Why I Preach Christ Crucified
“I preach Christ crucified. Not as some sad moment to get your sympathy; not as a trinket I wear around my neck to sub for some piece of sympathetic magic.
No. I believe heaven touched earth in the person of Jesus Christ. I believe the powers of darkness were lassoed at the cross. I believe Satan and all of his minions laugh at our silly success stories; they get bored when we drone on and on about our pet issues. They could care less about how finely-tuned our memorization skills might be in naming the Kings of Israel in order. (I don’t mind these things, and I’m sure they have a place.)
But the demons shudder, and the heaven’s quake, and the angels sing for joy and my Father is glorified when we preach Christ crucified. Because he said if I—when I am lifted up out of the earth—I will draw all people to myself. We can play games in church till the cows come home. We can put together a smooth-running & fine-sounding service, wax poetic on our favorite soapbox, give people what tickles their ears and demands nothing from them. We can offer a packaged gospel that includes 5 steps to a happier marriage, a higher bank account, and a healthier you. We can orchestrate, pontificate, ameliorate and prognosticate. If we want to. (And there’s a time and a place for all of that. We want better marriages, and how we handle our money is a matter of discipleship. I know that).
But if Christ never came, never died, and never rose, there would still be 8 simple ways to be nicer to your wife than you were before. What we are passing off as gospel these days is dreadful.
We are in the demon-shuddering business! Every sermon is a wrestling match with the prince of the powers of the air, and when we preach Christ crucified, God is declared the winner every time.
And guess what? Christ said when I am lifted up, I’ll draw all people to myself. You know what lasso he throws around you? Hope. Something to live for because he’s a God worth dying for.
So, Christ starts his drawing. And we see people dropping like flies left and right. Dropping to their knees in surrender to the King of Glory who suffered it all. We die to ourselves…and…what do you know?
Our marriages get better. “You. No, you. You before me…and Christ above all.”
Our generosity grows and our consumption addiction lessens. “Christ filly my every need.”
Who knows? We might even get thinner as a result!
Do you see the point, church? We preach Christ crucified because anything less is a bar far too low. Anything else lacks the power to challenge our inner demons and every idol that takes the place of God in our lives. We preach Christ crucified because anything else robs God of His glory, substituting 30 minutes with Oprah for a title match between the Father of Eternity and the forces that belong to the Father of lies.
We preach God taking on human flesh to fix what we broke, to mend what we could never mend. We preach God—in Christ—reconciling the world to himself and, by extension, reconciling our families and our checkbook, our kids soccer schedules and our daily goals.
Instead of telling you to be a bit nicer to your husband, or carve out 15 minutes to read your Bible, or add a little religion to an already, well-rounded plate….Here we will come face to face with the real evil that threatens our very existence. And we will challenge you to stand before God and—in the sight of whoever you wish—to confess it…to go on record against yourself and the kingdom of darkness that is trying to claim your very soul. We’ll challenge you to run to God and give him your all – including every locked door, every room in your heart that’s closed on Sundays. And in your running, you’ll find your feet aren’t even touching the ground! Because He’s doing the drawing, and has you in his tractor beam of love.
You want a better home life? You want to be a better wife or husband? Daughter or parent? You want happiness in your life? Real peace and real joy? Catch a glimpse of Christ crucified and let the hope of resurrection take your lackluster weary life and give you back a brand new person with a brand new vision.
You want a sermon “10 steps to a better you”? Its right down this aisle…10 steps in front of you, there’s Jesus begging for you to believe he was crucified for you, and begging for you to be crucified with Him. You’ve never seen a better you than a you after God’s gotten through with you. Let the gospel of His Son, by the power of His Spirit, mold you into the man, the woman, the congregation, the people of God we are all called to be.”
–[“Telling The Story“, Pleasant Valley Church of Christ, Feb 25, 2018. This part of the sermon was written after (and inspired by) a 3-hour conversation with Jim McGuiggan over dinner. I seem to have adopted his cadence in the wording!]
Image credit: Paul Preaching to Corinth, installation piece at St. Pauls Church, Dayton via Ted.
Nathan Guy believes the passionate pursuit of truth, goodness, and beauty culminates in Jesus Christ. He received formal training in philosophy, theology, biblical studies, and cultural & political ethics from Oxford, Cambridge, and the LSE. Nathan lives in Searcy, Arkansas, where he teaches in the College of Bible & Ministry at Harding University.