Robert Jeffress - The Person God Uses
Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress, and welcome again to Pathway to Victory. Society tends to highlight the achievements of the wealthy, the powerful, and the wildly successful. So much so, that we start to wonder whether the average person can really make a difference in this world. Why not leave the hard work up to these elite performers? Today, we're going to see that the people God chooses to carry out his divine plans, fall under a much more modest profile. My message is titled "The Person God Uses" on today's edition of Pathway to Victory.
A six year old girl found a frog in her backyard. She scooped up the frog into her hand, and as she looked at the frog, she was astonished to hear the frog begin to speak to her. The frog said, "Little girl, if you will kiss me, I will turn into a handsome princes". The girl thought for a moment and she said, "Sorry, but at my age, a talking frog is much more impressive". You know, the fact is all of us tend to be impressed by different things, don't we? Some people are impressed by money, great wealth. Other people are impressed by education. Some people are impressed by power, but God is impressed with none of these things. In fact, the truth is wealth and wisdom and power can be barriers. Barriers, not only to our being saved by God, but also barriers to our being used by God. And that's the truth we're going to see in our passage tonight.
If you have your Bibles turned to 1 Corinthians chapter 1, as we look at the kind of person God uses, first of all, notice beginning in verse 26, that Paul says and reminds us that "God saves the humble, not the proud". You know, in a historic church like ours, First Baptist Church, Dallas that has been around for 140 plus years is in the middle of a great metropolitan city. It is only natural that we have some wealthy people in our church. We have some powerful people in government, in our church. We have some highly educated people in our church, but that is not the norm. Most of our members are not wealthy. Most of our members don't have PhDs. Most of our members don't have places of influence in the government.
And by the way, it was that way in the Corinthian church as well. It was an influential church, but Paul said, "If you don't believe God saves ordinary humble people just do a survey of a membership role at the first church in Corinth". Look at verse 26. He says, "For consider your calling brethren, that there were not many why's, according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble". There are not many people in the Corinthian church who were PhDs, who were wealthy, who had great places of influence. And it's always been that way ladies and gentlemen, throughout the history of Christianity. Christianity typically has never attracted wealthy people to its message, wise people at least by human standards to its me message or mighty or powerful people.
William Barkley quotes, the first century Philosopher Celsius, who wrote these very sarcastic words about Christians in 178 AD. Think of that 178 AD, listen to what Celsius said, you can hear the sarcasm dripping as he speaks. "Let no cultured person draw near none wise, none sensible for all that kind of thing we count as evil. But if any person is ignorant, if any person is wanting and sense and culture, if anybody is a fool, let him boldly to become a Christian. We see them in their own houses, wool, dresses, cobblers, the worst, the vulgar, the most uneducated persons. They are like a swarm of bats or ants creeping out of their nest or frogs holding a symposium around a swamp or worms convening in the mud".
That's how people were thought of as Christians back then. And the same thing is true today. And sometimes that bothers us, that Christianity doesn't tend to attract wealthy people, powerful people, educated people. It bothers us. We wonder why that is. For example, why is it most people in the world of academia reject God? Have you ever wondered why that is? The answer is people's wealth, their education, their power, are stumbling blocks to the gospel. It keeps them from being saved. That's why not many wise, not many powerful, not many wealthy or saved it's because wisdom, power and wealth are hindrances to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Think about this for a moment, to the wise person his wisdom is a stumbling block when he hears that man is basically sinful, not good. And that man has to have a Savior that goes against the wisdom of this age.
So the man's wisdom has become a stumbling block to him. Or think about the person who has money when he hears that a person's wealth is worthless in the side of God. And that wealth actually can keep you from entering the Kingdom of God. That person's wealth becomes a hindrance to his coming to know Jesus Christ. Or to the mighty person. The person who's pulled himself up by the bootstraps and obtained a position of power for a him to hear that his efforts are absolutely worthless in securing salvation. That person's might, his power has become a stumbling block to accepting the gospel. Look at verse 27, "But God has chosen the foolish things of the world". Underlying foolish "To shame the wise". "God has chosen the weak" underlying that, "Things of the world to shame the things which are strong" verse 28, "And the base," underlying that "Things of the world and the despised," underlying that, "Has God chosen the things that are not so that he might nullify the things that are".
All of the things I had you underline, the words actually describe different kinds of people. God has chosen the foolish, the weak, the base, the despised, and in the climax. He says he has chosen the things that are not so that he might nullify the things that are. You know, what Paul's referring to when he says the things that are not? He's talking about slaves. In Paul's day, about two thirds of the world were slaves, probably half to two thirds of the Corinthian church were slaves. In man's eyes, these people, these slaves were worthless. They were like nonentities, they are the things that are not. And yet God says I've chosen those things that you despise. I've chosen the slaves of this world to transform into the servants of God. That is the mystery of the gospel.
