The Power of One
Serve Oklahoma
The Power of One
I Corinthians 1:26-31
 
This is our fourth week in the Serve Oklahoma emphasis, and today’s subject is really where the pedal hits the metal.  Of all the topics, today’s is the most essential.
 
Let me tell you what I mean by that.  Today’s focus is on the individual.  And it really doesn’t matter much if the “community” or even a Sunday school class makes a commitment to pray and do mission projects and share the gospel if you aren’t willing to be involved at an individual level.
 
And frankly, that has always been a problem for the church.  It seems to me there are two groups of people in every church that create a challenge for doing the ministry.
 
Sometimes there is a group of people who are restrictive with the opportunities to serve.  It’s hard for new people to get involved and be accepted and find a place, and consequently, many times people who genuinely want to serve and God equips and sends to serve go elsewhere to meet that need.
 
By the way, that’s one of the major reasons why some churches never grow.  It’s “Us four, no more and shut the door”.
 
But there is another problem, and it is connected to the first one, but it also has a life of its own and that is people who don’t want to do anything.
 
See, it’s easy to be a member of one of those churches where a small group runs everything, because you don’t have to contribute anything.  You can just come and watch and not get connected and leave everything for the others to do.
 
But the reason I say that has a life of its own is because it happens in churches where there isn’t a power problem.  And even when there are opportunities to serve and get involved, there are many people who are members of churches who never lift a finger to do anything in ministry.
 
They are gifted and equipped and saved to serve;  there are opportunities and needs where they could plug in; they just don’t do and really don’t care if it gets done or not.
 
But as we began this series a few weeks ago, I reminded you that we are saved to serve, we are gifted to serve; we are commanded to serve and God placed us in the church to serve.  So why don’t more Christians get involved?
 
I think one of the primary reasons is we believe we are unusable. We tend to evaluate ourselves by the talents and faithfulness of others and we decide we have nothing to offer and in fact, the church is better off if we don’t get in there and mess things up.
 
But that is a lie!  If you are a Christian, God initiated that process.  He knew what He was getting when He called you; He designed and equipped you exactly the way He wanted you to be; He placed you specifically in this local body to contribute what only you can give.
 
And to question that or ignore that or argue about it is to call into question the very wisdom of God!
And what I want you to discover today is regardless of who you are, whoever you are, God can and will use you! Sometimes we get the idea that God can only use a certain class of people. I'm thankful to God for anybody who comes to know Jesus as their Savior. I am thankful for celebrities who come to the Lord. I'm grateful for people of wealth who come to Christ. I'm thankful for athletes who come to the Lord Jesus Christ.
 
But sometimes when we see people with such a dynamic testimony who are in the public eye and they get high visibility for their faith in the Lord it can create a problem in the mind of those who aren’t.
 
Sometimes people aren't as physically attractive as others or maybe they've not had the opportunity of education.  Maybe they've never been outstanding in any particular area and they hear these celebrities
and athletes give their testimonies and their witness for the Lord Jesus and they get the idea that they cannot be used of God because they're not this kind of individual.
 
Well, if that’s what you think, I want to point you toward a passage of Scripture today that will help you with that.
 
1 Corinthians 1:26-31
 
According to these verses, God can use anybody who is willing to be used by Him.
 
 
In fact, it has been my observation that for the most part it is not the high and mighty who are greatly used of God but rather it is an altogether different kind of people.
 
You may never be listed in "Who's Who". In fact, you may even be listed in "Who's Not".  You may never have been a Phi Beta Kappa. You may never make a fortune or be a celebrity and yet it is the teaching of the Bible that God will use anybody who is willing to be used.
 
In fact, if you study the history of Christianity you will discover that it has made its greatest successes among the common people. The founder of
Christianity was a carpenter. The first apostles of Christianity were men who were fishermen and of lowly trade.
 
Sometimes people get the idea that the way you win a city or conquer a country for Christ is to start at the top and win all of the people at the top and it will move down. History teaches us differently.
 
Christianity has had its greatest appeal among the ranks of the lowly, the humble and the poor. God's method of church growth is not from the top down but from the bottom up.
 
So what I want to do today is show you the kind of person God uses, and then why He chooses to use the people He does.
 
First, I want you to see that
 
1. Who God Uses
 
Three times in these verse it says "God has chosen".
 
Now God is an equal opportunity God.  And if you read these verses carefully, you discover that anyone can be use.
But you will also notice there is a group that is in the minority and there is a group that is in the majority.
 
Verse 26
 
Notice in regard to the high-profile, powerful and influential crowd, not many are chosen.  It doesn't say that God doesn't use any of those people. It just says God doesn’t use many of those people.
 
