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fools

The last example for us this week then is First Corinthians 1, where we see the foolish folly for the fallen.  The foolish folly of the fallen.  18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing.”  How did we react to the gospel the first time we heard it?  We didn’t get it.  We didn’t get it.  It’s foolish.  “You mean I have to come and die to myself?  I have to repent?  I have to reject everything I am, outside of Christ?  I have to believe?  Not just sign a card, shake a hand, join a roll—I have to actually believe?”

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. 19 For it is written: ‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, And bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.’ 20 Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this age?”  “Where are the great debaters?” he says.  “Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? 21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe.”  Here is the best we can hope to be in the kingdom of God—a foolish preacher with a foolish message, that the world does not understand and cannot comprehend unless the Spirit intervenes.

It sounds pretty hopeless, doesn’t it, until you understand, this is all by God’s plan.  You see, God did not choose the wise, He chose the simple, the foolish.  When Jesus came, it’s demonstrated in His birth, isn’t it—in the incarnation, Jesus, the Creator of all that is.  There’s not even a room in the inn, so He’s born and laid in a feed trough.  And the heavens rejoice, the shepherds come and see Him.  Do you know the significance of the shepherds being the first ones that come to see Jesus?  Nobody else in town would have spoken to them.  They were the lowest of the low, they were the outcasts, they were the people nobody even noticed were there, except for to shun them.  And the angels announced His birth to them!

We think we’re better than that.  We’re smart, we’re wise.  21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. 22 For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom; 23 but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. 26 For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called.”  This just got personal, didn’t it?  “not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. 27 But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; 28 and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are.”  Why?  He tells us in verse 29 there: 29 that no flesh should glory in His presence.”

It’s not what we do, it’s not what we bring, it’s not what God can accomplish now that I’ve trusted Him.  Do you understand, this is the danger of celebrity Christianity?  “Oh, they have a bigger platform.  They can reach more people.”  That’s not what it’s about.  The moment we think God needs us to proclaim His message, we have forgotten that we are completely expendable.  The message doesn’t depend upon us.  It depends upon Christ and His Word.

30 But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God—and righteousness and sanctification and redemption—31 that, as it is written, ‘He who glories, let him glory in the Lord.’”  Do you want to glory?  Glory in the Lord.  If the world thinks that you’re strange, if the world thinks that you’re crazy, if the world tells you that you’re foolish, if people in the church tell you that you’re a moron—fine.

I still love Spurgeon’s response.  Spurgeon’s response, if somebody comes and tells you everything that’s wrong with you and how bad you are, praise God that they don’t know the real you, because there’s a lot more they could probably say, right?  And yet, what does God do?  He looks at us, in that mess, and loves us enough to send His Son as a substitute, to stand in our place, to pay the penalty for our sin, to give to us His righteousness so that He can adopt us into His family, so that He can reconcile us with Himself, so that we can fellowship with Him.  Because God sent Jesus to seek and to save that which was lost.

This is the lesson for us when we want to know, “How do you deal with the lost?”  Don’t hate them, don’t fear them, love them.  But understand what biblical love is.  Biblically, loving somebody is wanting what’s best for them.  What’s best for them?  That they bow the knee to Christ.  Whatever stands in the way, love them, be kind to them, be compassionate.

I mean, Jesus says to do this for your enemy.  If your enemy’s thirsty, what does Jesus say?  Give him poison?  What does Jesus say?  If your enemy’s thirsty, give him a drink.  We’d rather publicly shame them.  “How dare they live in that sinful lifestyle that we have never stooped down to.  Because none of us were sinful like that.”  Alone in our thoughts, we were so much worse.  And that’s where the Sermon on the Mount gets to the motive.  We judge the lost based on their sinfulness.  Should we really be shocked that the lost live in sin?  That is their natural habitat.  That’s where we were when Jesus sought us and saved us.

I like Paul’s perspective.  I heard a preacher say, “Don’t ever tell God you’re a sinner.  Don’t ever tell other people you’re a sinner.  Don’t use the term ‘sinner saved by grace,’ because you’re saved, you’re a saint.  You’re not a sinner anymore.  You’re a saint.”  So live like what you are.  Be a saint.  Don’t even say, “I’m a sinner.”  I think Paul would take issue with that, wouldn’t he? One of the last things Paul wrote was that he was the chief of sinners.

