Anatomy of a Christian: Wisdom

May 21, 2017


May 21, 2017

Scripture Reference

James 3

I have a question for you this morning to start off. What is the difference between being wise and being smart? Because there’s a difference right?

There’s a story of a pastor, a boy scout, and a computer expert who were flying on a very small plane. In fact, they were the only passengers on the plane along with the pilot. Halfway through the flight, the pilot came back to the cabin and said, “Bad news: The plane is going down. Worse news: there’s only three parachutes and 4 of us.” Before anyone could respond, the pilot said, “I should have one of the parachutes because I have a wife and three small children.” So he took one and jumped.

The computer expert said, “I should have one of the parachutes because I’m one of the smartest people in the world and everyone needs me.” So he took one and jumped.

The pastor turned to the Boy Scout, smiled sadly, and said, “You are young and I have lived a happy life, so you take the last parachute. I’ll go down with the plane.” The Boy Scout said, “Relax, pastor, the smartest man in the world just picked up my knapsack and jumped out!”

Being wise is different than being smart. Smart is knowing a lot of things, but wisdom is taking that knowledge and applying it to your life. That’s what makes a person wise. So let me ask you this: are you a smart or wise? Do you take the knowledge that you have learned and apply it to your life? For you Christians here, are you are smart Christian or a wise Christian?

A smart Christian knows the facts that Jesus lived, died, and rose again on Easter morning. But a wise Christian takes that knowledge and applies it to their life. So, are you a wise Christian? Are you applying your knowledge about Jesus to your life?

Now if you are listening to this sermon and you’re not a Christian, please don’t stop listening or turn off this podcast. You are going to learn what makes your Christian friends and family tick. So, if for nothing else, continue to listen because you’re going to gain insight on them. For you Christians listening, maybe you want to live like a wise Christian, but you’re not exactly sure what that all means. My prayer for you is that you gain a better understanding of what it means like a wise Christian as we continue with Anatomy of a Christian.

This whole series is designed to look at the make-up of a Christian. And to do so, we are walking through the book of James which was originally a letter written by James the half-brother of Jesus. James is located toward the end of the Bible and was written around 60 AD to Jewish Christians. In the section we are about to look at, James addresses Christians who claimed to be wise, and yet they weren’t.

Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom.

James 3:13

Apparently there were men stepping forward in the Christian church and claiming to be wise. They knew what the Bible said, they preached Jesus, but they weren’t living it. They talked the talked but they didn’t walk the walk. They claimed to be wise, they claimed to be smart and to know what this Christianity thing was all about, and yet they didn’t take the knowledge they had and apply it to their life. Instead of living their faith humbly, they loved the feel of importance. They had the attitude of “look at me and how wise I am.” And James tells them this is not heavenly wisdom.

But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth.

James 3:14

These men wanted to be important. They envied it and they had selfish ambition to be the important guys. They craved others telling them how important they were, and James says that this is unspiritual and demonic and it’s causing all kinds of problems in the church.

Think for a second about the problems in your life. Where do the problems in your life stem from? Be honest for a second, how many of the problems in your life have stemmed from bitter envy and selfish ambition from your own heart? A lot, not all, the problems in our lives stem from the fact that we don’t have something that someone else has, and our hearts can’t stop wanting it and our minds can’t stop thinking about it.

So how does this look? Well, you want to climb the ladder at work and get that next promotion, so you falsify some statistics or spread some false information about another person to advance yourself. And the scary thing about bitter envy and selfish ambition is that a lot of times we down play it by simply calling it our inner drive. Having inner drive is good, but what is the motivation behind that drive? Is it bitter envy and selfish ambition or is it a drive to make use of the gifts and abilities that God has given you to glorify him? When it’s driven by bitter envy and selfish ambition, a lot of times we will do whatever it takes to get what we want. Even if it’s at someone else’s expense.

For these church leaders during James’ day, that was their problem. They were driven by bitter envy and selfish ambition. They wanted people to think they were important and to have the spotlight, and they’d do anything to keep that power.  James says that this isn’t heavenly wisdom because…

Heavenly wisdom is centered on being selfless.

 For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.

But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving,considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.

James 3:16-18

How does a Christian who has faith in Jesus, take that knowledge and apply it to their lives? Well, James lays it out for us. He calls it heavenly wisdom, and heavenly wisdom is first of all pure. There are no additives. There’s no mixed motives. It’s pure.  It’s also peace-loving. As Christians we don’t look to hold grudges or start controversies. Rather we look to be peaceful and loving to everyone. Heavenly wisdom is also considerate. We are kind to others. We are polite. Down here in Texas you still have some of that. You hear “yes ma’am” or “yes sir.” Please and thank you. Heavenly wisdom is selfless and being considerate considers others and their needs.

