The Wisdom from Above | James 1:5-8; 3:13-18
Brian Hedges | June 24, 2018
Turn in your Bible this morning to James, the third chapter, and while you’re turning there, I wonder if any of you know who this is, this picture on the screen? This is Chesley Burnett Sullenberger III. He was the American Airline captain who, on January 15, 2009, did a successful water landing of the U.S. airways flight 1549 on the Hudson River in Manhattan. Some of you may even remember that story as it was in the news, and then there was a movie that came out after that, a Tom Hanks movie called Sully, that was about this story.
This plane was disabled after hitting a flock of Canada geese immediately after takeoff. There were 155 people on board, and Captain Sullenberger, “Sully,” successfully landed this plane on the Hudson River. Now, much of the movie kind of centers around the investigation that followed with the National Transportation Safety Board, and there may be some inaccuracies with how the movie depicted that, kind of putting the NTSB in an adversarial relationship with Sully. That may not have actually been what transpired.
But what was interesting to me about the film was how it showed that is experience as a captain actually helped him and guided him to successfully land the plane on the Hudson River rather than following what the simulations initially said he should do, which was try to return to the airport or land in some other way. As the investigation proceeded, he was eventually validated in that decision.
Now, I just use this as something of an opening illustration because what Sully, what Captain Sullenberger demonstrated in that situation was wisdom. It wasn’t just his knowledge, it wasn’t just the same kind of information that a simulation system had; he had both knowledge and experience, which gave him the skill to successfully land the airplane in a difficult situation, in a crisis.
I want to suggest to you this morning that wisdom can be defined as “successfully navigating the difficulties of life.” We’re going to talk about wisdom this morning, and I just want you to use this as something of a word picture for us. Here’s a pilot successfully navigating a plane in a crisis, and you and I in our lives are also called upon to navigate difficult situations, and what we need is not just knowledge, we need wisdom. We need the skill to apply what we know to the situation so that we can navigate those situations.
Now, we’ve been looking at the epistle of James for about five weeks now. We’ve called this series Practical Christianity (it could be Authentic Christianity as well, but Practical Christianity): Wisdom for Living from the Letter of James. I’ve mentioned several times that this is wisdom literature, okay? So, when we think of wisdom literature we often think of the Old Testament books such as Job, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and all of that’s true; but in the New Testament James is the equivalent of that kind of wisdom literature for us.
But I haven’t said a whole lot about wisdom itself, even though that’s a theme that runs through this letter. We looked at several themes that appear in chapter 1; this morning I want us to look specifically at the topic of wisdom, and there are two passages in particular that I want us to read together. So the first one is going to be James 1:5-8, and then we’re going to be in James 3:13-18 as we look at what James has to teach us about wisdom. Okay, so let’s look at the text of God’s word together.
First of all, James 1:5-8: “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.”
Then turn a page to James 3:13: “Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.”
This is God’s word.
Now, there are three things I just want us to notice this morning; this is a pretty simple outline for the message. I want us to notice: first, our need for wisdom; second, the wisdom from above (this description of wisdom we have in chapter 3); and third, how to get this wisdom. So, three things we need to note here.
I. Our Need for Wisdom
First of all, our need for wisdom, and you see it in chapter 1:5, “If any of you lacks wisdom.” Okay, so there’s a presupposition here that we are sometimes going to lack wisdom, and we need to seek it out. We need to pray for it, we need to ask God for it. “If any of you lacks wisdom.”
Anybody here this morning feel like you lack wisdom for some situation in your life? Okay, some of you feel pretty competent, evidently, in navigating life. I need wisdom, and I think as we survey some of the reasons why we need wisdom maybe you’ll agree that you need wisdom, too. Let me give you three reasons why we need wisdom, we need skill for navigating our lives. Here are three reasons why.
(1) First of all, we need wisdom for navigating our trials. Okay, you remember that chapter 1 of James, those first four verses, actually talks about trials. We talked about this several weeks ago. James says, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” So we talked about the need for steadfastness in our trials.
It’s interesting that verse 5 follows right upon those verses, 2 through 4, and there is a connection there. I think James is saying to us that if we’re going through trials, we want steadfastness to have its full effect, one of the things we need to do in order for that to happen is ask for wisdom. So, “if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God.”
