection and eternal life. (Heb 2:14-15)

By God’s grace, may we set our sights on Christ and him crucified in the coming year.

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