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Extreme Wisdom

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Fear God and avoid extermism

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Opening

The word extreme can be used in several connotations. It’s a word and concept that we will be exploring today, so I am going to take from from Websters dictionary what defines the type of extreme we will be talking about.
Extreme: going to great or exaggerated lengths “Extremism” advocacy of extreme measures or views
Before we begin today, I’d like half the church to discuss and answer one question, and the other half to answer another.
Before we begin today, I’d like half the church to discuss and answer one question, and the other half to answer another.
going to great or exaggerated lengths Before we begin today, I’d like half the church to discuss and answer one question, and the other half to answer another.
advocacy of extreme measures or views
Before we begin today, I’d like half the church to discuss and answer one question, and the other half to answer another.
Those of you on my left side, please answer this question: Are there dangers of being extreme in your faith, if so what are they?
to my right: Are there positives in being extreme in your faith, if so what are they?
Growing up a child of the 90’s and teenager of the early and mid 2000’s, (I know thats not that long ago)…we used phrases like “gnarly” or “radical” as words to describe daring or extreme acts of athleticism. On a wakeboard, if I or a friend would land a big jump. Our cool boat driver would say…dude that was a gnarly jump” or “that was radical man!”
I haven’t heard to many negative uses of gnarly, but today to be called radical makes people think in a different connotation. Some think terrorist, some think elitism, or racism. Because we are living in a society that feels it necessary label everything and everyone, being painted a radical or an extremist can often discredit someones entire identity, especially in regards to someones politics and more importantly, within their faith.
As faithful SDA Christians living everyday as another day closer to the coming of Christ, you should know, whether you are hold extreme views, or participate in extreme practices or not, that label of “extremist” will more than likely said about you. And you know what, thats okay....if living in faithfulness as a response to God’s love for us, and our love for him makes us radical or extreme, I will gladly bear that label. But the negative side, such as hatred, or violence…or maybe exclusivism, I’m not sure is the gospel that is alive in us.
Today we are actually going to talk about how to live in wisdom, and even discover what extreme wisdom looks like. Before we go further, lets take a moment to pray.
Body
If you have your Bibles , I would encourage you to turn to the book Ecclesiastes, chapter 7.
The book of Ecclesiastes has several themes within its chapters, to some studiers, the author appears to have given up. Depending on the translation you are using when studying, you hear the words, vanity, and meaningless to describe different life pursuits.
Faithlife Study Bible Introduction to Ecclesiastes

Ecclesiastes makes a point of showing that life is perplexing and short (1:2–11). It also illustrates the confusion of life, questioning why the wicked prosper and injustice abounds (3:16; 4:1–5). The author shows the limitations of wisdom while affirming its importance (2:12–17; 7:1–13).

Faithlife Study Bible Introduction to Ecclesiastes

Ecclesiastes exposes the utter emptiness of life without God. The pursuits often thought to give life meaning—wealth, work, power, knowledge, and pleasure—are all fleeting. They are ultimately poor substitutes for serving God (Eccl 12). Likewise, learning cannot result in a meaningful life, because there will always be something that doesn’t make sense. As the author discovers, self-reliance and reason are deceptive devices. The pain of our struggles with futility and injustice should rightly prompt us to go to God.

