Jesus sat down.
He was tired. Because constantly proving that you are in fact the Son of God, and the true Messiah, and the only way to heaven, and that it is by God’s grace that people are saved, and through faith that people will be in heaven, and that the miracles He did were in fact true honest to goodness, incredible miracles that proved all of the above – was hard work.
Jesus sat down opposite the temple treasury. It was a large chest located outside the temple doors. It was an easy way for anyone to come and drop off an offering to God.
And people came. One after another they came and dropped off their money into the box. They gave to God.
Since it was the time of the Passover, there were many in Jerusalem. More than usual. It was quite the spectacle too. Back then, people didn’t wireless confirm their gifts via an anonymous smartphone app. They didn’t write checks. They didn’t slip a few hundred dollars bills into an envelopes. They dropped bags of coins. Think Scrooge McDuck – with the big dollar signs on the side.
Because of this, it was very easy to distinguish between large gifts and no so large gifts. Large gifts filled a whole bag or more. Smaller gifts did not. Large gifts caught the attention of the Pharisees – smaller gifts did not.
In fact, you can almost hear the Pharisees gathered around the box, singing praise as one of their own drops off a large bag filled with shekels. “Oh what an awesome gifts! Hundreds of dollars given to the LORD, you are blessed.” “What’s that? Another bag? Incredible! You are an incredible giver. Your money will go a long way.”
So it continued – large donor after large donor passing by the treasure box as if they were models competing in a Miss America pageant – showcasing their “giving” to the Pharisaical world.
Then, a widow. She approached the chest. She reaches into her pockets. She removed a handkerchief and began to unravel it – slowly and delicately removed her offering.
There wasn’t any laud adulation coming from the onlookers. A few looks of disappointment, sure. Maybe a few giggles. No praise for her gift. It was too small. No one said anything.
“I tell you the truth this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others.”
I. Our Culture on Giving
Doesn’t it seem strange for Jesus to say that? You almost feel like Jesus might need to head back to Kindergarten where he can grab a bunch of yellow plastic bears and use them to count that the woman’s offering was ridiculously smaller than the offerings that day. It was insignificant!
Because that’s the way our culture defines giving. We love to define giving by the amount.
Ever been to a hospital? Who makes it onto the wall? The big donors. They are the ones who get their names etched in stone and memorialized for all to see. Sometimes they even have a key on the side – ‘Copper plates mean copper donors – hundreds of dollars.’ ‘Silver plates mean silver donors – thousands of dollars.’ ‘Gold plates? – those are the super donors --- they have given over 500,000 dollars to the creation of this hospital!'
Do you ever fall into that trap? Maybe you look around during the offering. How much is that person giving? How many zeros are on that check? What size of a bill is everyone else putting in?
At Kroger, they’ve been doing this thing where they ask you to donate one dollar to Cancer Research right at the end of scanning all your groceries. Has it happened to you? It always catches me off guard. Sometimes I say “Yes” because I don’t want the grandma behind me to think I’m stingy. Other times, I say “No,” but then I explain, “Not this time. I give to a few others charities. I’ll keep this in mind for next month.”
Do I really need to explain myself? Does society really judge us on the basis of the size of our gift?
The answer is a definite “YES.” But more than that. We’ve regulated giving to the rich. In other words – we expect giving to come out of richness.
There is a YouTube video filmed by a man in Los Angeles. He’s rich, but he wanted to prove that very concept that our society expects giving to come out of richness.
So he dressed up as a homeless man. Then, he waited on the side of a downtown skyscraper. As people passed by in suits and ties, he got their attention.
“Hey buddy!” he said. (Oftentimes they’d keep walking because they didn’t want to give to him.) Then, he’s speak again, “No, no. I don’t want anything. I just want to give. I don’t have a lot in the world, but I do have the ability to give. So…here’s ten bucks. Buy yourself a lunch or something.”
How do you think people reacted? (How would you react?)
People were furious. They started calling him names and dropping four letters words. One man even threatened to punch his teeth him if he ever insulted him like that again. He was rich. He didn’t need money. And that guy was poor. “Giving wasn’t for him.”
Ask this question with me: Why do we think like this? Why do we insist that giving – true giving – can only come from the rich?
Could it be that if a gift isn’t measured by quantity – if a poor person could give a gift to God that is thousands of dollars less on the books – yet it’s just as rich in God’s eyes – then of what benefit is the gift to the rich? If giving doesn’t getting you brownie points before God, then…we’ll have to face our Almighty God in the cesspool of our sins. No amount of bargaining or bribing will change God’s mind. He will see us as the imperfect, unholy, holy wrath inducing creatures that we are.
II. The Greatest Giver
Which is why a correct understanding of giving is going to start with a correct understanding of the Gospel. A knowledge that God gave up all of his riches to save you.
I love this passage from 2 Corinthians 8:9. Take a look. For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.
This about our Lord Jesus Christ. He was incredibly rich. He resided in heaven above. He had copious amounts of whatever he wanted. Barrels full of lightning? Check. Golden lined streets of heaven? Yes. Diamonds and rubies and emeralds appearing on His fingers with a simple snap? Yes!
But he gave that all up. He was born in a place where cattle were fed. He grew up the son of a poor carpenter. He journeyed from place to place without any money around his belt. He was homeless! He slept on the ground. He, the God of sustenance, depended on others to sustain him!
Then, his life ended in the poorest of ways. All he owned was the crown of thorns piercing through his brow and the bloodstained cloth around his waist. Then, he gave up his richest possession – his own, Divine life.
