What God Chooses
A Sermon by Glenn Conjurske, Preached on May 22, 1992
Recorded, Transcribed, and Revised
Open your Bibles please to the book of I Corinthians, the first chapter. I’ll begin reading at verse 18, and read to the end of the chapter. “For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God. For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent. Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? Hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom: but we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness; but unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men. For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: but God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; and base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: that no flesh should glory in his presence.” That’s as far as I’m going to read.
I’m going to speak to you tonight particularly on verses 27-28, “But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty, and base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are.” I’m going to speak to you on what God has chosen.
I believe that modern Christianity is far, far astray from the Christianity of the Bible. I’ve believed that for more than 25 years, almost ever since I was converted. The reason I believe that is because I read the Bible and find one kind of Christianity, and look around me and find another kind. I believe there are various reasons why the Christianity of our day is so far astray. The main reason, of course, is because it has departed from the word of God. Particularly, the church has departed from that which God chooses, and has chosen after the likings of the world and the flesh.
Now, everything in Christianity and in true religion is based on what God is, what God says, and what God does. And if the church of God thinks otherwise than God thinks, it has gone astray. If it chooses otherwise than as God has chosen, it has gone astray. Now, God says here what he has chosen. He has chosen the foolish, the weak, the base, and the despised. How many churches do you know, how many Christian organizations do you know, which choose the way God chooses? You probably don’t know many. You likely don’t know any. How is it that God says, “I have chosen the weak, and the foolish, and the base, and the despised,” and yet we look all around us at the churches and the Christian organizations, and see them choosing the rich, the noble, the esteemed? God says, “That which is highly esteemed among men is abomination with God,” and yet we see the modern church choosing always that which is most highly esteemed in the world, choosing always exactly the opposite of the things that God says he has chosen. Why is that? Well, because man thinks he is wise. He trusts in his own understanding, and so departs far astray from the ways of God. I’m talking about Christians making choices as to how we’re going to go about doing the work of God, how we’re going to go about winning souls and accomplishing the things God has given to us to do. Most of the modern church despises and shuns the very things which God says he has chosen. This is the history of Neo-evangelicalism, and Fundamentalism is only about half a step behind them.
Because we don’t know the word of God, we have the idea that the best way to do the work of God is by using those means which will appeal to the folks that we are trying to win. Choose the noble things, the things that people will esteem, the things that people will be drawn to, the things that people will look up to, and thus some way get into their hearts and win them to the cause for which we stand
—-and it’s a grand mistake. It uses the flesh to win the flesh, and the world to win the world, and it leaves the world and the flesh unjudged. God says, I’ve chosen the weak. I’ve chosen the foolish. I’ve chosen the base. I’ve chosen the despised. I don’t choose the things that people look up to. I choose the things that people look down upon. I don’t choose the things that people admire. I choose the things that they despise —-and I use them, and they work.
God has a reason for this. It says, “that no flesh should glory in his presence.” Now, the modern church, generally speaking, will choose the things that the world looks up to. You want to draw a crowd? You want to preach the gospel to them? Well, you get a Miss America on your platform, or a big-name football player, or anything you can find out there in the world that is going to be looked up to and admired by worldly folks, and use it to draw a crowd, and you’re going to win them from the world
—-to what? Not to the cross of Christ, “by which I am crucified to the world, and the world to me.” You don’t win them to the ways of God at all. You put the world on the platform, and you win them from the world to the world, and that is the extent of it.
Now, I believe that God’s way is best, and that God’s way works. The world has wisdom, but God says that he has made foolish the wisdom of the world. You want to find out how to do the work of God? You read the Bible. You don’t read the modern psychology books, and imbibe “the newer insights of educational psychology.” They don’t work. They are foolishness with God. God’s way does work. And by the way, God’s way glorifies God, and that ought to be one of our primary objectives in everything that we do.
Now, having said that much by way of introduction, I want to get into some specific things here. Verse twenty-seven says, “God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty.” I have preached other times on “the foolishness of God.” It says in verse 25, “The foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.” The foolishness of God is wiser than men. The modern church of God has never learned to choose the things that God chooses, or to choose the way that God chooses, because the way that God chooses does in fact look foolish, and we think we know better. It’s lack of faith. You know, God has done some mighty foolish things in the history of the world. You know what else? They all worked. God has done things that no wise man would ever dream of doing, and they worked. And the wise things that the wise men have done, didn’t work, and God has made foolish the wisdom of the world.