For instance, it says that not many wise men are called. And note that it is qualified by being wise “according to the flesh”.  In other words, it is not primarily the intellectual who responds to the faith of the Lord Jesus Christ. Some are and we ought to be thankful for them.  In fact, some of the greatest minds that were ever produced have been minds that were humbly obedient to the gospel of Jesus.
 
But we need to be reminded the “fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom”.  You can’t begin to know anything until first of all you know the Lord.  And it’s amazing to me that people with such great intellect and intelligence don’t have enough sense to follow God.  I believe that any intelligent mind will receive Christ as Savior.
 
And we are thankful for intellectuals who come to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. But according to this Scripture, most of those who are serving God are not among the ranks of the intellectual.
 
So if you've never been in the Honor Society, don't worry! God can use you!  When I was in school I was on the Superintendent’s prayer list a whole lot more often than I was on the other kind of list.
 
It is an encouragement to know that you don't have to be an intellectual to know Christ and to serve Jesus and be used in an effective manner.
 
Then it says, not many mighty. Again, he didn't say "not any" but "not many". Thankfully, there are some influential people in the world who are used by God.  There are people in places of power who believe n the Lord Jesus Christ.
 
American history is full of such people.  Many of the fathers of our nation were believers who were used by God to found this nation.
 
Business men like J. C. Penney were used of God.  I mentioned Bill Borden to you recently.  What an example of God using one of the mighty of the world for His cause.
 
In more modern history we’ve had local people like Raymond Young, one of the original founders of TG and Y stores who was a Christian.  Even today, we give thanks for people like the Green family who own Hobby Lobby and have blessed thousands with their generosity.  Obviously there are those today in places of influence who are faithful to serve Jesus.
 
But the Scripture says here that not many mighty are called. That just simply means that, for the most part, those in the ranks of the influential are not believers in Jesus Christ.
 
Is it not obvious that there are a lot of politicians who don't know the Lord Jesus? If you don't believe that just watch what they do up there in Washington.
 
Just this week it was brought to our attention that the U.S. Army has blocked the website of the Southern Baptist Convention from government computers, saying the site contains "hostile content."
 
Obviously, the mighty are, by and large, not following the Lord.
 
Then he says, not many noble, are called. That is the ranks of those who are high-bred. It really means well-born; people who were born with pedigree and
social status in life. There are some of these who are called but not many.
 
From time to time, you see people who have nobility and aristocracy and culture who have dedicated themselves to serve Jesus. And it is a beautiful and wonderful thing. But not many noble are called.
 
So that is the minority. If you are in that group - the ranks of the intellectual, illustrious and influential, God can use you but you're going to have to work a
whole lot harder than most of the rest of us!
 
Then notice the majority.
 
Verse 27
 
Now we get to see what God is looking for when He chooses servants.
 
 
God has chosen...
 
- the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise
 
I feel better already, don’t you?
 
Sometimes God will take foolish, simple things and confound this world. Think about how that is illustrated in Scripture.
 
Back in the Old Testament we encounter a man named Namaan.  He is described as the captain of the army of the king of Aram.  He was a great soldier.  He was highly respected.  But he had leprosy.
 
He went to the prophet Elisha wanting to know what could be done to cure his leprosy. Elisha sent word for him to dip seven times in the muddy waters of the Jordan river. It sounded so foolish to him and yet it was God's way of curing him of his leprosy.
 
So often God has taken those foolish things and taken those who were considered fools by this world and used them in astounding ways. That's just the way God works!
 
God has a way of bypassing all of notables and expected and using some old ordinary boy out there who just loves the Lord Jesus and wants to serve Him.
 
One of my favorite characters is D. L. Moody. I love to study and read about him. He was just an ordinary man, never ordained to preach, but a layman that God raised up.
He began to preach and had people saved. People made fun of Moody.
They called him, "Old Crazy Moody". On a Sunday morning, he'd get on a donkey and ride it through Chicago and get little boys and girls to come to his Sunday School. He didn't have a lot of education.
He murdered the King's English.   Yet, people by the thousands were won to faith in Jesus.
 
One time, in one of his crusades, someone sent a note up to him. He opened up the note and looked at it. There was only one word on the note - it said FOOL. So Mr. Moody looked at the note that said FOOL (talking about him) and he said, "Now, folks, this is a most unusual thing. I have from time to
time received letters where people forgot to sign their name. This is the first time they signed their name and forgot to write the letter."
 
What man considered to be a foolish thing, God
used to win a lot of people to faith in Christ.
 
Another one of God's special servants that I've enjoyed reading about was Billy Sunday.  He was a hard-living professional baseball player who came to Christ at the Pacific Garden Mission in Chicago.
 
Billy Sunday was literally an acrobat for God in the pulpit. They say it was quite a show to see Billy Sunday preach. You never knew what he was going to preach. He'd preach about going to heaven and use baseball terminology.
 