Heavenly wisdom is also submissive. Yikes. We don’t like this word. A lot of times when we hear it we think of someone who is like a door mat. Someone tells them what to do and they do it. They can’t think for themselves. But being submissive is simply saying, “Here is what I want, and here is what you want and need. I’m willing to put my wants and desires aside for you.” You know who is the master of this? Jesus. Jesus saw that you needed a Savior. Someone who would live the perfect life you couldn’t and someone to take the punishment you deserved. So he stepped out of perfect heaven to live in this evil world, and was submissive. He willingly said, “I’m going to put your needs before my own.” Even to the point of dying on the cross for us because it’s what we needed. Heavenly wisdom submits to others not because we are weak, but because we value others.

Heavenly wisdom also shows mercy. Mercy is not giving someone what they deserve. Heavenly wisdom loves to show mercy to others because God has shown us mercy. God didn’t give us what we deserved and we delight, we love, to show mercy to others. And actually, as we look at all of these, this is exactly how God treats us isn’t it? This is how we want to live as well.

So what are some practical examples in our life of this heavenly wisdom? Well, it seeks the welfare of others and it doesn’t worry about being left out in the cold. A Christian is ready and willing to “give in” for the sake of another. The Christian who is driving on the interstate doesn’t have to cuss out the driver who cuts him off. The Christian employee can carry out his or her boss’ demands without saying things under their breath or behind their boss’ back. The Christian student doesn’t have to put down a loner classmate in order to stay in good graces of his peers. How can we carry this all out? Only because Jesus lives in our heart. The risen Lord lives in our heart and his love for us compels us to live as wise Christians.

And yet, we don’t always live that way, do we? That’s because there is a worldly wisdom at work in us as well. And worldly wisdom is

Worldly wisdom is centered on me, myself, and I

What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God.

James 4: 1-2

Boy, we see this all the time don’t we. And no, not just out there in the world, we see it in our own lives. Remember, we are both sinner and saint here on earth. There’s a part of us that loves Jesus and wants to live selflessly. But then there’s the sinful part of us that only wants to focus on me, myself, and I. Fights in the home or with friends come because we want something but don’t get it. It rises up within us until we throw down. Arguments and sometimes even fights happen because we don’t get what we want.

In churches, what do you think most fights stem from? Most stem from the fact that someone wants something and isn’t getting it. People actually get upset and fight in churches based on what songs are sung, what version of the Lord’s prayer is said. They get upset and fight because the church is changing what time the worship service is at. Where does it all come from? Selfishness centered on only me, myself, and I. And what’s worse, it spills over into our prayer life.

You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.

James 4:2-3

Even in our prayer lives we ask God for things, not so that we can bring him glory, but so that we can use the blessings he gives us for our own pleasures. And James says,

You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. Or do you think Scripture says without reason that he jealously longs for the spirit he has caused to dwell in us? But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says:

“God opposes the proud
    but shows favor to the humble.”

Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.

James 4:4-7

Friendship with the world means we are enemies with God. Here’s what that means: it means when we are only worried about me, myself, and I, we are not friends with God. That is the exact opposite mindset that God has. And yet, here’s the amazing thing…

God in his wisdom, gives us more grace.

Worldly wisdom doesn’t get that. If someone fails us 3, 4, 5, 6, or 7 times. They are done. No more chances. No more forgiveness. We wipe our hands clean and move on to the next. But that’s not how God operates. God continues to send his love and forgiveness down to us. No matter how many times you are driven by selfish ambition and bitter envy, no matter how many times you are only centered on yourselves, no matter how many times you fail and let God down, God continues to forgive you.  Why? Because Jesus died for all your sins. When he shed his blood on the cross, it washed all your sins away. You are completely forgiven. And here’s the best part: you can’t run out of God’s grace. You don’t need to be walking on egg shells worried that the next time you fail God he’s going to bring judgment on you. No. He gives you more and more grace all because of Jesus.

Now God doesn’t see the failure. He doesn’t see someone who can’t live up to his expectations. He doesn’t see the selfish person only concerned about their wants and desires. No. He only sees the forgiven Christian who is living their life with heavenly wisdom.

Heavenly wisdom is humbly submitting to God’s will.

The fact that God continues to give us grace after grace makes us want to live for him. That is what motivates us to live by heavenly wisdom. And when there’s a time when our wants and desires don’t match up to God’s wants and desires, we humbly submit to his will and follow him. I want you to think for one second: when has there ever been a time when you submitted to God’s will and regretted it? It doesn’t happen. He knows what is best for our lives, and we trust him.

We know Jesus. We know he lived perfectly, he died innocently, and rose again for us. We know this, and we believe it for our salvation. We ask God to help us turn this knowledge into wisdom as we apply it to our lives and live by heavenly wisdom.