John MacArthur spoke at the second session of the day. He began by commenting on the exuberant nature of the worship at this conference. He seemed glad that people are worshiping in a way that is heartfelt even if many are singing so loud that they have long since abandoned tone and pitch. But then he asked a sobering question: why is it that this exuberance does not also accompany our efforts at evangelism? We are we so bold here, but so timid in sharing the gospel? Why is it that the name of Jesus escapes our lips only with a great deal of effort. How can we be so free and unembarrassed here, but so embarrassed out there in the world?
Framed around the first two chapters of 1 Corinthians, MacArthur’s message discussed the shame of the gospel and the shame of the cross. There are six points related to the cross:
The shameful sentence of the cross – By nature people are unwilling and even unable to admit that they are sinners. If Christians wish to be unpopular, they simply need to tell people they are sinners. And yet this is where evangelism must start – with our true condition before God. The shameful sentence of the cross is that without it and without the saving work of Jesus Christ, we are destined for hell.
The shameful stigma of the cross – The message of the cross is foolishness; it is crazy; moronic. This message was ridiculous in the time of the Bible because Jews had a Messianic expectation that His coming would be accompanied by signs and wonders, but not the kind Jesus did. They were looking for dramatic, supernatural signs and wonders in the sky. Gentiles, on the other hand, were looking for transcendent wisdom and esoteric knowledge. And what does Christianity offer? It offers a scandalous message where Jesus ends up dead on a cross. The Jews could not tolerate a Messiah who was crucified and the Greeks could not tolerate a God who was crucified by men. If God could have thought of the worst possible way of making a message marketable, this was it.
The shameful simplicity of the cross – God gospel makes no concession to human wisdom. Human wisdom plays no part in the gospel for it destroys human wisdom. The collective wisdom of all the wise humans is nothing. They are useless when it comes to salvation for everything they have to offer is foolish.
The shameful singularity of the cross – There is absolutely exclusive for the power of God saves only those who believe. This is shameful in this inclusive world we live in.
And so how do we overcome this? How did the early apostles overcome this? How are we to overcome the shame of the cross? We have to know and understand that God works through our weakness. This leads to the final points:
The shameful society of the cross – There aren’t many educated, wise, high-born, aristocratic, noble Christians. God has chosen the foolish to shame the wise; God has chosen the weak to shame the things which are strong. The base things, people of utter significance and those who are despised, the no ones, the things that are not–these are the men and women God uses. This message has been put in the hand of a bunch of nobodies, all the while disdaining the wise and powerful and aristocratic. Why? To shame the wise; to make it clear that this gospel does not come by means of human wisdom. It comes not by human power but by divine. How could such a group as this have an impact on the world?
The shameful sovereignty of the cross – What hope do we have for this is an impossible task? And yes, with men this is impossible. However, God in His sovereignty has chosen the weak and foolish to be His chosen ones and to do the work. We go not in our own strength but in His strength and power. We trust in His sovereignty and in His wisdom. We preach this message of the cross because God finds delight and satisfaction in saving His chosen ones. The whole enterprise can be summed up like this: that no man can boast before God. It is all by and for God. The only way anyone will believe this message is because it is all by God’s doing. This doctrine of God’s sovereignty is shameful to unbelievers and even to many believers.
And so our passion should and must extend to sharing the gospel message of the good news of Jesus Christ. Though this message is foolishness and though it brings shame upon the wise and upon the wisdom of this world, we share it in and through the power of Jesus Christ. We trust in His sovereignty and go forth in confidence.
After the last message I noted that Steve Lawson managed to preach a seven point sermon while maintaining the pattern of having each point hinge on the same letter of the alphabet. Do note that MacArthur followed this with a six point message also using only one letter. I’m impressed.
(If you are looking for photos from the conference, I noticed that this blog has a few shots. I should have some official shots available in a little while)