May 26: Knowing Only the Cross.

1 Corinthians 2:1-5. And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.

The super-spiritualists of Corinth may have wanted a grandiose display from Paul. They wanted a philosopher to woo them with mysteries and secret knowledge, not a sweaty leather worker preaching about the messy death of Jesus. They most likely downplayed the cross, maybe even rarely mentioning it anymore. Why should they? They had amazing spiritual gifts and a whole lot of knowledge. So why offend people with the message of the cross?

But what they lacked in all of the “spirituality” was the true spirituality of the love of the cross. The willingness to lay down their lives for one another. The power to get beyond their selfishness and move toward each other in grace and humility. The wisdom to know how to be patient and kind and gentle, all from the freedom that comes in having been already crucified yourself, and found not guilty and raised to new life.

The cross is what they desperately needed. Not rhetoric. Not principles. Not morals. Not philosophy. They needed to understand their union with Christ and their union with one another. They needed to attach their story to THE story- the story of God’s sacrificial love for us revealed in Christ’s death and resurrection.

This comes by the Spirit (v.4). The Spirit is not giving us anything beyond what the cross supplies. There is no spiritual wisdom or power beyond Christ crucified and your co-crucifixion with him. The resurrection power of the Spirit in us is the power of the crucified life, the power of self sacrifice, the power of selfless love. And this power is manifested in Paul’s weakness. Paul came to them in weakness, and the Spirit showed up and demonstrated the power of the cross. The power of love.

“To live is Christ” makes the cross central to all we say and do. It is not just HIS story it is now OUR story. It is all we really can know for sure. It is ultimate reality. It is our very own death and life. It changes the course of all of history and makes all things new. Including us. The cross is all you need. You don’t need more answers or more relational advice beyond the cross. You need to embrace the power of the forgiveness and love of the cross and you need to live the cruciform life- the life of self sacrifice for those around you. You need to embrace both the humility (you are wicked) and the glory (you are loved) of the cross. You don’t need one more self-help book. You don’t need more sermons about claiming things. You don’t need a pep talk or an hour with candles and soft music. The wisdom and power of the weakness and sacrifice of the cross is all you need.

Do you believe this? Have you purposed to know nothing but Christ and him crucified? Do you view all of life through this lens? Do you find yourself still looking for something from God beyond the cross? What if the cross was all you had, would it be enough for you?

May 25: We Are His Salvation.

1 Corinthians 1:30-31. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, 31 so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

Here’s what union with Christ means: Jesus does not just teach us about righteousness, sanctification, and redemption. He IS righteousness, sanctification, and redemption.

And that simple truth is what separates our faith from all others. In every other faith the prophet or messenger of God, told the way to righteousness and holiness and salvation. They gave the mantras, or the principles, or rules necessary for the dedicated followers to find their way to God’s wisdom. But Jesus does not simply show us the way, he is the way. He doesn’t simply teach us the truth, he is the truth. He doesn’t simply live a good life, he is our life. By sheer grace we receive his own acceptance, position, and status. This is imputation. This is being in Christ. This is “to live is Christ.”

And it truly is now our life. In fact, the Greek construction of 1 Corinthians 1:30 may be interpreted in such a way as to read that we are righteousness, sanctification, and redemption. In other words this is not just a gift to us, it is us. Salvation is our new name. It is our identity and our glory. “To live is Christ” means we are collectively righteousness, sanctification, and redemption. We are the work of God.

Righteousness

Jesus’s indwelling life is the righteousness of God in us. Righteousness is God’s action of the restoration of all things. His restorative justice brings people back to himself. Because of this past action we are judged as not guilty, and because of this ongoing action we are able to live in righteousness and justice. We are now the righteousness of God. We are his arm of justice. We are his action of restoration in the world today.

Sanctification

Jesus’ indwelling life is our holiness. He is our separation unto God. He is our final destination- a holy life. This is Christ-likeness. Living the holy life of Jesus is our purpose. Why? To display the glory of God. Just as the Tabernacle was holy (set apart) so as to display God’s glory, we too, in Christ are set apart by grace alone to display the glory of God alone. We are God’s sanctification, his holiness, in the world today.

