Planning. Praying. Dreaming. Scheming. Empowering.
That’s why I am so excited about One Sixty Seven: everyone is aligned. Children, teens, G3 groups, existing LifeGroups, Sunday worship, and daily blogs. All aligned.
That alignment showed through this weekend as 210 students and volunteers had a One Six Seven retreat, as we began the grand G3 experiment with over 160 hosts, and as I delivered a message with a bottom line taken straight from the inspired words of Paul:
For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in the sight of God.
So I have a brain up here. And, unlike the Scarecrow, you more than likely have one a lot like it. The one in your head weighs about three pounds & has about 12B cells. And each of those 12B cells is directly connected to 10K other cells which means that at any given moment there are about 120 trillion cell connections going in in here (brain). See! You just had one! Give or take a trillion. And the development in the human brain just w/in the last 100 years or so is pretty remarkable. Did you know that in 1905 the avg life expectancy in the US was 47? That means I’ve been dead NINE YEARS! The speed limit was 10 mph and worst of all, worst of all, only 14% of US households had a bathtub. So thank GOD that a whole lot of someones were devoting a whole lot of brain cells to improving the brain cells – and hygiene – of the next gen. So if you’re glad for brain growth, say thank God for soap, please.
Yet. However. But. You’ve got this brain in 2017 and it’s a gift and the mind that it operates is almost without limit in its potential. And yet this brain and the mind it contains does not operate in a vacuum. It’s HERE one hr per week. That’s means it’s elsewhere the other 167 hrs per week. So I have to ask: what is the air that your brain is breather, the water that it is swimming in the other 167? Because you’ll notice that the brain looks like a sponge and in fact it soaks up whatever you put in it. And here’s the thing about you, your brain, and the other 167: if you don’t get this thing that I’m going to tell you, this thing that Paul ALREADY TOLD YOU, you won’t get anything on issues large & small, national & personal, whimsical & painful. You’ll have potential untapped, you’ll have wrecked relationships, you’ll fall for lies all around, and like the old TV ad your mind will have been a terrible thing that went wasted.
If you were listening just then, you noticed that I said “Paul.” Because we’re going to spend some time in our ONE HOUR PER WEEK in what for my money is the most important section of Scripture for the US church in 2018: I Corinthians. I say that because he was writing to a church filled with people who were convinced they were the smartest men alive (they had secret wisdom to which no one else was privy), and that arrogance led to two things: 1) they were obsessed with celebrity; and 2) they were addicted to sex. Huh. Sexual confusion and an unhealthy attachment to celebrity. Good thing THAT never happened again in church history!
So in this letter to the First Church Of Smarty Pants, Paul has this brilliant bookend where he asks a question in 1:19 and then answers it in 3:20. The stuff in between is to build his argument and to buttress his ultimate answer. It’s fascinating stuff. We’re not going to read all the material in between the bookends — you will, in your 3G Groups this week – but I may highlight a thing or two along the way. Because look at the question he asks in 1:19:
20 Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?
Has not God …? And then Paul spends much of the intervening terrain letting you know this: the elites of the world are the rich & famous & powerful. They were kings & generals THEN. These days, they’re the execs at ABC, NBC, CBS, MTV, the deans at HYP, the heads of the DNC, RNC, and maybe even Run-DMC. You know, all the people who have had their reckoning recently w/ sexual harassment.
And in Paul’s day – as in ours – those elites (the cultural smarty pants that the church of Smarty Pants wanted to impress) greeted the arrival of God on planet earth with the hangman’s noose, the assassin’s needle, the cross of Calvary. Look at 2:6-8:
We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. 7 No, we declare God’s wisdom, a mystery that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. 8 None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.
The wisest people on earth greeted the entrance of God with execution. HOW SMART COULD THEY BE?! And the fact that God takes this instrument of execution and humiliation (it’s too bad we dip our crosses in gold when they should be drenched in blood!!!!) and turned it in to the catalyst of his victory & glory … that shows you his categories of wisdom, power, beauty, & glory are far, far, far different from anything our minds could conceive. So the smart ppl welcomed God with assassination – that’s what they think of him. God took that assassination and redeems it – that’s what he thinks of us. Whew.
So moving from there and that contrast – CROSS = Glory & Wisdom, Not Humiliation & Loss – Paul bookends the whole section by answering in 3:19 in simple terms the question that 1:20 had rhetorically raised.
For the wisdom of the world is foolishness in God’s sight.
READ 3:19 That’s it. I can’t improve it, re-work, it, wordsmith it, I can only LIFT IT UP AND BEG OR PLEAD OR DECLARE THAT YOU ALLOW IT TO CHANGE EVERYTHING ABOUT HOW YOU SPEND THE OTHER 167! For the wisdom of the world is foolishness in God’s sight.
The ONE is here, now, today, so that in the 167 to come you will grow in suspicion of what the world’s elites throw your way and grow in appreciation of what God has already delivered to your door. Now, please do not hear what I am not saying: this is NOT anti-intellectual, anti-education. It’s pro BOTH of those. It’s simply the recognition that conventional wisdom, what everyone believes, the arc of history that sets itself up as wiser than God & smarter than those who wrote the bible is abject lunacy in the eyes of God. That stuff SOUNDS SMART, APPEARS WISE, and SEEMS LOVING when actually it will rot your soul. Because of the 167 series I want you to be able to know and to name all the crap and recognize its lifelong seduction of your brain so that you can instead make the best use of the precious gift of your mind.
