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Ben Fleming: God is Wisdom, 1 Corinthians 2:1-10

September 11, 2023

Audio Recording

The wisdom of God is seen in his perfect acts, from Creation to Jesus’ death and resurrection and in between, all God does flows from his infinite fullness of wisdom.

Discovering God
Discovering God
Ben Fleming: God is Wisdom, 1 Corinthians 2:1-10
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Sermon Transcript:

:00 You're listening to a live recording from Westside Church in Bend, Oregon. Thanks for joining us.

00:07 The entire message of today starts with this idea that it takes place in Proverbs. Now, Proverbs is one of three or four books that are called Wisdom Literature. In the narrative of scripture includes Proverbs, it includes Ecclesia, Ecclesiastes, the Book of Job and Song of Songs. And they all interact with wisdom in these different ways. But most scholars agree that the understanding of wisdom begins with this insight from Proverbs nine, verse 10, it says, fear of the Lord is the foundation of wisdom, knowledge of the holy one, results in good judgment, fear of the Lord. Now, fear of the Lord is this phrase that means a respect and or love and maintenance for the will and the sovereignty of God. So the idea in this scripture is not that we would treat God almost like a horror show where we're waiting for him to pop out and scare us at any moment.

01:05 And this could happen at any time. Instead, it's this understanding of where we sit, that we find ourselves and our own knowledge, our own wisdom and understanding beneath the knowledge and the wisdom of God. And that begins our journey into truly having wisdom or good decision making, or an understanding that goes beyond just knowledge and having answers to specific questions, but it's having this intuitive partnership with the spirit. And no matter what environment we find ourselves in, we find ourselves being wise and caring for the people ourselves and for the will and the desire of God and everything. So where does this all start? Well, and really in the narrative of scripture after we talk through Proverbs chapter nine, it starts in the creation story. Wisdom is all over the Old Testament narrative and people seeking it and looking for it. And of course, wisdom first takes place in the very first sections of scripture in Genesis chapter one.

02:01 And many of you know, it says, in the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. And then it indicates to us how God created these heavens and these earth and the order of them. And it was, it was the oceans and the sky and the trees and light and all of these things together. And then what does it say after God creates all these things, including Adam, it says, and then God said it was good, that it was good. God is making the determinant and expressing himself to be the ultimate authority in wisdom that I say, this is good. And then God also indicates immediately after that that it's still not quite perfect. That actually all of this is good, but there's something that is not good. And that is that man is all alone, that Adam is all alone. And so, Eve is created from the side of Adam, and actually the scripture says that, it would be good if Adam had a helper.

02:59 Now, I wanna rest on just that phrase just for a moment. I think there's some tradition in the Christian Church that this is indicative of, a woman as an assistant to man or secondary to, you know, the only other time this word helper is used in the, in the, in all of scripture is in indicator or it's describes who it describes God himself. David is crying out and saying, I need a helper. And this word helper in this situation means one who can do what I cannot do, one who will bring salvation in this case, or one who will bring a completion to the story. And so in God's wisdom, he discovers that there is one piece that has fallen short. And then the complete circle is the creation of woman with man. It's beautiful stuff. So the men and women live together and they begin to cultivate the ground and care for the world.

04:01 And of course, they're presented with this opportunity to have wisdom on their own because there's this tree located the center of a garden, which God says, this is the one tree that I don't want you to eat from. And so in Genesis chapter three, verse one says, the serpent was the shrewdest of all the wild animals the Lord God had made. And one day he asked the woman, did God really say to you that you must not eat from the fruit of any of the trees in the garden? Of course, we may eat fruit from the trees in the garden. The woman replied, it's only the fruit from the tree in the middle of the garden that we're not allowed to eat. And God said, you must not eat or even touch it. If you do, you will die. You won't die. The serpent replied to the woman, God knows that your eyes will be opened.

