Tuesday, April 26, 2011

I Don't Want to Be A Resurrection Day Fool!


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...”

Monday, April 18, 2011

What Are You Going to Do with Jesus?


Preached at Northwest Christian Church

David P. Kautt
Sunday Morning, April 17, 2011

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 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, I don’t want you or anyone else I know and care about to be, an April fool! Have you had that thought on your minds the last several days?

Listen, my friends, as we live day-by-day, in a world where fools and foolishness seem to be the name of the game, and, as we who wear the name of Christ, who claim to belong to God through faith in His Son and who more and more are marginalized and even vilified in an increasingly hostile culture, to be or not to be an ‘April fool’ is a significant question indeed!

This week, as we mark another anniversary of the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, where will we stand in respect to those monumental events? Among the soldiers carrying out gruesome orders, perhaps with a bit of disdain for this stupid Jew who actually thought He could do battle with the Roman empire and win?! Among the Jewish leaders, laughing triumphantly, scoffing arrogantly, daring God to rescue Him, if He really is His Son?! Among the passers-by, caught up in this scene of great human agony and yet, perhaps also caught up in the tide of opposition, the swirling tsunami of scorn and hatred toward the Man on the middle cross? Among the frightened and confused friends and followers of the One over Whose head are the words, “This is Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews”?! Though we will not fully arrive there today in our study, the Lord-willing, that’s where we will end up next Lord’s Day, on Resurrection Day. Where do we stand, where do YOU stand, where do I stand as far as Jesus is concerned? To put it simply, and straightforwardly, our eternal destiny - not just our momentary ‘happiness’ or our ‘success in life’ – but our ETERNAL DESTINY hinges upon that question, “where do you stand with respect to Jesus? What will you do with Jesus?”

April fools, August fools, November fools, as the passages in the psalms that we looked at previously indicated to us, sadly, but truly, they are all the same!! They reject God! Through the pride of their countenance, they will not seek after God! In fact, all their thoughts are, ‘There is no God!’ (Psalm 10:4, 14:1) Flattering themselves in their own eyes, mouthing words of iniquity, and deceit, devising mischief upon their beds, refusing to abhor evil, CEASING TO BE WISE, and do good, rejecting the fear of God, who do they do? Where do they stand on ‘Good Friday’ and ‘Resurrection Day’? Psalm 36:1-4 indicates that they transgress against God; that’s what they do! And their place, the spot where they stand this week, is that place in that dark and distant place where those who have rejected God stand. The ‘April fool’ - is that an appropriate description for anybody you know? Is it a name that fits you or me?

The ‘April fool’ – the first thing I believe, the first sad and tragic thing we learn about him or her is that he rejects God! And, then, as you would expect, if he continues in that path of folly, where those who lack real understanding walk, where those who have turned aside to corruption have turned (see Psalm 14:2-3), if he continues in that foolish way, where do his feet take him next? 1 Corinthians 2:14. Take a look at what the Word of God says about the April fool’s next destination.

1 Corinthians 2:14, “But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.”

Speaking to us from the larger context of the passage we read at the outset this morning, the apostle Paul, our Divinely-inspired teacher, instructs us to this effect: the April fool, if he continues on the path of rejecting God, refusing to fear Him, turning aside to prideful thoughts like, ‘I know as much as He does! I don’t need !’ – the apostle Paul informs us that if the April fools continues on the path that he – Paul the apostle – once traveled, when he was known by the name ‘Saul of Tarsus’; if our foolish friend or loved one stays the course and continues to steer his feet into that path – where does he end up next? What does he do next? 1 Corinthians 2:14 – Looking at the things of God (the Bible, and the Cross, etc.), trying to wrap his mind around these things, he simply will not, cannot do it! The ‘April fool’, the ‘natural man’ as Paul describes him, he “does not receive”, he does not take, welcome or accept the things of God, these things. Why? Because as far as he’s concerned what are they? They are “foolishness to him” and he is unable to know or understand them, since he lack the spiritual discernment necessary – required – to grasp them!

Do you know anybody who fits into that category? It’s a sad state in which to be located! For instead of allowing the Holy Spirit to teach him, instead of receiving the marvelous gift of the mind of Christ, formed and fashioned in all who believe His Word and make it their Daily Bread, the natural man, the ‘April fool’ is satisfied with his own ‘wisdom’, which really is foolishness as far as God is concerned.

I don’t want to be an April fool, do you?! I don’t want anybody I know and care about to be one either, do you?! Yet, sadly and very, very tragically, some are, some, apparently, want to be

So, what’s their final destination? If the ‘April fool’ continues on the path of rejecting God and rejecting and refusing the things of God, where will he ultimately end up?

