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Entries in Folly (3)

Tuesday
Dec222015

Lessons of Christmas- The Wisdom of It All

1 Corinthians 1:19-31.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on December 20, 2015.

The sending of a baby to a small country under the domination of the Roman Empire 2,000 years ago may not seem to be the wisest plan for saving the world.  Well, it didn’t seem any wiser at the time either.  During the Christmas season we are reminded that the wisest and most powerful people of this world cannot save the world and are absent in God’s plan.  Thus God makes salvation available to the lowest among us and to the highest regardless of these things.  In itself, this can be a problem for those who think they deserve it and others don’t.  The wisdom of Christmas is that God makes salvation available to those who will humble themselves, like he did, and trust His Wisdom and His Power.  Let’s look at this passage.

God Rejects The Wisdom of Mankind

This passage is written to the Christians in Corinth, who grew up in the Greek culture and were influenced by pride in its wisdom.  Thus the fact that God would reject man’s wisdom is at the same time obvious and inconceivable.  It is obvious because it is exactly what we would expect from a Being that can create the universe, or multiverse if you prefer.  However, it runs contrary to our experience and our nature.  We are used to opening doors to opportunity by our knowledge and wisdom.  We are not used to putting our wisdom aside and embracing God’s.

Paul points out that the message of the cross was and is foolishness to those of this world who are perishing.  Of course the message of the cross is God’s plan of salvation, which starts with the incarnation, and the baby Jesus.  This message of how God is saving mankind seems foolish to people of this world.  Thus, even if God were inclined to work in a way that fit in with our wisdom, the fact that we reject His wisdom would disincline Him. 

But more important than that in verse 21 we are told that the wisdom of mankind was not able to help it know God.  No matter how great our telescopes, communications, philosophy, and understanding of the universe, it will not help us know God.  In fact, the only way we have ever known anything about God is because He has revealed it to us, whether you look at the Garden of Eden, the prophets through the ages, or Jesus.  That is why in verses 19-20 God makes it abundantly clear that man’s wisdom will not lead to salvation.  Sin is a problem that cannot be solved with technology or philosophy.  No amount of time will enable social engineers to create a utopia that is truly good. 

At Christmas the message of God’s love comes into the world in a way that seems foolish to the world, but it will be effective against this sin problem.  Man’s wisdom continues to cycle through different wise ideas to help mankind.  But none of them will work.  The founding fathers of the United States of America understood this.  Instead of trying to create a perfect government, they created checks and balances to help keep the sin of men in check.  Over the years we have incrementally weakened and even dissolved many of these checks and balances.  Democracy is not the hope of the world.  At best, it can only restrain evil.  So this story will continue even as mankind doubles down and increases the stakes by calling for Global governance.

In verse 22 Paul points out a particular problem.  The Jews represented the religious wisdom of those who knew God and were supposed to be following Him, whereas the Greeks or Gentiles represented those who did not know God and instead were a more secular wisdom (even though they had religious notions).  The Jews believed in God and so looked for powerful signs of what God was doing.  However, the problem with this is that no matter how many powerful signs God did, their hearts did not want to go where He needed to take them.  Thus, the religious wisdom of those who know God can be driven by human wisdom.  “I will only accept what I determine is God.”  In this model God has to become a kind of court Jester who keeps us constantly entertained in something.  Yet, we don’t want what He is offering.  Thus, such religious wisdom must always come to a point of deciding between God’s way or your way.  On the other hand the secular wisdom of the Greeks and nations of the world believed that salvation could be achieved through the refinement of knowledge and philosophy.  They sought out ideas that “worked.”  God is saying that the solution that will work is one that will not appeal to the religious wisdom or the secular wisdom.  No matter who they are, the wise of mankind will not like the solution God gives.  The wise men of this age or any age to come will never save us, period, whether from religious circles or secular.