See, I’m not talking about the realm of math. Don’t question that wisdom. I’m talking the realm of morals, values, desires. You know what the world’s wisdom is like? It’s like these chips. You see the bag, it’s big, it promises salty goodness, empty calories, and clogged arteries. And then you open it up and VOILA! 50% air. At least. Not NEARLY as many chips as you thunk. The very definition of overpromising and underdelivering. That’s what media & pop culture are doing to your brain all the time and you don’t know it. Promising you that if you buy THIS or wear THAT or add THESE, then and only then will you be content. Advertising is there, people, to convince you that more than enough is not enough. You never own enough, you never look good enough, you’re never savvy enough. It starts SO YOUNG! When Riley was like 4, he’d see at McD’s ad where the burger was center screen. You could see the longing in his eyes and on his lips. And he KNEW, at 4: if I have THAT MEAL, I will at long last BE HAPPY! Oh perpetual discontent is the purpose of TV. And when you find yourself vulnerable to its seduction this week, remember & repeat For the wisdom of the world is foolishness in God’s sight.
You know how else this works? Think about the phrase: live for the moment. Hear it in ads, see it on The View, put it on a meme and share with your FB world. Live for the moment. And yet in contrast to that endorsed impulsivity, REFRAIN. Every moment sets in motion a series of follow up moments! Ask the mom who buried her daughter whose moment was a lot too much to drink & put the keys in the car. Ask the newly single guy whose moment was with the girl he met on the business trip & now he’s an every other weekend and every Tuesday dad. As the young mom whose moment was with her younger boyfriend and neither was prepared for the baby that followed. Live for the moment? Good God. Such baloney (another BS) Live for the moments your next moment creates. For the wisdom of the world is foolishness in God’s sight.
And speaking of THAT, can I step in it? What does the world say? It’s inevitable & natural so we just need to make it SAFE. It’s consenting adults (or consenting ppl past puberty, take your pick), so you mind your own business. Because love is love is love regardless of the arrangement or gender & it’s the new normal, so embrace the new. It sounds nice, loving, tolerant. And yet the most dangerous lies come disguised as love. Because au contraire to today’s sexual ethic is in Heb 13:4: Keep the marriage bed pure. Odd, strange, and beautifully counter cultural. Sadly we live in an era (and denom) where people apologize for the glorious simplicity of Heb. 13:4. I have peers & colleagues who are so influenced by the 167 that they blur lines, obscure boundaries, and want to spend time discerning what God has already decided. “What should we say about sex?!?!,” church execs cry out while wringing hands. Nope, not here. Oh, it’s so nice to declare the simple – not simplistic – glory of Heb. 13:4. And I love watching ppl become joyfully, painfully, imperfectly, but increasingly surrendered to what is ultimately best for all. For the wisdom of the world is foolishness in God’s sight.
Or Lord, even the concept of SELF. We’ve got Self Magazine (AV), Madonna told us to express yourself, treat yourself, find yourself, and fill your phone with self-ies. Conventional wisdom. God’s view? Death to self and life in Christ. Whew. REFRAIN
So, really, what are you filling the gift of your brain with today? That which will make you smart but foolish? Or wise and faithful? For the wisdom of the world is foolishness in God’s sight.
Because although the world’s wisdom is nothing but fool’s gold, God’s wisdom … wow. It’s like this cereal (have it). There’s a prize on the inside! Treasure! But do they put that prize on top? NOOOO! You’ve got to dig through dig through, maybe even eat some cereal before you get there. That kind of treasure is a gift but you gotta want it. And God’s wisdom is received, you’d never figure it out, but it takes some effort. It takes spending more of those 167 in the WORD than in the world. It’s why a 3G Group is PERFECT for these four weeks for all of you wanting and needing to filter out junk so you can factor in Jesus.
We need this so much. In a world in which newer is better, in which products are design to be obsolete in a matter of months, in which we think no one ever before has been as smart as we are, oh we need to reconnect with what is really, really, really old. Listen: I’d much rather excavate ancient truth with you on Sunday mornings than invent new ones. Being on the right side of history doesn’t concern me nearly as much as being on the right side of God! Oh, I am so glad to acknowledge that I am not smarter than those who wrote the bible. For the wisdom of the world is foolishness in God’s sight.
So: what? What is this a call to? See, I want you to know that this truth – – For the wisdom of the world is foolishness in God’s sight — is not some esoteric teaching that’s disconnected from your life and your relationships. Nope. It’s in the middle of them. Because my great prayer is that as you grow in your suspicion of the world’s wisdom you will grow in appreciation of God’s. And when you grow in appreciation of God’s wisdom, as you are saturated in it, you will think as God thinks and act as God acts – and in so doing you will protect yourself from some of life’s great landmines. You’ll join the ranks of the sexually restrained. You’ll embrace the truth that the earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, and that includes the first fruits of your money. You’ll understand that the greatest among you is NOT on the bachelorette but is servant of all. You’ll know that the first will be last and the last – the people most of the world overlooks – are in fact first. You’ll be delighted that you know the truth and the truth as made you odd.
It’s all like the man who said, (AV) “Life is truly deep and simple but what society offers us is shallow and complex.” BAM. Who said that? Mr. Rogers (AV). A man seldom held up as cool or hip or elite. A man mocked. And now we know why … because the mockers – a lot of us included – were living out REFRAIN.
But now we know better. May your next 167 reflect that.