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    Sep 25, 2011

    What's God's Spirit Doing?

    Passage: 1 Corinthians 2:4-14

    Preacher: John Repsold

    Series: Life Together--First Corinthians

    Category: Christian Walk

    Keywords: wisdom, holy spirit


    Having talked about the importance of our faith being built on God's power, Paul moves into the importance of life based upon godly wisdom and the Holy Spirit. This message looks at some of the charactersistics of godly wisdom and the work of the Holy Spirit in us.


    What’s God’s Spirit Doing?

    I Corinthians 2:4-16

    September 25, 2011

    If you were with us last week you’ll remember that we were in I Corinthians 1 and the first part of chapter 2.  We were looking at the issue of power—how much of life depends upon power—and specifically power as it relates to our spiritual experience and the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  We saw how the Apostle Paul didn’t want our faith to rest on just a bunch of words or human ideas but upon God’s power.

    So from that focus upon the work of God in us, Paul moves to the next logical step in this power-experience with God.  He begins to talk about different kinds of wisdom and about how the Spirit of God actually works in the life of God’s children to bring about change that is powerful.

    ILL:  This week I had the privilege of addressing the students at Moody Northwest in one of their chapels regarding an issue that is extremely powerful in our culture…and in all cultures, for that matter:  sexuality and how God has created us as sexual beings.  (We’ll be talking about that in just a few weeks as we get to I Cor. 5. )  After that message, a married student, I’m guessing in her 30s, came up to me and began talking about how important it was for us as believers, not only to talk openly, frankly and more frequently about this topic but to also stress that it is a battle that absolutely demands the involvement of the Holy Spirit if we are to hope for any kind of victory.  I could not have agreed more with her. 

          So do the statistics of sexual activity among evangelical teens and young adults.  In a recent article in Relevant Magazine entitled “(Almost) Everyone’s Doing It,” in which our daughter, Joanna, was interviewed, some startling statistics were given regarding the sexual practices of Christian, church-going, Bible-believing, young adults.  Try these on for size:

    • 80% of young, unmarried Christians who self-identify as “evangelical” have had sex (compared with 88% of unmarried young adults ages 18-29 in the culture at large).
    • 2/3rds have been sexually active in the last year.
    • But 76% say it’s morally wrong. 

    Knowledge is not enough.  Biblical truth is not enough.  And apparently having a “Christian morality” isn’t enough either.  Paul was dead on when he spoke to the Corinthian church, a church having similar problems sexually as the American church today.  He didn’t jump right into this letter with commands about cleaning up their sexual behavior.  Instead he made sure that he talked about HOW they were going to be able to experience change. 

    In today’s text it has everything to do with both what we’re able to process in our minds (godly wisdom) and how we’re able to incorporate that into our lives (by the Holy Spirit).  Let’s start by reading God’s word on this in I Cor. 2:4-16.

    “And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5 that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.    
    6 However, we speak wisdom among those who are mature, yet not the wisdom of this age, nor of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. 7 But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory, 8 which none of the rulers of this age knew; for had they known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.
    9 But as it is written:
          “ Eye has not seen, nor ear heard,
          Nor have entered into the heart of man
          The things which God has prepared for those who love Him.”

     10 But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. 11 For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God. 12 Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God.
    13 These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual. 14 But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. 15 But he who is spiritual judges all things, yet he himself is rightly judged by no one. 16 For “who has known the mind of the LORD that he may instruct Him?” But we have the mind of Christ.”

    So having said that our faith must rest upon “the power of God” rather than “the wisdom of men” (vs. 5), Paul now picks up that theme of wisdom and begins to talk about a different kind of wisdom from that kind of human reasoning or philosophy which he has said isn’t going to get us connected with God. 

    So what are the characteristics of the wisdom of God?