God Uses His Own Wisdom

Having established that God will not use man’s wisdom to save us, the obvious is then looked at:  God will use His own wisdom.  Paul points out that God’s wisdom is a stumbling block to the religious.  Yes, they may be looking in the right direction, they may be on the right path, they may even know what they are supposed to be looking for.  However, in the end when God acts to save mankind they trip over it because they didn’t recognize it.  Salvation is offered in a way that is not in harmony with their thoughts.  Yet, God will not let them ignore it.  When they trip over it they will either despise it or they will choose to embrace it.

As for the secular wisdom, the salvation of God is foolishness.  Think of it this way, Jesus coming into first century Israel is a template for the message of Christ going into all the other nations.  You won’t be able to ignore it and a choice must be made.  Yet, our wisdom will always lead us to reject it.  Paul says in verses 24-25 that this “foolishness” is the Power and Wisdom of God.  This “foolishness” is wiser than the greatest wisdom of mankind.  No matter how foolish you think this plan is, it is far wiser than you can imagine.  Only arrogance and pride would cause us to persist in clinging to the ship of this world’s wisdom at the expense of God’s.

God Displays His Wisdom Through Us

Here we are 2 millennia later and countless millions have chosen to believe the message of God in Jesus.  Of course, only God knows how many of them have truly believed, instead of just going along with something in order to fit in.  Yet, in those who believe, the wisdom of God is put on display to a world that cannot see it otherwise.  Paul reminds these Corinthian Christians that most of them were foolish and weak by the world’s standards.  There was a time when we as a nation understood this.  Do you remember the words that are at the statue of liberty?  I won’t quote them all, but the critical part is this.  “'Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp,' cries she with silent lips!  'Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore.  Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door.'”  Today we are more apt to cream the crop of the nations so that our businesses and nation may be the greatest.  But this is not what God does.  He lets the cream rise to the surface and then takes the bottom layer.  Why?  He does so because you can do nothing with those who are so full of their own wisdom they don’t need God.  Whereas the lowly know full well that their only hope is in God.

Paul states emphatically that God will allow no human to glory in front of Him.  The Creator of all things has chosen to save us in a way that glorifies no one, and this grates on the nerves of the mighty to no end.  God loves to choose the weak and foolish, because it highlights the impotence of the strong and wise of this world and forces them to continually hear the truth, “Your wisdom cannot save you!”

Jesus is God’s gift of Wisdom and Glory to us.  At Christmas God gives us the embodiment of His Wisdom and His Glory.  In Jesus, God asks the world to turn from their wisdom and embrace a better wisdom and glory.  He sent Jesus, not because we deserved it, but because He wants to save us.  Thus the Church of Jesus is a reminder to the world of its need to embrace the wisdom of God. 

However, we are not just a reminder to the world.  In Ephesians 3:8-11, Paul points out that God is also teaching the angelic powers through us lowly humans.  Yes, even angels need to learn the same lessons as mankind does.  Their greatest wisdom will only lead to destruction.  But the wisdom of God will lead to life.  There is much interference in the nations of the world today by humans with political ambitions.  However, there is also interference from spiritual beings with an axe to grind.  Thus we are coming to the apex of history.  In this let me ask, what about you?  What do you say?  In Jesus, God has set the fruit of salvation low so that even you can grasp it if you will.  Put your faith in Him today.

 

Lessons-Wisdom audio

Tuesday
Dec302014

When Your Time is Up

Today we are going to be in Luke 12:13-21.

Our time is up for 2014 and 2015 is soon to begin.  We cannot go back and change what we said, did, or accomplished this previous year.  The New Year reminds us that we are mortal and we are now one year older.  How many years do I have left?  Am I living in such a way as to bring judgment or grace upon me when I stand before God?  These are some heavy questions that we may tend to avoid.  However, it is imperative that we deal with them now while we have time, rather than waiting and being caught off-guard.  The Bible tells us that “it is appointed to men to die and then the judgment.”  Instead of seeing these things as dark and foreboding, we can look at them as powerful understanding of what is to come.  When you know what is coming in advance, you can make preparations now that will help you be successful when they come.  That is the wonderful thing about the present.  Even though your past is “etched in stone,” the present allows you to affect the future that those past decisions are taking you towards.  We can make course corrections and thereby overcome things that we cannot change.

