“THE EVIDENCE OF WISDOM”
(A Series on the Book of James)
Westgate Chapel 04/10/05 James 3:1&13-18
Proposition: The wisdom from above has very real evidence manifested in the life of the believer.
- 31% of Christians in America believe that after you die, some people are re-incarnated…they return in another life form.
* How in the world do they arrive at that personal belief, when the Bible says, in Hebrews 9:27,
“… it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes the judgment.”
* They believe in reincarnation because they are depending on the wisdom that comes from man instead of the wisdom that comes from above.
- 51% of Christians believe that if a person is generally good, or does enough good things for others during their life they will earn a place in heaven.
* How can Christians possibly arrive at that personal belief, when the Bible says, in Ephesians 2:8,
“For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.”
* So, how can 51% (majority) of Christians believe that good works is enough to save you?
* They have abandoned the wisdom from above for a smorgasbord belief system based on what makes sense to them or what they want to believe.
* Listen saints, sincerity counts for nothing before the throne of God if you have been sincerely wrong.
- 47% of Christians, according to a recent study by pollster George Barna, believe that all religious faiths teach the same basic principles.
* Now that belief is simply ignorant…and I am not using that word for effect. I use that word because anyone who bothers to take the time to study the religions of the world will quickly realize they have nothing in common.
* But Christians have swallowed enough of the wisdom of the world, that it sounds noble, conciliatory, to say that all religious faiths teach the same basic principles.
* And besides, Jesus Himself said, in John 14:6,
“I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.”
- THE American Church is facing a crisis of belief!
- THE United Church of Christ has a national ad campaign whose banners you can see hanging on their buildings around Seattle, “God is still speaking…”
- THOSE are code words for “God is suffering amnesia and has changed His mind about most of what He committed to His servants over thousands of years and has protected and handed down to us as the Bible.
- LISTEN to me carefully Westgate Chapel, if you don’t cling to the wisdom that is from above.
* If you don’t make God’s Word a vital part of your regimen every day.
* If you are not being actively led by the Spirit of God in your relationship with God every day….you will be dragged out to sea under the currents of the so-called wisdom of this world and find yourself before God’s throne eternally lost and without hope.
- IT is the height of arrogance before the Creator God for us to think we can make up our faith, smorgasbord fashion and reject in our puny wisdom what He has commanded in His Word.
- TURN with me please to James 3:13-18 (page 1198).
- AND the Book of James talks about deception, directly or using the concept of deception, five times.
- JAMES demonstrates pastoral concern that the first generation Christians not be deceived by the enemy….and in the verses we will be studying in chapter three today, he is concerned that they not be misled by the wisdom of the world.
- JAMES has addressed the subject of wisdom before, but this time it is in the context of the words that come out of our mouths.
- JAMES 3:2-12 is a serious warning about the tongue….the words that come out of our mouths.
- I AM not going to preach on those verses again. I did that several weeks ago.
- THE subject that James is concerned about in verses 13-18 is wisdom….and the context of the subject is the tongue because,
“For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” (Matthew 12:34)
- OBVIOUSLY, some things that were being said amongst the first generation Christians to whom James is writing was evidence that they lacked wisdom from above.
- AND so, James devotes six verses to the subject, holding up the mirror concerning wisdom….for you and me to examine ourselves and see how we measure up looking at God’s wisdom.
ii. the definition
- NOW, you have to understand how valued wisdom was in the days of the Roman Empire….especially in those parts of the empire influenced by Greek culture.
- IN Greek culture, wisdom was heady stuff.
- ARISTOTLE and Plato set the stage for Greek philosophers who debated anything about life that could be debated.
- MOST of the cities had places like the Aeropagus in Athens, where the wise men of the city or region would publicly debate the important issues of the day.
- APPARENTLY there were some of the saints in the churches to whom James is writing that were so impressed with the wisdom of the Greeks…that they were bragging about how wise they were.
- PAUL ran into this same spirit in the church in Corinth and had to write them,
“…the wisdom of this world is foolishness before God.” (I Corinthians 3:19)
“Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?” (1 Corinthians 1:20)
“…the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age are coming to nothing.” (1 Corinthians 2:6)
- WHAT is wisdom?
