Hidden Wisdom

Title: Hidden Wisdom

Text: Matthew 11:25-26

Date: August 29th, 2009

 

One of the realities of Christian conversion is that it can’t happen by “talking someone into” becoming a Christian. The most frustrating things of all in the Christian life is trying to explain the gospel to someone who just doesn’t “get it.” You can start with the paradise garden of Eden and explain how God made everything and everyone good at the beginning. But how our original parents Adam and Eve chose to disobey God by eating the forbidden fruit, which resulted in the Fall. You can explain how we all today are born with a sin nature because of the Fall and how we soon too begin to sin on our own also in life, making us both guilty and headed for divine judgment. You can then show how Jesus Christ came to take our place on the cross by paying for our sins, taking our judgment and giving us his righteousness in exchange for our simple trust in him. When we confess and repent of sinfulness and sin, when we turn away from a self-centered life and turn to God in humble faith we are declared forgiven and made righteous through Christ. Apart from Christ we can never justify ourselves before God no matter how hard we try, no matter how holy we live our lives. Only through Christ can we obtain salvation and eternal life. This all makes perfect sense to a convert to Christianity, but it makes no sense to an unbeliever, which is why it’s so frustrating to share the gospel with someone who either doesn’t get it or doesn’t want to get it. It’s as if the truth of God is hidden from them, put out of reach of their comprehension. Well, it really is the case that the truth of God is hidden from them, because the Bible teaches exactly that in Matthew 11:25, “At that time Jesus said, ‘I praise you Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure.’”  It seems as if non-Christians can’t understand because they have been kept from understanding by God. It seems as if the gospel is hidden from unbelievers because, well, it has been hidden from them by God. The gospel and all of God’s truths are hidden behind their own pride. We’ve all heard the expression “blinded by pride,” well that’s exactly what this passage is describing in respect to salvation. People could be saved except for their pride. Everyone who is saved is saved through humility. There is a notion that is floating around in Christian circles today that says if only the church would make the gospel and the Bible clearer, then people would understand and believe. Or if only Christians would try harder to make the Bible more relevant and speak in more contemporary terms, then people could be saved. So then, under this kind of thinking, it’s mostly the church’s fault, it’s mostly Christians’ fault that people are not coming to the gospel and being saved. But this is naïve thinking because we can explain the gospel and the Bible with absolute clarity using the language of our times and perfectly relevant, yet people will still not understand or accept it. Why? Because it has been hidden from the proud; only the humble receive it. Let me try to explain this passage by breaking it down into three parts and analyzing each part. I hope by the end we can all appreciate how much a miracle salvation really is, and never take it for granted if we ourselves possess the miracle of salvation.

 

First, God’s wisdom is hidden from the worldly wise. Matthew 11:25, “At that time Jesus said, ‘I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned.’” What things is Jesus referring? All spiritual truth, everything Jesus teaches, all things the Bible communicates, God’s wisdom. There’s an interesting word used here in this passage. It’s the Greek word ekrupsas from which we get the English word “encryption,” meaning “hidden or made secret.” When someone makes a “cryptic” remark, that means they make some secret reference. I’m familiar with encryption because in the computer world in order to secure a wireless network you need a password in order to plug into an encrypted system. Without a password, the network is hidden and unusable. That’s what this passage is talking about in respect to God’s Word. The message of the gospel and the entire Bible is hidden from unbelievers because they can’t understand it, even though they may be considered wise and knowledgeable by worldly standards. That’s the irony of faith. It doesn’t take intelligence or education or any human ability; it just takes a humble heart and an open mind. It says in the passage that the wise and learned can’t understand because the wisdom of God has been hidden from them. It might have something to do with the fact that, just as the Apostle Paul says, “knowledge puffs up” – or in other words, the accumulation of knowledge often produces pride in an individual and pride actually hides the wisdom of God from an individual. It also has to do with what Paul talks about in 1 Corinthians 1:20-21, 25, “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. For it is written: ‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligence I will frustrate.’ Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world. For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him. God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. . . . For the foolishness of God is wiser than the man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength.” And then Paul goes on: “Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of the world and the despised things and the things that are not to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him,” 1 Corinthians 1:26-29. God hides himself and his wisdom so that only the humble may know; the proud are kept from knowing. Jesus said also, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven,” Matthew 5:3. It all comes back to humility and how the knowledge and wisdom of God comes when we think less of ourselves and more of God. Unfortunately, we live in a prideful world that teaches the very opposite. It teaches us to exalt ourselves under the guise of self-esteem. It teaches us to trust ourselves and doubt God, when in reality we should doubt ourselves and trust God. Until someone learns to trust God more than self, to trust God’s wisdom more than their own so-called wisdom, they’ll never experience the kingdom of God. Let us pray that God produces humility in our unbelieving family, relatives and friends for salvation. And let us thank God that he opened our hearts and minds to his wisdom due to nothing on our own part.

