Jeremiah 9: 23, 24
“Nothing matters except Christ.” We all know it’s true. Why does it take sickness or tragedy for us to believe it? We spend our days, weeks and years chasing the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. When we finally reach it, we find the pot is empty because someone stole the gold before we got there. “Nothing matters except Christ.” It takes a lifetime for most of us to learn that lesson. We learn it, then we forget it, only to relearn it, and forget it again. Most of us are still in the learning process. Elizabeth Eliot said that growth in the Christian life is the process of destroying our idols one by one. That’s painful because we look to our idols to give us meaning and significance. We hate the idea of giving them up because we fear we’d be nothing without them.
But God says they must go - Isaiah 42: 8 “I am the LORD; that is my name! I will not give my glory to another or my praise to idols.” When Aaron allowed the people to make a golden calf, Moses ordered that the calf be melted down, and the residue mixed with water, which he made the people of Israel drink. Talk about mixed drinks! God’s anger burned against the Israelites because of their idolatry. It is a divine object lesson teaching us that God will not share his glory with anyone or anything.
We bring our series on God’s attributes to a close. If we have learned anything, I hope it is that our God is great and is worthy of all our praise and of our complete and undivided loyalty. There is no one like him in all the universe! Charles Spurgeon: “There is nothing small in God.”
Jeremiah spoke to a nation that had turned away from God. He prophesied to people who were trusting in themselves instead of in the living God who made them. They were boasting in everything except the one thing that really mattered.
1. Three Ways to Waste Your Life v. 23
These are very unnatural words because all of us by nature boast in these things. Wisdom in and of itself is a good thing, and so is strength, and nearly everyone works to amass riches. None of these things are evil in themselves, but all of them may lead us in the wrong direction if they become a ground for boasting.
Richard Foster wrote a book about the temptations leaders face. The title tells the whole story: Money, Sex and Power. People love money because it gives them happiness (or so they think). They love sex because it gives them fulfilment (or so they think). They love power because it sets them apart from others (or so they think). But it is all illusory.
Can Money Buy Happiness?
Forbes magazine - money is like a martini—it raises the spirits but only for a little while. The very wealthy are actually not much happier than the poor, and often are less happy. Billionaire Warren Buffet - no one really changes his character by becoming super-rich. Whatever you were like before is what you’ll be like after you get your money. “If you were a jerk before, you’ll be a bigger jerk with a billion dollars.”
What does it mean? We live in a world where most people desperately want more money. We go through life working, planning, scheming and dreaming to build our net worth only to say when we make it to the top of the heap, “Is that all there is?”
The Bible warns us about the deceitfulness of money. The wisest man who ever lived (outside of Jesus Christ) was also one of the richest men. Yet listen to what Solomon says in Proverbs 23: 4, 5: “Do not wear yourself out to get rich; have the wisdom to show restraint. Cast but a glance at riches, and they are gone, for they will surely sprout wings and fly off to the sky like an eagle.”
The same is true of fame. Hymn - “O God Our Help in Ages Past” - “Time, like an ever-rolling stream bears all its years away, they fly, forgotten, as a dream dies at the opening day.”
I think money is good if it’s used for good purposes. I think that winning the Durban July is a notable achievement. But when it’s all said and done, it’s just a horse race. The Super 15 is just a rugby game. The money that’s made will be left behind.
The Great Leveller
Death is the great leveller. Whatever you make, you leave behind. That includes your fame, your wealth, your achievements, your titles, your conquests. Job 1: 21 “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart.” We leave the world the same way we enter it—weak, naked, and powerless. In between we puff ourselves up with wisdom, power and riches. But in the end, like a child’s toys, they go back on the shelf, and we exit this world.
None of this should discourage you, unless you happen to think that money, wisdom and power is what life is all about. Maybe we should throw in sex for good measure. None of it satisfies because we were made for something better.
Money is good if used righteously. Sex is good within the bounds of a committed marriage relationship. Power is good if used for good purposes. Wisdom is good but not if it makes us feel superior to others. We were made for something better than all that. We were made to know God.
2. The Only Pursuit That Really Matters
A. Knowing God v. 24a
Until you know God, you’ve not even begun to discover the reason for your own existence. Apart from God there is no reason for human significance and no grounds for self-worth. Consider the alternative. If you don’t believe in God, then you don’t have any reason for being here. You must believe that you are simply the product of impersonal time plus chance. When you die, you must believe that you simply cease to exist and vanish into eternal nothingness. In short, if you leave God out, what you are left with is this: You didn’t come from anywhere and you aren’t going anywhere after you die. This is the humanist dilemma. They say, “You come from nothing and you’re going to nothing, but in between you have great significance.” It doesn’t make sense at all.