We cannot forget that we are sinners, but we must rejoice in the fact that we are—what did Luther say?—sinner and saint; sinner and justified at the same time.  We are different than what we were because of the work of Christ.  So don’t look down, don’t condescend, don’t hate the sinner.

And you’ve also heard, “Love the sinner, hate the sin.”  We don’t need to be making those distinctions.  We need to ask people, “Do you know Jesus.  If you know Jesus, you obey Jesus.”  And that’s going to hurt and offend a lot of people, especially people who have been sitting in pews for a very long time.  If you love Jesus, you obey Jesus.  Let’s inspect the fruit.  Let’s look at the fruit.

Is Jesus Lord?  Trick question, because the answer is “Yes, Jesus is Lord.”  Has anybody ever asked you this, “Is Jesus Lord of your life?”  Jesus is the Lord of every life.  Are we being obedient?  Are we walking in obedience?  If the Word of God becomes strange to us, if the Word of God becomes foreign to us, and if the world reacts in a strange way to the way we live, the way we talk, the way we preach, and the way we present ourselves—so be it.

We in the church today need to be much more concerned with what God knows about us than what the world thinks about us.  And that’s a frightening thing to say, isn’t it—to be more concerned with what God knows about us than what the world thinks about us.  They’re going to think we’re crazy, and according to God’s Word, we are.  Preach the truth, live the truth, obey the truth, bear the fruit of the Spirit, as we talked about a couple of Sundays ago.  Be working actively to bear that fruit.  You see, some people say if it’s the fruit of the Spirit, only the Spirit can produce it anyway.  That’s true, but you know, He has to cooperate with us and we have to cooperate with Him.  The fruit is produced as we walk in obedience, as we abide—when we abide, we bear much fruit.  Abide in Him, bear fruit, walk in obedience.

And if the Word of God is strange to you, and if the Word of God is foreign to you, if the Word of God doesn’t make sense to you, dig in.  Delight in it.  Love it.  Seek to know it.  It’s good to debate, it’s good to argue even at times, but do that from a heart of, “I want to know what God’s Word says so that I can do what God’s Word says.  I want to hear it, not just so I know; I want to hear it so I can do it.”  Don’t be hearers, be doers.

And then he says, 31 He who glories, let him glory in the Lord.”  That needs to be all we ever need to brag about.  I love what John MacArthur says: “If you want evidence of your salvation, don’t look back to 20 or 30 years ago to a prayer, to signing a card, shaking a hand, getting baptized.”  He said, “If you want to know that you’re saved, and you want to tell people how you know you’re saved?  Talk about what Jesus is doing in your life right now.  Here’s the fruit God is producing right now.  Here’s what God is pruning in my life.”

God only prunes and chastens His children, right?  “Here’s the pruning I’m undergoing.”  “Oh, we would never share that.  I don’t need to be pruned.  I’m perfectly beautiful, I’m bearing fruit.” No.  We need to be pruned, more than we’d like to admit.  Look to the pruning!  That pruning should give us assurance.  God’s working to conform us to the image of Christ.  Change the way you think about it.

The Christian life is strange to the world.  It should not be strange to us.  And if it is, we go back to Hosea.  11‘Ephraim has made many altars for sin, They have become for him altars for sinning. 12 I have written for him the great things of My law, But they were considered a strange thing.  13 For the sacrifices of My offerings they sacrifice flesh and eat it, But the Lord does not accept them. Now He will remember their iniquity and punish their sins. They shall return to Egypt. 14 For Israel has forgotten his Maker.”

If the Word of God becomes strange to you, if it becomes foreign to you, if you find yourself in an act of rebellion, refusing to obey it, understand something: You’re trying to put God out of your memory.  You’re trying to forget Him.  What’s the solution?  One word.  It starts with “R”.  What’s the solution?  Repent.  Repent and get back in the Word, delight in the Word, and when the Word hurts and burns and stings and cuts and prunes—love it all the more, because it’s making you more like Christ.  That’s the evidence of our salvation—when it hurts.  Because out of the hurt comes growth and blessing and goodness.

The least He calls us to do—the least He calls us to do is to die to everything we are without Him.  It’s not easy, but it’s required—daily.  And if you’re going to glory, if you’re going to boast, glory in the Lord.

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