Fool Proof

Fool Proof: Wisdom Is A Person

This week, I’m excited to kick off our new series Fool Proof, as we unpack the fool’s guide to living with biblical wisdom. Wisdom is one of those things that can be genuinely difficult to define, but I think we recognize it when we encounter it. We don’t know exactly how to describe what it is, but we definitely want it. We live in this generation where we tend to turn to the Internet for the answers to everything. If we aren’t quite sure what to do, that’s okay because we can always Google it. I actually kind of pride myself personally on my Google-fu capabilities. But, recent research and psychologists have begun to notice a phenomenon to our interaction with technology they deem as the “Google Effect,” or digital amnesia. We are better at knowing where to find information than we are at actually recalling that information. In fact, we have begun to train our brains to almost intentionally forget information we know we can readily access online. We have become such experts at outsourcing that we now even outsource our memory.

Back in 1998, Google averaged just 9,800 searches every day. Today, they will encounter over 9.1 trillion different search queries. Sometimes those searches are to find the next showtime for that movie or directions to that restaurant. Sometimes those searches are to determine if that headache is just the onset of a cold or something more serious. Sometimes those searches are to find the ingredients for that recipe you wanted to try. Other times we’re browsing the Internet to find answers to deeper questions. Questions Google can’t really answer for us. What is the purpose to life? What is love? (Although, if you search that one, I promise you’ll get Haddaway’s hit single as a top result.) What in the world am I supposed to do now? Or, loaded questions like the one the state of Missouri asked more than any other state last year, “Am I psycho?” Google can’t answer these questions for us!

Inevitably, life will hand us situations and circumstances that will leave us grasping for wisdom so that we may navigate through them in a healthy manner. Our pursuit for wisdom is nothing new—we’ve been doing it since the very beginning of our story. Even if we rewind all the way back to the Garden of Eden—really a perfect life in relationship with God—there was an insatiable desire for more wisdom. So much so that Satan tempted Eve with the fruits God commanded her not to eat, and notice what it is that enticed Eve to actually take the forbidden fruit in Genesis 3:6, “When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it.” Satan deceived Eve into thinking wisdom could actually be found in blatant disobedience to God. And, here’s been our problem ever since: somehow, someway, sin reduces all of us to fools. Our sin and rebellion has reduced every single one of us to foolishness. Even more troubling, fools often don’t know they’re fools. There might be a fool sitting next to you right now! Don’t pick on your neighbor because the reality is that all of our hearts have deceived us and convinced us there is actually wisdom in our foolish ways.

Somehow, someway, sin reduces all of us to fools.

This manifests itself in so many different ways. Maybe it looks like trying to control and maintain the very relationships you’re destroying. Maybe it looks like telling yourself you can handle that one particular sin when it has actually already mastered you. Maybe it looks like spending money you know you don’t have and just burying yourself further in debt. Maybe your foolishness is revealed simply in the culmination of all the little things throughout each and every day.

Whatever it looks like for you this morning, I can assure you that until we recognize that sin has reduced each and every one of us to fools, we’re going to continue on our same paths of frustration and doubt and worry and, ultimately, destruction. Eve made a foolish decision disguising itself as a wise act. We do the same thing so often ourselves. Isn’t it so true that we make our decisions and our decisions make us. In other words, who we are today is based upon the decisions we made yesterday. Who you will be tomorrow is determined by the decisions you make in this moment. Continue to make foolish choices and remain a fool. Decide to seek authentic wisdom and watch how God guides and directs the steps before you.

We make our decisions, and our decisions make us.

Still, the question remains: how do we find wisdom? I can tell you that it’s definitely not through a Google search. It’s not even simply through trial and error. It’s not chasing after what seems right in our own eyes like Eve. But, we read in James 1:5, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” Friends, wisdom is found in God alone. It cannot be manufactured, coerced, or manipulated. Wisdom begins with a request.

Wisdom Is Better

Throughout the Old Testament, there are actually a number of different words that we have translated all with our singular word fool. There is a Hebrew word that refers specifically to a simple fool. The simple fool opens his mind and his arms to any passing thought, idea, or person. He’s a fool because he lacks sound discernment and judgment. He is dangerously gullible. Yet, there’s another Hebrew word referring specifically to a silly fool. The silly fool doesn’t know how to control her mouth. She gets upset and easily angered when things don’t go her way. She’s stubborn and often has a visceral reaction to proper instruction.