Redemption 

Jesus’ indwelling life is our freedom from the slavery to sin. He is the price paid and he is the freedom gained. He is the cause and effect of our redemption. He is broken chains and a new beginning. His life offers us not just forgiveness for sins committed, but freedom from the sin making factory in our hearts. We too are redemption. We are the freedom of God incarnated into the world. By this freedom we love and serve the world around us.

Christian, all of this is from grace. Our only boast is Christ and his cross. He has freely given his identity to us and his wisdom and power to us in the form of his very own life- his status, honor, and holiness. If we have these things from him for free, then there is no more earning. No more boasting. No more graceless living. No faking. No self justifying.

Just the freedom to live and love and serve without condition or pretense.

Do you believe that Jesus Christ is the righteousness, sanctification, and redemption of God? Do you really believe that you are the righteousness, sanctification, and redemption of God? How would your life change today if you really believed this? Why is it so important that our salvation be a person and not a plan or principle?

May 24: Nobodies and Somebodies.

1 Corinthians 1:28-31. God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. 30 And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, 31 so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

Paul is describing this great reversal that God initiated whereby the “nobodies” of the world become the “somebodies”, and the “somebodies” of the world become the “nobodies.” This awesome work of God prevents all boasting in front of God. The “nobodies” turned into “somebodies” can’t boast because they didn’t acquire their new status on their own, God gave it to them. The “somebodies” turned into “nobodies” can’t boast, well because now they realize they are “nobodies.”

Which are you?

“To live is Christ” makes each of us who are in Christ into one or the other, but mostly into both at the same time. You are a “nobody” that God has graciously loved and exalted in Christ into a “somebody.” And you are a “somebody” that God has graciously humbled in Christ into a “nobody.”

Praise God!

Because of him you are in Christ Jesus. It is because of God alone that we have experienced this amazing grace. Grace that levels us all out socially. Grace that removes all barriers to the Father. Grace that even gives us something to boast in for all of eternity- the Lord Jesus.

We have found many things to boast in haven’t we? Our families. Our careers. Our good deeds. Our good looks. Our politics. Especially our politics. We boast in that thing that makes us feel like we deserve to be alive today. That thing that makes us feel like we are better than others. That thing that keeps us from getting voted off of the island.

As Christians we boast in ministry and “church work.” We use it to gain power and influence. We would never boast about it out loud, but the boast is in our hearts. We even boast in our humility.

We boast in our social status, race, wealth, education, and gender. We cry for unity, but promote division by expecting everyone to look and sound like us. We find our identity in these same things. We look down on those who dress different, think different, and worship different (style not Spirit) than we do.

All of these things keep our boast from being in the Lord. But for those who are in Christ, those who understand that “to live is Christ,” the only boast we have left is in Christ and his cross. As both a “nobody” and a “somebody” we know that all other boasts crumble in the light of his glory and grace.

What is your boast in these days? Can you relate to any of the examples above? Have you seen God turn you into a “nobody” for his glory? Have you seen him then turn you into a “somebody” for his glory? Why can we only boast in Christ?

May 23: Are You A Super Spiritualist?

1 Corinthians 1:22-24. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom,23 but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 

The church at Corinth were what we might call “super spiritualists.” Remember, they weren’t all about the law, they were all about the Spirit, but in all the wrong ways. They wanted to use the Spirit of God to their own advantage. They wanted power and they wanted wisdom. Not to glorify God, but to glorify themselves. What they were failing to see is exactly what we talked about yesterday- that the real power and wisdom is in the cross. That is, it is in a life of sacrifice and humility- Christ’s life in us.

