Now, a “religion” is a set of teachings that shapes attitudes, beliefs, and practices. Some feel those teachings are created, shaped, and molded by church leaders— like Pastors and priests, church presidents and popes, leaders who died centuries ago and leaders starving for power and control today. So, according to this line of thinking, “religion” is a brand of teachings I am trying to sell you. [It is assumed] that my objective is to get you to wholeheartedly and blindly agree with everything I tell you.
Some cherish reading the Bible, but they do not embrace every teaching, belief, and practice from their religious leader. Now, to their credit, some churches do endorse teachings not taken from the Bible (like the teaching of purgatory or that Baptism does not actually give you eternal life, or that the Lord’s Supper just symbolizes Jesus’ body and blood, and so on). Sometimes manmade teachings can be presented as God’s truth. So then, enter in the thought: “You need to separate your religion [what a leader teaches] from your [personal] beliefs.” You need to follow whatever you feel is fair and right.
So then, what does God demand of you? How are you going to get into heaven? And are you sure you have the right answer? Relying on what feels right or what makes sense to you can leave you standing outside of God’s hard-and-fast truth. That’s why Missionary/Pastor Paul urges you: “Follow the Word and you will follow God’s wisdom!” You will Recognize the wisdom you follow and you Embrace the wisdom you model only when you Remain Focused… on Your Life!
Over the past few weeks you have heard this buzzword: “wisdom.” Paul wrote: Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel— not with words of human wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power (1 Corinthians 1:17). Brothers [and sisters], think of what you were when you were called [to faith]. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth (1:26). When I came to you, brothers [and sisters], I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God (2:1).
Wisdom is what the Corinthians want. They want to feel smart; they want to hear someone who will make them feel intelligent. So, the teaching of Christ crucified fell under scrutiny. Criminals die on crosses. Deities are supposed to be immortal (so they thought). Yet, Jesus, this so-called-God dies—and not just dies, but dies a criminal’s death? Out of all the things the Almighty God can do to bring his creation to himself, he chooses to kill his only Son? It sounds absurd!
Then, the twelve disciples are fishermen— not degree-holding Doctors of Theology. Yet, God chooses to use them to unlock the teachings to eternal life? Why trust someone who is uneducated?
Not to mention, Paul just preaches. He does not stir up your emotions; he doesn’t talk about politics. He only talks about Jesus— and it always sounds like the same old stuff! Why not crowd around preachers who make you feel good?
Human wisdom said to follow teachings that made sense to the human brain. Human wisdom says to follow whatever you feel should be right. Human wisdom says: “Stop listening to people like Paul, Pastors, Sunday School teachers, and those grounded in the truths of God’s Word. Human wisdom tells you to create what you do and do not want to hear when it comes to faith. Human wisdom tells you to: separate your religion from your beliefs.
Do you follow that wisdom? Well, what did you think about our gospel reading? (Matthew 5:21-37) Jesus clearly says: Hate is the same as murder (Matthew 5:21-22). Or did you make up reasons why you, of all people, should be allowed to hate? Your friend deserves it, right? You give them money, you fix their equipment, you drive them to the store— and they still accuse you of not caring enough! So, you are angry. Your mind tells you that Jesus has it wrong. You must hold a grudge. The correct course of action is to make their life more miserable than they made your life.
Jesus makes it plain: I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart (Mathew 5:28). Or do you toy with lust and fantasies and sex outside the bonds of marriage? Because, after all, television, magazines, and the internet is so addicted to sex— that you just cannot help but fantasize about another spouse or friend or classmate. Or maybe your mind says: “Well, it’s just an innocent thought.” After all, you aren’t touching anyone; you are just thinking about them.
The Creator allows divorce only when a partner has been unfaithful or leaves the marriage (Matthew 5:32; 1 Corinthians 7:15). Or do you feel grounds for divorce should include: “I just don’t love him anymore,” “I’ve fallen in love with someone else,” “She’s holding me back.”
“Yes, but…” says a little voice inside of you, “everyone’s doing it.” Show me where Jesus says: “I tell you the truth—that is, unless you want to follow your own beliefs.”
“But…” you might think, “I had to… They deserved it… I am the victim here…” Take a moment to ask yourself: who are you listening to? Who is making those judgments to change Jesus’ words? I had to? I think they deserved it? I am the victim here, so...?
The question boils down to this: If God says one thing— and calls it “truth,” but you find yourself believing something else, then whose wisdom are you following? God’s wisdom? or human wisdom?
