A clarifications/improvement: Like I do many times, I wish I would’ve said some things differently on Sunday. Here’s one from yesterday:
- There are times when I’m writing my manuscript and reviewing it, that I get a “check” in my mind about a statement. Many times, I’ve learned to listen to this and change what I’ve written. But yesterday, I didn’t and I should have. It came on the moment when I quoted Kanye West and used a quote, from his early stages of Christianity, to speak about the theology of glory. What I wished, I would’ve done, is not mention his name. And here’s why…I have watched many interviews with Kanye and I’ve read some write-ups about what others have seen and heard. I have also heard from a trusted friend that he knows of a person(s) who are mentoring Kanye and they’re faithful Christian leaders. So, I have had this thought running through my mind about his recent conversion to Christianity: “give the man time…see what the Lord is teaching him…be patient…believe the best…hope the best…and pray for him when he comes to mind…he’s a brand-new Christian coming out of a very selfish and hedonistic lifestyle, so don’t be too critical of his responses or quotes this early his is Christian life.” Then, after the sermon yesterday, one of our men, Seth Buechley, sent me this post from David French (a writer I enjoy). I was immediately convicted for not obeying the direction of the Holy Spirit and leading our church to potentially doubt the work of God in someone else’s life. So, let me say this at the outset of my musings…I have no idea what the Lord is doing in Kanye’s life…I’m not an expert on what God is doing in other peoples’ lives…I think it was ok to use his quote, but I wish that I wouldn’t have used his name…I’m grateful for my church, because they bring me clarifications/adjustments, with such remarkable grace, love, and truth (this is a rare gift from God). Then, let me add…please read the post above. I think it will do your soul some good.
- 1 Corinthians 1:18-25 really is a beast of a text. It’s not only challenging mentally, it’s challenging theologically. It’s really hard to understand Paul’s argument and it’s very challenging to follow the pattern of “foolishness”, “wisdom”, etc., throughout the text. And if you don’t follow it well, you’ll really be in a bad place. Here are some examples:
- vs. 21-“For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe.”
- vs. 25-“For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.”
- When you read those texts, your first thought could be: “Is Paul calling what we preach ‘folly’?” Or you might get offended and say, “There’s no foolishness in God!”
- My hope is that it was crystal clear that Paul was saying that “human wisdom” sees the gospel and Christ crucified as, “folly” and “foolish”. And my hope is that it was clear that Paul was flipping worldly wisdom on its ear.
- One of the most interesting things in this text to me, was vs. 21 (quoted above) where Paul shows us that in God’s wisdom, He has made it that the world, through their own wisdom, did not know God…and because the verse could be translated this way…”For since the world did not know God through wisdom..”, showing a continual action…this means…it is impossible for the world to come to know God through their own human wisdom. Here’s why this is fascinating:
- It helps me not be shocked when the intellectual atheist cannot figure God out and they think His ways are lunacy.
- It helps me minister to those like this, in patience/prayer, knowing that their “wisdom” has actually blinded them to see God’s ways…because God has “created” his world this way…man through his own wisdom, cannot figure God out.
- It also reminds me that we cannot know God…without God. If it is impossible to know God, through human wisdom, and that’s the only wisdom I know…my, my how I need God to reveal Himself…this shows me how desperately we need God.
- Finally, let me add something that I didn’t spend hardly any time on…vs. 21 finishes with “it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe (emphasis mine).” We have to see this and hear this because the King James quoted this as “through the foolishness of preaching”, which is a very poor translation…Notice the emphasis (in ESV and other translations) is on what we preach…there’s a particular object…and in this text that object is Christ crucified. This means that preaching that does not have Christ as its center, does not please God to save people. That’s a very important distinction.
