Robert Jeffress - The Foolishness of God
Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress, and welcome again to Pathway to Victory. If you're a follower of Christ, then I'm absolutely certain that you face some opposition in your life. In fact, maybe even some of your friends may think you've gone off the deep end at times. Well, the marginalization and even persecution of Christians isn't new, and today we're going to see that the reason some people reject the gospel is because the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing. My message is titled "The Foolishness of God" on today's edition of Pathway to Victory.
Chuck Colson in his book "Against the night" describes the following scene. "Standing before a huge American flag, Barbara Walters looked sternly into the television camera. She said, 'the alarm has sounded, the clock is ticking, but most of us are still asleep'". What was Walters talking about? Nuclear threat, acid rain, an epidemic? No, she was referring to the deterioration of American education. Test scores are plummeting. Most High school students surveyed thought that the holocaust was a Jewish holiday. Many could not locate the United States on a world map. Others had never heard of the federalist papers. Walters probed beyond academic performance. She said the real crisis is one of character. Quote, "Today's high school seniors live in a world of misplaced values," Walters said. "They have no sense of discipline, no goals. They care only for themselves. In the short, they are becoming a generation of undisciplined cultural barbarians".
You know, that's the paradox of our age. Even though we worship at the shrine of human education and Philosophy, the fact is, our society is becoming increasingly illiterate and morally decadent. Do you remember back in the 1990s, when William bennett was the education czar, he released what he called the leading index of cultural indicators. He noted that for the past 30 years, government spending had increased sevenfold, and yet during that same 30 years when government spending had increased times seven, during that same period of time, there had been a 560% increase in violent crimes, a 400% increase in illegitimate births, a 200% increase in teenage suicides, and sat scores had plummeted an average of 80 points.
Why is that? Because the so-called wisdom of this world is foolishness to God. Human wisdom, human Philosophy is absolutely bankrupt when it comes to solving the problems of today, and it is that theme that Paul sounds in 1 Corinthians chapter one. If you have your Bibles, I want you to turn there to 1 Corinthians chapter one verses 18 through 25. Let's look at what he says, first of all, about the limitations of man's wisdom. What's wrong with man's wisdom, his Philosophy? Well, first of all, Paul says man's wisdom rejects the cross. Look at verse 18 of chapter one. "For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to those of us who are being saved, it is the power of God". The word of the cross is foolishness.
Now, when Paul is talking about the word of the cross, he's talking about the entire gospel message. Let's face it. It's hard to accept such a message. It's hard for us who are being saved. It is foolishness to those who are perishing. Why is it hard for unbelievers to grasp that truth? Let me point out three things about the message of the cross. First of all, the message of the cross implies the supernatural. See, the whole message of the cross implies that there is a Creator God to whom we are responsible, and unbelievers will not accept that. By the way, we have this idea that all these unbelievers in all of these other lands, and even in our land, who don't know the true God and instead worship an idol, we think they are just misguided, misdirected souls, and if they only had the truth, they would believe.
Well, the fact is, the reason people reject the true God and embrace a false God is not for intellectual reasons. It's because of moral reasons. The apostle Paul says in Romans 1, unbelievers who chase after Gods, other Gods, they have rejected on purpose the truth of the gospel. They have exchanged the truth of God for a lie. They purposely choose to follow after Gods of their own making, rather than the true God. Listen to what Paul says in Romans 1, verses 18 to 20. "For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them: for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world, God's invisible attributes, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse".
Any unbeliever any place in the world can look up into the sky and know there must be a Creator God, and while that knowledge is not sufficient to save an unbeliever, it is sufficient, if rejected, to condemn the unbeliever, and the unbeliever purposely rejects that idea of God, and instead, he creates his own God. Most people today are not searching for the real God for the same reason a thief doesn't search for a policeman, okay? We are guilty, and because we are guilty, we don't want to face God. That's one reason unbelievers reject the cross. It implies the supernatural. Secondly, the message of the cross assumes the sinfulness of man. It assumes the sinfulness of man.
When you say that Jesus Christ died for our sins, that assumes that there is a moral standard in the universe to which we are all accountable. And not only that, it says we have deviated from that moral standard given by Creator God. And not only that, it says our deviation is so serious that we deserve to spend eternity suffering in hell because we have disobeyed the true God. The unbeliever will have none of that. Even if he gives into the fact that we have broken certain rules, he doesn't believe it's that serious.
I think about the words of Ted Turner, the founder of CNN a few years ago, when he said famously, "Christianity is a religion for losers. If Jesus Christ died for my sins, he need not have bothered. If having a few drinks and a few girlfriends will send you to hell, so be it". Now, that's how the believer thinks. He doesn't really believe in sin, but even if he is willing to say there's sin, it can't be that serious. Ted Turner's words remind me of what Spurgeon said over a hundred years ago. He said, "When we think of sin lightly, we will also think of our Savior lightly". If you don't believe there's real sin in the world or real sin in your heart, you certainly see no need for the Savior.
