A pair of bifocals so that he can easily read the strenuous ideas of Voltaire and Shakespeare?
A sweater draped around his shoulders to keep him warm as he sits in the annals of the library?
Hair neatly parted in two, completely symmetrical and geometric?
A pipe -- filled with tobacco--allowing his mind a burst in thought with each puff?
John the Baptist didn't look anything like that.
He had wild hair.
He lived in the woods.
He wore camel skin for clothing.
He had pieces of leftover locust breakfast in his beard.
He probably didn't smell all that great, but he certainly looked foolish.
That's what the Pharisees thought. They were the wise people of John's day. They thought John looked foolish and they thought his message was just the ramblings of a lunatic hermit. "Water baptism for forgiveness? Repentance for the kingdom of God? What was he talking about?"
Then John said something that through them for a loop.
"Look the Lamb of God that takes away the Sin of the world."
They looked and they saw Jesus. He looked more put together than John, to be fair, but certainly not a Messiah. Another foolish thought from John.
Jesus approached John. John poured water on his head. Jesus came out of the water.
Then, the skies opened up. A brilliant light shone. A dove rested over Jesus. A loud voice from heaven spoke and said, "This is my Son, whom I love, with him I am well pleased."
Basically what John said.
Maybe John wasn't so foolish after all.
In America, we have our own definition of what wisdom looks like. God’s Wisdom often looks very different from that definition. So. Who’s right? Where is real wisdom? With God? Or with humans? Today is the next sermon in our CounterCultural sermons.
I. Human Wisdom Claims God’s Wisdom is Foolish
Take a look at the words from 1 Corinthians. Take note that 1 Corinthians is a letter written to a group of newbie Christians who lived in a very worldly society. There was false god worship, sexual immorality, and over drinking. There was also a place in the center of town where wise people could go to discuss the latest thoughts and ideas about the economy, philosophy, and theology.
Some of their godless thoughts were conflicting with Godly thought. So Paul writes an important reminder to this young church. He says in 1:18, “The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”
Focus in on the first half of the verse. The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing.
Have you ever heard of the Flying Spaghetti Monster? It is the official deity of the Pastafarians – a play on Rastafarianism, but also a parody of the Christian faith. The whole point of this religion is to mock the foolishness of religion. That’s clear as soon as you enter their website and read their "tagline.”
“The Flying Spaghetti Monster boiled for your sins! Be touched by his Noodly appendage before it is too late.”
To the world that’s hilarious – “Yep, Christianity is foolish! Virgin births, talking bushes, universal floods, a non evolutionary beginning. The message of the Bible is foolishness.”
But to believers – to us—it isn’t so much funny, but it’s heinous.
Why is there such a disconnect? Why is God’s wisdom in such direct contradiction to human wisdom? Here are three reasons.
1) The Time Gap
The saying goes: “With age comes wisdom.” It’s more than just something to keep those of us growing older calm. It means that the more experiences you have and the more time you’ve been around, the more you will learn.
Think of an electric outlet. Hopefully you have experienced enough in life to know that it is unwise to get your finger wet and sick it directly into the hole. A young child may not. Unfortunately, they might not listen to wisdom and have to learn just how bad of an idea it is through experience.
Same thing with your high school student. You might warn them about just how bad over drinking while underage will be for them. But, they might not listen after your talk. But after the experience of the awful hangover, a flood of guilt, and getting kicked off of the sports team, they might listen.
God has way more experience than human beings. The oldest person on earth is 121 years old. He has 121 years of experience. He has had 121 years to fill his brain with knowledge.
But that’s nothing compared to God. God is eternal. God has been around forever. He has been around longer than all of our ages in this church and in Raleigh combined.
In fact, he’s eternal! He existed before time began. He’s the one who began time. He’s the one who began the world. He’s the one who invented history. He’s the one who invented experience.
