Preached at Northwest Christian Church
David P. Kautt
Sunday Morning, April 24, 2011 (Resurrection Day)
1 Corinthians 1:18-31, “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[b] 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. For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, that no flesh should glory in His presence. But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God—and righteousness and sanctification and redemption— that, as it is written, “He who glories, let him glory in the LORD.”
I don't want to be, or anyone I know and care about to be, an April fool!
For those of you who are our guests today, just so you know, the preacher hasn't lost his mind, nor did he fall asleep on March 31st and not wake up until this morning. I know that today is not April the first, 'April Fool's Day' as we often call it. But listen, for those who have had the chance to take part in our Scripture study the past three weeks, they know, and my hope and prayer is that by the end of this day – you, our friends, our cherished guests – will know, that for some people, every day is 'April Fool's Day'! Yes, as we have observed from Psalm 14, Psalm 36, the Book of Proverbs, and yes, even from this text in 1 Corinthians 1, for those who are arrogant enough – wicked enough – perhaps, saddest of all, for those who are BLINDED enough to think, to believe, to claim to KNOW that “there is no God” (Psalm 13:1), for them every day is 'April Fool's Day'! Psalm 14:1 puts it like this: “The fool has said in his heart, 'there is no God!'”
Would you hold your place there in 1 Corinthians 1, find with me the next book in the New Testament, the one we call '2nd Corinthians', and go to chapter 2:14-16. Let's read this passage.
2 Corinthians 2:14-16, “Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place. 15 For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing. 16 To the one we are the aroma of death leading to death, and to the other the aroma of life leading to life. And who is sufficient for these things?”
I told you a moment ago that I don't want to be an April Fool, I don't want to be someone, who when it comes around to Holy Week as we Christians call it, and to the Holiest of Days of that week – Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday – when April 22, 2011, Good Friday, arrives and when April 24, 2011, Resurrection Day arrives, I don't want to be counted among those who laugh and scoff and refuse to believe that a Jewish carpenter from Nazareth – one solitary life – nailed to the cross on a hill outside Jerusalem, that His death could accomplish anything for me! I don't want to be a April 22, Good Friday – hey, you know Friday means, don't you? It means payday! It means the weekend! It means party time, boogie time, hangover time! My friends, I don't want to be an April 22, Good Friday fool! Nor, do I want to be an April 24, Resurrection Day fool!
Sunday, you know what that is, don't you? That's Sleep-in Day! That's Go to the Lake Day! That's Make for the Mall or the Movies Day!
No, I don't want to be an April Fool! Nor do I want any of those who claim to wear the name 'Christian' to be April Fools! But, do you have any idea what I DO want to be? Do yo have any INKLING what God wants His people to be?
2 Corinthians 2:14 – I want to be, God has planned for His people to be, participants in His 'victory parade'! Most of us in the church, including this preacher, have been raised to believe that the Triumphal Entry at the beginning of Holy Week, is Jesus' victory parade!
Think again! According to passages like 1 Corinthians 15 – the great 'Resurrection Chapter' of the Bible as it is called – Jesus' victory parade, the anniversary of it, that is – begins – TODAY, on Resurrection Day! I want to be a PARTICIPANT in that joyful occasion! God intends for all who are His, through faith in Jesus Christ, to take part in the victory! “Thanks be to God! Praise be to God!” Paul exclaims. Why? Because He always – my, isn't that a powerful assertion? Paul's joyful declaration is: “I praise God because He ALWAYS leads us in triumph in Christ...” I don't want to be an April Fool, but April 24th, Resurrection Day Victory Parade Participants! How about you?
But look, listen! That's not all God intends for you and me! Look! 2 Corinthians 2:15-16 – What else does God have in mind for us?
How many of you noticed the rough looking cross planted in the yard, right along the sidewalk? Most of you did... I hope many who have passed by that way the last few days have noticed it also! But listen, as you saw the cross out there in the yard, did you stop there for a moment and think about it? That cross, more accurately, what Jesus accomplished on Calvary's cross, to those who say, “It's Friday, boogie time, party time, 6-pack time!” to them it's foolishness. But, what is that cross, what is the empty tomb, the Risen Savior and Lord, to us who believe? It is God's power unto salvation! It is how God rolls us His 'sleeve' and bares the biggest, strongest muscle in the universe, to save you!
2 Corinthians 2:14-16 – The Cross of Christ, our crucified and Risen Savior, not only does God use these to make us Victory Parade Participants! Look again! He also uses these – Christ's death, and Christ resurrection – in our lives as perfume! Yes, I said, 'perfume'!
If the meaning, the importance of the Cross of Christ and the Resurrection of Christ, is active and at work in you and in me, then what? Then everywhere we go, people are going to 'smell us'! [sniff, sniff] “It's Friday! Party time – Friday!” [sniff, sniff] “Man, who are you?! What are you?! You smell like death!!”
I am, we are, the fragrance of Christ, the aroma of death, have you thought about how sad that is? We, whom God has called to Himself by the Good News of Christ's Death, Burial and Resurrection, we are the aroma of DEATH to those who have chosen the path of the April Fool! We are death's fragrance to those who are perishing!
But listen, think of this also: through Christ are you a Victory Parade Participant? Then, what? Then you also are the aroma of Christ, the smell of life, to those who are being saved!
