June 24th, 2018
Aux. Texts: James 1:2-8
Call to Worship: Psalm 111
Service Orientation: It is a constant battle and challenge to become wise. Because our fallen nature, pride, arrogance, and rebellion against God all serve to make us fools instead of wise. To be wise is to always regard God. To be a fool is to disregard God.
Bible Memory Verse for the Week: If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. — James 1:5
The questions to be answered are . . . What does it mean to be wise? What difference does it make if one is wise or not? Why is it so hard to be wise?
Answers: To be wise is to always regard God. Wisdom leads to the best quality of life possible on a fallen planet. Our fallen nature left us with pride, arrogance, and rebellion against God which serve to make us fools instead of wise.
The Word for the Day is . . . Wise
Eight characteristics of God-given wisdom are enumerated by James (1:5-8; 3:13-18). This list bears similarity to other lists in the NT that speak of the Christian way of life: the description of true love (1 Cor 13:4-7), the fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22-23), the godly mind-set (Phil 4:8), and the life-style of the new man (Col 3:12-15). Our Lord, “who became to us wisdom from God” (1 Cor 1:30), exemplified perfectly these characteristics. As the believer grows in Christlikeness, these traits become increasingly visible in his life; he is “being transformed into the same [Christ’s] image from glory to glory” (2 Cor 3:18; cf. Col 3:10; 1 Jn 3:2-3). (Vernon Doerksen, Everyman’s Bible Commentary: James, 90)
I – What does it mean to be wise?
A- To regard God. (Life of Solomon: Prv 2; 3:5-7; Mt 7:24; 11:19; 12:42; 13:54; Mk 6:2; Life of Jesus: Lk 2:40, 52; 7:35; 11:31; 21:15; Acts 6:3; Rom 1:18-32; 1 Cor 1:17-3:23; Eph 1:17; Col 1:9; 2 Tm 3:15-17; Jam 1:5; 3:13-18)
The term for unspiritual is used in the NT for the person who does not have God’s Spirit (3:15), or does not accept the guidance that comes from the Spirit of God (1 Cor 2:14). This person teaches only the wisdom of this life. His or her wisdom is based on human feelings and human reasoning alone without God’s help. (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary; James, 86)
The ultimate wisdom is the fear of the Lord. Not scared of the Lord but (Ps 130) an awe or to be amazed. You have not begun to be wise. The beginning of wisdom is when your knowledge of God becomes something that you are relating to, you are relating the knowledge of God to your life. (Tim Keller; message Wise Relationships)
The light bulb comes on when the knowledge of the scriptures becomes reality and relates to you in a real and tangible way. The reality of what you know hits you and smacks you in the face and you are able to relate to God in a way you never saw before. This is wisdom from above. Your knowledge is being churned into wisdom.
According to the Bible’s teaching, an unbeliever can be knowledgeable, intelligent, clever and shrewd, but ‘The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom’ (Ps 111:10). As Dr. J. I. Packer puts it, ‘Not until we have become humble and teachable, standing in awe of God’s holiness and sovereignty…acknowledging our own littleness, distrusting our own thoughts, and willing to have our minds turned upside down, can divine wisdom become ours.’ (John Blanchard, Truth for Life, 202)
B- Reckon with your mortality. (Ps 49:10-20; 90:12; Eccl especially 7:1-4)
Wise shoppers clip coupons. Wise Christians clip obituaries. (Gary L. Thomas, Seeking the Face of God, 156)
C- To humbly listen. (Prv 8:1; 10:19; 12:15; 13:1, 10; 15:31; 17:24; 24:5)
Ben Zoma taught: “Who is wise? He who learns from every man…Who is a hero? He who controls his passions” (4:1). (Rabbi Joseph Telushkin, Jewish Literacy, 479)
Knowledge is extended by observation, wisdom by meditation. (John Blanchard, Truth for Life, 203)
D- To have a right relationship with all of creation. (Prv 19:11; 21:30; 23:19; 29:11; Prv; 2:9; 3:19; 8; Eccl; Mt 11:19; Lk 7:35; Jam 3:13, 17)
Wisdom = Seeing yourself, life and the world from God’s point of view
Wisdom is the ability to see and build relationships. Wisdom is the ability to take disparate things and put them into a whole. (Tim Keller message Wise Relationships).