Listen to that again. God who owns all things in the entire universe – gave it all up – including his life!
In doing so he donated to a charity that you know very well. Not the Red Cross. Not the Salvation Army. Not even WELS Home Missions.
He donated to you.
You were fresh out of righteousness. On the cross, Jesus gave you his.
You owed God a sin debt. With his debt, Jesus paid it in full.
You didn’t have any way to buy heaven. With his life, Jesus reserved a room specifically for you.
You know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.
Here’s the deal then, brothers and sisters, if you believe in Jesus, then you are rich. You may not have a fully funded emergency fund. You may not own an IRA. You might not drive anything but a used car.
But if you believe in Jesus, you have peace. You have forgiveness. Things that Donald Trump, Bill Gates, and every members of the Forbes richest people’s club could not buy!
III. New Thoughts on Giving
1) Giving Comes out of Love.
Therefore, on account of Jesus – giving takes on a whole new meaning. Now giving doesn’t come from wealth. But giving comes from love.
1 Timothy 6:10 is a very famous passage and often misquoted passage. You’ll find all kinds of memes on the internet stating it incorrectly “Money is the root of all evil.” That’s not what the Bible says. Look at what is written: "The Love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.”
It makes sense when you think about it. Dave Ramsey says this. Money is like a brick. It’s inanimate. It’s neutral. There’s nothing good or bad about it. You can pick up the brick and throw it through a window – bad. You can pick up a brick and build an orphan’s hospital – good.
Same with money.
You can use it to buy a nice car just to show off – bad. Or you can use it to provide a reliable, safe, nice car for your family – good.
You can use it to horde money in your sock drawer because you can’t bear to part with it – bad. Or you can use it to save up to send your child to college – good.
You can use it to give a gigantic offering to church just to get your name on the wall - bad - OR you can empty out your spending money for the month to buy a bunch of Evangelism fliers with the hopes that the message of Jesus the Savior might reach some – good.
Do you see the difference in each of those examples? It isn’t the amount of money. It isn’t the gift. It’s the motivation.
If you love money, bad. If you love God, good.
It’s why 2 Corinthians 9:7 says this, “God loves a cheerful giver.” Not God loves the one who gives $200 or more each week. Nope. God loves a cheerful giver.
2) Giving Comes out of Trust.
However…pump the breaks for a second. Because I guarantee a bunch of you saw that and thought, “God loves a cheerful giver? Phew…I’m not too happy about this offering I was gonna give today. So, let me just take a moment and rip this check up and never look at it again.”
That’s not what God is saying to you with 2 Corinthians 9:7. It’s not a license for you to say, “I don’t feel 100% happy about this, so I’m not gonna give this.” If that were the case, pretty sure we’d be bankrupt.
Before you resolve never to give God another cent, look at the verse that immediately follows. 2 Corinthians 9:8 says this, “God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all time, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.”
In other words – Giving doesn’t just come out of love. Giving also comes out of TRUST.
Isn’t that exactly what the widow did? She had nothing left. Yet she gave it all up. Out of love, absolutely. God had given her a wonderful husband and a blessed life. But also out of trust. She trusted that God could and would give her everything she would need in the coming days to continue to serve God on earth. And if he didn’t, then she’d get more than she could ever dream of in heaven.
Do you trust God? He won salvation for you on a cross. He paid a debt you couldn’t pay. He has a storehouse full of infinity of everything!
Do you trust God to take care of you?
Today’s challenge is to consider increasing your offering. Whatever it is. I’m not naming numbers, because it isn’t about the amount. But I am asking this. Can you take another step forward in trust and give a bit more to the work of your Lord?
For us – we use the money to share the Gospel. To start with it’s the building which we use to share the Gospel. Then, it’s my salary – which isn’t commissioned based – so I don’t get more for you giving more. Let’s be clear on that.
Then, it’s Evangelism. We use gifts to share Jesus love to those in Raleigh. Through a website. Through online ads. Through pamphlets and fliers and signs.Through invites and THANK YOU gifts.
And a big project that we are considering – the Expansion of Precious Lambs. It’s gonna allow us to connect with even more families and share the message of the God who loves them. It’s going to allow us to connect with little kids and teach the true message that Jesus Loves Them to them. It's gonna open opportunities to expand our youth group outreach during the week back in the Current Precious Lambs area. It's’ going to open up opportunities to start an English as a Second Language Ministry to share Jesus’ love with the many global members of our community.
In short – your gift will be a gift of love for God and trust in God. Amen.
Today’s topic is Race. I picked out this sermon series about three months ago and it is unfortunately very timely.
This past week an African American church in Charleston, SC was attacked during Bible study. 9 people were killed. Immediately my stomach churned. A peaceful place like the house of God – turned into a terrifying, madhouse of violence?
Since then facts have come out about the shooter. He is a 21 year old white male. About two years ago he began posting on a website that discussed all of the atrocities that African Americans had brought into America. According to the few who did survive he gave a speech mid gunfire to explain that “He needed to do this – to get back at African Americans and retake his country.”
Racism. Plain and simple.
But what’s scary is how the devil is using this terrible event. Because if you scroll through internet articles, blog posts, Facebook pages and Tweets , you’ll find anger. You’ll find fear. You’ll find deflection. You’ll find people more interested in defending themselves as some kind of representative of their race, than in defending and understanding those of another culture.
It’ easy to see the devil in this. He’s using these events to divide us! We cannot let him. Brothers and sisters, today we will reflect on race – our culture’s perspective and God’s perspective.