There are lots of us that are “super spiritualists” today. Many seek a spiritual experience beyond Christ. But, as we’ve said before, THERE IS NO SPIRITUAL EXPERIENCE BEYOND YOUR UNION WITH CHRIST. There is no greater experience of the Spirit beyond what you have already experienced in your co-crucifixion and co-resurrection and co-glorification with Christ. We want to hear “Jesus Calling” as a voice outside of our union with Christ, a radical receiving of “wisdom” and “power” from Jesus that is not connected to our progressive sanctification. Rather than relying on the Spirit of Christ’s connection to our spirit, which brings a slow, progressive, transformation into the mind of Christ by faith, we want a unique revelation of God in a specific moment of time.

We are “super spiritualists” when we cry out to God for things that we already have. We want to experience them in fantastic ways, right here. Right now. Rather than trusting that we already have them in Christ. How many times have you asked God to help you or forgive you just so that you can feel good in the moment. But the reality is you already have all the help and forgiveness you are ever going to get- in Christ. Faith in this reality takes time and growth, it doesn’t come in a spiritual lightning bolt.

We are “super-spiritualists” when we want an experience of Christ that does not include the cross. Jews demand a sign, and Greeks seek wisdom. What about us? What do we demand that is beyond the cross? A feeling of closeness in a worship service? An answer to a question? A change of a situation? An increase in knowledge? A freedom from guilt?But none of these is Christ.

Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 

We don’t receive ideas, theories, systems, feelings, or experiences as our new life. We receive a PERSON. Christ. Our life no longer consists in law keeping (the book of Galatians), nor does it consist in having spiritual experiences (the book of 1 Corinthians). Our life is his life. His life is our power. His life is our wisdom. THERE IS NO POWER OR WISDOM BEYOND HIS LIFE. No other way to get it. No other source. No other experience of it beyond union with him (yes I already said this, but it bears repeating).

“To live is Christ” means that the experience that we should be looking for each day is the experience of faith in our union with Christ’s death and resurrection. We don’t look for new wisdom, we trust the Wisdom that we already have. We don’t look for new power, we trust the Power that we already have. We don’t look for new forgiveness, we trust the Forgiveness that we already have. The life of Jesus inside of our life gives us everything we need for life and godliness. We are full. We are complete in him. There is no more. You have all of him and therefore you have it all.

Have you been looking for a spiritual experience beyond the cross and resurrection of Christ? How would your life look different if you really trusted in your union with Christ rather than in an experience that would change how you feel or change your situation?

May 22: The Folly of the Cross.

1 Corinthians 1:18. For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 

The cross seems like folly because it is in direct opposition to the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Everything in us wants to live from some sort of system of right and wrong. We want to control our lives by figuring out what is good and what is evil. We want to figure out salvation on our own. Our default is to work for it. To self justify. Anything other than this seems like complete idiocy to the world. But the cross is power because it frees us from this bondage to any system of law keeping.

The cross seems like folly because it is a shameful death. The death of a criminal. The death of the guilty. But it is power for those that realize that they are the criminal. When we realize the truth of our shame, we are empowered to receive the sacrificial work of the cross for us. Not just once but each and every day.

The cross seems like folly because it is plain and simple death. But “to live is Christ” means that we can only obtain the power of the resurrection by means of the cross. No death – no life. No sacrifice – no victory. No shame – no glory. No cross – no resurrection. The finality of the cross is overcome by the death swallowing power and glory of the resurrection power of God. Death, the ultimate punishment, is now the doorway to eternal life.

Living the cruciform life seems like folly because life is supposed to be about finding my happiness through self identifying and then self actualizing that identity. But the cruciform life, the life lived in sacrifice for others, is truly the only way to find the power of happiness. Happiness is that thing that you will never find by trying to find it. Happiness comes when we find our identity in the cross, and the resurrection power to love that it brings.

“To live is Christ” may seem like folly, but it is actually power. Resurrection power. The power to live fully alive. The power to live for God and others from the power of knowing that we have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

Is the word of the cross folly to you or is it power? Have you experienced the power of living the crucified life? How does the gospel allow you to live from weakness and power at the same time?

May 21: The Undivided Christ.