    1. It’s wisdom that is understood by “those who are mature….”  In just a few verses, in chapter 3, vs. 1, Paul is going to tell us what he thinks the maturity level of the Corinthian church was.  It was sort of like the studies that are done today on so many students in junior high and high schools in America compared to their counterparts in other parts of the world.  American kids score among the highest in the world in regard to self-image and perceived competence.  But the sad fact is that they are showing up more and more at the bottom of the heap when it comes to actual proficiency in math and science.  We have raised a generation of kids who may feel great about themselves but are more like the old children’s story, “The Emperor’s New Clothes.”  They really look pretty foolish stacked up against the Germans, the French, the Chinese, the Japanese, etc.

    The same was the case in Corinth.  In 3:1 Paul will tell them in no uncertain terms that they have a lot of growing up to do.   It almost sounds like name-calling when he says they are “babes in Christ,” “carnal.”

    APP:  How would we measure our maturity as a church? God’s people?  How DO we measure it?  If we were to make a list of characteristics we must have if we are to be considered “mature followers of Christ,” what would be on your list?

    So how can Paul talk about speaking “wisdom among those who are mature” in vs. 6?  The term “mature” means “complete” or “brought to maturity,” as in adults rather than children. 

    Paul is simply saying that what he has to say will be understood by mature believers in Christ.  It won’t sound like foolishness and it won’t be discounted as something stupid that is unnecessary. 

    APP:  So what’s our attitude towards God’s word these days?  Indifference?  Unnecessary?  Ineffective?  Nonsense?  Or something worth chewing on, learning to understand, necessary for growing up in life? 

                That doesn’t mean “easy to understand.”  Those are two different things.  That’s why we come together to study God’s word.  That’s why I’ll be teaching a class on “How to Study God’s Word” starting a week from Monday.  It’s a lot of the same material you’d have to pay Moody Northwest to learn if you had me as your professor for Studying & Teaching the Bible. You won’t get college credit…but hopefully you’ll get more spiritual maturity. 

    2.)  NOT comprehended by those you would expect would.

    Spiritual wisdom, says Paul, is not something even the “rulers of this age” understand.  He could be talking about the spiritual unseen rulers like demonic forces OR he could be referring to the political power-brokers who crucified Christ OR it could be both since certainly the demonic realm was at work as well as the political forces to silence and kill the Christ.  I think verse 8 makes it pretty clear that Paul is at least talking about the supposed political and intellectual elite of his day, people like Pontius Pilate and the Jewish leaders of the Sanhedrin.  “Had they known [God’s wisdom], they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.” 

    Here is a reminder of how absolutely blind the smartest of people can be to the wisdom of God.  The smartest people of Jesus’ day, living in the presence of the Son of God in human flesh, completely missed the truth.  The demonic forces of darkness, knowing God for however long they have, could not see what God was doing in allowing Jesus to be crucified.  In fact, they thought they were winning.  They thought they had caught God in some terrible blunder, some cosmic trap that they had baited with sinful humanity knowing the hopelessly loving and compassionate nature of God.  They saw the cross as the beginning of the end for God.  In retrospect…and with the understanding that the Spirit of God gives, we know it was precisely the opposite:  the beginning of the beginning of the best thing to ever happen to mankind—redemption and the power of God through the resurrection.

    C.S. Lewis does such a masterful job of this in The Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe, when he shows how terribly hopeless it looked to the children when Aslan allowed himself to be bound, shorn and killed at the Stone Table by the White Witch and her minions. 

    [Video clip.]

    What Paul wants to remind us is that, as followers of Christ, we are in a battle that may at times appear to be hopeless.  We may appear to be on the losing side.  It may appear that evil is gaining an upper hand more and more. 

          But look at that little phrase at the end of vs. 6—“not the wisdom…of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing.”  Paul could see it in his day.  The power of the Roman Empire was crumbling.  Sure, it would last for several hundred years more.  But it was failing.  So was the power of the Sanhedrin. 