I. Our Culture on Race
The media is huge in forming our opinions on race. Consider this – in almost every violent attack over the past couple of years – what is one of the first details to be released? Not the victim’s family name. Not the shooter's job.
“Black Male Kills White Cop.”
“White Male Kills Black Cop”
“Latino Man Attacks Asian Family”
“Middle Eastern Terrorist at Large”
This has worn on our society. We have stopped seeing each other as individuals and instead see each other as our race.
Hispanic. White. Black. Asian. Middle Eastern. Native American. Indian.
Think you’re not infected?
Pretend you’re walking into a coffee shop. As you enter – you see a room filled with African American men with the faint beat of hip hop in the background. What did you think?
Now imagine the same coffee shop. This time you a bunch of white men in business suits talking about the latest Bloomberg report? Did you have the same thoughts?
Or what if you saw a group of men speaking in a Middle Eastern dialect with turbans on their heads and prayer shawls attached to their waist? Grab a coffee, sit down next to them and engage in conversation?
If there’s a difference to you, then you’ve been infected. You’ve stopped identifying people as individuals, and started identifying them as their race. Sadly, this has unintended consequences.
Jesus Loves the Little Children was written by C. Herbert Woolson during the American Civil War when racial tensions were very high – Woolson meant the song to reflect God’s perspective. We usually sing just the refrain but the verses add to it a special focus on God’s love for his children.
Did you hear how it went? Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world.
But is that really how we view it? Tell me if this doesn’t sound more like how Americans like to think of it:
Jesus loves the Little Children…
All the children who look like me.
Brown hair, tall and German,
Accent gruff and Northern
Jesus loves the little children just like me!
Wait….That’s not how it goes, is it?
Here’s the problem when you find a person’s identify in their race only – you will develop a superiority complex. This is part natural and part defensive. We are sinful human beings who have done sinful things – and if we can’t placate God’s wrath with our own actions – at the very least it’s soothing to think that I’ve got a better chance at appeasing God because he loves my culture best.
Our Culture views our race as what defines us and uses it as a way to divide us.
II. God on Race
The Jewish people struggled with that exact thought. (I can understand why). God had promised to them that he would send a Savior through them. Because of that promise, God protected them throughout their history with incredible miracles. They were very blessed. But many had taken this too far. Viewing it far more than God’s merciful blessing, they began to think of it as something they themselves had done by simply ‘being’ Jewish. Many became convinced that God only loved their kind of people.
Take a look at the first passage you’ve got listed in your bulletin from Romans 10:12-13, “There is no difference between Jew and Gentile" (and Gentile means “not a Jew” so here we could include “European Americans, Native Americans, African Americans, Asian Americans, Hispanic Americans, Australian Americans – even Antarctican Americans --- if that’s’ even a thing) There is no difference --because the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
Do you want some visible proof that God loves all people just the same? Dive into that last verse with me.
“The same Lord is Lord of all.” This means that God created all of us. He spent careful time, thoughts, and planning (and he had eternities of time) to make and create you the exact way that he did. He placed you into the perfect culture. He dyed your skin a beautiful color. He made your hair just the way he wanted it.
And look around. God did the same for the person in front of you, the person behind you, the person to your side. God created all and loves all.
“God richly blesses all.” Think about the different foods of this world. Isn’t it amazing how BBQ pork is drastically different from sushi which is drastically different from a burrito which is extremely different from a peanut butter sandwich? God has given people different foods, sure. But God still gives food. He gives clothing. He gives blessings to all of his people
Different blessings sure, but blessings all the same. Blessings that come from the same gracious hand of our loving Lord.
“Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Because as different as the shades of brown our skins might be, God looks beyond our skin. He looks into our souls. As he looks at our souls, he sees something eerily similar.
God sees people who are dying because of sin. He sees people who are lost because of sin. He sees people in danger of hell because of sin.
He sees people who need a Savior because of sin.
God sent a Savior. He sent his Son Jesus for all people. Jn. 3:16 well known verse of the Bible says just that, “God so loved the world – not Irish people, not Mexican people, not everyone north of the equator –nope. God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son that whoever believes in him will not perish, but have eternal life."
Did you see that? God loves people – all people – even the one who hate him – so much that he died for them.
He died for you. He died for people like you. He died for people who looked totally different than.
And he loves you all just the same.
Did some of you ever grow up watching black and white TV? It’s nice for what it did. It brought live action picture and sound into people’s homes. But compare that to what they have now! Beautiful colors – reds, yellows, greens and high definition. You can see the crystal blue of the ocean. You can watch the golden corn kernels pop in Midwestern field. You can see gorgeous array of purples and blues off the feathers of a peacock.
God’s world is a lot like that. He doesn’t see his people in drab grayscale. God sees a beautiful, HD colored world AND loves it.
III. A New View on Race
If God views us all the same, how should that affect the way we interact with one another? James 3:1 tells us, “Believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism.” That starts as a matter of the heart. When you see how much Jesus loves you, his love will motivate you to love others in the same way.
But after that, how do you make such a countercultural statement visible to a world that divides by race, sticks us into our own little box and says, “That’s where you belong?”
The answer? Radical love.
There was a Jewish man who was on his way from Jerusalem to Jericho. That road goes through the desert. That means it was pretty quiet. It’s not 440. It’s not Capital Blvd. It’s not even Falls of Neuse. It was a lonesome road…similar to walking down a dark alley in the middle of the city.
Suddenly, the man was mugged. The raiders stripped him of his clothes, beat him silly, left him bloodied and bruised, and left him in a heap on the hot desert sand.
