fruitage of the spirit's journal

Expressions from the Heart

The Foolishness of Preaching

THE FOOLISHNESS OF PREACHING by Julie McAllen

The thief on the cross in Luke 23. The blind man in John 9. How about that Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8? How much information did they each have? What is the common thread in all of those accounts?

When Andrew lead his brother Simon Peter to Christ, how eloquent a speaker do you think he was? How many well-researched arguments do you suppose Andrew presented to his brother? (John 1:40-42)

Did Peter’s conversion to Christianity have much to do with Andrew’s abilities? According to Jesus, it didn’t even have much to do with his own ability to teach!

Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven. (Matt 16:17)

Simon Peter was blessed. And so are we who have come to believe that Jesus is the Son of God. We are, after all, objects of His mercy (Ro 9:23) In all these accounts the focus was not in identifying the various signs of Revelation and none of them needed to know if their final destination was heaven or a new earth. But, they did need to know Jesus. If you know Jesus, no doubt you’ve shared him with others. But not all respond to our message do they? Then again, not even the Great Teacher himself could convert the world to whom he displayed many miracles.

37 Even after Jesus had done all these miraculous signs in their presence, they still would not believe in him.

38 This was to fulfill the word of Isaiah the prophet: “Lord, who has believed our message
and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?”

39 For this reason they could not believe, because, as Isaiah says elsewhere:

40 “He has blinded their eyes
and deadened their hearts,
so they can neither see with their eyes,
nor understand with their hearts,
nor turn—and I would heal them.”
(John 12:37-40)

Miracles through the arm of the Lord were revealed and yet, ” who has believed the message?”

MERCY!

As qualified a teacher as the apostle Paul was, his desire and effort could never lead all his fellow Israelites to be reconciled to God either. 

14 What then shall we say? Is God unjust? Not at all!

15 For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy,
and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.”

16 It does not, therefore, depend on man’s desire or effort, but on God’s mercy. (Ro 9:14-16)

In the case of such men as Andrew, Peter and Paul, God had determined that a remnant out of Israel would be shown mercy, but to the rest He gave a spirit of stupor.

What then? What Israel sought so earnestly it did not obtain, but the elect did.

The others were hardened, as it is written:

“God gave them a spirit of stupor,
eyes so that they could not see
and ears so that they could not hear,
to this very day.”
(Romans 11:7-8)

Who responded to the message? Those to whom God had shown mercy when He made His appeal through those who shared it.

God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. (2 Cor 5:19-20)

THE MESSAGE AND THE CALLING

Paul opened his first letter to the Corinthians with these words, Paul, called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God” and then he addressed the congregation as those “called to be holy” and to whom “the grace of God was given in Christ Jesus” (1 Cor 1:1-4). As he continued to address the unhealthy divisions within the church caused by following men, he emphasized that their response to the gospel which had made them believers “was not with words of human wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.” (1 Cor 1:17). Regardless of their affinity for certain teachers, Jesus Christ remained the only one crucified for their sins, buried, and raised on the third day. This is the gospel by which first century believers were saved and that saves us today (1 Cor 15:1-4). It is not, therefore, the ability of the one who preaches the message, but the mercy and calling of God upon the one receiving it. However, the right message is important lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.

18 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.

19 For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.”

20 Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?

21 For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe.

2 Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24 but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength.

26 Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28 He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, 29 so that no one may boast before him. 30 It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. 31 Therefore, as it is written: “Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.” (1 Cor 1:18-31)

God, in His mercy and sovereign choice, may be calling someone yet we must be careful not to get caught up in preaching the wrong message. And the wrong message may be very biblical but not necessarily the message God has called us to share. Many zealous persons trust God enough to be fools to preach, but what is the message to be preached?

23 but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles (1 Co 1:23)

Christ was crucified for our sins; that’s the simple message. The Jews who were expecting a restored kingdom stumbled on it, the Greeks who engaged in intellectual debates considered it foolishness. Likewise today, different people stumble all over the message of Christ crucified whether they are well-versed in the Bible with a zeal for ministry or they probe from every conceivable intellectual and philosophical angle.

The apostle Paul was both a zealous Jew and an educated man, yet he credits neither his religious heritage nor his intellectual prowess as the source of his influence in making so many converts to Christianity. He credits the MESSAGE.

