“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 human wisdom, but on God’s power.” (1Cor.2:4,5)
In part 1 we saw that messages of human wisdom can sound wise and persuasive to the natural mind, but they do not have the power to change you. This is because the Holy Spirit cannot operate through messages that point to you, as your hope of change and if the Holy Spirit is not in the words, then they are words without power (John 6:63). Persuasive messages, that exhort you to try harder to do better for God, can result in the appearance of godliness; more meeting attended, more prayers said, more charitable works achieved. But the employees of any worldly organisation can also raise productivity and improve the reputation of the company in response to inspiring talks by management. The message, “try harder” can result in a temporary behaviour change, but it can never change the person because it cannot change the heart.
In biblical language, the heart is the inner beliefs of a person, especially their fundamental belief about who they are. These beliefs inform the motives of every action and ambition (Prov.4:23). In a very real sense, every person’s life springs out from what they are believing. Jesus knew this and for that reason was dismissive of the ministry of the religious whose message; “try harder to keep God’s commands” resulted in an outer appearance of godliness, but with no inner change of heart. He described such ‘ministries’ as “wiping the outside of the cup” (Matt.23:25) and pointed out that even those holding themselves up as poster boys for such religion were like white washed tombs (Matt.23:27). Their clean exterior hid the truth, that they were still fundamentally unchanged, still hopelessly self-centred and powerless to be as God is.
That is because the only message that has the power to change the heart of man, is a message that changes first his beliefs, not his behaviour. Think of your beliefs as the root of a tree and your behaviour as the branches. No amount of pruning back the branches is ever going to change the tree in the same way as a change to the root will (Luke 13:8). To believe what Jesus believes about you, is to have Him as the root of your life and your life as branches of that root, blossoming with His fruit (John 15:5). When what God believes, becomes what you believe, only then can you live as God lives (John 8:32).
What God believes about your life; the worth of your life, who you really are to Him, is only seen in Christ and Him crucified. Only in Christ can men see the truth about who they are. They are worth the life of God, loved unconditionally by Him and made for Him, to live with Him (2Cor.5:15, Rom.7:4). To believe in Christ, is to receive Him as God’s view and opinion of you, His mind made up about you (Rom.5:8). His amazing thoughts towards us are so much higher than our own, that we cannot take them in without the Holy Spirit (John 16:12,13, 1 Cor.2:9-16). We have never thought that God gives freely, for we live in a world that has pointed us to ourselves and our achievements as our source of life. This spirit of the world has so shaped man’s view of God, that even in the church it is hard to escape the mindset that God’s generosity is shackled to our performance (Gal.3:1-3). Only the Holy Spirit contradicts this message (1Cor.2:12).
To grow therefore as a believer, is to grow up into the mind of Christ, to think more and more as God’s Spirit thinks rather than as the world thinks (Eph.4:15). So how does God think? He thinks the finished work of Christ is sufficient for our every need and so maturity for a believer is to live in the rest, peace, love and generosity of a God who rejoices that all that needs to be done has been done and all that man needs, has already been given (Rom.8:32).
Without the revelation of the Holy Spirit, natural man cannot see his own worth to God or how much has been given to Him in Christ (1Cor.2:14). He can only ever see what he doesn’t appear to yet have, or yet be. Blind to what God has done for him, a man can spend a lifetime seeking to add value to himself through what he achieves or accumulates. Yet even if he gained the whole world, he would still have lost the true value of his own soul (Luke 12:15, Mark 8:36,37).
What the Holy Spirit speaks to us is nothing short of extraordinary, for the truth about what God has done for us is nothing short of extraordinary. Here is the difference between human wisdom and the Gospel. Human wisdom says that ordinary men can become extraordinary by doing extraordinary things. The gospel says that doing extraordinary things does not change a man, (some of the most extraordinary feats of human achievement were done by very selfish individuals!). Rather it is believing extraordinary things that most changes people and there is nothing in this world so extraordinary to believe as the gospel of Christ and Him crucified. Human wisdom is a message about what you must do, (and so appeals to man’s pride), but the Gospel is a message about what God has done, a message that in leaving no place for pride (Eph.2:8,9), lifts man out of self-consciousness and into God-consciousness and when men see God….they are changed! (2Cor.3:18).
An awareness of the spirit of the world influencing men, alerts us not to be taken in by ‘wise and persuasive’ messages, but to ask ourselves a simple question. Did what I just hear leave my faith on me and my performance, or on Christ and Him crucified? Did it leave my faith on a sinning less life, or on a sinless life?
That’s why faith cannot rest on human wisdom, because human wisdom will give you no rest. All those ‘eloquent’ messages are always all about what you need to do for God and once you start down that road, it’s a never-ending road because you never know if you have done enough? If you are not at rest as a believer, if you are striving and struggling to change, then it is almost certainly because at some point in the past, the preaching of mere human wisdom moved your hope, off what Christ has done for you and onto what you are going to do for Him. The gospel is not a matter of words but of power and that power comes by the Holy Spirit opening our eyes to God’s reality, to the way God sees, for when you see what God sees….. you will be changed by what you see.
