Embracing the Foolishness of the Cross

This is the manuscript from this morning’s sermon:Easter

 

No one wants to be made a fool, but often times what looks foolish to many is in fact correct, and in the end the tables turn as the truth is learned.  This morning, we will be looking at what is deemed so foolish, and yet it is a foolishness we ought not be ashamed of, but rather we ought to embrace it.  We must not run from it or hide from it.  We must run toward it and treasure it.

This morning is Resurrection Sunday, but it is also April 1—April Fool’s Day—and for that reason I thought it a good idea to preach on embracing the foolishness of the cross.  We who are believers are afraid of what those who do not believe think about it.  We care about their judgment over us.  We are afraid to be thought a fool.  Yet to believe in the cross is foolishness to the unbelieving world.  We either embrace the cross with all that comes with it, or we refuse what comes with it, and refuse the cross itself.

As we look at this text this morning, we are going to see 4 major points: the foolishness of the cross is subjected, rejected, expected, and accepted.

Subjected

The position of a person will determine their thoughts about the cross.  Thus, I say that the foolishness of the cross is subjected.  It is subjected to the reality of one’s stance.  “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God,” (1 Cor. 1.18, ESV).  Only those who are perishing find the word of the cross, the concept, the doctrine of the cross foolish.  The word that Paul used for folly or foolish is the word we get “moron” from.  It is simply moronic.  One must be a complete imbecile, an utter fool, a moron to believe this stuff about the cross.

Obviously, a person who believes in the cross, a euphemistic term for Christ, would not see it as moronic or idiotic.  And so the reality is that the idea of foolishness is subjected to the stance of the person.  In today’s climate a Democrat finds the thought of Republicanism moronic and vice versa.  Obviously a Republican would not find their own ideology moronic, nor would a Democrat theirs.  The same would go for the believer and the unbeliever.

But look how Paul described each.  He didn’t describe them as believer and unbeliever.  He described the one as “those who are perishing.”  This description is interesting because it doesn’t describe them in the future, but in the present.  It is not a person who will perish, but are perishing, at this moment they are perishing.  The term in the Greek means that they are destroying and the description tells us that they are doing this to themselves. So by the word of the cross is foolish to those who are destroying themselves.

Everyone loves John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life,” (ESV).  But few go beyond to John 3:18, “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God,” (ESV).  The condemnation doesn’t come from Jesus, but it is intrinsic.  To reject Christ—to see the cross as foolish—is to proclaim that one is perishing, destroying themselves.

But the other is described as, “us who are being saved.”  Same concept, but slightly different.  It is not that we have been saved in the past, nor that we will be saved in the future, but that we are being saved in the present.  The believer is currently in a state of being saved.  We haven’t fully arrived to our final state of perfection and glory, but we are on the journey, even at this moment.  “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ,” (Phil 1.6, ESV).

Thus the cross is not foolish to those who believe.  It is the power of salvation.  We don’t have the power to save ourselves.  We have the power to condemn ourselves, but we don’t have the power to save ourselves.  Hence Paul, as we saw, said that “He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion,” not you who began a good work.  We are receiving the salvation, but only by the power of the cross.  Without the cross, we perish.

So we must embrace the cross.  It is the only power to keep us on this salvific walk.  To receive a perishing person’s perspective on the cross is the foolish thing, not the doctrine that they’ve rejected.

Rejected

Not only is the doctrine of the cross subjected to the state of the person, but it is rejected by God.  There are people who seek to figure out who God is in a variety of ways.  Some are pantheistic.  They say God is everything and everything is God.  Some are autotheistic.  They believe themselves to be the captain of their ship.  They are a god unto themselves.  There is no outside deity that controls them or anything else.  There are tons of ways for people to seek to understand and know God through their own ways and wisdom.  But as Paul told the Romans,

For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.  Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things, (1.21-23, ESV).

We may no longer bow down to clay, metal, or wooden statues, but we have our idols: whether they be sports heroes, movie stars, pop artists, scientists, philosophers, or politicians.  For many, the earth revolves around trees, wetlands, endangered species, and the like.  The unbeliever looks at these idols of and thinks they are wise for placing such high value on them.  What belongs to the Creator is given to the created: praise, glory, and honor.

For it is written, ‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.’ Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world,” (1 Cor 1.19-20, ESV).

God’s not interested in man’s wisdom. And he rejects what man has called foolish. God has given His own wisdom to man. While the scientists and philosophers are out there trying to figure out the means of the world and the meaning of the world, God has already given them both.  Human wisdom cannot accomplish what God’s wisdom has already given.  Many a scientist these days reject God’s wisdom and understanding for their own.  They seek to prove that this world could exist without God, and yet they continuously prove that it cannot.  The believer looks upon the scientist who claims that spontaneous generation is impossible and then claims that all life began from nonlife, and cannot help but think, “that’s foolish.”

The philosopher tries to explain the meaning of life and continuously falls short, leaving people empty and looking.  The believer looks at that philosopher and thinks, “that’s foolish.  God has already given the meaning to life, and as long as we reject His wisdom for our own, we will perish.”  God destroys the wisdom of the wise and the understanding of those who think they understand.  He makes foolish the wisdom of this world.  One must be willing to step back and look though.  Their wisdom and their understanding of foolishness is rejected, and so it is meaningless.

