WISE LIKE JESUS
- Pastor Mark Driscoll
Father God, thank you. Thank you for these people that have come to study Scripture together today as your church; and God, we know that nothing can be done in us, through us, for us, apart from the work of your Holy Spirit. So we invite you, Holy Spirit, to come now to lead us, guide us, convict us, empower us, to reveal to us the person of Jesus, to give saving faith to those who need it, to bolster the faith of those who are struggling, to allow us to focus on the person and the work of Jesus today so that he might have the opportunity to transform our lives. And so we give ourselves, we give our church, and we give this time; in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ we pray. Amen.
Well, as we get into it, today’s topic is really about spirituality, which seems simple but is very complicated because there is no agreed-upon definition of what it means to be a spiritual person. You go to the bookstore, there’s a spirituality section – a lot of movies, a lot of music that is around spiritual themes. And the question is what in the world does it mean to be spiritual? How do you know if you’re spiritual? What makes someone spiritual? What are we even talking about?
And outside of the church there are a lot of definitions. If you pray a lot, meditate, drink bottled water, recycle, do yoga, put your feet behind your head, you’re spiritual. If you’re a good person, if you give money to charity, if you travel overseas to a so-called sacred place, maybe then you’re a spiritual person. In the church there are many different definitions of what it means to be a real spiritual person, depending upon what church you go to. Some churches you have to speak in tongues and then you go varsity, you’re spiritual. Others, you have to memorize lots of verses in the King James Bible, then you’re spiritual.
Others, you have to like a certain kind of music or memorize certain prayers or whatever it might be. And the question persists: well, what is a spiritual person, how does someone become spiritual, and what does it even mean to be a spiritual person? It’s important for us because we live in a very spiritual town that’s not a very Christian town, just like the city of Corinth to which Paul was writing. And the people in his church had massive disagreement over what it meant to be spiritual.
Some said if you’re married you’re real spiritual. Others said no, if you’re single. Others said if you’re sexually active, if you’re chaste, one of those makes you spiritual. If you get drunk or if you don’t get drunk, that makes you spiritual. If you’re rich or poor or young or old, and they all broke into teams saying, “This is what it means to truly be a real spiritual person.” Paul tries to clear up all their understanding, and he does so by simply telling them that to be spiritual simply means that you are filled with, led by, empowered by, God the Holy Spirit. That being spiritual is not necessarily something that we do; being spiritual is something that God does to change us.
And so he is going to focus in this section repeatedly on the active ministry of the Holy Spirit, and he will teach us a four-fold process whereby God the Holy Spirit works through a Spirit-filled preacher to teach spiritual truth in spiritual words to make spiritual people. So that’s how it works: God the Holy Spirit through a preacher, teaching spiritual truths in spiritual words to make spiritual people. And as we begin he’s going to begin by talking about the preacher. And this will sound weird because I’ll be a preacher preaching about preaching.
But these are the verses that guys like me love. We love the verses on preaching because we preach, and in our day you need to know that the world is filled with preachers. You turn on the TV, a sermon, a message is being preached. You turn on your iPod, you listen to a song, a sermon, a message is being preached. You take a class, and a sermon, a message is being preached. You read a book, a sermon, and a message is being preached. You open a piece of mail, you look at a pop-up ad, you receive some sort of marketing or advertising or media – it is all of these mediums through which people preach to you all the time.
And so might I submit to you that you are preached at all the time with lots of conflicting messages, and the question is which messages are true and which preachers are to be trusted? That’s the real question. So Paul answers that beginning in verse 1 talking about what it means to be a preacher. He says, “When I came to you, brothers,” when I showed up in Corinth to preach, “I did not come with eloquence” – I wasn’t the best speaker in the world – “or superior wisdom” – other people had higher IQs – “as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God.”
Verse 2: “For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but rather with a demonstration of the Holy Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power.” Here he’s talking about the preacher. Well, this may astonish you, but the first thing you need to be a spiritual person is someone who’s a paid professional that yells at you. That’s very important for you – you’re welcome. Now, let me tell you what a spiritual preacher, he says, is not.
First of all, a preacher is not necessarily rock star cool. This is my least favorite point of the message, where I declare to you that I am not cool, but you know they say the first step is to admit you’re powerless to overcome your weaknesses and just accept your condition. So I am not cool, and I know I’m not cool. I’ve never been shot. I’ve never shot anyone. I have never been in rehab. I don’t have children in other cities like NBA players – they’re all in my house. I have one wife, just one, and we’ve been together since I was 17. I have a four-door vehicle. I recycle. I am not cool.
I don’t have tattoos. I don’t smoke. I don’t play guitar. I’m not cool, and most preachers aren’t cool, amen? How many of you noticed that? You visited other churches. You’re like, “They’re just not cool.” I know; I know. And many of them wear suits, which further diminishes their capacity to even elevate to the level of cool.
