Faithlife Sermons

Stop Deceiving Yourself!

Our Scripture lesson to is 1 Corinthians 3:18-23:
1 Corinthians 3:18–23 ESV
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. For it is written, “He catches the wise in their craftiness,” and again, “The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile.” So let no one boast in men. For all things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all are yours, and you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.
Our text today begins with a simple and very short exhortation, “Let no one deceive himself.”
All though this exhortation is simple and short, we all fall prey to self-deception. It appears our ability to deceive ourselves knows no bounds. In our text today, Paul highlights three self-deceptions concerning worldly-wisdom. The first is found in verse 18:

You Cannot be Wise in the Eyes of God and the World at the Same Time

Jenny wanted nothing more than to be liked and to be accepted. She was tired of being lonely. She was tired of always feeling like she was the odd one out, so see took the joint and carefully took a drag. The other kids laughed at her, saying, “What’s the matter Jenny, you scared?” With anger and determination, she took a long deep drag, and thus began a long dark journey.
Jenny’s story is not uncommon; in fact, we have all given in to peer pressure. We all have a need to belong, to be accepted and loved by others. The Devil knows this and when he sets his traps, one of his favorite baits is our desire to be loved and accepted. Why is it that young ministers today are compromising the Gospel with LBGT and socialist ideology? It is not because they are returning to a more biblical Christianity, no of course not. Why then? Is it not because they are trying to win the acceptance of their peers. Their generation for the most part judges fornication, homosexuality, transgenderism and a whole host of other sexual sins as normal. The majority of their generation believe socialism is a good thing, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. To stand up for biblical standards would be a turn-off to their generation and so they compromise.
Now there is nothing new about this. Every generation has faced this challenge, to a greater or lesser extent. Even if we go back in time to the generation of the Prophet Jeremiah, we see Jeremiah was faced with the same challenge. God gave the Prophet Jeremiah a word to speak to his generation:
Jeremiah 6:16 ESV
Thus says the Lord: “Stand by the roads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls. But they said, ‘We will not walk in it.’
The “ancient path” and the “good way” God is referring to is God’s Word. God’s Word is “ancient” because it is eternal and because it does not change. God’s Word is also the “good way”. Although it is “ancient” it is never outdated, it is always the “good way”.
Is not that what we all want, “the good way”? The world is departing from God’s ways because in their wisdom they think they have discovered a better way. This is part of the deception of worldly wisdom. We believe that if we go that way we will achieve some “good” and by achieving some “good”, we will please God.
The cold hard reality is this: A person cannot please both man and God at the same time. Concerning the gospel ministry Paul wrote this:
Galatians 1:10 ESV
For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.
To put it another way, if you are a faithful servant of Christ’s, you will be hated by the world and persecuted by it:
John 15:18 ESV
“If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you.
2 Timothy 3:12 ESV
Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted,
Let us stop deceiving ourselves that we can somehow please both God and the world. We can’t! Therefore, let us renounce worldly wisdom and depend upon the wisdom of God, which is found in His Word.
This brings us to Paul’s second point: Stop Deceiving Yourselves...

You Cannot be Wise Apart from God’s Wisdom

Perhaps because of some of the things that the Apostle Paul wrote and I have said so far in this series, you have come to the conclusion that the Apostle and I are anti-science. Nothing could be farther from the truth. John Calvin, commenting on this passage wrote these words:
1 Corinthians: New Testament, Volume 9a 3:18–23 No Grounds for Boasting in Human Wisdom

The natural arts and all the sciences by which wisdom is acquired are gifts of God. But they are confined within their limits, and cannot penetrate into God’s heavenly kingdom. Accordingly, they must be handmaidens and not mistresses. Or rather, they must be looked on as empty and worthless until they are completely subject to the Word and the Spirit of God. But if they set themselves against Christ, they are a noxious plague, and if they maintain that they are capable of anything in themselves, they should be judged as the worst of hindrances.

The problem we have today, with many would call themselves scientists, is that they place their interpretation over Scripture, rather than allowing Scripture to guide their interpretation. Science can only provide us with bare facts, these bare facts must be put together to form a coherent picture, this is called interpretation. If we do not let Scripture guide our interpretation of the facts, the picture we produce will be a distortion of reality. We are deceiving ourselves.
God is not passive, when people attempt to be wise apart from Him, God is actively working against them. Listen again as I read verses 19-20:
1 Corinthians 3:19–20 ESV
For the wisdom of this world is folly with God. For it is written, “He catches the wise in their craftiness,” and again, “The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile.”
Believe me; you don’t want to make God your enemy! If you think you are going to be successful apart from God’s Word, you are deceiving yourself. This humiliation may not come until the Final Judgement, but it will come!
This is why the common refrain we find throughout Scripture is this, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” If you have no fear of God, you are a fool, no matter how many degrees you may have hanging from your wall!
If we want to be truly wise, we have to go back to that ancient path Jeremiah spoke of—The Word of God. Psalm 1 speaks of the Two Ways:
Psalm 1:1–2 ESV
Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.
Let us stop deceiving ourselves and get back to the Way of God.
There is one more thing Paul says we must stop deceiving ourselves about and this is that the rewards of worldly wisdom are worth it. The truth is...

The Rewards of Worldly Wisdom are Table Scraps

To help us understand what Paul is saying in verses 21-23, let me give you an illustration:
You have all heard the expression, “The whole enchilada”. Imagine yourself sitting at a Mexican Restaurant with a friend. The server comes to your table with your orders. She places before you a beautiful arrangement of enchiladas, sitting on a bed of rice and covered with cheese and enchilada sauce. You mouth begins to water. The server then sets before your friend his order, it consists only of a plate of enchilada sauce!
Your friend is irate and rips into the poor server, accusing her of ripping him off. Reluctantly, you come to her defense; reminding him that that is all he ordered.
This story illustrates perfectly the point Paul is making in the closing verses of our text. In their worldly wisdom, the Corinthians were boasting about belonging to the party of certain ministers. Some boasted in Paul, others boasted in Apollos, and still others boasted in Cephas. Paul is saying, how silly, in Christ, all things are yours, including Paul, Apollos and Cephas!
In other words, “Why have only sauce when you can have the whole enchilada!”
The excuse most Christians use for using worldly wisdom and methods is success. On the surface, adopting worldly wisdom and methods seem to produce the appearance of success. The world’s wisdom and the world’s methods do produce fruit, often times lots of it! The only problem is this: the world’s wisdom always produces the world’s fruit—fruit that is rotten and leads to eternal death!
The point here is not that there should not be growth in a ministry, but the quality of the growth. God is growing a forest of Red Woods, not weeds! A Red Wood forest takes a long time to grow, but when they are fully-grown, they are the largest living thing on this planet! The Church of Jesus Christ is always growing. Sometimes its growth is easy to see, other times it appears as though it is not growing at all, but we always know it is growing because it is God who causes it to grow:
1 Corinthians 3:6–7 ESV
I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.
Next week, we are going to read in the opening verse of chapter four these words:
1 Corinthians 4:1–2 ESV
This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found faithful.
That is the bottom line: every congregation, every minister, every individual Christian needs to be a faithful steward of the gospel. When we do things God’s way we cannot fail! This is why Paul closes with these encouraging words, “all thing are ours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all are ours, and we are Christ’s and Christ is God’s.”
So let us not settle for table scraps when God has promised us the whole enchilada!
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