The book talks largely about the human existence on earth has not very much to offer, in comparison with what God has in store those who turn to him. God is the only one whom has anything to offer that is lasting.
I give you this introduction to the book, so that we can now focus on a passage that totally gave me a paradigm shift my sophomore year in college, which is found in verses 15-18 of chapter 7.
The author, thought to be Solomon, by some, or someone else speaking from or about his generation, is atleast someone who has lived a full life, and seen vanities of all sorts: says:
15 In this meaningless life of mine I have seen both of these:
the righteous perishing in their righteousness,
and the wicked living long in their wickedness.
16 
Do not be overrighteous,
neither be overwise—
why destroy yourself?
17 
Do not be overwicked,
and do not be a fool—
why die before your time?
18 
It is good to grasp the one
and not let go of the other.
Whoever fears God will avoid all extremes.
Its a profound message to say the least; to understand better we can look back at verse 14 where the the author says, there are times that will be joyful, but also days full of adversity.
People should accept both good and bad situations in life, recognizing that they are dependent on God, not their circumstances.
Verse 18 tells us fearing God, makes us avoid all extremes. Yet if you look throughout history, we can think of all to many extreme examples of acts of violence, persecution, and even genocide, all in the name of God. So how can this be true? Many would say: these examples that come to mind are where the people who were acting in God’s name, were not truly God’s servants, but were acting for reasons other than God compelling them.
Let’s present and summarize the extremes:
Over-righteous—and overwise----leads to self-destruction
Overwickedness---becomes a fool----self-destruction which could have been prevented.
Logically, you may have questions with these Biblical assertions.
First off: Is there such a thing of being too righteous? Or can someone really be to wise? Those 2 descriptions seem on the outside as only positive.
On the other end, or ditch, one might wonder what the author means by saying not be overly-wicked----is that permission to be somewhat wicked?
Then you might wonder again, just simply logically, is the author trying to put us somewhere in the middle, because that would mean he wants us to be a little righteous, a little wise, but also a little wicked, and a little bit a fool.
My intention to say all this: is to muddy any pre-concieved notions you may already have about extremes.
Let’s look a little closer, starting with wisdom and righteousness.
The author points out that even the most righteous man or woman perishes. What is being described here is acts of righteousness. I say that because his working definition of someone who is righteous or overly righteous is based upon his/her acts of righteous living. Good works, good deeds.
Jesus counseled a young rich, and by all accounts righteous man, addressing his question of what more could he do to be saved? Jesus of course tells him to give up everything he has and follow him. While the young man had outwardly done and said all the right things. He was by all outwardly accounts a righteous man, but Jesus could see beyond the exterior and see what was at his core, and it was not God’s spirit that was driving him.
Salvation is not found in legalism, or righteous deedseither. Strict adherence to a list of do's and don'ts is not what Christian salvation is about. reads, "no one will be declared righteous in his [God's] sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin." We all "fall short of the glory of God" ( NIV).
This overly righteous description used in Ecclesiastes can be a symptom of declaring you have found all the answers.
Salvation is not found in legalism, either. Strict adherence to a list of do's and don'ts is not what Christian salvation is about. reads, "no one will be declared righteous in his [God's] sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin." We all "fall short of the glory of God" ( NIV).
Have you ever met that person who you felt was to smart for his own good. When i was a student at Pisgah, there was a guy who was in our class, whose intelligence was off the charts. He had no troubles academically. In fact, the teachers had difficulty challenging him. His struggles lied in his ability to cultivate meaningful relationships. He rubbed many the wrong way, because most everything that came out of his mouth sounded condescending. I really felt for this guy, because I knew he desired to have friendships, but it seemed he couldn’t help but make angry even those who were trying to be his friend. He had all the knowledge and academic smarts one could ask for....overly in fact. But I wouldn’t call him a truly wise person because he had very little discernment as to what to do with all that knowledge. True wisdom is not just simply knowledge, but also discernment in making choices as to how to use knowledge. I would suggest to you this being overly-wise statement isn’t any type of wisdom at all, but merely an imposter of wisdom, what that is full of knowledge but no sense in deriving purpose from it.
Throughout the book, Ecclesiastes calls such “wisdom” vanity and meaningless. You can see this clearly in chapter 2 verse 15
Then I said in my heart, “What happens to the fool will happen to me also. Why then have I been so very wise?” And I said in my heart that this also is vanity.
The author is making a warning against relying on such wisdom and righteousness for pro-longed life or happiness
The author is making a warning against relying on such wisdom and righteousness for pro-longed life or happiness.
Now that we understand better the danger of this extreme of over-righteous, and overlywise attitude found in scripture that warns: “why should you destroy yourself, by living in such a way, we now turn to who are more succeptible to and how they fall into this ditch. While these folks are not the exclusive members of the overly righteous, and wise extreme. These are some, the devil works hard to prey on trying to lead them to this extreme. A colleague of mine, identifies them as the zealot, prodigal, and masterpiece.