1 Corinthians 1 – We read it earlier; would you come back to it with me now, please?

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.”

You see it, don’t you? The very sad and tragic truth that details the ultimate end of the April fool is this, if he continues to reject God – “I don’t need Him! I know as much as He does!” – if he refuses the things of God – “this doesn’t make sense to me! I mean, it’s stupid!” – thinking that his wisdom, his HUMAN wisdom, is superior to God’s ‘wisdom’, then, where will he end up, ultimately? What will be the last things and WORST thing he will choose to do? He will choose to reject the MESSAGE, the saving message about the Savior who came to be his from-God gift of wisdom, righteousness, sanctification and redemption (see 1 Corinthians 1:30-31), and in doing so, he will lose, for eternity, his only hope of salvation and deliverance. He will perish in an eternal hell!

My friends, my dear friends, do you see it? Do you see and perceive the sad and desperate situation of those who choose man’s ‘wisdom’, man’s folly in place of God’s wisdom and saving power? As I told you when we began this series of messages a few weeks ago, our target, our ultimate aim in this series is to take our stand at the foot of the cross. April fools can become heaven's servants, vessels of honor in the hands of God, if they will bow down at the foot of the cross. But, how? How is an April fool to get there? Ultimately, he or she gets there, as Paul says here in 1 Corinthians 1, by faith. By trusting in the One whose cross-centered salvation message is God's means to transform April fools...

Yes, ultimately, the gospel of Christ is God's power to save everyone who believes! But, how does someone who has been walking this foolish way turn from it? And, for our sakes, perhaps, how are we to avoid being April fools?

Would you go with me to the epitome of Old Testament wisdom books, the book of Proverbs.

Proverbs 4:14-27, “Enter not into the path of the wicked, and go not in the way of evil men. Avoid it, pass not by it, turn from it, and pass away. For they sleep not, except they have done mischief; and their sleep is taken away, unless they cause some to fall. For they eat the bread of wickedness, and drink the wine of violence. But the path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day. The way of the wicked is as darkness: they know not at what they stumble. My son, attend to my words; incline thine ear unto my sayings. Let them not depart from thine eyes; keep them in the midst of thine heart. For they are life unto those that find them, and health to all their flesh. Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life. Put away from thee a froward mouth, and perverse lips put far from thee. Let thine eyes look right on, and let thine eyelids look straight before thee. Ponder the path of thy feet, and let all thy ways be established. Turn not to the right hand nor to the left: remove thy foot from evil.”

I don't want to be an April fool. So, what am I to do to carry that out in my life?

Number one, I must avoid the path of the wicked. Those who food and drink, and even sleep, is all about wickedness, those who could influence me to join them in that foolish way, I must avoid, I must turn away from their path!

Secondly, I must attend to wisdom's instruction! Using a military metaphor, when it comes to this Book's instruction, when it comes to God teaching you His wisdom, you don't want to be A-W-O-L! Pay attention, be in ATTENDANCE, when God calls His 'class' to order!

By the way, that 'class room' of Divine instruction is located anywhere God is and anywhere you are, and this Book is the 'curriculum'.

Thirdly, aim – take careful aim – at another path, a different path to which the Lord is pointing you, the path of the righteous, that path, verse 18 tells us, that is like the shining sun, growing brighter, brighter BRIGHTER, unto the perfect day! Yes, be careful of your eyes (verse 25), your ears (verse 20), your feet (verse 26) and most of all, your heart (verse 23) – why?

Number four, so that you can keep away - I mean, far, far away - from your mouth and your lips the deceitful things, the perverse things, the evil things that are on the lips and in the mouths of April fools!

Yes, wisdom – God's wisdom – and His power to give you light, and health and LIFE – real, eternal life – is to be found here, in His Book, and there, in His Son!

I don't want to be an April fool! And thank God, by His infinite mercy and grace in Christ, I won't be! Instead, my prayer, my aim, is higher ground. “The path of the righteous that is like the shining sun; shining ever brighter unto the perfect day”, that day when I see my Savior face-to-face...

Shall we pray?

Father in heaven, I thank You that You made a way for April fools to be rescued. You have set forth another path for them to walk; a path to which Jesus has called all who belong to Him; the path of taking up our own crosses, humbling ourselves before Him, denying ourselves and following Him. O Father, I pray, that beginning today, there will be many more, because of this hour of worship, and this series of messages, that will choose to walk in the path of the righteous. And that they will know – that we will know - that increasing brightness of the S-O-N of God in our lives. And God, I pray, that as a result, then who see His light giving light and life to us, that they would be called to turn away from the April fool pathway, to Jesus Who gave His life for them. Father we ask that You would answer this prayer, in a mighty way, even in our midst, beginning today. In Jesus' name, Amen.”