          So is every political power on the face of this earth.  The United States of America is “coming to nothing”…and fast.  Just check out the Dow Industrial Average.  Just check out the economy, something we’ve worshipped in America for at least 100 years.  Just check out the banks, the political leaders, the scientific community with all its supposed wisdom.  They are impotent to change the temperature of this planet one or two degrees over decades…while God does it every day dozens of degrees. 

    I preach to myself when I say, we must not think God is terribly interested in building our kingdoms be they economic, political, intellectual or any other.  He’s in the business of building HIS Kingdom—one that will not be torn down but will tear down the gates of hell, one that will not be pushed back but will triumph against all evil and death itself. 

    APP:  so when we see rioting in the streets, remember that God’s word is true.  When we see poverty grow and banks fail and everything become more expensive and jobs get more scarce, remember that the rulers and wisdom of this as is “coming to nothing.” 

          And how should we then live?  If you knew that the money you are sitting on today would be only worth 10% of what it is today by next year this time, what would you do with it?  Where would you invest it?  What changes would you make in your spending priorities? 

          If you knew the world economy would collapse in 6 months, how would you prepare yourself?  Your family?  Your friends? 

    The amazing thing is that God put in motion, “before the ages” (vs. 7b) His wisdom that was meant to be “for our glory.”

          What happens when some Wall St. guru accurately predicts the ups and downs of the market or economy?  It brings them fame and often fortune. 

          What happens when a scientist accurately predicts the weather…or discovers a vaccine against some deadly disease…or makes a new discovery?  They become famous, often wealthy and usually respected by their peers. 

    God is telling us as his children what is going to happen to this world, to every human government, to every human soul with or without Christ.  WHY?  So we can live according to HIS truth, HIS knowledge (and foreknowledge) and HIS wisdom.  Then, when our life is finished, whether young or old, our glory will, as Daniel says in Daniel 12:3, “shine like the stars forever and ever.” 

          “Those who are wise shall shine Like the brightness of the firmament, And those who turn many to righteousness Like the stars forever and ever.”

          It will be the children of God who shine “like the brightness of the heavens.”  It will not be the “shining stars” of Hollywood…or the glittering wealth of billionaires.  It won’t be the “rising political stars” of this world.  But it will be those who have embraced the wisdom of God in the cross of Christ…those who “lead” or “turn many to righteousness”, certainly the righteousness of Christ.  THAT will be our glory! 

    To nail this truth firmly in place, Paul reaches back into Isaiah 64 when he writes verse 9—“Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man, The things which God has prepared for those who love Him.”

    The Apostle John, while exiled at the end of his life on the island of Patmos, perhaps came closest to “seeing” and “hearing” some of the things God has prepared for US!  Yet his sight was a vision, not direct presence.  His “hearing” was through the aid of a spiritual encounter.  That’s why I love to read the book of Revelation when I want to raise my view of God’s greatness or simply be reminded of the glory of God.  The fact that John so often uses the phrase, “And it was like such and such,” makes it pretty clear that he was seeing something for which we don’t have adequate words to describe. 

    ILL:  One of the main reasons I like to go backpacking or hiking in big mountains is because it reminds me of how great our God is.  This summer, we were hiking on two different occasions in Canada, once in Valhalla National Park in B.C. and once in Banff National Park in Alberta.  My eye  never tires of taking in the beauty of majestic peaks, even if I am panting my way up the mountain, sure that I’m going to have a heart attack in about 5 minutes! 

          When I look at the stunning beauty of God’s creation, a creation that literally at times brings tears to my eyes because of its overpowering beauty, I cannot imagine what God has prepared for us in eternity. 

    Then there are the times that God surprises me in time with something that whispers, “You have no idea what I’m up to.  I’m preparing things you can never do.” 

    I had one of those moments this week, in fact. 

    STORY:  I was in a board meeting of another Christian ministry here in Spokane that reaches all over the world.  The leader of the ministry was simply asking the people present to share about what God had been doing this summer in their lives. 