THE ZEALOT
Like the name implies, the zealot is someone who is on fire. Usually they’re a new believer or have embraced a new belief or idea that they are passionate about. Yet, although they are excited about new knowledge, they haven’t come to terms with the fact that everyone is on a different path of maturity and growth. Changes that others need to make will seem “obvious” to them, but will likely annoy those around them. People in this category may also have a strong devotion to the views of the person or ministry which led them to deeper truth. If you try to point out an inconsistency, they’ll likely take it as a personal attack and retaliate (and usually not in the best of ways).
THE PRODIGAL
In the Bible, many people see the prodigal son in Jesus’ parable as the younger son who left home and lived a life of debauchery. However, in reality, both the younger as well as the older son (the one who had never left home) were prodigals. Both lived in various levels of alienation from their father. Practically speaking, prodigals may be people who lived an extremely “wild life” and come back to organized religion, or they may be people who lived their whole lives in church but “wild out” once they leave their home full of rules. In both of these cases, the pendulum swings to the opposite end, and they tend to fall into the other extreme because they lack balance.
Lastly
THE MASTERPIECE
THE MASTERPIECE
The masterpiece has found their theological sweet spot. In their minds, they’ve dotted every “i” and crossed every “t.”... their goal is not conversation, it’s confrontation and conversion to their view. Change is almost impossible here without Divine intervention because, after all, how can you improve on a masterpiece that took years (if not decades) to construct?
The author in speaking to this extreme says: “why destroy yourself?”
The Hebrew word shamam can refer both to destruction and one’s emotional response to destruction (“to be shocked” or “dumfounded”). The person who relies on his or her own wisdom or righteousness for a happy, prosperous life will be disappointed.
their goal is not conversation, it’s confrontation and conversion to their view. Change is almost impossible here without Divine intervention because, after all, how can you improve on a masterpiece that took years (if not decades) to construct?
What is missing is in many of these people, which I will expound upon further once we’ve looked at the opposite extreme, is a self-recognition of a need for more of God’s grace in their own life and also their spiritual growth has not peaked, and they are still on the journey of learning.
The Hebrew word shamam can refer both to destruction and one’s emotional response to destruction (“to be shocked” or “dumfounded”). The person who relies on his or her own wisdom or righteousness for a happy, prosperous life will be disappointed.
What is missing is in many of these people, which I will expound upon further once we’ve looked at the opposite extreme, is a self-recognition of a need for more of God’s grace in their own life and also their spiritual growth has not peaked, and they are still on the journey of learning.
Before we flip to the other extreme, I want to say this, those who find themselves living in one extreme, there is danger in quickly flipping to the other extreme.
Have any of you ever owned a toy labyrinth? do you know what I am talking about. Those plastic or wooden puzzles where you are trying to direct a small metal ball through a maze without having it fall into a hole. One slight move to the right or the left would over-correct, and the ball would be to far the other way.
I think sometimes it feels that way in our faith life. In our attempts to fix an extreme in our life we have a tendency to over-correct, for fear of the other extreme.
Looking at verse 17
Do not be overwicked,
and do not be a fool—
why die before your time?
The author is not suggesting, by saying Do not be excessively wicked, that there is permission to be somewhat wicked, but this is a warning against wickedness, while recognizing that wickedness, due to sin, and our natural inclinations for sin, it cannot be completely avoided. He emphasizes this point in verse 20 saying
“Surely there is not a righteous man on earth who does good and never sins.”
Being overly wicked, is also be overly foolish. It is in many ways living with the knowledge of truth and still choosing to live differently from the exposed truth.
Consider with me, Jesus parable of the prodigal son. The one who wandered from the gate of his father elected to receive his inheritance. Foolishly, he quickly squandered it on immoral living and on friends who emotionally probably felt like friends, but when he found himself needing them, they were no where to be seen. This son, I’m sure had been warned, even raised in the comfortable home. He had likely been educated to what existed outside his fathers gates, but had not yet experienced it, and was seduced by perceiving it to be glamorous.
Parents warn their kids, and teenagers what exists beyond their gates, often to protect their innocence and also because they most often have been there themselves and have experienced it first hand.
I hope no one will be to upset at me for admitting, I have seen a disney movie or 2 in my life. There is one classic I’m sure many of you will remember and that is “Lady and the Tramp.” The love story between Lady, the refined beautiful pet dog, who meets the tramp, who is stray, free, and cavalier junk yard dog. Ultimately the Tramp eventually comes to appreciate the good life that Lady has. This brings me to just awful lesser known sequel to this classic. Which was Lady and the Tramp 2. It did not hold a candle to the original, but the story line almost mirrors the story of the prodigal son. Lady and Tramps male pup who resembles his father sees his father as a coward thinking he doesn’t know what its like to be a junkyard dog. Little does he know his father knows all to well and is ultimately trying to protect his pup from having to learn lessons the hard way, of running from dog catchers and looking for food.
