What’s the difference between a wise guy and a wise person? A wise guy uses his intelligence to tear apart people or things. A wise person uses their words to encourage and to build. They serve others.
Paul writes this letter to the Corinthian church around A.D. 50 because he’s concerned that they are pulling apart at the seams. He is dealing with how divided they are, choosing sides.
The Corinthians lived in a Greek culture that loved to argue and debate about philosophy and ideas. I like to debate. I would have loved to be a lawyer. Now, I present the case for a higher court.
But, the believers in Corinth were confused about wisdom. The wisdom of the world is based on our own arrogance and pride that leads to a fall and destruction. The wisdom of God is based on the cross of Jesus and leads to eternal life.
For Christ didn’t send me to baptize, but to preach the Good News—and not with clever speech, for fear that the cross of Christ would lose its power. 1 Corinthians 1:17
I don’t want people to think – “Wow! Cole is so smart! I didn’t understand a thing he said, but he is sure smart.” Not that anyone has ever thought that about me. But, “Hey! I actually understand the Word of God better now. And I know how to apply it to my life and put it into practice!”
I want people to think I’m wise and that I know what I’m talking about. But the minute I start talking about the cross of Jesus, well, people start to think I’m out of my mind!
18 The message of the cross is foolish to those who are headed for destruction! But we who are being saved know it is the very power of God. 19 As the Scriptures say, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise and discard the intelligence of the intelligent.” 1 Corinthians 1:18-19
You need Wisdom
Build your life on godly wisdom, not human wisdom. Just because it’s popular doesn’t mean it’s right. That’s the sliding scale of moral relativism in our world. And it’s always changing. And laws are always changing. But God’s Word doesn’t change. It doesn’t matter how WOKE we are, we need to be awake to the truth of God’s Word.
We get caught up in what makes sense to us. This inevitable will disconnect us from each other instead of uniting us.
So, where does this leave the philosophers, the scholars, and the world’s brilliant debaters? God has made the wisdom of this world look foolish. 21 Since God in his wisdom saw to it that the world would never know him through human wisdom, he has used our foolish preaching to save those who believe. 22 It is foolish to the Jews, who ask for signs from heaven. And it is foolish to the Greeks, who seek human wisdom. 23 So when we preach that Christ was crucified, the Jews are offended, and the Gentiles say it’s all nonsense. 24 But to those called by God to salvation, both Jews and Gentiles, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God. 1 Corinthians 1:20-24
The wisdom of the world can’t connect us with God. We are swayed by popular opinion and polls. By beautiful people who are influencers. By celebrities and musicians. And they constantly try to shame Christians into thinking they are foolish to believe in Jesus.
Human wisdom is about self-dependence. It’s not your education, or your degrees. Not your IQ or how smart you are. It’s about depending on yourself for everything.
You’ve got all these different approaches. Paul talks about the philosophers and their rationalism and reason.
And you have different ethnicities, the Jews and the Gentiles, and they both approach wisdom differently.
Paul talks about the Jews. They tried to connect with God by keeping all the laws, and checking all the boxes and being good enough, and doing all the right things, and not doing any of the wrong things, but it resulted in them being dependent on themselves for everything.
The Gentiles worshipped idols. That was their way to connect with God. And by making sacrifices. It was all about what they did. It was all them and not about God at all.
And it seems so foolish to think that there is any other way but depending on yourself. Following Jesus seems so foolish. How could that work? Because that was all they were taught and all they knew. If someone says you’ve been wasting your time by doing all this. That’s how you thought it was done. So, they were fooled to think they could make Christianity acceptable to the world around them through their own intellect. Christianity doesn’t make sense apart from Jesus.
The Good News doesn’t seem true in a bad news world until you get to know Jesus. We don’t need more information. We need a totally new way of thinking. It is so different that it seems like foolishness.
It doesn’t make sense. You can’t see the love and sacrifice and debt that was paid.
Being smarter doesn’t necessarily lead you to the cross. Humility does.
3 Ways to Be Wise
1. Rely on God’s Wisdom.
“My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord.