Because preachers just aren’t cool; that’s just the way it is. We aren’t the coolest people. That’s what Paul says. He wasn’t very cool. And he wasn’t cool. It doesn’t tell us in the Bible what he looked like, but historically there is a record that says that he was short, bald, crooked bowed legs, a crooked nose. And he was beaten a lot in his life, so he had a lot of scars and probably was missing a few teeth, and he wasn’t a good-looking guy.
You look at Paul, and he was not handsome, right? He was somewhere between Woody Allen and George Costanza from Seinfeld – that’s the apostle Paul. True story. So the Corinthians had read his letter, and they thought, “Yes! Paul is coming!” And he shows up and they’re like, “What the – what an ugly man! What an ugly man – we wanted Brad Pitt. We got Homer Simpson. This is not what we were shooting for. This is not a pretty man.” And how many of you have had that, where you listen to a band or you read a book and then you look for the author online or you go to see the band in concert. And you get front-row seats and you’re like, “Oo, oh, man – should’ve went for the balcony – he’s an ugly man!”
That’s what their impression was of Paul – not real pretty. Most pastors aren’t pretty. Most have huge guts, yell a lot, no hair, wear suits – I’m on my way, okay. And he also says that preachers aren’t rock star cool. They’re also not rock-solid calm. He said he was nervous and anxious and with much fear and trembling. And you need to know this, that preachers are an insecure, often uncomfortable bunch, right, myself included. It is a weird thing to yell at people for a living. If you can think about it, imagine having to do my job. How many of you, your greatest fear is speaking to large groups of people? It is a little challenging, to say the least.
You don’t want to come off looking like some wing nut. And also, too, you know that people are gonna hate what you have to say, right, because what I have to say is, “You’re evil. Knock it off.” So no matter who you are, that usually doesn’t go over real favorably. Like politicians don’t get elected on that platform.
Preaching is also something that’s a little intimidating sometimes because, well, people don’t like to be preached at. And preaching is a weird thing, but it’s through preaching that God has chosen to work. And God has chosen to change people. God has chosen to use this medium, so I preach. But I must tell you that I’m not always calm. I’m fairly calm here because, you know, it’s dark and I have a little distance. And I’m an introvert, and this is why preaching is easier for me – easier than some things. What’s harder for me is having a conversation with one person. Seriously, I’m a total oddball.
Like I’ll look at the ground, and I’m awkward and socially peculiar, because I’m kind of shy. I’m an introvert. I like books. I like to be by myself. And this is easier because it’s monologue, not dialogue, and it’s impersonal, and I can’t see you anyways because I’ve got the lights on me so bad, so this is a happy place for me. But sometimes when I travel and I go speak at other places I really get stressed out. I have a hard time sleeping. I get all freaked out. I’m all nervous because like, “Well, they’re gonna hate me. They’re not gonna like this. This isn’t gonna go well.”
It just, there’s a – and Paul says, “You know what? I’m not the best looking guy. I’m not the greatest speaker. They’re never gonna pick me, you know, to host the Academy Awards. And in addition, sometimes I’m a little scared when I’m up there, and I feel a little insecure, and I feel a little out of my element.” So preachers aren’t the coolest cats, and they’re not the calmest cats. But a preacher is supposed to do a few things that Paul says. And I say this because many of you want to be preachers – a lot of you dudes are gonna want to be preachers.
Some of you are gonna leave here because you hate me. Others of you are gonna leave here because you’re gonna go to another church, and God’s gonna call you elsewhere – you’re gonna move. When you go to a church there has to be a preacher. The first thing the preacher needs to do is preach. It’s just so weird to me. I talked to somebody recently who said, “In our church we don’t have preaching. We all sit in a circle and we share.” Sharing? Preaching – that’s what we’re talking about. That’s a chat room. You could do that online. Somebody needs to preach.
But the reason that there’s a rejection of preaching is because this postmodern mood rejects authority and truth. “There’s no truth, and no one has any authority over me.” Well, Jesus says, “I am the Truth, and all authority has been given to me.” And when we talk about Jesus, now we’re talking about the Truth, and he has authority, and that has to come through preaching, not just people saying, “Well, that’s your perspective, opinion.” No, no, no – we’re talking about Jesus, who is the Truth, reigns and rules in authority – that’s what preaching has to be about.
And it’s important not only that preaching be done, but what Paul calls here “the testimony about God.” That the preaching is supposed to be the testimony about God, or Scripture; that the Bible needs to be preached. How many of you have been to a church, and there’s no verses? There’s no Bible at all. The Bible’s not read. The Bible’s not taught. You don’t learn a lot of verses. Funny story, drama, skit, you know, and then a few power ballads. It’s like where were the verses? Where was the teaching? The Bible must be taught. The truth about God must be taught for there to be a church.
So it has to be Biblical, but not just Biblical. Paul says, “When I was with you, the only thing I wanted to talk about, the only thing I wanted to think about was the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.” Okay, so what we’re learning here is that the church has to have a preacher. The preacher needs to preach the Bible, and the preacher needs to preach the Bible about Jesus. And this is the big I E on the eye chart, right? We can’t miss this. This is the most important thing. If you leave here and you go to another church, sit and listen and make sure you’re told about Jesus. If not, that’s not a Biblical message – it’s just not.