Those that I know who turn to a life of sin, sometimes blame their parents for squeezing to tight and not allowing them to do this or that, and you know what sometimes they are correct, it might have been a contributing reason for rebellion. But I also know many who rebelled against parents who were not living in any sorts of extreme. Those that have made their return back to the Christian walk don’t attribute their wandering from parents who squeezed to hard, or to little they say, “I knew what I was doing was wrong and I was choosing to do it anyways.” In those moments they wandered, they knew about God, but had not learned to fear Him, and have respect for his sovereignty.” They are openly admitting they have acted foolish. Being told of the folly and results of acting foolishly, is often not enough, unfortunately many learn these lessons the hard way.
This rejection of God or maybe just simply a family religious tradition may not even be what the author is referring to by being overly wicked and foolish. It may also be referring to a cavalier attitude towards faith. It may not be that they reject God at all, but choose to make up there own principles for following Him. In we learn of the brothers Cain and Able. Able brought forth a living sacrifice to God, but Cain brought his choice of sacrifice, which came from the soil. Cain understood what God expected of him, but he thought himself wiser and turned out be the foolish one. He chose to do something which was foolish, which ultimately led to build resentment for Able and God himself.
Like the opposite extreme, we want to know what factors can contribute to someone embracing an, overly wicked, and foolish extreme.
I have 3 groups who carry attributes the devil seeks to exploit and cast into this extreme. The ignorant Ignoramus, the prodigal, and the freedom fighter
The Ignorant Ignoramus
They say ignorance is bliss, but I’m not sure that is completely true. The ignorant ignoramus is someone who is ignorant to his own shortcomings. He/she believes they have all the knowledge they need to survive but they soon find out how clueless they are to navigate the devil’s temptations and seductions. They can often be entrapped by the devil but be completely unaware of the devil’s stronghold over them. While they aren’t always the one who has gone off the deep end per say, they allow smaller evils and not comprehending the damaging effects. There are ignorant ignoramouses within every generation of people.
The Prodigal There is a prodigal in both extremes, and the brothers of the parabale the prodigal son, represent them well. Prodigal’s are succeptible to be being resentful. While the story of the prodigal son, demonstrates the love of the father to accept back his son who has wandered. Not every wanderer comes back home. Maybe out of pride or stubbornness, even when some perceive they took a wrong turn, they choose to remain lost and figure it out themselves.
The Freedom Fighter This is also better known as the rebel. While a prodigal often waits to come of age to wander, the freedom fighter wants to assume responsibility without yet understanding the consequences of actions. They can speak from a supposed moral seat, but lack the vision to see the full spread picture. Their picture of God isn’t a picture of God at all, but often times a picture of a Christian Zealot which we described earlier, and because they have false picture of God, they choose to rebel.
All three extremes I have mentioned in whether they be from the wise side or the foolish side are ones I hope none of us seek to implement in our lives. The problem though with extremes, is that when we are living in either of the extremes, most of us are not convicted were living in either extreme. And if we are living in an extreme, are we to simply just move to somewhere in the middle. Sounds simple enough right?
The text does not suggest there is a middle between the two, as we often picture, what does it actually say? It says whoever fears God avoids all extremes.
The person who fears God recognizes the limitation of human wisdom and righteousness, while also being aware of the results of wickedness and folly.
Its not in the center of the 2, its in a place altogether different.
The person who fears God recognizes the limitation of human wisdom and righteousness, while also being aware of the results of wickedness and folly.
What’s missing in all of these personalities?
I said it before, its Growth and grace. To say it biblically: growing in grace. Behind every extremist is a closed-minded, self-righteous spirit that believes it has arrived at truth with a capital “T.”
C.S. Lewis shared his thoughts in his classic Mere Christianity:
C.S. Lewis shared his thoughts in his classic Mere Christianity:
“For pride is spiritual cancer: it eats up the very possibility of love, or contentment, or even common sense.”9
Pride is root to extremes. We have to be willing to accept our own brokenness. When we accept our brokenness and admit where sin exists in our life, we are willingly asking God to help shape us and chisel out the spots that need to be gone.
In the opening of this message I told you we would be talking about wisdom and how to find and live in extreme wisdom. It’s acknowledging true wisdom doesn’t come from our lofty pursuits living righteously. It also doesn’t come from living in wickedness. It comes to admitting we don’t have all the answers, but that the God we serve does! It’s being like solomon, and asking God for more wisdom. Its being like Peter and praying for God’s power in boldness. It acknowledging, like the author of Ecclesiastes, that nothing this world has to offer, no joy this world brings, no lust of the flesh, and no righteous act, will bring us the riches of what God has instore for those who follow after him and cling to him while living in such a sinful world. There is beauty in reverently fearing God, and like the scripture says, in doing so we can avoid all extremes.
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