Now, here’s one of the interesting things that happens to preachers. Sometimes when we talk about certain topics in Scripture the Lord then graciously allows us to start living through what we’re preaching on. I want to tell you, for the last two months my family has been in a season of pretty intense trials. Now, in the great scheme of things these are relatively minor, but man, we feel like we’ve been in the furnace. A few weeks ago I told Holly, “You know, I think I want to preach a series on success and happiness now.” I was speaking somewhat tongue-in-cheek, but seriously, we’ve been in trials.
I’ll tell you, one of the things that happens when you’re going through trials is it presses you into the Lord. I think that’s part of God’s design. It presses you into the Lord, where you just have to lean into the Lord. I’ll tell you, it’s helped my prayer life a lot, because I’ve been asking for wisdom and for grace and for help, that the Lord would work in our lives. That is one of God’s great purposes in trials, is to develop our maturity to show us our need for God’s grace, our need for God’s wisdom, so that we will begin to ask. The result of that is a deepening friendship with God, isn’t it?
Here’s what Martin Luther said about trials, and of course he was a man who experienced many trials. He said, “I want you to know how to study theology in the right way.” He says, “I practice this method myself. Here you will find three rules that are frequently proposed throughout Psalm 119,” and he’s thinking about texts like, “Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep your word,” and, “It is good for me that I was afflicted.” He’s thinking of those texts.
He said these are the three things that help us study theology: “prayer, meditation, tribulation. These rules,” he says, “teach you not only to know and understand but also to experience how write, how true, how sweet, how lovely, how mighty, how comforting God’s word is. It is wisdom supreme. I myself owe my papists many thanks for so beating, pressing, and frightening me through the devil’s raging that they have turned me into a fairly good theologian, driving me to a goal I should never have reached.”
Now, I haven’t experienced that from papists, but I’ve certainly experienced that from trials in life; it pushes me into the Lord, and it shows me my need for wisdom. Maybe that’s where you are this morning. If you are experiencing trials today, one of God’s purposes for you is to mature you in your faith, and in order for that to happen you need wisdom, you need to pray for wisdom.
(2) Here’s the second reason we need wisdom: we need wisdom to navigate our relationships. Do you ever find yourself in difficult relational situations? Maybe it’s a conflict with fellow believers in Christ, maybe it’s a conflict on the job or at school, maybe it’s tension in your family, in your marriage, or maybe it’s not knowing how to direct your children or discipline your children or guide your children. I think all of us encounter this, don’t we, from time to time.
We need help with our relationships, we need wisdom for relationships, and you see this, I think, in the very context of James chapter 3. When you read James 3:13-18, the language here is very relational language. Alright, so this focus on peacemaking and on being impartial and openness to reason, and so on. That’s language that has to do with a relational context.
But then in the overall context of James this is also true. It’s preceded by James 3:1-12, which is all about the destructive use of the tongue, the use of our words. Well, our words hurt our relationships. And then this paragraph is followed by James 4:1-2, which is all about dissension in the Christian community.
So the priority for James here seems to be peaceful relationships in the church. In fact, commentator Douglas Moo says that “the key to all this is the peace that genuine (as opposed to fraudulent) wisdom can bring to the community.”
I want to suggest something to you right now. This passage, James 3:13-18, is a powerful passage. We’re going to dig into it in just a moment. It is a powerful passage, and it is a passage that, if you will take it and you will pray through it and examine yourself in light of it, in any conflict you find yourself, whether it’s in the home, whether it’s in the workplace, whether it’s in school or in the church; whatever the situation is, if you will take this passage, you pray through it, examine yourself in light of it, and say, “God, would you do this? Would you make me pure and peaceful and gentle and open to reason,” and so on, it has power to transform you from the very inside out, to totally change the way you do relationships.
I’m going to give you an example of how this has worked in my own life over a period of years here in a few moments. Okay, so relationships.
(3) And then finally, number three, here is the third way in which we need wisdom: we need wisdom in our society. Have you noticed how much turmoil there is in the world right now? Have you noticed how much turmoil there is in our country right now? There’s a lot of division, there’s a lot of unrest in the world.