I want to talk to you about a foolish thing that God has done. Turn back with me to the book of Judges, the seventh chapter. Remember the purpose of God, “that no flesh should glory in his presence.” He will bring down the pride and the glory of man, and therefore God chooses the foolish things, and by them destroys the wisdom of the wise. God chooses the weak things, and by them destroys the mighty things.
Judges, chapter seven. We have an account of one of the most foolish things that God has ever done. It says in verse 2 of Judges, chapter 7, “And the Lord said unto Gideon, The people that are with thee are too many for me to give the Midianites into their hands, lest Israel vaunt themselves against me, saying, Mine own hand hath saved me.” God has a purpose here. He’s saying, If I let you go out with thirty thousand men, you’re going to say, My own hand hath saved me. God has a purpose, and that purpose is that no flesh should glory in his presence, and so he says, “The people that are with thee are too many. Now therefore go to, proclaim in the ears of the people, saying, Whosoever is fearful and afraid, let him return and depart early from mount Gilead. And there returned of the people twenty and two thousand; and there remained ten thousand.” Remember, now, God is about to send Gideon out against an army as the sand of the seashore for multitude, and the first thing he does is reduce his little army from thrity thousand to ten thousand. But if you think that was foolish, read on. “And the Lord said unto Gideon, The people are yet too many; bring them down unto the water, and I will try them for thee there: and it shall be, that of whom I say unto thee, This shall go with thee, the same shall go with thee; and of whomsoever I say unto thee, This shall not go with thee, the same shall not go.” Well, you know the story. I’ll just read verse 6, “The number of them that lapped, putting their hand to their mouth, were three hundred men: but all the rest of the people bowed down upon their knees to drink water. And the Lord said unto Gideon, By the three hundred men that lapped will I save you, and deliver the Midianites into thine hand.” Now, if you’ll drop down with me to verse 12 you’ll read an interesting thing. “And the Midianites and the Amalekites and all the children of the east lay along in the valley like grasshoppers for multitude; and their camels were without number, as the sand by the sea side for multitude.” And God is going to send an army of three hundred men against them. This was the height of foolishness, and the depth of weakness. No general on earth would fight with such an army, unless he were insane. But this is the army of God’s choice.
But God had greater foolishness yet in store. Reading in verse 16, “He divided the three hundred men into three companies, and he put a trumpet in every man’s hand, with empty pitchers, and lamps within the pitchers. And he said unto them, Look on me, and do likewise; and, behold, when I come to the outside of the camp, it shall be that, as I do, so shall ye do. When I blow with a trumpet, I and all that are with me, then blow ye the trumpets also on every side of all the camp, and say, The sword of the Lord, and of Gideon.” What a weak and foolish army this must have appeared to be, in the face of this great armed multitude which filled the land before them, but would you believe these three hundred men went out to the battle without a sword in their hands? Every man has a trumpet in one hand, and a pitcher in the other, and unless they had three hands apiece, they carried no swords. That’s the foolishness of God, and it’s wiser than men.
And here, by the way, we see how absolutely necessary it is to walk by faith, in order to choose as God chooses. If you had been in Gideon’s army, wouldn’t you have supposed the enterprise the height of folly? Wouldn’t you have rather left behind either the trumpet or the pitcher, and held a sword in your hand? Wouldn’t a sword in your hand have given you a little more security? No doubt, but faith gives us security also, and by faith we can rest secure even in the weakest and most foolish position, if God is in it. Ah! if men but knew God, how easy it would be to rest even in his weakness and his foolishness.
But it is our business to trust God when we can’t see the end, and have no idea how he is going to extricate us from the foolish position he has put us in. Gideon didn’t know how God would deliver them. He walked by faith, not by sight. But God had swords enough in reserve to destroy the whole army of the Midianites. Every man in the Midianite army had a sword in his hand, and God just turned every man’s sword against his fellow, and so the foolishness of God proved wiser than men, and the weakness of God stronger than men.
So much for the weak, and the foolish. Back to I Corinthians chapter 1. It says in verse 28, “And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are, that no flesh should glory in his presence.” Base things. What does that mean? Well, the kind of thing that everybody looks down upon. Despised. Things which nobody has any use for. Publicans. Fishermen. Shepherds. The poor. Folks that nobody else would choose.
