October 16, 2011

Wise Down To Godliness - Part Two

Preacher: Randy Smith Series: James Scripture: James 3:17–18


Wise Down To Godliness-Part Two

James 3:17-18
Sunday, October 16, 2011
Pastor Randy Smith

A CEO was visited by an angel right in the middle of a board meeting. The angel said to him, "Because of your pious life, I'm going to give you a choice between unbounded wisdom, wealth or beauty." Of course, being a pious man, he chose wisdom without hesitation. "Very well," the angel said and disappeared in a cloud of smoke. The CEO sat in silence with a glow about him as all the board members stared at him. Finally, someone whispered, "Say something to us. We want to hear the voice of wisdom." The CEO replied with his new wisdom: "I should have taken the money."

Of course this is a pretend story, but I think it reveals the true attitude toward wisdom that most people possess in the church. I believe we want to be thought of as wise. I believe we know God wants His people to be wise. I even believe we would act like this CEO and Solomon in the Bible that if given the opportunity for anything from God, the right choice and our first choice would be wisdom. On paper it is all there, but deep in our hearts there tends to be some reservations.

A simple experiment will prove my point. How many of you would attend if I could promise a million dollars to everyone who comes to Sunday school next week? How many of you are still raising your hand if I could promise an increase not of money but of wisdom? Another experiment: If wisdom is that important, we would have no problem rattling off the ways to obtain it and providing evidence of the effort we are presently exerting. We are doing that for our appearance. We are doing that for our finances. How much knowledge and energy are we devoting to growing in wisdom? A final experiment: Our children mean everything to us. We want them to succeed. We spend tremendous time to help them in the classroom and on the athletic field. We would say raising a wise child is more important than raising a child who can hit .300 at the plate. So how much are we teaching them about godly wisdom? Have we convinced ourselves that we are loving parents that can articulate all the right Sunday school answers, but in reality are presently raising our kids not much different than the world?

Proverbs 2:2-3, "Make your ear attentive to wisdom, incline your heart to understanding; for if you cry for discernment, lift your voice for understanding." Proverbs 3:13a, 14-15, 18, "How blessed is the man who finds wisdom… For her profit is better than the profit of silver and her gain better than fine gold. She is more precious than jewels; and nothing you desire compares with her… She is a tree of life to those who take hold of her, and happy are all who hold her fast." Proverbs 4:5, "Acquire wisdom! Acquire understanding!" Proverbs 8:5, "O naive ones, understand prudence; and, O fools, understand wisdom." Proverbs 19:8, "He who gets wisdom loves his own soul; he who keeps understanding will find good." Job 28:15-18, "Pure gold cannot be given in exchange for [wisdom], nor can silver be weighed as its price. It cannot be valued in the gold of Ophir (OH fuhr), in precious onyx, or sapphire. Gold or glass cannot equal it, nor can it be exchanged for articles of fine gold. Coral and crystal are not to be mentioned; and the acquisition of wisdom is above that of pearls."

How much do you want wisdom? According to biblical standards, how wise are you? Today we will find out as we look at James 3 and conclude this two-part series on wisdom.


We begin with the first point with the "Source of Wisdom." In other words, how do I obtain wisdom? I covered this briefly last week, but since it is so important I'd like to review it with you today.

So how can I get the wisdom from above? First and foremost you need Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. True wisdom comes from God (Job 12:13, 16; Pro. 8:14; Dan. 2:20, 23; Rev. 5:12) and unless you are connected to Him through Jesus Christ, you have no hope. Think of it this way, God is the oil well of wisdom deep below the earth and you are standing on a mountain of rock-solid granite. Only the cross bridges the gap. Only Jesus can forgive your sins, open an eternal relationship and start the pipeline of God's wisdom flowing. Is Jesus Christ your Lord and Savior? Rate yourself on the scale I provided in your sermon notes! It is a simple "yes" or "no."

Then if you are an obedient Christian, the Holy Spirit will produce fruit in your life. One of those fruits is gentleness (Gal. 5:23), and gentleness as we learned last week is the primary mark of godly wisdom (Jas. 3:13). So how obedient to Scripture are you? Rate yourself!

Second, we have the privilege of prayer. We learned in James 1:5, "If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him." We do not have because we do not ask (Jas. 4:2; cf. Jn. 16:24)! How often are you going to God and asking Him for wisdom? Rate yourself!

Third, we have the Scriptures and the ability to understand the Scriptures that unfold to us the wisdom of God. Paul told Timothy, "From childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you…wisdom" (1 Tim. 3:15). How much time are you spending in the Scriptures? Rate yourself!

So, Christian, if you want wisdom it simply comes down to obedient living, prayer and knowing the Scriptures. How much do you want wisdom? Your answer must correlate to the time and energy you are devoting to these three disciplines. Godly wisdom will only come from God. Yet it does not come in a mystical or magical or automatic way. You need to be diligent. Proverbs 2:4 says you need to "seek [wisdom] as silver and search for her as for hidden treasures."


So that is how we get wisdom. Now as we move to the second point, let's determine if we have received that wisdom. As we now dive into the material in James 3, I am calling this point, "The Fruit of Wisdom." In other words, how do I know if I am wise? What will godly wisdom look like in my life?