I think whatever side of the spectrum you may fall in politically, I think at our heart of hearts, if we’re genuine Christians, and even for many non-Christians, there is an innate longing for something like peace and justice. I think that’s what we want. Now, we may have different ideas of what peace and justice look like, but I think all of us would agree, yes, of course we want a peaceful and a just society.
I want to suggest to you that the only way we’ll ever get peace and justice in a society in any measure is if we learn to embody the qualities that are described for us in James 3:17. As believers in Christ, let me say that we simply must put these virtues into practice, because we, of all people, should be the most humble; we, of all people, should be the most peaceful, we should be the most gentle, we should be the most open to reason. We should be the peacemakers.
In fact, do you remember what Jesus said? “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons of God.” This should be characteristic of us as believers, and not least of all in our discourse with nonbelievers or with believers who have differing viewpoints from us. Our attitudes matter every bit as much as our policies, and a godly demeanor speaks more powerfully than inflammatory rhetoric. Let us learn the lessons of James 3; let us be characterized by peace and gentleness in the way we interact with others. Our society needs it, we need it in our relationships, and we need that wisdom to help us through these situations, these trials that we face in life.
So, for all of these reasons (and we could come up with more as well) we need wisdom for navigating life. We need skill in the application of truth if we are to navigate life well.
II. The Wisdom from Above
Now, what is this wisdom that we need? The wisdom from above; that’s point number two. What is this wisdom from above?
We see a description of it in James 3:13-18. I want to suggest three things about this wisdom. Three things about this wisdom, and within this point I want to just dig in a little bit into this description of wisdom in verse 17. Here are three things we need to see about this wisdom.
(1) First of all, this wisdom is very different from earthly wisdom. This wisdom, this godly wisdom, this wisdom from above, is very different from earthly wisdom.
Look at verses 14, 15, and 16. He says, “But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice.”
Now, this is one of those powerful analytical kind of passages, diagnostic passages that help us trace fruit back to their roots. Do you see what James is saying here? He’s saying that where you see jealousy, bitter jealousy, where you see selfish ambition; where these things exist, where you see disorder, where you see vile practices, these are fruits, and the roots of those fruits is a different kind of wisdom; not the wisdom that comes from above, but wisdom that is earthly, unspiritual, demonic; or you might say wisdom that comes from the world, the flesh, and the devil. Alright?
It’s a very different kind of wisdom, and there is a kind of teaching and literature, there is a perspective, there is counsel that is common among many people outside of the faith where, essentially, what they’re saying is what matters is watch out for number one, what matters is watch out for your tribe, look out for your group, defend your rights at all costs, irrespective of others; and the characteristic is selfish ambition and bitter jealousy, and the fruit is disorder and every vile practice. It is a worldly kind of wisdom.
James is telling us that God’s wisdom is very different than that. The wisdom that comes from above is very different from that. It’s marked by different things. So, this wisdom is very different from earthly wisdom.
(2) Secondly, this wisdom is demonstrated in both attitudes and behavior. You see that in verse 13 and again in verse 17. Verse 13, “Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct,” there’s behavior, “let him show his works in the meekness,” there’s attitude, “of wisdom.” So, both attitudes and behavior are going to be different if you have this kind of wisdom, and what is it going to look like?
Look at verse 17: “But the wisdom from above is…” and then he gives eight characteristics of this wisdom. Let’s just look at them really fast, okay? We don’t have to spend long on this, but eight characteristics of this wisdom.
It is, first of all, pure. It’s pure. That means that it is characterized by innocence and by moral blamelessness, and this is probably something of an overarching description of this wisdom with all of the following terms being further components of this purity, okay? So, the seven qualities that follow are dimensions of this overall purity, and the idea is a moral blamelessness. There is a purity of heart and of life that characterizes this wisdom.
Secondly, it is peaceable, or if you’re reading the NIV it says “peace loving.” The idea here is someone who loves peace, who is inclined to peace, who is a peacemaker.
Then, it is gentle or considerate. One commentator says, “This indicates willingness to yield to others and a corresponding unwillingness to exact strict claims.” A gentleness or a considerateness towards others. Is there something in your heart and in your life that inclines you to yield to others, especially on nonessential issues, nonmoral, nonbiblical kinds of issues? Are you inclined to yield?
