Ever been on a family vacation before?
It always sounds so nice. You get in the car, everyone has their seat and pillow from home. Dad’s driving. Mom has the directions. The bag with all the food is in the back seat for Brother to turn around and deliver snacks. Sister is in control of the DVD player. It sounds nice. The family on a trip together.
But then dad takes the turns on the highway a bit too fast -- Sister is feeling sick to her stomach.
Mom is distracted by sister and forgets to tell dad to turn on I-75. The car goes an hour out of the way.
Dad needs some trail mix to calm himself down, but there’s not any left. Brother ate all of it!
Sister won’t let anyone put any DVD in that isn’t an iCarly original – so that you hear the theme song in the back of your head the whole time.
Sometimes it’s easier to travel alone.
No one to complain about driving.
No one to give wrong directions.
No one else to eat the trail mix.
But what about following Jesus? What about spiritual travel? Is it nicer alone or together?
Today we’re continuing our series called Follow and we’re discussing what it’s like to follow together – as a church family. We will hear about some of the biggest threats to following together and be reminded of the blessings. Before we do that, join me in a prayer: O Lord, strengthen us by the truth; your Word is truth. Open our eyes to see what you want us to see. Open our ears to hear what you want us to hear. Open our hearts to believe what you would have us believe. Amen.
I. Divisions in Corinth
Our lesson comes from 1 Corinthians 1. A bit of background – 1 Corinthians is a letter written to a young church that was in a city called Corinth. The Corinthians had first learned about Jesus from a follower of Jesus named Paul. They were the ones who told them that they were sinners; that they needed a Savior; that Jesus was that Savior.
At first, the people were so excited about this message. They loved having salvation. They loved having freedom from sin. They loved the peace of God.
But then…something happened.
Paul left. Another Pastor – Pastor Apollos – showed up and took their place. It doesn’t appear he taught a much different message. He taught that they were sinners; that they needed a Savior and that Jesus was that Savior. (Same thing; same message.)
But Apollos must have done things a bit differently. (Maybe he didn’t choose the same worship music as Paul; maybe he bought a different kind of coffee for morning fellowship – I don’t know). Regardless, it started to cause some people to long for their past pastor.
I really miss Paul. He was so sarcastic.The type of guy you could grab a beer with and still be convicted.
Ok sure. But I’m a fan of Apollos. He’s no nonsense and he’s getting stuff done.
But some of his ideas are different. He doesn’t do things the same way that Paul does things. He’s #NotMyPastor.
Speak for yourself – I’m an Apollos guy. Times are changing. His way is better.
Well, I’ll always be a follower of Paul – first and foremost. I’m not a follower of Apollos.
I am. You can stay stuck in the past with the Paul way of doing things.
And then – into that culture – somehow the church became familiar with the teachings of a guy called Cephas (aka Peter). Peter was one of the original 12 disciples. Peter spoke with Jesus for 3 years. Peter must have introduced himself to them. Told about how he saw the resurrected Jesus and shared his ideas for the church of Jesus going forward.
Picture Peter the accomplished author you might find down at the Christian bookstore. A group of people moved to the area from Peter’s church in Jerusalem, joined the church, and ran every idea from the church council by the Apostle Peter.
Putting the sermon after the Bible study? WWPD (What Would Peter do?) – I don’t know if he’d think it was a good idea.
Welcoming Gentiles into the same congregation as Jews? WWPD? I’m not so sure.
Chocolate chip cookies for fellowship! WWPD? I think he’d buy Oreos.
Suddenly a shift started to take place in the church. Instead of one united group, there were different groups. They weren’t united Christians. They were Paulians, Peterites and Apollosians. A group of Paul followers would gather over here and badmouth the Barnabas brotherhood. The Barnabas brotherhood would meet over there and discuss ways to stop Apollos’ outreach plan. And Apollos’ selected church people would snap Instagram photos with the #ApollosChurch until it was trending.
Word got to Paul – the guy who first told them about Jesus. There weren’t phones back then. There wasn’t Snapchat. He couldn’t just TWEET his displeasure. So, he wrote a longhand letter. These divisions are one of the first things he addresses.
10 I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought. 11 My brothers and sisters, some from Chloe’s household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. 12 What I mean is this: One of you says, “I follow Paul”; another, “I follow Apollos”’ another, “I follow Cephas,” still another, “I follow Christ.”
I think this is interesting. Paul’s appeal is not for people to revert to doing things his way.
It isn’t for people to listen to all of his ideas.
It’s for people to stop be divided and started being united.
He asks some pretty poignant questions to get his point across:
(1) Is Christ divided? Are the Jews class A of Christians and the Gentiles class B? Did Jesus die once on a cross for the rich and once on a side street for the poor? Does John 3:16 say, “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son that whoever believes in him and likes country music goes to heaven, but whoever believes in him and like rap music goes to a different heaven"? Not any worse, just not the same – not so that I have to listen to your country music the whole time I’m in heaven.
(2) Was Paul crucified for you? The quick answer is NO; he’s busy writing this very letter. Paul wasn’t crucified. Apollos wasn’t crucified. Peter, although some tradition suggests that he was eventually was crucified, was not crucified yet! And even when he did die – it didn’t have any incredible redemptive work. Ask the kids – Jesus died on the cross – not Paul, not Peter, not Apollos, not anyone or anything else.
(3) Were you baptized into the name of Paul? How would that have even sounded? “I baptize you in the name of Paul the Pharisee, Paul the persecutor, and Paul the reformed Christian missionary?"
And I love Paul’s parenthetical aside, “I thank God that I did not baptize any of you except Crispus and Gaius, so no one can say that you were baptized in my name. (Yes, I also baptized the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I don’t remember if I baptized anyone else.)” Paul’s point isn’t that he didn’t want people to be baptized. (Baptism brings forgiveness of sins, eternal life and salvation. Things that Paul treasured dearly and dedicated the latter portion of his life preaching). Rather, Paul’s point is that people would have used being baptized by him as some kind of special badge that would have furthered division.
It’s like bringing home a gift for your kids. Maybe you get them each a PEZ dispenser. What if you got the PEZ dispenser for everyone in your family accept your middle child? How’s that go over? (“You love them more than me.”)
It’s the same thing with adults though. Imagine if your boss at work gives everyone a Valentine’s card with a PAYDAY chocolate attached to it. (Get it, PAYDAY?) What happens if you look around the office and you see everyone else has a delicious, chocolate, salty candy bar and you don’t? Division! You get angry. You whine.
Paul recognizes that – even with something as incredible as Baptism. As if people would wear ball caps that said, “Baptized by Paul” and others were visors that said, “Blessed by the hand of Apollos.”
TRUTH: People love taking good things and making them into divisive things. In the case of Baptism, they had taken something incredible – baptism – which unites you with God and with believers and they were now using it as a thing of division.
II. Divisions at Gethsemane?
Careful. Because the devil is still at work today. He is still trying to sabotage the church just as much as he did back then. He is still trying to sabotage our ministry here in Raleigh – just as much as he did then. By taking neutral things – even good things --- and making them into divisive things.
Here are three things that I think we have to be especially careful of.
Did you know it’s not sinful to engage in politics? It’s not sinful to watch political shows either. But what has happened is our country has such an incredible divide between the Republican and Democratic party – that we no longer view each other as people we politely disagree with. But people that we violently oppose! And let them know as much on Facebook and every other social media site we can get onto.
That can’t happen in this church.
That can’t happen when we are dedicated to sharing Jesus.
Jesus wasn’t Republican. Jesus wasn’t Democrat. (Neither of those were even around back then.)