Remember, as we spoke about wisdom last week, wisdom is not marked by academic degrees, accumulated knowledge or career choice. According to our passage in James, wisdom is seen by the way we act. Verse 13, "Who among you is wise and understanding? Let him show by his good behavior his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom."

Last week we primarily looked at the behavior that shows not wisdom, but foolishness. James said in verse 14, "If [we] have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in [our] heart[s], do not be arrogant and so lie against the truth." According to 4:1 there were "quarrels and conflicts" in the church. In 3:16 James informs the people that "disorder" in the church or home is again a result of "jealously and selfish ambition." This way of living is not from God. It is showing a "wisdom," but a "wisdom" (verse 15) that is "earthly, natural [and] demonic." Or we can say worldly, fleshly and satanic.

Think of it this way. If I seek my wisdom apart from God, I am a fool and I will grow in foolishness. I will show that foolishness through my behavior. I will be selfish and jealous, and I will contribute to an environment of strife and division. Interestingly Jude in his short epistle mentioned the progression this way too. He says, "These are the ones… [without] the Spirit…worldly-minded… who cause divisions" (Ju. 1:19).

On the other hand, if I seek my wisdom from God, I am wise and I will grow in wisdom. I will also show that wisdom through my behavior. I will be gentle and display some other traits that we will talk about in a moment. And I will contribute to an environment of peace and unity. So, last week - what godly wisdom does not look like. Now this week - a refreshing look at what godly wisdom does look like!

Here we go, verse 17, "But the wisdom from above" (stop right there). Now James will reveal the wisdom that comes from God, the wisdom from above as opposed to the wisdom from below. He will now proceed to reveal eight fruits that will be seen in our lives if we are pursuing God's wisdom.

The first one listed in verse 17 is purity. True wisdom "is first pure." Purity is an overarching quality. If we are wise, purity will permeate our lives. It is "hagnos" in the original Greek from the same root as "hagios," which is often translated "holy." Pure people are holy. They are free from defilement. They are set apart for God's special use.

For instance, gold is measured by purity. You can find some cheaper jewelry, but odds are that the gold is anywhere between 10 and 14 karats. The gold is not pure being mixed with other metals (often copper). In the showroom the article looks great, but within time its true colors are demonstrated (usually green!). If you want better gold, you will invest in something between 18 and 22 karats. But if you want the best, you buy a piece that is 24 karats, 100% pure gold. God expects us to be 24 karat in our devotion to Him.

It is not the classic child's picture of "me" in the middle, surrounded by circles that contain all that is important to me. Fortunately for God, His name made it in a circle (along with a circles for my favorite sports and TV shows and desserts), all submissive to my own personal sovereignty! Rather we should view it as God in the middle surrounded by all the things I do for His glory.

Are we totally pure in our devotion to God? Does He get all of our hearts? Do our thoughts and motives and pocketbooks and hobbies and recreation and entertainment and careers and goals and children and friends all come under a desire to be exclusively devoted to Him, pure, without contamination? That is a wise person. How wise are you? Rate yourself!

Next, James says wisdom is "peaceable." Wise people are eager for peace. Because of their union with Jesus Christ they have peace with God (Rom. 5:1; Phil. 4:9; 2 Jn. 1:3). They know they have a peace that transcends circumstances, but they are eager to enjoy peace in their circumstances with other people.

They have the wisdom to know when to stay quiet and what words to choose. They can engage others without being contentious, argumentative or divisive. They do not always find themselves in the center of controversy. They desire and are able to restore and reconcile relationships. That means they do not flee from their interpersonal problems. They don't attack in their interpersonal problems. They also don't always simply yield never resolving any conflicts. It is like the guy who said he always has the last word when he and his wife argue. When asked what it is he replied, "Yes, dear."

Romans 14:19, "So then we pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another." Romans 12:18, "If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men." That's wisdom! Are you wise? Are you peaceable? Rate yourself!

Next, according to verse 17, wise people are "gentle" (NIV- "considerate"). As I said last week (verse 13), this is a great example of how much the wisdom of God differs from the wisdom of the world. The world says, "Fight for your rights." "Have it your way regardless of the cost to others." "Dominate and manipulate if you want to succeed." The Bible says just the opposite. Jesus was gentle (Mt. 11:29) and His followers should follow His example.

As a matter of fact, the Bible teaches gentleness will get us further in life than aggression. Proverbs 15:1, "A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger." Proverbs 15:18, "A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, but the slow to anger calms a dispute." Proverbs 20:3, "Keeping away from strife is an honor for a man, but any fool will quarrel."

We know gentleness is not spinelessness or timidity or indecisiveness or lack of confidence or conviction. We know meekness is not synonymous with weakness. We simply know God is in control (Gal. 5:23). We have self-control and therefore we can be gentle. Are you gentle? Rate yourself!