I’ve been to churches and I listen, and okay, lots of verses, lots of principles, very nice. We didn’t learn about Jesus. The whole point of the Bible is Jesus. The whole point of the testimony about God is Jesus. The whole point of the preacher is to teach and to compel people toward the person and the work of Jesus. You may disagree with me on a lot of things, but the one thing that holds us together is we believe that the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, his death on the cross, is the most important issue in all of human history.
And Paul says, “All I talked about was the cross.” And people say, “Well, isn’t there anything else we could talk about? How about joy? How about discipleship? How about marriage? How about dating and courtship? How about parenting?” It all – it all has to be tethered to the cross. You can’t have parenting apart from the death of Jesus, because your kid’s a wicked little evil sinner. They come out of the womb screaming and yelling and peeing, declaring war on everybody. And unless you know about Jesus who died on the cross to forgive sin, reconcile people to God, and make them new people, that kid is gonna be an evil-doer forever. Your only hope for that little freak is Jesus, right?
Look, my wife just gave birth to our first kid. He came out screaming and peeing – it’s like, “Here we go!” That’s the first thing he does. His only defense is to turn into a sprinkler, and he is- gonna establish his dominion on the earth. Okay, he needs Jesus – that’s what parenting’s about, making sure your kids know and love Jesus. “What about marriage? Can’t we talk about marriage?” Well, the marriage needs the cross, because you’re both evil, and you’re gonna sin against each other, and you’re either gonna kill each other or Jesus will die for your sin, but one way or another, somebody’s gonna die in your family, right?
And so the marriage needs Jesus, and joy is tethered to Jesus, and friendship is tethered to Jesus and his death and his burial and his resurrection. What that means is we can’t talk about anything without talking about the person of Jesus and his death, burial and resurrection to take away sin. That’s what Paul says. “You guys want to talk about 10, 15, 20 things. I talked about one thing that fixes everything. That is Jesus.” So this needs to be the way the preacher preaches: opens the Bible, tells about Jesus, connects everything to Jesus, and does so in a way that people can understand, right?
Now, some of you wish I would tuck my shirt in and use big words, because you brought your friends and they think I’m an idiot. I know, but the point is that the point of the sermon is not that everyone would think I am smart. The point of the sermon is not, “Man, that preacher is so smart!” Right, I talked to somebody recently. They go to a church where the preacher is really smart; has a lot of degrees and uses a lot of big words and is on Thesaurus.com all the time just to get it right. And never tells stories about hillbillies or rednecks or anything.
And I said, “Well, what did you learn on Sunday at the church?” They said, “I don’t know, but he is so smart.” Well, ducky! You know, It’s okay for a preacher to be smart, but the preacher needs to speak in such a way that the massive number of people in the city actually know what they’re talking about, okay? Now, let me tell you this: I read a lot. I study a lot. I have a huge library. Look, I get it. I like academics. But when it comes to teaching, it has to be in plain, simple street vernacular. It just has to be translated to regular folks, I mean, because when the Bible was written there were two forms of Greek.
There was classical Greek, which was for the academics and the erudite and those who were highly educated. And then there was Koine Greek, which was for the plumbers and the farmers and the janitors and the elementary school kids, and just sort of the normal language on the street. And when God had the Bible written he had to choose between classical Greek or Koine Greek. What do you think he chose? Koine Greek. Speak in such a way that plumbers and farmers and janitors and 9-year-olds can actually understand. And so the preacher who takes Koine, translates it into classical, and uses big words so you’ll think he’s smart is really not being very Biblical.
Our God came as a humble Galilean peasant who swung a hammer. The point is that you gotta just get it on the streets. You gotta make it plain. It’s gotta be clear. It’s just gotta be easily accessible for as many people as possible. And some of you wonder, “Why does Mark tell jokes? Why is he goofy? Why doesn’t he tuck his shirt in? How come he doesn’t say ‘beseech,’ you know? How come?” Well, because I want plumbers and janitors and regular folks to understand what we’re talking about. We’re talking about Jesus, who died to take away sin. He’s God, and the only way to eternal life. That’s what we’re talking about. Make it plain, make it clean, make it clear.
For that to happen, the preacher who opens the Bible and teaches about Jesus has to be filled with the Holy Spirit. That’s what Paul says: “I wasn’t cool, I wasn’t calm, but I did come with the power of the Holy Spirit.” And the power of the Holy Spirit is what enables a preacher to preach, and some of the best preachers in the history of the world are not attractive, and they’re not that brilliant. One of the greatest preachers was D.L. Moody, and I’ve read a lot of biographies on him, and I’ve seen some of his outlines for his sermons. His sermon outlines usually are like three words, and two of them are misspelled – literally. “How in the world did that guy preach to millions?” Well, he was filled with the Holy Spirit. He was filled with the Holy Spirit. And here’s how a preacher becomes filled with and led by the Holy Spirit: first is meditation on Scripture. Any of you want to preach, teach or know Scripture, the first thing is meditation. Meditation is humbly coming under the authority of Scripture and thinking about it all the time. Getting a verse or a word or a concept or an event that is in your mind, and thinking about it all the time. I am thinking about Scripture all the time.