Jesus is our God. He is our Savior. He is the Savior of your friend who votes in a different direction.
Don’t let politics get in the way and ruin the message of your Savior.
Culture is a great thing. It’s a view into God’s mind. That he created us so very different with so many different backgrounds, different food favorites and different styles of wearing our hair. It’s beautiful. Thanks to culture we have the ability to go to the Chinese restaurant on Monday, get Mexican on Tuesday, grab some soul food on Wednesday, try an Italian pizzeria on Thursday and finish it off with Japanese sushi on Friday.
Culture is great. But the temptation is to make it into something that divides – (See: Racism)
Racism has no place in the church. Jesus died for all. It says in the Bible Jesus died for Jews and for Gentiles – which means -- everyone who isn’t a Jew.
Don’t let culture get in the way and ruin the message of your Savior.
(3) Worship Styles.
I bring this up because we will be moving to two different services on Easter. Those two services may be different. One might be a more traditional style of worship (with robes and organ and old school hymns) while the other might be a more contemporary style of worship (without robes and with a band and new school songs).
Both are good. Both are different expressions of culture. Both share God’s Word.
Both could cause division.
Whether it’s “I’m a Traditional Christian” and "I’m a Contemporary Christian.”
Or whether it’s “I’m an early service Christian” and “I’m a late service Christian.”
Don’t let these causes division. Traditional worship didn’t die for you. You weren’t baptized into the name of Contemporary worship.
You were baptized into the name of Jesus.
III. Jesus Unites
In fact, Jesus died to stop division—division between us and God. Our sins had divided us from him. Read Isaiah 59:2 “Your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you so that he will not hear.”
There’s this picture of this big thick bulletproof glass. You can see someone on the other side. It’s someone you love. You wish they could hear you. You’re banging on the glass for them to hear you and notice you and let you in.
But they don’t.
That’s the picture of sin and God. We see him. We know his power. We see the value in being with him. But our sins separate us. In a cruel, cruel joke reminding us how unworthy we are to approach a holy, divine God.
But Jesus is like a wrecking ball. Jesus comes in and smashed through the wall. Jesus comes in and knock down our sins. Jesus comes in and removes what separated us from God. Jesus unites us to our Heavenly Father.
TRUTH: God is not a God of division. God is a God of unity.
Paul recognized that. Look at how he continues the letter: Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel – not with wisdom and eloquence, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power. For 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. For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.”
Look at that again – “The cross, the message that Jesus died for us, destroys our sin, and unites us with God the Father, is a message that divides.” Unbelievers call it foolishness. It doesn’t make any sense – some Jewish guy, a carpenter, died a few thousand years ago, and because of him I’m right with God?
But that same message that divides unbelievers is the message that unites us. It is the power of God.
It is the power for salvation for the Jew.
It is the power of salvation for the Gentile.
It is the power of salvation for the guy who got along with Paul.
It is the power of salvation for the guy who really liked Apollos.
It is the power of salvation for the girl who votes Republican.
It is the power of salvation for the girl who votes Democrat.
It is the power of salvation for the Italian, the German, the Iraqi, the African American, the Hispanic, and the Native American.
It is the power of salvation for the guy who likes guitars.
It is the power of salvation for the guy who likes organ.
It is the power of salvation for all of us. It is the one, incredible, power of salvation that unites us all!
IV. What now?
(1) Focus on What Unites
That’s such an easy thing for us to do. To point out what’s different. But there’s so much that’s the same. We all have eyes. We all have noses. We all have hands and feet. We all have a need to be connected with family and friends. We all have a need to be connected with God.
Check out verse 26: “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. 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…it is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus.”
Paul is saying – Stop thinking about what makes you different. Think about what makes you the same:
Y’all were sinners.
Y’all were ignorant.
Y’all were in need of a savior.
And all y’all have a Savior. That Savior is Jesus. He is your wisdom.
(2) Boast in God
That’s Paul’s conclusion on this first chapter. He says in verse 31, “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.” Because what’s boasting? Boasting is speaking openly and proudly about something you like or accomplished.
The problem with boasting is that is usually causes someone to feel awful who hasn’t accomplished what you are boasting about.
Boast in Jesus. Don’t boast in your favorite style of worship. Don’t boast in your favorite political party.
Boast in Jesus.
Boast in God.
Boast in the one who actually and completely unites us in every way.
Then, you are able to follow together.
Then, you are able to follow peaceably.
Then, you are able to help each other on the road to heaven.
A brother of our passed away this past week. I won’t give every detail, but know that he was an older gentleman who had struggles with his lungs. He also didn’t have a lot of family in the area. He lived alone.
That’s a hard thing to go through alone.
I had gotten the message that it wouldn’t be much longer while I was in Arizona. It’s hard to do bedside ministry from Arizona. But…here’s where following together comes in.
Pastor Rockhoff helped with a visit.
One of our elders helped with a visit.
My wife graciously drove me late at night for a visit.
I wasn’t there at the exact time of his death. But one of our elders was. From what I heard about his final minutes – as he was struggling and life was leaving him – our elder was blessed to be able to share with him God’s Word. Literally – reading the blessing.
The Lord bless you and keep you.
The Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you.
The Lord look on you with favor and give you peace.
And the Lord gave him peace.
And the Lord brought him into peace.
And he now lives in eternal peace.
That’s following Jesus.
That’s following Jesus together.
Lord help us do that now and always. Amen.
Did you watch the latest Presidential debate?
Call me old fashioned, but I remember a time when candidates talked about issues and policies and how they would address those issues and policies. This latest debate?
Here’s why you’re terrible.
And here’s why you’re terrible.
And here’s why you’re even more terrible -er.
It seemed a bit more like I was watching an episode of Keeping Up with the Kardashians.
I don’t think I’m alone. According to the latest polls, neither candidate has a majority. In fact, they are barely hovering around 40%. That means – the eventual winner will have more than half the country against them! It’s is going to be one of the largest third candidate votes in American history. Time and time again – I see people’s reason for voting for Hillary or Trump as – They’re bad – just not as bad as the other one.
What’s a person to do?
What’s a Christian to do?
Who should we trust to make our lives better?
Today we are continuing our series called God & Country. We’re looking at the Christian and voting. I wanna say right off the bat: I am not endorsing any candidates. You can give me a lifetime supply of Nacho Cheese Doritos and I’m not endorsing any candidates. I’m a pastor; not a politician. I care about spiritual -- way more than temporal.
Yet there’s a spiritual aspect to casting a vote. Because there’s trust involved in casting a vote.
Today we want to look into God’s Word and see (1) who should we trust while casting our vote and (2) what principles do we keep in mind while voting. But before we study God’s Word, let’s say a prayer: O Lord, strengthen us by the truth; your Word is truth. Open our eyes to see what you want us to see. Open our ears to hear what you want us to hear. Open our hearts to believe what you would have us believe. Amen.
I. Voting & Trust
Our lesson for today comes from 1 Samuel 8. That's actually before where we were last week in our God & Patriotism lesson. It's before David was king. In fact, it was before Israel even had kings or a human government.
Which is what makes this biblical studying on voting for a political candidate difficult. There isn’t any democracy in the Bible. Democracy is relatively new. In the Old Testament – most governments were Monarchies – that means – they were governments run by kings.
But not in Israel. Not in 1 Samuel. At that time Israel was different. Israel was run by a theocracy. Theos is the Greek word for "god." That means a theocracy is a government run by God. Literally. God, their heavenly Father, was actively involved in the government of Israel.
He would give guidance to a leader -- Moses or Joshua -- who would then lead the Israelites in battle and citizenship -- How to live, what to celebrate, what's good and what's bad. This system went well for Israel as long as they listened to God. When they listened to him, they were blessed. When they didn't listen to God, they were in trouble.