Fourth, in verse 17 James says wisdom is "reasonable." A good literal translation is "easily persuaded." In describing this attitude one Commentator said, "[Reasonable] is not a weak, credulous gullibility, but a willing deference to others when unalterable theological or moral principles are not involved" (Moo, James, p. 176). I would love to preach a whole sermon on this trait alone because I believe unreasonable or we could say stubborn or obstinate people are one of the greatest cancer cells in the church. Fewer people have personally brought greater pain to my life as a pastor.

According to James 3 they are fools. According to Proverbs 12:15 they are fools. "The way of a fool is right in his own eyes." To them, their opinions are always right. Unreasonable people know nothing about mercy and biblical compromise. The words, "defer" and "greater good" and "consider" are not in their vocabulary. Their minds have been made up. They are always right and everybody is wrong. And when spiritual issues are involved they pride themselves on their assumed maturity. Often their cases are rock-solid monuments they have concocted in their own imagination, but stand like a "house of cards" on a flimsy foundation. And worse yet, most often they are even unwilling to discuss the issue because (as we like to say around here) they do not want to be confused with the facts.

Reasonable people on the other hand are open to new light. They are persuadable. They are willing to consider and respect others' viewpoints. They acknowledge "blind spots." They admit fault. They are humble. Are you reasonable? Rate yourself!

Next, wise people are "full of mercy." Merciful people are able to have compassion on others. And more than just a sentimental feeling, they rise to the occasion to provide assistance wherever that may be (an encouraging e-mail, a hospital visit, etc.) - James 3:13, 18. Churchwide we have our meals ministry. We are presently engaged in "Operation Christmas Child." We collect for the "Deacon's Fund" the first Sunday of the month to assist needy families in the church. Last year we gave away food at Thanksgiving. We just started our ministry to college students. We have the "40-Days of Life" at the abortion clinic and many more. All of these are compassion in action!

We do things as a church. Some are particularly gifted in mercy (Rom. 12:8). Yet each of us has a responsibility to be "full of mercy." That's wisdom! Are you demonstrating mercy? Rate yourself!

Sixth, wise people are also "[full of] good fruits." James clearly said in chapter 2 that if we have faith it will show itself in good works (Jas. 2:14, 17-18, 20, 24, 26). We can put it this way, is the Spirit of God producing fruit in your life: Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control (Gal. 5:22-23)? Rate Yourself!

Next true wisdom is "unwavering" (NIV - "impartial"). We are talking about a person that is not uncertain, indecisive, inconsistent and doubtful. This is a big theme for James. The thought comes out often. Remember in 1:6 he said when we ask in prayer we must "ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind." In 4:7 he will say to those in the church that had divided hearts between God and the world, "Purify your hearts, you double-minded." The point is wisdom acts consistently. An unwavering person has his or her heart set entirely on God and is assured of his or her convictions.

The challenge comes when we realize wisdom is "unwavering" and as we learned earlier also "reasonable." There seems to be a contradiction, but there isn't one. Different situations call for different responses. Then how do I know when to be what? That's why you need wisdom!

Are you unwavering? Rate yourself!

And last on the list, a wise person is without hypocrisy (Rom. 12:9). In many ways this is very close to the last trait. God wants our heart to match our actions. As you know our Lord's greatest condemnation was toward those who were living as hypocrites - professing one thing and acting another way (Mt. 22:18; 23:27-28; 24:50-51).

The word literally means "to play a part." It was originally used of an actor who would hide behind a mask and play several roles in a play. He could be a hero one minute and a villain the next. Somehow the word worked its way into the current vernacular.

Is your life straightforward? Do you live without deceit? Do your actions match your heart? And do you act the same regardless of the company you associate with? Are you wise? Are you without hypocrisy? Rate yourself!

James closes in verse 18 by saying, "And the seed whose fruit is righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace." What James is doing here is simply affirming the need to have a home and church that practices biblical wisdom. As he claims, foolish traits breed divisiveness and strife and quarrels and conflicts (Jas. 3:14, 16; 4:1-2). But where there is wisdom, then there is purity and peace-loving and gentleness and reasonable spirits and mercy and biblical convictions and consistent living (Jas. 3:17). And where these things exist we will have an environment of peace. And when, as he says in verse 18, we have that environment we will have a greenhouse for righteousness (cf. Jas. 1:20). And where we have righteousness, we have God-honoring living.

Did you notice the similarity with the traits of wisdom and Jesus Christ's words in the Beatitudes? Blessed are the "gentle" (Mt. 5:5), the ones who "hunger and thirst for righteousness" (Mt. 5:6), the "merciful" (Mt. 5:7), the "pure in heart" (Mt. 5:8), the "peacemakers" (Mt. 5:9). These things should define us as believers. This is kingdom living. This is wisdom when we build our house on the rock of God's Word and not on the shifting sands of worldly wisdom (Mt. 7:24-27). You can see the influence that Jesus Christ had on James. Can we see the influence Jesus Christ has on our church?

other sermons in this series

Feb 5


Sheep Shepherding Sheep

Preacher: Randy Smith Scripture: James 5:19 Series: James

Jan 29


Let's Close With Prayer

Preacher: Randy Smith Scripture: James 5:13–18 Series: James

Jan 15


To Tell You The Truth

Preacher: Randy Smith Scripture: James 5:12 Series: James