Beware the Comfortable Cross

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INTRO: Some years back, when Susan and I were very young, but on our own, we were traveling.
· I don’t remember where we were going, but we had been driving for a long time that day, and were very tired and just wanted to find a place to lay our heads.
· So I pulled into this very affordable-looking motel; no national brand for us because we were young and couldn’t afford the high-priced places.
· So I go to the front desk while Susan waits in the car, and I say, “I would like to get a room.”
· To which the woman behind the desk says, “Do you want it for the whole night?”
· “Uh, yes,” I said, “of course I want it for the whole night!”
· And I thought to myself What kind of place is this?
· Well, it turns out that the question I thought to myself should have been the question I asked out loud because, I would later come to realize it was NOT the kind of place a young MARRIED COUPLE would want to stay at; it was more like a place that young (or old) UN-married couples might want to stay at.
· Actually, though, it was more like a place that married people might want to stay at, but only if they were NOT married to the one they were staying with on that particular night!
· Are you catching my drift?
· If you are, I’m glad you are because that night I was not catching any drift!
· The next question out of the lady’s mouth should have given me another clue as to what kind of place it was, because she asked, “Do you need clean sheets?”
· To which I answered, “YES! I need clean sheets!”
· And, again, I thought to myself What kind of place is this?
· And, again, I will confess to you, I should have asked that question out loud first!
· But, I guess they wouldn’t have been honest about that, anyway, because in order to answer that question honestly they would have had to say, “Well, this is not the kind of place you want to bring your young wife.”
o I don’t think they would have been that honest.
· So, not catching any drift (I think I needed some “woman-splaining”), I paid my $24.95, collected my clean sheets from the front desk lady, and went back to the car so I could find a good parking space closer to the room I had just paid for – for the WHOLE night – with my CLEAN sheets – so we could finally get some rest.
· When I get back in the car Susan says, “What’s that in your hand?”
· “Clean sheets,” I say!
· She says, “Clean sheets? Are there not clean sheets already on the bed?”
· So I say, “I don’t know, but I have them here. Maybe their cleaning crew forgot to put clean sheets in this particular room after they, no doubt, scoured every last bit of dirt from the place, or something. I don’t know.”
· At that moment I knew what Susan was thinking – What kind of place is this?
· So we park the car, we grab our luggage, and exhausted from the road, we entered our room.
· We flip on the light, and as the darkness left the room so did about a dozen or so cock roaches!
· We stood there for a minute and looked at the room, and Susan said, “Huh uh! No way!” and turned around and walked out.
· And I’m left there to think What kind of place is this?
· Well, we got our money back, and rolled on to the next national brand we could find.
There was no way we were going to stay at that first motel and have any level of comfort, whatsoever!
· We would have been too worried about the roaches, or the general creepiness of the whole experience of getting the room, or a host of other things that would not let that place and the word comfort dwell in the same universe!
· Comfort. We thought we were tired and any place to lay our heads would do, but as it turned out, comfort trumps tiredness sometimes.
All told, our society places pretty high value on comfort.
· There’s a lot of money to be made on products that enhance people’s comfort.
· Motel and hotel chains now advertise the kinds of mattresses they have, or pillows…
· Memory foam for your bed, your shoes, your office chairs, your pillows, and Lazy-boys for your living room.
· Product after product that tries to appeal to us based on the concept of…comfort!
On top of that, there are TV shows that exploit our love of comfort.
· Ever heard of the show Dirty Jobs or Fear Factor?
· There’s a new season of American Idol on right now, and that show can make me very uncomfortable
· But thankfully, I’m sit on my cushioned couch, laughing or wincing, all the while grateful that I am comfortable, and don’t have to do that job, that challenge, or sing to world famous people!
· We LOVE our comfort!
But there’s a danger in loving comfort too much, and I don’t just mean putting on extra pounds.
· See, it seems that as we’ve continued to put more and more of an emphasis on being comfortable, our faith has followed suit.
o I’m gonna step on some toes, but many Christians act as though our comfort is guaranteed by scripture.
o It’s quite the opposite!
o But, that doesn’t matter, because we aren’t going to rest in the American church until, for example, Joy Behar apologizes for calling VP Pence mentally ill for being a Christian.
