The Daftness of Seeking a Fool’s Profit

Relevant Text: 1 Cor. 3:18
Full Text: Job 15, 1 Cor. 3

Attack | In his letter to the Corinthians, Paul launches an attack on wisdom. He writes that Christ did not send him to preach the gospel with “words of eloquent wisdom” [1]. He reminds them that, in preaching to them, he didn’t use “lofty speech or wisdom” [2]. He also asks rhetorically, “Where is the one who is wise?” [3], and then says that “the world did not know God through wisdom” [4]. Not only does he criticize the Greeks for seeking wisdom [5], he also tells his own readers that not many of them are wise [6]. Does Paul see no place for wisdom in the Christian faith? Not at all!

Distinction | Rather, he’s attacking one kind of wisdom and exalting another. He’s attacking the human wisdom of this age, which says things like, “If you’re a CEO, then act and dress like one.” It secures victory by being successful and selects leaders based on eloquence, pedigree and charm. Its opposite, which Paul extols, is the wisdom of God, which says things like, “I am King and Lord, but I choose to serve others.” It secured victory by laying down the life of the Son of God to be mocked and killed.

Obstacles | We have at least two impediments, however, to gaining the wisdom of God. First, it is “secret and hidden” [7]. Second, we are constantly bombarded with the wisdom of this age, which is “folly with God” [8]. How do we overcome these barriers? We must ask the Lord to make us fools: “If anyone among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise” [9].

Prayer | Lord, You are the only wise God and, by your wisdom, we are saved. Thus, since your wisdom seems foolish to the world, we know that we cannot depend on our intellect to discern what is true. Therefore, let us not deceive ourselves [10]. Teach us to number our days that we may gain hearts of wisdom [11] – for we know that the wisdom of this age is foolish in light of eternity. Let us not seek a fool’s profit – this world’s riches, comforts, fame, entertainment and accolades – and, thereby, forfeit our own souls [12]. Instead, make us foolish in this age and wise in you. Then, all things will be ours – whether the world or life or death or the present or the future – for we are Christ’s and Christ is God’s. Amen.

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Footnotes

[1] See 1 Cor. 1:17  |  [2] See 1 Cor. 2:1  |  [3] See 1 Cor. 1:20  |  [4] See 1 Cor. 1:21  |  [5] See 1 Cor. 1:21  |  [6] See 1 Cor. 1:26  |  [7] See 1 Cor. 2:7  |  [8] 1 Cor. 3:19  |  [9] 1 Cor. 3:18  |  [10] 1 Cor. 3:18  |  [11] See Ps. 90:12  |  [12] See Matt. 16:26; Mark 8:36.

Why We Have Tree-Like Hope

Relevant Text: Job 14:14
Full Text: Job 14, 1 Cor. 2

Hope | “If you could have light and heal,” wrote Richard Baxter, “why are you not more in the sunshine?” [1] Baxter was an English pastor in the 1600s. He battled sickness after sickness his entire life, once saying that he was “seldom an hour free from pain.” At 35, when he nearly died, he found comfort in meditating on heaven, where his pain would be no more.

Resurrection | When Job’s friends were done with their first round of “comforting” him, Job wanted to talk to God, not them: “What you know, I also know; I am not inferior to you … I desire to argue my case with God” [2]. He lamented that even a tree could have more hope than he could: “For there is hope for a tree, it will be cut down, that it will sprout again” [3]. Yet, he wondered, “If a man dies, shall he live again?” [4]

Eternity | God has set eternity on every man’s heart [5] and, in Christ, we have seen the first fruits of our resurrection [6]. Therefore, our suffering is not the end of the story; our resurrection is. Baxter wrote how this hope of glory was thrilling to him in his suffering: “What a day that will be, when we, who have been kept prisoners by sin, by sinners, by the grave, shall be brought out by the Lord himself! It will not be such a coming as his first was, in poverty and contempt, to be spit upon, and buffeted … If a star must lead men from remote parts to come to worship the child in a manger; how will the glory of his next appearing constrain all the world to acknowledge his sovereignty! If, riding on [a donkey], he entered Jerusalem with hosannas; with what peace and glory will he come toward the New Jerusalem! If, when he was in the form of a servant, they cried out, ‘What manner of man is this, that even the winds and the seas obey him?’; what will they say when they shall see him coming in his glory, and the heavens and earth obey him?” [7]

Prayer | Lord, Yesterday, we reflected on your delight in turning the weak into the strong. Today, we rejoice that, when you come again, you will come in glory and honor. You will redeem our suffering. Therefore, let our hearts meditate on heaven and long for your return. Amen.

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Footnotes

[1] Richard Baxter. The Saints’ Everlasting Rest.  |  [2] Job 13:2-3  |  [3] Job 14:7-9  |  [4] Job. 14:14  |  [5] See Ecc. 3:11  |  [6] See 1 Cor. 15:20-23. See also John 11:25-26.  |  [7] Id. at FN1.