He'd talk about sliding into home plate and he'd slide right in the pulpit. He'd get after the devil and get a chair and chase the devil all over the stage.
 
In one of his crusades, he gave the invitation for people to come to Christ and a gentleman with a long, flowing beard came forward.  When Billy Sunday saw him come forward, he ran over to him and grabbed him by his beard and pulled it and said, "HONK, HONK!"
 
Nothing but a fool so far as the world was concerned, but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise.
 
There was an old preacher back in Tennessee years ago named Stone.  He was a converted railroad man who won people to faith. One time, he had ordered some hay up in Tennessee, where he lived, and it
hadn't been delivered.
 
He got just a little angry about and said to his grandsons, "Come on and go with me. I'm going to have it out with that fellow."
 
They jumped in his car and took off over to the pasture where the hay was being bailed. He drove in,
got out of his car and walked up to this guy and said, "Is your name Jerry?" The guy said, "Yes." And he began to chew him out because he had not delivered that hay the way he was supposed to.
 
Finally, after he had chewed the guy out the fellow said, "Well, I'm the wrong Jerry. I'm not the Jerry you're looking for. Over there is Jerry down there." Mr. Stone said, "Is that right? You're not the one?" The man said, "No, I'm not."
 
 
 
 
He said, "Nevertheless, I don't like your attitude. I bet you're not saved, are you?" He said, "You get down on your knees right here and ask God to forgive you and ask Jesus to come into your heart
and save you." And he did!
 
God has chosen to use the foolish things of this world.
 
Then it says, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things that are mighty.
 
Remember Goliath?  All of Israel was afraid of this towering giant of a man.  But God took a little shepherd boy named David, with a sling stone and some rocks and used this weak little boy to win a great battle.
 
That is just the way God does it. God takes simple, plain ordinary people, chooses to use them and bless them to do His mighty work.
 
Verse 28
 
He's talking about things that people in this world look down on; just nobodies in the world’s estimation.  And yet God chooses to use those nobodies to bring to pass great things.
 
Listen:  It’s not your ability that God is after.  It's your availability and your willingness to be used by
God. There is absolutely no telling what God could do for you and through you if you would simply make yourself available to be used by Him.
 
Why?  Why does God choose to do it that way?
These verses not only tell us who God uses, but
 
2. Why God Uses Who He Uses
 
I think it important to keep in mind that those God chooses to use are
 
- Selected by Him
 
Verse 29
 
God says He's going to use the people the world
looks down upon so that when he does what He intends to do through them everybody will know that God did it and not that individual.
 
What if when Goliath came down and threatened Israel, Israel had chosen a giant just as big, just as strong and just as intimidating as Goliath? What if that giant had gone down into the valley with Goliath and had pitted strength against strength?
 
If Israel's giant had won the battle then Israel could have bragged in its giant. But when God sent David with a slingshot and His little man won the victory everybody knew that it was not David who had done it, it was God who had done it and it was God who got the glory.
 
That's why God uses the folks He uses. God will take
some 'ole boy and call him to preach and God will bless him and everybody that knows him knows that he is not capable of doing the things that he's doing and that the only alternative is for them to say, God did it and God gets all of the glory.
 
 
God will use you if you willing to be used. You can be selected by Him to be used in a mighty way.
 
Not only are those God uses selected by Him, they are
 
- Located in Him
 
Verse 30
 
He is talking about our location in Christ as believers. That little phrase "in Christ Jesus" is one of Paul's favorite phrases. It occurs over and over again in the writings of Paul. The Bible says that when you come to faith in Jesus Christ, spiritually you are now "in Jesus Christ".
 
That simply means that in Christ, that being your spiritual location, everything Jesus has and is is made available to you.
 
Now notice what this verse says.  It says because we are in Christ Jesus, then His wisdom becomes our wisdom.  Then flowing from that wisdom, he mentions three other spiritual realities that are ours in Christ.
 
It's like a fountain of wisdom that bubbles forth in three magnificent rivers. Notice those three words, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption.
 
Those three words tell us what it means to be in Christ Jesus.
 
First of all, we have righteousness.
 
 
Righteousness covers our past. The Bible teaches that none of us have any righteousness in and of ourselves. In fact, the Bible says that the very best we can come up with is filthy rags.
 
That means you can take all of the good deeds that you've ever done or that you will ever do, put it all in one bundle, and what you will have to present to the Lord is just a pile of filthy, dirty shredded clorags.
 
That's why no man should ever think he can get to heaven on the basis of what he does. You can't do enough to get to heaven. You can't be good enough in order to get to heaven.
 
God has established the standard of entrance into heaven. God's standard is absolute perfect righteousness. God will not allow imperfection into heaven. God will not allow a lesser standard into heaven.
 
