Summary: The mind is one of the most amazing and most dangerous things we possess. It is incredibly creative, self-justifying and horribly deceiving and sick. So Paul tells us when it comes understanding God, using our minds only will never get us there.
In our series: Lessons in how NOT to be a Christian, we have seen:
Lesson 1: You (and your church) do not belong to you, but to God
Lesson 2: Don't worship your pastor
Lesson 3: Don't confuse the world's wisdom with God's
And now Lesson 4: Don't rely on your own mind
Scientific research has shown that the human mind is an incredible self-justifying thing. We justify our attitudes and behavior to ourselves. It is how we keep from going crazy and how many atrocities have been done by the likes of Hitler or Pol Pot.
Scripture tells us about the human heart, the soul, the part of us that is us:
Jeremiah 17:9 The heart is more deceitful than anything else and desperately sick-who can understand it?
So the mind justifies, but it also lies to us. It makes us unaware of the sickness of evil that pervades our soul.
1 Timothy 4:1-3 Now the Spirit explicitly says that in the latter times some will depart from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and the teachings of demons, 2 through the hypocrisy of liars whose consciences are seared.
These are the days we are living in. The process of the "searing" of the conscience is something that goes everyday in the lives of humans. God implanted in everyone a conscience, it is that leftover part from creation that told us what was and what wasn't in the character of God. Through sin we have put a crust between us and that conscience, and let our mind think things are one way, when they are actually another.
That's at the heart of Paul's lesson for the Corinthians, who had somehow started using their human intellect to understand God.
1 - 2
The culture around Corinth was filled with professional orators who would charm people with their long speeches and ability to craft the language into neat packages that rolled off the tongue and into the ear smoothly. To get around this, Paul describes his way of coming to the Corinthians-to "know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified." This is where we must start to understand what God is trying to tell us. We can't begin by understanding every nuance of religious thought. We must come back to basics-and as we saw last time-it is all about Jesus as our "wisdom", "righteousness", "sanctification", and "redemption." The key to understanding Jesus is to look at the cross-the most important event (from death, burial, to resurrection) that has ever taken place in human history. All that came before pointed towards it and all that has happened afterwards points back.
So, 1) The Message is the cross of Jesus; now the method.
3 - 5
Paul's behavior to the Corinthians was the opposite of what might be called a "leader". This had caused them to be drawn off by others who claimed to be apostles who had all the shiny attributes that the world loves: a slick personality and a slick message all wrapped up in an awesome spectacle of a presentation.
Why does Paul say he came in "weakness" "fear" and "trembling"? I think that he came bearing the truth of what humanity faces apart from God. Psalm 111:10 says "the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom." We don't come to God as high and mighty - got-it-all-together people, but as fearing for our lives and just glad God hasn't incinerated us.
The wonderful thing is that God didn't just talk about a resolution but actually demonstrated that He can and does change lives and bring people from darkness and death to light and life through Jesus Christ.
Paul could have wowed them. He possessed what amounted to a double doctorate and was a skilled debater. But it is with a changed heart, not lofty speech, that lives are changed. You won't bring anyone to Christ by winning an argument. They will only come when they see God in you and want that life in themselves!
Otherwise their faith will be built on the solidness of your argument instead of the solid rock of the gospel.
That's where we begin, but we do move on from there. When he wrote 2 Corinthians, Paul spoke of the gospel being "veiled" when the Law of Moses is read. When a person comes to faith that "veil" is taken away. They can now begin to understand the bigger story. So how does that understanding come?
6 - 9 The Word of God
The wisdom of the gospel is not fed off of human intellect. It is spiritually understood because it goes opposite to the ways of this world: power, position, and human logic.
God's wisdom was "hidden" and a "mystery" but in the sense that He spoke in veiled terms in the Old Testament, but now it is all resolved to Jesus Christ and is no longer hidden and no longer a mystery. Some cults today will camp on this verse and say their way reveals the mystery of God, but outside of Jesus Christ having come in the flesh to die for mankind it is not valid.