The same thing happened when Samuel (the person for whom the book of 1 Samuel is named) became the go between for God and the people. Things went well. The Israelites had been in captivity, but after Samuel led -- they were not.
People were generally happy with this theocracy.
Until one day….
…Samuel heard a rock tumble down his gravel walkway. He looked up from his morning devotion and went to the front window: A group of men was walking up his driveway. He recognized them. They were leaders from various tribes and various families in this Israelites nation. A congress of elected officials – that was neither elected nor official.
Samuel went to the front door to let them in. It was always good to see them. Together they enforced God’s Will. They helped pass on God’s Word of wisdom. God talked to Samuel; Samuel talked to these men; these men talked to the people.
Together they guided Israel.
And it worked! 30 some years earlier, Israel was a broken mess. Various sections of the country had splintered off and been captured by the Philistines and the Amorites. They were oppressed, taxed, and beaten. But, after the country repented and listened to God’s leadership through Samuel – Israel was at peace. The country was restored. The nation was blessed and had been for years.
Maybe the guys are here to talk about the good old days OR maybe they want me to speak at a high school graduation again.
But the people didn’t come for high fives.
They weren’t bringing him a gift of appreciation.
They didn’t even want to take selfies with him.
v.5 “You’re old." You’re not young. It’s a new era; a modern era. You don’t connect with the younger generation anymore. You can’t keep up like you used to. You should be in the hall of fame; not on the front lines.
"You’re sons aren’t like you." They aren’t. They just want money and they only care about themselves. They aren’t doing a good job doing the legwork for you.
"Appoint a king to lead us, just like all the other nations have."
Samuel’s smile faded. He nodded and listened as they spoke. “OK, Ok. I hear you.” But his heart wasn’t in it. Why were they rejected him? Was it something he said? Was it something he did? Was he not wearing the right clothing? Did he need a new hair style?
Samuel excused himself for a moment. He went out back to a private room. He got on his knees and he prayed to God. God, is this right? Should I listen to them? God why are they rejecting me?
God responded – with one of the truest statement Samuel had heard in a long time.
v.7 Samuel…It is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king.
Do any of you know who Chumbawamba is? They’re a one hit wonder from the nineties. But…I remember back when I was a preteen, all of my classmates were obsessed with Chumbawamba’s number 1 hit song: Tubthumper. It goes “I get knocked down, but I get up again; you ain’t ever gonna keep me down.” (Sound familiar?)
So here’s what I did. I found a BMG Music ad in the newspaper. I ordered the Chumbawamba CD. I had to order another 10 CDs (based solely on whether or not I had heard my classmates talking about them) and I spent my whole allowance to get them.
The CD came. And Tubthumper was alright…the other songs? Awful.
All so I could be like the other kids.
Essentially that’s what the Israelites were wanting. They were willing to give up the leadership of their holy, perfect, all loving, never failing, completely on their side, miracle making God – all for the sake of being like the other nations.
They wanted someone they could see.
They wanted someone that was like them.
They wanted someone who was invested in the human race.
They wanted to be like other, sinful, godless, heading toward hell people.
But then again – this is what Israel had always done. For years, they had been rejecting God’s rule. For years, they had been doing the opposite of what God said. For years, they had been appearing to follow God – but really following sinful human beings.
God and Samuel finished their campaign meeting. Samuel returned to the Israelites with some talking points. He had a chance to debate; to give a final warning as to why God was a way better leader than a human being. His defense is found in verses 10-18, but here are the highlights:
1) Take your kids and make army fodder. Instead of having the hand of God doing the work for you, protecting you and keeping you safe, he’ll grab your sons. They’ll be maimed and die in battle. And it won’t always be for your best interested. It’ll be for the king’s interest and the king’s legacy. For his own, selfish, human reasons.
2) You’ll lose your freedom. You won’t be able to choose your lifestyle and choose your occupation. If the king needs a farmer, you’ll be a farmer. If the king needs a baker, you’ll be a baker. If the king needs a outhouse repairman, you’ll be an outhouse repairman. He won’t keep in mind your desire and dreams for this life – he’ll give you a job…for his own, selfish, human reasons.
3) The Taxes… Oh the taxes will increase. You’ll give up a portion of your food and your goats, and your oxen and chicken, and everything that you have. Some will go to protect you, but once that king gets a taste of wealth, the majority of taxes will not happen to improve your life, they will happen for the king’s own, selfish, human reasons.
4) You’ll be slaves. Because eventually, eventually someone will become king whose sinful, selfish human reasons overtakes his policies. He’ll make you serve him – not your country and not yourself. He’ll be filled with vengeance and a complete disregard for you – and you shouldn’t be surprised! That’s what sinful, selfish, human beings do!
And you’ll call out to God for help. You’ll regret the decision you are making right now. But, v.18 the LORD will not answer you.
The Israelites thought about it.
They pondered it.
They deeply considered the thoughts of their holy, perfect, all knowing God.
…for about 2 seconds.
v.18 “No! We want a king over us! We want to be like the other nations.”
Did you see the problem? The Israelites trusted humanity more than God. Soon, they’d put their trust in Saul – their very first human king – more than God.
It’s foolish to do.
God is holy; humans are sinful.
God is all loving; humans love themselves first.
God is all powerful; humans are weak.
God is all knowing; humans know whatever their very biased advisors tell them to know.
But this trusting of humans more than God is something that was happening back then…
…and is still happening now.
Who do you trust this election?
Hillary? Donald? Do you trust Jill or Gary or Scott?
Are you panicking because you don’t trust any of them?
Do you expect a president to completely change your life?
To fix your problems? To fix your money situation? To improve your job and heal your health issues?
If you do, your trust is in the wrong place.
Hillary Clinton will not fix your life.
Donald Trump will not make your life great again.
A third party candidate will not put your life in the right direction.
The only one who can do that; is not on the ballot.
Isaiah 43:11 says this, “God is the Lord and there is no other Savior.”
Cause when you look at our lives apart from God – there’s been a Great Recession.
And you know how good candidates are at lying? We’re good at it too. Telling ourselves “I’m fine. Everything’s great. I have no spiritual problems.”
But we’re wrong. It’s a mess. And it's beyond any human being!!
But it isn't beyond God.
Here’s the truth:
Your Savior isn't on the ballot; he's on the cross.
To be fair, this may not mean that you make more money. It may not mean that your health care payments go down. It may not mean that you get all of the benefits that you t think you deserve.
But what you’ll get; is beyond your wildest imagination.
Jesus said this, “My kingdom is not of this world.” That means he’s concerned with your life on this earth, yes, but he’s even more concerned with your spiritual, eternal life in heaven. His decisions, when it comes down to one or the other, are always going to be in favor of your heavenly glory.
Because that's better.
Because that lasts.
Because that's how He fixes this broken world.
Because that's how He fixes this broken you.
II. Principles for this Election
Jesus is the only Savior. But he's also not on the ballot. I'm not suggesting that you write in his name. (He wouldn't take the job and sadly, he probably wouldn't win anyways).
What are you to do? What does the Bible encourage us to do in an earthly election? Keep in mind that the Bible doesn’t exactly address voting. Democracy isn’t a part of the Ten Commandments and it was never a part of Israelite government. There's not even a mandate to vote! But there’s a few Biblical principles that I think you should keep in mind.
The Bible tells us to pray continually. It doesn’t say, “Pray continually until an election comes up; then stop praying and start making decisions on your own without seeking God’s help.” Nope. God tells us to pray about big things and little things – to help grandma get over cancer and to help me do well on this 10 question math quiz.
