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The Gospel the World hasn’t Heard

The Gospel the World Hasn’t Heard

1 Corinthians 1:18-31

Sermon Transcript by Rev. Ernest O’Neill

These are verses that we often comfort ourselves with but I hope we can deal with more precisely today. Let’s look at 1 Corinthians, chapter one and starting with verse 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. For it is written, ‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the cleverness of the clever I will thwart.’ Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, But to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

For consider your call, brethren; not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth; but God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise, God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong, God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, whom God made our wisdom, our righteousness and sanctification and redemption; therefore, as it is written, “Let him who boasts, boast of the Lord.”

I remember my wife Irene was astounded when she attended a Bible study where we lived in Minnesota and a southern lady at the study said, “I’m ignorant and I pray that I’ll be more ignorant still!” She was speaking along the lines of these verses in Corinthians saying that she was foolish and hoped to be more foolish still!

Of course that’s wrong but the dear lady meant right by what she said. When my wife heard this she was baffled and wondered what she had gotten in to when she married me! Irene said she had spoken these words following two men trained in the Bible that had spoken something very modern and liberal.

But that attitude has ruled too much of Christianity. The misunderstanding of this passage has for too long been the basis of Christianity. And of course I think in a much milder form it is the problem with our present gospel. We don’t fully understand it and they don’t fully understand it. I remember coming to a place as a teenager and I thought, “You just take it by faith.”

I did concentrate my mind on that. I don’t understand why Jesus had to die. It doesn’t make sense to me that you kill the wrong guy, I don’t see why we don’t say that God is not blood thirsty and yet he demands that his son die or somebody has to die. He apparently expresses his love to us by killing his son. I don’t see what sense that makes but I suppose you just take it by faith.

In fact what I was doing is taking the attitude that Paul Little writes about. When the little boy in Sunday school was asked, “What is faith?” he answered that it was believing what isn’t true.

In a way I took that position at that time in my life. It doesn’t make sense to me, and I don’t understand it. One of the theories was that God had to pay a ransom to the devil to get us out of hell. If that isn’t so, then I suppose that faith is believing what makes no sense to me. So I thought yes, that’s right. I am far too intellectual and faith is just believing what the Bible says.

I think thousands of us are in that position. We think know it ourselves but then we’re not sure either. In a way we keep on repeating variations of “Jesus died for your sins.” I don’t know why whoever was in charge of things was satisfied with that but that’s the way it is. Jesus died for your sins and therefore you should be grateful to Jesus. Most of us can see how wonderful Christ has been and so we ought to be grateful to him because he’s done something that we do not understand but he’s done it and that’s it.

So I submit to you that the whole of Christendom wobbles around that. I’m astounded myself. I find it hard to believe but a few years ago I read a book by the guy who is in charge of the government study of the genome. He’s a real Christian but when it comes to explaining it he says the same as everybody else — Jesus died for us, and that’s the meaning of everything.

I feel that although Christianity is being presented in a way that doesn’t make sense they are right. There is this conundrum – Jesus died for our sins and then you get into those illustrations of the lamb and the goat being sent into the wilderness with our sins. That is presented as an analogy Somehow you have to believe that sins are heaped on Jesus, and he’s sent to Hell so that you don’t have to bear it. So the whole thing gets into a tremendous mess.

We’re all saying that we’re preaching the gospel but in the New Testament and indeed in the Old Testament are the depths of the truth. God really does love his Son and his Son loves him. He wants others like his son and he wants them to enjoy the love he has with his son and his son has with him. That’s why he made us and made us in his son. He made us in his son so that we would be able to be like his son and experience the things that his son experiences.

He made us in his son but nobody believes that. They believe the words, “You are God’s workmanship created in Christ Jesus…” They believe the strong verse that we’ll be coming to soon in Colossians that says, “all things were created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” Colossians 1:16b-17

And so it’s throughout the Bible. In the beginning all things were made by him – the logos. In the beginning was the word (the Logos) and he was with God and all things were made through him and by him. Everyone knows those verses but do they believe we were made in Jesus? No,not on your life. Yet, that’s what God did.

He wanted us to enjoy his love. He wanted us to be like him and his son and through us and in Christ he would complete the universe. That’s why he told us to subdue the earth. It was like a trial run. He gave us this little bit of planet to bring under his will. Because his plan is that we’ll spend eons developing the universe through his son Jesus. God made us for that reason.

Yet, God knew that if all we knew was Him – well, what’s the free will in that? We won’t really know what God is like because we have nothing to compare him with. God knows what goodness and truth are but man doesn’t. So how can man ever know what God is like unless they can compare him with

something else.