Quotes I left out:
It takes a lot of restraint on my part to not overdo the addition of quotes to my sermons. I admit…I overdo it a lot but even on those Sundays, I will admit, there are a lot of quotes I left out that would’ve been helpful. What I try to do this is ask if I have already explained what I’m trying to say, clearly enough, or if the quote will just “re-state” what I’ve already said. Quotes should be used to bring clarity and should not distract from the central theme of the sermon. Here are several I thought were helpful, but did not include them in the sermon:
- “This paragraph is crucial not only to the present argument (1:10–4:21) but to the entire letter as well. Indeed, it is one of the truly great moments in the apostle Paul—and in the whole of Christian Scripture.” Gordon Fee
- “The Christians in Corinth undoubtedly carried over from the culture of their city notions of power as influence or force, on the analogy of social or economic power, just as today many understand power from the analogy of the force of machinery, the power of electrical or electronic operations, the political power of votes, or the power of armed conquest or armed forces. Jesus rejected such notions of power in his resistance to the messianic temptations, each of which enticed him to adopt a crude shortcut to raw power, especially through the use of the spectacular to manipulate belief by quasi-mechanical or “rhetorical” persuasion. The proclamation of a humiliated, crucified Christ, whose manner of death was too shameful for mention in polite conversation (see below), had nothing to do with the spectacular or manipulative. But it effectively empowered, most especially as power for, rather than as a Christianized version of secular power over. “ A.C. Thiselton
- “People are wrapped up in illusions of wisdom while living in folly. The cross now becomes a sifting criterion that exposes the difference between folly lived in an illusion of wisdom and a humble, realistic appropriation of the true wisdom of God, which is effective in leading to salvation.” A.C. Thiselton
- “It is of critical importance to emphasize that this proclamation of a crucified Christ (v. 23) constitutes the greatest affront (Greek skandalon) to all except those who appropriate what is proclaimed. Death on a cross was regarded in Roman society (and Corinth was a “Roman” city) as brutal, disgusting, and abhorrent. It was reserved for convicted slaves and convicted terrorists, and could never be imposed upon a Roman citizen or more “respectable” criminals. It was so offensive to good taste that crucifixion was never mentioned in polite society, except through the use of euphemisms. For Gentiles who might imagine a “divine” savior figure, and for Jews who expected a Messiah anointed with power and majesty, the notion of a crucified Christ, a Messiah on the cross, was an affront and an outrage.” A.C. Thiselton
- “A God discovered by human wisdom will be both a projection of human fallenness and a source of human pride, and this constitutes the worship of the creature, not the Creator. The gods of the “wise” are seldom gracious to the undeserving, and they tend to make considerable demands on the ability of people to understand them; hence they become gods only for the elite and “deserving.” Gordon Fee
About the death of a sports icon:
- Very rarely do we see sports icons die and Sunday’s news about Kobe Bryant and his daughter’s death, is simply shocking. In my lifetime, I can think of few athletes that matched Kobe’s global status…Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods, Messi…not many. It has been amazing to me to read tributes and condolences from all over the world and from every sector of the world: soccer teams, baseball teams, football teams, and most certainly basketball teams. Politicians, actors, and philanthropists. It’s simply an amazing reach.
- In my lifetime, the first “sports” death that got to me was Thurman Munson’s, the popular New York Yankee catcher. Munson’s death rattled me so bad that I did a book report on him the following year and kept the cover of the book pinned up in my room. My dad remembered when Roberto Clemente died in a plane crash going on a humanitarian mission with his career ending on exactly 3000 hits. It’s a surreal moment when an icon dies.
- But one of the things that I was reminded of yesterday is this…we are all finite…even those most powerful, graceful, ones (like athletes), who seem superhuman. They’re not and we aren’t. I listened to an interview with Kobe from a few years ago and the interviewer asked Kobe what his relationship with death was like. Kobe replied, “Comfortable and settled. The older you get, you know, with life, comes death. And you need to settle things with God. So, I’m a peace with death.” Now, I don’t know where Kobe was with Jesus (see my comments above about not knowing what God is doing in others’ lives), but I pray that he was truly settled with God, through Christ. And…I hope you are as well.
As I write these musings, each week, I have a question for you: if there are questions you have that you’d love to hear me address, please don’t hesitate to reply to this email and let us know. Thanks for reading and I hope this post encourages you in the grace and knowledge of Jesus.
Have a great week…