o We should grow up, read our Bibles and understand that THAT IS JUST THE WAY IT IS, and THAT is scriptural.
We are not here to be cottled and comforted, but to present a sometimes very uncomfortable message.
· We’ve become Christians used to comfort.
· We come to our buildings that are warm in the winter and air conditioned in the summer.
· Our pews-chairs are padded.
· Even our Bibles are mostly soft, leather bound books, easy on the hands.
· And before you know it, it’s not just the pews that are padded.
· If we are not careful, the messages are padded with easy teaching.
· The doctrine becomes lifeless and leathery, and eventually the message of the Messiah becomes moral code mush.
Luke 9:23 NIV
Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.
· So what do comfort-craving Christians do with something like the cross?
· I mean, it’s pretty hard to avoid the cross when you’re a Christian, right?
· What can you do with a phrase like, “take up your cross”?
· What I’ve found is that comfort-seeking Christians eventually find a way to even make the cross comfortable.
· They create a comfortable idea of the cross and what it means for us today to take up our crosses.
· So the phrase, “We all have our crosses to bear” gets thrown around loosely, referring to even the most menial or everyday tasks and inconveniences.
o “Joy Behar called me a name!”
o “I’m not going to really read my Bible, and I’m not going to do ANYTHING remotely resembling what Jesus did on this earth, but I am going to cry like a baby because Joy Behar called me a name!”
o “I’m so offended, and now I’m uncomfortable!”
And the cross gets pushed to the back of our lives, our sermons and Bible studies, only making its annual appearance at Easter.
· And even though it’s on our churches, our t-shirts, and around our necks, we end up with a comfortable cross.
But what else are we supposed to do, right?
· The cross is a tough sell.
· It’s bad enough that Jesus had to die on the cross, but why did He have to go and insist we all end up with our own crosses?
· Isn’t that kind of ruining Christianity’s hope for decent public relations?
· Doesn’t the cross hinder our ability to recruit new people?
· You’re supposed to put your best foot forward, right?
· And don’t we want more people to come to Jesus?
· That’s supposed to be the point, isn’t it?
· Having more people come to Jesus.
· So we try our best to make Christianity sound as appealing as possible, but what have we sacrificed in return?
In First Corinthians chapter 1 Paul talks about how the world sees the cross – in verse 18 he writes,...
1 Corinthians 1:18 NIV
For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
For those living in the first century the cross was the ultimate symbol of weakness.
· For many, then and now, the message of the Gospel – that God came to earth in the form of man and was crucified – is complete foolishness.
I mean why would God use a symbol of torture, of death, of weakness to save the world?
· I suppose the idea of the cross seems more appealing to us because it’s no longer used to execute people and we’ve dressed it up.
· We are used to seeing the cross as an ornament, decoration or a piece of jewelry.
· But if a First Century Jew came in and saw an illuminated cross hanging from our building – they would think we were sick.
· Imagine people walking around with a guillotine hanging around their neck or an electric chair dangling from their ears.
· For the Jews the cross meant weakness.
And I think that’s God’s point.
· That’s what makes the cross so beautiful.
· God takes what from a human perspective is foolish.
· He chooses what has no glory and carries no honor.
· He finds the least likely symbol for love and life and says, “I’ll use that.”
· God takes what the world says is foolish, demeaning, and shameful, and says “Watch this” and turns it into the power of salvation.
First Corinthians 1:18 says that he turns the foolishness of the cross into the power of salvation.
1 Corinthians 1:22–23 NIV
Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles,
1 Corinthians 1:25 NIV
For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.
Who else but God could take a cross that represented defeat – and turn it into a symbol of victory? Who else but God could take a cross that represented guilt – and turn it into the symbol for grace?
Who else but God could take a cross that represented condemnation – and turn it into a symbol of freedom?
Who else but God could take a cross that represented pain and suffering – and turn it into symbol of healing and hope?
Who else but God could take a cross that represented death –
and turn it into a symbol of life?
No one else could, but He can.
· What seems like the ultimate moment of God’s weakness was in reality the ultimate moment of God’s strength.
· Here’s why that matters.
· Here’s what I don’t want you to miss.
· This is our one point for this lesson, and it’s so important, it’s the only thing you need to get from this morning.