Now I want to talk a little bit tonight about the birth of Christ. You can turn while I’m speaking to the beginning of the book of Luke. One of the most compelling manifestations of God’s choice appears in the birth of Christ. I could talk to you about Mary. I believe that Mary was a poor girl, and when God came down to choose a woman to be the mother of his Messiah, he chose a poor girl. I know that from what Mary herself says in the first chapter of the book of Luke, verses 46 to 48. Mary said, “My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour, for he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden.” And then she says further on, verse 52, “He hath put down the mighty from their seats, and hath exalted them of low degree. He hath filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he hath sent empty away.”
Turn with me to the book of James for a minute. The early church had some of the same kind of problems the modern church does. They wanted to choose the things that were esteemed and noble in this world, and James says in the second chapter, the first verse, “My brethren, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons. For if there come into your assembly a man with a gold ring, in goodly apparel, and there come in also a poor man in vile raiment; and ye have respect to him that weareth the gay clothing, and say unto him, Sit thou here in a good place, and say to the poor, Stand thou there, or sit here under my footstool, are ye not then partial in yourselves, and are become judges of evil thoughts? Hearken, my beloved brethren, Hath not God chosen the poor of this world?” Besides telling us that God has chosen the foolish, and the weak, and the base, and the despised, the Bible has told us that God hath chosen the poor. And when God came into the world in the person of Christ to preach the gospel, he came “to preach the gospel to the poor.” (Luke 4:18). God has chosen the poor. I don’t mean the rich can’t be saved, but “not many” of them will. “Not many” wise. “Not many” mighty. “Not many” noble. And certainly not many rich. God has chosen the poor, and when he chose Mary, he chose a poor girl. He chose a woman of low estate.
Now do you think God had a choice? Do you think that when God looked down from heaven upon all the young maidens in all the land of Judaea, and when he said, “Upon one of these girls I’m going to send my Holy Spirit, and she’s going to conceive in her womb, and bring forth the holy thing called the Son of God,” did God have a choice which girl he was going to take? When God sent the angel Gabriel to one of those girls in Judaea, did he have a choice which girl it would be? Yes, and God chose a poor girl, a woman of low estate.
Well, that’s not all. Second chapter of the book of Luke. “And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed. . . . And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.” And therefore he was born in Bethlehem, right?
—-because Caesar Augustus made a decree? No, God chose Bethlehem. Micah 5:2 says, “But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.”
Now the first thing I want you to see with regard to the birth of Christ is that God looked down upon all the thousands of cities of Israel, and he said, I’m going to pick a little one, a small town, the kind where the big-shots never go. You know what you folks would have done, if you were going to bring the Christ into the world? You would have said, Jerusalem, obviously. That’s the capital city. That’s the city of David, the city of the great king. That’s where the temple is. It’s the city of God. It’s the Holy City. Jerusalem, obviously. When the wise men from the East saw his star, and God some way revealed it to them that this star indicated that the Christ was born, the King of the Jews, you know what they did? They went straight to Jerusalem, and said, Where is he? But he wasn’t at Jerusalem, because God had a choice, and God said, Thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall come forth the governor. God chose, and he did not choose the way man would have chosen.
God passed by the metropolis, passed by the holy city, the city of the great kings, the capital. Even though it was only a few miles away, he passed it by, and chose the little place, the base and the despised. Not only that. Read on in the second chapter of Luke. Verse 7 says, “And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.” Now let me ask you a question. Do you think that when the eternal Son of God, who shared his Father’s glory for aeons upon aeons, before the world was created, who was worshipped by all the angels
—-walked on the golden streets, possessed everything that existed, created it with his hand, flung the stars into the sky with his own hand —-do you think when he came into the world to be born, he didn’t have a choice about his birthplace? Do you think he was forced out in the stable with the animals because the inn was full, or do you think that he chose that? I tell you this babe that was born was the eternal Son of God. He could have spoken a word and created a thousand inns. He could have spoken a word and created a palace of pure gold, with a silver cradle, lined with purple and scarlet velvet. He CHOSE to be born out in a cow barn, and be laid in a manger. Why? Because God chooses the base and the despised. The Son of God had a choice. He chose to come into the world that way.