A Person’s Life Is Not In The Abundance of Possessions

In verses 12-15 Jesus is interrupted by a man who wants Jesus to do something for him.  Jesus then turns to his disciples and teaches them because the man is an illustration of an important principle.  Life cannot be found in the abundance of possessions.

Now this man addresses Jesus as “teacher.”  Thus he approaches Jesus as a disciple.  However, there is no sense of wanting to learn in his request.  He simply wants Jesus to do something for him.  So is he a disciple or is he only a manipulator trying to get something out of Jesus?  Jesus exposes his true motivation: covetousness.  This man wants what his brother has and is hoping Jesus will get it for him.  Now notice the response of Jesus.  He calls him “man.”  This is quite different then the “my friends” he used with his disciples back in vs. 4.  This is a more curt and formal address.  Jesus clarifies that he is not really the man’s teacher and the man is not really his disciple.  Jesus was merely a means to an end for this guy and do not be deceived, God will not be mocked and used by us for fleshly means.

Now the man’s issue has to do with an inheritance.  He wants Jesus to make his brother divide the inheritance with him.  Now it makes sense to come to Jesus to settle an issue of justice.  The Scriptures said that the Messiah would rule with perfect justice and would cause righteousness to shine.  He would be the ultimate arbiter of mankind.  Yet, we are not given enough information about this particular situation to judge the merits of this man’s appeal.  Was his brother being wicked and squeezing him out of his proper inheritance?  Or was this man wicked and trying to get more than his proper share?  Or were they both wicked and covetous?  Regardless, one thing is true, Jesus does care about justice.  He does not reject this man’s appeal because he doesn’t care.  Even if this man’s cause was just, Jesus recognizes that something deadly has happened in his heart.  He has been overcome with having what his brother has.  Much covetousness lies behind the talk of justice.  Christ cares too much about this man’s soul to prostitute justice for the sake of his flesh.  Is it possible that getting justice might be the last thing we need spiritually?  Jesus essentially tells the man that his problem is not his brother, but his own heart.  He has become greedy and is coveting.  To give him what he wants would only make his spiritual situation worse.

In verse 14 Jesus asks him, “who made me judge over your case?”  Legally no one had.  Thus Jesus points out that the man is only seeking leverage over his brother.  Had his case been heard by the authorities and denied?  We are not told.  But there is far more to this story then is made evident by the man’s appeal.  Why come to Jesus and not the proper authorities? 

Jesus may also be reminding those who are listening of the situation of Moses.  When Moses first decided to do something about the plight of his people, he ended up killing an Egyptian taskmaster who was harshly whipping an Israelite.  Later he sees too Hebrews fighting and tries to get them to quit quarreling.  One of the men responds, “who made you ruler and judge over us?”  As much as people want justice and cry out for it, when God does supply the man to get it for us, we complain.  Justice is a double edged sword.  It not only cuts those who have treated us unjustly, but it cuts us as well.  Thus as Messiah, God had made Jesus judge over all mankind.  In fact we see this in 2 Timothy 4:1, “I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His Kingdom…”

The real issue here is the man’s relationship to Jesus.  If Jesus really were his master and judge, then the man would have left everything in order to follow him and know true justice.  From the point of becoming his disciple and following, the only purposes and intention that would matter would be those of Jesus.  Thus we see the problem of my agenda versus the agenda of God.  God’s agenda is generally not the same as ours even when we claim to want the same thing as him.  Our understanding of justice is not always just.  We live in a world that loves to co-opt the person and message of Jesus for its own understanding and intention.  Yet, in the end they will not follow Jesus as Lord.  Check your own heart and see if there are desires and agenda items that are more important to you then having Jesus as your Lord because this will reveal your true relationship with Jesus.  He is either Lord of all or not Lord at all.