That’s why people are struggling today. They’re truly “looking for love in all the wrong places.” You’ll never find what you’re looking for until you know God. Jesus said, “Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent” (John 17: 3). Life doesn’t begin at 40, life begins at Calvary—when you come face to face with Jesus Christ.
B. Knowing God’s Character v. 24b
Here is the privilege God has given us. Not just to know him, but to know his character. There is kindness, which means God’s commitment to be gracious to his children. There is justice, which means God’s commitment to treating people fairly. There is righteousness, which means God’s commitment to the truth.
This is how we know that we know God: When we share those same commitments to kindness, justice and righteousness. When you know God, you’ll not only know him, you’ll start to act like him. Like father, like son also applies in the spiritual realm. God delights when his children look and act like him. These 3 character qualities—kindness, justice, and righteousness—are the birthmarks of the family of God.
Nothing matters in life but knowing God and until we know him, we haven’t even begun to live. When we know him, we’ll begin to look and act like him and then everyone around us will know that we are the children of God.
3. Boasting in the Lord
Paul uses the final phrase of v. 24 to cap off his argument in 1 Corinthians 1: 26 - 31. Let’s pick up the story in v. 26.
A. Whom God Chooses v. 26, 27
Here is a shocking truth: The gospel runs contrary to the basic assumptions of humanity. We want to think well of ourselves and we want a religion that strengthens our self-image. To which God replies, “Without my Son all your self-image is nothing more than a pile of filthy rags.” The first step to salvation is humbling yourself before God and admitting your total failure. Without that humbling the cross of Christ will never capture your heart.
When God picks people for his family, whom does he choose? The answer is unsettling: Not many …Wise—Intelligence, Influential—Social Standing, Noble birth—Family Background. God doesn’t normally populate his church with the high and mighty but with the ordinary working people of society. Thank God there are exceptions or else no rich people would ever be saved!
B. Why God Does What He Does v. 28, 29
The church at Corinth must have included many people in these categories. Former idolaters, common merchants, converted slaves, Jewish believers, former temple prostitutes and middle-class families of every variety. Clearly, this was not a “power church” of the high and mighty but a gathering of God’s people taken largely from the middle and lower segments of society with a few wealthy and powerful people sprinkled into the mix.
The Lord often does the same thing today. In so doing, he confounds the wise and the strong and the mighty by turning their worldly values upside down. God doesn’t need the rich—and neither do we. He doesn’t need the strong or the well-connected or the power brokers—and neither do we.
Certainly we rejoice whenever anyone is saved. Yes, when rich and powerful people are converted they can use their means to advance the kingdom of God. But they are saved the same way we are and God values them no more than he values the least person among us.
God never considers a church poor simply because it is made up of poor people.
He nullifies the mighty by using the weak instead. He nullifies the proud by using the humble. He nullifies the wise by using the simple. He nullifies the professional by using the blue collar worker. He nullifies the Ph.D. by using the high school drop out. I’ve seen this happen so many times that I’ve come to believe that God sometimes uses unlikely and unqualified people just to prove that he can do it!
C. What God Wants From You v. 30, 31
v. 30 tells us what we already have in Jesus Christ: Wisdom from God, which is manifested as - Righteousness—A right standing before God. Holiness—Power to live a brand-new life.
Redemption—Complete freedom from sin. God wants you to understand what you already have in Jesus Christ. You have everything you need for this life and the life to come. Everything you lacked, God has now supplied. Nothing is left to your own devices.
All that we have was given to us by God as a gift. We may think that we have attained some great thing through our hard work or by our education or because of our great gifts. But who gave you the mind you have? Who placed you in a particular family? Who blessed you with physical strength and intelligence? Who arranged the circumstances of life to make you what you are today?
Human wisdom says, “I did it all myself.” God’s wisdom says, “Without the Lord I am nothing and I have nothing.” Here’s a very simple application. Boast about Jesus this week. Talk about him. Share with someone else what Jesus Christ has done for you. It will do your soul good, and it may lead someone else to eternal life.
God Made It Easy
I close my message—and this entire series—with this thought. God has made salvation simple so that simple people can be saved. He’s made it easy so that no one can say, “It’s too hard for me.” He’s made it ordinary so that all you have to do is believe what God has said.
He says that you are a sinner. Do you believe that? He says that the wages of sin is death. Do you believe that? He says that you can never do anything to save yourself. Do you believe that? He says that Jesus Christ is your only hope. Do you believe that? He says that he wants you to be saved. Do you believe that? He says that Jesus Christ is his Son. Do you believe that? He says that Jesus died for your sins. Do you believe that? He says that Jesus rose from the dead. Do you believe that? He says that Jesus Christ can save you right now. Do you believe that?
May God grant you faith to believe all that he has said and may you find peace in believing in our Lord Jesus Christ.