- IT is not knowledge…information, although it uses knowledge.
- IT is not theoretical or philosophical speculation.
- WISDOM is an orientation to life that provides a practical way of ordering your life and making decisions.
- WISDOM relates less to thought and more to action.
- OBVIOUSLY wisdom is an incredibly important element of life…..affecting every other area of life.
iii. the source
- SO, where do we get wisdom from?
- JAMES 3, verses 15 and 18 tell us that there are only four sources for it:
1. The world; the world system that is set in opposition to God (vs. 15).
2. The spirit of man, apart from God (vs. 15).
3. The devil (vs. 15).
4. God (vs. 18).
- NOW, remember the definition of wisdom:
WISDOM is an orientation to life that provides a practical way of ordering your life and making decisions.
iv. the evidence
- SINCE “wisdom” provides a practical way of ordering your life….it only makes sense then that there would be evidence in your life and mine for what kind of wisdom we are operating in.
- IN fact, James appeals to evidence in his opening verse on the subject.
“Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom.” (James 3:13 NIV)
- THIS is where the Word of God as a mirror comes in again.
- JAMES is about to address his concerns that the wisdom of God be in evidence in our lives….by giving us a partial list of what that looks like.
- IT is a list not to be emulated and by sheer force of your will, put into practice in your life.
- YOU and I will fail every time we try that.
- JAMES gives us lists of evidence as a mirror, so that when we get a sense of how we do or don’t measure up, it will thrust us back to the One who alone can grow fruit in our lives….the fruit of His wisdom.
- SO, James 3:13-18 gives us two very different lists of evidence.
EVIDENCE OF WISDOM NOT FROM ABOVE:
1. Presuming To Teach (vs. 1)
* There is an attraction for the flesh to any form of public ministry…but especially teaching, where you get to verbalize your wisdom.
* And anyone in any public ministry is susceptible to improper motives of the heart.
* James identifies the heart motives of the people he is addressing who were “presuming to teach.”
* And he warns them that the standard of righteousness is the same for all of us, but the judgment for failure is going to be more severe for those who teach.
2. Harboring Bitter Envy (vs. 14)
* When your motive is your own ambition, then anyone else’s success is cause for bitter envy.
* You resent anyone else’s advances or blessings.
* The word for bitter, also involves a pungent smell….it stinks and others soon get a whiff of it in their nostrils.
* Bitter envy has a hard time holding itself in.
3. Having selfish Ambition in Your Heart (vs. 14)
* It is all about you!
4. Boasting About Your Wisdom (vs. 14)
* Wisdom that is not from above cannot keep its mouth shut about its own accomplishments…and secretly takes the credit for it even while mouthing, “I give the Lord all the praise!”
5. Denying the Truth About the Source of Your Wisdom (vs. 14)
* What is being denied here is that God is the Source of any true wisdom.
6. Disorder in your life (vs. 16)
* The result of living your life with an orientation that is not God-centered….will eventually be disorder, chaos, and confusion.
7. Every Evil Practice (vs. 16)
* And the final evidence of Godless wisdom is every evil practice.
* Which explains George Barna’s research findings that there is not a statistically measurable difference in beliefs, character or morality between born again Christians and people outside of the Church and faith.
- WELL, enough of the evidence of wisdom that is not from above.
- LET’S move to the good stuff in the mirror….the evidence seen in the lives of those whose orientation to life is God’s orientation as revealed by His Spirit in His Word.
EVIDENCE OF WISDOM FROM ABOVE:
1. Humility (vs. 13)
* Humility is the basic attitude of a servant towards his/her master.
* That doesn’t mean that it is insipid and lifeless.
* It is power under control, like a horse that has been broken…which is how Joseph served Potiphar and the Jailer.
* It is exemplified by Jesus who did not think His equality with God was something to be grasped, but willingly laid down His life for our sins.
* It is why Jesus came into Jerusalem riding a donkey rather than a stallion with a sword and army at His side.
* That is the evidence of wisdom from above.
2. Purity (vs. 17)
* This is moral and spiritual integrity.