There’s a third kind of fool we see in the Old Testament: the sensual fool. This person rejects the correction of the people around them. He seems almost determined to make poor choices because he is so enamored with what brings immediate pleasure. Then, there’s the scorning fool. This person shows their disdain and contempt for those around them on their face. This person has embraced the things that grieve the heart of God. Finally, there’s the steadfast fool. He has outright rejected God and His ways. His ambition is to bring as many people with him in his rebellion as he possibly can.

You can see clearly the progression from a simple fool to a steadfast fool. But, can I tell you what concerns me as I study these words? Sometimes their descriptions sound an awful lot like me. My mouth gets the best of me at times. I don’t always warmly welcome correction—even when it’s godly and done in love. The fool that sin has reduced me to still sometimes shows up, and I don’t like playing the fool. Mr T. had it right—I pity the fool. None of us want to be thought of as a fool!

So, the first point I want to make this morning is something that I don’t believe I will need to convince you of, but it’s this: wisdom is better. Wisdom is so much better than acting foolishly. Because fools act before they think. Fools spend what they don’t have. Fools hurt the people that they love. Fools turn a deaf ear to good advice. No one wants to be described as a fool; wisdom is so much better.

Take Solomon, for example—often considered the wisest person who has ever walked the earth. King Solomon ruled over Israel for forty years. Though he had everything at his disposal—all of the armies and all of the riches—he came to know one thing: wisdom is better than all of it. We read in Ecclesiastes 9:16, one of the books Solomon wrote, “But I say that wisdom is better than might…” And, again just a couple verses later, we read in Ecclesiastes 9:18, “Wisdom is better than weapons of war…” As a result of Solomon’s wisdom, Israel experienced 40 years of peace in what many refer to as Israel’s Golden Age.

But, here is where we can frustrate ourselves because we still so often attempt to acquire wisdom by our own might. We don’t need to be persuaded to believe that wisdom is better; instead, we persuade ourselves to simply try harder in our own strength. Toughen up. Get some gumption and get wisdom. What is concerning is that sometimes we can still get to our desired outcome by simply trying harder but, in so doing, we convince ourselves that we had some wise exhibition. Again, Solomon warns us of this temptation in Ecclesiastes 10:10, where we read, “If the iron is blunt, and one does not sharpen the edge, he must use more strength, but wisdom helps one to succeed.”

I’m convinced that all too many of us, in our pursuit to accomplish much and to be much—in our pursuit to be recognized as something of worth to the people around us—have been chopping our ways through life with blunt axes. We keep cutting and we keep chopping, yielding little results with much labor. Solomon warns us that when the effort put into an assignment totally outweighs the result, something is wrong. You’re not working with wisdom, and working harder is not going to get you there. Frankly, our strength and the efforts we output can never match the wisdom that navigating life demands. So, we frustrate ourselves. We overwhelm ourselves. We exhaust ourselves because we know that we know that we know wisdom is better. We just don’t know really how to obtain it. So, what are we to do? Where are we to turn?

When the effort put into an assignment totally outweighs the result, something is wrong.

Wisdom Is Costly

If you were to go to Barnes and Noble today—or perhaps browse through your Amazon app—you would find a whole section of books labeled as “Self Help.” And, you could purchase a whole series and take them home with you with the intention of reading them all and becoming a better, wiser person (although, chances are they might just end up looking nice on your coffee table). But then, this curious thing happens. Six months later who could go back to Barnes and Noble and guess what? There’s a whole new set of books. Many of which would disagree with the books who had just purchased six months previously.

We live in this culture of ever-changing wisdom. What was so insightful yesterday gets rejected today. What sounds great today, you’ll disagree with tomorrow. We correlate so much of our wisdom to what we know, and we confuse intelligence with wisdom. So, we chase after something that’s less than wisdom and that’s attached to circumstances and situations, which is problematic because we learn to look at life from only our finite human perspective. But that’s not the wisdom we’re to attach ourselves to. We can so often mistakenly confuse intelligence with godly wisdom. But, wisdom is not just about what you know; it’s about Who you know and allowing Him to guide and to direct you.

