Ezra 2:36-70; 1 Corinthians 1:26-2:5; Psalms 28:1-5; Proverbs 11:4
NT: “God has chosen what is insignificant and despised in the world — what is viewed as nothing — to bring to nothing what is viewed as something, so that no one may boast in his presence. It is from him that you are in Christ Jesus, who became wisdom from God for us — our righteousness, sanctification, and redemption — in order that, as it is written: Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord. When I came to you, brothers and sisters, announcing the mystery of God to you, I did not come with brilliance of speech or wisdom. I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. My speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of wisdom but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not be based on human wisdom but on God’s power.” (1 Corinthians 1:28-2:5 CSB)
It is human nature to be drawn to people who are naturally beautiful, naturally gifted, naturally intriguing and all-together outwardly attractive. Our tendency is to elevate those people to celebrity status and follow them. God, however, does not follow the pattern of human nature. He chooses those people who are not necessarily outwardly attractive. He chooses those who are, in human terms, insignificant and possibly even despised because of their lack of natural beauty and ability. Why does He do that? God does that so that their lack can be outshined by His sufficiency, and their insignificance can be overwhelmed by His significance. God does that so that His power may be manifested in them and be fully on display to the world. In Christ, the naturally unattractive, insignificant and despised become supernaturally attractive, significant and highly valued by the power of God at work in them through the Holy Spirit. Christ and His cross is the big equalizer. All of our natural beauty and ability are valueless when it comes to worthiness and righteousness. All of us, before Christ, were in a similar state spiritually: completely bankrupt. When we placed our faith in Christ and accepted His gift of salvation, He became our wisdom, righteousness, sanctification and redemption. Through Christ and Christ alone, we were saved, are continually being saved, and will be saved at the end of the age. None of us has anything to boast of outside of Christ. So – why is it then, that we who are in Christ still put people in the body of Christ on pedestals?
It is also human nature to devalue something that is simple. We tend to want to dress things up and give them value – to make them more appealing to the eye. According to Paul, the gospel message is simple. It is Jesus Christ, and Him crucified… and it is that simple gospel that is the power of God unto salvation for any who believe it. That is why Paul said that he came to Corinth, not with brilliant speech and impressive philosophies, but with the simple message of the gospel. He didn’t come to Corinth touting his impressive resume, throwing out his stats, or name-dropping those who were impacted by his ministry. No – he came in weakness and the fear of the Lord. Paul wanted to make sure that what people heard was the pure and powerful gospel, and what they saw was a man completely dependent on the Lord, so that they could experience the full, un-watered-down power of God. Paul trusted in God’s simple gospel message and the power of God that was able to save people as they responded to those simple words. Unfortunately, it seems we have lost faith in the simplicity of the Gospel. We have devalued the simple message of Christ and Him crucified and have taken it upon ourselves to help the gospel with our adornments. So we dress the gospel up with pastors who wear trendy clothes, wear expensive shoes, and have impressive bench-press stats. We white-wash the message of the cross so that people aren’t offended. We adorn the gospel with mood lighting, motion graphics, and thumpin’ tunes. What is the effect of all that prettying-up? We make followers of personalities who are dependent on entertainment value instead of people who are followers of Christ that are imbued with His power. Paul said that the “show” came when the Holy Spirit powerfully demonstrated that the words of the gospel were true. I wonder if the reason we feel compelled to create a show in our gatherings is because we haven’t seen the Holy Spirit actually demonstrate any power. God desires a church whose faith is based on Christ and the power of God – not in humanity’s attractive packaging. Is there anything wrong with having a service that is excellent? No. In fact God is worthy of our excellence. But in our excellence in worship to God, we must allow our excellence to be based on His glory through us – not our attempts to become attractive and supplement the gospel we perceive as weak.
Psalms: “Lord, I call to you; my rock, do not be deaf to me. If you remain silent to me, I will be like those going down to the Pit. Listen to the sound of my pleading when I cry to you for help, when I lift up my hands toward your holy sanctuary.” (Psalms 28:1-2 CSB)
As creative, skilled, and talented as David was, he knew and acknowledged that his rock was God. He did not seek to be independently significant, but knew that without God, he was nothing and was always fully dependent on the power and stability of the all-powerful, unshakable God.
Prayer: Lord, help me to not fall into the trap set by my human nature: to base someone’s worth on their natural abilities or attractiveness. Help me instead to trust the work of Your Holy Spirit in them and value them for the value and potential they have in You. Help me to not add to the gospel, but trust fully in its simplicity and power – and not be tempted to “help the gospel out” by overshadowing Christ and the cross by building myself up in the eyes of others. Instead, let whatever significance I have come from You and Your power at work in me and through me. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.