The Fourth Sunday of Advent December 24, 2006
1 Corinthians 1:26-31
702 [TLH alt. 56], 71, 711 [TLH alt. 95], 428(5-6)
For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, that no flesh should glory in His presence. But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God; and righteousness and sanctification and redemption; that, as it is written, “He who glories, let him glory in the LORD.”
Dear friends in Christ:
I have found something that develops instant humility—golf. You would think that it would be the easiest thing in the world to hit a little white ball that is standing still, yet the game baffles me far more than baseball or softball ever has. So if I need to be taken down a few notches, I can simply go to the golf course and pride seems to instantly dissolve. Yet we could not say that golf is a universal cure for pride. After all, there are people who are actually good at it, and beside that, there are several months during the year when you can’t play it. But the fact remains that all of us at various times need to have pride worked out of our system.
If pride is left unchecked it can do damage eternally. The Scriptures allude to the fact that pride caused Satan’s fall. It was most certainly the downfall of Eve as she wanted to be like God by eating the fruit. Pride was in full force at the tower of Babel, in Peter’s bold prediction of faithfulness, and it lay behind the rejection of Christ by a great number of people. God has a much better solution for pride than golf. Our text outlines a three step process by which He turns our view inside out. It is The Lord’s Cure for Pride: I. He chooses the weak of this world for His purposes, II. He defeats and deflates the proud, and III. He directs people everywhere to identify true glory in His Son Jesus. We do well to focus our hearts on the glory wrapped up in the humility of the Savior.
As you study the Bible you will find a pattern of God choosing the least to do the most. Moses was a murderer and not an impressive speaker. Yet, God chose him to lead His people out of Egypt. During the time of the Judges, God chose Gideon to lead His army even though Gideon was from the least of the tribes of Israel and the least among the families in his tribe. When the Lord sent Samuel to anoint a new king from the sons of Jesse, David was not even considered good enough to be included by his father. Jesus was born in Bethlehem, just a village, not Jerusalem the capital city. The disciples of Christ were not among the educated elite and some were even scorned by society.
As Paul wrote to the Corinthians he asked them to take a look at their congregation. It was not a group out of the movers and shakers of that city, but rather the ordinary folk, the least regarded. The Gospel’s recent success in India has taken place among the lower castes or even those that they call “untouchable.” When you think about it, that’s true for the most part in our country today. The most influential people of society—for the most part—are not involved deeply in Christianity. From Hollywood to Wall Street to Washington D.C. is your first thought of Christianity? Very doubtful. There have been exceptions throughout history of course. Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus were Pharisees who believed in Jesus. The Roman emperor Constantine was converted. George W. Bush acknowledges his relationship with Christ. But as it is said, these “exceptions prove the rule.”
The reason for this is not as Karl Marx would have you believe that, “Religion is the opiate of the masses,” that is to say that religion is swallowed up by the poor because they have nothing else to cling to. While it is true that riches and power may become obstacles to faith, we acknowledge that God has called us by grace. If we don’t acknowledge this, then we might be misled to think that the poor and weak are somehow more deserving to believe.
In our text we’re told that “not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chose the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty…” [vv.26-27] The Lord wants to make sure that people know that human beings have no room to stand on their own. Money, fame, and power have no role in salvation, but instead it is God’s grace.
It is a wonderful thing that there is not some sort of minimal level requirement to become one of God’s children. Your name and ancestry doesn’t matter. Your bank account does not matter. Your popularity does not matter. We heard from Mary’s song (cf. New Testament Scripture reading) how God is the Helper of the helpless, and how He used the power of His arm to knock down the proud and uplift the humble. That sort of action can only be defined as grace.
We have to be careful that we’re not always pointing to someone else when we talk about those who are being proud. Even a person in the lowest of circumstances can have pride infiltrate his heart. We might take pride in poverty or hard work or maybe even take pride in our humility itself. It seems that there is a trend to take pride in busyness. We are always telling each other how busy we are, it’s almost as if there was a competition.
I did some research in a concordance and I could not find one instance where the word pride or proud is used in positive way in the Bible. Just from the book of Proverbs we have these quotations: “Everyone proud in heart is an abomination to the Lord… (16:5). A haughty look, a proud heart, and the plowing of the wicked are sin (21:4). He who is of a proud heart stirs up strife… (28:25). And the list goes on…
If we look for glory within ourselves, then we taking glory away from God. God is the one who has given us our possessions and the talents that we possess. There are times when we realize how helpless we are. When natural disasters strike, when man-made trauma occurs such as on 9/11, when a lifetime of savings disappear in moments as with the Stock Market crash of 1929—these are times when the proud are lowered. When cancer strikes the body or Alzheimer’s disables the mind we are brought low. When one who thinks himself to be righteous without God finds himself caught in a sin, again the proud one is defeated.
It is a daily battle to eradicate pride within ourselves. It keeps cropping up day after day because we would like to take credit for anything that we can. In God’s Word we are given a healthy view. We are told that the proud will be defeated. We are told that no flesh may glory in God’s presence. But we are also told of the value that God has put on us. He was willing to pay a price above any dollar amount to redeem you. He gave His Son’s life to do so. If you want to know what you’re worth to God then look at the price-tag stained with His blood. God loves you not because of who you are, but in spite of who you are. His love for us does not lead us to glory in ourselves, but rather to be amazed at God who loves those who are not worthy of love.
“He who glories, let him glory in the Lord.” [v.31] The reason that the Lord wants us to be cured of pride is so that we are able to know what true glory is. Christ is for us wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption. All of those things that we could not be, He was for us. We may be rightly proud and glory and boast in our Savior because of the great things that He has done for us. He who was rich became poor so that we through His poverty might become rich.
This Christmas glory in the birth of a Savior who, despite possessing all the attributes of God, took on the form of a servant. The Creator of the world did not come to be served, but to serve and give His life a ransom for many (cf. Matthew 20:28). Take glory in that most inglorious crucifixion of Christ, by which He was made the lowest of the low for our benefit. Glory in His resurrection and ascension and future return.
Christmas is a time of deep humility for how can we not be humbled when viewing our Savior in those circumstances. We ought to be humbled when we consider that we are but dust. A thousand years from now none of us will be more than a five gallon bucket full of dirt. God knew this. He knows our frame and remembers that we are dust (cf. Psalm 103:14), but chose to save us anyhow. For this and for all of His holy attributes, all glory belongs to our God.
We might not like to be cured of pride, because being humbled can be a painful process. Yet, we welcome the Lord driving pride out of our hearts in order that we might know what true glory is. May we ever consider Him in that light. Amen.
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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.