The world is full of some highly intelligent people, but wisdom is still a rare and unique quality. I did a quick search for some of the smartest people out there, and I wanted to share a couple of their stories with you. I tried to select some different names from the obvious choices out there. Some of you may be familiar with William Sidis, whose life inspired the movie Good Will Hunting. He was a prodigy whose IQ was estimated to range somewhere between 200 and 300. When he was just two-years-old, he was reading the New York Times and typing out letters in both English and French.

Then, there’s Ettore Majorana whose IQ is estimated somewhere between 183 and 200. He was an Italian theoretical physicist who studied neutrino masses, which are electrically neutral subatomic particles that are created in nuclear reactions. I think by just reading what this guy does, my IQ increased a few points. Another fascinating genius is Edith Stern. When she was born, her father called a press conference, to which two reporters showed, and announced that he was going to mold his infant daughter into “the perfect human being.” So, by the age of five, her father had read to her the entire Encyclopedia Britannica. She was in college by age 12 and teaching college-level courses by age 15. 

Let me give one more; his name is Michael Kearney. Born in Hawaii, he received his first of four Bachelor’s degrees at the age of ten. Depending on the standard of measure you use, his IQ has been estimated somewhere between 200 and 325. He was later diagnosed with ADHD and, perhaps my favorite part of all these stories, he had always dreamed of becoming a game show host. What do you do with an IQ of 325? Apparently, you become a game show host!

Can I tell you what I find intriguing, though? Finding a list of some of the most intelligent people in history is incredibly easy, but searching for a list of the wisest people out there is hard to come by. It’s a difficult thing to measure; you can’t really put a number to it like you can intelligence. But, even more than that, it shows that wisdom is not inherently tied into what you know. You can be the smartest person in the world and yet lack any sense of wisdom.

Someone once helped differentiate intelligence and wisdom with this statement: Intelligence is knowing a tomato is a fruit; wisdom is knowing not put it in a fruit salad. It’s not just what you know; it’s what you do with what you know. So, what wisdom forms your words? What wisdom shapes your decisions? What wisdom directs your relationships and dictates the way that you respond and react? Are you truly holding onto the wisdom that comes from God or is it worldly wisdom?

All of this leads me back to our Barnes and Noble bookshelves and to the second point I want to make this morning: wisdom is costly. What we truly need is something that is incredibly costly. It demands your resources and your time. But, it’s not actually in the way of purchasing more of the right books and spending more time consuming them. Wisdom is costly in the sense that we must find more time to spend seeking the Father, praying to Him, reading and understanding His Word, and worshiping Him because of His goodness. We might say, Amen!,” to this, but let’s get a little uncomfortable this morning. We aren’t always willing to pay such a high price, are we?

Remember, sin reduces all of us to fools. Sin convinces us it is more prudent to invest in my kingdom and my worldview—to chase after the temporary things of this world. The foolishness of my sin tells me that it is wiser to accumulate the tangible than pursue the eternal. Yet, we read in Proverbs 16:16, “How much better to get wisdom than gold! To get understanding is to be chosen rather than silver.” Okay, so wisdom is costly. If you were to ask my wife, she would tell you that one of the first questions I will ask about any expense is, “How much is it going to cost?” I don’t want to hear “about this much.” I want dollars and cents. I want the total. What is it going to cost?

Well, we read in Proverbs 4:7, “The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding.” All you have. Everything. To undo the foolishness of our sin will cost us everything. It can’t be summarized in dollars and cents; Proverbs reminds us that the cost of wisdom is your very flesh and blood.

This is why though the self-help book section may continue to grow, it will never satisfy. Self-help is a $10 billion per year industry in the United States alone. Research has also shown that in addition to their high revenue rates, self-help has high recidivism rates—meaning, the person most likely to purchase the new self-help book is the one who has purchased one already in the past 18 months.

We deceive ourselves if we think this is producing wisdom within us. Our attempts at wisdom have often fallen drastically short. Paul reminds us in 1 Corinthians 3:18-19, “Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is folly with God…” Our wisdom begins with acknowledging our foolishness and that the things that this world deem as wise are but foolishness to God.

