Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Things Foolish and Powerful (1 Corinthians 1)

"Best Buy's massive losses: Can new CEO Hubert Joly save the company?" - "Struggling electronics giant Best Buy sank deeper into the mud on Tuesday, when it reported that its second-quarter profit had fallen by 90 percent compared to last year. The company announced that Hubert Joly would take over as CEO.  Critics wonder if Joly is the right man for the job!”

"New CEO Marissa Mayer Could Save Yahoo from Self-destruction"  - “There’s been plenty of buzz around Yahoo’s decision to appoint Google luminary, Marissa Mayer, as their new CEO.  Mayer’s appointment marks the umpteenth time that Yahoo has appointed a new CEO over the past decade in hopes of saving the beleaguered technology company.”

 "Sony: Can a New CEO Save the Struggling Technology Giant?" “Sir Howard Stringer has stepped down as Sony's chief executive. Can his replacement help the company recover from a $2 billion loss?”
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In the world of big business, it’s not at all uncommon to see abrupt leadership changes. Each time, the wording of the announcement is similar: “Will this change of CEO bring the necessary skills, experience and wisdom to save our company from total collapse?” It’s a great question!  History books are full of stories of companies that have failed for lack of finding the right solution!

This is exactly what Paul is talking about in chapter one of his first letter to the church in Corinth.
Paul speaks at length about the wisdom of God and the wisdom of the world.  He is giving them instruction on how to make a major change in leadership, not of a company or store but in the leadership of their own individual lives.

Unwillingness to heed Paul’s warning and instruction will mean certain failure in their attempt to live the life that Christ offers.  Thousands walk away from Christianity because they want to retain control of our lives while expecting God to solve all of the imperfections of our lives. But in order to follow Christ, we have to fire ourself as CEO and submit our life to Him. (Incidentally, that’s a fairly good definition of salvation and Lordship!)  Paul admits that this advice isn’t going to sit well with them when they hear it:
1 Cor. 1:17-19 (NASB)  “For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel….not in cleverness of speech, that the cross of Christ should not be made void. For the word of the cross is to those who are perishing foolishness, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the cleverness of the clever I will set aside.” 
Most so-called “wisdom” is downright self-centered.  Paul goes on to explain (vs. 22) that the Jews were going to have a big problem accepting God’s wisdom because they were intent on seeing signs of what they expected and wanted!

The Jews wanted a political leader to rise up and restore Jerusalem to its former glory and to free them from Roman rule. Though Jesus gave many “signs”  - like washing His disciples' feet (John 13.1-20) and drinking from a cup borrowed from a Samaritan prostitute (John 4.1-30) -  the Jews couldn't see them clearly. They wanted displays of raw political power, not displays of love.

The Greeks, on the other hand, failed to understand God’s wisdom for entirely different reasons. The Greeks prided themselves in seeking wisdom (1 Corinthians 1:22), but they ridiculed the Gospel and those who preached it because it was too simple. Unlike their “deep thoughts,” Paul's lack of "words of eloquent wisdom" (1 Corinthians 1:17) seemed uncultured and laughable.

The Jews wanted their picture of the Messiah validated (mighty ruler); the Greeks wanted their picture of the Messiah validated (intellectual ruler).  The common denominator was self-centeredness; they each wanted what they wanted. 
1 Corinthians 1:18 "For the word of the cross is to those who are perishing foolishness, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God." 
In the gospel of Matthew, Jesus says, “Anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.”  By this He doesn’t mean that we literally die (as He did), but something about us “dies” in similar fashion. For Jesus, the cross meant agony and death and an ultimate new life in accordance with the purposes and power of God.  It is intended to be the same for us by acceptance of Jesus Christ and appropriation of His substitutionary death on the cross, rather than by our physical death.
The “word of the cross” Paul speaks of here is the active, powerful presence of God that carries out His will and purpose in history. The importance of our submission (or death) on this cross is that it means the laying aside of my wants and wills ---- and the acceptance of His will.  This is the sole purpose of the wisdom God offers as Paul here explains.

 God is not the least bit interested in propping up our flesh.  In fact, His goal is to set it aside, and He does so not by force, but by the offer of a far better option. Wisdom isn’t so much a thing as it is a person --- the Person of Jesus Christ Himself.

At the cross of Calvary the cost was paid and we acquire wisdom by surrendering to the one who embodies it. That is what the power of the cross means for us.

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