I Cor.2: And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God.2 For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.
3 And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling.
4 And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power:
5 That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.
II Cor.12: 9 And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.
We who follow Jesus should be the most compassionate, humble, merciful, gracious, non-condemning, loving, philanthropic, selfless, meek, and redemptive people in any culture. But, sadly, many people in this culture consider those things a sign of weakness. They are not weakness; they are Jesus.
So just what are the values that accurately define and project Christ in this fallen world? We all know that God is all powerful and can do anything He pleases. If He chose to destroy the entire universe and leave not one atom as evidence He could do it with a word. His power is limitless and eternal and cannot even be comprehended by a human mind. So if we are still here that would indicate that God has chosen not to use His awesome power against us. We understand that God is all knowing and knows everything past, present, and future without having to think as do humans. But does God wish to lord it over us that He is infinitely wiser than us?
And yet the Spirit of God exhorts us to be imitators of God and thereby we become ambassadors for Christ. (II Cor.5:20) Paul exhorts us in Romans chapter 13 to “put on the Lord Jesus Christ”. Well just what does that mean? You see, this individualistic and self centered culture has confused and deceived us into thinking that power is when you wield strength over people. Boldness is usually defined as having a better argument, or being louder and more vocal, or taking a verbal stand for morality of some kind. In fact, many western believers desire to be John the Baptist more than they desire to put on Jesus Christ.
And because there is this affection for western boldness which also emanates from a competitive atmosphere, believers have a sense of standing for truth when they are aggressive and drawing attention to themselves. But if we examine the preponderance of the gospel narratives we will see that Jesus, who was God in the flesh, lived a life that was overwhelmingly defined as humble, compassionate, and loving. The only time He revealed any anger was to the religious Pharisees. But to the world He was the embodiment of redemption to all kinds of sinners.
But showing weakness in this culture is seen as losing. And so many professing believers see weakness in the same light. They seek to overwhelm the forces of darkness through organization and legislation and mobilization and the strength of the democratic process. And as they go about attempting to defeat evil within these fallen systems they inevitable take on the character and nature of that which is against Christ. Loudness and name calling and mockery and demeaning monikers and condescension are employed as they press their agenda which they believe to be divine. But in the final analysis, they do not represent the interests of Christ nor His gospel, and they are not emulating His character through their carnal means and ways.
Which leads us back to the core question. Just how shall we then live? What should be our speech, our behavior, and our heart? And if the exhortation to us is to put on the Lord Jesus Christ, then just how did He live? The word “weakness” as it is normally understood in the culture significantly misrepresents the word as a negative rather than a virtue. We see weakness as subordinate and strength as superior. But as we understand things through the Spirit we will see that weakness for a believer is great strength because it crucifies self and allows Him to come forth through us.
Throughout the New Testament and the teachings of Jesus there are great and wondrous paradoxes. The first shall be last; the servant shall be the master; to die is to live; the least shall be the greatest; and more of these kinds of comparisons which seem completely incongruous with what we have been taught and what we have seen in this fallen culture.
Paul acknowledges and even embraces the concept that he is seen as the offscouring of the world, but today men rise up and say “God doesn’t want us to be a doormat”. That may sound reasonable, but when juxtaposed against the life and teachings of Jesus it is a carnal lie. If we are to understand the word “doormat” as being meek and humble and not returning evil for evil, then yes, we are to be a doormat for Christ. But so many desire to be saved and grow through God’s grace but they take on the mantle of the law for others.
Unless we not only project weakness and humility, but actually embrace them sincerely from the heart, we then are promoting ourselves and not Jesus. The first men who became the disciples of Jesus were in awe of Him and were confused as to His mission. But they held out some hope that He could lead the nation of Israel out of Roman bondage. Peter attempted to project strength and even violence in order to help Christ, however he was to be corrected often. You see, they could not comprehend how anything could really be accomplished through meekness and humility. And so it is today as well.
But there is no greater and more perfect prism through which we can see and understand the life and nature of the Lord Jesus than the cross itself. The church has made the cross a redemptive talisman through which we can gain eternal life and then discard its teachings and example as if they were electives and irrelevant since we have our heavenly ticket already punched. But if we have truly seen and embraced the cross as our only sacrifice for sins, then we also must embrace its essence in our lives. Did you pick up your cross yesterday? Who really even thinks about such things on a daily basis if at all?
And there it is in all its appalling truth.
We have learned the ways of the heathen and adopted them as our own.
Matt.11: 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.
Instead of embracing and heeding those words we find fleshly arguments and carnal weapons much more satisfying to the flesh. Weakness and humility have been all but lost to the church to say nothing of a selfless and sacrificial journey to walk in them. We desire a festival rather than a cemetery; a megaphone rather than a whisper; affirmation rather than persecution; speaking rather than praying. Just consider this horrifying possibility: The church in which we all were members has completely lost the Jesus of the gospels and now lifts up a Jesus who thinks and speaks and does things contrary to His own character and teachings. And while we castigate Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses for preaching another Jesus we ourselves have an orthodox view of the redemptive sacrifice of Jesus but we preach another Jesus as it pertains to His life and teachings. What an incredible incongruity! What a treacherous falsehood!
How can we say we are in awe of the sacrifice of the cross and all its shame and humility and condescension, and yet create a caricature of that Jesus who resembles us and our lusts rather than the Jesus who exhibited the immensity of His love through humbling Himself even to the death of the cross? How is it that Jesus proclaimed that He was not of this world and yet the church plays Him like a marionette that goes about dancing to all the earthly battles and issues? How can it be that God has given Him a name that is above every name and yet we use his name as a political resume stuffer or give it a place in our statements of faith, but then force Him into obscurity when it comes to a visible, tangible, and remarkable manifestation through our lives? How comes He is not of this world and yet we are?
So how do we rectify this dire situation? We begin with an acknowledgement of what we have done accompanied by a sincere repentance. And then? Run, don’t walk, to a deep place of prayer and fall on your knees and begin a sacrificial journey of prayer which sees your life being changed from glory to glory until you are dead and He now lives. We do not need a new reformation. We need a transformation.