Gospel Roots (1892-2017)
January 1, 2017 :: 1 Corinthians 2:1-2
Next week, Lord-willing, we will return to our series on the Books of Kings. But as today is the first day of a new year and the first Sunday of a new year and a communion Sunday and the first Sunday of the year in which we celebrate our 125th anniversary as an organized church, I thought we would start the year with something a little different.
Our church was founded in February of 1892, so this year we will be celebrating our 125th birthday as a church. We have a few special events planned to mark that occasion. In February we’ll share a birthday cake and reminisce a little together. In October, the president of the EFCA, Kevin Kompelien, and his wife Becky are going to visit our church for a special weekend celebration. And when they’re here, we’re going to have an Open House and invite back old friends and church family from years before. And have a good old church family reunion weekend.
Another thing that I want to do to mark this 125th year is to preach a special set of sermons, over the course of the whole year, that revisit and reflect and reconnect with the core values that have undergirded and shaped our church for the last 125 years.
I’m going to call this series, “Gospel Roots (1892-2017)” because it’s about our going back to the basics, back to the foundational root system that our church is based upon and gets its life from.
I want us to remind ourselves again and again who we are, where we came from, and what we are here together for. Our Gospel Roots.
There will be messages about our history, about what we believe, about our worship, about our purpose, about our involvement in missions, about our congregational polity, about why we pray so much, why I preach the way I do, and lots more of that sort of thing.
My hope is that this series (not every sermon in 2017 will be in this series but many of them will, my hope is that this series) will be good not just for the old-timers like myself (I’ve been the pastor here for 19 Christmases!) but also really good for the newcomers to our church family.
We have a lot of new people here, and I’m so glad about that.
Welcome! And I want us all to be on the same page. For us all to know what our gospel roots are and how they affect everything that we are and do.
And here’s the biggest root at the very center, at the very bottom of all the roots:
It’s the Person and Work of Jesus Christ Himself.
We are, fundamentally, faith-followers of the Lord Jesus Christ who died for us.
Our message title for today is “Jesus Christ and Him Crucified.”
Which comes from 1 Corinthians chapter 2, verse 2.
We’re going to make that our Hide the Word Verse to start off our year.
Let’s read it out loud together:
“For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.”
Those are the words of the Apostle Paul.
He is writing to the church of God at Corinth, and he’s reminding them how single-minded he had been when he had first visited them.
Well, it’s time for New Year’s Resolutions.
Do you do those?
Some people do, and some people don’t.
I’m one of those guys who definitely use the turning of the new year to make some changes myself.
These days, I try to make the changes things that are smaller and do-able. More like mid-course corrections than U-turns or big goals.
In the past, I’ve tried to make bigger changes, and sometimes succeeded but often failed.
How about you? Do you have some New Year’s resolutions?
For many people, it’s to lose weight, especially following the Christmas holidays with all of the cookies and fudge stuff.
Many people sign up to get more exercise. Curt, this is your biggest time of the year at Planet Fitness, isn’t it? I’ll bet you sell more memberships around now than any other time of year. And then, the question is, do people show up or not after they sign-up, right?
For some people, the new year’s resolution is to save more money or spend less money or make more money. I always try to work on our family budget in January, and that’s definitely my time for making those goals.
Some people make career resolutions this time of year. What they want to do at work. What sales goal they want to hit or what rung on the career ladder they want to climb to.
And some people make resolutions for education at this time of year. What classes they are going to take, what degree or certification they are going to work towards or what books they are going to read. I just got 6 new books for Christmas, and I want to read them all right now. But I’ll have to make some room in my schedule if I’m going to do that.
Well, the apostle Paul also made a resolution when he came to minister to the Corinthians. It wasn’t a New Year’s resolution. But it was a resolution which he certainly did keep.
And when he wrote his first letter back to the Corinthians, he reminded them of it. Because it was an example for them to follow in their own lives.