Fourthly, openness to reason. The word in the NIV here is “submissive”; another translation says “accommodating,” others “easy to be entreated.” The idea here is not so much gullibility as it is, again, a willing deference to others in matters that are indifferent, in matters that are nonessential. Okay, openness to reason.
Then, “full of mercy and good fruits.” Take those together. Full of mercy. James, earlier in this letter, in James 2:13, says, “For judgment is without mercy to the one who has no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment.” Mercy is a premier concern for James. He’s concerned about mercy, and especially about mercy towards the poor, mercy towards the disenfranchised, mercy towards the persecuted, mercy towards people who do not have power. That’s one of James’s primary concerns.
In fact, we’re going to see here in this series some of James’s teaching about justice and his concern for the poor in the world. Well, he wants us to be merciful in that way, but also full of good fruit, he says. Good fruit. Actually, in the Greek here it’s plural; it’s good fruits. He has in mind here just all of the good fruits of righteousness that should characterize this wisdom.
Then the seventh word is “impartial.” This would could mean either undoubting or undivided. It’s probably the opposite of double-mindedness, which pops up a couple of times in James’s letter, double-mindedness. We’ll see that here in a few minutes in James chapter 1. This is the opposite of that. It carries in mind the single-minded devotion to what is true and right and beautiful and good, a single-minded devotion to God; but it also probably connotes the unprejudiced heart towards people. So, James talks a lot in this letter about not having partiality, right, not showing partiality; so, an unprejudiced heart towards people. So it’s single-mindedness towards God, and then it’s a lack of prejudice and partiality towards people.
And then here’s the final word: sincere. This literally carries the sense of not playing a part. So, here the idea is transparency rather than hypocrisy. Here’s someone who is sincere.
One of the best little statements I read about this comes from the Puritan Thomas Manton. You know, the Puritans are not really characterized by humor, but this comment I thought was kind of funny, alright. I don’t have it on the screen, but I’ll just read it to you. He’s talking about how, when we are characterized by this wisdom, it should make us not less human, it should make us more human.
He makes this comment. He says, “It is the great fault of some that when they begin to be religious they leave off to be human.” They become really religious, but they become less human; have you ever noticed that? Sometimes people get very religious, but they actually diminish in their compassion and their humanity towards other people. He says this is the fault of some people; they begin to be religious, they leave off to be human, “as if there were no tree that grew in Christ’s garden other than the crab tree.” I thought that was funny! Some of you will get that over lunch.
Is that the fruit you’re bearing? Are you a crabapple? Are you a crab tree? James is saying that we should bear the good fruits of gentleness and mercy and of sincerity and transparency and peace and purity, and that should characterize our relationships.
(3) And then the fruit of that will be (here’s the third thing to notice, verse 18), the fruit of that will be peace and justice. Look at verse 18: “And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.”
Now, let me give you a personal example of how I think I’ve learned some things over the years, not initially directly because of this passage, but this passage has become more and more important to me over the years.
So, most of you probably know that I have pastored two churches; this church I’ve been in for 15 years now, and another very short pastorate that lasted about 20 months, from November of 2000 to about June of 2002. My experience in these two pastorates has been very, very different. I’ve loved pastoring this church, love you, love our church, and feel like God has been very good and gracious to us.
My first pastoral experience was very difficult, and as I analyze that (every once in awhile I’ll think back to that) there were all kinds of complex reasons. So, the problem with an illustration like this is to be too reductionistic in how I describe it. So there were complex reasons, including doctrinal differences, the demographic of the church, the basic fit of my personality with them, the assumptions that I made about them and they made about me. Some of the folks in that church were, frankly, just kind of cantankerous, hard to get along with. There was a large family that made up the majority of the church, so there were those kinds of dynamics. There were all kinds of issues that were at play.
But here is just one difference, okay, and it was a difference in me. So, in our first church, I was a young pastor, okay; I think I was 25 years old when I went to pastor that church. I was prone to make very quick decisions, really fast changes, and to do so without a lot of dialogue and without a lot of listening. So, in less than two years we made a lot of changes in that church, and some of those changes I kind of made arbitrarily, on the spot, and then was just trying to pick up the pieces afterwards. It just wasn’t good patterns of leading a church through transition. I realized at the end, when everything had kind of fallen apart for me and some people were starting to leave the church and we just decided that there wasn’t really a future there for us, even though there are a number of people in the church that still loved us and that we still loved and cared about, but we just felt like, “Okay, we need to move on.”
