How to deal with hate

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  1. 23:4-5 … An animal belonging to an enemy … God said, “take it back.”
  2. Verse 5 describes a different set of circumstances involving an animal and has a different word.
  3. Rather than use the word “enemy” as we have in verse 4, verse 5 has the word “hate.”
  4. Lying under his burden” is another way of saying, collapsed under its load.

 

GAL. 6:2 –HELPING OTHERS “BEAR BURDENS.”

 

  • Two burdens a lot of people have are summed up by the words “hate” and “enemy.”
  • Today we want to see consder 3 points about “hate” and enemies.
  • First, hate and enemies will be an on-going problem in our world.
  • Second, the Bible has some things to say about hate and enemies in our own lives.
  • Third, we have some things to help others bear the burdens of hatred and enemies.

 

  • Two of the subjects Jesus had a lot to say about were hatred and enemies.
  • When speaking of enemies, Jesus said they may be “in our own house” (Mt. 10:36).
  • 13:25 Jesus said – READ
  • Having hate in the heart or having enemies often creates a “burden” which must be borne.

 

BEFORE WE CAN HELP OTHERS BEAR THE BURDENS OF HATRED AND HAVING ENEMIES, WE NEED TO BE PREPARED TO DEAL WITH THESE PROBLEMS IN OUR OWN LIVES.

 

  • Going back to Ex. 23, we find a hint of the right attitude.
  • What is God’s will when it comes to enemies and hate?
  • 5:44 – READ
    1. LOVE your enemies.
    2. LOVE the haters. DO GOOD to an enemy.
  • Even go so far as to PRAY for those who hate and want to destroy you.
  • In Rom. 12:20 Paul said, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him.” Thirsty, give him a drink.
    Back in the OT God said “return an enemy’s animal.”
  • In the New Testament (the one under which we live), the emphasis is not on animals.
  • Now we have really specific information about helping someone who hates us.
  • 4:16 Paul said speaking the truth could cause a person to become an enemy.
  • The word is God’s “enemy” (Jas. 4:4), so faithful Christians will have enemies from the world.
  • In Jn. 15:18 the Lord warned the apostles and ultimately us –
  • “If the world hateth you, ye know that it hath hated me before (it hated) you.”

 

WE HAVE A MESSAGE TO SHARE.

  • If sometime soon someone comes to us and talks about enemies and hate, what should we say?
  • If a Christian is struggling with hate and enemies, pray with him or her.
  • Re-study those verses in the Bible which talk about these topics.
  • Consider how we were “enemies” of God before being converted (Rom. 5:10).
  • Show people how they can destroy their enemies.
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Rich Realities from Revelation Studies in the Apocalypse that Give Us Hope

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We have come to the end of our weekly view of John’s letter(s) to the seven churches of Asia Minor. In order to encourage Christians of his generation and those following, John provides a view of heaven. In picturing heaven as he does in chapters 21-22 of Revelation, John uses imagery that would be familiar to Jewish Christians or Gentile Christians familiar with the Old Testament.

    Not only will heaven be an entirely new dwelling place, in contrast to earth (21:1), but it will be an entirely new city. This new city is as beautiful as a bride ready to say “I do” to her husband (21:2). To portray heaven in yet another way, John sees it as dwelling with God, like worshiping in a temple (21:3). There, in the presence of the new heaven/earth, the groom, and the true spiritual temple (21:4), no tears will be found, nor death, mourning, crying, or pain. All things are made new (21:5). This image shows the wonderful fellowship that the faithful will enjoy with God.

    Secondly, John portrays heaven as a city. It was much safer and more convenient to live in cities, especially those protected by walls. Keeping with the figurative language throughout the book of Revelation, John describes this city as a cube, 12,000 stadia in each direction (equivalent to about 1,500 miles) – 21:16. The walls were 144 cubits in measurement; we do not know if that refers to the height or the width (21:17). But it is not particularly relevant. The point is that the city is huge, well protected, and beautiful.

    Finally, at the beginning of chapter 22, John brings to mind the garden of Eden from whence mankind was expelled at the dawn of humanity. The promise was given to the church in Ephesus if they were victorious over the temptation to compromise, they would be allowed entrance into that garden (2:7). In chapter 22, John pictures that garden for us, in heaven. There is a crystal-clear river to provide water. There is the tree of life with “twelve kinds of fruit” (22:2) for food. All of our needs will be provided.