That creates a real dilemma because we don't have any righteousness and yet God requires righteousness to get into heaven. If we don't have any righteousness and God requires righteousness for us to get to heaven what is our hope?
 
I Cor. 5:21 says, “For he has made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.”
 
Jesus was the perfect righteousness one of God. Jesus Christ did everything He should have done, He said everything He should have said, He thought everything He ought to think. He was God's absolutely righteous one.
 
And yet when Jesus Christ went to Calvary's cross He laid aside that robe of His perfect righteousness and took upon Himself that load of our sin and our guilt. In that moment when Jesus died at Calvary our sins were laid on Him. God punished sin in the person of His own Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.
 
When I come to Calvary, I come knowing that I'm a sinner, knowing that my sins took Jesus to the cross and I say, "Oh, Lord Jesus, I want you to forgive me. I want you to save me!" Then the Lord takes that perfect robe of His righteousness and covers me with it! When God sees me now He sees me through the Lord Jesus Christ and my sins are covered by the perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ.
 
And that and that alone is what qualifies me to enter heaven.  “Dressed in His righteousness alone, faultless to stand before the Throne”.
 
So through the wisdom of Christ, I get righteousness.
 
But that’s not all.  Not only is He our righteousness to cover our past but He is our
 
- sanctification
 
 Now sanctification is what takes care of the present.
 
What is sanctification? It is a very important Bible concept. It is that word which describes how Jesus Christ cares for our present, how Jesus Christ helps us grow and mature into being the kind of person He has saved us to be.
 
 
Sanctification is progressive growth in righteousness. Righteousness is my standing with the Lord. Sanctification is my daily growth, bringing my behavior, my lifestyle, more and more into conformity with my standing in Jesus Christ.
 
Sanctification means that every day of my life I'm learning to live more and more the way Jesus wants me to live. That's a lifetime enterprise! In fact, we're not going to get through in this world. We'll have to go by the judgment seat of Christ to get the final deal done.
 
I don't want the Lord to have an unusually big job to do to me at the judgment seat. I'd like to be growing a little! I'd like to think I'm growing in Jesus.
 
Sanctification is Christ working in my life as I allow Him to live His life through me. There is a discovery that God’s people desperately need to make.
 
Most Christians struggle through their faith with the idea that they have to perform a certain way.  And the emphasis is always on them.  We have to do it.  We have to live right.  We must measure up to the standard.  We must groan and strive and labor to be acceptable.
 
If that’s how you view your Christian life, let me free you up.  You don’t have to do that.  In fact, you can’t do that.  You can’t live good enough for God to find you acceptable.  And no matter how hard you try, you will never measure up.
 
What we desperately need to understand is God doesn’t want you to live a certain way.  He wants you to die and let Christ live in you.
The truth is, it is not I but it is Christ in me.  What I must do is yield my life everyday to Jesus and let Him live through me.
 
There was an old preacher from a bygone day named A. J. Gordon who used to tell the story of visiting a world's fair. As he approached a particular place in the fair, from a distance he saw a man pumping water. The man was just pumping away and water was pouring from the spout.
 
But when Mr. Gordon got closer to the man, he realized what he thought he saw was not what he saw at all!  What he discovered was the man was not a real man but a man made out of wood. He also discovered that the man made out of wood was connected to an artesian well. An artesian well bubbles forth of its own. And what he found out that it was not the man who was pumping the water but the water that was pumping the man!
 
That's a pretty good description of what sanctification is all about. It's not me pumping up to try to live the way I ought to live.  It's Jesus who motivates me and enables me and helps me everyday to be more and more like He wants me to be.
 
He is our righteousness to deal with our past.
He is our sanctification to cope with the present.
 
Then it says he become for us
 
- Redemption
 
And that takes care of our future.
 
There is a sense in which we are already redeemed. But there is also a sense in which final and full redemption awaits us in the future.
 
One of these days what was begun here on the earth in our salvation will be fully and completely completed.  We will be released from all of the limitation of the flesh, all of our failures, all of our frailties.
 
And notice all of that is done, according to verse 31, to result in glory being given to God.
 
If you could save yourself and live the Christian life in and of yourself then when you got up to heaven you'd make everybody miserable because you'd be up there bragging about how you did it and telling what a good life you'd lived.
 
We’d be comparing stories and topping one another with what we did and how hard we worked and what kind of sacrifice we made.
 
But when we get to heaven nobody is going to be bragging on himself! When we get to heaven we're all going to be giving glory to God!
 
It will just be a bunch of nobodies whom the world laughed at and ignored and ridiculed; "just plain folks" who have been selected by Him and are located in Him. And who have served Him with His wisdom.  And we'll know and understand that God did it all and He will get all of the glory forever and forever.
 
Let’s pray.
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