God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. (1 Co 1:21)

But notice how Paul also brings it back to mercy concerning those who responded to the correct message of what was preached.

but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. (1 Co 1:24)

Out of both the Jews and the Greeks, only the CALLED responded to the message. It was not due to any particularly gifted preacher as the Corinthians were arguing over and it wasn’t just the correct message either.

The message is Christ crucified.
The reason anyone responds to it is because they were first called.

That’s the way it’s always been too. God calls a person first. Along the way, He invites someone into His plan to pray, preach and assist. How does this affect our prayers and ministry to others?

THAT NO ONE MAY BOAST

Paul was called into a powerful ministry. One that could’ve puffed him up. Afterall, with his background as a Jew he was able to reason on Law and Prophecy, and his singleness to serve undistracted allowed him to travel and reach a lot of people for Christ. He had the right background, the right circumstances, the right message, and a whopper of a born again experience on the road to Damascus as his testimony in ministry. Paul might’ve had moments when he figured if he just kept on preaching he could convert anyone! Maybe that’s what’s behind the story of the boy who fell out of the window when Paul got on a roll well into the night (Acts 20:9)? He thoroughly enjoyed his ministry, but it was all a breeding ground for pride, which is why those called to preach shouldn’t miss the lesson in how God humbled Paul to write about the “foolishness of preaching.”

The “foolishness” here is not about the unconverted world’s view toward those who endeavor to share the message; it’s about the ridiculous privilege God has given us to preach to those He’s already called. He invites us into His work, not the other way around. If we think we’re inviting Him into something we started, we are being ridiculous. If we think we can gain enough ministry tips to reach a person who is not called at this time, we are being ridiculous. The foolishness of preaching is that God has already determined the day of salvation for someone and ALLOWS us to share HIS MESSAGE and be along for the work He is doing. THANK YOU FATHER FOR THE PRIVILEGE!!! Shame on anyone of us if we ever thought it otherwise. What foolishness!! Glory to God alone.

That He would use us, called out of the weak and foolish, to preach a message to those He already chose and called, that is HUMBLING. That is the foolishness of preaching. We are the weak and foolish preaching His message to the weak and foolish. He doesn’t need anyone of us to do it. He could make the rocks cry out. He could make a donkey talk. The heavens declare His glory. Yet, through the foolishness of preaching, He invites us into what He has already determined. Do you know why?

“so that no one may boast before him.” (1 Co 1:29)

Glory to God!

We may be along for the ride and “lead someone to Christ” as Andrew did his brother Simon Peter, but there is absolutely no boasting in that because GOD INVITED us into it and could’ve just as well used that rock, donkey or the heavens to declare it. If anyone responds to our preaching, it is because they were called first by God and we were just fortunate enough to share in His joy (John 17:13)!

It is God’s calling and choosing, but we are entrusted “through the foolishness of preaching” to share His message.

For the intimidated introvert whose been called, it takes a lot of faith to talk to someone about Jesus. They pray “let me be a fool for you!” and put feet to faith to speak.

Glory to God!

For the called and chosen bold extrovert who enjoys using their power of reason with volumes of research, their prayer is also, “let me be a fool for you!” while yielding in faith to the understanding that no matter how well they preach it, no one responds to the message unless they are first CALLED. Why?

“so that no one may boast before him.” (1 Co 1:29)

Glory to God!

Therefore, as it is written:

“Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.” (1 Co 1:31)

Keep yourself in God’s love, Julie

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February 27, 2012 Posted by | According to Scripture, Expressions | , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on The Foolishness of Preaching

Puzzled by Simplicity?

Puzzled by Simplicity? by Julie McAllen

What time is it when an elephant sits on your watch?
Time to get a new watch.
Simple questions deserve simple answers. So what makes us laugh at third grade jokes? We never expect simple answers.
In school I loved solving those long algebraic equations. I found delight in discovering that “x” plus “y” actually equaled “c” after filling up half a page and twenty minutes on the problem. As much as I enjoyed the “aha!” moment I wondered when in the world I’d ever need to use that process. Since graduating high school my math skills have diminished to balancing my check book and figuring out which can of soup is the cheapest per ounce. So much for algebra. But I remain fascinated with puzzles.
Have you ever found yourself engaged in solving puzzles in the Bible? As with my one time love of algebra, I can fill up pages of notes on a biblical topic with a satisfying “aha!” moment only to wonder when in the world this would be useful. There is no shortage of debatable topics offered to those who find themselves in biblical discussions. Are we in the last days? Is God a trinity? Are the gifts of the Spirit for our time? Is there a land promise left to Israel? Should women be ordained ministers? Were the six creative days literal 24 hour days? Do they deserve an answer? Of course they do and it is never a waste of time to resolve these questions for ourselves or others. But it is not the simple answer most deserving of our attention.
Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? (Is 53:1)