What does it mean to be wise? To show it by your good (kalos [Gk] – beautiful) life. Real wisdom makes your life beautiful. What makes something beautiful? It is when the parts relate properly to each other. The opposite of wisdom is disorder (v. 16). Wisdom is a proper relationship between body and soul and spirit. Wisdom is a proper relationship between work and rest. Wisdom when everything in your life is in perfect balance. Wisdom is when all of the parts of your life are related to reality. A wise person is someone who makes the word become flesh. To have your life based upon lies creates ugliness and disorder.
Wisdom, then, constitutes knowledge and practical expertise that corresponds to the world God has made and, much as the Torah, provides a guide to the obedient life. (Geoffrey W. Bromiley, The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Vol 4, 1076)
God’s economy revealed in this organic body is an amazing part of the world He has designed! Christian Schwarz, developer of Natural Church Development, says it this way: “One of the greatest miracles of God’s creation is the interdependence of its parts, from the minutest microorganisms to the most magnificent stars. Viewing a phenomenon in the context of its manifold relationships rather than in isolation is what the Scriptures call ‘wisdom.’” (Paul R. Ford, Knocking Over the Leadership Ladder, 82-3)
Wisdom is a prominent idea in the OT and an intertestamental Judaism. It is a practical idea: the ability to understand God’s ways and to live in light of his purposes and values. James knows that genuine Christian maturity will be possible only if believers possess this wisdom from God. (Clinton E. Arnold, Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary Vol 4, 92)
God is the loving Father of His children, who desires to help and to provide them with everything they lack. (J. Michael Walters, James, a Bible Commentary in the Wesleyan Tradition, 43)
Wisdom defined = You show your wisdom by your life, not by your words. (Tim Keller message Wise Relationships)
You have to be good to be wise–though Proverbs is particularly concerned to point out the converse: that you have to be wise to be really good; for goodness and wisdom are not two separable qualities, but two aspects of a single whole. To take it further back, you have to be godly to be wise; and this is not because godliness pays, but because the only wisdom by which you can handle everyday things in conformity with their nature is the wisdom by which they were divinely made and ordered. Proverbs 8, which states this superlatively, is therefore far from being a non-functional pinnacle of the book’s eloquence, but is rather an exposure of the main framework of its thought. (Derek Kidner, An Introduction & Commentary: Proverbs, 31-2)
“Wisdom is the endowment of heart and mind which is needed for right conduct in life.” (Alistair Begg sermon A Biblical Perspective on Wisdom and Wealth)
To the Jews, wisdom was skill in living righteously. (John MacArthur, MacArthur NT Commentary: James, 164)
II- What difference does it make if one is wise or not?
A- We are blessed. (Prv 2:7-12; 3:13, 35; 4:5-7; 8:11-12; 9:12; 10:13-14; 12:8; 16:16)
In the biblical view, the wise are righteous and the righteous are wise: these are people who love and fear God, affirm God’s world, live gladly within its borders, and make music there according to divine time and key signatures. The wise are always “in order.” Insofar as they live right, they also live well. (Cornelius Plantinga, Jr., Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be, 115)
B- We are saved from grief. (Prv 2:12-19; 13:14; 14:1, 3; 16:14, 23; 19:8; 24:14; Isa 5:21)
There is an inexorable causal relationship between godly wisdom, genuine righteousness, and peace. Godly wisdom produces a continuing cycle of righteousness, which is planted and harvested in a peaceful, harmonious relationship between God and His faithful people and between those people themselves. (John MacArthur, MacArthur NT Commentary: James, 180-1)
The false wisdom that is of the devil will manifest itself in practices of disorder and evil. This is simply the application of the principle James learned from Jesus: by their fruit you will recognize them. When self-glorification is at the heart of Christian ministry by church members, those Christians will eventually become sowers of disorder, contention and other evil practices in the church. (George M. Stulac, The IVP NT Commentary Series: James, 137)
If you are discouraged, depressed or anxious, or confused it means that your theory of life is inadequate. You need wisdom from above.