    There is simply one caveat in order to enjoy the blessings and benefits of heaven. Eight, at least, of the final fifteen verses emphasize the necessity of faithful obedience. As you read and reread the book of Revelation, never forget that it was a letter intended for its first-century audience, planned to be read by them, and obeyed (1:3).

    22:7 – “And behold, I am coming quickly. Blessed is he who heeds the words of the prophecy of this book.”

    22:9 – “But he said to me, ‘Do not do that. I am a fellow servant of yours and of your brethren the prophets and of those who heed the words of this book. Worship God.’”

    22:11 – “Let the one who does wrong, still do wrong; and the one who is filthy, still be filthy; and let the one who is righteous, still practice righteousness; and the one who is holy, still keep himself holy.”

    22:12 – “Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to render to every man according to what he has done.”

    22:14-15 – “Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter by the gates into the city. Outside are the dogs and the sorcerers and the immoral persons and the murderers and the idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices lying.”

    22:18-19 – “I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues which are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his part from the tree of life and from the holy city, which are written in this book.”

    Of course, one of the strongest words of hope found in Revelation, and in the entire Bible, is that found in the very last verse: “The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen.”

    May God’s grace be with you, with your family, with your friends, with the church where you worship.

–Paul Holland

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A Mary Heart in a Martha World – #3 Luke 10:38-42

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    We have been considering how to have a “Mary” heart, one that loves to be involved in spiritual concerns, while living in a “Martha” world, one that makes tremendous demands on our time, energy, and focus. Listen to Jesus give His solution…

HOW TO HAVE ONE IN THE MIDST OF THE OTHER (10:41-42):

    First, Jesus recognized the good heart that Martha had.  She was “worried” and “bothered” about the things that she felt were important.  Jesus valued Martha’s servant heart.  Jesus knew there were things that could have been done. He acknowledged that there were certain expectations placed on Martha and she felt like she needed to take care of those immediate needs.

    But secondly, Jesus also verbalizes the principle that would help all of us be stronger Christians. “One thing is necessary (vs 41).”  Can you boil down all God’s expectations of us to one principle? To one sentence? How can you have a “Mary” heart in a “Martha” world? How can you be a strong, faithful Christian in this ungodly, sinful world of 21st century America?

    Jesus tells us. One principle. One sentence. “Mary has chosen the good part.” Mary has chosen the best thing. Is serving good? Yes, but learning is better. You have the opportunity to learn, especially at the feet of Jesus. Take the opportunity. Make the most of your time for the days are evil, Paul said in Ephesians 5:16. Priorities.

    In fact, this story follows on the heels of the parable of the good Samaritan (10:25-37) in which Jesus concluded, saying, “Go and do the same.” That parable has to do with loving our neighbor; this one has to do with loving our God.

    That would solve a lot of problems in our lives.  Priorities.  Choosing the good part.  Bible study among fellow Christians only comes around three times a week. Choose the good part. Worship among fellow Christians comes around only three times a week. Choose the good part. Is it good to serve? Absolutely. “The Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve.”

    168 hours we have in the week.  We have lots of time to work at work and to work at home. Choose the good part. Open Bible study and worship. Jesus says that’s the good part. In our case, that’s four hours a week. Four out of 168. That’s 2% of your time. 2%. Four out of 168 hours is 2%. Jesus said a “Mary” heart in a “Martha” world chooses the good part: sitting at the feet of Jesus.

    The great thing is the last thing Jesus says: “this shall not be taken away from her” (vs 42). The teaching we receive from Jesus goes deep down inside our hearts and into our souls. It becomes a part of our being so that it can never be taken away from us. The time we spend with Jesus is time invested in our spiritual lives, preparing us for eternity.

    So if we’re going to live with God throughout eternity, doesn’t it make sense to spend a little more time preparing for it here and now? 2%. Four hours a week getting ready for the greatest blessing we will have ever experienced in our lives.

    A “Mary” heart loves to worship and loves to learn about Jesus.  A “Martha” world is this world we live in that makes so many demands on our time and energy. The way to have the former in the midst of the latter is to choose the good part. To make sure our priorities are right.