When you compare the knowledge of someone who has been around from before the beginning of time and someone who has been around for 30ish years, there will be a contrast in knowledge. Even if the younger one thinks he's smarter (your three year old as to when his bedtime should be) it doesn't mean he is!
Just cause we think we've lived enough years to think we're wise, doesn't mean we are! It's probably why older people are more patient in this area than young professionals. They've lived life. They've learned they aren't always right. They learned humility and they realize that they don't know everything.
That makes them wiser, wouldn't you say?
It's true with us and God. We need to stop thinking that "We're adults now. We can do this on our own," and start trusting the One who has been around forever.
2) The Knowledge Gap
I don’t know a lot about rocket science. In fact, if I took a look at the mathematic formulas necessary for getting into space – it would look like a bunch of gobbledy gook to me! Numbers, letters, strange symbols. I don’t see the wisdom in any of it!
But that doesn’t mean it isn’t wise. Just because I can’t understand it, doesn’t mean that the formulas for rocket fuel are unwise. It just means I’m unwise.
But it’s an interesting phenomena, isn’t it? The mind with less knowledge writes off greater knowledge simply because it doesn’t understand it!
Don’t you think this happens with God?
Take the definition of marriage. God says it’s between one man and one woman. God – the one who’s been around from eternity. The one who has an infinite knowledge of the universe. God who has an infinite knowledge of you and me.
Yet here we stand as 21st century beings whose 30 year old brain can be contained within a baseball hat and we say, “God, you’re wrong. Let’s change the definition.”
I love the story of Job. Job lost everything that he owned in the first two chapters of the book. Then the next 36 chapters relay a dialogue between Job and his friends in which his friends try to get him to curse God. They want him to ridicule God and basically confess, "God, I'm smarter than you and I would never have let this happen."
In the last three chapters, a new character is introduced. It’s God. In chapter 38, God makes a few very sarcastic (yet very good) points:
“Job...Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand. Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know! Who stretched a measuring line across it?...Have you ever given orders to the morning, or shown the dawn its place?...“Have you journeyed to the springs of the sea or walked in the recesses of the deep? ... Have the gates of death been shown to you? Have you seen the gates of the deepest darkness?...Have you comprehended the vast expanses of the earth? Tell me, if you know all this. What is the way to the abode of light? And where does darkness reside? Can you take them to their places? Do you know the paths to their dwellings? Surely you know, for you were already born! You have lived so many years!"
In short, God’s response is this: Job, you aren’t so smart. Stop trying to think you are. Stop trying to think that you’re smarter than God.
3) The Sin Gap
Yet humans still do. This leads to the third, final, and biggest reason that there is such a difference between Godly wisdom and human wisdom. The sin gap.
God is holy. He is just. He does not sin. He cannot sin. That means that his mind works perfectly.
Humans? Not so much. We’re filled with sin. Sin surrounds our lives. It affects our actions and it affects our minds. Our minds don’t work so perfectly. We aren't sinners because we sin, but we sin because we are sinners!
Sin doesn’t just cause us to say hurtful things; it causes our minds to think, “I want to say hurtful things.” Sin doesn’t just cause us to engage in premarital sex; it causes our minds to think, “I want to engage in premarital sex.” Sin doesn’t just cause us to do the opposite of what God says; sin causes our minds to think “I want to do the opposite of what God says.”
Sin leads us to categorically and naturally rebel against all of God’s wisdom, because that’s what sin does!
Romans 8:7 says this, "The sinful mind is hostile to God’s Word. It does not submit to Him, nor can it do so.”
Siebert Becker, a former seminary professor, wrote an awesome book entitled “The Foolishness of God.” In his study, he makes this assessment: Humans reject the Bible, not because they don’t understand it, but precisely because they do understand it.”
Isn’t that the truth? The main reason we reject God isn't because God's Word is too difficult for us to understand, but because we don't want to.
For the times that when our tiny, unexperienced, sinful minds have rebelled against our timeless, all knowing, holy God’s wisdom – we ask God for forgiveness.