God has chosen these people to turn the world's wisdom upside down and just think about how God has done that. He has chosen the foolish things, the despised people, the uneducated people, to absolutely man's wisdom upside down. Think about this for a moment, a person who has a PhD, he can give you all kind of facts about science and mathematics and the world of medicine. But in spite of all of his knowledge, he cannot tell you with any certainty, what happens to you one second after you die. And yet an uneducated Christian, a Christian who has only graduated from high school. He knows what his life is going to be on the other side of the grave for all eternity.
So let me ask you, who's the intelligent person? Or think about the person who has obtained a position of influence in this world he's worked and worked and worked to become the CEO of a corporation. The governor of the state, the president of the United States, he's worked and worked and worked for this position of influence, and yet one day he's either going to retire from that position, give it up, or he's going to die in that position, but he is going to leave that position. But think again about the poor disciple of the Lord, Jesus Christ, the person no one has ever heard of. And yet the Bible says in 2 Timothy, 2:12. "If we endure with him one day, we will reign with him". That person nobody has ever heard of here on earth, but has followed Jesus Christ. One day, he is going to be a co ruler with Jesus Christ over this entire universe.
Let me ask you, who's the mighty person who is the powerful person? The one who reigns here for 70 or 80 years and lives gives it all up or the one who is going to reign for eternity? Or think about the wealthy person, a wealthy person works and works and works to achieve his pile of cash, okay? A have it in the bank, have it in mutual funds, all this money he's worked and worked and scripted and saved to accumulate. How much is he going to leave behind? Every last penny of it. Rich's profit, not a man in the Day of Judgment the Proverbs say. But here's another person who's never accumulated much in this world. But one day, if he's faithful to Jesus Christ, he will inherit true riches that will last him for all eternity.
Now, who is the wealthy person? That's what I'm saying to you. And that's what Paul is saying to you. God has turned the wisdom of this world upside down. God is not impressed by man's wisdom. He's not impressed by power. He is not impressed by wealth. Those things are actually a hindrance to a person being saved by God. Why is it? Why has God chosen not to save the wise, the wealthy, the powerful, but instead the weak and the humble, the poor look at it in verse 29. The reason for God's choice is this "So that no man may boast before God". The reason he saves people like this, people who have nothing, is so that no one will have anything to boast about. Salvation is completely of grace.
Look at verse 30, "But by his doing, you are in Christ Jesus who became to us wisdom from God and righteousness and sanctification and redemption". Salvation underline, that phrase is by his doing. Paul wrote an Ephesians 2:7, "So that in the ages to come, he might show the surpassing riches of his grace in kindness, toward us in Christ Jesus". Ladies and gentlemen, the reason God saved you was not for your glory it was for the glory of God. And the fact is God enjoys saving people who are weak and poor and uneducated. He enjoys saving sinners because the more we sin, the more God is glorified. When we come to faith in Christ, that is the glory of the gospel.
And by the way, you will never understand the concept of grace until you understand your salvation has nothing to do with you, but everything to do with God. And that leads to a second truth. Just as salvation could not be obtained through wealth, through education, through power, salvation cannot be presented through wealth, education or power either. God uses look at verse one of chapter two, God uses the weak and not the strong. He uses the weak and not the strong. Again, that turns our expectations upside down. You see if you're a Christian, you naturally have the question, okay, what kind of person does God use? I want to be used by God in a powerful way.
Now that I'm a recipient of his grace, what kind of person does God use? The world's wisdom says God uses the attractive and the gifted. God's wisdom says, "No, God uses the faithful and the committed". And Paul said, "If you don't believe that, just look at my own example". We find Paul's own weakness described in verse one of chapter two. Paul says, "And when I came to you brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom proclaiming to you the testimony of God". Contrary to what most people think about Paul. He was not a gifted writer. He was not a gifted speaker. And he certainly was not attractive in appearance. In fact, in 2 Corinthians, 10:10, Paul repeats, what other people were saying about him. "For they say". Talking about me Paul says, "They say his letters are weighty and strong, but his personal presence is unimpressive. And his speech is contemptible".
That's what people were saying about the great apostle Paul. We have an apocryphal book called "The acts of Paul and Thecla". And in that apocryphal book, somebody records their impression when they saw Paul for the very first time. Listen to this, "And he saw Paul coming, a man of little of stature, thin haired upon the head, crooked in his legs, a good state of body, but with eyebrows joining together and knows somewhat hooked". Does that sound like somebody you'd like to listen to and look at week after week? Don't say, well, we do pastor week after I would say that it's going to hurt my feelings. That was the apostle Paul. Paul came to testify, not in his power, but in the power of God. He came to testify what he knew to be true.
Look at verse two, "For I determined to know nothing among you, except Jesus Christ and him crucified". Now what Paul isn't saying is he isn't saying that the only message he ever preached was about Christ. Paul talked about deeper things beside the elementary message of salvation. What he is saying is when I came to you Corinthians, I had made up my mind that when I presented the gospel to you, when you were unsaved, I wasn't going to depend upon Philosophical arguments. I was going to present the simple message of the cross. To understand what Paul meant when he said, "I came determined not to know anything except Jesus Christ and him crucified". He was referring to the biggest failure of his ministry that had just occurred before he came to Corinth. It had happened in Athens, at mars hill.
