Ordinary power

Ordinary power

It’s not surprising that the world doesn’t think much of Christians or their churches. They observe that people come to a building, sometimes an imposing one and sometimes one used for another purpose during the rest of the week. Those people sit together, sing songs, and listen to a speaker. Not much excitement there! No interactive games to play, entertaining dancing or singing to enjoy, or contest at which to cheer for a victory. In some houses of worship, monitors display attractive images: helps for the message, the liturgy, and the songs. In others, none of that exists.

So we come to sit and listen. It’s sort of like going to school again or attending a lecture. That’s okay if you are interested in either the content or the speaker. But in a world that measures importance by visual interest or dynamic sensory impact, it’s boring. It seems unnecessary, unimportant, and unproductive. Many conclude that they would rather be somewhere else than sitting in church.

We are, of course, interested in the message presented in those gatherings of Christians. We come to hear of Christ crucified. But Paul reminds us that the message of Christ crucified is foolishness to some and a stumbling block to others (1 Corinthians 1:23). Coupled with the very nature of how it’s presented, even in the best of situations, we need not wonder why so many find other things to do at the time of worship.

This all may seem too much pessimistic anguish. Paul tempers our dismal assessment and suggests we remember that the message of Christ crucified is the wisdom of God (1 Corinthians 1:24). The message of the gospel, Christ crucified, communicates how God in his love gave us the gifts of forgiveness and eternal life. That’s not part of the vocabulary of our world.

You may never hear it while seated in front of your television watching almost all network programing. It won’t be there as you play games on your phone or computer. And you probably won’t encounter it attending most other events outside the doors of your church. So without that church service, you will miss the wisdom of God. Paul says that he did not come to Corinth with eloquence or persuasive words. He came with one message, the wisdom of God in Christ crucified. That’s why we reach to open the door of our church and to find a seat to listen.

I think sometimes we think that if we’ve heard that wisdom once or twice, we don’t need to hear it again very often. But Paul suggests another important reason for regularly stepping into assemblies where we can hear Christ crucified. The message of the cross is the power of God (1 Corinthians 1:18). God doesn’t promise to impart spiritual power outside the presentation of the gospel. We call it the means of grace because it is the way God creates, nourishes, and sustains our faith.

We might expect that God would work in some spectacular way. But, no, he works in an ordinary way when we sit and listen to the gospel. I’ll admit it may not seem like much, but hearing the gospel is our connection to the Holy Spirit and the spiritual power he gives. Without it we become like the seeds that fall among the thorns and are choked by the cares of life, the seeds that fall on the harden path and are devoured by Satan, or the seeds that fall on the rocky places and wither because they had no depth. Sitting and listening to the gospel of Christ crucified is simply receiving God’s amazing power and his wisdom, in an ordinary, regular way.

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Author: John A. Braun
Volume 102, Number 3
Issue: March 2015

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