04:44 And as soon as you eat it, you will be like God, knowing both good and evil. And of course, Adam and Eve eat of the fruit. They're given this wisdom and the knowledge of good and evil. But it comes with this departure of existing purely in the goodness of God. So sin enters into the picture and they're pushed out of the garden and life becomes very, very different than it had at the very beginning of the story. And so this pursuit of wisdom in this case, this desire to be like God ourselves proves to be very costly. And if you continue in the Old Testament, you go into one kings, there's we're introduced to someone named Solomon. Now Solomon, it turns out, is connected to all these wisdom literature books. Not all of them. He's not connected to Job, but in some way, shape or form.

05:35 Solomon takes part in writing some of Proverbs Song of Songs and Ecclesiastes, or at least collecting them and reading them. And Solomon's connected to all these things. But the story of Solomon himself and his pursuit of wisdom starts with this. It says, Solomon went to Gibby in to offer sacrifices for that was the most important high place. And Solomon offered a thousand burnt offerings on that altar. And it gibbon. And the Lord appeared to Solomon during a night and a dream. And God said, ask for whatever you want me to give you. And Solomon answered, you've shown great kindness to your servant, my father, David. 'cause he was faithful to you and righteous and upright and heart, and you've continued this great kindness to him, given him a son to sit on this throne this very day. And now, Lord God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David.

06:21 But I am only a little child and I do not know how to carry out my duties. Notice the humility that Solomon indicates in here. He is the son of the most famous king and the heir to the throne. And yet he says, I am just a child in my understanding. Your servant is here among the people you have chosen a great people too numerous to count or to number. So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and distinguish between right and wrong for who is able to govern this great people of yours. And the Lord was pleased that Solomon had asked for this. Now, I don't know if you've ever read scripture and been confused, , if the answer is, I never have been. I don't know if I have much to offer you today, but there is this, there's these times, right? And we're talking about, okay, there's these different groups and they're seeking after wisdom. And one says, I want wisdom. I'm gonna go eat. And I know there's this source of it. I'm gonna eat of the fruit so that I can have wisdom. And God's like, Hey, what the heck? No. Now you know you're naked, you gotta find clothes. Sin is into the world, childbirth, it's all rough from here on out. And then there's this other person that's like, I really want wisdom. And God's like, wow, I love you so much.

07:38 What happened? What's changed? What's the difference? Well, of course, as we dig deeper, and I would encourage you in your studies, if you find these places where scripture conflicts because it does conflict, are you, you find areas of scripture where it's difficult to understand because it can be extremely difficult to understand. We delve deeper into this, the, these stories and these insights that God is trying to provide to us. And we see that Adam and Eve would like to take wisdom for their own so that they themselves can play the part of God, that they can determine, of course what is right and what is wrong, and what is wise and what is unwise. And Solomon's approach is far different in that He says, I acknowledge that all wisdom comes from you and I am, but a child aside from your help with my life.

08:25 And so I submit myself to your wisdom. May you give me everything that you can so that I might govern and lead your people. There's this posture of humility. Solomon's interest is not to become God himself like many of us do today. And you could even make the argument, I would probably make the argument that many of the ills that plague our world today are because of humanity, having a desire to pla God ourselves. If we can consolidate enough of our own resources, if we can own enough things, then we can determine what is good and what is bad and what is right and what is wrong. And of course, in our humanity, we've never been fully equipped to make those decisions in and of ourself outside from the presence of God in our lives. And so the difference is Adam and Eve want to be the deity, and Solomon wants to file an apprenticeship with God himself. Now, this apprenticeship thing is, is valuable. And I think it, it touches a lot of our hearts because it comes into a lot of our art into our literature, right? You could think of many of the movies that you love. They feature people like Obiwan Kenobi and Mary Poppins and Dumbledore and Gandalf and McGonigal and Mr. Miyagi, right?

09:48 And who doesn't love watching Mr. Miyagi look at Daniel and just go, Hey, paint the fence. And you're like, oh, Daniel, you don't know what's up, man. It's not about the paint,

09:56 It's about this process you're about to go through. It's wisdom, man.

10:00 And, and of course all of us have found ourselves in our own places being like, why? Why am I just painting this fence? Why am I walking through this thing? Why am I going through this particular place? And when we give ourselves over to an apprenticeship, an internship, a teaching from somebody that has gone before us and has the wisdom, it helps us not just create and understand the answers to the questions of the world, but it gives us wisdom in every single situation. Now, the thing is, in our world today, one of the greatest temptations is to find an apprenticeship in places where we don't belong or to attribute something as wisdom to groups of people that have none.

