Wednesday, April 13, 2011

April Fools and the Resurrection

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Preached at Northwest Christian Church
David P. Kautt
Sunday Morning, April 10, 2011

Psalm 14:1-7, “The fool has said in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none who does good. The LORD looks down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there are any who understand, who seek God. They have all turned aside, they have together become corrupt; there is none who does good, no, not one. Have all the workers of iniquity no knowledge, who eat up my people as they eat bread, and do not call on the LORD? There they are in great fear, for God is with the generation of the righteous. You shame the counsel of the poor, but the LORD is his refuge. Oh, that the salvation of Israel would come out of Zion! When the LORD brings back the captivity of His people, let Jacob rejoice and Israel be glad.

Psalm 36:1-12, “An oracle within my heart concerning the transgression of the wicked: there is no fear of God before his eyes. For he flatters himself in his own eyes, when he finds out his iniquity and when he hates. The words of his mouth are wickedness and deceit; he has ceased to be wise and to do good. He devises wickedness on his bed; he sets himself in a way that is not good; he does not abhor evil. Your mercy, O LORD, is in the heavens; Your faithfulness reaches to the clouds. Your righteousness is like the great mountains; Your judgments are a great deep; O LORD, You preserve man and beast. How precious is Your lovingkindness, O God! Therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of Your wings. They are abundantly satisfied with the fullness of Your house, and You give them drink from the river of Your pleasures. For with You is the fountain of life; in Your light we see light. Oh, continue Your lovingkindness to those who know You, and Your righteousness to the upright in heart. Let not the foot of pride come against me, and let not the hand of the wicked drive me away. There the workers of iniquity have fallen; they have been cast down and are not able to rise.

1 Corinthians 1:18-25, “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.” Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, but to those who are 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.”

I don’t want to be, nor do I want you or anyone else I know and care about to be an April fool!

This month, ‘Resurrection Month’ as we Christians call it, this month, the month of April, the month in which we mark those most holy of holy days – Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday – instead of it being marking by an increase in wisdom, instead of being set off as a month where people like you and me are being challenged and encouraged to choose wisely, in the direction of the cross, the empty tomb and the Risen Savior; I don’t know about you, but it seems to me that this month seems to be a month full of great foolishness!

I don’t want to be, I don’t want you to be an ‘April fool’!

Now, maybe you’re asking, maybe you’re wondering, ‘An April fool? What’s the big deal about being, playing the part of an ‘April fool’?’

Did you catch it as we read from the three different passages of Scripture a moment ago? I don’t want to be, I don’t want you or anyone else I care about to be an ‘April fool’ – why? Psalm 14:1: Because the fool, he is, as some have described him, the ‘practical atheist’. He is the one who, from what his own limited, finite, here and now perspective can come up with, says to himself, ‘It just makes sense, doesn’t it? Doesn’t it? There is no God!’

I don’t want you to be, I don’t want to be an April fool because from the perspective of God’s Word, ultimately the fool rejects God, and according to the passage we read in 1 Corinthians 1, he also rejects – the fool also deems as the utmost in foolishness – God’s foolishness, what God has done in Christ on the cross! I don’t want to be, nor do I want you to be, an April fool! Because fools ultimately reject God and His gift of salvation in Jesus Christ!

But, listen, before we move on in our thinking, allow me to ask you to consider this one thing: how is it that a fool - an April, September, November or February fool – gets to be a fool? How is it that he or she ends up that way?

I wish I had a way of displaying for you all three passages of Scripture we read at the beginning, because, in reality, the message, the answer to my ‘how is it…?’ question from all three passages is the same. The answer to my ‘how is it that a fool gets to be a fool?’ question is that he or she gets that way by way of a downward and, I would suggest, deliberate process that leads – inevitably – to the rejection of God and of Christ and His saving work at Calvary.

Take a look with me, will you? Psalm 14 – go back to that passage. This passage that begins with that startling verse, “the fool has said in his heart, ‘there is no God!’” along with Psalm 36, sets out for us the step-by-step, downward spiral into utter foolishness and the rejection of God. Take a look, where does it all begin?

Verses 2 and following of Psalm 14. Here’s the Lord, looking down from heaven upon the children of men, verses one and following of Psalm 36, here’s the psalmist speaking ultimately as God’s Holy Spirit give him utterance, writing for us an oracle, a divinely-inspired message of insight regarding the wicked and their transgression against God, and what do we see, what do we read? God looks down, and from that lofty, holy, and I would suggest to you, DISTANT vantage point, at least as far as God, rejecting fools are concerned, He sees people turning aside into corruption, He observes people, folks like you and me, working iniquity, failing to do good, using their mouths as tools of wickedness and deceit and actually plotting wickedness on their beds, because that’s what they love! How did they get that way? How? Beloved, I have to warn you ahead of time, because it’s painful to see, painful and perhaps, even convicting to talk about! But, we must! We must talk about it!