Thankfully help wasn’t too far off. It just so happened that a priest, the head of the Jewish religious community, was passing through. He was well trained in the things of God and trained to help the people. Surely, he’d help the man!
But he didn’t. When he saw the man he passed by on the other side.
Then a Levite approached. Levites were the ones who helped the priest. In fact, while the priests might have focused more on the ceremonious aspect of their religious, the Levites would have been useful in connected with the people in need. Here was a chance for him to do his job.
But he didn’t. He too passed by on the other side.
Then, a Samaritan approached. Now this is a big deal. Samaritans and Jews didn’t like each other. They were different races. They were races that didn’t get along. At best they didn’t trust each other. At worst they hated each other. It’s probably similar to how our own sad American history has pitted blacks and whites against each other. But maybe worse – picture a card carrying member of ISIS getting off his donkey and approaching you.
What do you expect him to do? If this were America, the options are too familiar. A few swift blows to his head to get him back for how his people hurt you in the past. A quick selfie with the body in the background, a degrading caption on it, and post it all over social media. A few muttered words: “It’s his people. It’s his problem. If only they worked harder, they wouldn’t be in this mess.” The man passes by and makes his way into town, tells everyone passionately about what he saw, and says, “The government should do something about this.’
But that’s not what happens. Note what does.
1) The Man Offers His Resources
The man pours olive oil – expensive stuff – all over his wounds as a salve. He takes wine –maybe the wine he had saved for the party he was heading to – and rubs its on his bruises to kill infection. He creates makeshift bandages from whatever linens he had available in his donkey’s sack and covered the man up. Then, he puts the man on his donkey. Remember they’re in the desert! Yet he decides to literally get off of his high horse and allow this stranger the luxury of riding into town. Then he takes him to a hotel and puts him to rest.
Do you have resources you can use to help? Has God gifted you with wealth? Has God gifted you with time? Has God gifted you with talents? Start thinking how can you use them to show love to those of another culture. How can you use your resources –God given resources – to reach out with the love of Jesus?
2) The Man Helps Immediately
I imagine that was a frightening situation for the Samaritan man. Here was a stranger lying in his blood. That’s something that might have given him pause just like the priest and the Levite that he’d resolve – I can’t help now, but maybe I can come back with some friends later.
But that wasn’t what the man did, was it? He dropped what his plans were and immediately helped this victim.
It will be tempting after this sermon to think – I like some of the ideas. I’ll put them into practice…someday. Someday when I have enough courage and when things settle down.
Number one, things won’t settle down. The devil’s on a roll and he’ll keep trying to divide us. Number two, you’ve got Jesus on your side. The Lord Almighty is with you. As those kids sang back in May, "Surely I am with you always to the very end of the age.” Why be afraid? Go outside your comfort zone to share God’s love…and do it now!
3) The Man Doesn’t Forget His New Friend
In the story, reality catches up the Samaritan. He has to leave. But notice that though he physically leaves, he doesn’t abandon his friend. He finds the manager. He says to the manager “Take care of him.” He offers to pay all of his medical expenses – whatever the hotel manager tells him it costs – just as long as the man is taken care of.
This was probably an inconvenience for him! I’m sure he had stuff of his own to take care of. Whatever business he had in Jericho he needed to tend to it. But now this man was his business. It was his brother -- of a different culture, sure, but his brother all the same. His brother was his business and he wasn’t going to forget about him.
May I advise you to do the same. Check back in with those you are reaching out to. Don’t just do it once, wipe the sweat off your brow, sigh and say, “There, I did what pastor asked and boy was it hard.” Instead – make them your business. Keep learning about them. Keep listening to them. Put them on your prayer list. Think of ways to reach out to them. Invite them for dinner. Ask them for coffee. Do something to say that I still care about you.
Would you start thinking like the Samaritan? Start think of ways you can put your love into practice with those who are of a different culture. In the midst of a terrible tragedy, you’ve got an opportunity. I want you to intentionalize this. You’ll naturally be friendly and loving towards those who are similar. That’s easy. Go out of your way to improve your relations with those different than you. Do the Jesus thing – He went out of his way (out of heaven to the cross) in order to show his love to us.
Let’s intentionalize our love!
That’s what one of the church members from Charleston did. Ethel Lance was her mom’s name. Ethel died in the shooting.
Her daughter had a chance to talk to the shooter. Her words were striking in the CounterCulture love.
She said this, “I will never be able to hold her again, but I forgive you, and have mercy on your soul. You hurt me. You hurt a lot of people but…I forgive you."
May God give us all this unifying, Christlike love. Amen.
She was beautiful.
He wasn’t really sure what she was, but whatever she was, she was beautiful.
Then, God explained: “I knew that you were lonely. Even though I had made this beautiful garden for you and filled with fish, birds, and animals, with gorgeous flowers and breathtaking sunrises…I knew it was only good. Not “very good.” I knew you needed someone to share this garden with. Someone like you. Someone of you.”
“So when you were sleeping, I took a part of you. I molded. I formed. I created another just like you. Another to complement you. Another to make you complete.
I call her “from man.” You call her “woman.”
Adam had a tear of joy in his eyes. As the robins chirped in perfect harmony with the blue jays and the hummingbirds hummed an accompaniment, while butterflies floated over their heads. Adam grabbed this “woman” by the hands. He took advantage of this romantic moment. He squeezed her tightly. He spoke quietly and beautifully – the first ever love poem: “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called woman, because shew was taken out of man.”
Fast forward with me.
