Saturday, May 25, 2013

The Foolishness of God

video

 New Testament: : Romans 5:1-5
1 Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God.  3 And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not disappoint us, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.


Gospel:  John 16:12-15
12 "I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.  13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.  14 He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you.  15All that the Father has is mine. For this reason I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.

Message:     “Foolishness of God”      Tom Williams
Our message title “Foolishness of God” comes from 1 Corinthians 1:25 where Paul writes, “The foolishness of God is wiser than man.”

We are going to look at our scripture reading a little bit at a time and try to gain a deeper understanding of what Paul is saying to us.

It begins with,  5:1 Therefore, since we are justified

Justified is a legal term which means that, under the law, we have been declared innocent or guiltless.  We have been legally absolved of our actions.  We have been acquitted of all charges brought against us under the law.

Wait a minute!  This is the same Paul who wrote, “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.”  And now he is saying that we are justified.  Maybe we need to understand just what justification is and what it is not.

Justified does NOT mean that the person was innocent it means only that they could not be PROVEN guilty.

Now, we can all think of court cases where the guilty have been set free because of a technicality of the law.  Every lawyer is looking for that loophole in the law that will get his client absolved of the charges. 

So the truth is that we are guilty! 

We might be innocent of nine of the Ten Commandments but every one of us is guilty of at least one.  Just in case you have forgotten them I listed them on the front of the bulletin.  However, according to Jewish scholars, there are actually 633 commandments of God … not just the 10 that Moses brought down the mountain.  Those were just the big broad strokes of the law.  The other 623 were detailed explanation of the basic ten and detailed in Leviticus.  We have a tendency to think in terms of BIG sins and small sins.  That is not the way God sees things.

Here is an example: Lev 5:2 “If you touch anything unclean – the unclean dead body of a wild or tame animal or the body of an unclean, swarming creature … and then ignore what you did, you are unclean and will be guilty.” 

Have you ever touched the dead body of a swarming creature (think fly or mosquito) and then not confessed it before God and made a guilt offering to the Lord?

Is it any wonder than that Paul, who was well trained in the Law, could say, “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God?”

For all practical purposes, it is impossible to keep the law and remain right before God. And since God is holy, and his very presence is fatal to sin, we as sinful people are under a death sentence for our sin.

I’m not going to ask you to name your guilt … just recognize it.  Just understand that we were under a death sentence and have now been absolved by our faith.  As it says in our reading, Therefore, since we are justified by faith,

Here is another term that we use but do we truly understand what it means?  What is faith?
Voltaire, the French philosopher, said, “Faith consists in believing when it is beyond the power of reason to believe.”

Saint Augustine in the fifth century said, “Faith is to believe what you do not see; the reward of this faith is to see what you believe.”

Martin Luther King Junior said, “Faith is taking the first step even when you don't see the whole staircase.” 

Saint Paul said, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” - Hebrews 11:1 )

Now we have faith … not just any faith… not faith in ourselves … not faith in our government … not faith in our church.  We have faith in that through Jesus, God has eliminated our sins.

This is where that “Foolishness of God” comes into this message.

I will admit that this concept of faith was what held me back from becoming a Christian.  This whole book is full of things that are just plain foolish to those without faith.  Through faith the truth is revealed.  So take the first step, even if you can’t see the second step. Seldom does God reveal the entire path.  Often it is only after the first step that the second step is revealed.  And after the second step the third step is revealed.  And so on.  The first step is to believe in God the Father, creator of Heaven and Earth.  The second step is to believe in Jesus Christ His only son.  The third step, believe in the Holy Spirit who, as Jesus said, will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.  These steps you have started … but where your path will lead … only God knows.  What I do know is that through these steps of faith we will be at peace with God.

We have peace with God

Peace with God.  Once we were at war with God.  In our selfishness we put our own desires and our own agendas before the will of God.  By being self-centered instead of God-centered we were stopping the flow of blessings that God had for us.  By following our own path we were lost and unable to save ourselves.  God, who was never far from us, made a way through Jesus Christ.

through our Lord Jesus Christ,

By acknowledging the Lordship of Jesus over our lives we have received the grace of God.  Jesus is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.  Every knee shall bow to him.  And the sooner we realize His Lordship, the sooner we bow our knee to him, the sooner the Grace of God can be ours. 

Grace, the unearned gift of redemption can only come when we truly say to God, “Not my will but thine.”  We can only be filled with God when we are empty of self.


5:2 through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God.
5:3 And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance,

Now, do you remember what I said a minute ago about this book being full of foolishness?  Here is one of those “foolish” concepts. Boasting in our sufferings or as the English Standard version says, “we rejoice in our sufferings.”

Now that is foolish outside of a personal relationship with God. 

When you read the Old Testament and you’ll find very clearly that bad things happen to bad people and good things happen to good people.  The concept was that bad things were punishment from God for some sin in the person’s life.  And the reverse was also believed to be true.  If you were a Godly person and right with Him then everything would go your way.

