Evidence of Pride: Preaching More Than Christ Crucified
Paul was so gospel-centered and humble, it was crazy. I wanna be like that someday. You could tell that Christ was his treasure because nothing was too big a sacrifice for Paul to make, if it meant that the name of Jesus would be lifted higher through his life.
So, Paul was beaten and ridiculed for this ministry that he claimed God had given him. He wasn’t gonna stop preaching in the face of persecution. He truly was unashamed of the gospel (Romans 1.16).
What was the gospel Paul preached? Christ and Him crucified. That was it. Really. That was it. You might think that sounds basic and foundational. I’d agree, it sure is. But how well do we know the basics? How well do I know the basics? What does it look like to preach the gospel Paul preached?
The gospel Paul preached could be summed up in two words: mercy and grace. That is, Jesus mercifully spared us what we do deserve (an eternity of punishment away from His presence) and graciously guaranteed us a hope and a future and a joy that we don’t deserve (an eternity with God where there is endless fullness of joy). Jesus did that at the cross for us.
In a nutshell, that’s the gospel. Jesus is the gospel. Paul knew that, and it changed his entire life. Check out how Paul did gospel-centered ministry:
And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.
That’s from 2 Corinthians chapter 2. Does that not seem practically ridiculous? Weakness and trembling. That’s how Paul did ministry. Why? Why didn’t he strive to become an A+ orator? Why didn’t he try to cover up his flaws so that his messiness wouldn’t distract people from God?
I think Paul understood that being a perfect speaker or flawless leader would distract people from God. He realized the danger in which it is so easy for articulate and confident ministers of the gospel to become ensnared. Namely, he might speak so well or portray himself in such a good light that no one would even see Christ. Maybe then they’d only see Paul.
The gospel is about God. So, if I present myself in a perfect light… if I hide my weaknesses so that God and I are the only two people who can see them… then I am basically saying that I want to look powerful in the eyes of people more than I want God to look powerful in the eyes of people. I am basically saying that I would rather lie to myself and people around me so that my fake reputation could be preserved, than be honest about my weaknesses so that God could show how powerful He is by using me anyway.
I’m such a prideful person. I live to glorify myself constantly. Sometimes I read the Bible just to find a word that I could somehow use in my teaching to bring honor to Joe Eaton. Sometimes I even welcome difficult situations into my life just so I would have an excuse to talk about hard truth in a way that wows my audience. How wicked is that? That’s how I live, apart from the amazing grace of my Father.
I don’t wanna do that anymore. I wanna do what Paul did. I wanna live how Paul lived: denying my flesh, boasting of my weaknesses, killing my ego, refusing to feed the idol of the praise of man in my heart… that’s how God will make His power manifest and beautiful to the world around me, through me (the same power that raised Jesus from the dead and purchased all of His promises for believers). I wanna do that because the most loving thing I can do for you is to display the power and love of God by living the gospel, and then pray desperately that God would flatten me and destroy any pedestal I may build for myself, so that the world would only see His beauty through my life. That’s love. And I truly wanna love you, because If I am not living in love, I am living in hate. There is no middle ground.
So, please pray that God would leave my ego undone… and then somehow, in His ridiculously awesome, miracle-working way, bring honor to Himself through this wretched life that He continues to sustain.