    Having a healthy body isn’t going to get us to heaven. Living in a nice, clean house isn’t going to get us to heaven. Driving a quiet, clean, fuel-efficient car isn’t going to get us to heaven. Enjoying relaxing, fun-filled vacations isn’t going to get us to heaven.

    Sitting at the feet of Jesus will. Let’s do it.

     Colossians 3:1-2: “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.”

–Paul Holland

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A Mary Heart in a Martha World – #2 Luke 10:38-42

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    This world puts so many demands on our time. We’ve got to mow our yards and keep them up.  We like to have flowers to help break up the monotonous greenery around the house.  We need gas for the mower, oil filters, air filters.  The same for the cars.

    We have health needs – eye glasses, hearing-aids, dental work, medication, doctors visits and hospital stays from time to time. So, we need money.  Lots and lots of money.  So we have to work.  40 hours a week.  Maybe 50.  Maybe 60.  We have to work.  But work takes a lot out of us.

    Work demands time and energy, brain power and focus.  Five days a week.  Sometimes six days a week, maybe seven.  Do you want to exercise?  Where will you find time for it?  Do you want to read your Bible?  When will you find time for it?  Do you want to pray?  When will you do that?

    How can you be a strong, faithful Christian in this ungodly, sinful world? We’re meditating on the examples of Mary and Martha from Luke 10:38-42…

WHAT IS A “MARTHA WORLD”? – vs 40

    Perhaps Martha was oldest, since she is mentioned first.  It’s also referred to as “her home.” She was not apathetic to spiritual concerns. She was just extra concerned about the house and especially, feeding the preacher! We like to go into homes that are all decorated and spotless and everything is in its place.

    Martha lived in what some of us call the “real world”! There was dusting to be done and sweeping that needed to be done.  Plus, there’s a visitor in the house: the Son of God of all people! Martha knew that you had to entertain visitors.  She knew the story of Abraham and his guests.  She knew hospitality was expected of her.  The Greek word for “hospitality” literally means “lover of strangers.” Jesus wasn’t a stranger but He was a guest and He needed to be served.

    The key word in this verse is “distracted.”  Martha was “distracted.”  This word means “pulled or dragged away.” That suggests that Martha wanted to be where Mary was.  A “Martha” doesn’t always neglect to learn either.  It was Martha who had the exchange with Jesus in John 11 relative to the resurrection of Lazarus.  She said she believed whatever Jesus asked of the Father, it would be done (John 11:22).  She said she believed in the resurrection of the last day (11:24).  She said she believed that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, even He who comes into the world (11:27).

    But on this occasion, Martha’s heart, Martha’s world made demands on her time and energy and she was pulled away from listening to Christ. Then she was upset that Mary wasn’t helping her. Is there a difference between ministering to guests and neglecting to associate with them? Could Martha have simply sat and listened to Jesus and then at a break in the learning, have said, “Hey, Listen. Jesus, if you’ll peel some potatoes, I’ll fry the chicken.”  But Martha didn’t do that. She wanted Mary to quit listening and start helping.  She was sulky toward Mary and toward Jesus for not making Mary help. There is an interesting contrast between Martha – who tells Jesus what He ought to say and Mary who listens to what Jesus wants to say.

    Listen to the mild rebuke in Martha’s question to Jesus: “Lord, do you not care?”  “Martha’s diagnosis of the problem is too much work and too few hands, but Jesus disagrees. Troubled by worries aroused by a preoccupation with the practical affairs of life (even if these concern hospitality to the messenger of the kingdom of God), Martha has been seduced away from the kind of trustful preoccupation with the kingdom of God that should be the orientation of the faithful disciple” (Nolland, II:602).

    But Jesus, as usual, doesn’t have the same perspective that we have. How can you have a “Mary” heart in a “Martha” world? Listen to Jesus… Tomorrow we’ll examine His response.

–Paul Holland

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A Mary Heart in a Martha World – #1 Luke 10:38-42

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    Don’t you want to be a strong, faithful Christian? We all do.  We all want to feel, as Adam and Eve must have felt in the Garden of Eden, that we “walk with God.” We want to live above sin. We want to be the “Rock of Gibraltar” in our personal, spiritual lives, to be beyond temptation perfectly in control of our mouths and our attitudes, our hearts and our tempers.