Why We Are #Linsane

Relevant Text: 1 Cor. 1:26-29
Full Text: Job 13, 1 Cor. 1

Linsanity | New Yorkers have a new Valentine – Jeremy Lin. The son of Taiwanese immigrants, Lin starred on his high school basketball team, but no college offered him an athletic scholarship. Nonetheless, he ended up at Harvard, where he was twice named to the All-Ivy Team. When he graduated, he was passed over yet again – no NBA team picked him up. In December, the Knicks signed him to a non-guaranteed contract (after he was waived by Houston), but they sent him to the D-League three times. Last Thursday, when Kobe Bryant was asked about the Lin story, he replied, “I have no idea what you guys are talking about … Who is this kid?”. Today, of course, he knows who Lin is … and so does the rest of the world. [1]He’s turned the Knicks around and brought new Lin-spiration to thousands.

Weakness | Why do we love Lin so much? It goes way beyond basketball and sports and ethnicity. It goes to our being made in the image of God. God absolutely loves to exalt the seemingly weak over the seemingly strong and, since we were made in His image, so do we. Throughout the Bible, God repeatedly chooses younger brothers, barren women and tax collectors. Paul wrote, “Not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth … God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong … so that no human being might boast in the presence of God” [2].

Surprise | Jesus chose not to cloak himself in nobility or fame. He came to a poor family in an unknown town and worked as a carpenter. In his life, he was ridiculed, insulted and mocked. Although God Himself was in their midst, the people benched him and gave all the playtime to the scholars and orators of the day. Yet, God made the cross the center of our faith – “the bloody, criminal, shame-covered, torturing, scandalous cross of Jesus” [3]. Today, of course, the entire world knows about Jesus. He rose again and led His people to victory.

Prayer | Lord, You designed our hearts to love gospel stories. Jesus had nothing to attract us to him, but you raised him up as Lord. Let us, therefore, not be swayed by external appearances or successes. Instead, let us boast about our weaknesses so that your strength is put on glorious display in our lives. Amen.

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Footnotes

[1] If you only read one article on Jeremy Lin, this should be it: Michael Luo. “Lin’s Appeal: Faith, Pride and Points.” The New York Times. 11 February 2012. See also (generally) D.R. “We have a Linner: basketball’s surprising new star.” The Economist: Game Theory. 8 February 2012.; Al Iannazzone. “Lin (25 points) leads Knicks past Nets.” Newsday. 4/5 February 2012.; Michael Klopman. “Jeremy Lin vs. Kobe Bryant: Lakers Star Unaware of Linsanity (Video).” Huffington Post. 11 February 2012. See also WSJ Speakeasy. “Jeremy Lin on His Fast Break to Fame, God, and Kobe Bryant.” 11 February 2012.  |  [2] 1 Cor. 1:26-29 ESV  |  [3] John Piper. Let the One Who Boasts Boast in the Lord. Sermon. 12 February 2006.

Living in a World of Pain

Relevant Text: Job 9:32-33
Full Text: Job 9; Rom. 13

Weeping | Yesterday, in Romans 12, we read, “Weep with those who weep” [1]. Today, in Job 9, we see how NOT to do that. Job’s friends sat with him, but never shared in his sorrow. Instead, they stood back and offered theology, suggesting that great suffering resulted from great sin. But Job knew better: “If I say, ‘I will forget my complaint, I will put off my sad face, and be of good cheer,’ I become afraid of all my suffering” [2]. Instead, he wanted the impossible – to take God to court: “For he is not a man, as I am, that I might answer him, that we should come to trial together. There is no arbiter between us, who might lay his hand on us both” [3].

Suffering | Job’s suffering was not extraordinarily unique. Mark Dever reflects, “Perhaps Job suffered more suddenly than any of us have suffered. But in the end, he did not suffer more comprehensively than we will suffer” [4]. Indeed, many of our brothers and sisters suffer every day. International Justice Mission writes, “More children, women and men are held in slavery right now than over the course of the entire trans-Atlantic slave trade” [5]. In North Korea, about 100,000 Christians are in prison [6]. The list goes on and on [7].

Sharing | When we weep with those who weep, we show more than friendship; we display the glory and love of God. In fact, to the extent that we don’t enter into others’ suffering, we fail to cultivate a deep longing for their suffering to end. When we share in their pain, however, we come to hate injustice and long for heaven – not merely to end our personal struggles, but also to release our brothers and sisters. As we cry with them, we sound like modern-day Jobs, “Where is the justice?” Yet, in Christ, there is an arbiter between God and us. He became flesh, entered into our suffering, and wept with us [8]. In him, God did not stand back. Jesus proclaimed good news to the poor, liberty to the captives, and the year of the Lord’s favor to the oppressed [9].

Praying | Lord, Things on this side of the tapestry often don’t make sense [10]. Yet, give us a real sense of suffering and a real sense of hope, as we long for the final consummation of your glory at the end of this age. Amen.