The presidential election fits under the category of things to pray for.
Won’t you keep it in your prayers?
Pray for God to bless America.
Pray for God to bless your heart.
Pray for God to guide you toward the best decision that you can make.
2) Use the Wisdom God gave You.
That really has a twofold meaning. The Bible says that God made us "Fearfully and wonderfully." Therefore, we should use that wonderful mind that God gave us and the wisdom he bestowed on us.
But also he gave us wisdom beyond that. Wisdom within his Word.
Now, there is not a Bible book called. “2nd What-to-Do-in-the-2016-American-Presidential-Elections.” It just isn’t there. That means this will take some time. You'll need to learn about the candidates and then search in God's Word for what a godly leader looks like. You'll find examples of godly leaders and godly characteristics of leaders. You'll learn godly morals and godly mandates.
It takes some time, but it's worth it.
Don’t just do something cause all your friends are saying so on Facebook.
That’s what the Israelites did and it didn’t work out to well for them.
Take time to think about the issues and vote using the wisdom God gave you.
DID YOU KNOW: There will be some friends, some family members, even some church members who vote differently in you?
Kick them out pastor! Right?
You do realize that every candidate in this election is a sinner?
Every candidate has sinful human reasoning?
Every candidate has sinful human motives?
There is no perfect candidate. If you’re going to disown a friend because they voted for a sinful candidate, then you’ll have to disown yourself.
Relax. Christians can make different choices for President; just as they make different choices for what type of car to drive and different choices for different types of chewing gum. You don’t need to crucify them or call them names. You don’t need to send them angry blog post after angry blog post.
You need to pray with them. You need to work with them.
You need to share God’s Word to them and with them.
And you have important work to do:
4) Move on.
Which leads to the final point – after you make your vote – move on!
Because God didn't call us to sit around and wring our hands and worry about our government. Nope.
God called us to share the Gospel of Jesus.
We’ve got way too important of work to keep doing together. We need to Gather to the Garden. We need to share Jesus with our community. We need to keep telling others about our incredible Savior, Jesus Christ.
And you need to be a part of that.
Here’s where God helps with that.
Because the more our trust is in him, the more we calm God gives us.
To be honest, this election is quite the opportunity for trust in God. Because if I think back to the elections that I can remember – people were voting because they were confident in the candidate to do the good job. George W. Bush will fix things. Barack Obama will fix things.
This year – They won’t mess it up as much as the other person.
Which means – when trust in the candidates is at all time low – we have an opportunity to place trust in God at an all-time high.
Put your trust in the Lord, the Only Savior.
Share your trust it the Lord, the Only Savior.
I was standing in line at Kroger the other day and there it was – right next to the package of Certs and Three Musketeer King Size bars that are about the size of an actual king’s scepter.
Improve your Intimacy Now! -- 5 Rules for Better Sex -- Secrets of the Bedroom: How to Connect with Him Better.
I’m not alone in this, am I? There’s at least one of those assertions on the front of every Cosmopolitan. As if intimacy could be achieved by a quick top ten list or the $3.99 magazine that I was going to use on a bag of Doritos.
Fear not. The truth about intimacy is not found on the grocery store aisle shelf. It’s found on the little shelf in the back of the pew in front of you. (Or on your shelf at home.)
I. True Intimacy isn’t about You
The section of God’s Word that we’re looking at today starts in 1 Corinthians 6. It begins in verse 12 by helping us to understand the attitude of the times. This is kind of the way that Corinthian society viewed sexuality and unfortunately it’s the way that many in the Corinthian church viewed sexuality. In fact, it’s in quotation marks in your Bibles because scholars are pretty well convinced that this was a catchphrase of the 1st century day. If there would have been hashtags back then, there would be all kinds of people hashtagging the first part of verse 12.
“Everything is permissible for me.” #EverythingIsPermissable
The idea is pretty simple. If it’s legal in Corinthian culture, then why not do it? Stop being burdened by moral laws and start doing whatever makes you feel good. What do you think? Does that sound familiar?
But listen to the Bible’s objection:
Everything is permissible for me, but not everything is beneficial. In other words, “Just because it’s legal, doesn’t mean it’s good.”
Just cause it’s legal to sleep with a cactus in bed, doesn’t mean it’s a good idea.
Just cause you won’t go to jail for emailing your boss that he’s a no-good-scuzzer-muffin, doesn’t mean you should call him a no-good-scuzzer-muffin.
Just cause you won’t be arrested for drinking the Kool Aid made by your preschoolers with 9 more times the amount of sugar than normal, it does not mean that you should do it!
Just cause doing something sexual with someone you aren’t married to feels good, does not mean it is good.
For your relationship with God.
Look at the next reason that the Bible has for not just doing whatever you want sexually. Paul says, “Everything is permissible to me, but I will not be mastered by anything!”
Thing is: It’s so very easy for sexuality to become your master.
That guy’s no good for me. He beats me. He bad mouths me. He hates that I’m a Christian. But…I really love sleeping with him. So I’ll stay with him.
That was nice looking at porn. Now to spend hours making sure that every bit of it is deleted from the internet history.
I could put my marriage and my job in jeopardy by flirting with this coworker. Oh well. I’ve gotta obey my desires.
That’s the problem. When you’re obeying your own desires, than the only one you’re intimately connected with…is yourself.
Let me say that again. If you are only obeying your own sexual desires, then you are becoming most intimately connected with yourself.
Not with God.
Not with your spouse.
Just yourself and your sin.
One more passage: 16 Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body? For it is said, “The two will become one flesh.” That’s what we read last week in Genesis 2:24. It’s the blueprint for marriage that husband and wife become one together. That they become so intimately connected that you can’t tell where one starts and the other ends.
What’s it like to become one with sin?
What’s it like to introduce people to porn as your spouse?
What’s it like to run all your decisions through your own sexual addiction?
What’s it like to be so connected with adultery that when you look in the mirror that you don’t see anything else but that?
Lonely. Guilt filled. Far outside the kingdom of God.
II. True Intimacy Starts with God
Kind of like the woman in the Gospel Lesson:
That’s what the men called her. That’s what they were shouting at her. “Adulterous!” “Sinner.” “Death.”
With tears in her eyes, she fell to the ground. A cloud of dust hit the air. It’s what she deserved though. She had sinned. She had broken up someone else’s marriage. Everyone would now. She might be better off dead.
She heart them shouting in the background! “Jesus! Get over here.” “Jesus, join us!” “Jesus, she sinned…won’t you help us condemn her!?!”
Then, it was quiet. She heard whispering, but she didn’t dare look up. She waited. Waited for her impending doom. But it didn’t come. She waited and waited and waited. Nothing.
Then, she felt a gentle voice beckon to her. She looked up. “Woman, has anyone condemned you?”
She looked around. All the angry men were gone. Nowhere to be found. “No. I don’t think so sir.”
Then Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you.”
If you have been like the woman. If you have let your desire get the best of you. If you have sinned, sexually. Fall at his feet and hear his voice: “Neither do I condemn you.”
And understand this: You were meant for so much more than that. Take a look at 13-14: “The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body.”
Do you get that? You were meant for the Lord. You were meant for the divine Creator of heaven and earth. He wanted you to become intimately connected with him. He didn’t want you connected with a momentary high OR the excitement of a glance combined with the guilty aftermath. God wanted you connected with his divinity, with his holiness, with his wisdom, with his incredible, love!
When we have failed to give up our bodies for the Lord, that’s about the time that He gave ups his body for you. In fact, take a look at this truth:
Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you? Whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore, honor God with your body.