          The pastor to my right started talking about how things had been a challenge this year financially.  The church had actually believed God for a bigger budget than last year knowing this was a poor economy.  And God had been meeting their faith. 

          Then something happened to the roof or some mechanical equipment in their building that was going to cost them about $5,000 to fix.  Just about that time, Doug, the pastor, opened the mail one day and found an electronic check from some bank in Singapore.  It simply said in the memo line, “God told me to do this.”  It bore the name of a young man who used to be in their church but who had left during some difficult church stuff.  Since then he’d gotten married and moved overseas and the pastor had lost track of him.

          Doug tracked him down on Facebook and found out that he was working overseas and hadn’t found a church to start tithing to yet so he was just asking God where He wanted him to give every month.  The check was for $5,000.

          The rest of us all “amened” God’s goodness and this man’s sensitivity to the Spirit.

    The next man around the table has just begun a new church in Spokane this past year.  He began to talk about his summer with these words, “Well, this summer I was opening the mail at the church one day… and in it was an electronic check… from a bank in Singapore.”  We all laughed a little.  He went on, “It was a check for $5,000… from the same man!” 

          I immediately changed seats to be the next in line sharing! J

    Seriously, neither of these two men knew that the other had any connection with this man.  The second man had actually known him in another town at another time in his life.  But both had been recipients of this man’s generosity and of the Holy Spirit’s work and plans for all of them. 

          The next man, also a pastor, went on to tell us about a fellow who was a neighbor of his many years back.  He was living with a woman, not married to her.  And one day he came to this pastor, confessed that he knew it wasn’t right, and asked him what he should do.  Wisely, this pastor led him to Jesus before he addressed the issue of the marriage.  Shortly thereafter, this man was married and this pastor lost track of him. 

          But this summer, while on vacation at Priest Lake camping, who should have the next tent site over but this man and his wife.  At some point in the conversation, this man tells this pastor that he would like to make a donation to his church.  He’s going to pray about it some more but the amount he mentioned was somewhere in the neighborhood of $150,000!  (Now I am moving my chair!)  J

    APP:  If God is doing those sorts of things every day in our world, right here in our city, how can we possibly understand what He has prepared in the future for us?  It may look uncertain and grim to you right now.  But God may have some amazing surprise just around the corner.  You may think your needs don’t even get on the radar for God…but God may be putting you on the radar of someone half-way around the world. 

          We must not let the failing economies of this world…or the failing morality of our culture…or the failing dreams of our own lives blind us to the fact that OUR eyes have not seen, nor our ears heard, not has entered into our hearts the things God has prepared for US!

    Well, at this point in the text, Paul starts talking about what the Spirit of God is doing in us who love God. 

    1. Vs. 10—God’s Spirit understands everything about God.

    When Paul says that “the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God,” he isn’t saying that the Spirit is trying to figure God out by finding out things he doesn’t understand about God. 

          Quite the contrary. What it means is that the Spirit is penetrating or revealing, searching out to make known all things, especially the “deep things” of God—those mysteries about God that no human could figure out through human reasoning. 

          The illustration Paul uses is how it is impossible for us to know even what another person is thinking let alone God.  The only person who know what someone is thinking and musing over is…that person themselves (or “the spirit of a man”, as this text says).  Those are comforting words…especially for husbands! There are many times I think I know what my wife is thinking.  Boy, talk about delusion? 

    But we as God’s kids, have residing in each of us, the Spirit of God.  He knows what God is thinking.  He knows the things that are still hidden from our knowledge.  He understands God…because he IS God. 

