Passion Week Prayer Guide - Thursday: Mouth Conformed To The Gospel

Thursday: Mouth Conformed to the Gospel

A MAN WHO FIRST TRIED TO GUESS “WHAT THE PUBLIC WANTS” AND THEN PREACHED THAT AS CHRISTIANITY BECAUSE THE PUBLIC WANTS IT, WOULD BE A PRETTY MIXTURE OF FOOL AND KNAVE.

C.S. LEWIS, LETTERS TO MALCOLM: CHIEFLY ON PRAYER

TO PREACH CHRIST IS TO FEED THE SOUL, TO JUSTIFY IT, TO SET IT FREE, AND TO SAVE IT, IF IT BELIEVES THE PREACHING.

MARTIN LUTHER, ON CHRISTIAN LIBERTY

I. Scripture

a. Read 1 Corinthians 1:17-2:3.

b. Imagine a world much like the one we inhabit: wise, reasonable, focused on what is deemed fashionable by the intelligentsia. And then, there’s the Cross. Imagine what it would be like to live in a cosmopolitan city like Corinth, a city that was both debauched and a center for intellectual debate. Imagine the alienation you would feel when confronting your business partners, your intellectual peers, your family and friends, with the truth of a marginal Jew who came to die for the sins of the world—and then rose from the dead as the vindicated Lord of All. Foolish then— foolish now. But the gospel proves to be the “folly” of God that saves a fallen world.

c. Do you view yourself as “wise”? Why or why not? Is the Cross still scandalous to you? Is it a scandal because it upsets your self-reliance, your desire for self- justification (Galatians 2:5)? Is the Cross “foolish” to you?

d. When are you tempted to empty the Cross of its “foolishness”? What seems foolish about the gospel to people now? Ask God to give you clarity of vision and expression so that you do not empty the cross of Christ of its power (1:17).

II. Reading

"After I have explained the way of Christ to somebody I say, “Now, are you ready to say you are a Christian?” And they hesitate.... [They] say, “I don’t feel like I’m good enough yet. I don’t think I’m ready to say I’m a Christian now.” And at once I know that I have been wasting my breath. They are still thinking in terms of themselves. They have to do it. It sounds very modest to say, “Well, I don’t think I’m good enough,” but it’s a very denial of the faith. The very essence of the Christian faith is to say that He is good enough and I am in Him. As long as you go on thinking about yourself like that and saying, “I’m not good enough; Oh, I’m not good enough,” you are denying God—you are denying the gospel—you are denying the very essence of the faith and you will never be happy. You think you’re better at times and then again you will find you are not as good at other times than you thought you were. You will be up and down forever." (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Spiritual Depression: Its Causes and Cures)

III. Reflections

a. Reflect on the Folly of the Cross: Outside of Christ, nothing can save you from judgment. In Christ, nothing can condemn you to judgment (Romans 8:1). Religions are about doing something to achieve some better state—whether Nirvana, moksha, Elysium, or some ill-defined place. In the gospel, God brings us into relationship with Him in exchange for nothing, for he is not like the petty gods of the world that need something from us (Psalm 50:9) and His heaven is so much richer and thicker than can be expressed (Revelation 21:1-27).

b. Reflect on your Teaching of the Cross: It’s so tempting to preach something other than Christ and Him crucified, isn’t it? Millenials tend toward “moralistic therapeutic deism” (Christian Smith and Melinda Denton, Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers), where God is basically a decent grandpa who wants us to be happy and safe. Does your teaching reflect that kind of God, that kind of “good news?” Others would like some good advice about stuff. Many favor talking about the Bible as a piece of religious literature that is there to uplift us. Where do you falter in your teaching and preaching? Where is the power of the gospel to rescue sinners in your teaching? Yes, it is folly, but it is wiser than man’s strength (1 Corinthians 1:25).

IV. The Lord’s Prayer

V. Ending Prayers

a. Confess—those areas where you have smoothed out the rough edges of the gospel. Ask God to grant you insight into those areas where you may be doing it and simply do not know it. Ask others in your circle how they perceive your teaching. Is it with power, or is it simply “good advice”? Do you mistake “gospel power” for you just being a direct person? Do you mistake “pondering the deep things of God” for you just being a quiet person? Ask God for more wisdom and godly conviction (2 Corinthians 7:10), which leads to joyful change (Luke 19:1-10).

b. Pray—that God would give you a mind that is fitted for the gospel! Pray that your feet would be fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace (Ephesians 6:15)! That your mind, transformed and being transformed to greater conformity to Christ’s (1 Corinthians 2:16; 2 Corinthians 3:18) would be ready to speak the gospel in all of its wondrous and confounding folly (Romans 1:16). Ask God that He would give you a heart that is soft (Ezekiel 36:26) and ready for a renewed season of growth in the beauties of the gospel of our glorious God (2 Corinthians 3:18).

c. Praise—God that He is not bound by the shifting fashions of our fickle world. His ways are most certainly not our ways, nor our thoughts His (Isaiah 55:8) and He is absolutely free to do as He pleases. Praise God for His wondrous folly of saving sinners!

Father God, I am smart. Or, I should say I want to look smart. Who wants to look dumb? I bring this into my “secular” (though nothing is outside of your purview) and my “sacred” (though all is made sacred by your presence) lives. I want to appear sensible or knowledgeable or urbane or professional or political or not-political or “hard-to-categorize” or whatever—forgetting that my ultimate identity is in the folly of the Cross. That folly saves me, and it is the hope of the entire world. God, thank you for this indescribable gift! I pray that, as I teach and disciple and train and evangelize, that my words would be doused in the wonder of your saving love of sinners. In Jesus’s saving name I pray, Amen.