I like think about the Bible all the time. That’s all I’m ever thinking about – freakishly weird. And like I’m so weird that I’ll quote verses that have nothing to do with anything just to make myself chuckle – I mean I’m just a very peculiar man, right? It’s so bad that my poor wife, a little while back she said, “Man, you were talking in your sleep a lot last night. You woke me up.” I said, “I’m sorry. What was I talking about?” She said, “You went through the whole book of Ephesians.” In my sleep – that’s how freakish I am about my Bible. Like I’m exegeting the whole thing in order – she’s like, “You just went right through it.
“And I stayed up for a while; it was a pretty good sermon.” But just thinking about it all the time – you’re driving in your car, you’re brushing your teeth, you’re doing your dishes, you’re mowing your lawn. You should be thinking about Scripture. “Hm. Okay, what does God – and pray Holy Spirit, teach me. Teach me your Word here. You’ve inspired the writing of Scripture. Now inspire my understanding of that same Word. I want to hear from you. I want to know you. I want to listen. I want to learn.” Meditation.
As we read through the Bible we realize, “Oh boy, that’s a sin. I need to repent. I need to conform to the teaching of Scripture.” These are the means by which – meditation, prayer, and confession and repentance of sin – that God the Holy Spirit can work through and in spite of and lead and use a preacher. That’s what happens. Now, what happens is then the preacher has to preach. And I tell you what, preaching is hard. I thought that it wouldn’t be as hard as it is. When I became a Christian, God told me to preach, and I remember getting a degree in speech. In my high school, I was president of the student body – I’d speak to a thousand kids all the time, and I thought, “Oh, this is easy!”
And then I tried to preach – wow, I stunk! And I’m not saying I’m good, but imagine how bad it was. It was so hard to preach, because- because it was just something totally different than anything I had ever done. I had done radio, I had done speeches, I did all kinds of things, but preaching was just something altogether different. And unless the Holy Spirit showed up it was big-time bad. I preached in one church, small church – didn’t go well, a bunch of people left. I was a visitor – I preached there once. They never asked me back.
There was another church I preached at; they wanted to give me a shot. I preached once, same thing happened. So I’d only preached twice in two small churches, and I thought, “I’ll learn how to preach by preaching,” which is like, “I’ll learn how to drive by driving a clutch on I-5 while I’m smoking and talking on the phone and making martinis.” It’s like, “Somebody’s gonna die!”
But over the years, through practice and time, and error and trial, you get better at it. It is like driving a clutch.
I mean there was a church not far from here, and the church was struggling and dead, and they hired a wonderful guy and a good Bible teacher to come in and restart the church and take the building over. So he called me up. He said, “Mark, could you come? I’ll show you the building, and maybe we could just get some time in prayer together that God would let me restart this church, and the people would come and learn about Jesus?” I said, “Of course; you’re a good brother.”
So we went together. It was just not a good church. I said, “Well, I wonder why this church is dying and no one is coming?” And I went up to the pulpit and there was the sermon notes that the guy had preached the Sunday prior, and they were downloaded from Yahoo.com.
I said, “Well, here you go – the dude’s preaching Yahoo!” I don’t know about you, like Yahoo’s a good place maybe to like get a book or to lie about being attractive so someone will date you, but it’s not a good place to meet Jesus and to learn about the truth of the Bible. I said – and I looked at the time, because he printed it out – he printed it out late Saturday night. So late Saturday night he says, “Well, I gotta preach tomorrow. I’ll go to Yahoo.” Click. And then he just gets up and reads it. That guy wasn’t praying, meditating, repenting, time with Jesus. Wasn’t studying the year in advance; didn’t put 30 hours in to figure it out. Just got up and read something off of Yahoo and wonders why there’s nobody left in the church.
Well, the other guy comes in, does love Jesus, is filled with the Holy Spirit, does connect everything to the cross, and now he’s outgrown the building with multiple services – because God blesses the preaching of his Word. That’s what he does. That’s how he works. So if you leave here, know this: that you need to be in a church where the Bible is taught by someone who’s filled with the Holy Spirit, and that the issue is always Jesus. And make sure that they’re doing their homework to get ready to teach you something, and when they teach it that it’s actually understandable.
So you can bring your plumber to church and he’s not gonna feel like he’s dumb; he’ll understand that they’re talking about Jesus, and that’s the point of the church. So Paul sums all this up for the Corinthians because they were criticizing him, saying, “Aw, we’ve heard better speakers. We’ve seen cooler people. We’ve had more interesting insights.” So Paul says, “Yeah, but I told you about Jesus. Isn’t that what really counts? And I prayed, and I meditated, and I repented of sin, and I spent time in Scripture, and you know what? The Holy Spirit used that to change your life.”