C- We are empowered to help others. (Ps 19:7; 37:30; Prv 1:29-30; 2:20; 12:18; 13:20; 15:2)
III- Why is obtaining wisdom so hard?
A- We are prideful, arrogant and fallen from God. (Prv 1:20; 2:2; 3:5-7; 11:2; 28:26; Rom 1:18-32)
To make room for wisdom, get rid of pride.
A professed Christian who is proud, boasting, self-centered, loveless, and arrogant is a fraud. To claim otherwise is to lie against the truth, to utterly contradict the gospel of Jesus Christ and the clear teaching of all the NT. Near the beginning of this letter, James speaks of salvation as God’s bringing “us forth by the word of truth,” and at the end he says, “My brethren, if any among you strays from the truth,” (1:18; 5:19, emphasis added), clearly identifying truth as a synonym of the gospel, where true wisdom starts.
There is nothing more characteristic of fallen, unredeemed men than being dominated by self. James is therefore saying that, if a person claims to belong to God and to have the wisdom of God, but his life is motivated and characterized by selfish ambition and bitter jealousy, he is simply lying against the truth. Whatever he might claim, he cannot be saved. He is a living lie. (John MacArthur, MacArthur NT Commentary: James, 172)
We live in a technological age. If we have trouble or go through some trial or issue, we sue. Because if we suffer, it means someone didn’t do their job. So we look to science and technology and laws to solve our problems. But they all promise much more than they can deliver. We think that mankind runs the universe. Therefore, if something goes wrong, if someone suffers, if someone doesn’t have the life we think we all deserve; then someone screwed up. And science and technology or laws will fix it. If we have any problem, all we have to do is employ the right manpower and technology and we can fix it. God says, “Good luck!”
But what if the self is not to be trusted? What if the self is the problem? What if (what the Bible calls my sinful nature) is the very thing that is keeping me from hearing what is really going on and what is truly going to happen?
Then there is no help. We refuse to listen to God and our ego (our self) is not about to face up to our sin (if we are willing to even call disobedience of God sin). — Pastor Keith
The real trouble with man in sin is that he always wants to understand. The ultimate sin of man is pride of intellect. That is why it is always true to say that “not many wise men after the flesh, not many might, not many noble are called.” The wise man after the flesh wants to understand. He pits his brain against God’s wisdom, and he says, “I don’t see.” Of course he doesn’t. And Christ says to him, “Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven” (Mt 18:3). If you think that with your mind, which is so small when you compare it with the mind of God, and which is not only small but also sinful, and perverted, and polluted, and twisted–if you think that with the mind you have you can comprehend the working of God’s eternal mind and wisdom, obviously you do not know God, you are outside the life of God, and you are lost. The first thing that must happen to you before you can ever become a Christian is that you must surrender that little mind of yours, and begin to say, “Of course I cannot understand it; my whole nature is against it. I can see that there is only one thing to do; I submit myself to the revelation that God has been pleased to give. (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Romans, Exposition of Chapter 5, 251)
Beginning with Genesis 3, where Satan successfully deceived Eve, and continuing through the entire Bible, there is a “wisdom of Satan” at work, fighting against the wisdom of God. Satan convinced Eve that she would be like God. He told her that the tree would make her wise. Ever since that event, people have continued to believe Satan’s lies and have tried to become their own gods (Rom 1:18-25). Satan is cunning; he is the old serpent! He has wisdom that will confound and confuse you if you do not know the wisdom of God. (Warren Wiersbe, Be Mature, 106-7)
The human heart was deemed to be in need of instruction in moral uprightness. There needed to be a renewing of the mind.