Don’t let your hope for change be placed in what you or other people are going to do, this year or any year. That will leave you always waiting for change. But if your hope for change is in the Cross, then you will always be seeing change, for it is in seeing and continually seeing Christ and Him crucified, that people are changed. That is speaking of change coming through revelation, through having our eyes opened to see what we could not see, or see clearly, before (Luke 4:18). The greatest change in your life in 2019 will not come from the change you achieve in your strength (self-effort/religion), but from the change you receive (revelation).
This is what Jesus was declaring to Peter, when He told him that His Church would not be built by knowledge that flesh and blood could know, but only by what the Father in heaven reveals by His Spirit (Matt.16:17,18). The way God changes man is by revelation, but not a revelation of what man needs to do, but a revelation of what Christ has done. The revelation that comes from God, (the gospel the Spirit declares), is not man-centred, but Christ-centred. When you see what God has done, when you see Jesus Christ, you will see that God has already achieved all the change that is necessary for a man or a woman to be, as God is. We don’t have to achieve wisdom, sanctification, righteousness or redemption, for in Christ all those goals are already ours (1Cor.1:30).
That’s why Jesus has sat down (Hebrews 10:11-14). The Father is not going to nudge Jesus one day and say, “I am afraid you are going to have to get up again because it seems that your life, death, resurrection, ascension and the pouring out of the Holy Spirit were not quite enough.” There was no chair for the Old Covenant priests to sit on in the Temple because their work was never done. Whenever an Old Covenant mindset leavens a ministry, the preacher cannot bring himself to let you sit with Christ. He will preach the most beautiful gospel message, but right at the end, find he cannot resist giving you something to do. Many a preacher in the closing 5 minutes of their sermon, feels almost duty-bound to exhort his or her hearers to ‘respond’ to the message. We all know the importance of making a decision ‘for’ Christ, but the greatest lives will be led by those whose gaze is left fixed on the decision that was made ‘by’ Christ; to give all He had to us before we had made any decision for Him! (Rom.5:8)
Has Jesus already done enough to change you forever? Yes or No? What we answer to that question depends on one thing. How clearly can we see, Christ and Him crucified! Has Jesus already done enough to change us forever? What people answer to that, depends not on what Jesus is going to do, but on how clearly they see what He has already done. How well we see what Christ has done, depends on which spirit we are seeing by; either the spirit of the world (who directs our gaze continually onto ourselves) or the spirit that comes from God (who directs our gaze continually onto Christ and Him crucified) (1Cor.2:12). Which spirit are we receiving, are we making room for, in our life?
It is not God’s will that we be filled with any other spirit, any other mindset, than His and His mind on us is that the work of salvation He did in us is a compete and perfect work, for He did not plant is us a half-truth or a half-spirit, but of His fullness have we all received (John 1:16). It is as we let His mind, His Spirit, His peace over His finished work, rule our heart, our beliefs, that we will feel utterly fulfilled by the magnitude of the change He sees in us, for God sees what He has done through Christ as …enough! See yourself through man’s eyes and all you will see is what you have not yet achieved; perfection. But see yourself through God’s eyes and you will see what has been freely given; perfection, unless you think God, in giving you His Spirit, planted in you an imperfect seed, an incomplete life. But what does the scriptures say about what has been given to you? “You have been born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which lives and abides for ever.” (1Peter 1:23)
Christian, can you accept that when God saved you, you were worth doing a complete work on; that in God’s eyes you are an entirely new creation? Can you see yet what the Holy Spirit is opening your eyes to see? Can you see yet what God sees? Can you see that if “any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” (2Cor. 5:17). Start to see the things God sees this year and your heart won’t be sick anymore, for you will see that all your dreams of change are yes and amen in Christ (2Cor.1:20). See that and you will be as God sees you to be; changed utterly.
So Christian, what will you see in 2019?
Will you still see yourself through human wisdom? Will you still see yourself according to what you do, rather than according to what Christ has done? By the end of this year, you may still see yourself as a sinner because the world around you, (even in the church), defines you by your doing, but that’s not going to stop God seeing you as a saint (1Cor.1:30, 2Cor.5:17), nor His Spirit addressing you as such (Phil.1:1). You may see yourself as a half-finished work, with much left to do, but the Father does not see the Son’s work as half-finished, for God sees clearly just how much has been done and 2000 years ago He used His last breath on the Cross to shout it out for all of creation to hear; It is finished! (John 19:30).
The greatest change that can come into a person’s life, is in seeing; seeing the change that Jesus Christ has already achieved for them. If you and I, at the start of this new year, are resolving to try harder to reconcile ourselves to God, to get closer to God, by doing more of this and doing less of that, then we have a problem, but it is not a sinning problem. We have a seeing problem. We are not seeing Christ and Him crucified clearly enough!
What’s the remedy for people who can’t see Christ and Him crucified clearly enough? Paul’s remedy for short-sightedness in every church, whether falling into legalism or immorality, was exactly the same; hold up before them continually, nothing more and nothing less, than Christ and Him crucified (1Cor.2:2), because to see Christ and Him crucified, is to see that you don’t need to reconcile yourself to God. Christ has already done that. When you can see that, you can start to see as God sees. When the Church starts to see as never before, she will start to live as never before and what the world will see is Christ living in His people.
Church, to see ourselves as God sees us in Christ, is to see that we are more than human wisdom and religion have ever told us. In Christ we are not mere men, we are sons of the living God and we are not ashamed of this unbelievable gospel, for it is the power of God unto salvation for all who will see and believe in what Christ has done.