“And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.
For just as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so my ways are higher than your ways
and my thoughts higher than your thoughts. Isaiah 55:8-9
Following Jesus doesn’t mean checking your brains at the door. Christians are thinkers. In fact, there’s a whole book in the Bible, the book of Proverbs that is all about thinking. Here’s how to be wise. It’s not being dumb. Christians think differently about God and the world.
Life doesn’t always make sense. God’s ways are above us. Sometimes they are countercultural. Parents see things kids don’t see. That’s how God is with us. His perspective is higher and better.
God helps us accept what we couldn’t see before based on our own opinions.
We didn’t save ourselves. God saved us!
2. Reject your own wisdom.
How do you find information today? The total number of servers Google has is a well-kept secret, but one recent estimate puts the total at 2 and a half million. Using a search algorithm called PageRank, Google crawls 20 billion websites every day and performs over 3 and a half billion searches per day. Google has been visited 62.19 billion times this year. Does anybody remember the Dewey decimal system at the library? The card catalog system made us search by subject, author, or title. The internet’s ability to put knowledge at our fingertips is amazing. It seems that every bit of information is just one click away!
But as great as that is, it doesn’t hold a candle to the Holy Spirit’s search engine. One of the roles of the Holy Spirit is to search. The Holy Spirit knows absolutely everything. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God.
God knows the number of hairs on your head. Every little thought and desire you have. You name it, God knows it … And He is searching everything, all the time.
When we can get all the information, all the time, we take wisdom for granted. We have knowledge. But it doesn’t help us live any better. Maybe it’s worse.
This is the result of depending on ourselves. We set ourselves up as the standard. As if we have full understanding. We don’t. We can’t. We compare ourselves to others. We are a body together. Our head is Christ! He is our wisdom.
26 Remember, dear brothers and sisters, that few of you were wise in the world’s eyes or powerful or wealthywhen God called you. 27 Instead, God chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful. 28 God chose things despised by the world, things counted as nothing at all, and used them to bring to nothing what the world considers important. 29 As a result, no one can ever boast in the presence of God.
Church is essential.
Our culture is saying it isn’t important. Of course, they are! But people today are suffering with mental issues of depression and anxiety, and there’s skyrocketing abuse and divorce, and all of these areas that we address through the gospel and the church.
Christianity doesn’t fit well with the ideas accepted in our culture. If your idea of Christianity is that everybody’s going to agree with what you believe, then that’s not the Christianity of the Bible. We have different beliefs, different values, and different standards. If our beliefs and standards are different than what we find in the Bible, we don’t adjust the Bible, we allow God to adjust our thinking.
God chooses the powerless and the marginalized and the oppressed. Not the ones our world would choose. Look at Jesus’ disciples. They were fishermen and tax collectors. Why not choose the politicians and the powerful? The well-respected ones?
I love that about The Connection Church. It’s not our strength, our abilities, our intelligence. It’s the spirit of God working through us. So that when people look at us, they say, that must be God!!! God chooses people that the world considers weak and foolish.
3. Respect God’s power and Repent of evil.
We need to adjust our thinking to God’s reality. The result is running into fewer walls and living a healthier, more fulfilling life. We all want that.
This foolish plan of God is wiser than the wisest of human plans, and God’s weakness is stronger than the greatest of human strength. 1 Corinthians 1:25
Even our convincing arguments to lead people to Jesus fall short. You can’t argue someone into the kingdom of God. God’s Spirit has to draw people.
The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding. Proverbs 9:10
What are the values we hold onto? What wise godly counsel will I look for? Get all the facts at any cost.
Let’s plainly tell people the message of the cross. They might think we are simple-minded, or naïve, or foolish. But God calls people to himself when Christians share the good news of Jesus. We don’t know who God is calling or when. We just keep telling them about Jesus, praying for them, living our faith in front of them, being authentic Christian. Whether they think it’s foolish or not, we just keep doing that. It worked for you. Somebody you know is waiting. They’re listening. It’s starting to sink in. Let’s be people who keep trusting in God’s Wisdom.