Today, however, such sentiment has been angrily and mockingly denounced in academia; laden down by our technology, we crawl to our halls of fame like Alexander, desperately wanting the world to believe that we, too, are immortal. How revealing it is that in the bloodiest century of history we deny human depravity. The relativism of ancient Greece has worked its way into modern America, though the Greek philosophers themselves, even in their day, warned that relativism would be suicidal. To her credit, early America knew that this was not merely a philosophical problem, as real as that was. This was a problem of the soul, and the heart of humanity was in need of redemption. (Ravi Zacharias, Deliver Us From Evil: Restoring the Soul in a Disintegrating Culture, 40)
B- Wisdom is counter-intuitive from the world. (Prv 10:5; 1 Cor 1:17-3:20; Jam 3:13-18)
If anyone is to have genuine spiritual insight he must become what the world calls ‘a fool’. True wisdom is found in renouncing ‘the wisdom of this world’ (cf. 2:14–15). (Leon Morris; 1 Corinthians, 68)
Depravity is man’s own way. (Chuck Swindoll message, How Fights Are Started and Stopped)
The apostle warned Timothy that “the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons” 1 Tm 4:1). The wisdom from below is nothing more than the “foolishness” of demons. Appealing to men’s natural fallenness and sinful inclination to arrogant self-interest, this wisdom deceives them into believing Satan’s lies rather than God’s truth. What they believe to be their own wisdom is really the devil’s. (John MacArthur, MacArthur NT Commentary: James, 173-4)
For the wise men of old, the cardinal problem of human life was how to conform the soul to objective reality; and the solution was wisdom, self-discipline and virtue. For the modern man, the cardinal problem is how to subdue reality to the wishes of man, and the solution is a technique. (C. S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man)
When you are in trouble, the main thing you need, the first thing you need to check in your heart is do you have wisdom. (Tim Keller sermon Power for Facing Trouble)
The wisdom of the Spirit does not offer a supplement to the human mind, but challenges its autonomy at the roots. Knowledge that knows not God is folly, for the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. We are not computers, nor is wisdom only data-storage and problem-solving. Fellowship with the living God, and with the Spirit who searches the deep things of God, frees us to seek and possess knowledge. Such spiritual wisdom combines theory and practice, word and life. (Edmund P. Clowney, The Church–Contours of Christian Theology, 143)
1 Cor 1-4 is a passage especially concerned with wisdom. In fact it is primarily a denunciation of wisdom. It is important to know that the wisdom against which Paul wrote was not of Jewish parentage, but Gr. It was the vain speculations of philosophy expressed in the empty, high-flown phrases of meaningless rhetoric that brought the apostle’s wrath. This philosophy was a trusting of man’s thought processes rather than a reception of God’s revelation. It was especially at the point of the meaninglessness and futility of the cross of Christ in the judgment of men that Paul took his stand. Such an attitude toward the cross was clearly a testimony to the perversity of the wisdom against which he wrote. (Merrill C. Tenney, Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, Vol 5, 944-5)
To get wisdom you must suffer (Jam 1:2-5). Count it joy when you have trouble. Trouble brings you to wisdom. You don’t get wisdom until you are out of control, until you are humbled. The prouder you are the more insane you are. The prouder you are the more out of touch with reality you are. Whatever you are that is good is a gift (1 Cor 4). You are what you are by the grace of God. (Tim Keller message Wise Relationships).
Those whose lives are based on and motivated by human, ungodly wisdom are inevitably self-centered, living in a world in which their own personal ideas, desires, and standards are the measure of everything. Whatever and whoever serves those ends is considered good and friendly; whatever and whoever threatens those ends is considered bad and an enemy. Those who are engulfed in self-serving worldly wisdom resent anyone or anything that comes between them and their own objectives. (John MacArthur, MacArthur NT Commentary: James, 171)
Wisdom is for anyone who wants it. Fools and simpletons are invited by name to its feast, which is as free as that of folly (9:4, 16).