You don’t believe me yet? Let’s read on. Verse 8 says, “And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you: ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” Now, you may say it was circumstances that forced the Christ out into the cow barn, and into the manger. The decree of the emperor filled the city with travellers, and there was no room in the inn. But ah! the same God who sent his Son sent an angel to announce the birth of his Son. Do you think he had a choice to whom he should send that angel? Why didn’t God send that angel to the king on the throne in Jerusalem? Why didn’t God send that angel to the council of the Sanhedrin? “Say, you great ones of the earth, Be informed that my Son is born in Bethlehem of Judaea!” Why didn’t he send that angel to the rich? Why didn’t he send that angel to the scribes and Pharisees and lawyers? Why did he go out into the field and find poor shepherds, that had to sit up at night watching their flocks, and say, Angel of mine, go there, out to the poor shepherds in the field? Don’t go to the city. Don’t go to the rich folks. Don’t go to the fine houses and palaces. Don’t go to the Sanhedrin. Don’t go to the religious leaders. Don’t go to the temple. Go out there into the field to these poor rustics
—-shepherds, watching their flocks by night. God chose that.
Now this passage of scripture is to me one of the most thrilling in the Bible. It says an angel appeared unto them, came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone around about them, and they were sore afraid. You would have been, too. You’re out there on an ordinary evening watching your flocks at night, just like every other night, and suddenly there’s an angel, and the glory of the Lord lighting up the skies, and they were sore afraid. But the angel said, “Fear not,” and gave them his precious message. And then it says
—-and this is one of the most sublime verses in the Bible —-after the angel had quieted their fears, and given them his message, “suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest.” The heavens above their heads were filled with angels, and these poor shepherds saw them, and heard them sing, and NONE OF THE GREAT ONES OF THE EARTH EVER KNEW IT HAPPENED. You know why? Because God had a choice. He had a choice to whom he was going to send his angels, and he chose to send them to the poor shepherds out in the field, and pass by all the palaces, and temples, and all the great ones of the earth. They never knew it happened.
Well, when God has something to do in the world, this is the way he chooses
—-and what a standing rebuke this is to modern evangelicals, who fear and shun and despise and disdain and reject the very things which God has chosen. You look back through the history of the world, through the history of the church, and see how God has done his work.
A hundred and fifty years ago, there was a young man in the city of Chicago by the name of D. L. Moody. He had only been to school for three years, and couldn’t read. When he wanted to read the Bible, he had to skip half the words. He’d read all the little words, and spell out the big ones letter by letter
—-didn’t know what they were. But he felt the call of God upon him to preach. He went to all the pastors in Chicago, and asked them if he should preach. He told them all, “I feel the call of God upon me that I should preach,” and you know what they told him? Every pastor in the city of Chicago told him, “Don’t preach. You’ll make a mess of things. You’re not fit to preach.” But God had a different idea. When God came down, and looked over these United States of America, and over this great city of Chicago, he saw all of these fine churches all over the city of Chicago, and all of these preachers with doctors degrees, and high education, maybe cultured and intellectual, and so forth, and God passed by every one of them, and he went down into the back room of the shoe store, and found a little shoe salesmen that couldn’t even read the Bible, and he said, “D. L. Moody, I want you. I’m going to shake two continents with your words.” That was another proof, by the way, that the foolishness of God is wiser than men.
God did the same thing with Gipsy Smith. A gypsy boy. Lived in a tent and a gypsy wagon all his life. Never saw the inside of a school house. Didn’t know one letter from another. He couldn’t read the Bible. He worked hard trying to learn it, but had never gone to school a day in his life. There were cultured, educated, intelligent men all over England and America that God could have chosen to make world-wide evangelists of them, and God passed them by, and reached down and took this poor gypsy boy who’d never been inside a school building. Just grew up in a tent, and a wagon. Slept out in the fields. You know when Gipsy Smith started preaching, the first night he went out to take his position with the Salvation Army, he had to sleep in a bedroom, in a bed, and he didn’t know how. He’d never been in a bedroom before. Didn’t know how to use it. You know what he did? Well, bedrooms aren’t very big, and I don’t know how he did this, but he backed up into the corner, as far away as he could get from the bed, and ran, as much as he could run in that little room, and dove in. That’s all he knew about using a bed
—-but he never preached without conversions. Couldn’t read the Bible, either. He’d get up to read the Bible, and he was a little shrewder than Moody, being a gypsy, and he’d read along slowly and deliberately until he saw a big word looming up, then he’d stop before he got to the big word, and make a comment or two, and then start reading on the other side of the big word, and so he managed. But he never had a meeting without conversions. Why? Because God had chosen him. Why did God choose him? Well, God chooses the base and the despised, and the weak and the foolish, and God’s ways work.