    What’s stopping you? It’s not easy living a Christian life in this world, is it? It’s not easy to be strong.  Not only are there temptations thrown at us by Satan from every direction, seemingly non-stop against which we have a hard time fighting.  But also, we live in a physical world with physical needs.  We have to have money to live.  We need food on the table.  We need electricity to power our homes.  We need clothes on our backs, sometimes special types of clothes, uniforms that cost a little more than normal clothes.

    How can you be a strong, faithful Christian in this ungodly, sinful world? Mary & Martha were sisters of Lazarus, the one whom Jesus loved and the one He raised from the dead.  They lived in Bethany, close to the Mount of Olives.  This was 2-3 miles from Jerusalem.  They are also mentioned in John 11 (the raising of Lazarus) and John 12 (the anointing of the feet of Jesus).

FIRST, WHAT IS A “MARY HEART”? – vs 39

    What an honor it would be to have Jesus in your home!  Jesus came into their home and began teaching.  Jesus could not help but teach.  It is in His nature to teach.  He had a lot to say; He had a lot to teach; He had a lot of wisdom to share.  He comes into His friends’ home and begins teaching.

    Mary’s heart led her to sit at the Lord’s feet and listen to His word. I, too, would have been glad to do that very thing.  You would too.  I would love to ask Jesus questions about the OT prophets.  I would love to ask Him if certain passages that I believe point to Him truly do point to Him.

    A “Mary” heart does not forget/refuse to serve.  It was Mary who anointed the feet of Jesus with the very costly perfume of pure nard – John 12:3.

    But a “Mary heart” wants to learn.  A “Mary heart” wants to be in worship.  It wants to sing praises to God until your throat is dry.  A “Mary heart” wants to read the Bible through from Genesis to Revelation as often as possible.  A “Mary heart” wants to be absorbed in the teaching of God’s word until you lose track of time.  A “Mary heart” wants to probe the intricate mysteries and treasures hidden in the precious word of God.  A “Mary heart” wants to make every effort to show itself approved of God, a workman that does not need to be ashamed, handling accurately the Word of Truth (2 Timothy 2:15).

    A “Mary heart” loves to teach the stories of the OT – the stories of Noah & the Flood, Abraham and Sarah, Joseph being sold into Egypt, King David and how he handled his problems in life. A “Mary heart” loves to teach the stories of Jesus in the Gospels, the history of the church in the book of Acts.  A “Mary heart” loves to feed on the word of God.

    A “Mary heart” loves to spend time in prayer.  To talk to the Father. To pour out your heart’s thanksgivings to the Father for all the blessings, small and big that He gives us each day.  A “Mary heart” believes that there are many joys that are still yet to be provided and enjoyed by God’s children.  A “Mary heart” understands that the Father is anxiously awaiting for us to ask Him for His help and a “Mary heart” is anxious to lay out its desires before the Father, asking Him to help someone who is struggling with a chronic illness, to bless someone who just received word of a terminal disease, to comfort someone who has lost a beloved family member, to guide someone who has lost his way.  A “Mary heart” knows the power of the prayer of a righteous Christian and the “Mary heart” loves to do that very thing.

    Do you  have a “Mary heart”?  I know you do, but too often, we find ourselves living in a “Martha world”! We’ll look at Martha tomorrow…

–Paul Holland

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Rich Realities from Revelation Studies in the Apocalypse that Give us Hope The Final Victory and the Last Judgment Revelation 19-20

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    Within the events described in the book of Revelation, chapters 19-22 form a fitting conclusion. Within the experiences of each individual life, Revelation 19-22 form a fitting conclusion.

    At the end of life, we can only praise God (19:1-6). We praise God for Who He is (19:1). We praise God for What He does (19:2). We praise God for His justice (19:3). Every saint in the Old Testament, every saint in the New Testament times, every angel praises God (19:4). Those on earth ought to praise Him in this life (19:5). Regardless of what happens on earth, God still reigns (19:6).

    At the end of life, we have a feast to anticipate (19:7-10). The marriage of the Lamb and His bride, the church, will occur (19:7). The bride makes herself ready by obedience to His commands (19:8). We are recipients of divine favor in being invited to such a banquet (19:9). The essence of all prophecy is Jesus Christ, His church, and that great consummation of His promises (19:10).

    At the end of life, we know that Jesus will ultimately be victorious (19:11-16). He is faithful, true, and righteous (19:11). He is so sublime that no one can fully fathom His nature (19:12). He is the Word of God (19:13). He has an army at His disposal (19:14). He fights simply with the sword of His mouth (19:15). He is King of kings and Lord of lords (19:16).