Now the garden was gone. Now the sound of the robins was replaced by the angry cawing of the buzzards. The green canopy had been replayed with a dead tree. Weeds, thistles, and thorns covered the scenery as the two sat down for a few measly turnips – all that had grown in this season. Adam was tired and covered in sweat. Eve was tired and covered in sweat. Their kids, Cain and Abel, were fighting in the background over who had to feed their pet pig.
The scene had changed. Gone was the perfect paradise, replaced by a shell of the garden – in their new real sinful world.
I’m sure they were tempted. Tempted to blame each other.
Everytime Eve slaved over a hot stove to make the exact same onion stew she always made, I imagine she longed for the ease of picking ready made strawberries, tangerines, and other citrus in the 70 degree temps of Eden. Then she thought of Adam – how he hadn’t been a good leader. How this was all his fault.
Meanwhile Adam washed up for dinner and picked at the thorns in his forefingers in order being careful not to touch the tender boils on his skin. I imagine he longed for Eden – when he lay on a palm branch hammock and asked the monkey to deliver him the best banana cocktail he could find. Then, he thought of Eve—how she had been tricked. How this was all her fault.
This scene was less romantic.
Maybe you hope for a marriage like Adam and Eve in the garden. If you are engaged, perhaps you think that’s exactly how it will be. If you’ve been married for a while perhaps you realize that married can look a lot more like the second scene. Maybe you don’t get married because you are sure your marriage will be like the second scene.
Today we’re taking a look at marriage. Marriage in a post Eden world. How do you make it work – in the future or right now? When should you call it quits? When is it just too hard?
I. The World’s Definition
Did you know that according to recent marriage trends it is likely that 44% of the couples that got married in 2014 will end in divorce? This isn't surprising news. Our world treats divorce as if it is no big deal.
Case and point: Kim Kardashian. Specifically her second marriage to the NBA star Kris Humphries. They built up the planning for this wedding for months on her reality TV show. Then, by the time the wedding aired, she was almost divorced. Their marriage lasted for 72 days.
When you watch the TV show, she brings up the same theme for divorce again and again, "I'm just not feeling in love anymore."
The world's definition of marriage is based on love, the feeling.
This perspective on marriage really affects the divorce question.
ABC’s popular reality show The Bachelor encompasses this. The man searching for his true wife slowly narrows it down to his true love as he sorts it out through romantic boat rides in remote lagoons, balloon rides over the setting sun, and private dances in a Cinderella like castle with special guest Bruno Mars performing live just for them. Finally the Bachelor decides that he feels in love. He feels like she will be the perfect wife. He gets dows on his knee and asks one of the women to marry him.
Trivia fact – Less than 10% of all bachelor relationships are still together.
And our world says, “That’s ok. If you don’t feel love anymore, how can you be expected to remain married?”
II. The Divorce Question
Based on our world's definition of marriage, you can understand the Pharisee’ question. Take a look at Matthew 19:1. They asked Jesus, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?” What’s interesting is the implication. They seem to have some kind of moral compass. They seem to think that there are some good reasons and some not so good reasons.
Judging by the fact that they are humans – I imagine they judge good reasons – as their own; and bad reasons – as the reasons of others. “It’s ok. We’re getting divorced because she doesn’t make a casserole like my mom does.” “Tabitha and I have decided to part because things aren’t as romantic as they used to be.” “I’m getting my divorce papers tomorrow – because there’s another woman at the marketplace that I have taken a fancy too. Sorry. The heart wants what the heart wants!”
No wonder those who put their faith in human definitions of marriage often result in divorce.
Do you think similarly? Do you look for someone to marry based on how they make you feel? Do you remain married because you feel like you are in a Disney palace? Is real marriage really defined by the way that you felt?
But listen to what Jesus has to say: 4 “Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ 5 and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh 6 So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”
And the Pharisees get indignant. 7 “Why then,” they asked, “did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?”
Jesus replied, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. – In other words, you were so angry, sinful, and bitter that civically speaking, the government had to give you a divorce – or you’d be doing income taxes for the three wives you left and remarried within the past year. But it was not this way from the beginning. It is not this way in God’s neck of the wood. It isn’t this way in God’s definition. Jesus continues. I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery."
In other words – If you get legally divorced, unless the other person ends the marriage first by having intimate relations with someone else OR abandoning the marriage, then you are sinning.
Why? Why is God so harsh? Could it be that’s God’s definition of marriage is about way more than simply – feelings?
Here are three things that prove it:
1) God made them males and female. The implication? God made men and women with the desire that they get married. He desired for them to connect with one another. He desired that they complement one another.
But what if I would rather marry a guy? What if I have romantic feelings for someone of the same sex?
Look very carefully at Jesus’ words. They are pretty clear. God made them “male and female…with the purpose of the man leaving his father and mother and being united to his wife…”
But this is more than just a proof passage for the traditional formula of marriage. It is proof that marriage is about more than what you feel. It is proof that love is about more than what you feel.
Otherwise Jesus would have said, “Haven’t you read…that they were made male and female – but I don’t care. Do what you want.”
He didn’t say that, because he did care. In Jesus’ definition, marriage is about more than feelings.
2) “Two become one flesh.”
In fact, look at how he continues: “For this reason a man will be united to his wife…and the two will become one flesh.”
What a beautiful illustration this is too. Remember Adam and Eve. Eve literally came form Adam. There was one body and then there were two.
But, when they were married, though they weren’t joined together as literal Siamese twins, these two, who were one, became one again. This connects the two that are married in an intense soul bond. It’s beyond emotions. It’s a commitment bond. A choice. A loving decision to stay connected for each other...for kids.
3) “What God has joined together, let no one separate.”