I realized that I had lost the trust of four key leaders in that church. Here’s the interesting thing: I also realized that I had never taken any one of those four men to lunch one one one. There had just not been deep relational investment. And two of those guys were deacons in the church, they were part of the main board of the church. Now, some of the problem was on their end, but some of it was on mine.
The Lord was very gracious to me, that in the transition between that church and coming here - and honestly, when I left that church I didn’t know if I’d ever pastor again, that’s how bad it was. I didn’t know if I’d ever pastor a church again. In the transition, the Lord placed us in a good church where I had a really good pastor who coached me and kind of taught me some things about what I needed to do if I entered into a new church. One of the things he encouraged me to do was to meet one on one with people, even in the candidating process.
So I think that weekend when Holly and I came up here to candidate, 15 years ago, I think we just spent hours and hours and hours in meetings with people, met one one one with every deacon in the church, everybody that was on the board, every Sunday school teacher. There was a lot of transparency on both sides, just trying to state where we’d been and what our convictions were and how did we leave the church, as well as on the side of the church. And then I just made it a goal, right there at the beginning, “I’m going to invest in these guys. I’m going to invest in these men and spend time with them and take changes really slowly.”
Now, if you look back over 15 years, if you’ve been here all this time, you know that we’ve made a lot of changes in 15 years. It’s a very different church in a lot of ways. But we’ve done it with mostly peace among us, we’ve done it without the church ever splitting, we’ve done, by and large, with real harmony and unity, especially within our leadership teams. I think just one difference between the first church and the second church is that I started to understand how to work with people and to apply these kinds of principles in being more gentle instead of escalating, being open to reason instead of just making decisions without conversation.
I want to tell you, in all of our lives we have to learn this if we want our relationships to be peaceful, if we want our relationships to flourish. We need this kind of wisdom, the wisdom that comes from above.
III. How to Get this Wisdom
Now, how do we get it? Third question. How do we get this wisdom? Let me give you four steps to it, some of these more practical, some of these more theological.
(1) Number one, we get it from God. Okay, notice that it is the “wisdom that is from above,” alright? It’s not wisdom from below, it’s not the wisdom of the world; this is wisdom from above. It reminds us of James 1:17, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.”
God is the one who gives this kind of wisdom. You won’t get this unless you get it from God himself. So we need him. In chapter 1:5, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” The idea there is that - it’s either the idea of God’s generosity, that he gives generously, or it may be the idea of God’s sincerity, of God’s singularity in giving, his single-mindedness in giving to those who come to him.
And notice how it’s worded here. He gives to all, and he gives without reproach. He’s not like the parent that is always upbraiding the child when the child comes with a need. I mean, here’s a child who has a need, “I’m hungry.” “Why didn’t you eat your breakfast that I gave you?” You know, that’s upbraiding the child. God is not like that! God is not like that. He does not upbraid us; instead, he gives generously, he gives simply to us and to all, and he does so without reproach when we come to him.
There’s a wonderful story told about a philosopher in the court of Alexander the Great. This philosopher had pleased Alexander the Great and Alexander had said he would help him in any way he could. One day he needed financial help, and so he came to the treasurer and he asked for this incredible sum to be given to him. The treasurer was shocked, he wasn’t going to give it to him.
So, as the story goes, he goes to the emperor, he goes to Alexander, tells him the sum, and this is what Alexander said. He said, “Pay the money at once. The philosopher has done me a singular honor; by the largeness of his request he has shown that he understood both my wealth and my generosity.”
In the same way, when we ask God for much, we actually honor him. We ask him for wisdom, we ask him for grace, we ask him for strength, we ask him for these things. We show both his wealth and his generosity by asking large requests, which is why John Newton wrote those wonderful words,
“Thou art coming to a King,
Large petitions with thee bring.
For his grace and power are such
None can ever ask too much.”