It was a resolution...to know nothing.
Except for one thing: Jesus Christ and Him crucified.
2 Corinthians 2:2, “For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.”
Now, I don’t think that he means “know nothing” in an absolute sense.
He’s talking about his preaching, his teaching, the focus of his ministry.
And he’s saying that the focus of his ministry was the Person and Work of Jesus Christ.
He’s not saying that he never talked about anything else.
“How’s the weather, Paul?” “Jesus Christ and him crucified!”
How do you think the Steelers will do this year? “Jesus Christ and him crucified!”
What kind of a year will 2017 be? “Jesus Christ and him crucified!”
I don’t think that’s what he was saying.
He was talking about the center of His life and ministry.
And how everything revolves around Jesus Christ.
D.A. Carson says it this way, “[This does not mean] that Paul was devoted to blissful ignorance of anything and everything other than the cross. No, what he means is that all he does and teaches is tied to the cross. He cannot long talk about Christian joy, or Christian ethics, or Christian fellowship, or the Christian doctrine of God, or anything else, without finally tying it to the cross. Paul is gospel-centered; he is cross-centered” (The Cross and Christian Ministry, pg. 38).
He is Christ-centered.
That’s what Paul is talking about when he says that he resolved to know nothing else among them.
And it wasn’t a new resolution, either.
It’s not like this was something new that Paul was trying in Corinth that he hadn’t done everywhere else.
He’s just reminding them that he was absolutely committed to it.
These were his all important values.
This was the center of his message and lifestyle.
This was the root at the bottom of everything that he was and did.
If you didn’t “get” this about him, then you didn’t “get” him.
This was the main thing.
The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing, right?
That’s what Paul is saying.
And it was the opposite of what the world was saying, of what they all expected. Look back at verse 1.
“When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God.”
That’s how everybody else rolled. That’s how everybody else did it.
They came with eloquence and worldly sophistication.
They came as professors and pundits.
They came as skilled speakers and philosophers.
They came on their own power and persuasive abilities.
They said things that made sense to people.
He doesn’t just mean that they used philosophy like a professor at Penn State. We might all dismiss that.
What Paul is saying is that the rest of the world says things that make sense to the rest of the world.
They are they guys on TV that are masterfully giving their opinion, and people are nodding their heads and saying, “Yeah, that make some sense to me.”
“That sounds wise, I think. That’s the way to do things. The way to get things done.”
“That’s a position of strength.”
Paul says, “I didn’t come from a position of worldly strength and worldly wisdom when I came to share the good news about God.”
“I just talked about Jesus.
And I talked about how He was killed.”
In fact, the world thinks that’s crazy.
“Cray, cray,” as the kids say these days.
Paul says that the world thinks that the gospel is (his word for it is) “foolishness.”
It’s foolish to focus on the message of the cross.
“That’s just ridiculous!”
That’s what the world thinks.
And if it isn’t true, then they’re right.
But if it is, then it’s “wiser than man’s wisdom...and stronger than man’s strength.”
I believe that the world should think that you and I are at least a little bit crazy.
We want the world to admire us and think well of us Christians.
But actually Paul says that we will actually be despised and laughed at for what we center our lives around.
The world may respect us for our love and service if we are loving servants, but if they are paying attention they will probably think that we are at least a little bit crazy.
Because if we are fools, we are to be fools for Christ.
If we are to be seen as crazy, let us be crazy for Christ!
“For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.”
So, here are two resolutions for us to make today.
Not just as New Year’s resolutions but as every day commitments.
And not just as individuals but as a church family going back again and again to our gospel roots.
#1. RESOLVE TO KNOW JESUS CHRIST.
Jesus Christ is the most compelling person in all of history.
He is the most compelling person in the whole universe.
Resolve to know Him more and better.
Last month, I got to read this book on the Doctrine of Christ. It’s called God the Son Incarnate, and it was all about Who Jesus Is. 467 glorious pages of knowing better who Jesus Christ is.