At the same time, it is as costly as character. Its largesse is not scattered, but “stored up” for the “upright,” for men of “integrity,” for “saints” (2:7-9). (Derek Kidner, An Introduction & Commentary: Proverbs, 37-8)
C- It is from God, of Whom we are natural enemies. (1 Kngs 3:11ff; Psa 19:7; 51; 111:10; Prov 1:5-7; 2:1-8; 9:8-10; 15:33; Eccl 2:26; Isa 11:2; Dan 1:17; Mt 7:24-27; Acts 6:10; Rom 3:9-21; 5:6-11; 1 Cor 2:6; 12:8; 2 Cor 5:18-19; 10:12; Eph 1:17; Col 1:9; 3:16; 2 Tim 3:15-17; Jam 1:5; 3:15-17; )
God, and God alone, is the source of wisdom. It was this truth that caused Paul to pray to God for believers to be granted wisdom, knowledge, and enlightenment (Eph 1:17-18), as well as discernment (Phil 1:9; cf. Col 1:9-10). That is also James’ point. (John MacArthur, MacArthur NT Commentary: James, 36)
God gives his wisdom to men not only just for the asking but also without chiding a man for his previous sins, many of which the man may not even know he has committed. (James B. Adamson, The Epistle of James, 56)
In the NT God’s wisdom is especially associated with His Spirit. In the last analysis man possesses wisdom only as a gift from God; it comes by divine revelation. This is especially the view of the NT (Acts 6:10; 1 Cor 2:6; 12:8; Eph 1:17; Col 1:9; 3:16; Jam 1:5; 3:15-17); but is indicated in the OT also (1 Kgs 3:11ff., Eccl 2:26; Isa 11:2; Dn 1:17). (Merrill C. Tenney, Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, Vol 5, 942)
Wisdom is nothing less than one of the attributes of God: ‘To God belong wisdom and power; counsel and understanding are his’ (Job 12:13). (John Blanchard, Truth for Life, 199)
Earthly wisdom is gained by study; heavenly wisdom by prayer. Study may form a Biblical scholar; prayer puts the heart under a heavenly tutorage, and therefore forms the wise and spiritual Christian. (Charles Bridges, Geneva Series of Commentaries: Proverbs, 14)
The Bible and Christian tradition tell us that sinful pride (hybris) is an enemy of God. And so it is, no matter whether in fashion or out. According to traditional Christian wisdom, a main problem with pride is that it recognizes neither sin nor grace; in fact, pride hammers them flat and discards them. (Cornelius Plantinga, Jr., Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be, 84)
Worship Point: God is all wise. When you know God it is easy to worship God because everything He is, says and does is righteous, holy, beneficial and good. (Ez 7:25; Job 9:4; 12:13, 16; Psa 104:24; 136:5; Dan 2:20-28; Rom 16:27; 1 Cor 1:24-25; Eph 1:8; 3:10; 1 Tm 1:17; Rv 7:12)
Gospel Application: It is only “In Christ” that we are allowed access to the God of the Universe so that we too might become wise. (Isa 9:6; 11:2;Mt 12:42; 13:54; Mk 6:2; Lk 1:17; Lk 2:40, 52; 7:35; 11:31; Jn 10:7-10; 1 Cor 1:17-3:20; especially 1:30; Col 2:2-3; 3:16)
There can be no wisdom from above apart from a saving relationship to Jesus Christ, who is Himself “the power of God and the wisdom of God” (1 Cor 1:24; cf. v. 30; Col 2:3) and who brings sinners into eternal communion with God. (John MacArthur, MacArthur NT Commentary: James, 177)
Throw away the excuses and face reality! The fact that you are grumpy in the morning does not mean that “you got up on the wrong side of the bed.” It means your old sinful nature is in control. Because you enjoy hearing some “dirt” about other people does not mean you have an inquisitive mind. It means that you are not abiding in Christ. Because you easily “blow your cool” does not mean you have a short fuse. It means you have a weak connection to Jesus. (Don Matzat; Christ Esteem, 125)
Spiritual wisdom is the practical application in the daily life of the teaching of Jesus Christ. (William MacDonald, Emmaus Correspondence Course: The Epistle of James, 7)
Spiritual Challenge: Seek wisdom as you would silver or gold. Ask God to give you wisdom and never give up seeking it. (Prv 2; 4:5-7; Mt 7:33; 13:44; )
James is not giving personal advice but a divine command, and therefore our calling on the Lord for wisdom is not an option. It is mandatory. And if a believer who is being tested is not driven to the Lord and does not develop a deeper prayer life, the Lord is likely to keep the test active and even intensify it until His child comes to the throne of grace–until he makes his “ear” attentive to wisdom,” and inclines his “heart to understanding” (Prv 2:2). And “if you cry for discernment,” Solomon continues, “if you seek her as silver and search for her as for hidden treasures; then you will discern the fear of the Lord and discover the knowledge of God” (vv 3-5; cf. Job 28:12-23; Mt 13:44-46). (John MacArthur, MacArthur NT Commentary: James, 36)
