WISDOM VERSUS FOOLISHNESS
Text: I Corinthians 1:18 – 25
For the message about 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 the discernment of the discerning I will thwart." (20) Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? (21) For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, God decided, through the foolishness of our proclamation, to save those who believe. (22) For Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom, (23) but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, (24) but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. (25) For God's foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God's weakness is stronger than human strength. (NRSV).
The late Billy Graham once said, “The cross has become a symbol in much of the Western world, misused by rock stars and others who do not comprehend its significance”. (Billy Graham. The Secret Of Happiness. New York: Double Day, 1955, p. 22). To wear a cross is to wear a symbol of death. The cross is often misused as some kind of ornament or accent to the attire and style and style of some people. We all know from biblical history that the cross was an instrument of execution where Rome’s worst enemies of the state were put to death by being nailed to a cross where execution would be public, painful, and prolonged.
Imagine how you would be received if you could travel back in time with a bus tour group to first century Rome wearing a cross. How do you think people would respond to you? First, they would be very curious and amazed to see you stepping off a bus with your tour group. Secondly, once they saw you all wearing crosses they would be horrified. The cross was designed to let everyone know that crucifixion is the way that enemies of the Roman state were dealt with in the worst case scenarios. Christians today view the cross as a place where the Son of God died for our sins to set us free from the power and guilt of sin.
What does the cross mean to you? Is the meaning of the cross foolish to those who do not understand? Today we want to talk about wisdom and foolishness.
How does the world see wisdom? Do they see wisdom as something that they gained from academics? Or do they see wisdom as something gained by experience?
1) A Genius looks at wisdom: Albert Einstein had a close friend named Max Born who died in January in 1970. They had colleagues named Max Planck and Otto Hahn [who was credited with the discovery of nuclear fission]. These men were some of the greatest physicists of the twentieth century. Max Born commented on German television just before he died, saying, “ I’d be happier if we had scientists with less brains and more wisdom”. (Paul Lee Tan. Encycloedia Of 7700 Illustrations. Hong Kong: Nordica International, LTD. 1996, p. 1612).
2) Godly Wisdom: Proverbs 1: 7 tells us about the perspective of godly wisdom: The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction (ESV). Proverbs 2:6 tells us the origin of godly wisdom: For the LORD gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding (ESV).
What about the celebrity version gospel? Is there such a thing as a celebrity gospel---a secular gospel?
1) A Worldly gospel : A secular gospel is endorsed by all who refuse the gospel and write their own exam questions so that they are never wrong!
2) Oprah Winfrey: If you listen to comments Oprah Winfrey once made on one of her shows, you can get into heaven without Jesus. Is that what Jesus said?
3) Joy Behar: Remember when Joy Behar, she poked fun at the Vice President because of his faith: On February 13, 2018 on her talk show “The View” Joy Behar … said: “It’s one thing to talk to Jesus. It’s another thing when Jesus talks to you.” Behar said hearing voices is a “mental illness” before Sherri Shepard offered a limited defense of Pence”. (https://ijr.com/the-declaration/2018/02/1066024-joy-behar-attacks-mike-pences-faith-with-such-flawed-logic-even-her-own-co-host-calls-her-out/).
4) The true gospel: Galatians 1:8, 9, 11 say it clearly: 8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. 9 If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed. … 11 For I would have you know, brothers, that the gospel that was preached by me is not man's gospel (ESV).
Why is the cross considered foolish to the world?
1) The Christian exam question: Those who do not believe in Jesus can write and grade their own exam questions. The cross is a reminder to all Christians that our exam question is only one question that we spend a lifetime answering as we witness for Jesus Christ. That question is this: “Who do we say that Jesus is (Matthew 16:19)? “
2) The cross of Jesus is a graphic reminder: The cross is God’s message to the world where the words of John 3:16 are demonstrated by Jesus Christ the very lamb of God came to take away the sins of the world (John 1:29)! That is the whole message of the Gospel. In the words of the late Billy Graham …
“The Gospel shows people their wounds and bestows on them love.
It shows them their bondage and supplies the hammer to knock away the chains.
It shows them their nakedness and provides them the garments of purity.
It shows them their poverty and pour into their lives the wealth of heaven.
It shows them their sins and points them to the Savior”.
(Billy Graham. The Secret Of Happiness. New York: Double Day, 1955, p. 95).
The cross of Jesus Christ is a Divine object lesson of all these things! The world is filled with two kinds of people, believers and unbelievers. There is no middle of the road!
Is there such a thing as a fool’s paradise? Sadly, the answer is yes. One example of a fool’s paradise is deception. One way to describe a fool’s paradise is to label it for what it is.