If I may, I’d like to examine this process, working backwards from where it ends up. And, hopefully, allow all of us to see how someone arrives at the rejection of God and Christ position. An ‘April fool’ doesn’t get that way overnight! Rather, he gets that way, number one, because he lacks or refuses to pursue understanding. Psalm 14:2 – David, the psalmist, writes, “the Lord looks down from heaven upon the children of men…” And, the question in God’s mind is, “are there any folks down there, among those whose declaration of faith is: ‘there is no God!’ are there any among them who have understanding? Any who are seeking Me?” And, sadly, the answer of course, is, ‘No, there are not any!’

They get that way, the ‘practical atheist’ way, because they lack understanding: ‘How is it that a man, not the Divine, only-begotten Son of God, but a man, dying such a horrible, and really, such a humiliating death, on a cross, do anything to deal with my sins and take away my guilt?”

To those who lack understanding, the understanding supplied and provided for in this Book, it doesn’t make sense! And, so they don’t seek God. They get that way, the ‘April fool’ way, because they lack understanding. Now, before I move on, allow me to remind you of something, maybe of a couple of somethings. Number one, the disciples – Jesus’ closest friends and followers – you know it, don’t you? You’ve read and studied it and before, haven’t you? Jesus’ disciples in the Upper Room, in the Garden of Gethsemane, in the courtyard of the high priest’s home, at the Cross, and even at the door of Jesus’ tomb, how does Scripture depict and describe them? Did they have it all figured out? No! They didn’t have a clue! Until Jesus appeared in their midst, held out his nail-pierced hands and pointed out His wounded side, and instructed them with the words, “Here, look here! This is what all this means! This is what all this has been about!” The disciples, just like the folks the psalmist mentions in our text, they lacked understanding. And fear, doubt, even despair gripped them! You know something else? The same is true for us! It is! Unless and until God sends someone using this Word of His to give light to our eyes, we are on that path toward becoming April fools!

Lacking understanding, fools fail to – refuse to – seek God. But, understanding, insight, perception, is not the first step down this woeful path! No, look! There’s a step or two prior to the step of lacking understanding, and what are those steps? First of all, there is the step, the sad step I would simply call ‘ignorance’. Psalm 14:4, notice the powerful, and, as I suggested earlier, the painful question the psalmist asks there: “have all the workers of iniquity no knowledge? … They are eating my people like folks eat bread… They are failing to, perhaps, refusing to, call on the Lord…” Why? Because they lack knowledge! Because they are ignorant!

One of the saddest, most distressing conversations I’ve ever had, in 30 years in the ministry, is one I had about 10 years ago, with a father, a dad, who like me, had a son about 10 years old at the time. I had been around this man and his son several times. And, I was watching, as I’m sure he was watching, his son growing up on him. And the two of us got to talking about all of that, and about our hopes and desires for our children. Then, this dad made this interesting, and, as I said, from my perspective, very sad and distressing announcement to me. He said, “yeah, my wife and me, we’ve decided not to try to teach or guide our son about our religion, our faith; you know, about the Bible and God and Jesus, because we didn’t want to sway him or make up his mind for him. So, instead, we’ve decided to let him choose his own path and make up his own mind on these matters!” It hurts me to tell you that 10 years later, that decision on the part of that man and his wife is killing them, because of where their son has gone with his life! Ignorance - The fool who says, ‘there is no God!’ The fool, who in this young man’s case, has turned away from seeking God and calling on God, and instead, turned aside to drugs and alcohol and sexual promiscuity, he ended up that way, in part at least, because of ignorance! His parents didn’t teach him the truth! They just let him go his own way! You know why I think that is? Psalm 36:1-4 – Step number one down the April fool pathway. That young man has ended up in that terrible place of degradation – I believe – in part at least, because of his parents failed to do, refused to do, ceased doing the truly wise thing: they didn’t teach their son to fear God! And so, the awful, painful reality is that their son is living his life as if he thinks and believes that the God of the Bible and the gospel message of the Cross of Christ is foolishness!

Psalm 14:2-6, Psalm 36:10-12, and 1 Corinthians 1:18-25 – These verses, in a way, to me, these verses are some of the saddest verses in all of the Bible. They are! Because they contrast God’s distance from those who reject Him and God’s intimacy with those who call on Him, who trust in Him, and because they describe the outcome of those two very divergent paths in words like these: “Oh, continue Your lovingkindness to those who know You, and Your righteousness to the upright in heart. Let not the foot of pride come against me, and let not the hand of the wicked drive me away. There the workers of iniquity have fallen; they have been cast down and are not able to rise.” And, from 1 Corinthians 1:18: “for the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved” – it is what? Our power at work? Our goodness and ability and intellect at work? No! Rather, the text says that if there is to be any gloating or glorying, it won’t be us doing it in ourselves! Rather, God gets the glory and praise. Why? Because we are being saved through that seemingly foolish and weak method – the cross – and the Good News preaching of what Jesus did for us there, by way of God’s power!

I don’t want to be an April fool! I don’t want you or you or you to be an April fool! I don’t want my friend’s son to continue to be an April fool! No! Rather, my prayer is that right there, at the cross of Christ, and at His empty tomb – empty, not because someone stole His body, but empty by that same POWER of God to make His Son alive again, never to die again! My prayer is that God’s power and grace in Christ will continue to rescue perishing fools like you and me and him! Let’s pray!

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