It is amazing how that concept believed and promoted by the religious leaders even though a cursory glance at the lives of the prophets, judges and other Great Men of God.  Let’s look at Moses the most revered of those great men.

As a baby he was cast adrift in the Nile River (think man-eating crocodiles … no wonder he had a stutter as an adult), raised by the oppressor of his people, and went from a position of power and wealth (as a member of Pharaoh’s household) to a wanted fugitive living in the wilderness raising sheep.  Ordered by God to go do battle with Pharaoh and gain release of the captives. After winning their release, he had to lead this undisciplined, argumentative, disobedient multitude of people to the Promised Land, where they refused to go in.  He then had to lead them in wandering the dessert for forty years before bringing them back to the Promised Land.  And for his faithfulness … he died alone on a mountain overlooking the Promised Land that he wasn’t allowed to enter.

As strange as this concept of Troubles as a Sign of Sin was.  It still persists today. How often I have prayed, “Why me, God?   Why me?  I’ve been faithful.  Why?”

Here is what Jesus told his disciple and also the religious leaders of the day when they asked the same question.

Now as Jesus passed by, He saw a man who was blind from birth. And His disciples asked Him, saying, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”
Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him. 

That the works of God should be revealed.

I hope that, like me, you can look back on your life and see where those times of hardship and loss have moved you to a place where God could bless you.  It is usually easy to see in hind-sight.  I’m trying to see it in fore-sight. 

I found this posted on Facebook and I think it explains this better than I can.

I am quoting now.

“For some time now, I have been trying to put together a presentation to raise awareness for ALS, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Finally after much help I have come up with something. I could have given lots of numbers, statistics and other generalities, but it was suggested I tell my story.

First a little background about me. I was born January 20, 1958, the oldest of 3 boys in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Most of my childhood was spent in Taneytown, Maryland before moving to Iowa in 1976. Like most boys I played sports. Lots of sports. As I said to the youth group a year ago, sports was my “god”. My parents split up when I was 11, so God was not a focal point in my life. Which now seems strange as my mom was raised in the church, choir member etc., and my dad’s dad was a preacher. I accepted Jesus as my savior at 19, but took a long time to live a Christian type life .Little did I know that God in His infinite wisdom was preparing me for this difficult, yet absolutely wonderful journey.

Like many others it has not been a smooth road. It did help determine, build and grow the faith I have today, though. The last 4-5 years have been particularly difficult. A divorce, raising 5 boys alone, and the diagnosis of a terminal illness. Thus I adopted the verse from Job13:15, “Tough He slay me I will hope in Him.”, as my own. Which is ironic in itself, because I once told Pastor Kent , I had very little hope. Mostly because it was placing hope in man rather then God I learned. Now I come to consider my disease a blessing rather than a curse. Yes, a blessing! Roman 8:28 says “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Amazing!! In this I know He isn’t done with me yet. He still has great plans, purpose and use of this dreadful sinner. What lies ahead, I am not sure of it all, but I do know He strengthens me in ways I was unable to do on my own. For that I am grateful will humbly go where I am led.” 
End quote

Do you see how this man came to realize that his disability was a blessing?  I’m not talking about “when life gives you lemonade”.   I’m saying that when life gives you lemons, praise God and thank Him for the lemons and ask Him what to do with them.

Sometimes WE have to fail … to have our world crash around us, for God to be revealed.  I was taught and raised to be self-reliant.  That means that I’m one of those guys who struggles and bulls my way through something without asking for help.  And when one of my friends says, “Why didn’t you call me?”, I have to admit that it never occurred to me to ask for help.  I do the same thing with God … sometimes.  We’re working on that.  Sometimes my self-reliance, my self-will, has to fail … for me to accept what God has in mind for me.


There is a famous prayer by John Wessley which I believe speaks to his own struggle with self-will.  It reads,

“I am no longer my own, but thine.
Put me to what thou wilt, rank me with whom thou wilt.
Put me to doing, put me to suffering.  Let me be employed for thee or laid aside for thee, exalted for thee or brought low for thee. Let me be full, let me be empty. Let me have all things, let me have nothing. I freely and heartily yield all things to thy pleasure and disposal. And now, O glorious and blessed God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
thou art mine, and I am thine. So be it. And the covenant which I have made on earth, let it be ratified in heaven. Amen.

I like this prayer because it is so much more eloquent than a prayer that I had started to pray but still says the same thing.  My prayer goes, “God, lead me, push me, pull me, place me where I am to be and doing what I’m to do.  I give you permission to override my will with yours.  Amen.”

And what is the result of our suffering?  Our scripture says,
Suffering produces endurance

5:4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope,
5:5 and hope does not disappoint us, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.

So, since we know that God will use ALL of our circumstances for our ultimate good – we rejoice in our suffering.  That doesn’t mean that we have to rejoice FOR our suffering.  We just to apply that Foolishness of God principle and have faith that God has a blessing for us that we can only receive by passing through the time of trial.  God will then be able to pour His love into our hearts through the Holy Spirit.

Praise God!  Amen.

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