Human wisdom seeks to take the place of God. That’s why Paul says: None of the rulers of this age understood it [God’s wisdom], for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. If religious leaders took Jesus’ words to heart and understood how much they needed his perfect life, then they would have worshiped him, not killed him. Instead, they listen to their own wisdom. They think Jesus is a nuisance, a liar, and a threat. They reject his truth about marriage and divorce. They bring in liars under the cover of night so that they could sentence him to death. They feel he needs to be gone and so they murder him. Human wisdom tells them to follow their thoughts above God’s truth. Human wisdom compels them not only to remove Jesus from their ears, but also from their lives. If you follow human wisdom—that is, follow what you believe is fair and true, then you, too, are blocking out Jesus’ words from your heart.
God’s wisdom is different. Paul writes: we speak of God’s secret wisdom, a wisdom that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began… [and] God has revealed [his wisdom] to us by his Spirit. God, in his wisdom, chooses to send his only Son to die on a cross. Yes, the eternal Son of God loses his life so that it can touch all of our lives. Yes, the Son of God dies a criminal’s death— not because he broke the law, but because he wears your sin. This is God’s chosen plan to save you.
He writes it down on the pages of the Bible. Without the Bible, you would never know what God has done to save you. Through the Word, the Holy Spirit carries this truth into your heart (Romans 10:17). He creates your faith (1 Corinthians 2:14, 12:3). He strengthens your grasp on what God teaches. God’s wisdom declares: Jesus, the Son of God, dies a criminal’s death for your benefit! The Holy Spirit teaches you: “This is truth.” By the Spirit’s power you believe it.
Yes, humanly speaking— you could imagine all sorts of ways God could have wiped away sin—and yet, God chooses this way. He chooses to give you Jesus. Jesus chooses to give you forgiveness as a gift. Recognize the wisdom you follow. God’s wisdom, God’s Word, puts you on the path to eternal life. God’s wisdom, God’s Word, guides you as you walk the path to eternal life. So, Embrace the wisdom you model.
[You] have not received the spirit of the world, [you have received] the Spirit who is from God Paul makes it clear that you either live one way or the other. Either you live and behave in ways that demonstrate how little you care for God’s commands. Or, you use the Word to shape and mold your behavior.
At first, that might sound like a tall command. You— to live as perfect as Jesus, to listen to everything he says? After all, you have emotions. Sometimes you will want to do what your emotions say is “Right” and seek revenge or justify divorce. You have a brain. Sometimes that brain will tell you to look around and see how everyone else uses their bodies. And since they use their bodies in this way, you also are free to do the same things.
In this life, you will struggle between following God’s wisdom and human wisdom. You know the good you ought to do. You know that you should love your neighbor, to treat marriage with love and respect, and to choose your words carefully. Yet, you do not always do this good. Instead, you so often see the evil lurking at your door, but you go ahead and choose the evil anyways (Romans 7:21-25). How can you even begin to embrace the wisdom of Jesus? Well, you start by looking at Jesus.
The will-power to love, to honor marriage, and to use your words wisely starts with Jesus. You see, Jesus’ commands are a guide in life. It’s easy to hear Jesus say: “Don’t hate! Don’t lust! Don’t swear!” and then say: “Challenge accepted Jesus! I can do this!” The Ten Commandment do not show how you must grow to be better. They expose your failure to meet God’s demands. They reveal the Savior who kept them for you.
Jesus has washed all of your hate-filled words, your every lustful intention, and every time you told God that you will follow your own feelings. Since he washed them away, they are gone. It means you do not have to live a certain way to pay him back. You do not have to live perfect so that he will forgive you or give you eternal life. Rather, look at Jesus and see how perfect he is. See how he clothes you in his perfection.
How do you respond? You embrace the wisdom of Jesus and you model it. You obey his commandments— not because you must, but because you want to. Because [You have received] the Spirit who is from God. So, you forgive each other from the heart because Jesus has already forgiven you from his heart. You treat marriage as a lifelong union it is because God has married himself to you. You hear his Word, take it to heart, and put it to work in your life. Only the Word reveals to you what pleases God. Embrace the wisdom you follow!
If you actually “separate your religion from your beliefs,” you will find that your words stand above God’s commands. The heart and mind will continue pressuring you to do whatever feels good.
Yet, remember whose wisdom you follow. Human wisdom worships humans—humans who cannot save themselves eternally. God’s wisdom illuminates Jesus before your eyes.
That’s why Missionary/Pastor Paul urges you: “Follow the Word and you will follow God’s wisdom!” You will Recognize the wisdom you follow and you see the wisdom you model as you Remain Focused… on Your Life!