What is the Christian’s message? Has it changed in the last 2000 years? Where it has, you will find problems. Look at your church, what is it’s main message? Look at your evangelism style, what is your message? Being a puzzle person by nature and a former evangelizer with a complicated last days message, I am always taken aback by the simple conversions of individuals in the Bible. Can it really be this simple?
One such story is of the Ethiopian eunuch and Philip in Acts 8:26-40. The eunuch was reading the scroll of Isaiah when Philip came along side him to explain it’s meaning. This eunuch was basically on his way home from a worship service. He was familiar with prophecy, but still had not heard the message.
32The eunuch was reading this passage of Scripture:
“He was led like a sheep to the slaughter,
and as a lamb before the shearer is silent,
so he did not open his mouth.
33In his humiliation he was deprived of justice.
Who can speak of his descendants?
For his life was taken from the earth.”
34The eunuch asked Philip, “Tell me, please, who is the prophet talking about, himself or someone else?”
(Acts 8:32-34)
From this we learn he was reading what we now know as Isaiah 53:7-8. He was not yet acquainted with Jesus Christ and that is why he asked Philip “who is the prophet talking about?”

What do you think Philip explained to him? Did he come along side him to tell him about the last days? The origins of the universe? Convince him that Jesus was God Himself? How to be a good Christian?
 

35Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus. (Acts 8:35)

What is the good news about Jesus? What is the message?

4 Surely he took up our infirmities
and carried our sorrows,
yet we considered him stricken by God,
smitten by him, and afflicted.
5 But 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.
6 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.
  (Is 53:4-6)
The word of God says Jesus took all our sins on himself. Have you ever missed that point in giving a witness? Don’t.  That is the message. Have you ever been convinced that you need something else? Philip’s witness was about Jesus and the forgiveness of sins. That was the gospel to which this man responded and got baptized. Did you notice that the eunuch’s trust in Jesus’ sacrifice was all that was needed for baptism? He did not have to have a thorough knowledge of every deep prophecy or clean himself up to accept the sacrifice Jesus made. He was baptized right there on the spot! And then went his own way rejoicing. What? It can’t be that simple! There’s got to be a longer equation to solve!
If our message has become the second coming, have we overlooked the purpose of the Lord’s first coming? Who has believed our message? Read Isaiah 53.
If our message has become an argument about the trinity, but his role as the promised Messiah has been missed, we frustrate the message. Read Isaiah 53.
I find it interesting that Philip is the disciple in this story with the eunuch. I believe Philip understood Jesus to be God by the time he was giving a witness to the eunuch, but I don’t think he was a trinitarian at his own conversion and baptism. He accepted Jesus as the promised Messiah, but was still confused as to his triune nature after 3 years of discipleship (John 14:7-9). Yet, Philip’s message was not about accepting the trinity. Philip started in Isaiah 53.
Peter’s message also was Isaiah 53.
He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed. (1 Pe 2:24)
Paul understood the message of Isaiah 53.
16But not all the Israelites accepted the good news. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed our message?” 17Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ. (Ro 10:16-17)

What message have you been listening to and sharing? If it’s gotten complicated, simplify, bring it back to the good news that faith may follow the thing heard. Our gospel is not a message about angels and demons. Our gospel is not about piecing together evidence concerning the last days, winning someone over to the trinity, tapping into spiritual gifts, or scaring someone into submission through a message of hellfire or Armageddon. Our gospel is the same gospel that Paul preached, the same gospel that the eunuch was baptized under and later went his own way rejoicing. Our intention and compulsion is the same as Paul’s who said…
For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. (1 Cor 2:2 )
So what time is it when an elephant sits on your message?
Time to get a new message.
Try starting at Isaiah 53.

Keep yourself in God’s love, Julie

July 21, 2009 Posted by | According to Scripture, Expressions | , , , , , | 1 Comment

   

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