It's Not About You; It's About Christ - For You

Text: 1 Corinthians 1:26-31

In the name of Jesus. Amen.

I can remember many years ago that a local eye doctor and his wife were looking to get back into the church as their kids were getting a bit older. But here was the catch; this family – let’s call them the Johnsons - were movers and shakers in the community.  And so, when the Johnsons came to the church that I was serving, they immediately had a small chip on their shoulder.  Though they never said it, they felt that they had something to offer the church – that the church would be lucky to have them.  

I can remember that first Sunday when they showed up.  They were a bit surprised when the members of the church did not roll out the red carpet for them.  Furthermore, I can remember it just like yesterday, a lady named Susie cornered them before the service.  Susie was a gem.  She was salt of the earth – simple and plain.  However, the Johnsons didn’t appreciate Susie’s simpleness and her taking up their precious time when they could’ve been socially impressing the other church members. And so, it was quite obvious that the Johnsons wanted to work themselves out of that conversation. 

Well, needless to say, the Johnsons did not come back the next week or the week after that.  The reason was, they did not feel extra special in the church – a cut above the rest.  Furthermore, they didn’t want to be associated with people like Susie.  Though it may sound harsh, I was glad they did not come back with their wretched boastfulness.  That is the kind of yeast that leavens the whole lump.

You see, it is so easy for you and me to get wrapped up in the mindset of the Johnsons, thinking that we are better than those around us.  It is so easy for us to think that God has chosen us to be a part of His church on the basis of our skills, power, influence, and nobility.  And tragically, what makes things even worse is that we distance ourselves from people whom we deem to be lesser than us.  In fact, we even get angry and upset when the Lord’s favor is given to them.  Indeed, our legalistic hearts are exposed when the favor of God is given to people that we believe are unworthy of God’s favor because they have either not earned it or deserve it.  

Dear friends, despite our legalistic hearts, God deliberately chooses men and women that culture overlooks to expose the hollow pretensions of the people who think they are something.  That is to say, in the reading from the epistle of 1 Corinthians, we hear Paul tell us that God makes it quite clear that you and I cannot blow our horns before God.  Your wisdom, skill, power, influence, and nobility have nothing to do with you being a Christian.  Elsewhere the Apostle Paul says the same thing.  He states that there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female – none of these categories contribute to being justified in the eyes of God. 

But isn’t this the exact opposite of how the world works? Isn’t this the opposite of how we think?  You see, all of us have certain expectations of those around us.  In other words, every single one of us has certain criteria that we expect of others: how people should act, how they should talk, how they should dress, how they should think, and how they should believe.  And so, when people meet these expectations, well… we approve of them, and we are not offended if they advance in society.  In other words, if a person fulfills our demands and pursues what we value, we accept them, and we will even cheer them on when they advance in life.  

However, as previously mentioned, what we cannot tolerate is when good things happen to people who do not meet up to our own criteria.  When good things happen to people, we do not accept, well… it drives us nuts.  It agitates us.  It causes us to stumble.  

But consider the epistle reading from 1 Corinthians again. Paul says that he does not see many of the brightest and best of the city of Corinth in the church.  In fact, not many people of the Church of Corinth were not from high-society families.  Frankly, the Church of Corinth consisted of the kind of people that the culture would overlook, exploit, or abuse.  The Christians were nobodies in culture.  And yet, God chose these men and women to be His children.  God did not create the Church of Corinth on the basis of the wisest, the most influential, the most popular, the most famous, and the noblest.  

Dear friends, let me fill you in on a difficult truth – you and I are just like those Christians in Corinth.  For example, look at yourselves for a moment.  Who of us are the brightest and best of culture?  Who of us is a great mover and shaker of the world?  Who among you are royalty?  Isn’t it obvious that you and I are nothing more than men and women that are overlooked by the grand scheme of things?  

But maybe there is a part of us that protests – 

“But I am special!  I am somebody!  Look at what I have done!”

Friends, please do not let pride blind you.  Consider this for a moment; let’s just say that you become the wisest, smartest, most popular, and most famous people in the Minot area.  In other words, if you are the most popular and influential person in the Minot area, you are the best person out of 50,000 other people.  Congratulations, you are the best person in one city among the other 20,000 cities in America.  And so, being somebody in Minot still makes you a nobody in America.  But let’s just say that you are the best person in the United States, well that makes you the best person among the other 7.5 billion people in the world.  Being somebody in America still makes you a nobody in the world.  And just in case the old Adam is still trying to think that it is something special, consider history.  Who will even remember you 50 years from now?  Hardly anyone.  Historians tell us that in every generation, 1 in 10,000 people achieve some degree of world fame, which is one-hundredth of one percent.  And so, frankly stated, none of us are the brightest and best, which brings up the embarrassing question of – why do we try so hard to be somebody when we are never anything but a nobody? 

So, what is the point that Paul is making to you and me?  Well, it is quite simple.  God chooses what the world considers nonsense, weak, and ordinary to not only shame but also destroy all pretentious thinking and inflated pride.  He does this so that the only thing that one can boast about is – Christ.  Remember that God chose a slave nation called Israel to bring forth the Messiah, not mighty Egypt, Assyria, or Babylon.  He chose a stinky manger and a bloody cross to accomplish salvation, not a golden throne and a mighty sword.  And who can forget a bunch of fishermen and a tax collector were chosen to equip the early church?  And today, He chooses you – as a poor miserable sinner - to be His very own.  

Dear friends, hear the good news of the Gospel: God chose you in your baptism to be His very own. He chose you in baptism, not because of your skill, power, influence, wisdom or nobility.  He did not even choose you because of your ethnicity, status, or gender.  And He certainly did not choose you because you are Missouri Synod or a longstanding member of this church or because of your religious heritage.  No - God chose you in Christ and for Christ to be His very own so that all you can boast in is Christ.  Please listen; you are chosen so that everything you have – your right thinking, right living, and a clean slate – comes from God by way of Jesus Christ.  You are chosen by Christ and for Christ so that He can spiritually clothe you of your nakedness, feed you in your hunger, and wash away your grime - as a sheer gift.   He chose you and will never leave you, nor forsake you, nor forget you in the grave; that is for sure. 

I am often reminded of the Johnsons.  While their attitude has a way of irritating me, the fact of the matter is that their condition is our condition – and the reality of this condition should drive us to pity and repentance.  The reason why; the endless boastful attitude of mankind, the need to self-promote, and the desire to rise to the top always ends in shame.  The Lord will always shame the boastful either through the trials of life or on the great last day when all will be laid bare.  And so, what you, I, and the Johnsons need is to be continually freed from the hollow pretensions of the world and the self-important-thirsting of our old Adam so that we may be captured by the glorious news that you and I are chosen by God in Christ and for Christ.  This is a sheer gift, which means that all of our boasting, confidence, righteousness, and wisdom rest with Christ and not ourselves.  

In the name of Jesus. Amen.

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