God also saw that there was no way in which we could love unless we had free will. The very essence of love is that you want the best for the other person. You want them to have everything you have and so you have to have free will. And so God determined that man must have free will.

God felt that man must be able to reject me if they want to and they must be able therefore to love me. And so God gave us free will but he foreknows all things. He foreknew that we would take advantage of the free will and that we would do many things that he did not want us to do. He gave us this world to subdue and bring under us as he gave the commission to Adam in the Garden of Eden.

But, he knew that we would do many other things in the world and indeed we would want to be the god of the world ourselves. He knew that it would create all kinds of chaos. He saw every old lady today that is dying of starvation. He saw every man that has been murdered. He saw all those things and he knew that there was only one that could bear all that and still live. That was his dear son Jesus, and that’s why he made us in his son. So that he in us would bear all those things.

But God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself. It all came straight back to the Father. The Father had to decide, “Am I willing to see this little baby, whom I have made with great care in this woman’s body, stained by a lustful creature who is out for his own satisfaction? Am I willing for him to bear that? For that is happening inside my son. And we are the ones who will bear all this strain because they cannot bear it themselves. That’s why I made them in my son so that at least they could continue to exist by his life even if all these things were being done to them.

So he committed himself to bearing all we would do. On top of that he knew that the world we would produce from that kind of activity would be the most obvious contradiction to himself. So there would be no doubt in our minds what goodness was because we would see absolute badness and could compare it with him. We could see what a world that was not controlled by him was like. We could see the difference between that and the world that he had in mind. So we would begin to understand what being like him means. Otherwise we would have no idea. If we didn’t know what unlike him was we wouldn’t really know what being like him was.

That’s why we talk about delimiting a thing. You divide it. You delimit it by saying what it is not. And so the Father saw that this world itself, even as it seemed to spin under control under our rebellion would be itself a way that would show us clearly what he is like and what he is not like. It would have its effect on nudging us to his own character. And so he committed himself to that kind of life.

Now, nobody has any thought of all that. And yet if you think carefully through it that you’ll see it is a good interpretation of the Old and New Testaments. Nobody describes it that way, nobody. Everybody takes this shorthand version of the gospel. They don’t explain all this which makes infinite sense as you begin to work it out in detail.

The important side of it is that God saw everything and he knew the results of absolute chaos. And so above time, in eternity, he remade the whole world. He made it new as he originally planned it to be. That world exists and the astro-physicists don’t contradict this anymore. They say that there could be other worlds in the universe. God foresaw all that and remade the whole world as it’s meant to be. That’s why we talk so easy about Heaven because there is no such thing as time and of course it is a present now. It’s us that will catch up with it.

So God remade the whole world in the universe, in eternity and above time. That world is in existence at this moment and that is the world that is manifested in his spirit whenever we ourselves have the attitude of truth towards Christ and that world. And so improving the world is done through what God himself has already made becoming real in time through the faith that we have at different moments.

When the man stretches out his hand that’s God’s way of asking him to say “amen” to what he has already done in eternity. And the hand that is healed here in time is healed permanently out in eternity. That is taking place all through this life.

It ties up in the way we develop the world. You can develop it by our own best efforts or you can develop it according to what God himself has already planned and made real in his eternal transformation of the world. He knows that there is so much oil under this rock or so much water under this desert. And so there is a whole development of the world that is meant to take place through the faith of God’s own children in what he has done.

Some of that is beyond them to even think of unless you first make plain this whole mystery of being made in Christ. And so we say, “Yes, if I am a Christian I am a new creation and am made in Christ.” But Paul says, “You are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus…” “Yes, we are created when we are born again.” But the Bible says, “In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God, and all things were made through him.” Then we think I wonder what the word is. But we don’t face it that we were made in Christ. We don’t face the horrible thought that the last person who just a second ago has destroyed a little child was made in Christ. They will not face that thought.

You mean Christ has felt that cruelty and born it in himself? They have no understanding of that. There are so many things that are filled with life if you will get down to thinking through things. I’m not explaining it all perfectly but I’m trying to put it at least in some terms so that you begin yourself to think through the thing a bit.

If you just take it slowly here is the progression I have come to.

-God is our loving Father, and wants us to love him and his only son known to us as Jesus Christ.

– So that he can develop the universe through us

– This means giving us freedom to choose all that he is not

– There is nothing that exists apart from him, so he created us as part of his son

-He would bear the nothingness and we would continue to live by his life.