1 Corinthians 1:11-13. For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers. 12 What I mean is that each one of you says, “I follow Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Cephas,” or “I follow Christ.” 13 Is Christ divided?

Is Christ divided?

What an amazing question rooted in an even more amazing truth. The Corinthian church has a lot of problems, not the least of which is gross division. Our union with Christ means that when we cause division in the church it is as if we are trying to tear Christ apart. Because Christ is in us and we are all collectively in Christ, then to divide the church is to divide Christ.

But is Christ actually divided? Of course he’s not. Therefore we cannot divide the church, not really. The church is the body of Christ and since he cannot be divided, it cannot be divided.

The question also teaches us by implication that each Christian has all of Christ equally. Christ cannot be divided, therefore he is not divided up with a little tiny bit of him in each believer. No, each believer has all of Christ.

You see when we really grab hold of “To live is Christ,” and our union with Christ, we begin to realize that it defines and impacts everything we do in every sphere of life. For Paul this union with Christ was now the motivation for all ethical behavior, not the law. Paul does not appeal to the law to gain unity in the church. He appeals to their union with Christ.

“To live is Christ” means that Jesus is the source of our life, not just individually but corporately. Therefore unity must be the core characteristic of the church. As we contemplate our union with Christ and his life of love and mercy in us, we can live from this love and mercy. Together we can find unity of purpose and we can make unity our purpose as the church. Why? Because our unity displays Christ to the world.

Do you believe that you have all of Christ, and not just a little bit of him? Are you striving from your union with Christ for unity in your church? Or are you divisive?

May 20: Koinonia With Christ.

1 Corinthians 1:4-9. I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge— even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you— so that you are not lacking in any gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

Wow, what a glorious thanksgiving and prayer for the church! Paul is acknowledging the great grace that the Corinthians have received. A grace that has resulted in speech and knowledge. Grace that has resulted in every type of gift being present in this church. Grace that will sustain them until the return of Christ. Grace that makes them guiltless. Grace that has brought them into fellowship (koinonia) with Jesus Christ.

“To live is Christ” is this koinonia with Christ. The English word fellowship probably doesn’t do koinonia justice. When we Christians think of fellowship we think of a potluck after church or a cook-out at the Sunday School teacher’s house on the weekend. But koinonia is a much richer word. It is a participation. It is two parties in business together. It is two people on the same journey with the same goals. We participate in the sonship of Christ. We are shareholders in all that is Christ’s. “Our sonship is defined as Christ’s sonship” (Anthony Thiselton, 1 Corinthians).

All the blessings listed in 1 Corinthians 1:4-9 are ours because of our koinonia with Christ. His grace is ours. His words are ours. His knowledge is ours. His gifts are ours. His revealing is ours. His sustenance is ours. His innocence is ours. How? Because we are in fellowship with Christ. Fellowship with Christ is something you can never lose. You are never out of fellowship with Christ, Christian. Because koinonia is much deeper than what you feel on any given day.

This is all by God’s grace (charis). Not in any way our self achievement. Paul gives thanks [charis] to God for his grace [charis]. He speaks of them being enriched in Christ. And he tells them that they have every type of (spiritual) gift [charismata]. It is this grace that ensures that we will make it guiltless until the end- the revealing of Christ.

This is all God’s grace through CHRIST. The word Christ appears ten times in the first ten verses of 1 Corinthians. Our faith is not in concepts, ideas, principles, or systems. It is in Christ. Now the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you (v.6). That is, the truth about Christ is lived out in us. We are transformed into Christ by living out the cruciform life of Christ. This too, is part of our koinonia with Christ. This is something the Corinthians will need to learn. Most likely it is something we need to learn as well. Hopefully we can learn it together as we journey through 1 Corinthians in our search for the meaning of our union with Christ. 

Are you living in the flood of God’s grace through union with Christ? Are you thankful for grace (that’s a good first step)? Is your faith focused on Christ, or on some sort of religious system or knowledge? Do you feel enriched in Christ? Why or why not?

Did you know there was a band called “Koinonia?” Me either, but this is pretty amazing!