That’s going to be the focus our district Stay Sharp conference next month with Greg Strand. “The Doctrine of Christ.” What the Bible teaches about the identity of Jesus Christ.
Resolve to know nothing except Jesus Christ.
That is to say how everything relates to Jesus Christ!
That’s what all of our songs were about today, right?
What the choir sang? “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” “Run, Shepherds, Run and See the Baby!” “Hark! The herald angels sing, “Glory to Christ, the newborn king!”
“We Believe in God the Father, We Believe Jesus Christ!”
“Jesus Paid It All!”
Everything we do should relate to our resolution to know Jesus Christ.
How are you going to know Jesus Christ better in 2017?
Let me give you a hint, it’s going to take your Bible.
And it’s going to take prayer.
I was talking yesterday with a Christian friend who feels like he has stumbled in his faith.
He’s stopped reading his Bible, he’s stopped praying, he’s stopped coming to church.
Actually, he hasn’t stopped, he’s just slowed down and given up. He’s fallen off.
But he’s getting back up again now to know Jesus Christ.
Do you know how to grow in your knowledge of Jesus Christ?
Our Sunday School classes are great for that. Even though we’re studying the Old Testament, every session connects what we are learning with Jesus Christ.
Heather and I just read a great book that shows you how to do that for yourself at home, too. It’s called Hungry: Learning to Feed Your Soul with Christ.
What do you need to plan now to do to know Jesus Christ better and deeper and more fully?
To make knowing Him the main thing?
He is so worth knowing!
Everything we learned last month about the Root and Shoot of Jesse? That’s Jesus!
Unlimited Spiritual Power, Faultless Justice, Perfect Peace.
That’s our Gospel Root! That’s Jesus.
Get to know Him.
Our church exists to bring people into a life-changing relationship with Jesus Christ.
To know nothing except Jesus Christ.
...and Him crucified.
#2. RESOLVE TO KNOW JESUS CHRIST CRUCIFIED.
Because if you don’t know Him through His crucifixion, you don’t really know Him.
Because it’s not just Who Jesus is, but what Jesus did that is so amazing and so important.
Jesus died on the Cross for our sins.
The world thinks that’s crazy.
Paul says in chapter 1, “[W]e 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" (1 Corinthians 1:22-24).
You don’t understand Jesus unless you understand His crucifixion.
He was changing everything.
He was solving everything.
He was saving us. He was reconciling us to God.
He was taking our place.
He was paying our debt.
Jesus Paid It All
All to Him I Owe
Sin Had Left a Crimson Stain
He Washed It White as Snow
We don’t believe that Jesus was just a great teacher.
We don’t believe that Jesus was just a great prophet or spokesman for God.
We don’t even believe that Jesus was just God in the flesh.
We believe that Jesus was God incarnate to die in the flesh in our place.
And we believe that there is nothing else more worthy of knowing.
Resolve to know Jesus Christ crucified.
Crucified for you and for me.
We believe in the crucifixion!
We believe, we believe!
And that’s why we worship around this table.
To resolve to know Jesus Christ crucified.
We don't "pretty up" Jesus.
We don’t make Him presentable.
We present Him as bloody and suffering and dying on the Cross to save us from our sins.
We resolve to know nothing but Jesus Christ and Him crucified.
And we always have.
This is the first communion set for Lanse Free Church.
Our historians have dated it back to the founding of the church in 1892.
In my mind's eye, I imagine those first few ten families with the last names Swanson, Gustafson, Danielson, Nelson, Alhquist, Olson, Johnson meeting in the home of A. J. Palmquist and taking bread off this plate and saying, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me” and taking up this cup and saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me."
And everybody resolving that this church would always stay cross-centered, gospel-centered, Christ centered.
That they and those of us to follow would resolve to know nothing while we are together except Jesus Christ and him crucified.