“God’s Wisdom is Loving” By Rev. Steven Sommerer
March 7, 2021 Third Sunday in Lent
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
The sermon text is from 1 Corinthians 1:18-25 previously read. We preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to the Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. This is our text.
The picture of Jesus in our Gospel doesn’t square very well with the modern take on Jesus. If anyone thinks they know anything about Jesus and Christians it’s that they’re supposed to be nice. But rather than being quiet and sweet, and attempting to facilitate a discussion of the injustice going on at the temple, Jesus fashioned a whip and chased out the money-changers and their animals, throwing over their tables. He acted like He owned the place, which, of course, He did.
So, what’s your take? Do you think Jesus came to be nice? Was He like a modern therapist affirming every person, refusing to make judgments? For those who want the polite, nice, but not assertive Jesus, these verses sound a discordant note, as though He won’t fit the mold of nice, inoffensive, easily-ignored Jesus.
I want you to do something for me. I’ve always asked my confirmation class to do this, and I want you to do it to yourself, then with your sons and daughters, especially high school or college aged, and your grandchildren. Ask if you will be saved and why? On what basis do you believe yes or no? Ask your kids if they know anyone who won’t be saved; or, it’s better if you ask it this way, do you believe any of your classmates or friends are going to hell if they die today? It gives you a window for having important discussions with your kids. But it’s also kind of a way to think about what sort of worldview we or our interviewees have embraced.
What I’ve found is that even among people who grew up in Church, many have mentally traded Jesus the God who cleansed the temple for the nice, easy-going version. Jesus 2.0, you might say. Many Christians simply can’t imagine that someone could die and go to hell.
The root reason is we don’t believe God’s Law anymore: Don’t really believe that “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” And not believing that we don’t believe what follows: “And are saved by grace through Jesus Christ.” People just kind of assume they’ll be in heaven, because they deserve it. They’re nice. Jesus is nice. It’s all nice. It’s why many don’t care about going to church, they don’t hunger and thirst for the righteousness Jesus gives in His Word and Sacrament. You don’t hunger and thirst for Jesus when you’re full of yourself. Jesus said, “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.” God doesn’t save nice people. The fact is: there aren’t any – “no one who does good”, Romans says. There are only sinners who: a) die in sin or b) sinners brought to repentance by the Holy Spirit.
The heresy that says everyone’s saved is called universalism. Universalism believes in a nice god, not a judgey, mc-judgey pants. But St. Paul would answer: “If righteousness could be gained through the Law, Christ died for nothing.” Jesus said. “Wide is the road that leads to destruction and many travel there; but narrow is the path that leads to life and only a few find it.” Our text says, “The wisdom of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing; but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”
Sometimes liberal Bible teachers say stuff like: the Old Testament condemned the practice of homosexuality, but nowhere did Jesus condemn it. A woman in our community serving in a pastoral role said exactly that in the newspaper on Feb.25. She said that the Old Testament talks down homosexuality, but she said essentially Jesus was unconditional love so He is probably OK with it.
But you know good and well, Jesus spelled out very exactly God’s will for sexuality: “Have you not heard! In the beginning God made them male and female; for that reason, a man shall leave his father and mother and be united to his wife and the two become one flesh.” The liberal Bible teacher was saying – not only is Jesus not the God of the Old Testament, but He’d probably disagree with that God – maybe because that One isn’t nice. Now you’ll have to work with me here, because this sermon isn’t really about homosexuality. It’s about worldly wisdom vs. God’s wisdom.
It’s a dangerous lie no true pastor should repeat to say that Jesus isn’t the God of the Old Testament, the Great I AM. And no true Christian can repeat it. It’s the demonic idea of driving a wedge between the God who gave the 10 Commandments in our Old Testament lesson (Ex.20) and Jesus, as though Jesus isn’t that God from Mt. Sinai. Dying worldly wisdom says, “That God is mean. Jesus is nice.”
Look at our Old Testament lesson and remember way back in Exodus 3 when God called out to Moses from the burning bush and told Moses to tell Pharaoh to let the children of Israel go. Moses made all kinds of excuses why he didn’t want to go, and finally asked “Who should I tell him sent me?” God answered, “Yahweh, I am, who I am.” Yahweh is hard to put into English. It means “I am” or maybe even “I am the God who is.” Sometimes people pronounce it Jehovah, but it’s the personal name for God in the Old Testament, like my name is Steve. God’s is Yahweh, IAM. You see in our English translation of Exodus 20:2 that when it’s Yahweh the “I Am” personal name of God, instead of writing the Hebrew Yahweh, your Bible writes it in all capitals, “LORD.”