Jesus then turns to his disciples and warns them to watch and guard against coveting.  Our sinful nature will seek to suck life out of material things instead of turning to God from whom all life flows.  Our life is in the words of Christ to us, not in what Christ says to our brother.  Even if the entire world turns against Jesus and you are left alone, his words to you can supply life to you, if you believe.  “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.”  All else is peripheral and often detrimental.  When we covet we want to have more, especially that which belongs to another.  In Colossians 3:5 we are told that coveting is idolatry.  This man looks to the inheritance that his brother has as more important than God.  He is not really interested in justice, but in satisfying a craving for more possessions and wealth.  Jesus says to watch and guard against such sins.  But what are we guarding?  We are guarding our hearts from being infected by such sin.  This man was being swallowed up in sin.

The Parable of The Rich Fool

In verses 16-21, Jesus tells a parable to his disciples to slam home the main issue here, this man’s soul is in jeopardy and he is being foolish.  When you look at the man in the parable you will notice that his thoughts are all centered on himself.  If you count the personal pronouns he uses you will get the picture.  Also note that there is no mention of God in all of his thinking.  It is irrelevant if he goes to synagogue every week and prays loudly in front of everyone.  We see here in the private counsels of his own heart that God has no place.

In the parable the man has bumper crops to the point that he has a “problem” of figuring out what to do with the excess or overflow.  Instead of asking why has God blessed him and figuring out what God’s purpose is, his solution is to build bigger barns and amass the increase for himself.  Even though he doesn’t need more, he heaps it up.  Today we would call this hoarding.  Now here is a problem.  It is one thing when Jesus calls us out on our hoarding.  We know that he has no ulterior motive.  But, often those who point out the sin of hoarding only want to have what they have.  We see a big pile of money or possessions and the wickedness of our heart covets it.  This reminds me of the movie that just came out, The Hobbit.  In it we see how the amassed gold and riches ate into the heart of all who saw it and obtained it.  So we will be judged on both accounts: a greedy amassing for self and a greed desire to take from others.

In verse 19 we notice that his soul is at ease.  Godly people in every generation have spoken of the need for a holy discomfort with our life and the world around us.  When Christ is our focus then this world causes us trouble and discomfort at least.  Too often Christians stop at being uneasy about the world, yet refuse to walk with the Lord seriously enough to become uncomfortable with their own sin.  Our rest is to be found in trusting Jesus and His teachings.  This man is trying to find rest in material abundance outside of Christ.  We need to refresh ourselves in Him and rest, but we should never rest in being vigilant over our soul against sin.

Similar to the handwriting on the wall before Belshazzar, a message from God comes to the man.  He is about to die and he has been judged as a fool by God.  He is a fool because he focused his life on what couldn't save him, nor could go with him.  He lived without a sense of accountability to God.  This life is a gift and how we go about living it determines our judgment.  Will you live for the Lord Jesus or will you continue as master?  His judgment comes without warning and the man will die that very night.  Although some of us are given fair warning that our time is coming, many will go into eternity without the ability to "make quick amends."  We need to live so that nothing is left undone between us and the Lord.  

In Matthew 19:21 Jesus says to the rich young man, "If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give it to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come follow me."  This idea of putting treasure in heaven by helping others is explained there.  Here the phrase is called, "being rich toward God."  It is interesting that it clearly means to help people, but the emphasis is on God.  When we help others simply because it makes us feel good, we need to be careful.  This is not what saves us.  In fact such giving often cuts God out of the picture.  It is purely about bringing pleasure to one's self.  But, when God becomes the Lord of all our possessions and money, we will truly become a free person.  We are free to bless others as he enables and directs.  You are under no compulsion by the people who covet your money and hold the words of Jesus over your head.  Their greed will continue to destroy them unless they repent.  But you are free to give and help under the compulsion of the Spirit of God.  Lest this seem like a cop-out, know this: you will give account to God for all you have done or not done on this earth and He is not mocked.  James lays out a warning for those who either have riches or desire to get them.  James 5:1-7  , "Come now you rich, weep and howl for your miseries that are coming upon you!  Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are moth-eaten.  Your gold and silver are corroded, and their corrosion will be a witness against you and will eat your flesh like fire.  You have heaped up treasure in the last days.  Indeed the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, cry out; and the cries of the reapers have reached the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth.  You have lived on the earth in pleasure and luxury; you have fattened your hearts as in a day of slaughter.  You have condemned, you have murdered the just; he does not resist you.  Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord."

