Preaching that Addresses Spiritual Emptiness: Are We Sharing Wisdom or Foolishness?
Text: 1 Corinthians 1:18-31

by Bob Young
[permission is given to reprint with credit noted]

The human experience of emptiness is not uncommon. We experience hunger, we know thirst. We understand what it means to be emotionally and physically drained. We can describe mental tiredness. We also experience spiritual emptiness, and we desire to be filled, but filled with what? In the midst of poverty, mud may temporarily remove hunger pangs, but the relief is symptomatic and does not address the real problem. Those adrift on the ocean may find that salt water temporarily assuages thirst, but we know that it really only makes the situation worse.

In the same way, when we feel our spiritual emptiness, what will really fill us? What will do more than temporarily remove our spiritual hunger pangs and our spiritual thirst? With what are we being filled? In our text, Paul says that the real source of life is considered foolishness by many. The world seeks signs and wisdom. Today, the world seeks experiences and feelings that appear to indicate spiritual life. Today, the world seeks knowledge and understanding as an indication of spirituality. Such searches reflect human standards. God does not work in the ways human beings value. God works in the midst of frailty, commonness, weakness, lowliness, and invisibility. God works behind the scenes to develop within us righteousness, holiness, and redemption, not in our own experiences but in Jesus Christ as God's wisdom.

Many churches have all but taken God out of their services and worship assemblies. The focus is not on things above but on things around us and things within us. Those who attend want to leave feeling "pumped" rather than feeling humbled and rescued. We seek excitement and emotional experiences rather than God's presence. We focus on one another while we leave God out. We call attention to ourselves more than to God. We talk to one another more than we talk to God. We spend more time in fellowship than in prayer. We try to do before we know what to do. We try to run when we cannot even stand up.

I am helped by being in the presence of spiritual people. I would rather be around well people than sick people. But when I am sin-sick and spiritually tired, what I most need is the renewal of God's energy within me. I need God before I need others. Show me God and his "foolishness" before you show me human wisdom and appeals. Preach the message of the cross before you shame me with innumerable applications in my life.

Our tendency as preachers is to think that everyone already knows, but Paul continues the thought of the text in the next chapter (2:2): "I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified." Whatever we preach, let us make certain our preaching reflects God's wisdom and not human wisdom. Let us make certain we share the message of the cross, and not merely a message about the cross, or even worse, a message about shaping up our lives because of the cross. The power is still in knowing Christ and not merely in knowing about Christ.

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Last updated April 22, 2011