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

April Fools and the Resurrection


Image credit
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!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Are You An April Fool?


The Canterbury Tales
Preached at Northwest Christian Church
David P. Kautt
Sunday Morning, April 3, 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.

How many of you this past week had a friend or acquaintance tell you something that sounded interesting, a bit amazing, yes, but certainly believable; and after having you thinking for a minute or two that what he or she said was true, your friend exclaims, ‘Got ya! April fools!’?

I did a little research into the origin of the term and the marking of what we call, ‘April Fools Day,’ and I discovered that a 15th century English poet by the name of Geoffrey Chaucer was the first one to mention this concept, as he penned his famous Canterbury Tales.

Well, I have to tell you that, though I’m not much of a literary expert, I do enjoy a riddle, good clean joke and a heart laugh. But, listen, I have to tell you – something for you to think about also – I don’t want to be an April fool! In fact, I don’t want to be a May, June or July one either!

The passage of Scripture we opened with a moment ago makes this very interesting and startling statement: listen to it one more time as I read it, will you? Psalm 14:1, the Word of God says, “The fool has said in his heart, ‘there is no God.’” As we begin this month, the month of April, the month when we who belong to Christ mark the most important events of all history: the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ; as we move steadily toward our celebration of the empty tomb and our risen Lord and Savior, I don’t want to be classified as a fool! Whether we are looking at it from this Old Testament point of view - these passages from the psalms that supply the background – or, whether we are over at the other end of the Bible, examining such texts as 1 Corinthians chapters one through four, I don’t want you to be a fool! I don’t ever want you to think, believe, say or act upon the thought, “there is no God! There is no God.”

Now, before we go any further with this discussion, allow me to point out to you some basic information about fools and foolishness as provided here in God’s Book.

First of all, please note that the concept – the idea of folly – Biblically-speaking, is not simply an academic or intellectual concept. Rather, God’s Word always presents the idea of foolishness in practical and, I must say, behavioral terms. In other words, folly is not merely something to look up and study in a dictionary. Instead, sadly, it is something that is readily observable in many people’s day-to-day lives!

Secondly, if you are unsure, unclear or maybe even uninformed, from a Biblical stand-point, on the subject of fools and foolishness, there is really no better place to go for information – crisp, concise, clear, even convicting information – on the subject than to the Wisdom Books. The Wisdom Books of the Old Testament and New Testament. That makes sense, doesn’t it? To learn about foolishness, as it stands apart from and in contrast to wisdom – God – the ultimate Source of all true wisdom has provided us with a wealth of information on these subjects in His Word, His Book. By the way, which Books in the Book are the ‘Wisdom Books’? That’s right, in the Old Testament, we often call them the ‘Books of Poetry’: Jobe, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and Song of Solomon, those five books are the OLD Testament books of wisdom. But what about the New Testament? Is there a book or group of books that would be labeled the ‘New Testament Wisdom Books’?

Perhaps the best answer to that question is that, though there are elements of similarity to the Old Testament books found in several New Testament books, the one New Testament book that seems to have the most in common with Jobe, Psalms, Proverbs, etc., is the book of James. If you want to begin to grasp God’s perspective on wisdom and foolishness, read the wisdom books. Study, memorize and meditate upon the great truths God has set forth for you in those six books.

One more thing that I must let you in on before we go any further in our study. As I said, I enjoy a good riddle, or a good, clean joke that doesn’t belittle sacred things like marriage, but I don’t want to be, nor do I want you to be, a fool! And why is that? Well, before I answer that question, allow me to point out to you that – in the Bible – there are actually four different words translated ‘fool’, each of them with slightly different shade of meaning. To summarize what I mean here, just know this: when it comes to folly, God’s Word covers the entirety of the landscape, from the simply-minded, na├»ve, usually young person who is teachable – that’s good – but who is also easily deceived and seduced – that’s not good – all the way around to the know-it-all, whose lack of godly humility if it isn’t repented of and forsake, eventually will lead him or her to say in his heart, ‘I know MORE than God knows and ‘there is no God’ as far as I’m concerned!’

As I said a few moments ago, whether we’re talking about April or August or any other month or day, for that matter, I don’t want to be a fool. I don’t want God, my ultimate Judge, to label me or any of you, a fool! Now, why is that? I mean, David, what’s the big deal about wisdom and foolishness? Is it really that important?

Well, to answer that question, allow me to remind you of something I mentioned a moment ago; wisdom, is it really that big a deal? 6 books, 6 books of 66. If numbers of books are any indication, the sheer number of books that address those subjects of wisdom and foolishness, indicates how important these subjects are to God! Secondly, throughout the Scriptures what do we read about the nature and character of God? 6 books are specifically oriented this direction, and other 60 that are more generally focused this way also, what do they teach us about God? They teach us that HE is wise, infinitely wise and that He is, that His Word, as the expression of His nature and character, is the Source of all true wisdom!