10:38 Now, this wisdom thing, it takes time. There is a journey involved. There's a reason that Gandalf grabs a hold of the hobbits and the elves and the dwarves and all these people. And he's like, come on, we're going on a journey together. I'm sure they would prefer to sit down and have a pint with Gandalf and say, no, why don't you just like tell me the secrets real quick. But instead he walks with them. Now we're tempted in today's day and age to be able to look around and say, I desire wisdom. And then we look and we find someone, we go, oh, success, check that out. I want what they have. They seem powerful and influential, and maybe they're financially successful and they look good. They look like they got it all together. And soon enough, this idea of wisdom is gone for something that's far more short term. And I would say, and I, I can't speak to the female experience with all of this, but I know that there is an incredible market today for young men to be taken into apprenticeships by influencers and people that are simply teaching you how to manipulate women, make money and grow a few muscles. And it is not wisdom.

11:45 In fact, if any of you are taking on an apprenticeship through podcasts and books and influencers and teachings and news, that sounds like anything other than something that Jesus may have said, maybe the beatitudes, the blessed of the poor in spirit, that if it's anything other than the sacrificial experience and example of Jesus Christ himself, if it's anything other than the justice that God offers, I promise you this thing that looks like wisdom will lead you into very, very shallow waters that will ultimately result in emptiness. But Jesus is calling us to something greater and higher than all of that.

12:25 And it feels like wisdom when we chase after these different things, when we run after the wrong kinds of people. But I have news for you, this whole Christian walk thing, it sounds, and it looks different. There is a different way that Jesus has called us to experience wisdom. So I wanna encourage you, if you are to take on an apprenticeship in this life, be very careful of what you are following after, as it might not actually be wisdom. And so it's interesting that Solomon, again, who is connected to all these different pieces of wisdom, literature, the Song of Songs and Proverbs and Ecclesiastes, these are all books that so that, that are evident that whether he wrote these pieces or not, that whether he collected them from all over the world, his desire to really understand wisdom. And Proverbs is this book that is presents itself a lot like Christian math.

13:23 And if you've never read Proverbs, what happens a lot in Proverbs is these, these little pieces, they actually work really, really well for social media. Proverbs is a great posting book, all right? 'cause it's this little story that's wrapped up into a couple lines. The wise man does this and is rewarded and the foolish man does this and lives in pain. And you guys, there are so many people, my wife is one of these people. My wife is very justice oriented and she likes how that math turns out. If I do this, things work out right and if I screw it up, then it'll go wrong. This is amazing. I can memorize all the to-dos and things are gonna turn out great. Now, there's some people like me who now the older I get, the more I read through Proverbs and I'm like, you know, I'm a little frustrated.

14:17 And that's where Ecclesiastes comes in. If you haven't read Ecclesiastes. So Proverbs talks about wisdom is this teacher, and you're learning from this teacher, and Proverbs is good and it's beautiful, and it's right, you should read through it. And then Ecclesiastes comes in, has its own teacher who some describe as the cynic or the critic. And this teacher's tone is completely different from that of Proverbs. While Proverbs is like, you'll live a beautiful life when you do this. You treat people this way. Ecclesiastes comes in and goes, it's all meaningless. , I'm gonna die. You're gonna die. And no one cares . It's like, man, Ecclesiastes doesn't get invited many places, you know, , there's a reason that when people are going through a Bible in a year, you know, have you ever had these people post on your social media going through the Bible in the year?

15:08 Here's something I learned from Genesis and Psalms, when they come around the Ecclesiastes, they just go dark , you know? Well, I'm just reading through the Bible carefully crying a little bit. Ecclesiastes says this in chapter one, verse 16 says, I look to myself, look, I said to myself, look, I am wiser than any of the kings who ruled in Jerusalem before me. I've got greater wisdom and knowledge than any of them. And so I set out to learn everything from wisdom to madness and folly. But I learned firsthand that pursuing all of these is just like chasing the wind. The greater my wisdom, the greater my grief to increase knowledge only increases sorrow.