When two become one, then suddenly you can’t just throw up your hands, give up, and move to Kentucky because “I don’t feel in love with him anymore.” You can’t do that, because you’ll be tearing apart a special bond. You’ll be causing pain, sadness, and intense emotional bleeding.
Jesus doesn’t stand for that, because when you do that – you’re causing all kinds of pain and sadness to one of his own children!
But most importantly, you’ll be breaking apart God’s own work.
One thing I’ve learned about spending time in Precious Lambs is to keep your hands off of anything that looks remotely like it might be “In Progress.” A few days ago I went in during a break and saw some blocks on the floor. I thought, “I'll help. I’ll pick them up.” Just then, the little boy who had placed those blocks there came in with his eyes bawling in tears: “That’s my castle. You’re destroying my castle. How could you!?! You broke what I put together."
If you decide to give up on your marriage because it’s too hard…if you consistently look at porn in your marriage because you don’t feel it from her…if you love tempting a married man…if you enjoy flirting with married women…if you cheat on your spouse…if you tell your friend “Hey, I think you should give up, you tried hard.” Understand this: You are doing way more than simply divorcing…
…You are destroying God’s work.
III. God’s Definition
What is God’s definition of marriage then? If it isn’t about love feelings – what is it about?
Head with me to 1 Corinthians 13. These are some beautiful words that are commonly spoken at a wedding. Listen to how the Bible defines love.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 8 Love never fails.
Notice what it does not say, “Love is that little spark you have when you look at someone.” Note that it doesn’t say, “Love is the twist in your gut that you get when your crush looks at you.” Nowhere is there mention of “the fireworks that go off metaphorically as ABC production’s fireworks go off literally."
Everyone of those words involves an action. Love acts patient– when its recipient is repeatedly late for the time you are leaving. Love acts kind…doing the dishes when it feels like lounging on the couch. Love does not envy…it celebrates the accomplishments of those around it. Love does not act proud…It admits its faults, even when it hurts. Love does not dishonor others…even if it might make it feel pretty good to do so. Love is not self seeking – which will naturally lead one’s self to feel bad. Love is not easily angered – even when it feels wronged and hurt, it chooses to respond with kindness. Love keeps not record of wrongs – even though the record might be rather long, love actively chooses not to take it into consideration. Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth. It always protects actively keeping it’s love safe even when it doesn’t want to. It always trusts thoroughly believing that the two of you will make it, even when both of you feel like you are not going to. Love always hopes. It always perseveres. It NEVER fails.
There is no greater example of this than Jesus Christ himself. Check out the Scripture from 1 John. It says, “This is how we know what love is: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.” Jesus took action. He took action and actively bore your sins. He actively walked to the cross. He went through the agony of a crucifixion for you.
Jesus did this while we were sinners! He did do this because there was some kind of romantic spark between you and Him. He did it even when you were in the worst of your sins. He did it when there was nothing loveable about you at all. He did it even though you have repeatedly time and time gone against him. Which means that if you have broken your marriage vows, if you have been actively harming your spouse, if you have been involved in ruining someone else’s marriage, if you have been divorced and are seeking God again – then God’s message for you today is this: You are forgiven! You are forgiven and Jesus loves you.
That’s the message of Hosea. Do you know about Hosea? Hosea was a prophet whom God told to go and marry a prostitute. Sound like a good idea? It wasn’t. Hosea’s wife repeatedly cheated on him. Hosea would head downtown and literally pull her out of the bedroom from another drug induced coma with another man and bring her home, nurse her to health, and call her “sweetie” in the morning.
How could Hosea do that? Easy. It’s what God had done to him.
It’s also what God has done to us. We have repeatedly, over and over again been unfaithful to Him –and He has repeatedly – shown us love. He will not give up on you.
Because that’s God’s definition of marriage. His definition is not based on feeling love. His definition is based on action love. Underserved, gracious, passionate, all the time, action love.
God says you are his bride,. You are the object of his affection.
Since you know God’s love, won’t you show that same kind of love in your marriage too?
Head back with me to the Adam and Eve scene. Is it really so loveless? The two of them had legitimate gripes against the other one. They had caused sin to come into the world. They had forfeited perfection and now lived together in all of their day to day imperfection…
..but they stayed together. They forgave. They loved. They hugged. Their love didn’t fail because they had seen God’s love which never fails.
Brothers & sisters, may you find such a love and may you grow in such love. May you be filled with God’s action love. Amen.
WORTHY OF JUDGMENT.
They were right. She felt the shame. She had been feeling it for months now. Secret rendezvous. Hidden moments. Lies. To her husband. To his wife. To her own children.
Now it was at the forefront. She’d been caught. The secret she had worked to protect was now public knowledge. What would everyone think of her? What would her husband think? What would his wife think? What would her own children think? She wanted to die.
Then, there was a commotion. The men were distracted. Someone was joining the mob.
It was Jesus.
The mob was excited, “Join us! This woman is guilty of adultery. Join us! Let’s give her what the Law deserves. Let’s rid the earth of her.”
The woman shed another tear.
Jesus responded calmly. “OK – why doesn’t the person without any sin, throw the first stone.”
It was quiet. The men looked at one another. They looked at the woman. They looked at Jesus. Then someone threw the first stone…on the ground.
Today we’re going to continue our series on Counter Culture by talking about Purity. The heart of purity is found in the Sixth Commandment. Anyone? “You shall not commit adultery.” Some might call it a no fun commandment. Or that God is a prude.