Have you heard of the Antilla? It’s a 27 story high skyscraper owned by Indian business tycoon Mukesh Ambani. It’s huge. It has a garage with room for 168 cars. The lobby alone has nine elevators. It’s estimated at 1 billion dollars!
That’s nothing compared to what God paid for you. He paid his eternal blood.
Do you get that? It’d be as if you went on Zillow or were searching in the real estate ads and there was your Facebook picture. With a list of all the qualities you have – disgusting sinfulness, awful sexual sins from the past, up in the attic are all kinds of skeletons, and what’s under the carpet? Don’t ask.
And God said. Yes. I’ll have that! I will make an eternal, infinite, everlasting deposit of my holy, precious blood so that I can put my name on the deed and she will be mine forever.
That’s how much God loves you.
It means whatever your past – whatever your struggle with sexuality – whatever your devotion to your own public intimacy – God still paid for you. He paid to free you from that master’s clutches. He owns you and that sin doesn’t.
You are forgiven.
III. WHAT NOW?
The more you understand God's forgiveness, the more confidence you will have in God’s love. You’ll stop worrying about yourself and what you need to feel good about yourself and instead… you will start to give over every aspect of yourself – to your spouse.
(1) Reserve Yourself for Your Spouse.
Take a look at 1 Corinthians 7:2-4:
Since there is so much immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband. 3 The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. 4 The wife’s body does not belong to her alone but also to her husband. In the same way, the husband’s body does not belong to him alone but also to his wife.
Focus in on marital duty. What’s that? Are we talking about the Honey-Do-List? Are we talking about doing the budget? Are we talking about cooking meals? Are we talking about refusing to call the plumber, because ‘they cost too much and all I need to do is YouTube it and I’m sure I can figure it out!”
Nope. Marital duty is Paul’s polite term for sexual intimacy. The beautiful, physical, literal expression of two becoming one.
I know. What the Bible is proposing here is the exact opposite of what our world proposes. Because it is so common for sexual intimacy to be all about when I feel like it and when I want it. But God is telling us to be all about your spouse or your future spouse. Isn’t that something? It means you keep your spouse in mind when temptation comes.
I’m sorry. I can’t do that. That will harm my future spouse.
Honey, I’ll stay away from that guy since he makes you uncomfortable.
I will not look at my coworker like that, because I want to reserve that kind of look for my wife.
(2) Become an Expert In Your Spouse
Guys love to be experts in sports. We love to quote batting averages and drop the names of players from over 40 years ago, just to show off. In fact, I remember back in grade school – trying hard to fit in—and spending each day trying to memorize the stats in the Watertown Daily Times just to be an expert in whatever sport was going on at that time.
What if we put the same effort into learning about our spouse? What if we learned about their likes and dislikes? What if we asked them about their favorite color, favorite ice cream flavor and favorite Backstreet Boy? It’s what God has called us to do! To know them and learn them intimately.
But, pastor, what about my needs? Doesn’t God care about them?
Don’t worry about it. Because in the perfect version of this—guess what? The husband is thinking about his wife’s needs. The wife is thinking about her husband's needs. And their needs are both—taken care of—because God is taking care of them through each other.
God’s smart, right?
He’s smart and he loves you. Which is more than just a witty conclusion to this whole sermon. It’s the truth. He loves you more than you. He loves your spouse more than you do. He knows you more than you. He knows your spouse more than you.
He know you’ll be happiest when you’re intimately connected to him and one another.
The scene is so simple.
A stable with a few wooden poles holding up a thatched roof. A mother wrapping her child in linen clothes. A father smiling gently towards them as he feeds his donkey. A cow lazily rolling over to stretch his hinds legs. A few shepherds walking toward the singular light of the hanging lantern – rubbing their hands for warmth.
Simple. Beautiful. Christmas.
But if you dig a little deep, there’s a lot going on there than meets the eyes. This is where Christmas gets complicated. Take a look with me at Hebrews 1. The writer will explain to us just how complicated and yet how beautiful Christmas really is.
There’s a lot in that section. Let’s take it apart.
1) The Radiance of God’s Glory
The Greek word there implies that the Son is actually producing that shine of the Glory of God. This is an interesting thought considering all the incredible things that God has made. He makes snowflakes that twinkle in the morning sunlight. He makes the golden colors of leaves in autumn. He makes the quiet sparkle of stars on a midwinter's night.
Jesus outshines all of them. In fact, it is Jesus alone who produces God’s glory in it’s truest form.
It’d be like saying Jesus is the bulb in the lamp; the flame on the candle; or the glitter on the homemade Christmas ornament. He is the part that shines and he is the part that brings glory.
That’s a little strange when you look at him on Christmas and see nothing more than a regular looking infant. Not a lot of hair; not very big fingers; mouth – most likely—closed and asleep. Not a single tooth sparkling in the moonlight.
2) The Impress of His Being
The English says, “exact representation,” but the Greek is clearly using a word here that was often associated with coin making. There would be an imprint, a press, that would impress upon the metal of the coin the exact representation that was wanted. It’s a word that was used for contract signing – so that the exact seal of the covenanting family would appear on the paperwork.
Jesus is the exact impress of God. He is the same. In form. In being. In essence.
Ever been to a wax museum? The representations there are eery. Wax Spock looks exact like Spock. Wax Lebron James is as tall as and muscular as Lebron James. Wax Oprah Winfrey has the same smile as the real Oprah Winfrey.
But they are still wax. They aren’t real. They aren’t the same.
Jesus is of the same essence. He is eternal, all powerful, all knowing, and present. Even though he doesn’t seem to know how to ask for a second helping of milk yet.
3) Bearing All Things
He is…sustaining all things by his powerful word. That’s God’s Work. Yet here it is attributed to Jesus. God holds up the stars. God holds up the sun. God sends the wind and the rain and the snow and the cold.
Hebrews says that Jesus does the same. That gets a bit strange.
Think about it: The infant is being held up by a few boards of wood. But at the same time the infant is sustaining those boards of wood together.
Not to mention the planets, Red Dwarf stars, and all of the cosmos.
4) Purification Provider
Hebrews speaks about it in past tense because it was written after this baby grew to adulthood and then sacrificed his life on the cross for us.
Amazing isn’t it? This is a supernatural, miraculous thing. Because Scripture says adult humans cannot cleanse themselves of sin. Maybe you know that. We can’t cleanse ourselves from guilt before God. Not with bleach. Not with all natural oatmeal soap. Not with trying hard or doing good or placing a long amount of time between sins.
Cleansing from sin – something that adults – we could not do – this little baby was pledged to do.
Strange? After all this baby isn’t even able to clean itself. Probably needs Mary to dab some spit up every couple of minutes.
5) At the Right Hand
Scripture continues, “He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.” Again – past tense because the life of the baby had already happened. So look at God’s plan for the child. He will ascend to the heights. He be in heaven. He will sit at God’s right hand – the power hand. He will be as much in authority as God is in authority.
Again? Isn’t that pretty amazing? Especially considering the little child has not authority as to where he will go. He doesn’t even possess the speaking ability to demand Mary to transport him to one of the sheep for a sheepy back ride. He has no authority…
..and yet he has all authority?
6) Superior to the Angels
Hebrews continues, “He became as much superior to the angels as the name he has inherited is superior to theirs.” It’s the greater than symbol. This Jesus is greater than the angels. He’s superior to them.
Angels are pretty great. They all shine brightly. They all frighten people whenever they appear. Some have wings. Some have instruments. They all have heavenly voices. A few are even given flaming swords to fight off the most powerful of demons.
This infant is greater? He can’t so much hold up a piece of straw to defend himself.