Thirdly, is wisdom and foolishness really that significant? Consider this: in Colossians 2:2-3 we read that in Christ - who is Christ? He is our Savior, right? Our Lord, right? Our Example and Guide, right? Is wisdom and folly really that big a deal? The Scripture answers that with this powerful declaration, Colossians 2:2-3, “all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” are hidden, stored away, to be found, in Jesus Christ! I don’t want to be, nor do I want any of you to be an April, August or December fool – why? Because of al of what this Book says about the importance of wisdom! Because I want to be, yearn for you to be, like God and like Jesus Christ! But, listen – there are other reasons also: go back to our first passages of Scripture with me, will you please?

Why don’t I want to be, or, anyone else to be, a fool?

The first thing, indeed, a very startling thing to learn about the ultimate direction to which folly leads, is that it leads to rejection of God! Psalm 14:1 and Psalm 53:1, the same, identical verses. In both places God’s Word says of the fool, that he arrogantly declares in his puffed up heart, “[as far as I’m concerned] there is no God!”

Hold your place right there for a moment, and go to Psalm 10:3-4, and pay attention to the connection between these two different passages of Scripture.

Psalm 10:3-4, “For the wicked boasts of his heart’s desire; he blesses the greedy and renounces the LORD. The wicked in his proud countenance does not seek God; God is in none of his thoughts.”

What’s the connection between the verses here in Psalm 10, and the first verse of Psalm 14? You see it, don’t you? In both places the psalmist describes people who, as far as their arrogant hearts and their prideful minds are concerned, they have rejected God! But, look further, will you? In the one passage, the person who rejects God is described as a fool; but, in the other passage, the Psalm 10 passage, how is he or she labeled? He is labeled, she is described ‘wicked’. Wicked!

I don’t want God to view me as a fool because, simply because I don’t want God to judge and reject me as wicked! How about you?

Now, move across to the other Psalm passage we read from at the beginning – Psalm 36. Take a look: the theme as introduced in the very first verse is similar, isn’t it? David, the psalmist, tells us: God has given me a song, a word to share, an oracle, and it has to do with the sinful ways of the wicked. There’s that word again! What is it that marks a man, a woman, a young person, as wicked?

The starting point for wickedness, isn’t it interesting - yes, convicting - to know that the jumping-off point for wickedness is the very same starting point for wisdom. You remember the verse, don’t you? Proverbs 9:10. Listen as I read it, and compare it to Psalm 36:1.

Proverbs 9:10, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.”

Wickedness and wisdom begin at the very same place, though they end up at very different destinations. The fear of God is the crux of the matter!

Psalm 36:2-4 – Take a look at these verses and ask yourself, “Do I want these verses to be true of me? Do I want them to be true of my children, my grandchildren or anyone else I love and care about?”

Folly, rejection of God, and wickedness; it’s all related. Do you see it, my Loved Ones?

Having chosen not to fear God, having removed God from his thoughts - in New Testament terms, having seared his conscience - after repeatedly hardening it and hardening it and hardening it; what is it that fills the mind of the foolish, wicked man, woman or young person?

Verse two: HIMSELF! Himself! “There is no fear of God before his eyes…” So, what is before his eyes? Verse two: himself. “He flatters HIMSELF in his own eyes…”

His eyes, then what about his mouth? Verse 3, “The words of his mouth are wickedness and deceit…” And his mind and feet, where do they go? “He devises wickedness on his bed, sets himself in a way that is not good, and chooses not to hate what
God hates…” How come? I mean, how did he get this way? We skipped over it, in verse three; but zero in on it now, and notice how it all comes back around to where we started this morning. The man, the woman, the young person whose eyes have rejected the fear of God; the man, the woman, the young person who sets HIMSELF, and only himself, before his eyes; the man, the woman, the young person whose mouth, mind and motivations are all on one path: the path of wickedness, how did he or she get that way? Psalm 36:3 - He got that way, she got that way by ceasing to think and act wisely and righteously!

I’ve got two questions for you and me this morning: “Is that where we are?” And, “do we want to be, to continue to be April fools?”

One more time, Psalm 14:1, “The fool says in his heart, ‘there is no God.’”

You see it, don’t you? The change, the transformation from wickedness and folly to wisdom, is a matter of the heart…

Well, listen, I’ve got good news for you: that’s what April, Good Friday month, Resurrection month, is all about! That’s what Jesus, God’s Wisdom, Righteousness, Sanctification, and Redemption – incarnate – is all about! Amen. Praise God!