 

Second, God’s wisdom is revealed to the humble hearted. Matthew 11:25, “At that time Jesus said, ‘I praise you Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children.’” Another interesting Greek word in this passage is apekalupsas, which means “revealing” or “unveiling” or “disclosing.” In fact, it’s the same word used as the title of the last book of the Bible – Revelation or the Apocalypse. God reveals himself and his wisdom to the humble of heart. Now the miracle of salvation is shown in the fact that not one of us is naturally humble. Yes, there are people who are more humble than others or less prideful than others. But nobody is humble enough to receive God and his wisdom unless God changes the heart and opens the mind. I mentioned before Matthew 5:3, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” This begins the famous Sermon on the Mount in which Jesus describes the character of a citizen of the kingdom. It isn’t a natural description of the normal state of the human heart. From a very young age we all naturally begin to turn to self and tend to center ourselves on ourselves. We learn early to trust our own judgment and look to ourselves. If we are successful in life – if we can organize our lives to achieve the goal we set for ourselves – we tend to become full of ourselves or prideful. God and God’s wisdom has a hard time making it into our lives while we are in such a state. Those who are “rich in spirit” – meaning, those who are full of self and loaded with self-sufficiency and self-satisfaction, these ones are left outside the kingdom of God because they cannot or will not stoop to enter. Remember what Jesus said about how hard it is for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven, how it’s easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than a rich man to enter the kingdom? That’s another way of showing how pride keeps people out of heaven, keeps them from salvation. A rich man’s riches, someone rich in wealth or property or knowledge or education or ability or gifts – anything that produces pride – keeps one from God and the knowledge and wisdom of God. Doesn’t that explain why less and less Americans are turning and converting to Christianity? America is a great social experiment in raising the standard of living of the masses, raising the per capita wealth, education and other categories. But at the same time it also fills men and women with pride and self-sufficiency. Instead of turning to God for help, they turn to themselves. Instead of prayer, they plan. Instead of reading the Bible for wisdom, they turn to the experts in science and education. Today, there is also a great push to raise the level of self-esteem within individuals in society, but this too can work against faith, because after all, Christianity teaches that we are to get our sufficiency not in self but in God. “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,” not “I can do all things through my own self-sufficiency.” I’m afraid it’s going to take a mighty humbling of our nation in order to see a wide-scale return to faith in revival. I’m afraid that humbling is going to take the form of a great catastrophe either natural or man-made. 9/11 humbled us all – for about 24 hours. But soon afterwards, human pride rose up and the humility of the moment was lost. But we need to pray that God brings humility in our lives and the lives of our people because it’s the only way we can receive God and God’s wisdom, which we so desperately need today.

 

Third, God’s wisdom is revealed through God’s own choosing. Matthew 11:26, “Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure.” I’m also thinking of another verse, Matthew 16:17, where Jesus reacts to Peter who has just confessed him as the Christ, “Blessed are you Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven.” You see when it all comes down to it, we don’t choose to be saved as much as we are chosen to be saved. What I mean is that according to the Bible, it is in the secret councils of the sovereign will of God that our salvation is secure, not only in our own personal choosing. The strange thing about the Bible is that it teaches both the predestination of God and the free choice of man, and it does so often in the same passage! For example, John 1:10-13, describes the appearance of the Messiah Jesus and man’s reaction: “He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God – children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.” So here, in this one example, in this one verse, both freedom of choice and predestination are taught without any contradiction. Now I can’t explain how they can both be true, but the Bible teaches they are both true so we must leave it at that. I mentioned before how it is pride of heart that keeps people from receiving God and his wisdom, but that doesn’t answer the deeper question – why does God humble some hearts while leaving others in their pride? Here is the answer from God’s Word: “Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure.” In other words, ultimately it’s God’s choice as to who receives the humble heart and receives the gospel and is saved. Now that should really humble you if you grasp the importance of that truth. Because of the gravity of sin, because of the Fall, because of Original Sin, all men and women are so dead in trespasses and sin that they cannot escape their own self-centered gravitational force. We are all bound to orbit around ourselves, trusting in ourselves, being self-sufficient in one way or another, depending on our own reason and ability to solve our own problems in life. Under this condition we are shut off from God and God’s Word. Unless God breaks the power of sin and selfishness in our life, we won’t turn to him and we won’t be saved. But through no work of our own God did break the power of sin and did turn us from ourselves to himself so that we do trust in Christ, his atoning death on our behalf on the cross, and we do desire to follow God’s will instead of our own. Now that’s a miracle that only God can produce. So if you are a Christian, really saved, you have God and only God to thank. Don’t take credit for it yourself. And if you have lost loved ones, friends and others who are still unbelievers, you need to pray that God opens their hearts and eyes so that they can see, without which they will stay lost in sin. That doesn’t mean we just sit back and pray only for them; we are supposed to try as best we can to explain the gospel to them and encourage them to believe any way we can. But ultimately, God has to move in their hearts and they have to respond in order for them to be saved. And that’s the mystery of salvation.

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