Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ. The Word of God through which the Holy Spirit touches our hearts are the words he breathed into the Apostle Paul to write, recorded in 1 Corinthians 1
Jews demand miraculous sings and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength (1 Corinthians 1:22-25 NIV)
This is the the word of our Lord.
Dear friends in Christ crucified.,
He began his life with a background in the Roman Catholic church. He had a quiet, reflective nature and was searching for some kind of inner enlightenment. In the 60’s he briefly tried the drug culture and found it lacking. In 1968, he and three friends made a pilgrimage to India to find enlightenment under Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. He thought his search had ended. For the rest of his life George Harrison of Beatles’ fame thought that Eastern religions were the answer to the big questions in life.
Sadly, those religions don’t give the right answer. For the answers are not found in transcendental meditation or in the searching out of our inner, true self. The answers are not found in the teachings of brotherly love that promises that all our problems will disappear if we just love each other a little more. No amount of human power or wisdom can answer the big questions. In fact, our human power and wisdom keeps us from seeing the answer even when it’s right in front of us.
As we travel through Lent this year, may the Holy Spirit open our eyes to see all the more clearly the answer to life’s big questions. That’s what we want to think about today, for the Word of God before us gives us the answer to life’s big questions. It reminds us that human wisdom and strength searches in vain for the answers. Lent reveals God’s answer.
1) Human wisdom and strength searches in vain
Where do people look for the answers to life’s big questions? In Paul’s day he wrote about how “Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom” (1 Corinthians 1:22 NIV). We see that illustrated in the Bible.
For instance, after Jesus fed the five thousand with five loaves of bread and two fish, the people wanted to force Jesus to be their king (John 6). Why? Look at the miraculous sign he had done. If he would keep on doing that again as their king, their bellies would always be full. They wanted to use Jesus to satisfy their desires and appetites. They figured that would be the answer to life’s big questions.
For an example of Greeks looking for wisdom, consider Paul’s missionary work in Athens. Athens was famous as a city of wisdom. Plato and Aristotle had taught here centuries earlier. The philosophies are at first eager to hear Paul’s ideas. But when he mentions the resurrection of the dead, they sneered and cut him off (Acts 17). Their wisdom would not accept such “unreasonable” claims. They couldn’t see how Paul would be giving them the answer to life’s big questions.
Still today, in each of us here, a part of us wants to feel signs of power or hear ways of wisdom. Maybe we don’t expect Jesus, to miraculous reproduce food. But doesn’t a part of us want to be excited. Don’t we have an appetite to be stimulated, entertained, captivated? And then when we come to church, we feel disappointed. Church doesn’t usually excite us like an over-time basketball game to go to state excites us. Church doesn’t usually stimulate us like the latest video game or the driving beat in rock music does. Church doesn’t entertain us like a flashy movie or funny show does. Church doesn’t usually captivate us like the TV so often can. It’s so easy for us to put church second in our thoughts and attention because all these all things are like spectacular signs that grab our attention and seem to promise an answer to life’s big questions.
And when it comes to wisdom, the world thinks it has so much of it and we can so easily be drawn into thinking like the world. On the one hand, worldly wisdom seems to offer the answer to so many problems. Do you have a problem? Buy this latest gadget. Are you hurting? Take this pill. Are in distress? Watch Doctor Phil. Do you need help? Turn to this government agency. We can easily find ourselves thinking like the world. Instead of trusting in God and turning to him first, he becomes a second or third or fourth option after worldly wisdom fails to help.
On the other hand, along side of all these promises to answer life’s big questions, worldly wisdom also plants doubts in our mind. Is it logical that a loving God would let you suffer like that? Would an all-powerful God let the Saddam Hussein do all the evil that he did? Can you really know that Jesus rose from the dead or that what the Bible says is true? Maybe there aren’t any answers to life’s big questions.
Just as in Paul’s day, so you and I daily face the temptations to ignore God’s answer to life’s big question. For you see God’s answer doesn’t sound powerful or wise. It sounds weak and foolish. And one of the reason it sounds week and foolish is because we don’t know what life’s big question is. We think know, but we don’t, until God reveals it to us.
2) Lent reveals God’s answer
Before we can see how Lent reveals God’s answer. We need to be clear what the big question in life is. So often we can inwardly think that the big question is something like one of these: How can I get the most out of life? How can I find inner enlightenment? How can I feel good about myself? How can I make life fair for me? How can I make others like me? How can I ensure that I’ll be remembered after I pass away? How can I be useful, especially considering my decline in health? How can I feel closer to God?
God’s answer that he reveals in Lent does answer a lot of these questions. However none of those questions will acknowledge God’s answer as the right one. Why? Because all of those questions focus on our own wisdom and power. “ How can I . . . How can I . . . ?” The real question begins: “How has God . . .” How has God brought me close to him? How has God saved me?
That question is not naturally to us, because that question assumes that we are lost and need to be saved. It assumes that we do not have the power and wisdom to save ourselves. And so before God answers life’s big question for us he crushes our proud ego so we see what the write answer is.
Lent is a time that we especially remember our sins. You heard the commandments in the first lesson. God is not simply commanding outward obedience. He is commanding perfect inner obedience was well. He commands our totally love and trust in him as the one and only God. He commands that his name be continually in our hearts as go about our daily life in conversation with him. He commands that we never neglect his Word. He commands loving obedience to those in authority. He commands us to help those in need and to defend those whom others tear down. He forbids lust, greed, coveting and all other evil desires.
Lent confronts us with our sins and crushes us. We have failed. We have no power to come to God. We have no wisdom to know the way. We sit in the dust and ashes of our own worthless works. It’s outer folly to ask: “How can I bring myself closer to God?” Rather ask the true big question in life: How has God come close to me to bring me close to him?
What is the answer the Lent reveals? Christ crucified! Or as Paul puts it: “We preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength.” (! Corinthians 1:23-25 NIV)
Christ crucified. It appears to be a foolish thing for God to sacrifice his Son for sinners. But what wisdom! For on the cross God punished his Son in our place for our sins, so that he freely forgives us while at the same time remaining just since our guilt has been punished in Christ. Christ crucified. It appears to be such a weak thing. But what power! For by the cross Jesus crushed Satan’s head, freed us from sins’ captivity, and broke the chains of death.
Yes, Christ crucified certainly appear weak and foolish, but God reveals the reality to us. Christ crucified is the answer to all of life’s questions. And that’s something we all need to grow in, isn’t it. Christ crucified is the answer to those questions of how to get the most out of life, how to find happiness and fairness, how to find enlightenment and fulfillment how to cope with pain and suffering and whatever other question comes up. So often we don’t see that and so we fail to see that Christ crucified is the answer to those questions as well. That’s why we need to keep on growing in our faith.
Our worship is not designed to entertain but to bring to you Christ crucified the real answer. Keep on coming and worshiping every week so that you can continue to see more and more how Christ crucified is your answer. We may struggle in understanding all that the Bible says, but that does not make the Bible foolish. Keep on reading your Bibles daily and seeing Christ crucified as God’s answer to you revealed in his word.
Lent answers life’s big questions. For Lent points us to Christ crucified. Eastern religions, modern wisdom, or powerful sensations do not. And when Lent concludes with the glory of Easter, there we have the absolute guarantee that Christ crucified is the answer because Christ is risen. He keeps on leading through the big question you face in life.