Saturday, June 20, 2015

Fools For Christ

(Message Preached August 21, 2005 at Grace Fellowship Church)
Listen Here: http://youtu.be/eKYnRDx8RMQ

Let me read today’s passage: 1 Corinthians 1:18-31 "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. 19 For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,  and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.” 

20 Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. 22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

26 For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. 30 He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, whom God made our wisdom and our righteousness and sanctification and redemption. 31 Therefore, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

 Albert Einstein was one of the most intelligent men ever to live.  What is the difference between intelligence (intellectual ability) & wisdom (knowledge insight & judgment[1] )?

The world esteems wisdom.  We look for conventional wisdom, we study the wisdom of others.  Listen to some comments on wisdom by people over the ages:

Mohandas K. Gandhi:  It is unwise to be too sure of one's own wisdom. It is healthy to be reminded that the strongest might weaken and the wisest might err.

Pierre Abelard: The beginning of wisdom is found in doubting; by doubting we come to the question, and by seeking we may come upon the truth.

Lin Yutang: Besides the noble art of getting things done, there is the noble art of leaving things undone. The wisdom of life consists in the elimination of non-essentials.

Cicero: The function of wisdom is to discriminate between good and evil.

Stephen Hawking  [E]ver since the dawn of civilization, people have not been content to see events as unconnected and inexplicable. They have craved an understanding of the underlying order in the world. Today we still yearn to know why we are here and where we came from. Humanity’s deepest desire for knowledge is justification enough for our continuing quest. And our goal is nothing less than a complete description of the universe we live in.

Solomon The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.[2]

Helen Keller I do not want the peace that passeth understanding. I want the understanding which bringeth peace.

A lot has been written about wisdom, but God has some things to say about foolishness.

OUTLINE

Thesis: 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.

How could the message that our Savior died be good?  It is that idea that the world finds impossible to comprehend.  Yet I wonder how many of us who take the title of Christian really understand this ourselves?  How is the crucifixion of Jesus the power of God  to us?  Trying to understand this with human wisdom & philosophy will only bankrupt you spiritually.  Listen to this:

 19 For it is written, (In Isaiah 29:14) “ I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,  and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.” 20 Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe.

By human wisdom it is foolish to believe the savior of the world would be killed as a lowdown criminal on a cross!  Paul helps us to understand this by speaking of the mystery of the church.  The church was not an entity referred to by the prophets, or Moses or any other OT source.  Yet we can see through the OT God’s lovingkindness to the foreigner.  Rahab the Harlot, though a foreigner and a sinner whose reputation was known to all has her name included in the genealogical line of Christ.  Ruth, also a foreigner not only has her name in Christ’s line but also a book of the Bible named for her. This is what Paul says in Ephesians:

Paul in Ephesians said, “To bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things, 10 so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. 11 This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord”[3]

Where are we to turn for God’s manifold wisdom?  The church!  The wisdom of the world, while of some value, pertains only to this physical place.  If you want wisdom that surpasses this world, you need the Wisdom of God.  Look at what Solomon says on this matter:

Solomon  What gain has the worker from his toil? 10 I have seen the business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with. 11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. 12 I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live; 13 also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil—this is God’s gift to man.[4]

Did you notice that bit about eternity?  he has put eternity into man’s heart We desire to know that which is beyond our sphere of knowledge.  But Solomon takes it further,  yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. God has limited our field of knowledge.  He has limited what we can learn of Him & His plans.  Only by His Spirit can we know more of Him than is manifest in the world.  All of us, all of us in the human race, Christian’s & non-believers alike can only learn so much of Him and His works.  But by His Spirit we can know much more. 