 

Time is up audio

Tuesday
Apr082014

Children of Wisdom or Folly?

Today we will be in Luke 7: 29-34.  Here we see that the ministries of John the Baptist and Jesus were very different in some ways.  Of course they were similar in others ways.  They both preached repentance in light of the coming Kingdom.  But they did so in two very different ways.  Perhaps this is part of why John had doubts when he was in prison.  Either way, Jesus draws on the book of Proverbs as He challenges the people about their response to John’s ministry and His.

The Bible uses a literary device called personification.  It is when you take an abstract concept and speak about it as if it were a person.  Thus in Proverbs 8, Solomon speaks of wisdom as a woman who is a teacher calling out to men to come and learn.  The reason Solomon does this becomes clearer as you look at another woman in Proverbs 7.  This woman is an immoral, seductress who tries to allure men into her bed.  Solomon warns that no matter how much it appeals to your flesh it will lead to death in the end.

Now I know that some get stuck on the way that everything is couched in terms to protect men from immoral women.  The truth is that the opposite is true as well.  Young women are hearing the voice of the immoral man calling to her to join him in sexual immorality.  These opposing voices in life are appealing to two very different parts of our nature.  Immorality appeals to the urges of our flesh, whereas Wisdom appeals to our mind.

In today’s passage Jesus uses this personification of wisdom and takes it one step further.  Those who listen to the voice of immorality or wisdom become children of the same.  They head down a path of learning and growing in immorality or wisdom.  Let’s look into it.

The Response to John & Jesus

Last week Jesus detailed why the people went out to the Jordan River to hear John.  It was because he body proclaimed the Truth as a true prophet of God.  Now Luke steps back from the narrative and points out the responses of those who heard John and Jesus.  Some of them received John and Jesus.  Notice that after Jesus healed and taught then the people “justified God.”  Now if it is God justifying us it means that He is doing something to us that we lack.  But when men “justify” God it is not the same meaning.  God is justified whether or not any men recognize it or declare it.  Thus it takes on the meaning that is closer to recognition.  We don’t make God any more just, but we can publically declare that He is.  Luke ties this public reception of what Jesus had said and done to the fact that they had earlier received John the Baptist by being baptized for repentance.  This makes sense because John was pointing people to Jesus.  Here we see Jesus publically affirming John and the ministry that he did.

It is humorous to see Luke point out that “even tax collectors” were justifying God.  Now tax collectors in those days were in a strange place.  They were definitely well to do and not hurting financially.  But they had to sell out their people in order to be so.  Thus tax collectors have no monetary problems, but have major social problems.  They are outcasts.  There is something about being shut out whether financially or socially that helps us to hear the message of God.  Now this brings up the Pharisees and the Lawyers.  This group despised the tax collectors and saw them as the lowest of the low. 

This sets up a powerful contrast of the average people, and even the lowest, embracing John and Jesus, while the rulers, leaders and well to do rejecting them.  The “unworthy” of society recognize the truth while the “worthy” do not recognize it and even persecute it.  The same is true today.  Do you spend your time trying to fit in with the “worthy” of society?  Or, do you trust God to be the one who declares your true “worth.”

So Luke paints a picture of a large number of people rejoicing and praising God for Jesus.  Yet, in the midst of this is a group that refuses to rejoice and, in fact, despise Jesus.  They didn’t need wisdom from Jesus because they believed they already possessed it.  The first step of wisdom is to recognize that before God your “wisdom” is folly or foolishness.  Even though they had received wisdom from God through Moses, they did not handle it with humility.  Instead in great pride they used it to stand against the truth.  Luke ties this to the fact that they refused to be baptized by John.  They rejected John and now they reject Jesus, in the same way that the regular people embraced John and Jesus.  Now this is an important point because Jesus is moving to make a point about the thinking that the Pharisees and Lawyers used to reject Him.

