Preaching That Changes Us

1 Corinthians 2: 4-5 “My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power.”

Preaching that knows nothing except Christ and cross does more than educate. It changes us. It has the power to make us different people. Paul says his preaching was accompanied by “a demonstration of the Spirit’s power.” Isn’t it amazing that the gospel can turn people into followers of Jesus? The Apostle Paul shows up in Corinth from Jerusalem, a distance of about 1250 miles over land. For many of the people there he was from a foreign culture. Maybe he spoke with a funny accent. He tells them about a Jew who had died 20, maybe 25, years ago. He claims that he came back to life three days later, and then disappeared into heaven. These people had never heard of either Paul or Jesus before. They had no way of checking out his story. And yet they trust that this man they never met who died nearly a quarter century earlier in a foreign country is their Savior from sin and way to eternal life. Is that anything less than a miracle? Can you argue, or persuade, or reason a person into believing something like that?

That miracle is repeated all over the world every day. A missionary once told me about how frustrating preaching could be while he was still learning the language of his new country. He had the vocabulary of a three-year old. “Me, American missionary, tell you about Jesus. Come from God. Die on cross. Live again.” Yet it worked! People believed him! It wasn’t “wise and persuasive words,” but “a demonstration of the Spirit’s power.”

That’s why we believe. The message of Christ and his cross has had its way with our hearts and minds. And it keeps on working there. Let’s say we want to follow Jesus more closely with our lives, and we hear him say, “Love your enemies.” So you say, “Now how am I going to do that?” We could go and find someone to preach about five easy ways to love your enemies. Except there aren’t five easy ways to love your enemies! There isn’t even one easy way. Loving your enemies is hard, practically impossible, and you know it. My enemies make me mad. I dislike them. I don’t need advice here. I need to become a changed person.

For this, Christ and his cross are just the thing. Paul assures us, “When we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son.” Does that convict you? When God had every right to hate us as enemies, he still loved us. More than that, he let his Son die to save us. More than that, he offered, he gave his Son to save us! If God can love a sinner like me, and a whole world filled with such enemies, like that, how can I still hold my grudges against the people who have made me mad?

This isn’t primarily a guilt trip. God isn’t shaming us. He is changing us. His love so melts my heart that I want to love the people around me, even the irritating ones. I do love them for Jesus sake. That’s the way it works.

John says in his first letter. “We love because he first loved us.” And how do know God loves us? “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son…” That’s Christ and his cross! And that produces new hearts and lives, “a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power.”

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