15:50 Now, when the author says Life is meaningless or it's like a vapor, our translations actually don't capture it very well. It's not to say that life has no purpose, it's the author saying it has purpose, but it's so difficult to grab and to understand. And Ecclesiastes reaches those of us who grew up with the proverbs and the do right? And then you'll reap this. You'll you sow this, and then you reap this and you've sown something good, and then you've reaped something extremely difficult. Ecclesiastes touches those of us who have experienced those things. And it's not that one is right and one is wrong, it's that they all are a part of this greater tapestry of pursuing wisdom. And so Proverbs give us wisdom in an obvious way. And then Ecclesiastes concludes with this, and this is why they're connected together in chapter 12, verse 13, it says, here now are my final conclusions. After 12 chapters of great darkness and difficulty fear God and obey his commands. For this is everyone's duty.

16:57 Proverbs, the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, the love of his sovereign will and nature. And Ecclesiastes includes the same thing, that we should fear God and obey his commands. So Solomon pursues wisdom by gaining all this knowledge from all over the world and writing and thinking and praying and learning takes on this apprenticeship with God. And now in the New Testament, Paul is doing something similar, but because of the death and the resurrection of Jesus, because of this new life that we have in the Holy Spirit, Paul addresses it in a little bit of a different way. And so it says in First Corinthians chapter two, verse one, it says, in, so it was with me, brothers and sisters, when I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaim to you the testimony about God, for I resolve to know nothing while I was with you, except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. I came to you in weakness and great fear and trembling my message. And my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with the demonstration of the spirit's power so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God's power.

18:07 I'll read that one more time so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God's power. We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or the rulers of this age who are coming to nothing. No, we declare God's wisdom, a mystery, a mystery that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. None of the rulers of this age understood it for if they had, they would not oc crucify the Lord of glory. However, it is written what no I is seen and what no ear is heard and what no human mind is conceived, the things God has prepared for those who love him. These are the things God has revealed to us by the Spirit, this mystery that God wants to reveal in us through the spirit.

18:52 I worked for, 14 years with young adults in church spaces. so 19 to 25 or to 30, it kind of depended on how old I was. You know, when I was 19 and I started, it was a lot of 19 and 20 year olds. And then all of a sudden when I turned 30, there's a lot of 30 year olds around in there. But young adults, and really I give young adults a hard time 'cause this is all of us, but especially young adults, it seems have these answers to these very particular questions at a certain age.

19:25 I need to know what I'm gonna do with my life, what my profession is gonna be, where am I gonna go to school? Is this relationship good for me? Should I continue with this relationship? Should I live in this city? Should I live in this town? And we kind of grind over a lot of these things. And there's so many coffees and dinners that I've had hanging out with people that I can tell are sitting across the table from me and looking at me going help me. And once I developed a little bit of maturity, we got a long way to go. I discovered that if I were gonna direct their lives with specific answers right now, it wouldn't be any help. And it would rob them of this opportunity to walk in wisdom. And so what I would look, what I would say, now that I look across the table, a lot of them, they tell me about all these difficult things and I go, that sounds hard. Can we pray? You're gonna make it? And they're looking at me like, this is not it.

20:21 I I need a proverb right now. Can you gimme answers? Because I've got questions that I, I gotta figure this out. And this continues on for the rest of our lives, and we get caught up in, if I had true wisdom, I'd be able to make each of these micro decisions in the best way possible. And I, I've gotten news for you today that hopefully relieves many of your queasy stomachs and, and helps you through a lot of these nights where you just stay awake for the entire time when it comes to where you're gonna live, exactly what you're gonna do, how much money you're gonna make, exactly who you're going to marry, how many children you will have, how long you're gonna stay single. I think a lot of times when we approach God with these questions, God goes, I don't care.

21:06 Oh no, I'm good. I'm a good Christian. I will listen to you. Tell me where to go. Because God's idea of wisdom in our lives is not, Hey, can we check every single box and can we walk really carefully across the stream without getting our feet wet? God's concern is not that you would accomplish every one of these little goals and check boxes that have probably been created more by culture than they have by following after Jesus. Instead, what God is concerned about with is how we would live in all these things. Well, where am I gonna live? I don't care. How are you gonna live when you get there? Is the difference? No God, am I ever gonna get married? You can get married or you can stay single. That's up to you. But if you choose to get married, how will you love and care for that person in your life or that family that you'll have?