But God made us sexual beings. God made us to reproduce. God gave us the gift of sex as a special blessing to connect to human beings together in a special way that they won’t connected with anyone else. It’s a lot different than a handshake. It was aimed to seal and connect you intimately to your spouse.
But the greater the blessing, the greater the pain when it is abused. There is pain, hurt feelings, guilt, and shame. (They are a lot worse than when you steal someone’s pencil when they aren’t looking).
And unlike many other sins – this one affects your own body. It changes the chemical reactions in the brain. It reprograms you to have a connection with someone you aren’t married to. It confuses you. It makes you feel icky. It makes you avoid contact with someone else because they make you feel guilty.
God didn’t want you to have any of that. So God made this command for your good. God wanted to protect your purity. I guess you could say, "You shall not cause yourself and your neighbor all kinds of pain, shame, and terrible heartache."
What then does it take to be pure? Let’s discuss definitions.
I. Defining Purity
1) The World’s Definition
When I first started working on this sermon, I thought the best way to define the world’s definition of purity might be: “Do whatever you want.” That’s what we tell each other. It’s what the media preaches. It’s what the Facebook videos with the sappy music teaches us. Just let people feel, love, and do what they want.
Then, a certain Vanity Fair magazine cover came out.
And people had opinions. People like Chris brown. Chris Brown who, in his music, proclaims to have slept with hundreds of women and in his Instagram photos is grinding and twisting against all kinds of scantily clad women, tweeted very negatively about Jenner. In his mind, Jenner was the definition of sexually impure.
Then, Chris went right back to rapping and partying and sleeping around.
Chris Brown embodies the world’s definition of purity. It’s the definition that the Pharisees had. Sexual purity is “not doing the sexual sins that I don’t do.” If that’s the definition of purity, guess what? You’ll always pass! Because you’ll always have not done the sins you have not done.
Be careful that you don’t fall for the world’s definition of purity. It can happen while you watch TV. Suddenly, the TV portrays a homosexual encounter. You look away “That’s sinful! I can’t believe they show that on TV.” Then, you change the channel and settle on the TV show where the nice young detective is falling in love with the burly cop. They aren’t married, but it’s ok...who hasn’t done that?
TIME OUT! Where’s the outrage? That’s a sin too!
But maybe we don’t have the same outrage, because if we did, we’d have to outrage our own sins.
And we don't want to.
So we fall into the trap of defining purity by the world's standards.
2) God’s Definition
Brace yourself for moment. Then, when you're ready take a look at God’s definition of purity in Ephesians 5:3. “Among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality…”
Listen again and write it down. God’s definition of purity means not even a hint of impurity. Among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or any kind of impurity, or greed -- because these are improper for God’s holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking which are out of place!”
If purity were food, God wants his wholly organic! He doesn’t want even an ounce of a contaminate in his selections. He doesn’t want anything, not even a modified Food Starch here OR a bug repellant there to have ever touched his tomatoes.
God doesn’t want any kind of sexual immorality to ever touch his children.
When you compare your life to that definition, how does it match up? Can you really tell God that you haven’t ever had an action, a motive, a word, or a thought that is impure?
If you can’t, if even an ounce of impurity has ever touched you then…you are impure! Remember God's a stickler so even a 1 night stand or 1 explicit lyrics rap song or 1 inappropriate website on your browser history ruins the whole shebang!
Maybe you now understand what the woman was feeling a little better.
She was bracing herself with her eyes closed because she knew her punishment was coming. She knew she was about to face her Maker in all of her sin!
She closed her eyes and waited.
Then she opened her eyes. The crowd was gone. The only thing remaining was a pile of stones and Jesus.
“Did no one condemn you?” he said. “No one sir,” she breathed.
“Then, neither do I condemn you. Go and leave your life of sin.”
If you have left an impure life in the past and are seeking his forgiveness, then hear Jesus’ words to you. God’s Word says to you, “Neither do I condemn you.”
How does that work? All who have hope in Jesus purify themselves, just as he is pure. (1 Jn. 3:3) It’s just like that children’s lesson we did. God’s power is like Clorox bleach. It destroys and rids our souls of all impurities from before God. It’s God’s promise in Baptism. In your Baptism. Baptism is like God’s permanent divine Clorox bleach that remains running throughout the soul veins of your body. It purifies you from all sin!
Do you believe this? Then you are pure…Live in purity.
II. Why Live in Purity
But you might be wondering – what’s the point? Our world is so sexually driven – it’s everywhere. You get very little judgment for sexual escapades. Guys get a high five and women get a giggle from a friend. Why should we strive for this “not even a hint” definition of purity!?! It’s darn near impossible!
Here are 5 reasons to strive for purity from Ephesians 5.
1) You are God’s Child
Check out verse 1. It says, “Be imitators of God, as dearly loved children.”
Did you ever want to be like your parents? I think that’s pretty natural for children. Girls want to wear dresses like their moms. Boys want to throw the baseball like their dads. One of the reasons I became a pastor was to be like my dad.
Spiritually speaking, God is your dad. He’s an awesome role model. He’s holy. He’s good. He’s never evil.
Do you want a good role model? Don’t make it some reality TV star who gets a bunch of girls or that woman from 50 Shades of Grey. Make it your heavenly dad and don’t let even a Hint of Impurity be in your life!
2) Christ Loves You
Verse 2 says this, “Live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us…”
Did you hear how much Christ loved you? He was willing to give himself up for you. He suffered extreme pain on the cross so that you won’t have to suffer any pain in eternity.
Porn -- doesn’t love you. That steamy romance author? Just wants your money. That television show? Just wants ratings. Your boyfriend…may love you…but not selflessly…in the moment…he may just want to use you.