Thirdly, people reject the cross because the message of the cross rejects self-effort. Perhaps that is the most offensive thing about the gospel to the unbeliever, that we are spiritually bankrupt, that there is nothing we can do to atone for our sin. The great Scottish pastor Robert Murray M'Cheyne was one time out passing gospel tracts, and he gave a track to a very well-dressed woman, and the woman was offended by the tract, and she said to M'Cheyne, she said, "Sir, don't you know who I am"? And M'Cheyne said, "Lady, there is a time coming when it will not matter who you are". That's true. You know the reason most people reject that gospel message? It's not because you're not attractive enough. It's not because you're not eloquent enough. It's not because, if you were more skilled in rhetoric, you could lure them in to accept the gospel message.
No, people reject the gospel because they are offended by it. They reject the gospel because it implies the supernatural, it assumes the sinfulness of man, and it rejects self-effort. That's why the gospel is foolishness to those who are perishing. What are the limits of man's so-called wisdom? It not only rejects the cross, but secondly, man's wisdom is temporal. It is temporal. And to illustrate that point, in verse 19, Paul quotes Isaiah 29, verse 14. In your Bibles, verse 19 is probably in all caps, or it has quotation Marks around it. Paul is quoting from Isaiah 29:14.
Now, let me lay the foundation of Isaiah 29. Judah was about to be invaded by Assyria, and Sennacherib, the king of Assyria, was getting ready to level the kingdom of Judah, and it looked like there was no hope for Judah. Assyria had a far superior military strength, and so they're getting ready to invade Judah, and God sends this message to Isaiah. He tells Isaiah not to be afraid. Why? Look at verse 19, which is really a quotation of Isaiah 29. "For it is written, 'i will destroy the wisdom of the wise and the cleverness of the clever I will set aside'". In spite of the well-laid plans of Sennacherib, God said to Isaiah, "Don't worry about it. I'm the one who is going to fight this battle". And in one day, God killed 185.000 of those Assyrian soldiers. Why did Judah win? Not because of their strength, not because of their well-laid-out plans. It is because God intervened in their situation.
You see, the wisdom of man discounts the power of God, and that's something we would all do well to remember tonight. The wisdom of man always discounts the power of God. Some of you tonight, some of you watching on television, listening by radio, right now, you're facing an impossible situation, just like Judah did. Maybe what you're facing tonight is not an invading army, but perhaps you're facing a family problem for which there's no solution, or maybe you're facing a financial problem for which there seems to be no answer, or maybe you're suffering an illness for which there is no cure. Man's wisdom says your situation is hopeless. There is no hope. Don't discount the power of God. God has a way of intervening in an impossible situation, and he completely displaces the wisdom of man. Man's wisdom is temporal because it discounts the power of God.
By the way, there is a day coming, look at verse 20, when all of man's wisdom will be supplanted. Look at this. "Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has God not made foolish the wisdom of this world"? There is one day coming when man's wisdom will be visibly destroyed, and that is when Jesus Christ returns. Remember Philippians 2, verses nine through 11. "For God has granted him a name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus, every knee will bow in heaven, on earth, and under the earth and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father". Think about it. One day, every scientist, every Philosopher who has ever lived will one day bow down before the name of Jesus. Every one of them, whether it be Confucius or Buddha or Plato, whether it be Hawking or Darwin or Winfrey, one day, they're all going to kneel before the throne of Jesus Christ.
That is what the scripture promises. But you know what? We don't have to wait. We don't have to wait until the second coming of Christ to see the foolishness of man's wisdom today. Just think about all of the wisdom, the Philosophy of our age. Has it really solved any problems? I was having coffee this week with columnist Cal Thomas, the number one syndicated columnist in America today. We were over there at the Fairmont having coffee, and he said, "You know," he said, "Think about this. Since Lyndon Johnson proposed the war on poverty about 45 years ago, we have spent trillions and trillions of dollars trying to eliminate poverty in America, and the latest figures that came out last week show still one in seven Americans lives in poverty. Government programs are bankrupt to solve the problem of poverty. They are bankrupt to solve the problems of crime".
Government programs, human Philosophy is bankrupt to solve the crime problem and institute world peace. Let me ask you today. Are we any safer in the world today than we were 50 years ago or a hundred years ago? Is society any more moral than it was 50 years ago or a hundred years ago? Is the suicide rate going up or down? People are morally, spiritually bankrupt because they have been trusting human wisdom rather than the wisdom of God. A final limitation of human wisdom is man's wisdom cannot lead a person to the true God. It will never lead a person to the true God. Look at verse 21. "For since in the wisdom of God, the world through its wisdom did not come to know God". Never, ever will human Philosophy lead a person to the true God. Now, they may lead people to a false God, a God of their own imagination, and in fact, that's the kind of God many Americans are worshiping today.