Now, I want you to remember in John 8, Jesus was arguing with the Jews and telling them He is the eternal God over creation. Jesus said, “Before Abraham was born, I am.” Liberal Bible teachers often pretend Jesus never claimed to be God. Jesus was nice, they say; certainly not that disagreeable God of the Old Testament who gives Commandments and Laws.
But in John 8 when Jesus said, “Before Abraham was born, I am”, the Jews understood Jesus was saying, “I am Yahweh, the God of the Old Testament. I’m the One who spoke from the burning bush. I’m the One who gave the 10 Commandments on Sinai. I’m the One God who said in the Garden of Eden, “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife and the two will become one flesh. What God has joined together let no man separate.” Not only did Jesus claim to be the God of the Old Testament. He proved it by His resurrection. The Jews understood the claim He was making, so they picked up rocks to stone Jesus to death for blasphemy.
So why am I telling you this? It’s kind of involved, but if it helps you to consider it, I put the argument in a paper form you can pick up in back. No Christian should ever claim that Jesus is different than the God of Mt. Sinai. If Jesus isn’t that God in human flesh, He isn’t your Savior. He clears the temple, because it belongs to Him, and they’ve turned His house into a den of thieves.
Shame on those rascals for turning God’s house into a commercial money-making enterprise. Jesus won’t be nice about that. Sometimes being nice isn’t being loving, especially when to be nice tolerates and approves of sin. In this case the theft of the money-changers.
Our culture and even the Church culture slips into the nice Jesus’ mode, as though everyone is going to heaven by being nice. Our kids stop going to church because nice Jesus takes everyone to heaven. We talk nasty and hatefully to others. We watch trashy stuff. We live for money and piling up stuff, because we think Jesus is nice- It’ll be OK.
Jesus is the Eternal God, the Great I AM, as the glory of God dwelt in the temple and filled the Most Holy Place. Now, the Glory of God dwells in Jesus’ human flesh. “The Word became flesh and tabernacled among us, and we beheld His glory as of the only-begotten Son of God.” Jesus’ body is the new and true temple that being torn down God rebuilt on the third day by raising Jesus from the dead.
You never do anyone a favor by sheltering a fellow sinner, homosexual, heterosexual, transexual, your son or daughter, Jew, Muslim from God. You don’t do them or yourself any favors by pretending any human being is exempt from the universal call to repentance. Our society calls it nice, but it’s loveless and careless. It lets people go to their judgment without warning. And that’s not nice, and certainly not loving.
The Church’s invitation isn’t come be nice, like us nice people. It’s come fall on your face before I AM, the Only God who is. Fall before Him in repentance. Repentance isn’t just for homo or hetero or my mean neighbor. It’s for you and me. Repentance is for sinners. That means everyone. 1 Timothy 1 says, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.” God’s call isn’t to those people out there: it’s to all flesh and blood sinners who need a God who shared our flesh and blood in every way except without sin. The God whose death emptied death of its hold forever.
There are a lot of modern Greeks who still think the message of the cross is foolishness, and they’re still going to die in eternal hell. Don’t try to spare them the foolishness of the cross. Don’t try to apologize for Jesus or clean it up or try to make it somehow comprehensible to jive with politics in the year 2021. God’s Word is a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces. Don’t be ashamed of it, but believe it and speak it faithfully and fearlessly. You and I need it. Our kids need it. Trust God’s Word. Don’t try to soften or change God’s Word for yourself or your high school or college student. God can stick up for Himself. His Word has its own power to change hearts.
Speak the Law of God. It actually is truly loving, because in spite of the devil’s lies, the Law shows us the best shape of human life. Why would you want to shelter your kid from the best form of life? That’s as dumb as not telling your babies about eating vegetables because it makes them uncomfortable.
More importantly, Paul says, “The Law is put in charge to lead us to Christ.” Only as each and every one of us know we are sinners will we care that we have the Greatest Sinner Saver of All. The God who gave His Law on Sinai, suffered its judgment for you on Golgatha. Repent. Don’t trust in yourself, but trust in the temple that God the Father rebuilt on the third day, the Christ who conquered death and the grave forever. Amen.
And now may the peace of God which surpasses human understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.