Gods and Foolishness

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In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

The Law of God is obvious. It is summarized for us in Exodus 20, but in the end it is as obvious as that other law that God has made, the law of gravity. You don’t have to like the law of gravity, or “believe in it,” for it to be true. No matter what you think about it, it will not be denied; it must be taken into account, or serious injury or death will follow. You don’t have to believe it, but if you jump off your roof, you’ll quickly find out just how uncompromising the law of gravity is. And though the time-frame might be wider for the consequences of ignoring or disobeying the Law of God, it is no less uncompromising. Consider first the Second Table of the Law: the commandments we usually number from 6-10. Who will say that you can completely avoid the consequences of ignoring or transgressing those commandments? Look at it this way: will it go better or worse for you if you honor your parents? When you were a child, were things more peaceful when you obeyed your parents or when you disobeyed? Regardless of how good at parenting they were, and taking into account the fact that sinners will sin no matter how well other people keep the law, with very few exceptions it will go better for you if you honor and obey and respect your parents, as well as the other authorities that stem from the office of father. Will it be better or worse for you if you murder someone? Better or worse if you destroy your marriage by adultery? Better or worse if you steal the possessions of others? Better or worse if you continually lie and destroy others’ reputations, especially in a court of law? Better or worse if you continually desire what belongs to someone else? The consequences may be delayed longer than the consequences of jumping off your roof, but there are very few people who get away with such sin in the long run; and there are none who get away with such sin before God. Those statements about whether it’s better or worse to keep, rather than to disobey, the Law seem rather obvious, at least to me.

The consequences of disobeying the First Table of the Law—Commandments 1-3—may seem less obvious, especially when you consider how many people doubt or simply deny that there is a god, let alone the God of the Scriptures. But no matter who the god is, even if it’s just your own goals and desires and emotions, all gods are jealous. No god will share its glory with another. Think of how many men sacrifice wife and children on the altar of employment. Think of how many women sacrifice husband and child on the altar of ambition. Consider how all-consuming youth sports have become, to the exclusion of all others. Consider the destruction caused by people who worship in the sanctuary of “what I want” or “where my heart leads me.” The thing into which you pour all your time, money, and energy is your god. And Hell hath no fury like an idol scorned. And whatever god that is, you will hold its name sacred, and attack anyone who criticizes it. Your idols will not hold guiltless anyone who calls them empty and worthless things. And the days, the days dedicated to our idols are holy above all else! Let everything else give way: our days of relaxation and worship in the temples of our idols will be observed at the expense even of the higher gods to which we give lip service. We may think we can serve two masters, but we’re just lying to ourselves. Only one will sit on the throne of our hearts.

All of these things can be understood by any rational human being. We know, in our moments of honesty and clarity—usually when our idols have taken their vengeance on their competitors in our lives—we know the things to which we are bound. We know our gods, because we name them every single day in our conversations, actions, and priorities. The Law is written on our hearts, and wise men and women have explained and noted these things for thousands of years. All gods are equally demanding when it comes to the law, though the legal requirements of any given god may vary. We are worshiping people, and if one god or idol falls, we have no trouble putting another in its place. We must worship something or someone. We are addicted, and we’re always looking for our next idolatrous fix. That is why well-meaning Christians have sometimes called unbelievers “seekers.” There are certain people who have more clarity about the fact that every idol they’ve tried has failed. But that is a long way from the true God and His salvation. People do indeed seek gods, but they seek reasonable gods. They seek strong gods. They seek gods who will show them signs and give them the wisdom they seek. They seek gods in which they can boast: gods who have given them so much, done so much, helped so much. They do not seek foolish and weak gods. They do not seek crucified and helpless gods. They do not seek gods who will forgive them sins they don’t want to acknowledge and confess. That is, no one seeks the true God who has loved this world by sending it a baby. No one seeks the true God who has loved this world by sending it a crucified Jew. That is foolishness. That is ridiculous. The ridiculous deserves to be ridiculed, and there is no shortage of people on the internet who are up for the job. But God, in His anti-wise wisdom, chose the foolish to shame all us worshipers of wisdom. God, in His weak strength, chose the weak to shame all us worshipers of strength. Gods that promise to make you better, faster, stronger, more popular, prettier, happier, more successful, financially secure, with better marriages and happier children, are a dime a dozen. Everyone’s got some advice for you on all those topics, ready to give testimony to their own idols. But what good is a God hanging on a cross? What can a weak, dying God do for you? How can a God who claims to be risen from the dead, but whom you can’t see, help you live your best life now? But God chose the low and despised and the nothing things to bring to nothing the things we see and touch and call “real.” Why? So that no one can boast in His presence. Go ahead and bring all those other gods into the presence of the Living God. It is not only that you should not bring any other gods before this God. It is that you will not have any other gods before Him. They are all obliterated in an instant. They are only so much dust and wind and mist. We have made them all with our own hands! They speak with our voices, and walk with our legs, and think with our brains. They are as helpless as we are. There is Life—and then there are all the things we pile up in our houses, schedules, and electronic devices, and pretend we’re living. If it can’t give you life that lasts past the grave, it can’t be God. If it promises, but never delivers, it can’t be God. If it has to be made, instead of doing the making, it can’t be God.

God only is the source of your life in Christ Jesus. Jesus is not wise or righteous or holy or redeeming. He is Wisdom, and Righteousness, and Holiness, and Redemption, no matter whether we believe it or like it or think it will work for us. Jesus destroys the wisdom of the wise and the discernment of the discerning. He will always and forever be foolishness to the dying grasping at life. But for the living who are already dead, He is the Power to raise us from the dead. To you who are being saved, the weak, crucified Jesus is the power of God for resurrection. It is not demonstrable to human wisdom; it is beyond all law and understanding and reasonableness. If it were not, it would just be one more idol that people can choose to trust or discard. But people do not choose the crucified Jesus for their power and wisdom. Instead, God calls us—we who are weak, helpless, grasping at idolatrous straws. He chooses us in Christ, for a life that cannot be measured by all the yardsticks we have constructed to measure our lives. Christ is the only measure; He is Life itself, which is given to us foolishly in water and bread and wine. Therefore, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord” crucified and risen from the dead.

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7, ESV). Amen.

Pr. Timothy Winterstein, 3/10/15

One thought on “Gods and Foolishness

  1. Ouch! A Powerful sermon indeed! I need to listen to it often. The law did its work again- as I crashed on that curb over and over. I am NOT a very good driver. Thanks be to Christ I will not die there . I am blessed; by the peace and comfort God brings me in the use of the Word, through your sermons,

    Pax Domini

    Lorna Osborne

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