    At the end of life, we know that all the enemies of all Christians of all time will be punished for their rejection of Christ (19:17-21). In contrast to a marriage banquet, those who do not know God and do not obey the Gospel of Christ have only to anticipate feeding scavenging vultures with their bodies (19:17). No unbeliever or disobedient will be spared from this carnage (19:18). Men fight against God in vain (19:19). Every government entity that rails against Christ will be punished and every false religion and pseudo-Christianity will meet the same fate (19:20). All those who follow the government and false religion will be fed to the vultures (19:21).

    At the end of life, we can look back and see that our time of trials and faithfulness was only a “ten-day” period (2:10) compared to the 1,000 years we will enjoy the presence of Christ (20:1-5).

    At the end of life, having experienced the first resurrection, we will not experience a second death (20:6).

    At the end of life, we can look back and see that Satan tried to use other means than just the Roman Empire and Roman pagan religion to deceive people (20:7-9).

    At the end of life, we will see our great adversary, the great deceiver, himself thrown into the lake of fire that burns forever and ever (20:10).

    At the end of life, we will see this earthly, physical world flee from the presence of God (20:11).

    At the end of life, we will see books opened and our lives will be judged from those books (20:12).

    At the end of life, we will see all the dead spat up from every corner of the globe, to stand before God for judgement (20:13).

    At the end of life, we will see death itself and the unseen world itself be cast into the lake of fire, destroyed forever (20:14).

    At the end of life, we will see those whose names were not inscribed in the Family Registry of the Lamb cast into that same lake of fire (20:15).

    Doesn’t that picture give you hope?

–Paul Holland

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Happy Thanksgiving!

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We each have much for which to be thankful. I am thankful that you think my musings and/or sermons or worth reading!

We celebrate a holiday today, doing something which we ought to be doing every day of the year – thanking God for our blessings.

But, this holiday does give us an opportunity to get together with family or friends (or both) and spend time together.
I pray you enjoy your time together.

–Paul Holland

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The Foolishness of Preaching – #3 1 Corinthians 1:18-31

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    In 1 Corinthians 1:18-25, having argued that the word of the cross is foolishness to those lost but power to those who believe, are called, and are saved, Paul shows how…

GOD HAS CHOSEN THE FOOLISH, WEAK, THE BASE, THE DESPISED – 1:26-31:

    The “wise” in our country said, back in 1963, “Take the Bible out of schools. Stop having teacher/principal led prayers in school. It’s forcing “Christianity” down the throats of people.” Now we have rioting in the streets, cop-killers, murders in big cities at an all-time high. The “smart” people cannot see the nose on their face. Families are falling apart, especially in inner city districts. The “smart” people say, “Give them more money.” We have spent eleven months in Swartz Creek studying why America needs the Bible (Those sermons can be seen through our website, livestream.com/swartzcreek). The “smart” people can’t see it. But the Bible is full of God’s wisdom and when we follow God’s wisdom, we generally experience prosperity in every aspect of our life.

    In verse 26, Paul calls on the Corinthian Christians to consider their calling as Christians. Not many of the wise, according to the flesh, were called. Not many of the mighty (according to the flesh) were called. Not many of the noble (according to the flesh) were called. Paul is not saying that Corinth (the church) was full of dumb, poor peasants. What he is saying is that it wasn’t because they were wise that God called them to become Christians. It wasn’t because they were influential members of society that God called them. It wasn’t because they were from noble birth that God called them.

    Instead (vs 27), God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise. You cannot turn Christianity into a “middle class religion.” Or an “upper class religion” or even a “lower class” religion. Christianity is what it is and it calls all people, regardless of socio-economic status to submit to “Christ crucified.”

    God has chosen the base things of the world (vs 28). God has chosen the despised things of the world. God has chosen the things which are not (important in the world’s eyes) so that He might nullify the things that are (important in the world’s eyes). God chose humility to save the world. God chose self-sacrifice to save the world. God chose the cross to save the world. God chose so many things that man perceives as weakness and God wove these elements together into the great plan of salvation with Christ crucified at the very center. Why?