So, this is where we can again find ourselves to be frustrated and overwhelmed and defeated. It’s too high a cost. When we do finally spend our resources to learn 100 ways to be wise, we discover tomorrow there’s now 100 ways to be even wiser. Even if we could satisfy the cost and acquire all the wisdom of the world, we would be found wanting. And, we’re not just talking about some invoice for wisdom’ we’re really talking about everything. Spending it all in the pursuit of wisdom seems, well, unwise to our American mindset. One person quipped, “What does the size of the self-help industry say…? For one, no one has found the secret or the answer.” And, if this were the case, we would be an incredibly disappointed people. But, this is where I couldn’t disagree more.

Wisdom Is A Person

See, there’s an answer to all of this frustration and exhaustion and discouragement we have been encountering this morning. You would probably acknowledge that wisdom is clearly better for your life. You would confess your need for it this morning. But, you may find yourself in a place exhausted by your own efforts to acquire it or frustrated by your recent foolish choices. You may feel like any one wise choice you might make is regressed by ten other foolish decisions. You can see this morning the high cost of wisdom. You see clearly that we’re not to hold anything back to get wisdom, even if it costs us absolutely everything. But, you may find yourself a bit terrified at the implications of that. You can’t pay the price of such wisdom. So, what are we to do? Are we to simply embrace the obvious—that sin has reduced us all to fools? Is there no escape?

The person who said no one has found the secret or the answer to wisdom is dead wrong. We read in 1 Corinthians 2:7, “But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory.” Paul is saying that we are now making known the secrets and the hidden wisdom of God. Well, this is good news—this is great news! Paul is telling us that God has speaking about this wisdom since the very beginning, but we couldn’t understand it. Now, it is being made clear to us, but how exactly? Well, he continued in the next verse, “None of the rulers of this age understood this…” And, some of you may still find yourself there this morning. What is this secret and hidden wisdom of God? So, Paul keeps going, “…for if they had they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.” The wisdom of God is the cross. How incredible it is that God took the foolish decisions of man to achieve the wisdom of God! If we had any true wisdom in us, we wouldn’t crucify the very Son of God. We would worship Him. Pastor and author Paul David Tripp puts it this way, “The cross is the ultimate critique of human wisdom.”

The cross is the ultimate critique of human wisdom.

Paul David Tripp

But, that is often what is wrong with the wisdom from this world. It misses the very thing that is the only hope for this world—Jesus Christ. That’s why Paul warns us in Colossians 2:8, “See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.” If it’s not wisdom according to Christ, then we have been made fools by empty deceit.

The wisdom of this world attempts to offer you a system of redemption without a Redeemer. It entices you with the truth that wisdom is better and wisdom is costly, but it doesn’t lead you to the truth that wisdom is not a system, it’s a Person. You want to navigate life with the wisdom of God? You want to see your circumstances and situations with His wisdom? Then it begins by coming to the foot of the cross. You will be unable to see this world through the lens of true wisdom unless you come first to the vantage point of the cross of Jesus Christ. That’s why the Apostle Paul tells us one more time in 1 Corinthians 1:30, “And because of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption…” There it is. He didn’t come to us as one who is wise from God. He did not come to us to simply offer us wisdom. He came to us as the very Wisdom of God. And, those who see the Wisdom of God by the power of the Holy Spirit find righteousness, sanctification, and redemption.

Wisdom is not a system, it’s a Person.

But, it’s so easy to miss because Jesus came and operated in a way that doesn’t scream wisdom. He came and took what was seen as wisdom and made it foolish and what was seen as foolish and made it wisdom. The Gospels open up with a seemingly foolish paradox: a pregnant virgin. Then, this virgin gives birth not just to any baby, but to God in flesh. As Jesus grows older, He teaches us in what seems like foolish ways. Do you want to have more of what matters? Give all that you have away. Do you want to be strong? Confess and own your weakness. He told lame men to walk and the blind to see and the mute to speak. He told us to pray for those who harm us and to walk by faith and not by sight. He said to find life abundantly, we must die first to ourselves. He compared something as vast as the Kingdom of Heaven to something as insignificant as a mustard seed. He told Peter to walk on water. He showed us that defilement wasn’t what you put into your body but what came out. He compared Himself to a shepherd who leaves his 99 sheep to find the one who was lost. Then, He endured our curse and was bound to the cross so that we might enjoy the boundless blessings of God.