The Folly of Their Thinking

Now ultimately, many of those who were praising Jesus now, would turn away from Him when He chooses to go to the cross.  There is something about God choosing suffering that causes mankind to shrink back in horror and disgust.  Thus Jesus employs another metaphor from their everyday life.  “To what shall I compare this generation?”  This picture that Jesus describes is one the people would have been very family with.  Going to the marketplace is a large part of their lives.  They all could relate to being children with their parents at the marketplace, and then later being the parents bringing their children with them to the market place.  Kids grow tired of adult things quickly.  Thus the kids would gather together and play games while the adults did the shopping.  Now it is clear that in those days it was common for the kids to play imaginary games in which they would act out funerals or festivals.  The key to this is that the kids are playing imaginary games while the parents are involved in reality.

This leads us to his first point.  The kids in the story encounter an adult and want Him to join in their imaginary games.  Now though an adult might do this for a short time out of love for the kids, the adult must refuse to play all the time.  They have real things to deal with.  The kids here are those who rejected John and Jesus.  They expected God to do what they wanted.  However, John and Jesus (like adults) refused to play along with their imaginary solutions.  Jesus came to do adult work, not play imaginary games with us.  Do we do this at all today?  Do we as a generation, like little kids, demand that God, who is the “adult,” play with us in our imaginary world and solutions?  Do we demand that God do what we think He should rather than recognizing who He is and stop playing?  God is no dog to jump through the hoops that we would put before Him.  It is we who should humble ourselves and come to the teacher to learn, not the other way around.

The next problem was that their judgments were biased in their own favor.  Jesus points this out by noting the big difference between Him and John.  John was a recluse who was the epitome of self-denial.  When he did come out of the wilderness to interact with people, he was still isolated from the people.  Rather than joining in with them in life, he challenged them to change.  On the other side, Jesus was always around people, eating and drinking with them in their homes.  Now keep in mind that both are from God and speak the Truth.  But, their methods are very different.  The Pharisees and Lawyers rejected John because he was so detached from them and their ways that they claimed he was demon possessed.  Look at him with his wild hair, feeding off the land, out in the wilderness.  He must be possessed.  Of course, John wasn’t demon possessed.  He spoke clearly, intelligibly, didn’t cut himself, or attack people.  Their judgments were biased in favor of the outcome they wanted.  John’s message was unappealing to them and so they judged his life to be of the devil.  However, Jesus did not come this way.  He was the opposite.  He had no problem associating with people and eating with them in their homes.  Yet, he also associated with sinners.  Again the Pharisees reasoned that he must be a glutton, drunkard, and a friend of sinners (aka “a sinner too”).  Now God has sent them both with two very different attempts to draw them to His wisdom and they reject both.  In fact they had been doing this for centuries.  When you look at the lives of the prophets, you see that they represented many different varied lives.  But they all had the same message for the people.  God in His mercy has sent many people with various personalities and lives.  But they all contain the same message.  If we are so set in our ways and thinking that nothing God says or does can get through to us, then we are in the most pitiful circumstances.

Jesus ends with the statement, “Wisdom is justified by all her children.”  Here we have the same issue as before.  Wisdom is not made to be right by us.  Rather the fact that it has people who respond to it and embrace it like a little child, justifies it against those who reject it.  Which do you choose:  the seductive allure of immorality, or the promise of Wisdom?  Which do you choose: the joys of the immoral bed or the fruits of a classroom?  Our flesh pulls powerfully towards immorality.  But know this.  If you choose that path you then become a child of it and will only grow to know the depths of it.  And, the depths of it are called death.  No one will be able to tell God that He can’t expect them to believe because of lack of evidence.  He will only need to point to the countless millions who did believe.  Wisdom is justified by all her children.  Choose wisdom today!

Wisdom or Folly Audio