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Footnotes

[1] Rom. 12:15 ESV  |  [2] Job 9:27-28 ESV  |  [3] Job 9:32-33 ESV  |  [4] Mark Dever. The Message of the Old Testament: Promises Made. Kindle Location 9536.  |  [5] International Justice Mission. “Our Work: Injustice Today.” If you have yet to discover the work of IJM, I highly recommend you check it out on Facebook or Twitter. When I worked at the State Department, my colleagues and I frequently spoke of IJM as a well-respected, faith-based organization. It works to reform the rule of law as the next field of international development. Most of its employees are lawyers and police officers, investigating cases and bringing perpetrators to justice.  |  [6] Operation World. North Korea.  |  [7] This is an AMAZING interactive map about the worldwide Christian population published by Pew Forum in 2012: here. Also, published by Open Hands, this is their 2012 World Watch List with the 50 worst countries to live in as a Christian: here.  |  [8] See John 11, where Jesus weeps with the sisters of Lazarus – even though he knows that he will raise Lazarus from the dead in three days! Astounding that he wants to weep with them in their sorrow.  |  [9] See Luke 4:16-30.  |  [10] This footnote is dedicated to my dear and well-read friends, Barry and Tess Russell, who gave me such insight last weekend into our longing for the end of suffering as expressed in literature. Father Brown (a character in G.K. Chesterton’s mystery novels) once said, “We here are on the wrong side of the tapestry. The things that happen here do not seem to mean anything; they mean something somewhere else. Somewhere else retribution will come on the real offender. Here is often seems to fall on the wrong person” (“The Sins of Prince Saradine.” The Complete Father Brown. Kindle Location 2710). Similarly, in The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky, the priest said, “Let me make it clear that, like a babe, I trust that the wounds will heal, the scars will vanish, that the sorry and ridiculous spectacle of man’s disagreements and clashes will disappear like a pitiful mirage, like the sordid invention of a puny microscopic, Euclidean, human brain, and that, in the end, in the universal finale, at the moment universal harmony is achieved, something so magnificent will take place that it will satisfy every human heart, allay all indignation, pay for all human crimes, for all the blood shed by men, and enable everyone not only to forgive everything but also to justify everything that has happened to men.”

Paul: “Let’s Get Practical”

Relevant Text: Rom. 12:1
Full Text: Job 8; Rom. 12

Living Sacrifice | Romans is a theological powerhouse. Yet, in Chapter 12, Paul gets practical. He fleshes out what it means “to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God” [1]. How do we do this? How do sinful believers live in community? We work at it [2]. What does Paul suggest?

Genuine Love | Paul writes that our love should be “genuine” and “sincere” and “without hypocrisy” [3]. We should seek to be real people to one another and safe people for one another. Transparency and candor, according to Tim Keller, are essential in friendship. He writes, “Real friends encourage and affectionately affirm one another [4], yet real friends also offer bracing critiques: ‘Faithful are the wounds of a friend’ [5]. Like a surgeon, friends cut you in order to heal you. Friends become wiser together through a healthy clash of viewpoints. ‘As iron sharpens iron, so friend sharpens friend’ [6][7].

Devoted Family | Paul writes, “Love one another with brotherly affection” [8]. We should have warm and deep affection for one another because we are devoted to each another in brotherly love, with God as our Father [9] and Jesus as our older brother [10]. We share our joys and sorrows [11]. We are committed to each other. Constancy is another essential quality to friendship, according to Keller: “Friends ‘love at all times’ and especially during ‘adversity’ [12]. The counterfeit is a ‘fair-weather friend’ who comes over when you are successful but goes away if prosperity, status or influence wanes [13]. True friends stick closer than a brother [14]. They are always there for you” [15].

Hospitable Givers | Paul writes, “Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality” [16]. Our love is not a mere feeling. It meets practical needs. We make soup for the sick, share resources with the unemployed, and open our homes to friends in need. Yes, this may “cost” us. As Keller writes, “When the Bible speaks of love, it measures it primarily not by how much you want to receive but by how much you are willing to give … How much of your precious time, emotion, and resources are you willing to invest?” [17]

Prayer | Lord, We are your children, made in your image to reflect your glory and redeemed by your Son to walk in the light. As we increasingly become satisfied in your deep mercy, grow our love for one another more and more in authenticity and devotion and hospitality. Amen.

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Footnotes

[1] Romans 12:1  |  [2] See Romans 12:18  |  [3] “Genuine” is the ESV translation, “sincere” is the NIV, and “without hypocrisy” is the NASB.  |  [4] See Prov. 27:9; 1 Sam. 23:16-18  |  [5] See Prov. 27:5-6  |  [6] See Prov. 27:17  |  [7] Tim and Kathy Keller, The Meaning of Marriage. New York: Penguin (2011), p. 112.  |  [8] Romans 12:10 ESV  |  [9] See Matt. 6:9  |  [10] See Heb. 2:5-18  |  [11] Romans 12:15  |  [12] Prov. 17:17  |  [13] See Prov. 14:20; 19:4, 6, 7  |  [14] Prov. 18:24  |  [15] Tim and Kathy Keller, The Meaning of MarriageNew York: Penguin (2011), p. 112.  |  [16] Rom. 12:13 ESV  |  [17] Tim and Kathy Keller, The Meaning of MarriageNew York: Penguin (2011), p. 78. Although Keller presents these questions in the context of loving a spouse, they are relevant to loving family members as well. How does God call us to give our time and resources to our brothers and sisters? Quite often, sacrificially.

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