– But God also has foreknown our lives and has committed his son to bearing all the effects of our independence so that we may know and understand his real heart

– At the same time he has born the total destruction that this independence has wrought and has made us and the world as he had planned.

– Now we can manifest that renovation during these eons or try his steadfast love that never ends or

until we can bear his pain no longer.

Do you have to believe this exactly as I say to you? No, but think through it yourself because no one has a notion of this. God has foreknown our lives and has committed his son to bearing all the effects of our independence so that we may know and understand his real heart.

At the same time he has born the total destruction that our independence has wrought and has made us and the world as he had planned. Now we can manifest that renovation during these eons or try his steadfast love that never ends or until we can bear his pain no longer.

Just think of it, God wants to develop the universe through us and you’ll find no one has a notion of that. We have general comments we make that “Israel will be judges of the nations.” So we think we’ll be judges of the nations and that’s what Christian circles talk about – what we’ll do after this life. It’s crazy and religious.

This other is very reasonable especially as you see the vastness of the universe. If God has made all this and is going to develop it, he’ll need us. It makes sense of it for our own lives. I think it’s quite a task because what is being passed around and has been passed around for centuries is a very narrow, little formula that really ends up as a system for a religious club. And to get into the club you have to learn a phrase like “Jesus died for you.”

And then this religious club is called a Methodist church, a Baptist church, or a Pentecostal church. And what you have is a lot of religious clubs that specialize in saying to other people if you are not in our club then you’re finished. We’re a special group and if you can get into our group you’re OK. And so that colors everything.

Almost every time you are talking religion people are thinking in terms, “Will you join my club or do I have to join your club?” And that has little to do with the reality of life. So I’d ask you to think through it. Is there a way I can make the gospel sensible to ordinary people?

We all need to be willing to be conformed to the image of Christ and God is about that in some sense. That’s one of the reasons for why I am here. What is he going to do when I join him? Maybe I’ll get a new guitar! No we don’t want to be sitting around playing guitars and we don’t care about streets paved with gold. We’d like to do something fulfilling. We would like to fulfill what God has put into us. He knows what we are and what would fulfill us and so it’s going to be good.

Most souls think about Heaven and have no idea what it’s going to be like. We don’t know what relationship there is between what we do here and there. I think it’s far past time that we talk in terms of what ordinary people understand and stop all this gibberish that they have to believe. The gibberish has all the truth in it but nobody has bothered very much to understand it and explain it in ordinary terms.

I have tried to ask myself about different issues but if God foreknows everything why believe he really respects our free will? The answer is overwhelming. Why would he let us crucify his only son if he could simply over rule our free will?

You can say, I’m just a robot and do what God wants. How do I know he doesn’t control me without me knowing it? Would he allow us to crucify his own son? It just contradicts all that he is – a loving Father. So if he controls our wills and doesn’t respect our free will then how come Christ was

crucified like that? Would a father crucify his own son through the people he had made?

No, you have to answer that God does respect our free will and does a lot to preserve it. He knows that without free will there will be no love. So it’s worth thinking through and communicating the best gospel that we can get from the Bible. Is what I’m saying in line with scripture? I can show you again and again that it is.

Why did God put a tree of knowledge of good and evil where we could get at it and then tell us not to touch it? Why did he do that? It’s because he believes in free will and freedom of choice.

“Now we can manifest that renovation during these eons or try his steadfast love that never ends until we can bear his pain no longer.” Not, until he (Jesus) can bear the pain no longer, but until we can bear no longer to see him pained and crucified with our independence.

That whole thought about God suffering has been eliminated by the Christian gospel. This is mainly because we worship the god of the Romans — the god who could not be touched by our pain and suffering. The god who was unfeeling and so we all got the idea that you can’t have the father suffering. But, that is the very thing that is happening moment by moment, day by day, and month by month. But we convince ourselves that God isn’t touched by this.

I am not for abortion but I sympathize with the young girls who get into trouble. There is almost a lack of any sympathy for the little girl that got into trouble as if she deserves the worst we can throw at her. So there is a hardness in our present Christianity that is so unlike the suffering heart of God.

I encourage all of you to think of it. The world needs a liberating truth badly and what we have is a Christianity that is stuck. Christendom is stuck. The new pope Francis is at least a fellow who is alive and has surprised everybody that the pope is not as unfeeling as we thought he was. The churches on the whole are pretty dead and it seems that as a force all we can do is act as fodder for the Isis people who are destroying Christians as fast as they can.

So God has a work for us to do. The more you see difficulties with this the more we should share it with each other so we can make it clear to the dear men and women that are lost. Let us pray.