    APP:  The greatest need of every human is not greater self-understanding.  The greatest need of each of us is a truer, fuller and more accurate experiential understanding of God.  Whether you’re like Job suffering virtually alone in something in life that doesn’t make sense or whether you are a Moses trying to lead a few million people into God’s plan for them, knowing God as he really is IS absolutely essential.  Satan loves to trade in the currency of misperceptions and misunderstandings about God.  Don’t let him use your lack of accurate understanding of God to drive a wedge between you and God.  Instead of trying SO hard to understand life and its changing circumstances, when you are confused, ask the Spirit of God to teach you more about the heart and presence of the Father. 

    2.  And he particularly wants us to “know the things that have been freely given to us by God” (vs. 12b). 

          Now Paul could be referring to the truths that God had shared with him and which he was in turn sharing with the Corinthians. If that is his thought here, then Paul may be talking about the work the Holy Spirit does in our hearts to help us understand the revealed Word of God.  Even though God has written it down for us, we still need God the Holy Spirit to “make it known” to us—to teach us actually what it says but equally as important, what it means for us personally.  What are the implications and applications of God’s word… this day… for us.  What we most desperately need to “know” is what God has revealed about himself and life in His Word. 

    That word “freely given” (charisthenia ) is a word that has the Greek word “grace” as it’s root.  If you are going to talk about what God gives to people, what he gifts to us, then you cannot get away from the fact that every gift of God to us is an act of grace—giving us blessings that we don’t deserve while at the same time not giving us the punishment we do deserve. 

          So little in the day-to-day life we know in this world is a free gift, right.  Grades for students?  Wages we earn?  The acceptance  of others in the friendships we have? Government services?  Family? 

          True, many of us are blessed with very grace-filled people in our lives, but do enough wrong things and even they will eventually be unable to keep loving you, right?

          What are you particularly thankful for which God has “freely given” you…you didn’t earn it…you didn’t pay for it…you got it as a gift from the God who gives and gives and gives?  [Open sharing.]

    ILL:  Isn’t that interesting what the Spirit of God wants us to know?  Paul doesn’t say that the Spirit wants us to know…

    • All the ways we’re messing up.
    • Or all the things we’re not supposed to do.
    • Or all the challenges we’re going to face in life.

    The Spirit just wants us to know “the things that have been freely give to us by God.” 

    Q:  What usually happens between a father (and mothers too) and a child when day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year, that child receives gift upon gift in life?  That’s what makes parenting so much fun—giving things that bless a child day in and day out.  What usually happens in a healthy kind of relationship like that? 

          BONDING!  There is an emotional connection that is built between most healthy parent-child relationships in which the parents are giving real blessings of a physical or emotional or spiritual or financial nature. 

          How is it usually expressed?  Appreciation, love expressed, gratitude, respect, wanting to be together, missing each other when you can’t be, laughter, transparency, etc. 

    ILL:  It’s taken me a lifetime to appreciate all the things my earthly parents (and grandparents) gave to me.  Of course, they freely gave me food, shelter, clothing, a warm home, hugs and kisses and all the rest when I was a kid.  They also gave free discipline (J), free direction, free structure, free boundaries and free advice.  J  Then there were free music lessons (free for me, at least), free vacations, free movies, a free bed, free clean clothes, free TV, free games and toys, free trips, free books…the list is endless, right? 

          As I got older, I began to realize how freely I’d been given the most important things in life—love, nurturing, challenges, opportunities, affection, character formation, a good name, wisdom about how to live life well. 

    It is no small thing that the Spirit of God himself, who has taken up residence in every one of us who have put our faith and trust in Jesus Christ, wants to show us…wants to bless us…wants to bond us to the Father by revealing the things God has freely given us. 

          When we treat that revelation as insignificant, we look like spoiled children. 

          When we feel little deep gratitude for the generosity of God throughout all of life, something has gone wrong with our “spiritual bonding.” 

          Worse yet, when we rebel or run away from or tell God to get lost, we grieve the Holy Spirit who has been given to us to bond us to the Father by constantly helping us to “know the things that have been freely given to us by God.” 

    [Time of prayerful thanks.]