And that is the mark of true spiritual preaching – people’s lives are changed. Non-Christians become Christians. Sinners become repentant. People’s whole lives get changed because they’re learning and all of a sudden God uses the preached Word to transform them, because faith comes by hearing the Word of God. That’s what Scripture says. So Paul says that spiritual preachers preach spiritual wisdom – that’s his second point, beginning in verse 6.
“We do, however, speak a message or wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. No, we speak of God’s secret wisdom, a wisdom that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.” That’s Jesus. “However, as it is written: ‘No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him – but God has revealed it to us by his Holy Spirit. The Spirit searches all thing, even the deep things of God.”
The preacher is supposed to preach spiritual wisdom. Let me explain this. What that means is what you hear in church is different than everything that you hear elsewhere. It should be, if it’s true and Biblical, because what he’s saying is that non-Christians don’t think like Christians. That non-Christians work from human speculation. That Christians, if their Bible is open and their heart is open and the Holy Spirit is at work, they don’t work by human speculation. They get divine revelation.
Because of that, Christians have totally different views of God, themselves, life, death, and all the big questions, and they answer them differently than anyone else does outside of the church. That outside of the church the world has its wisdom – it leans on its teachers, its psychologists, its counselors, its politicians, its pundits, its celebrities, its professionals, its anchormen, and it has the wisdom of collective human speculation. But when the church comes together, the Bible is supposed to be open, Jesus is supposed to be exalted.
And people are supposed to hear something that is counter-cultural and different than what they’re getting through all the other preachers that are preaching contradictory messages to them throughout the course of the week. Subsequently, when you come to church you should not say, “What am I doing here? I could’ve got this at a self-help seminar. This is the same thing Dr. Phil says. Oprah is just like that.” If so, then it’s not wisdom – it’s just the spirit of the age. It’s just the hollow echo of a dying and decaying foolish world. What the church believes is different than what those who are not Christian believe – about what?
About everything that truly matters – about everything. And what Paul is saying is this: that human beings do not know what in the world God thinks about anything. Because only God knows what God thinks – he’s gonna use the illustration in a moment. Likewise, no one has access to your thoughts, right, obviously except for God. But when you and I look at each other, I don’t know what you’re thinking; you don’t know what I’m thinking. You can’t tell by looking at someone what they’re thinking. Likewise, God, his thoughts are not open to us. We don’t know what God’s thinking right now.
None of us knows what God’s thinking – unless God the Holy Spirit – the Godhead is Father, Son and Spirit, one Trinitarian God in three persons – God the Holy Spirit, the third member of the Trinity, is God, knows the mind of God, and reveals to us through Scripture and preaching and his ministry – reveals to us what God is thinking about. Us and life and death and sex and marriage and money and family and kids and everything! So what Paul is saying is this: that the Bible and that the truths of the Holy Spirit are timeless truths for everybody, because it is the mind of God for all people, times and places. And that we don’t have access to the mind of God through anyone on the earth.
We only have access to God through the Holy Spirit and the people that he chooses to speak through and reveal the mind of God through. And you know you’re getting teaching that is from the Holy Spirit when it focuses on the cross of Jesus Christ, revealing him, it says here, as “the Lord of glory.” That means God, who rules and reigns over all culture, all human history, and all aspects of our lives. So that everything in history, everything in our world, and everything in our life is connected to Jesus Christ, who rules and reigns as the Lord of glory; sits on a throne ruling over everyone and everything as Lord and God, the object of our worship and affection and devotion.
What Paul is saying is this: preachers must ensure that Jesus Christ is always the issue among God’s people. If at any point, any name or person or trend or fad or opinion is lifted up – if anything is the subject of conversation other than Jesus – then it is not a Bible-believing people that have gathered. Something’s just gone wrong. Something is tremendously wrong. So I would just beg you – many of you will leave here. Many of you will move. We’re in a transitionary time; we’re in a transitory culture and city.
Please – I beg of you – if you go to church elsewhere, look for a real preacher, filled with the Holy Spirit, that opens the Bible, tells you about the crucifixion of Jesus, and connects everything to him as the Lord of glory. That is exactly what all of us need. And that this spiritual preacher brings spiritual wisdom in spiritual words – that’s gonna be his next point, okay? So he begins in verse 10: “but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit” – the Holy Spirit. “The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God.” Again, only the Holy Spirit understands the thoughts of God.
“For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the man’s spirit within him?” We don’t know what someone is thinking. Likewise, we don’t know what God is thinking, unless God would reveal it to us through Scripture by the Holy Spirit. “We have not received the spirit of the world” – right, the mindset that everybody shares who just has speculation to lean on – “but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us. This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom” – not just the stuff we learned in college or philosophy class or watching Comedy Central – “but words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words.”