1) A broad path that leads to destruction: Matthew 7:13 describes not only a fool’s paradise but also its consequences: “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many” (ESV). Satan whom Jesus calls the father of all lies (John 8:44), aka the god of this world (II Corinthians 4:4) and aka known as a thief (John 10:10) uses deception to blind people to the light of the Gospel.
2) Paths and their motivations: John 10:10 The thief [aka Satan] comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I [Jesus] came that they may have life and have it abundantly. Ezekiel 18:4 says “Behold, all souls are Mine. As the soul of the father, also the soul of the son, they are Mine. The soul that sins, it shall die” (KJV).
3) Beware of the thief: Satan deceives to steal God’s people and lead them astray from God’s plan for their lives (Jeremiah 29:11) in the hopes that it will lead to their death.
How many are there in the world who scoff and ridicule Christians thinking we are foolish? How many are shunned, ridiculed or persecuted for their faith? Why is it that people will literally sell their souls for a lie that could kill them?
1) Billy Graham style evangelism: One of the things that I love about Billy Graham is that he would not hold a crusade if there were going to be racial barriers. Jesus made it clear that the ground is level at the cross! Remember John 3:16? Say it with me, “For God so loved the world, …. Stop right there. How many in the world have forgotten that part? … Again John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life”
2) Billy Graham on the subject of Hell: Billy Graham once said, “It is unbelief that shuts the door to heaven and opens it to hell. It is unbelief that rejects the Word of God and refuses Christ as Savior. It is unbelief that causes men to turn a deaf ear to the gospel. [!]” (Billy Graham. Peace with God. Waco, TX: Word, 1953, p. 56).
3) Who’s fool are you?: It is far better to be a fool in the eyes of man than a fool in the eyes of God because we rejected Jesus Christ!
Is hell a real place? Jesus preached about Hell to keep people from going there!
1) A researcher looks at hell: Someone (John Burke) describes Hell like this: “Hell is giving free eternal creatures what they want---freedom from him. All the sufferings and the evils of earth are meant to warn us. God did not create hell for humans. He created hell for eternal angels who made an eternal choice to rule themselves---hell is where they rule”. (John Burke. Imagine Heaven. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2015, pp. 232- 233). God chose Heaven for us and through our belief in Jesus Christ!
2) Near Death Experiencers: This same researcher has interviewed many who have had Near Death Experiences. The majority of them have had their lives played back for them showing the good, the bad and the ugly and all that would grieve God’s Holy Spirit (Ephesians 4:30). The experience is referred to as a Life Review. In every Life Review will be revealed everyone’s decisions that were foolish in the eyes of God! John Burke. Imagine Heaven. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2015, pp. 215 -221 ).
Interjecting his own words: ”Storm reports that he was not a pleasant man. He was an angry atheist that was hostile to every form of religion, as well as those who practiced it. He considered all spiritual belief systems to be fantasies created by deluded people. He knew with certainty that the material world was all that existed. He would often use rage to control the people around him and didn’t find joy in anything. On June 1, 1985, at the age of 38, Storm suffered a perforation of the stomach, which led to his death and a profound near-death experience. When he returned to this world, he was a changed man”. https://ndestories.org/howard-storm/
One man by the name of Howard Storm was an arrogant man who had such a NRE that started off ok as he followed those who called him until it got pitch black. They began to grab him. Eventually he was eviscerated and lost one of his eyes because of them. It was prayer to the Lord Jesus Christ that saved him. They protested his prayers saying “There is no God.” Yet, God heard his prayers and got him out of hell! He later left his career as a university professor and became a pastor for the Gospel. (John Burke. Imagine Heaven. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2015, pp. 215 -221 ).
3) AGAIN, Who’s fool are you?: It is far better to be a fool in the eyes of man than a fool in the eyes of God because we rejected Jesus Christ!
Jesus Christ boldly died on the cross for you and everyone else in the world. Will you boldly be a fool for Jesus and witness to others about Him every day? Jesus told us to go and make disciples (Matthew 28:19). How many rock stars or any celebrity for that matter that wear a cross without understanding what it really means? Billy Graham spoke of that observation in 1955, it still applies today. How many are there who are ashamed of the Gospel (Romans 1:16)? How many of them if they were to die today could stand before the Lord and be proud of their “life review?” How many of them will feel like a fool in heaven because they chose to be wise according to the world who is under the influence of Satan? How many of them will be willing to forfeit their salvation for the world’s approval (Mark 8:36)? How many of us are going to pick up our crosses and go witness to them about Jesus Christ? ONE MORE TIME…. Who’s fool are you? In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. AMEN.