Angel means “messenger.” The baby? He is called “Jesus.” Jesus means “He saves.”
But what’s interesting is that the angels show no jealousy towards this infant. In fact, the angels prove all of these traits we’ve listed down. As strange as they might seem. These angels – who cannot sin – who are holy – who do God’s bidding. They appear to shepherds and they begin to sing the praises of this little infant child: "Do not be afraid; I bring you good news of great joy for all the people, today a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you; you will find the baby wrapped in cloths and lying in the manger.”
Did you hear that juxtaposition? Christ the LORD/baby lying in a manger. If he weren’t a holy, God following, speaking the truth announced by angels – we’d probably have to doubt him.
But he isn’t. In fact, the other angels have this angel’s back: “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.”
II. The Awesome Part
It doesn’t stop there.
The next two verses of Hebrews reveal to us WHY all this is possible and yet; they open up a whole different set of questions – that are absolutely beyond our puny human minds: To which of the angels did God ever say, “You are my Son; today I have become your Father?” Or again, “I will be his Father and he will be my Son?”
These are Old Testament references. They are a part of God’s Word that reveal Jesus is not just some kind of super angel. He isn’t just some kind of mini God. He’s not just a Hercules-like man infused with God’s power.
He is actually, literally, really --- God’s own Son.
That doesn’t mean God’s son like we are all God’s children in the sense that we are all created by him.
This is God from God. Light from Light. True God from true God. Essence from essence. Being from being. Remember: An exact imprintation of his being – in every way. From ruling the stars above to wiping out sin below.
Then, to twist it one last time, look at verse 6: When God brings his firstborn into the world, he says, “let all God’s angels worship him.”
Does anyone know the First Commandment? You shall have no other gods. Don’t worship them. Throughout the Old Testament the LORD shows how serious He is about that commandment. He destroys the followers of Baal. He punishes the Israelites for worshipping the golden calf. He sends them into captivity for setting up Asherah poles.
But Jesus? Here God says, “Worship him.” On Christmas night, he sent his angels to worship him. He predicted Jesus’ coming for thousands of years. He sent a star to guide magi from the east to him. He spoke at Jesus’ baptism and said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with Him I am well pleased.”
He brought Him back to life. Even after Jesus had spent his life telling the people to worship him as true God.
What does all this mean? Either God – who knows all and is everywhere – somehow missed this false revolt of Jesus or Jesus is God.
The infinite being contained within a manger.
The eternal of ages born on a Bethlehem night.
The all powerful Protector watched over by his step dad.
The all knowing Wisdom taking in his first glances of the world.
But also true.
True in every way. Jesus is true God come to save you.
Believe it. Amen.
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.
In the wake of Father’s Day, it’s always nice to reflect on fatherly wisdom. Dads teach us how to change the oil in our cars, how to open a bottle without a bottle opener, and to always brush your teeth before putting on your necktie.
I saw a Father’s Day card that said, “Happy Father’s Day Dad! Thank you for all the advice you have given me over the years. Today, I’d like to say that I’m finally going to follow some of your advice.” On the inside it read: “I’m not going to waste money on a gift for you.”
Dads are good for all kind of practical, quirky, and useful wisdom. But what about your other Dad? What about your Heavenly Dad? What kind of wisdom has God the Father passed on to you?
In the past two weeks we’ve talked about the Christian heart and the Christian voice. Today we’re going to learn about the Christian mind and the wisdom it possesses.
Our lesson comes from 1 Corinthians 1 beginning at verse 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. 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.”
In this paragraph, Paul is writing to a young Corinthian congregation. In the Corinthian world where many types of wisdom were lauded and sought after, Paul reminds them to search foremost for the wisdom of God.
What is that wisdom? Paul starts by identify three things it is not.
1) Christianity is not about BOOK SMART WISDOM.
Paul writes, “Not many of you were wise by human standards…”. That’s still true today. We don’t require that you get a high sore on your SAT. We don’t exclude people from the church until they’ve gotten a Bachelor of Arts degree. And we don’t hold periodic games of Jeopardy with the high scorer being written in as the next Council member.
Christianity is not about BOOK SMART WISDOM. In fact, the teachings of Christianity often go against conventional wisdom.
Today is Trinity Sunday. Do you know what Trinity means? Three in One. Today is a celebration of the fact that we have a God who is ONE and yet is three PERSONS. Three persons who are divine and distinct and yet there is not three gods, but ONE God. In other words, we are saying, “1 + 1 + 1 = 1”
But it’s more than just the Trinity. Scripture says other things that are not reasonable to the human mind.
Jesus is one hundred percent God and one hundred percent man. The world was created in only 6 days and the age of the earth is only thousands of years, not billions of years. Some guy died on a cross. And somehow, that takes away all of the punishment for my sins? If you follow Christian logic, you will fail Math, Science, and possibly Social Studies.
Christian wisdom is not about book smart wisdom.
2) Christianity is not about STREET SMART WISDOM.
Society might agree that book smart wisdom isn’t necessary for success in this world. There are plenty of people who have made it big without so much as a high school education. Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerburg are all multibillionaires who didn’t finish college
Is Christian wisdom simply street smarts then?
Paul writes, “not many of you were influential…” To be influential in Corinthian society meant you were a business man. This was a place of the market. The better your business did the more influence you had in rules and laws that were made – even if it were simply through a few extra bucks slipped to the government.
This being said. There was no requirement in the ancient church that prospective members had to have good business sense. They simply preached the Gospel to the rich, the poor, and everyone in between.
This is still true today. To become a member of our church, we don’t have a sit down interview where you prepare a PowerPoint presentation explaining how you think we can maximize revenue and get our brand out into the North Raleigh area. We aren’t a collection of business owners. We aren’t about ‘growing a business.’ When we canvass, we don’t skip the apartments and head directly to the homes that are 1.5 million or above -- because they might have some business wisdom.
In fact, Christian wisdom is not all the smart for business. Think for a moment what might happen if you follow the following business practices in the dog eat dog American business world. “If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.” (Mt. 5:39) “Humble yourself – don’t exalt yourself.” (Luke 14) “The last shall be first, and the first shall be last.” (Mark 10:31) “Don’t be greedy.” (Luke 12:15)
Ever seen Shark Tank? In the show, you get a chance to pitch your entrepreneurial business model to multibillion dollar business sharks. They aren’t too kind if they think you idea stinks.
How do you think they’d react to such Christian ideals?
The point? Christian wisdom is not about influential wisdom.
3) Christianity is not about POPULAR WISDOM
Paul adds one more negation to the type of wisdom that is involved with Christianity. He writes, “Not many were of noble birth.” In the ancient world, these were princes and princess. Governors daughters and centurions sons. While this is, in part, a genealogical position, there is still a certain type of wisdom involved with being royalty. (i.e. Walk with your chin raised and always lift up your pinky finger when you drink tea.)
In America, there aren’t kings and queens as such, but we still have royalty. Musicians, actors, actresses, even reality TV stars garner our constant attention.
These pop culture icons also have their own a wisdom and culture. In fact, if you don’t follow it, you’ll never make it into Hollywood.
I’m thinking about Matthew McCauneghey winning an Oscar for best actor, thanking the Academy to raucous cheers, and then thanking God – to crickets. “Who’s God again?”
Or it leaks into our ‘non Hollywood lives” as well, doesn’t it? Popular wisdom tries to dictate our decisions.
Maybe you already knew this, but God's wisdom is not always (usually) popular.
In fact, the world might not consider Christian wise at all. It doesn’t make rational sense. It doesn’t fit into academia. It isn’t even all that popular. Some might call it (and have called it) stupid!
….That’s, the point.