And so we ought to embrace the foolishness of the cross, since God rejected the very opinions of those who are perishing.  Let us be imitators of God our Father.

Expected

We as Christians should not be shocked by their audacious claims that we are the foolish ones.  We should expect the cross of Christ to be deemed foolish.

For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, (1 Cor 1.21-23, ESV).

We cannot possibly think that the world through its own philosophies and sciences and by its own wisdom would be able to come to an understanding of God as being and God as Savior.  This was by God’s design.  In God’s wisdom, He made it so that we could not know Him based on our own fallen, often times wrong, wisdom.

I go back to Kevin DeYoung’s illustration as he used the philosophical story of the five blind men meeting an elephant.  One touches the ear and believes it to be a fan.  One touches the leg and believes it’s a tree.  Another touches the trunk and says it’s a snake.  Still another touches the side and believes it a wall.  Then the tail and so the last believes it’s a rope.  That’s all well and good until the elephant speaks.  Then and only then will they know they are all wrong.

God is not silent.  He has spoken.  Until God spoke, we were blind and groping human beings, trusting in our own wisdom.  We are left to wonder and wander.  But God spoke!  He spoke through the prophets and apostles and ultimately in the very Word of God in the flesh: Jesus Christ. He knew that the world would find it foolish, because the world is too caught up in the things of this world, but He spoke.

Often times the one who does not believe will say that if God gave him proof of His existence, then he would believe.  But most of the time this isn’t true.  The Jews sought a sign from Jesus.  The pestered Him time and again to prove he was the Messiah, the Son of God.  He healed the blind, the lame, the demon possessed.  He brought back the widow’s son, the little girl, and Lazarus from the dead!  A sign was not what was needed.  Faith was.  The Greeks were interested in wisdom, not a Savior.  Jesus wasn’t a philosopher.  He was smart and wise, but was no Socrates to the Greeks.  He was a good teacher, but couldn’t hold a candle to Aristotle.

It’s not the proof that is necessary.  The proof is all around.  It is the heart that’s the issue.  The Jews despise the Christians because they preach the Messiah has come and His name is Jesus.  The Greeks, the Gentiles, despise Christians because they hear about being saved and find it foolish.  It’s laughable.  Joy Behar mocks Christians on the View saying we have a mental illness.  She actually said that hearing from Jesus is a mental illness.  Since I believed in a closed canon and that God speaks through His Word, the Bible, then I can see where she’s coming from.  It’s nothing for people to mock believers.

We’re not victims though.  We need to stop being little snowflakes.  It’s not like we shouldn’t have expected it. We should have.  It has been that way since the beginning.  We had a little reprieve here in the United States.  But the rest of the world has been dealing with this for millennia.  To be called a fool for the cross should be expected and we should embrace the cross.

Accept

That’s why the last point is that we should accept the foolishness of the cross.  “But to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.  For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men,” (1 Cor. 1.24-25, ESV).  Accept that we look foolish.  What the unbeliever says doesn’t matter.  To we who are in the know, Christ is the power of God!  Christ is the only way to God.  He is the only truth that answers our questions.  He is our very life, our only life.  He is the very wisdom of God.  Is that not what we desire?  Ought we not want God’s wisdom over worldly wisdom?

As we saw in James 3: “But wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere,” (v. 17, ESV).  Jesus is the wisdom of God personified!  So what if He is foolish to those who do not understand.  If we were to hear a rocket scientist teach about his field, we wouldn’t understand it most likely, and we could stand back and call him a fool.  Yet he wouldn’t care, because he knows and understands the physics and astronomy and such.  Why do we care when those who do not understand call us fools, for we have the very wisdom of God!

As Paul wrote, God’s foolishness is wiser than the wisest of human wisdom.  The wisest person who ever lived never even got to the level of God’s foolishness.  That’s not to say that God has any foolishness in him, but to say that men are not as smart and wise as they think they are.  They are not the end all, be all of wisdom.  God’s weakness is stronger than the strongest man’s strength.  God looks weak on the cross, but by the cross he did what no man, even the strongest of men, is capable of doing.  He procured the salvation of millions if not billions of people who would believe.  In His weakness He defeated sin and the grave.  Something the strongest man will never be able to do.

Conclusion

So what then are we to do with this information?  I see two actions that need to be undertaken.

The first is to believe and embrace the foolishness of the cross.  When Christ called his people to him he warned them to count the cost.  No builder starts a project without making sure he can afford to finish the building.  No commander will go to war without first calculating the risk involved.  He who comes to Christ will be seen as a fool.  If you cannot embrace being called a fool, then you will not be able to finish the journey.  But if you so desire Jesus, then you will embrace what all comes with him, even the mockery of those who are perishing.

The second is to tell.  Why is that we care more about how people feel about us than we do over the fact that these people not only will perish, but are perishing even now?  Embrace the foolishness of the message, the foolishness of the word, the foolishness of the cross, and tell who are perishing.  As Jude wrote, “save others by snatching them out of the fire,” (v. 23, ESV).

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