And it didn’t make any sense—not even to the disciples. But, God has been revealing His wisdom to us through His Word. He came because there was no way within our own strength to acquire the wisdom of God. He came because wisdom was too high a cost. We were caught in the cycles of our frustration and exhaustion and doubt and worry and destruction. So, Wisdom Himself came and paid the cost for us, enduring the shame and foolishness of that cross. He broke the power of sin over our lives so that where sin reduced us all to fools, the cross elevates us to children of God by the Wisdom of God.

So, it’s as we consider what the cross has accomplished for our lives this morning, I want to invite the ushers forward as we prepare for our response in Communion. As our ushers come around, please know that we practice open Communion at New Life, which means you don’t have to be a member of our church to join us—just a member of the Body of Christ. Also, we ask that as you receive the bread and the cup that you hold onto them until we can all eat and drink together.

What more fitting way to kick of our wisdom series than to remember the cross. Paul announced in 1 Corinthians 1:18, “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” See, on that cross, His body was broken for each and every one of us. In any other context, a broken object is cast aside as worthless. It doesn’t work or serve its function any longer. The world looks at His broken body as complete foolishness, but we understand it to be the power of God to save. Because, in the context of the cross, His brokenness produced our wholeness. While His whole body was being torn and fractured, He was holding our brokenness together.

Again, in any other context, if we spill something, we see it as wasted. I have a toddler now, so I am all too familiar with the joys of cleaning up spilt messes. A spill is such a waste because the spilt substance becomes powerless for use as it has now been soiled. So, the world looks at His spilt blood as complete foolishness, but we understand it to be the power of God to save. Because in the context of the cross, His blood which was poured out was not soiled by our condition. It cleansed us of all impurity.

Here is the beautiful message of the cross to each of us this morning. If you would humble yourself and confess your foolishness, the Wisdom of God is able to elevate what sin has reduced. If you are exhausted and confused and disappointed and destroyed—if you feel foolish—you’re in a prime spot to encounter the Wisdom of God. The cross is for the foolish. The bread was broken and the cup was poured for the foolish. There is no foolish choice that you can make that separate you from what the Wisdom of God has planned out for you.

Again, this wisdom of God was planned and shouted out since the very beginning. That’s why we can read in Proverbs 9 of Lady Wisdom who points us to Jesus Christ, the Wisdom of God. Listen to these verses 1-6 and 10-11 this morning,

Wisdom has built her house; she has hewn her seven pillars. She has slaughtered her beasts; she has mixed her wine; she has also set her table. She has sent out her young women to call from the highest places in the town, “Whoever is simple, let him turn in here! To him who lacks sense she says, ‘Come eat of my bread and drink of the wine I have mixed. Leave your simple ways, and live, and walk in the way of insight.’” … The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight. For by me your days will be multiplied, and years will be added to your life.

The Wisdom of God—Jesus Christ—calls out to the simple and invites him and invites her to come and eat and come to drink. He invites us to leave our simple ways and to walk in the ways of life and insight. It begins with us coming before the Lord and encountering the Person of Jesus Christ who is faithful to reveal Himself to us.

So, this morning, I want to encourage you to take the bread you hold in your hand—that bread that is a symbol of His broken body. Consider your brokenness. Where do your hurts lie? Where does your brokenness come from? What in your life is fractured this morning? What brokenness are you experiencing due to the foolishness of sin working within our world—it may be due to the foolishness of others or your own? His brokenness has the power to make you whole. His brokenness has the power to restore. His brokenness has the power to save.

And, as you hold that cup of juice as a symbol of His blood which was poured out on your behalf, consider all that you consider wasted in your life this morning. You may have poured out yourself in pursuit of foolish things and now you wonder if there could be a way for that all to be restored back to you. Jesus Christ has come and spilled His blood out and instead of your sin and foolishness soiling His sacrificing, He purifies and cleanses us through the power of the cross. He took what was wasted and made it valuable again. He took what was foolish and elevated it to a position of adoption. He took what was thrown away and has restored it back to us.

As we move to our closing this morning, I want to invite you all to now stand with me. In just a moment, we’re going to dismiss, but these altars are going to remain open. Remember, wisdom begins with a simple request. Whoever lacks wisdom, let him ask of God. As you ask Him for wisdom, He gives you more of Himself. You see, what you’ve done is not as important as Who you know. You may have done nothing but foolish things with your life, but today, because of the power of the cross, you may know Wisdom. It won’t be found in a book. It won’t be collected merely from experience. Wisdom is encountering the Person of Jesus Christ.

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