21:54 Wisdom as we learn from Solomon, does not come from discovering all of these answers, but it's this fear of the Lord, this embracing of the will, the sovereign will of God, and saying that wherever I will go, God has laid out this way of to live with love and grace and mercy and justice for people. And so in all of his wisdom, I will live the way that God has called me to and not worry so much about checking every single box along the way. That is the way we follow after Jesus. In all of God's wisdom. Wisdom is not fortune telling and predicting of the future. Instead, it's about taking on through the journey of the apprenticeship with Jesus, through the power of the Holy Spirit that exists with us today, that we begin to live and walk and sound like Jesus.

22:47 Paul finishes up a lot of this thought around wisdom in the spirit in one Corinthians three. So the following chapter, he says in verse 18, do not deceive yourselves. If any of you think you're wise by the standards of this age, you should become fools so that you may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God's sight. As it is written, he catches the wise and their craftiness. And again, the Lord knows that the thoughts of the wise are futile. I think what Paul is referencing here is actually a proverb. I think it's Proverbs 26, in which the author says, the fool is far better off than the wise person who is only wise in their own eyes.

23:29 We can deceive ourselves with our own idea of wisdom says in verse 21. So then no more boasting about human leaders. All things are yours. Whether Paul or Apollos or CFUs or the world or life or death or the present or the future, they're all yours because, and check this out, this is huge. You are of Christ and Christ is of God. Just like the author and Ecclesiastes, Paul takes a moment to laugh at how we view and we measure success and wisdom. Paul says, you guys, everyone talks about this money and this power and this influence, and my gosh, this is not evidence of the wisdom of God. Ecclesiastes would say so many of these things that we love and we measure and we value, they come often from chance. So live with a better understanding of wisdom, one that comes from the Holy Spirit. And so we like to offer practices or, at the very least thoughts about practices that accompany a lot of these, that practice that I would encourage you to visit or to revisit in your life when it comes to wisdom is the practice of Sabbath in a world that wants to run the fastest and respond the quickest to make the meme first, to go viral, to get famous, to get attention.

25:12 I really believe that this practice of Sabbath, which if you dunno, is traditionally, it's a 24 hour period in which we tell our own souls and we tell God that he is God and I am not. And we tell our work that he is God and I'm not. What would it look like if we lived in a world where we stopped trying to be first? We stopped trying to be fastest in every single way and pushing in all of these things. And we, whenever we were faced with difficulty or decision making, that we were the first people to say, I'm gonna rest because in order to make wise decisions, I need to re remind myself and my soul that there is someone's will who is greater than mine. Am I waiting in my resting? Doesn't mean that I don't possess the ability to continue to walk down this road and accomplish this goal, but my waiting in my resting re acknowledges who is actually in control of all things. And that is the ground in which wisdom grows.

26:31 Evan, told us this Sicilian proverb in teaching team this last week. That's, it's kind of funny, he said, it's basically this proverb where all the, the, the boys in a village, when it came time when their dad was old enough, they would go to the cliffs and they would push them off because they were just consuming resources instead of offering something to the society that they were in. So they would push them off and kill them. And this one boy went and he accomplished the goal, came back, and then all of a sudden he became the wisest and the most successful of all the people in the village. And it turned out he had actually stashed his father in a cave and went back to get wisdom as time went on. There is something about those who have gone before us, and I wanna call some of you up today. You've been through the difficulties and the battles and the fights and the indecision, and maybe now you feel unqualified to offer your wisdom because of the pace of your step. I think we need some people that are willing to go slow in this day and age,

27:39 And you offer that to us. Speaker 5

27:45 Those

27:45 Of you who are young in the room, and again, I already addressed young men, but I would say for anyone that would count themselves to be a young person with something to learn, find someone or something that moves slowly. Listen to their words, heeded their advice, and allow God to do an incredible work in the silence and the stillness. And you encounter.