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The Key to Life

As we traverse through life, from time to time, we look for something that is the key to happiness, success, and fulfillment.
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Some of us do this by looking for signs. Something significant happens, an event that triggers something in our brains for us to say, “that’s a sign that I am on the right track!” or “that’s a sign that I need to do such-and-such.” We look around for signals to direct our ways, things people say or do, those directions signs in life telling us the way to go. When something like that happens, we tell ourselves, “now I know what I must do with my life!”

Others take a more academic route. Perhaps we research personality traits to see in what direction we should head. Or we read self-help books or even go back to college to obtain that extra nugget of information we’ve been missing all this time. We have “aha!” moments when we realize we’re an INFP on the Myer-Briggs personality chart or get deeply interested in some profound concept that we have to find out about more.

Some of us do this by looking for signs…. others take a more academic route.

Whichever bracket we fall into, we think that by going through the process of discovery, we will find out what career to follow, how to raise our kids, what interests we should pursue, and what philosophy we should have in different aspects of our lives.

However, in our reading from 1 Corinthians 1, the apostle Paul offers us all a third way. He tells us that if we fall into the former way of thinking, we’re just like the Jews and if the latter, we’re like the Greeks. In verse 22, he says, “For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom.” He then tells us that neither is the key to life, “but we preach Christ crucified” (v23).

Earlier in the chapter, Paul wrote,

“For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” (v18).

In the next chapter, he continues to theme by saying,

“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.” (v1-2).

Jesus Christ and him crucified is not about looking for signs or seeking after wisdom. Those things are both like grasping at the air, where we think we’ve found the key but then become disillusioned when we realize we still feel the same or the problem is still there. Jesus Christ and him crucified is the substantial, meaningful answer to all our problems, and it works.

Jesus Christ and him crucified is not about looking for signs or seeking after wisdom

But we don’t like it. Paul also said the message of the cross is “a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles” (v23).I might reply, “not to me, it isn’t. I’ve read books on the Atonement and could give a class on it.”

That’s great, but the cross of Christ demands of us more than our very Jewish-like ritualism, interrupting our nice comfy religion with the need to deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Christ. When we realize the cost of discipleship, it becomes a stumbling block to us, as it did for the Jews.

Neither does it make sense, from a Gentile wisdom point-of-view. You fail in life unless you find self-actualization. We believe we need to strive to continually better ourselves to reach our full potential. But the cross is about denying myself and serving others instead of number one. The emblem of a man nailed to a cross, and all that it signifies is foolishness to the Gentile mind.

the cross is about denying myself and serving others instead of number one.

But Paul’s message to the Corinthians, despite our protestations, is that the cross of Christ works. We wrestle against its message, but when we submit to it, we find our relationships improve, our hopes rise, our path is cleared, and the focus on eternal life brought plainly into view.

Richard Morgan
Simi Hills, CA

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Jesus Christ has all the answers for our understanding of the Scriptures.
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