Look at verse 27-29. 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. (1 Corinthians 1:27-29)
Grasp what Scripture is telling us in that section. God chose things that the world would consider foolish! God looked down at human knowledge of physics, human business sense, and human popular opinion and he chose things that were the exact opposite!
There are some very good reasons why God chose to do things in such a splendidly opposite way of human beings.
1) God is eternal!
His knowledge is way beyond you or me. It’s way beyond some Scientist who’s been alive for 40 years. It’s beyond some politicians who's lived to 50. It’s way, way, way beyond some actress who specializes in Science. Of course, his wisdom is different!
It’s like how a child and an adult tie their shoes differently. The adult carefully bends over and politely and precisely ties the shoelaces into a perfect bow. The child bends over, wiggles his fingers around his laces, and finally stuffs the knotty mess into the back of the shoes.
The adult is wiser because they’ve been around longer. God is wiser than any human being because he is eternal! He has always been!
2) God is holy.
Humans, scripture tells us, are sinful. We are selfish. We are greedy. We are hateful. We worry about ourselves.
Now think about this, it means that our collective thought process will always be sinful. It will always be influenced by this hatred. There will be traces of selfishness in every single attitude we have.
God? He doesn’t have that. This means that it will be naturally the exact opposite of human thought. And he can never support these sinful human thoughts, because then, he’d be sinful!
It’s why State fans are never caught dead into Tarheel blue. They can never support Carolina!
God can never support sin. NEVER. Yet, humans are so stupidly sinful that we look at God’s ways and say, “You’re hateful. Not me!”
3) The final reason is God chose to do things in a way that is so drastically different from human reason?
1 Corinthians reveals it to us this way, “God chose the foolish things…the lowly things…the things that are not…so that no one may boast before him.”
God knew that because of sin, not a single person would ever be wise enough to gain heaven. And he also knew that our sinfulness would affect our thinking such that we wouldn’t even acknowledge it. Instead, we find ourselves thinking, “I’m doing just fine. I’m good enough. I can figure it out on my own.”
Is it any wonder that every religion in this world, why there are shallow differences, preach the same basic doctrine? Buddhism says, “Live a peaceful life and earn heaven.” Mormonism says, “Life a like like Jesus and earn your own planet.” Islam says, “Follow Islamic Law and earn paradise.”
Why are they the same? This is the best that sinful human beings can come up with is to try our sinful best to remove sinfulness by doing sinful things.
Thank God that his plan is different:
This is God’s plan. So different and so marvelous, endorsed by all three persons in the Triune God.
What does all of this mean?
It isn’t about you. Thank God. In fact, it isn't about anyone even remotely similar than you! (Can you imagine a salvation plan enacted by a sinful human being? It will result in sinful people sinful failing to win a sinful result!)
Salvation is about Jesus, our Savior. It’s about the Father our perfect Justifier. It’s about the Spirit, our Sanctifier. Through faith in Jesus Christ, you are saved! And praise be to God for making this plan so different that it sticks out as Divine wisdom!
Otherwise, we’d be stuck in our sinful human head: “I’m awesome. I figured out God. I have the smarts to make it to heaven. I deciphered it with my decoder ring. God, of course, selected me for heaven, because of my wisdom!”
But it’s not about you. Paul said it this way, “It is because of God that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord.” (v. 29-31)
Kids love to boast about their dads. “He’s the smartest guy I know.” He’s stronger than your dad. He was awesome at baseball. If only he hadn’t of hurt his leg, he’d probably be more famous than Babe Ruth.”
Why not boast about your heavenly Father?
“My heavenly Father is so wise he planned my salvation before the beginning of the world.”
“My heavenly Father is so powerful he raised my Brother Jesus from the dead!”
“My heavenly Father is so loving he forgives me for my sinful pride and arrogance.”
“My heavenly Father is the best. Holy. Incredible. Absolute.”
Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord. Amen.
The Olympics have started. Athletes from around the world are competing for the world to see and we marvel at those who are the fastest, strongest, smartest, even bravest. We watch them hold their hand on their heart while their country’s national anthem plays and we can’t help but be a bit envious.
They are blessed!
Today’s sermon teaches us the opposite. Jesus says that it isn’t the most powerful, the smartest, the bravest, even the most moral who has real blessing.
Rather, Real blessing comes from real weakness.
As we examine some real life situations below, consider what Jesus has to say. Compare it with what the world says. See which one offers real blessing.
For instance, the world thinks, “Blessed are the rich in spirit.”
Like the priest who lives down the road. His stories of religious devotion are astounding. A five year vow of silence. Thousands of hours logged volunteering at the homeless shelter. Rosary beads fashioned with olive wood directly from Jerusalem. Walking into his home is akin to entering a sanctuary. Crucifixes line the walls and religious art takes up the space that awards from his accomplishment don’t fill up.
But, you’d be surprised to discover that he still prays his prayers. He still hails his Marys. He still has this nagging sensation that when God said, “be Holy,” He intended for more to be done than he currently was doing. In fear, he prays for more opportunities to do good. He hopes that someday fear might abandon him and he will have confidence of heaven as his home. Because currently, his own religiosity isn’t offering him any comfort.
Then, there’s that guy who lives down the street. You wouldn’t know it, but he too was a minister for a couple of years. But then, things fell apart. He is constantly haunted by all of his faults: things he should have done differently, words he wished he hadn’t said, sermons he wishes he could have outlined better, and people he wishes he could have stopped from leaving his church. He’s not rich in spirit.
A tear rolls down his cheek and he feels like a failure. He kicks the legs of his desk in frustration. A piece of paper falls onto the floor. It’s faded. He bends over to pick it up. On it is a simple phrase from his seminary days. A reminder of a truth that he was forgetting. “Remember pastor: Christ was crucified for you too.” The man smiles. That’s all that matters isn’t it. His faith is restored.
Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of God.
The world says “Blessed are those who have happy lives.” Those people whose circumstances are nice enough for them to feel accomplished.
Consider the family man. He lives in a big house. He has lots of money. He’s been married for 25 years. He has four kids: two daughter and two sons. He gets promotion after promotion. He plays golf on the weekends. He is able to afford one home project per month. He hosts block parties. He takes his family away on the weekends to enjoy a vacation.
The world would certainly call him blessed.
As he quietly fishes on a Sunday morning, he considers how blessed he is, but then his thoughts turn to how long it will last. He deals with fears that eventually things will end. He may lose his career, his money, his home. God forbid he may even lose a child. Try as he might to think differently he can’t shake the feeling that his own circumstances might change and then, what would he be left with?
Then, there’s the man who can’t afford a vacation. He spent it all at the bar last night. He stumbles into church during the opening hymn. He smells of cigarettes. His eyes are red from the combination of smoke and sobbing.
But who could blame him? His wife left him a few months ago. He hasn’t felt very happy. His mind has been riddled with all the wrong things he said to her while she was still with him. He misses her. The guilt and loneliness have stopped him from working. None of his three children will talk to him and he knows it’s his own fault. His mood matches the melancholy organ music. He doesn’t even say the confession of sin. His heart is already there.
Then, he hears the gentle words of the pastor: “by the perfect life and innocent death of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, God has removed your guilt forever! You are forgiven.” He smiles. That’s right. Jesus loves him and that’s one circumstance that will never change.
Jesus said, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”
The world says “Blessed are the strong.”
Like the homecoming football quarterback. He’s also the Homecoming king, a member of student council, and the person most likely to be asked by several girls to the dance. He is so well liked. Sometimes he gets a question marked wrong on a test, but he shrewdly argues the teacher into giving him his point back. He got a strong future and he won’t let anyone get into the way of his world.