Now, many of us have been to mars hill before in Athens, we've climbed up on that stone where Paul stood and addressed the areopagus, the group of elders, the Philosophers of the day. And we had that sermon recorded in acts 17:22-31. Remember the situation, there were all kind of shrines to pagan Gods and Athens. You can see the remnants of those shrine still today. And so Paul is talking before all of these Greek Philosophers. And he said, as I look among you and see all of these shrines, I perceive that you are a religious people. And then Paul mentioned a shrine he had seen, a shrine that was made to the unknown God. In addition to all of the other Greek and pagan deities, they had a special shrine to the unknown God. It was kind of a catchall God, in case they had missed one. And they made this shrine to the unknown God and Paul took that and used it as a great sermon illustration.
He said, "Today, I perceive that you're a religious people by all of your Gods, but today I want to speak to you about this God". The unknown God. And he very eloquently proceeds to tell how it's this unknown God, the one they've labeled unknown, who is the true Creator God. And he talks about his power, but it never, never, never in this beautiful Philosophical, eloquent speech, never once does the apostle Paul mention the name of Jesus Christ and never once does he talk about the cross of Jesus Christ. And when the message is over, a couple of people show some interest, but hardly anybody got saved that day. And most tragically Paul left Athens without ever having established a church there.
You know, I think it's funny today. There are Christian groups, a parachurch organization that talk about mars hill as a great example about how to engage the world. There are churches around the country, they call themselves mars hill. And this is their Philosophy, they say, "If we are going to engage this culture and conversation about Jesus Christ, we can't use simplistic pedantic methods like talking about Jesus and the cross. We've got to engage these wise people on their own terms. We need to learn their Philosophy. We need to meet them at their point of wisdom. We need to use Philosophical arguments to try to reach them". And so they build all kinds of their ministries. They build whole ministries around the mars hill Philosophy. You know, to build your ministry around the mars hill Philosophy.
I was thinking about that this week, that's kind of like opening up a school to train ship captains and calling it the Titanic school of navigation. I mean, who would want to come to a school like that? That wasn't exactly a great success, was it? In the history of ship navigation. No mars hill contrary to what we've been led to think before. It was not the Xena of Paul's ministry. It was an absolute dismal failure because with all of Paul's rhetorical and Philosophical skills, he failed to talk about Jesus Christ, the cross and redemption. And that helps you understand what he's saying here. And that certainly helps you understand what he said in verse three, look over at 1 Corinthians 2:3 here, he says, "For I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling. And my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words and wisdom, but in demonstration of the spirit of power".
Paul said after that mars hill disaster, when I came to you with my tail between my legs, I purposed, I wasn't going to make the same mistake again. When I came to you, I purposed, I was simply going to talk about Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I wasn't going to come in the power of my own reasoning, but the power of the gospel. That's what Paul is talking about here. God is not impressed with our Philosophy. He's not impressed with our rhetoric and skill. He's impressed by our faithfulness and by our being committed to him. Why did he do this? Why did he preach the simple gospel?
Look at verse five, "So that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God". Had Paul been attractive, charismatic. If he had been gifted in his speech, the problem is people would've been attracted to Paul's giftedness rather than to Christ mercy. And so Paul says, "The reason God used me to present the gospel to you, is there would be no mistake to whom you were coming, when the invitation was issued". You weren't coming to me. You weren't becoming a disciple of Paul. You were becoming a disciple of Jesus Christ. Does that mean God can't use wealthy people? Does it mean God can't use people with PhDs? Does it mean God can't use people in places of power? Huh, not at all.
God does use those people. We see them all around us. But for those people to be used by God, they have to let go of their wisdom. They have to let go of their wealth. They have to let go of their influence and depend solely on the power of God. What kind of person does God use? The world says the gifted, the attractive. God says, "The committed and the faithful".
When I was in high school, I remember the 10th grade. I got one of these green living Bibles when it came out. Remember these? This is my green living Bible from high school. It's all marked up. I would take it with me to school every day, had my quiet time in the park by Richard to high school. Every morning before I went to school and in the back of this living Bible, somebody gave me something that made such an impression on me. I wrote it down in the back of my Bible. It's titled "The Man God Uses".
"He has but one great purpose in life. He by God's grace has removed every hindrance from his life. He has placed himself absolutely at God's disposal. He has learned how to prevail in prayer. He is a student of the word. He has a vital message for a lost world. He is a man of faith who expects results. He works in the anointing of the Holy Spirit. That's the person God uses". Somebody has said the world has yet to see what God can do through a person who is totally committed to him. By depending on God's power, instead of your abilities, you can be that kind of person God uses.