What that means is this: none of us is born with a theology. None of us is born with a theological language. We all come into the world not knowing anything, and somebody needs to teach us about God, Heaven, hell, sin, Jesus, grace, salvation – the whole thing. They need to teach us. So we need to be humble enough to learn. If they do their job well, we will learn spiritual truths from spiritual teachers, and they will teach us simply in spiritual words. What that means practically is this: that the words we use as Christians are oftentimes just different. How many of you, when you became a Christian, one of the first things you had to learn was the vocabulary, right? Like sin and grace and Heaven and hell and faith and salvation – all these new words that nobody else really uses.
I can still remember becoming a Christian in college. I took a psychology class, how to improve the human individual. Sociology class, how to improve the human community. Anthropology class, how to understand other human cultures. Philosophy – how to understand human ideologies. History – how to understand human events in history. And then I went to church, and the pastor said, “You’re a sinner.” I thought, “You know what? I never heard that. That’s a whole ‘nother word.” It’s amazing I learned all these things about people and I never learned that we’re bad.
That seems like a big point that we missed. That’s why we need psychology. That’s why we’re fascinated by sociology. That’s why we’re perplexed by anthropology. That’s why we argue over philosophy. And that’s why we jacked up history. We’re evil. That fixes everything. Why didn’t somebody tell me that? We should’ve hit that in the 101 class. “Hi. I’m Professor Hank. You’re an evil-doer.” We should’ve started there. That would’ve made sense of my whole life. When I realized that I stink, so much came together. It’s no wonder I’m depressed, and when I get around other people they’re depressed. It’s no wonder that our lives stink. I’m evil.
Okay, I got it; I got it. What now? I mean there’s gotta – okay, salvation. Okay, I need to be saved. Okay, how do you get that? Through grace – what’s grace, right? Other than this girl I was dating and now married, I didn’t have any idea who this Grace person was. Okay, what’s grace – oh, it’s a thing; grace is a gift. Oh, I’m saved by grace, not by works. I don’t need to be a religious person. I need grace. Where do you get grace, this wonderful thing called grace for sinners like me? Jesus? Oh, he was God, he died on a cross, he rose? Oh, now we’re at the cross again.
It affects my psychology, my sociology, my anthropology, my philosophy, and my history to know that I’m a sinner and Jesus is God saves me by grace – all these words that I never got before – a whole new language. When you get words, words explain whole new realities and open up new understandings so that you and I can understand who God is. Boy, I tell you what, I been meditating on what it means that God is sovereign for about 18 years. Even before I was a Christian I tried to figure out what does it mean that God’s in charge? How does that work?
And these concepts! You could spend the rest of your life asking, “What is grace?” and just meditating on that. What is salvation? Meditating on that; just thinking and praying it through, because you’ll never plumb the depths of the riches of the wisdom and the knowledge of God. And what Paul is saying that, yeah, it needs to be spiritual words. That Christians need to get new vocabulary – not in a way that is so academically overwhelming that they don’t know what you’re talking about. But in a way that yeah, you go, “Okay, sin – I get that. I do evil, and there’s something in me that wants to rebel against the goodness of the authority of God. Okay, got it.”
“Grace – God loves me; unmerited favor, unconditional affection. Got it, okay.” These words now are changing everything. They’re changing everything – so spiritual preachers preach spiritual truths in spiritual words, for the objective of enabling and allowing – by the power of the Holy Spirit – people to become spiritual people. That’s the whole point. See, the goal of a preacher is that people’s lives will be changed. That’s the goal. When I hear that somebody got saved or stopped sinning or fell in love or their life changed or they had a baby – they love Jesus – I tell you what, it’s the most wonderful thing in the world – really.
God would use my words, from a meathead, to change somebody’s life. That’s a miracle of the Holy Spirit by the power of the Scriptures. And so the point is not just that the preacher would be a good preacher, but that the people would be a spiritual people. And the sum total test of whether or not a preacher is a good preacher is the condition of the lives of the people who listen. Are they growing in holiness to be more like Jesus or not? If not, he may be preaching well, but it’s not having the effect that the Holy Spirit intended.
So Paul speaks of that. Verse 14: “The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.” First thing is, do not, dear Christian, be upset when non-Christians don’t understand what the heck you’re talking about, or they don’t pay attention because they think you’re nuts, right? Because the Bible says they cannot understand. It takes a miracle where the Holy Spirit opens our blind eyes, opens our hardened heart, changes our rebellious nature, gives us faith, causes us to be new creations, brings us from death to spiritual life.
It takes a miracle for anyone to understand who Jesus is, what he has done, how that relates to me, and to understand the mind of God. It is a miracle when any of us become a Christian, and when any of us understand anything. So when the non-Christian doesn’t understand, don’t take it personally. The Bible says they’re deaf. It’s like walking up to a deaf guy, you know, putting your iPod bud in his ear and saying, “You like that band?” He doesn’t say anything. You say, “How dare you – you’ve disrespected me. That’s my favorite band. I let you listen to my iPod. You’ve ruined my life.” They’re deaf – knock it off. That’s mean. That’s really mean.