That’s why he fears graduation. Because what will happen then? Will the world treat him so kindly? Does he have it in him to conquer another place? What if there are people more talented? What if someone is smarter? What if they are better looking?
For some reason, he struggles to find comfort in his own character.
Then, there’s the shy boy who quietly slips into the back of class. He usually is last in line for lunch. Last done with a test. Last to be picked for group work. He isn’t athletic. He’s not that musical. He struggles through school. Some days he wishes he could just skip class altogether!
But he never misses church. Because in church he finds his strength. Because it is there that he hears about the one’s whose character was extremely strong! One who calm waters, drove out demons, and forgave sins. He knows that this Jesus will always be with him and will always be guiding him in high school and beyond – up until he takes him home to a new earth.
Jesus said, “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.”
The world say, “Blessed are those who know it all!”
Like the seasoned mother of four children. She has learned so much about parenting that she could probably write her own book. She knows the exact temperature to heat milk to, how to sift through the laundry of a teenage boy, and how to handle your daughter’s first boyfriend. She is a wealth of knowledge so much so that she sometimes impresses herself. It’s why when she sees the invitation to a parenting Bible Class in her email, she simply presses “DELETE.” She doesn’t need that knowledge.
It’s too bad. Because now she’s starting to forget what it takes to get into God’s family. She doesn’t know. Her interested in her own knowledge has left her without that answer.
Then, there’s the single mom, who struggles to keep her new baby from crying. She hasn’t been able to distinguish between a smile of happiness and a smile of constipation. If her baby coughs, she spends hours on WebMD trying to diagnose it. She can’t help but continually to think about how this mom stuff is hard. She knows she can’t do it on her own. She is hungry for some help. Thirsty for some guidance.
That’s why she repeatedly turn to her book. Not “the Baby Book” (although she does read it on occasion), she turns to the Bible. It’s filled with God’s divine wisdom. A wisdom that reminds her of how to live and love. A wisdom that tells her Jesus died to remove all of her single mother sins, errors, mistakes, and what have you.
She reads. She hears of Jesus' love. She is satisfied.
Jesus said, “Blessed are those who thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.”
The world says, “Blessed are the unmerciful.”
Like the sports star who just keeps pounding his opponent. His basketball team is up by 30 with plenty of time left. But he keeps scoring. He keeps pounding it. He growls at his teammates to keep taking it to them and screams at the referees for blown calls. He’s aggressive. He turns to his opponent and trash talks him till he’s blue in the face. He wins impressively and everyone knows he is a good player! Opponents are afraid to play him. He gets in front of the camera and makes sure that everyone knows he will continue to mercilessly pursue the title of “the best.”
Until he gets old. Then, he will slow down. Then, he won’t be admired.
Then, he will lose his own control.
There’s also his opponent. He’s been called all kinds of awful names by this opponent throughout the game. Now the media want to know what it’s like to play against him. A few thoughts – some awful names flow through his head – but he remains calm. He does what he always does after a game. He gets onto his knees for prayer.
It is because of God’s mercy that he played today. It is because of God’s mercy that he’s ever played. It’s because of God’s mercy that he has been saved!
He quickly turns to the camera and only calls his opponent ‘a good competitor.’ He doesn’t need revenge. He has Jesus.
Jesus said, “Blessed are those who are merciful, for they will be shown mercy.”
The world says, “Blessed (Or maybe…happy) are the immoral. ”
Like the young college student. She doesn’t need to study. She feels like she needs to enjoy the college experience. She is out having fun almost every night. She dresses without leaving much to the imagination. She pops an illegal pill. She flirts to get some boys to buy her a drink. She repays them sexual favors later on. She passes out at 3am. But…it’s all good…right?
Until the next morning. The head and the upset stomach aren’t even enough to mask the guilt that is eating her alive. She decides to plan for the same events tonight. It’s the only way she can think of to make her feelings good again.
Then, there’s her roommate. She the ‘party pooper.’ She enjoys a quiet book and maybe a movie. Her friends think she leads a pathetic life, but she doesn’t care. She used to be out there with them. She’s done plenty that she regrets and even more that bothers he souls.
But about six months ago she learned about Jesus. She heard about what he did to remove her sins. She was baptized into his name. She was washed cleaned and pronounced “pure.” She loves that purity. She loves her Lord. This is a truth that helps her conquer all of the low feelings that she has. (And it comes without any sad side effects.)
Jesus said, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.”
The world says, “Blessed are the aggressive.”
Like the business guy who aggressively fights and scratches his way to the top. Everyone knows that you better not wrong him, because he will WRONG you back. He’ll spread gossip around the workplace. He’ll tell the boss about all your flaws. If you are unfortunate enough to work under him, prepare to be belittled and made to feel like a minion. He won’t settle for anything but the best!
In a worldly way, it’s working for him though. He’s assistant to the C.E.O. and he’ll be moving into a larger home real soon. A big home with lots of rooms. Perfect to sit in.
Alone. Without a friend. All that status. Zero love.
Then, there’s the IT guy at the same company. He’s not as impressive and no where near as intimidating. But he is knowledgeable. While he’s working to restore memory on crashing hard drives, he overhears worker after worker complaining about another coworker. He hears them make fun of their bosses dresses, the way he walks, even the way he talks. Then, the IT guy stands up. He quietly reminds them of all the wonderful things this boss has done. He racks his brain for any compliment he can think of. He risks getting made fun of himself.
Why? Because he loves peace! He always has, ever since he learned about the peace that he himself has with God because Jesus spoke on his behalf to a rightfully vengeful Almighty God. It’s a peace that gives him the knowledge that in spite of his sins, his status with God is good. In fact, God calls him his child.
Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.”
The world says, “Happiest are the people who just stay quiet.”
Like the Christian with his friends at the coffee shop. The conversation drifs to recent events and discussion turns to the Creation v. Evolution debate that was all over the internet recently. His friends start to make fun. “Christians are IDIOTS! Who can believe such foolishness? They are all morons! There is no God. We are here by chance and the world is billions of years old!”
The Christian cringes, but simply slurps his coffee. Better to just stay quiet. Although the guilty conscience inside of him is not so quiet. Was his own well being worth denying his Lord?
Then, there’s the guy sitting next to that group. He overhears the conversation. He politely offers his two cents. That God is real. That God is incredible. That God made the world just as he said he did in Sciripture. That humans ruined it and God made a plan – Jesus – to save that world. When he’s finished his cup, he heads out of the coffee shop, but he hears the snickers as he leaves. He hears the “that guy must not have gotten out of fairytale land,” comment followed by the “He didn’t get past third grade,” snicker.
But these stinging comments don’t sting. He has a God that’s greater than this. A God who was persecuted for him. A God who promises to take him to a very real, not so mythological kingdom one day.
Jesus said, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for there is the kingdom of heaven."
In these eight beautiful sentences, our Lord Jesus twists human logic around. He makes two very clear points.
1) When we consider ourselves good enough for blessing, then we don’t know what real blessing real is. You see that in the case of all those people who found their comfort and strength in themselves. Whether it was their religiosity, circumstance, character, knowledge, control, morality, status, or well being.
2) On the contrary, blessed are those who realize the shallowness of what they have by worldly standards, that they look to the heavens for their strength. Specifically they look to Jesus. The Lord who died for them. The Lord who won heaven for them. The one who wants them as a part of his kingdom. The one who calls them his child.
This is the opposite of worldly thinking and thank God is it so. Dear believer, look to Jesus for your strength, blessing, and comfort! You won't find it in yourself. Look to the Lord to find blessing and find it...
...in heavenly proportions.