Robert Bellah wrote a book a few years ago, "Habits of the heart". He said in that book, "81% of Americans say they don't need church to develop their own beliefs. They can construct their beliefs for themselves about God". And in his book, for his book, he interviewed a woman named Sheila, and this is what Sheila said. "Oh, I believe in God, but I don't go to church. Instead, I practice Sheilaism. I listen to a small voice that tells me what to do". Now, that is more Americans' today belief about God than you can possibly imagine. I tell you what. When people talk about or support groups talk about, "Oh, we believe in a higher power," I don't get excited about that. That means absolutely nothing, some group out there saying, "Oh, we teach our people to believe in a higher power". That means nothing. That higher power could be anything from the force of "Star wars" to Santa Claus, okay? It is absolutely meaningless.
And when a celebrity stands up, some celebrity stands up, and says, "Oh, I believe in God," I don't get goosebumps over that at all, because my first question is what God do you believe in? Is it the God of the Bible or the God of your own imagination? The fact is, human Philosophy will never lead people, Paul says, to the true God. Now let's look, in opposition to man's wisdom, let's look at God's foolishness. Paul says God's so-called foolishness leads to salvation. Look at verse 21b. "God was well pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe".
Well, you notice here that God's foolishness is, first of all, contrary to the wisdom of man. Look at verses 22 and 23. "For indeed Jews ask for signs, and Greek search for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block, and to gentiles foolishness". In Paul's day, the message of the cross, it violated what the Jews thought. The Jews were looking for signs, and even though John's gospel told us that Jesus came and performed numbers of numerous miraculous signs, the Jews refused to believe. Why? They said they were looking for signs. What they were really looking for was political deliverance.
They wanted a Messiah who would come and release them from Roman oppression, and when this Messiah didn't meet their expectations, they discounted him. They dismissed him. You know, the fact is, what the Jews failed to understand was Jesus came to deliver them and us from oppression, the greatest oppression of all, not of the Roman government, but the oppression of sin and death. That's why Jesus came, to free us of spiritual oppression, but they didn't accept that, so Jesus was for them a stumbling block. On the other hand, to the gentiles, he was foolishness. You see, the Greeks had their own Philosophical system, and part of their Philosophy said everything that is material, physical is evil, and only that which is spiritual is good.
And so when Jesus came, claiming to be God in the flesh, that didn't fit their Philosophical system. They didn't believe anything in the flesh was good, so they, too, rejected the cross of Jesus Christ. Jesus was a stumbling block for the Jews. To the gentiles, he was absolute foolishness. But notice in verse 24, Paul says God's foolishness is true wisdom for believers. Look at verse 24. "But to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men".
Now, what does Paul mean here, when he says to those who are called, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God? That phrase, the called, gets people nervous sometimes. Is Paul saying that God arbitrarily selects some people to be saved and others not to be saved? There's nothing arbitrary about what God does. He doesn't put a blindfold on and say, "Okay, you're saved. You're not saved. You're saved, not saved". There's a mystery of election and predestination that none of us can understand, but one thing we can all agree on is nothing God does is arbitrary. There is always a purpose behind it. But what Paul is saying here is simply this. It's a truth that he mirrors in chapter two, verse 14. Paul wrote, "But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised".
What Paul is saying here is simply this. Nobody ever comes to an understanding of the gospel on his own. No man ever wakes up and says, "You know what? I believe that that is the wisdom of God. I believe that Jesus is the Son of God. I believe he came to die for the sins of the world. I believe that trusting in him, I could have eternal life. I think I'm going to start believing that". No man ever comes to that knowledge on his own. The natural man, the unsaved person, to him, the gospel will always be foolishness. The only way you and I can ever believe in the gospel message is if God does a work in our heart, if God regenerates us and gives us the gift of faith. Jesus says, "No man comes to the father except the spirit draws him". It is a work of God.
And let me say to you tonight that if you realize that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, if you realize that trusting in him is the only way to be saved, you didn't come to that conclusion on your own. That is the Spirit of God working in your heart. But just because the Spirit of God has given you the ability to believe that tonight doesn't mean his spirit will always be with you. The Bible says, "My spirit will not always strive with a man". It is only through the supernatural work of God that any of us can believe.
There was an eccentric evangelist years ago named Alexander Wooten. One day, a young man came up to him and sarcastically said, "Reverend Wooten, you're always telling people, 'you have to get saved, you have to get saved, you have to get saved'. Okay, tell me, pastor, what do I need to do to get saved"? And Wooten said, "There's nothing you need to do. It's too late for you". The man said, "What do you mean it's too late"? And at this point, he was panicked. He said, "Are you saying there is nothing I can do to be saved"? Wooten said, "That's right. There is nothing you can do to be saved. It's already been done. All you can do is believe". And that is the message of the cross. For the power, the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to those who are being saved, it is the wisdom of God.