It’s like walking up to a blind guy: “You like my new shirt?” “I don’t know.” “Oh, so you think I’m dumb. You’ve rejected me. You don’t care about me. You don’t wanna” – “I’m blind. Don’t yell at me. I don’t see it. I can’t see it.” You know, I can’t see if I’m blind. I can’t hear if I’m deaf. And I can’t respond to God if I’m spiritually dead, right? I mean how many of you, you go to a funeral and you’re looking at the guy like, “You want to go get nachos? You want to watch the game?” You’re like, “Come on, talk to me. What are you, dead?” “Yeah. I’m dead. We’re not doing Weekend at Bernie’s. I can’t do anything. I’m dead.”
All right, that’s what he would say if he could speak. That would be another miracle of the Holy Spirit if he did. Anyways, the point is that non-Christians are spiritually dead, spiritually blind, spiritually deaf. It doesn’t mean they’re dumb. It just means they don’t get it – that they are rebelling, but also they’re incapable of understanding. And so the most important thing is to love people and to pray for the Holy Spirit to open up their understanding. Too often Christians get angry at non-Christians, and they’re very tolerant of Christians who believe and say and do that which is wrong.
And I say we need to be frustrated with Christians who mess up the truth, and we need to be very patient and compassionate with non-Christians because if they’re totally incapable of getting it, we shouldn’t get upset when they don’t get it. They’re being Biblical, right – until the Holy Spirit opens their understanding. So many Christians are so mad at so many non-Christians because the non-Christians don’t understand things that non-Christians just can’t understand. So pray for your friends and family and coworkers. Love them, and ask that they would have soft hearts and that the Holy Spirit would open their blind eyes and open their blocked ears.
“The spiritual man, however,” he says in verse 15, “makes judgments about all things, but he himself is not subject to any man’s judgment.” And the point is here that Paul is judging the church. He’s judging the people in the church. So obviously there is spiritual authority and judgment. He’s gonna tell them a little later to judge the sinful person in the church. What this does not mean is that certain Christians are Spirit-filled, anointed, Holy Ghost rollers – shake and bake kind of guys. What it does mean is that all Christians have the Holy Spirit, and that Christians have the right to judge one another. But they need not subject all of their theological beliefs to the judgment of non-Christians who are dead to God.
What that means is that if you’re a Christian, other Christians in your church need to expose your sin and error. Pastors like Paul have the right to speak into your life. But when it comes to Jesus and the cross and the Bible and grace and faith and salvation, the non-Christian who says you’re wrong, don’t take it personally. But don’t allow them to judge you in such a way that you walk away from your convictions, because they don’t know God, so they don’t understand. It’s not that we don’t allow anyone to judge us. We just allow people who love Jesus and know their Bible to investigate our lives and to critique our conduct and our beliefs.
It doesn’t mean that everybody gets to tell us what’s the truth, but we hand-select those people that are qualified to do so; that’s all. That’s all. Some of you come from abusive spiritual backgrounds where the preacher says that he’s the anointed one of God, and what he says is equal to the Bible and no one can judge him, and maybe he even quoted this verse. That’s a wicked thing to do. That’s the exact thing that Paul was trying to stop from happening in the church. They were doing that, and he was trying to correct it. And it would be loathsome for us then to use it in the way that he was trying to fix. That’s my point.
He closes then in verse 16. “For who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct him?” Who knows what God’s thinking, and who thinks that God needs help? “But we have the mind of Christ.” So he says that spiritual preachers preach spiritual wisdom about the crucifixion of Jesus as the Lord of glory in spiritual words like sin and repentance and grace and faith and hell and Heaven – spiritual words – so that people would respond spiritually, spiritually either becoming Christians by the power of the Holy Spirit, or as Christians maturing in their following and submission to the ministry of the Holy Spirit.
And God does this through the great miracle of the preaching of Scripture. And the question as to whether or not you are a spiritual person is this: do you receive spiritual wisdom that contradicts the majority of views and opinions in the world? Do you meditate on spiritual words and concepts and verses? And do you receive spiritual truth gladly, thereby enabling you to be a spiritual person, led, guided, convicted, redeemed, transformed, by the power of the Holy Spirit? But now the question is will you be a spiritual people? Will you read your Bible and repent of sin? Will you ask the Holy Spirit to lead you and guide you and teach you, and actually follow his leadership and his authority in your life? That’s the question. That’s the question for us all.
But so many churches say, “We’re a good church because we have a good preacher.” That’s not the point. The point is that people would be obedient to Scripture, that they would be focused on Jesus, that they would be following the Holy Spirit. That’s what makes a good church – people through whom the Holy Spirit can work freely, without encumbrance and without hindrance. And I’ll tell you what – it’s the most beautiful thing, because this means you don’t need to be brilliant to be spiritually mature. It doesn’t mean you need to have a great education to be spiritually mature. None of those things hurts; it’s okay if you’re smart and well-educated.