22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

1. Humanly speaking:
How was salvation effected among the Jews?  Obey The Law.  The Christ was to conquer the Romans and become King!  His purpose was not to save them Spiritually, They had that wrapped up in the Law.  He was to save them nationally. When He came into Jerusalem on a donkey, that was to symbolize (in their eyes) a conquering King.  Instead He let them crucify Him!  As Paul speaks, Christ crucified is a stumbling Block to the Jews.  They could not reconcile this humble lamb-like person as a conquering King!  Paul also quotes from Isaiah, They have stumbled over the stumbling stone, 33 as it is written, “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense; and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.”[5]  As a matter of fact, they weren’t all wrong about Christ coming as a conquering King..  They will see Christ as a conquering King, but not until the 2nd coming.
 
a.       How was salvation effected among the Greeks?  Believe in something.  Paul demonstrates this and the reasoning the Greeks had in an encounter with some Greeks at Athens.  Listen to this:

Paul to the Greeks Now while Paul was waiting for them at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him as he saw that the city was full of idols. 17 So he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and the devout persons, and in the marketplace every day with those who happened to be there. 18 Some of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers also conversed with him. And some said,  “What does this babbler wish to say?” Others said, “He seems to be a preacher of foreign divinities”—because he was preaching Jesus and the resurrection. 19 And they took hold of him and brought him to the Areopagus, saying, “May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting? 20 For you bring some strange things to our ears. We wish to know therefore what these things mean.” 21 Now all the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there would spend their time in nothing except telling or hearing something new..…[GOD] has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”  32 Now when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked. But others said, “We will hear you again about this.” [6]

Why do the Greeks want to believe in something, in anything?   For that matter why do we today like to believe in something?  Be cause of that “God shaped void” spoken of by Solomon when he speaks of eternity in our hearts.  Human wisdom is trapped by God’s desire that we can’t know everything from beginning to the end.

b.      How is salvation effected in America today?  Save Yourself. 

Relationships can save you:    Desperate Housewives, Friends, Sex in the City

Sex can save you:                    The Porn industry has grown immensely since the internet.

Money can save you:              Easy credit is the answer to all our troubles-Just charge it!

Stuff can save you:                 Everything consumers can think of is available for a price.

Serve yourself:                        You deserve a break today; Have it your way;

What is the Gospel?  Is it recognizing you’re a sinner & God has a wonderful plan for your life?  No!!!   It is the message of the cross!  That our sins are nailed to the Cross with Christ is the greatest news anyone could hear.  Did you ever notice that we like to celebrate Easter, but not Good Friday.  Why do you suppose that is?  Of course we pay lip service to Good Friday, and most of us know why we call Good Friday good, but Easter only validates the sacrifice on Friday was effective for all, since only God could raise himself from the dead.  Jesus death on the cross is the good news because now our sins could be forgiven.  Why are we so squeamish about the Cross?  Listen to Paul:

 Paul  For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.[7]
 
Is it simply the shame of the cross we shrink from?  Perhaps it is only when we are broken that God’s wisdom can break through our thick skulls?!  David spoke of His desiring a broken & contrite heart above a sacrifice.  Sometimes I think it is easier to give a few dollars in the plate than to let my spirit be broken in humility.  Listen to Paul again,

Paul  O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. 2 Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? [8]
 
They knew the crucifixion was real and the reason was forgiveness of our sins, yet the works of the law were so much easier!  It’s much harder to live by principal than by law.  We should live by the principals of Loving God & Loving our neighbor.  For our sanctification, our holy living, we need to stand by principals as well as the rules of society. 

26 For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.  

  1. Examine yourselves.  Are you Wise, Powerful, from Noble Birth?  How does this affect your acceptance of Christ?  Who are we, to appear before the God of the universe? 
Yesterday, James MacDonald shared with us men that we are ordinary.  We are not that different from one another.  In fact, he looked at someone who most of us would look at as extraordinary, King David.  The man Scripture records as being after God’s own heart.  This man, David, was an ordinary man.  James MacDonald tested us on it , asking us what miracle David did?  David’s fame came not from his extraordinariness,  but from his connectedness to God’s Spirit. Samuel took the horn of oil  and anointed him in the midst of his brothers. And the Spirit of the Lord rushed upon David from that day forward.[9]  We are important only through Him!  We have no special qualities beyond our other brothers & sisters!  By the Cross we can come unhindered to Him who frees us from the penalty of our sins.  We can not only come to Him, but do so unashamed knowing our sins are forgiven.  Our petitions will be heard and we can know that God really does take interest in us! Listen to the way Jesus esteems children:

Jesus  At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; 26 yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. 27 All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. 28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”[10]