Jesus always loves you and has your best interest in mind. Follow him and his direction. Don’t let even a hint of impurity be apart of your life.
3) Lust is Idolatry.
Check out verse 5. “An immoral, impure person…such a man is an idolater.”
Idolatry is a first commandment issue. In it’s simplest form, it refers to worshipping a small statue as a god.
But it doesn’t have to be a small statue. If you run to the internet for relief...if you run to the sights of the gym for enjoyment…if you study your romance novel more than God’s Word – who is really your God?
Don’t worship your own sinful desires. Worship God. Don’t let even a hint of impurity be a part of your life.
4) There’s No Impurity in Heaven
This is probably the scariest and most difficult reason for a pastor to relay to his people. But it’s also the most obvious reason and I’d be a pretty terrible interpreter of the God’s Word, if I failed to mention this one. Read verse 5 in its entirety: “Of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person—such a man is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.”
You’re welcome to object. “No way that’s true.” But verse 6 continues, “Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such impure things, God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient.”
Brothers and sisters, I want you in heaven. God wants you in heaven. Don’t let even a hint of impurity be a part of your life.
5) You are Light.
As scary as verse 6 is, verse 8 is filled with comfort. It says this, “You were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord.” In other words, you were once surrounded by the darkness of sinful lusts. Your lives were filled with erasing your internet browser, sneaking to hotels, making sure no one saw you looking at that magazine in the magazine aisle, and hoping no one noticed that you slept over at your boyfriend's house last night.
But now you know Jesus. Now you know the light. Now you are surrounded by the light of His presence. Now you are forgiven. Now you live for God.
Don’t let even a hint of impurity be a part of your life….Live as children of the light.
III. How to Live in Purity
So…how do you do it?
In America, we often approach these issues in the same way: “OK God…How far can I go?” How far is too far with my boyfriend? How long is too long for me to stare at the woman on the side of the road? How short is too short for this sexy shirt I’m wearing? How steamy is too steamy for this television scene I’m watching?
Stop asking how far you can go from God, but how far you can go in serving Him.
How can I stay pure as I go about dating? How can I serve my boyfriend with the way I dress? How can I serve my girlfriend with where I spend the night? How can I serve my spouse with the way I look at the internet? How can I serve my husband with my reading choices? How can I serve my children with the televisions shows that I choose to watch in their presence?
In short – Start asking how can I rid my life of impurity? Ephesians gives us three guidelines to keep in mind:
1) Come into the Light.
Look at what Ephesians says next, “Live as children of light…Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness…Expose these dark deeds. 12 It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. But everything exposed by the light becomes visible—and everything that is illuminated becomes a light.”
Isn’t it true that these kinds of sins often take place in the dark? Or at least when others are in the dark about that? Behind closed doors, when others are away, when the kids are in bed.
Jesus is saying here – stop hiding your struggle. Share it with a friend.
Yes – it’s a scary thought to ask another Christian for help. It’s humbling. But it’s also freeing. Ask someone for help. Ask an elder here. Ask me! Ask for help and---if someone asks you for help, don’t hold their struggle against them. Don’t be the Pharisee – “Ugh, Ugh, you struggle with that?” Don’t belittle them. They are coming to you for help – so praise God they are struggling and help them!
2) Be Wise.
In the book of Proverbs, King Solomon talks about a time he looked out his window and saw a young man walking down the street. As he was walking down the street, he saw a prostitute waiting for him. King Solomon thought, “Walk on the other side of the street. Get away from her! You’ll be safer away from the temptation.”
Instead, the young man walked right by her. She seduced him. He went with her.
Ephesians 5:15 says, “Be careful, then, how you live—not as unwise, but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.”
If this is a struggle for you, don’t be foolish. Use common sense. If you struggle when you’re alone, make sure you aren’t alone. If you struggle when you go to the gym, don’t go to the gym. If you struggle with a certain kind of book, don’t get that book at the library. If you struggle with a certain kind of television show, don’t watch that. If you struggle with a certain kind of website, don’t go there. In fact, block it! Use internet software to police yourself. If you are more prone to struggle with all of this when you’re drunk, don’t get drunk. Don’t spend the night alone with your girlfriend if you can’t control yourself.
Be wise and God will bless you with victory after victory.
3) Be Filled with the Spirit.
All of this serving God and struggling against sin takes energy. It's like a battle. An athletic context of divine proportions.
That means you're going to need to replenish your spiritual electrolytes. Therefore, you need to keep yourself hydrated with the time tested, proven, spiritually reenergizing Gatorade:
"Instead, be filled with the Spirit, 19 speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, 20 always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
If you want to live a pure life, you need to be filled with the pure Word of God. You need to be filled with his pure law for guidance. You need to be filled with His pure Gospel for the pure comfort of having a Savior who purified you from all sins.
Come back to our Gospel scene one more time that woman had heard Jesus’ precious words of forgiveness. She was filled with the Spirit as Jesus spoke words of forgiveness. She knew of God’s love when she didn’t deserve it.
Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go and leave your life of sin.”
You are not your sin. You are not an adulteress. You are my child.
Jesus changed her identity with one awesome sentence of Gospel.
Hear the same thing that God is speaking to you: You are not perpetually stuck in sin. You are not a sex addict. You are not disgusting. You are not a pornographer. You are not a homosexual. You are not an adulteress.
You are not your sin.
You are God's child. You are loved. You are forgiven.
You are PURE.
When you think of someone wise, what does that person look like?
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?
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.