    So that (vs 29) no man may boast before God! God wants man to understand that man will be saved only by God, only by the grace of God, only by the wisdom of God, only by the Gospel of God, only by obedience to God. There is nothing that you and I have that can give us an advantage over anyone else or in the eyes of God: not intelligence, not influence, not achievements, not money, not prestige. We either follow God completely, and His wisdom, or we are lost.

    At the base of the Statue of Liberty is the famous poem written by Emma Lazarus. That poem reads (in part):

    “Give me your tired, your poor,  Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.  Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,  I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

    Ours is a country of “tired, poor, huddled masses yearning to breathe free” that has created this great nation of ours that now leads the world in so many different ways. By the same token, in Jesus Christ, even if we are (or have been), “tired, poor masses,” we have the grace to share the Gospel of Jesus crucified with a lost and dying world!

    By humbly submitting himself to God (“by His doing,” vs 30) we are in Christ Jesus, who “became to us:” wisdom from God. That is, God made Christ to be, to embody His wisdom and that wisdom is revealed in what Christ brings to us: righteousness, sanctification, redemption.

    Why did God save man this way? So that he may not boast (see vs 31) quoting Jeremiah 9:23 which says, “Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord.” Here, the idea of “boast” shades into the word trust. If you want to trust someone, trust the Lord. Especially when it comes to spiritual matters, religion, and salvation.

    The world does not accept this message and too many of the world think that it is foolishness. But, Jesus Christ, crucified and raised from the dead, is the epitome of the wisdom of God and it is through Him and Him only that man be saved.

    Your family may not hear the message if you don’t teach it. Your neighbors may not hear the message if you don’t teach them. Your co-workers may not hear the message if you don’t teach them. “How shall they hear without a preacher?” 

    Teach Christ crucified, the wisdom of God and the power of God.

–Paul Holland

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God destroys the wisdom of the wise and the cleverness of the clever.

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The Foolishness of Preaching – #2
1 Corinthians 1:18-31

    Preaching has long been used by God to motivate His human creation to respond to Him. As early as Enoch, the seventh from Adam, God sent prophets into the world (Jude 14). The apostles and early Christians toppled an empire, through preaching “there is another king, Jesus” (Acts 17:7). That is the point Paul emphasizes in 1 Corinthians 1:18-31, the text we have to study before us.

THE WORD OF THE CROSS IS FOOLISHNESS – 1:18-25:

    When man comes up with what one has to do to “please the gods,” he goes to one of two extremes and there is some truth in each extreme. On one extreme, he thinks he has to sacrifice something very precious to him or to his society (the famous sacrificial virgin) to appease the gods. He might also think that he has to flagellate himself, beating himself, torturing himself, abusing himself. That is, of course, really a form of self-righteousness, thinking that if you do something to yourself, then you can make some type of atonement for your sins. That same type of self-flagellation is evident when people think that they have to deny themselves all enjoyment in this physical world. They think that they are closer to God or more pleasing to him by denying themselves practically all enjoyable things, distractions or entertainment in this world.

    The other extreme is to come up with all sorts of elaborate rituals and festivals and ceremonies that you have to do in order to appease your god and his expectations.

    There is one thing both of those extremes have in common and it is fundamentally the idea that what you do (or not do) can earn or merit your way into heaven. They still come back to the idea that man can do something to earn salvation. That is man’s wisdom and Paul refutes that concept very thoroughly in this particular paragraph where he discusses the foolishness of preaching.

    In verse 18, Paul argues that it is not cleverness of words (vs 17) that saves, but the word of the cross that saves. Why? Quoting Isaiah 29:14, Paul argues that through the word of the cross, God destroys the wisdom of the wise and the cleverness of the clever. There was absolutely no way that man would/could have come up with the idea of God becoming flesh and then dying for the sins of mankind. That whole process just blows man’s mind and Paul even argues in chapter 2 that it blew Satan’s mind. Man’s wisdom, when it comes to defining spirituality, when it comes to defining “greatness,” when it comes to defining what it takes to please God, is destroyed at the cross. Man’s wisdom is shattered to pieces at the foot of the cross because it is nothing like what man would come up with on his own.

    Then Paul has a short paragraph (20-25), dense with the word wise/wisdom, Paul argues that God has made the wisdom of the world foolish. How?