When the apostle Paul, the human writer God's Spirit directed to write these passages in First and Second Corinthians, made his first visit to Corinth, nearly 2000 years ago , Acts 17 & 18 tell us that just prior to traveling to Corinth, Paul had spent some time in Athens. At that time, Athens was the capital, the fountain head of Ancient Greek culture and especially of Greek 'wisdom'. While in Athens, Acts 17 tells us that Paul “reasoned with those who happened to be in the marketplace each day.” (Acts 17:17b) Here he is, a Resurrection Day Victory Parade Participant, a 'jar of clay,' filled to the brim with 'perfume'. And what happens? What does Paul, the 'aroma of Christ dispenser', encounter? Listen to the way the historian, Luke, describes the situation:
Acts 17:18-21, 32-34: “Then certain Epicurean and Stoic philosophers encountered him. And some said, “What does this babbler want to say?” Others said, “He seems to be a proclaimer of foreign gods,” because he preached to them Jesus and the resurrection. And they took him and brought him to the Areopagus, saying, “May we know what this new doctrine is of which you speak? For you are bringing some strange things to our ears. Therefore we want to know what these things mean.” For all the Athenians and the foreigners who were there spent their time in nothing else but either to tell or to hear some new thing.
And when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked, while others said, “We will hear you again on this matter.” So Paul departed from among them. However, some men joined him and believed, among them Dionysius the Areopagite, a woman named Damaris, and others with them.”
When Paul came to Corinth for the very first time, even before he wrote these letters we call First and Second Corinthians, he knew! He knew what it mean to stink like death, and what it meant to smell as sweet and as beautiful as life! Because that is what happened to him in Athens! Some mocked, “tell us another joke, Paul! Come on, what do you men, this Jesus fellow rose from the dead? Awh, come one, you've gotta be kidding!” To those who were perishing, to the 'April Fools', he smelled like death! But listen, to Damaris and Dionysius, and to several others whose names we don't know, what was he? He was, like Mary's alabaster jar, pouring out a beautiful, life-giving fragrance that filled their hearts and changed their lives (compare John 12:1-8). Isn't that amazing? In His sovereign plan, by way of His incredible mercy and grace in Jesus Christ, showered down upon a man whose name used to be Saul of Tarsus, flowing over into a man who used to be a blasphemer himself; in His awesome, sovereign plan, God choose Saul – an April fool – renamed him Paul, and then used him to bring other April fools to the foot of the cross.
But listen – that's not the end of the story. No, it isn't! Rather, look one more time at 2 Corinthians 2:15-16. The text says, “for we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved, and among those who are perishing. To the one we are the aroma, the stench, of death leading to death, and to the other the aroma, the beautiful perfume, of life leading to life.” Great verses. But, notice with me how they end. Paul concludes what he says here with a probing, penetrating question for all of us, here it is: “who is sufficient for these things?” In other words, who is able, who 'has what it takes' to do and be these things?
Who is sufficient, who has what it takes to be God's alabaster perfume jar? My friends, did you know that it is possible for jars of clay like us, God's dispensers of His aroma of life and death, to think and act like April fools? How so?
Go back to 1 Corinthians 1 with me, would you please?
1 Corinthians 1:26-31, “For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, that no flesh should glory in His presence. But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God—and righteousness and sanctification and redemption— that, as it is written, “He who glories, let him glory in the LORD.”Who is sufficient? Who has what it takes to be dispenser of God's perfume? I know, I know, I do! I mean, look at my resume. Do you know where I went to school, and what degrees I have earned? “Not many wise according to the flesh... are called.” “Who is sufficient for these things?” I know, I know... He is – I mean look at his 'muscles' and the way he flexes them to get things done! “Not many mighty... are called!” “Who is sufficient for these things?” I know, I know... She is, she is! She's part of the 'upity family', grew up with all the posh and privileges that go with it! She is! She has what it takes to be God's perfume dispenser.
One more time – what does the text say? Miss Upity, is she, because she is Ms. Upity, sufficient for these things? “For you see brethren, that not many noble... are called...”
I know that likely no one would raise his hand and admit it, but, do you ever have the 'Ms. Upity' mindset? 'Yeah, yeah, God chose me, well, because of my social status'. How about the 'Mr. Muscles' mindset? 'God chose me because I can simply FLEX and others start moving!' Or, what about the 'Mr. or Ms. Brain', 'Mr. or Ms. Professor' mindset? 'God chose me because – well – because I have a P-h-D.!
One more time, let's ask ourselves the question Paul asks in 2 Corinthians 2, who really is sufficient, who truly does have what it takes to be God's 'perfume dispensers'?
I don't know if you have been able to follow my meandering train of thought, but to me, it is interesting and exceedingly powerful, gut-level stuff, to note that not only for the gospel, but also for those who are called of God to proclaim the gospel, to carry that saving message, it all begins and ends not with the wisdom of the wise not with the ability that men and women may think they have with their muscles or money, rather it all begins and ends, with the cross! With what April fools call foolish and weak!
Anybody know why that is? Anybody?
God chose a foolish, weak thing – His son dying – humiliated, rejected on a cross, and God chooses the weak, the foolish, the base, the despised, the nothings of this world, to belong to Him, and, to serve Him as grace dispensers – why? So that no flesh may glory before Him, so that He who boasts may boast (only) in the Lord...
I don't want to be an April fool! And, I pray, you don't either!
Rather, may the Lord help always to remember that... “or Him we are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us, our wisdom from God, our righteousness, sanctification and redemption...”