Children have a special place in God’s economy.  Why? Because they simply believe God.  Something innocent in the heart of a child has God’s heart. I believe that something is humility.  When have you seen a child boast in himself?  He boasts in his Dad or His Mom.  His strength come from another.  I have a funny story to share with you about my son Benjamin.  When he was 4 years old we were visiting my folks.  My brother took him and his cousin Jacob, 6 at the time, to the park.  As fate would have it there were some older boys, 10-12 years old playing there also.  But the older kids were not so innocent, they were putting sand on the slides and just generally being mischievous.  Benjamin was indignant.  He found a 6 foot tall stick.  This became his staff.  With Jacob at his side he confronted the older boys,  “You guys have bad souls” My brother Scott told me the story.  Apparently Ben had no fear.  He was going to straighten these boys out. Fortunately, Scott took the staff away and confronted the boys himself. I often wonder if Bens boldness was his simple trust in God.

Sometimes I think our human wisdom gets in the way of trusting in the Lord.  Listen to Jeremiah:
Jeremiah  8“How can you say, ‘We are wise, and the law of the Lord is with us’? But behold, the lying pen of the scribes has made it into a lie. The wise men shall be put to shame; they shall be dismayed and taken; behold, they have rejected the word of the Lord, so what wisdom is in them?[11]

Rejecting the word of God removes the blessing of God’s Spirit, thus His wisdom, from the life of the rejecter.  Are you rejecting God’s Word?

30 He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, whom God made our wisdom and our righteousness and sanctification and redemption. 31 Therefore, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

Jesus is our wisdom.  Jesus is our righteousness. Jesus is our sanctification. Jesus is our redemption.  Jesus is our all in all.  Without Christ where would we be?  There but for the grace of God go I.   Chris Rice has a song you may have heard, The face of Christ. Listen to these lyrics:
He shares a room outside with a dozen other guys And the only roof he knows is that sometimes starry sky A tattered sleeping bag on a concrete slab is his bed
And it’s too cold to talk tonight So I just sit with him instead and think
How did I find myself in a better place I can’t look down on the frown on the other guy’s face ‘Cause when I stoop down low, look him square in the eye I get a funny feeling, I just might be dealing With the face of Christ

  1. Are you willing to go to the lengths of the Cross to show it?  And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.[12]
Surrender to His will.  Deny yourself those things which interfere with God’s purposes for you and in humility take the path He has laid out for you.  When you do this, God’s purposes take off and wonderful things begin. All successes can be laid at the feet of Jesus to whom they are due.  Then your boasting will be not it yourself, but in the Lord!  Listen to this passage in Jeremiah on boasting in our God:

Jeremiah 23 Thus says the Lord: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, 24 but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the Lord.[13]

Earlier I shared a number of statements of wisdom given through the ages.  I want to examine again one by Helen Keller:

Helen Keller I do not want the peace that passeth understanding. I want the understanding which bringeth peace.

All this talk today causes me to think, are we to shelve our brains and just believe?  Is Helen right in what she states?  I think there is a wisdom that comes from trusting God in humility which doesn’t require our shelving our mental faculties.  It really is a matter of trust. "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… to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men…31 Therefore, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

Let’s close by singing 2 verses of I have decided to follow Jesus.  The 2nd verse pertains to this message, the world behind me, the Cross before me.


[1]Merriam-Webster, I. (1996, c1993). Merriam-Webster's collegiate dictionary. Includes index. (10th ed.). Springfield, Mass., U.S.A.: Merriam-Webster.
[2]The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001 (Pr 1:7). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.
[3]The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001 (Eph 3:9-11). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.
[4]The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001  Emphasis added (Ec 3:9-13). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.
[5]The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001 (Ro 9:32-33). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.
[6]The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001 (Ac 17:16-21; 31-32). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.
[7]The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001 (Ro 1:16). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.
[8]The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001 (Ga 3:1-2). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.
[9]The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001 (1 Sa 16:13). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.
[10]The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001 (Mt 11:25-30). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.
[11]The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001 (Je 8:8-9). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.
[12]The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001 (Lk 9:23). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.
[13]The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001 (Je 9:23-24). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

No comments:

Post a Comment

QRZ LogBook