But more than anything it takes a humility and a receptive heart that loves Jesus and welcomes the Holy Spirit and embraces the Scripture as true. That’s what it takes. So it’s more about your attitude than it is your intellect as to whether or not you will be spiritually mature. I love this, because I got kids, and I get to see them filled with the Holy Spirit. I tell you this: I don’t cry a lot. Most of the time when I cry it’s in relation to my wife and kids, and this week I cried like I just won Miss America because my 8-year-old daughter who goes to the Christian school – and I love her with all my heart – she came home.
She said, “Daddy, I’ve got a test tomorrow on the Bible but I haven’t even studied. But it’s a big Bible test, and I need to do good on it.” I said, “Well, after dinner, honey, we’ll go sit in the living room, you and me, and I’ll walk through the questions and I’ll ask you the questions, and I’ll see which ones you know. And the ones you don’t know I’ll explain to you, and we’ll get you ready for your Bible test tomorrow.” “Okay, Daddy.” We go through a couple pages of questions, and we’re coming down to the end. My daughter has nailed every single question without studying. And I’m so happy – I see her, she’s smiling, she’s happy.
She says, “Oh, well that’s this,” and then she says ten more things. She knows all the stuff about all the questions. She’s got all the Bible down. And I said, “Honey, you don’t even need to study. You know all of this and massive amounts more from your Bible.” I said, “Why is that?” She looks at me with a big smile, like the most angelic look she’s ever had. She said, “Well, Daddy, I love Jesus, and I read my Bible all the time.” And I saw the Holy Spirit in my daughter and I just started bawling. I went, “That is the most wonderful thing in the world. I am such a happy daddy!” I mean I am just bawling like crazy.
So my daughter, who’s eight, she starts crying like crazy. “I know, Daddy. I love you too, and I love Jesus, and I love the Bible.” So my wife hears my daughter crying. She comes in and I got my back to my wife, and she looks at my daughter, she looks at me, she’s like, “What did you say to her? What did you do?” I’m like, “She’s such a good girl. She loves Jesus. I see the Holy Spirit in her – look at her.” So I go over and I’m crying, she’s crying, and I’m holding her and kissing her and praying for her, and so glad that the Holy Spirit lives in my girl! That she wants to know the Bible; that she wants to have the wisdom of God; that she wants to love Jesus. She likes this.
It’s not that she has to – it’s that she gets to be a Christian and the Holy Spirit’s in her. And just as I was meditating on this verse this week I thought, “That’s it. It’s the Holy Spirit in my little girl.” Yeah, she’s not been to college and she’s not the greatest orator, and she’s a nice, sweet girl and she’s filled with the Holy Spirit. And that’s all Daddy cares about. That’s all Daddy cares about because if she’s filled with the Holy Spirit she’ll live a life of holiness. She’ll love her Scriptures. She’ll follow Jesus, and everything will be connected to the cross. And it’s such an honor and a blessing and a wonder to see the Holy Spirit in somebody.
It’s all about the Bible. Go home and read your Bible. Pray. Repent of sin. Meditate on Scripture. But first you gotta respond – if you’re not a Christian, you respond by giving your life to Jesus today. That he becomes the Lord of glory in your life – the highest authority. You do what he says. You go where he says. You do what he did. You believe what he taught. And you repent of sin, because it messes up the relationship. For those of you that are Christians, you get a chance to repent. Say, “You know what, worldly wisdom has really impinged on me, and I got a lot of junk I believe or say or do that’s just not congruent with the Holy Spirit. I feel convicted. It’s not congruent with Scripture. I need to repent.”
God will receive you. When you’re ready, you give of your offerings and tithes. That’s part of our act of worship. You partake of communion, which is every week, remembering the death of Jesus on the cross, body and blood, to take away sin and be for us the Lord of glory. To whom we then respond in worship, singing and praising that same Jesus as our great God. I’ll go ahead and pray.
Father God, thank you for sending Jesus – to live without sin, to die on a cross, to rise three days later, to take away our sin, and to be our Savior. Thank you that everything connects to you, Lord Jesus. And as Lord of glory you are the object of our worship, and you are the authority over every aspect of our lives. We acknowledge and receive that gladly today. Holy Spirit, we invite you to convict us of sin, to teach us Scripture, to gift us for ministry, to empower us for service, to lead us, to guide us, to change us, to conform us into the image of Jesus.
Holy Spirit, we ask that you would give faith to those today whose eyes are blind, whose hearts are hard, whose ears are deaf; that you would open them up to the truth of Jesus. Holy Spirit, we ask that you would continue to do your work in our midst and in our lives that we would see our lives transformed by the truth of Jesus through the teaching of Scripture. By the power of the Holy Spirit we pray. Amen.
Due to their wrong notions of spirituality, Paul defines for the young Corinthian church what it means to be spiritual in God’s eyes and the means by which God makes someone spiritual.
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