This is an excerpt from my new book, Remarkable, which releases September 3rd. Click here to pre-order.

Paul knew that he could blow endless amounts of time chasing down every manifestation of Corinthian waywardness he saw, or else he could labor to demonstrate the gospel, trusting the Spirit to draw tenderized hearts. He chose the latter, which I find instructive for you and me, given the culture we find ourselves in. As you might guess, the people of Corinth were spiritually stubborn. They’d found new freedom, they’d found new resourcefulness, they’d found new opportunities, they’d found new wealth. But Paul knew that even as this new path seemed stimulating and satisfying to Corinthian believers, any path that led to opposition to God was a destructive one. A fatal crash was in their future, he was sure. 

Thus, the level-setting reminders: Believers, remember what you’ve believed, he pleaded with them. Christ came. Christ died. Christ rose again from the dead. By his power, we can live differently now … 

I imagine Paul vying for Corinthian hearts in this way for a full eighteen months and feel exhausted on his behalf. It’s tiring to call people to change! A friend asked me why I was so tired one Monday, and I said, “I’m always tired on Mondays. Mondays come after Sundays, and on Sundays, I’m putting 100 percent of my energies toward pleading with people to change.” 

I can speak at a conference or do an hour-long radio interview or lead back-to-back meetings and go home feeling great. But preaching? It’s a different beast. When you go up against the gods of this age and ask people to imagine a fresh way of living, a wholly different direct object of their faith, the energy tank gets tapped—and fast. I think of Paul coming off of Philippi and setting foot on this eighteen-month journey to compel Corinth back to Christ, and my heart goes out to him. This would be an uphill climb, if ever there were one. And yet he knew it was a climb that had to be made. 

And so he looked into the eyes of those believers at Corinth and said with the compassion of a loving dad to a son that they’d traded something stunning for something sordid. Their pursuit of pleasure had replaced their pursuit of God. They had valued their own ways above the ways of their Father. They now craved chaos instead of peace. 

Come back, Paul was imploring them, come back to the cross of Christ. 

It wasn’t exactly what his listeners wanted to hear. Who wants to talk about a cross? 

As Christians, we have made the cross palatable. We put flowers around it. We cast it in gold, thread a chain through it, and feel noble about wearing it around our necks. But when Paul was on the earth, the cross represented serious business. This Roman method of execution was so bloody and tortuous and awful that you never would have even alluded to it in polite company, let alone glorified it. For Paul to preach about a Christ, a Messiah, the Son of God, being crucified was an awful way to start a conversation. Crucifixion was a shameful way to die, and nobody wanted to be reminded that the One they were following, the One they’d devoted their lives to, had been murdered on a Roman cross. This was a culture that celebrated the big, the bold, the successful, the strong, the sensual, the popular, the rich. This image of a poor, weak, vulnerable Jesus being put to death in this manner went against everything they esteemed. Which is precisely why Paul started there. The power of entertainment, of sex, and of money gets broken only by the power of the cross. 

It is by the power of the cross that believers can live blamelessly. 

It is by the power of the cross that unity can have its way. 

It is by the power of the cross that churches can operate harmoniously. 

It is by the power of the cross that humility can mark a human heart. 

It is by the power of the cross that deception gets defeated. 

It is by the power of the cross that sin loses its allure. 

It is by the power of the cross that true love is practiced. 

It is by the power of the cross that cultures see genuine change. 

Paul knew that the practical shifts he was asking believers at Corinth to make would happen only by the power of the cross, and so instead of shaking his fist or stomping his feet or disparaging the ones he was hoping to serve, he simply fixed his gaze on the old rugged cross, trusting that there, every wrong would be made right.

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