What God Did For the Cross, He Can Do for You!

When you are the weakest – you are exactly where you need to be for God to be the strongest.
· The upside down truth of the cross is that when you are weak – you are strong.
· It’s not that God used the cross in spite of its weakness – he chose the cross because of its weakness.
Paul says that God chooses the weak things.
· Throughout Scripture God would continually choose the weak over the strong.
· It’s easy to find examples of that:
o Abraham was old,
o Jacob was insecure,
o Leah was unattractive,
o Joseph was humiliated,
o Moses stuttered,
o Gideon was poor,
o Samson was proud,
o Rahab was immoral,
o David had an affair,
o Elijah was suicidal,
o Jeremiah was depressed,
o Jonah was disobedient,
o Naomi was a widow,
o John the Baptist was eccentric to say the least,
o Peter was impulsive & hot-tempered,
o Martha worried a lot,
o the Samaritan woman had several failed marriages,
o Zacchaeus was unpopular,
o Thomas had doubts,
o Paul had poor health,
o & Timothy was timid.
· The Bible is a long list of imperfect misfits who discovered that weakness is strength.
· So this morning we should pray, “God, do for us what you did for the cross.”
Though it seems backward to us, God teaches us that when we think we’re strong we’re really weak – but when we acknowledge our weakness and humble ourselves before the Lord we put ourselves in a position to receive His strength.
· Paul talks more about this truth in his second letter to the Corinthians.
2 Corinthians 12:9–10 NIV
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
Paul says I delight in my weakness – because when I am weak, then I am strong.
· Now I don’t know anyone who naturally delights in their weakness.
· In fact most of us go to great lengths to disguise our weaknesses.
· Like when you’re on a job interview and they ask the dreaded question, “What’s your greatest weakness?”
· How do you answer that?
· Well I tell what you don’t do – you don’t tell them your weakness – because if you do, they aren’t going to hire you.
· You don’t say “I’m never on time – I constantly procrastinate – I have trouble getting along with coworkers – I am not sure how to turn on computer.”
· You don’t say that.
· But you have to say something. What do you say?
· Well you try to come up with a weakness that sounds more like a strength – I can be a little bit of a perfectionist.
· Or you say – I tend to be a bit of a workaholic.
· Why do we do that?
· Because in our world – in our economy – weakness isn’t strength – strength is strength.
· There some 2000 self-help books published every year that communicate one message – you can do it.
· You have what it takes.
· Look deep and find the strength within yourself.
· But Paul says strength comes when we realize our weakness.
When Zoe was very little she liked to carry a backpack (or, pack-pack, as she called it).
· She’d say “Daddy, I’m taking my pack-pack ‘cause it has my “cessories” in there.”
· She wanted to carry her stuff, mostly because she saw Mommy carry her stuff around in a small shipping container that she called/calls a purse.
· The only problem was, sometimes, when we were out somewhere she got tired of carrying her pack-pack, and I might have to carry it.
· Then, if she is really got tired, after I’d taker her pack-pack she would say “Daddy. I’m tired. Can you carry me?”
· So I scoop her up, too.
· That’s okay.
· Like children do, she admitted her weakness, and I, like most any parent was there to help her.
· I was happy to carry not only my daughter’s load, her pack-pack, but to also carry her.
I want to learn a lesson from my daughter – I want to admit my weakness – I want to ask God to show his strength in my life.
· To do for me what he did for the cross.
· It’s part of my pride that I want to carry my own load – and I refuse to admit my weakness.
· But the cross makes it clear that when I am weak – He is strong.
And that’s a test for true followers.
· Will you, like Christ did before us, trust God enough to let your weakness be His strength?
· Because it’s when we let go of our need for comfort,
o our need to be in control,
o our need to glory in our strengths or accomplishments or our paycheck or our trophies or our co-workers’ approval
o or whatever it is that keeps you from abandoning a comfortable version of the cross—
o it’s then that God does in our lives what he did in Christ’s death.
· It’s then that God does in our hearts what He did for the cross.
· And He takes followers who were hanging by a thread and bolsters their spirits.
· He takes followers who were at their weakest moment and uses it for enormous kingdom good.
· He takes followers who are all but defeated and He turns their testimonies into life-giving messages of truth and hope, all to His glory.

God, do for us what you did for the Cross!

Let us pray…
God, do for us what you did for the Cross.
· Do for me, do for this church, do for this city, do for this nation, do for this world what you did for the Cross, that we might begin to understand why you chose such an uncomfortable means of self-sacrifice.
· Do for us what you did for the Cross.
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