3. Peace-loving (vs. 17)
* This means exactly what it says….that you live in peace WITH God, so you have the peace of God in your relationship with others.
4. Considerate (vs. 17)
* This word means, fair, kind and generous with others.
5. Submissive (vs. 17)
* This means yielding willingly as unto the Lord…..to one another and those over us in the Lord.
6. Full of mercy (vs. 17)
* Mercy is not giving others what they deserve…and it is based on the mercy each of us has received from Christ.
7. Good fruit (vs. 17)
* Just means what it says.
8. Impartiality (vs. 17)
* Treating everyone in your life the same way.
9. Sincere (vs. 17)
* An undivided heart and mind.
10. A Harvest of Righteousness (vs.18)
* This covers anything left out in the list.
- HOW much grief, how much hardship you and I would be spared if we would just orient our lives to the wisdom from above….and make our choices accordingly.
- PASTOR, how do I turn things around in my life, so that I begin to make choices based on the wisdom from above?
- GET back into a love relationship with God…where He is the object of your life and passions.
- WHEN you are in that kind of relationship with God through Jesus Christ, the Bible says….
“…you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God; that is, righteousness and sanctification, and redemption…” (1 Corinthians 1:30)
- WHEN you are living in the wisdom from above, you will have complete clarity concerning…
* Who God is.
* Who we are.
* The purpose of life.
* How to inherit eternal life.
* The times we live in.
* The difference between good and evil.
* God’s Word.
- AND the choices of your life will be based on what God’s Word says about those things and not Oprah Winfrey or Doctor Phil.
- SO, you can have a sixth grade education, but if you are in relationship with God through Jesus Christ, your life will be guided by the wisdom from above!
- OR, you can be a Nobel prize winner, and if you deny God, be a fool at the same time.
- THE problem is that the Church of Jesus today is more influenced by and more conformed to the wisdom of the world, the spirit of man, and the devil than the wisdom of God.
- THE world’s wisdom views…
* God as either non-existent or a forgetful indulgent grandfather who understands your weaknesses and forgives them before you ask.
* Creation as an accident of nature, developed over millions of years.
* Humanity as one of nature’s accidents, evolved to its present condition and responsible for its own development.
* The purpose of life is to fulfill your dreams and gratify your urges.
* Sin does not exist. It is the unfortunate notion foisted on the world by an irrelevant Christian Church, soon to be side-lined forever from social consciousness.
* Salvation is whatever you do for yourself to find your own peace in life.
* That all religions are pretty much the same…and have the same God.
* There is no such thing as eternal life. When your meaningless, puny little life is over you breathe your last and slip into oblivion.
* There is no such thing as good and evil. Every action is judged simply by whether it is good for you…and you can get away with it.
* The Bible is at best a mythology with some general rules to live by….if you are inclined that way.
- THE wisdom of the world has flooded the lives of Christians and now influences how we live more than the wisdom of God…
* That the more you have the richer you are.
* That your time and your energy and your giftings and your home and your money are yours to do with as you please.
* That taking care of yourself is your #1 priority because no one else is going to.
* That you should go ahead with that divorce because your children will come through it just fine.
* That saving whales, spotted owls and forests, is more important than saving babies.
* That living above your means and going into debt to gratify your desires is OK….regardless of the cost to your family.
* That what you watch on television or in the movies is just harmless entertainment and doesn’t affect you spiritually.
* That God is tolerant of your sin because he sympathizes with you over your weakness and your special circumstances.
- OUR churches today are filled with people who profess to be Christian, but whose lives are conformed to the wisdom of the world…not the wisdom of God.
- AS a pastor, I would say that this is one of the most important elements of the Christian life that is missing today.
- HOW do I know that?
- THE pastoral counseling that we all do in the lives of Christian men and women who are dealing with the consequences of disastrous decisions….made under the influence of the wisdom of the world instead of the wisdom of God.
- SO, the first step towards victory in your life is the acknowledgement that the wisdom of the world is 180 degrees opposite of the wisdom of God….and that you and I lack the wisdom to make godly decisions in our lives.
- THE second step is to run to Jesus, and ask Him to do a new work in you, producing the evidence of that wisdom that is from above.