Nine-tenths of wisdom consists in being wise in time! (Theodore Roosevelt, Fear God and Take Your Own Part, 54)
To read, instead of “searching the Scriptures,” is only to skim the surface, and gather up a few superficial notions. The rule of success is–Dig up and down the field; and if the search be discouraging, dig again. The patient industry of perusal and re-perusal will open the embosomed treasure. “Surely there is a vein for the silver.” (Job 28:1). Yet what miner would be content with the first ore? Would he not search deeper and deeper, until he has possessed himself of the whole; not satisfied with taking away much, but determined to leave nothing? Thus let us daily explore “the length, and the breadth, and the depth” of our boundless stores, until we be “filled with all the fullness of God.” (Eph 3:18, 19). (Charles Bridges, Geneva Series of Commentaries: Proverbs, 15)
The Lord giveth wisdom; it cometh out of his mouth. None shall search in vain (Job 32:8; Isa 48:17; 54:13; Jam 1:5, 17. Comp. Gn 41:38, 39; Ex 4:12; Dn 1:17). Never has apostasy from the faith been connected with a prayerful and diligent study of the word of God. (Charles Bridges, Geneva Series of Commentaries: Proverbs, 16)
The Bible says that wisdom is a gift. You have to work it out and seek it but it is a gift. (Tim Keller message Wise Relationships)
So What?: A wise person enjoys the best possible life on a fallen planet because he alone knows the reality behind reality. (Prv 2; 4:5-7; 8)
Wisdom is a reality-based phenomenon. To be wise is to know reality to discern it. A discerning person notices things, attends to things, picks up on things. She notices the difference between tolerance and forgiveness, for example, and between pleasure and joy, and between sentimentality and compassion. She can spot real humility and keep it distinct in her mind from its thinner cousin, unpretentiousness. (Consider the ambiguity of the assertion “He’s a humble man,” which might mean either that the man virtuously sees others as his equals or that he leads a lowly life and never pretends otherwise.)
Discernment is a mark of wisdom: it shows a kind of attentive respect for reality. The discerning person notices the differences between things but also the connections between them. She knows creation–what God has put together and what God has kept asunder–and can therefore spot the fractures and alloys introduced by human violation of it. She knows, for instance, the way a particular sort of request can contaminate a friendship. The discerning person, moreover, possesses an eye for the details and oddities of reality–the anxieties, for example, that sometimes lie behind overbred chit-chat, name-dropping, and the overuse of foreign phrases at dinner parties. She knows that kindness sometimes coexists with stupidity and integrity with humorlessness. She knows that people full of shadows may also be full of a light that causes them. In such and other respects, Lewis Smedes remarks, “a discerning person has the makings of a connoisseur.” (Cornelius Plantinga, Jr., Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be, 116-7)
The main thing you need to know is wisdom. Not a pill, not a method, not a tool or a technique, not even 7 steps to health and improvement. We want to change our heart to match reality which is wisdom. (Tim Keller sermon Power for Facing Trouble)
The wisdom mentioned here (Jam 1:5ff) is directly related to trials; it’s not just wisdom in general. James is referring to the ability to view a test from God’s perspective. Without this kind of wisdom, the ability to endure becomes elusive, and the goal of maturity may never be reached. (Charles R. Swindoll, James: Practical and Authentic Living, 20)
The wise person will be able to see life as James has pictured it in vv 2-4; able to make personal decision and to shape life’s pathway, so as to enjoy the progress towards maturity which he has promised. Such wisdom is a gift from God. (John Stott, The Message of James, 38)
I have been driven many times to my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had nowhere else to go. My own wisdom, and that of all about me seemed insufficient for the day. — Abraham Lincoln.