    In God’s wisdom (vs 21), in contrast with the wisdom of the world that did not come to know God, God saved those who believe through the foolishness of the message preached. You simply cannot know God without knowing Jesus Christ. A modern Jew’s concept of God, even if he follows the Old Testament, is going to be short without Jesus Christ. The Muslim cannot have the proper view of God, even if Allah were the same as the God of the Bible, without knowing Jesus Christ. You can come to know something about God by studying nature but you will not have as complete an understanding of God as is possible, without knowing Jesus Christ. Believing, of course, involves more than just accepting Jesus as the Savior; it means to put your own trust in Him so that you will obey all that He commands you to do.

    To emphasize his point (vss 22-23), Paul points out that Jews look for miraculous signs and the Greeks search for wisdom, what they call wisdom, but Christian preachers and teachers simply preach Christ crucified. The ultimate sin of idolatry, and of Americans, even Christians can be guilty of it, is forcing God to conform to our view of how He is to be, rather than accepting Him as He presents Himself in the Bible. It is always our view of Him that must change, not God Himself.

    “Christ crucified” was a contradiction to the Jew and Greek in the first century. “Christ” was to be a person of power, splendor, victory. “Crucified” on the other hand, gave the image of weakness, humiliation, and defeat. To die on a cross was to die as a criminal.

    In fact, the apostle Paul tells us in Galatians 1:13-14; 3:13 that this was the reason he had rejected the idea of being a Christian for so long. How could Jesus be the Savior when He was punished by God on the cross? He had to come to understand the roll of the cross in God’s plan to save man.

    But to those who believe (vs 24), to those called, whether Jews or Greeks, “Christ crucified” is the “power of God” and the “wisdom of God.” He said back in vs 2 that they were “saints by calling, who call on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.” How?

    Well (vs 25), the foolishness of God is wiser than men and the weakness of God is stronger than men. If you want to consider the cross foolishness, that is your choice. But in the plan of God, it reveals itself to be the epitome of God’s wisdom. God became flesh and died for our sins. That’s how God is able to condemn sin but justify the sinner.

    We will share a few more thoughts on this text tomorrow…

–Paul Holland

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The Foolishness of Preaching – #1 1 Corinthians 1:18-31

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    A preacher was in a convenience store needing a candy bar desperately. He found one for $.50 and went to the cashier to pay. He reached in his pocket but did not have two quarters. He joked with the cashier, “Well, you could come hear me preach but I don’t have a 50-cent sermon.” The quick-witted woman responded, “That’s okay. I could come hear you twice!”

    There are a lot of jokes about preachers and preaching that I have heard or read over the years. In a Gallup poll from 2013, Americans responded to the question: “Do you trust your preacher?” and 47% said they do. That was nearly half of the number who trusted their nurse. In fact, pharmacists, elementary teachers, doctors, soldiers, and police officers were all trusted more than preachers. That speaks very well for those professions but it is a sad commentary on how people view preachers.

    I am thankful that I have not heard, in twenty years of preaching, very many jokes about preaching directed at me personally. I heard many of them directed at my dad but not very many about me. As a preacher, perhaps I can say that many of those directed at preachers may very well be deserved. Thom Rainer has done a lot of study and writing in the area of church growth and he wrote an article on why preachers are not trusted. He gave 11 reasons; I’ll share just a few:

    1. The moral failures of some preachers.

    2. Christianity itself has become marginalized.

    3. Preachers don’t spend enough time at a local congregation.

    4. Social media allows criticism of a preacher without face-to-face contact.

    5. Some preachers have a poor work ethic.

    6. Some preachers do not have good leadership skills nor good “people skills.”

    The danger in preachers enabling the congregation to have a low opinion of them as preachers is that it is too easy to also have a low opinion of the content of preaching. Few people would actively encourage their sons to be preachers, even in the Lord’s church, because we, as Christians, do not hold preaching in high regard or we’re afraid other Christians will not hold preachers in high regard. I have always been well respected as a preacher by the elderships I have served, including this one, and the congregations where I have served, including Swartz Creek. So, this is not a lesson about me or whining about not being respected.

    But the fact of the matter is, God put preaching the cross of Christ at the very center of His plan to save man. Yes, the cross is the heart of salvation but preaching about the cross is just as indispensable to save man from sin.

    Those are preliminary thoughts to our examination tomorrow of 1 Corinthians 1:18-31 – “The Foolishness of Preaching.”

–Paul Holland

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