II. God Proves Human Wisdom is Foolish
While humans think that God’s wisdom is foolish, God has done things in a bit different fashion. God doesn’t just think human wisdom is foolish, God proves human wisdom is foolish. In two specific ways.
I. With Miracles…
Take a look at verses 19-20:
It is written: ‘I, the LORD, will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.’ Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?
- Doesn’t the smartest meteorologist say that’s it’s impossible for a flood waters to cover the entire earth? There’s not enough precipitation. But how come…God did just that?
- Doesn’t environmental wisdom say that humans are not buoyant enough to stand on top of liquid without falling into the sea? OK. What did the disciples see when He walked out to the middle of the lake?
- Doesn’t medical wisdom say it’s impossible for people who are blind, deaf, lame or terminally ill, to suddenly be healed without any medicine? Isn’t that exactly what Jesus did…repeatedly?
- Doesn’t the combined common sense knowledge of humanity say that once you are dead, that’s it? Yet Jesus died. Then, he came back to life.
Suddenly these categorical statements of human wisdom look absolutely foolish! God has proven it. He’s the one who created this world. He’s the one who knows the mysteries of this world. He’s the one who has no problem opening up the manipulating the current laws of science and gravity in order to show human beings that maybe we aren’t as smart as we think we are.
II. In His Salvation Plan
Verse 21 says this, “For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was therefore pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. 22 Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength."
Earlier today – what did the kids say was God’s plan of salvation? Jesus died. Our sins are gone. Through faith we’re saved. When you break it apart, it sounds foolish.
To the Jews, they said, “There needs to be some kind of fantastic incredible miracle taking place –a Laser light show or an awesome battle – when God comes to save us.” Jesus came back to life, but they still didn’t believe.
The Greeks demand, “We want wisdom. We want to have to search for truth and talk about truth and mull over truth and then once with have the truth we’ll believe it.” Jesus said “Found it! It’s me.” But they didn’t believe.
My Jewish neighbor once said to me, “You Christians are so crazy. You believe that there’s nothing you can do to save yourself, that Jesus did it all, and through faith you are forgiven and saved without having to do anything to be saved.”
My answer sounded foolish in my mind before I said it, but I said it anyways:
The Gospel is foolishness to human wisdom. But the Gospel doesn’t come from human wisdom. It comes from God. Therefore “through the foolishness of what was preached…God has saved those who believe!”
Through the foolishness of what was preached, God has saved you and me.
This is the reason that God chose this way for salvation: Listen to what Paul says next:
“26 Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth."
I love this passages because Paul is using the Corinthians as an example of unwise people being saved. “Ya’ll aren’t that smart. Ya’ll aren’t rocket scientists. You’re fishermen, prostitutes, and farmers.” You didn’t have jobs that required a Master’s degree!
"But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him.”
Because boasting doesn’t work. Being a Christian isn’t about “I figured it out.” It isn’t about “I’ve got the truth and you don’t.” It isn’t about “I was smart enough to figure this whole thing out.” If it were, then millions would be lost because they didn’t think they were smarter enough to figure salvation out, and millions more would be lost because “I am smart and have figured out salvation,” when in fact they haven’t.
No, Christianity isn’t about our wisdom. It’s about God’s wisdom. Trusting in God’s wisdom necessitates that we stop trusting in our wisdom. It necessitates that we say “God, I don’t know it all. God I need you. God you are wise and I trust you.”
And when we do that – when we admit that we aren’t as wise as we think – then, here’s the kicker-- we have true wisdom.
Therefore, it is because of God that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God our righteousness, our holiness, and our redemption.
Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”
“I’ve got a God who walks on water.”
“I’ve got a God died and comes back to life.”
“I’ve got a Jesus who is 100 percent true God and 100 percent true man at the same time.”
“I’ve got a God who is three persons – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – all at once, yet there aren’t three God, there’s only one.”
No…I can’t explain all those things. I’m not that wise!
But my God is. And I trust Him.