Bud Robinson was another one whom God chose. Bud Robinson grew up in a log cabin in Tennessee, in the lowest depths of poverty. Never saw a church or a school house. Couldn’t read a letter. He stuttered so badly he couldn’t talk
—-literally, he could not give you his name, if you asked for it. He could only stutter, and stutter, and stutter. When he did talk, if he got a word out, he’d lisp. But he went to a camp meeting in Texas, and he got converted. He went there to have some fun with a girl, to flirt with a girl. Sat down next to the girl. By the time the sermon began God had touched his heart, and by the time the sermon was over, his burden of sin was so heavy he didn’t wait for the invitation. He ran down the aisle. He had a pistol in one pocket, and a deck of cards in the other, and he said the deck of cards in one pocket felt as big as a bale of cotton, and the pistol in the other pocket felt as heavy as a mule. That’s conviction of sin, by the way. And he fell on his face headlong at the altar, and began to cry to God for mercy, and he was saved that night. He went out, and lay under the wagon to go to sleep, but he was too happy to go to sleep. So he lay out under the wagon, looking up at the stars, and it seemed as though God said, “Bud Robinson, I want you to preach.” And Bud said, “God, I will.” Well, he went and asked his friends about it, and they all said, “Bud, you’re a fool. You can’t preach. You can’t even talk. How could you preach? You’ll disgrace yourself. You’ll disgrace the church. You’ll put everybody to shame. Shame the gospel of Christ.” But Bud said, “I have to. I promised God I would.” So he started to go up and down the settlement, and to work for souls. He got a recommendation from the quarterly conference of the Methodist church, and they asked him to step outside while they discussed his case, and he found out later from a friend what they said. He was little, and despised, and they didn’t want to discourage him. They said, “He can’t do any good if he preaches, but he can’t do any harm, either. Let’s give him a license to make him happy.” So they gave him a license to preach. I think he could have dispensed with that. I believe he already had one from God, but that’s what he thought he ought to do, and that’s what he did. At the next quarterly conference he reported sixty conversions. Had three hundred conversions the first year. How did he do it? By the way, he had epilepsy, besides not being able to talk. He’d stand up on the platform trying to speak, stuttering, stammering, and couldn’t get any words out. Stuttering and stammering, until he’d finally get out six words, “Come to Jesus, he loves you.” And then he’d fall prone on the platform in an epileptic fit, foaming at the mouth —-but people got converted. All the intelligent preachers, educated preachers, refined and cultured preachers preached, and little happened. Bud became one of the founders of the Nazarene church, and the most prominent preacher among them. God chose the foolish, the weak, the base, and the despised, and it worked. I tell you, the modern evangelical church doesn’t have a notion in the world as to how God chooses —-and certainly no intention of choosing as God does. Evangelize the celebrities. Go after the rich. Make a big splash. Do things up big. Choose the noble, the highly esteemed, which God says is abomination. And it doesn’t work.
God chose the early Methodists. They turned the world upside down in their day, when they were poor and despised and hated and persecuted. They met in old sheds and barns, often unheated barns. People would sit there in unheated barns and shiver while they heard the word of God. Sometimes they didn’t even have a barn or a shed, and they stood out in the field with the hot sun beating down on their heads. Often they’d stand out in the field in the pouring rain to hear the word of God, and to preach the word of God
—-and God was with them, and they turned the world upside down, because God chose the weak and the foolish and the base and the despised. But after a generation or two the Methodists started to get some money. They started to become respectable, and they started to build meeting houses. After a little while they started to build elegant meeting houses. Started to put up steeples, and have organs, and pews, and stained glass windows, and moved out of the barn into the cathedral. You know what happened when they moved out of the barn into the cathedral? God stayed out in the barn. The Methodists lost the power of God. They didn’t turn the world upside down any more.
Well, God has a choice, and God’s choice is wise. He chooses purposely the foolish things of the world, but his way works better than when men choose the wise things. God chooses the weak things, and it works better than the strong things. He chooses the weak things to bring down the mighty. God even chooses the base and the despised, and he even chooses the things which are not, which don’t even exist, to bring to nought the things that do exist. And God’s ways work. The foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.