I just want to stop and ask you right now, have you prayed for wisdom, for help, asking God for it in whatever circumstance you’re facing right now? It’s a mark of spiritual maturity, that your first response when you’re in a difficulty, when you’re in a trial, when you’re in a conflict, is to go to God and ask him.
(2) So we get it from God, and we get it from God by asking, which I’ve already essentially said, but again, look at verse 5, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given to him.”
The preacher David Jeremiah references a poster from a few years ago that read like this: “A prayer to be said when the world has gotten you down and you feel rotten and you’re too doggone tired to pray and you’re in a big hurry and besides you’re mad at everybody.” Guess what the prayer is. “Help!” That’s a good prayer to pray when you’re in a trial. If you ever feel that way, just call out for help and ask God for help.
More eloquently, the poet William Cowper said this, and I think of these words pretty often when we’re facing trials. He said,
“Trials make the promise sweet,
Trials give new life to prayer,
Trials lay me at his feet,
Bring me low, and keep me there.”
Are you praying? That’s essential if you want wisdom.
(3) Number three, we need to go to God by asking for it with a sincere faith. Just look briefly at verses 6 through 8 in chapter 1, “But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord. He is a double-minded man and unstable in all his ways.”
Now, I do need to make just a brief comment about that, because that’s going to scare some of you to death. You read that and you might think, “Man, does that mean that if I have the least shadow of doubt when I pray that God’s not going to give it to me, and I have to muster up this 100 per cent certainty that God’s going to give me what I ask?” That’s not what that text is teaching.
The doubt that James has in mind here is defined by the double-mindedness in verse 8. This man who is double-minded “and unstable in all his ways.” What James is after here is not a faith that’s never troubled by any shadow of doubt. What he’s after here is a whole faith, a single-minded faith. He’s after a kind of faith that is not merely some small category in the corner of your belief system, but a faith that encompasses your life, so that your life is submitted to God and to his will and with a whole heart you’re pursuing him. That’s what he’s after. He doesn’t mean that if you ever have a doubt in prayer that God’s not going to answer, he means that your whole life should be oriented towards God in a life of faith.
You get the same idea here in James 4:8, when he says, “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, you double-minded.” He doesn’t want us to be double-minded, he wants us to be single-minded.
We don’t want to be like that character from John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress, Mr. Facing-Both-Ways. I’ve thought, how would you illustrate that, Mr. Facing-Both-Ways? I mean, here’s someone who’s totally confused because he’s trying to serve God and the world at the same time. James is saying if that characterizes, you have one step in the church, one step in the world, you’re trying to serve God, you’re trying to serve yourself, you need to work on the wholeness of your faith, right, the integrity of your faith. That’s what he’s saying here: ask in faith without doubting, without this kind of double-mindedness that leads to instability throughout your lives.
(4) And then here’s the fourth thing: we get this wisdom in Christ. We get it from God by asking for it with sincere faith in Christ.
Here’s why I say that, because the supreme gift of God that has come from above is Jesus Christ. Look at John 3:31, “He who comes from above is above, he who is of the earth belongs to the earth and speaks in an earthly way. He who comes from heaven is above all.”
Look at John chapter 6, where four times Jesus is said to be the one who comes “from above.” Jesus is the one who comes from above.
Furthermore, Jesus is the wisdom of God. You remember Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 1: “The Jews demand signs, Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to the Jews, folly to the Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men and the weakness of God is stronger than men.” And then verses 30 and 31, “Because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God.”
Now, we think a lot about how Christ became to us righteousness or justification, or he became to us sanctification, making us holy; or he becomes to us redemption, as we think about everything being wrapped up, the end, the great consummation of our redemption and Christ being the Redeemer of the world. We think about those things, but Christ is also made to us the wisdom of God. Paul in Colossians tells us that “all the treasures of wisdom are hidden” in him.
So, how does that work for us practically in our lives? How is it that Christ, that it is in Christ that we get wisdom? Here it is: think of it in this way.
Number one, think this, that Jesus is the perfect embodiment of everything we read in James 3:17. Jesus is pure, Jesus is peaceful, Jesus is gentle, Jesus is open to reason, Jesus was full of good fruits and mercy, Jesus was impartial and sincere. Jesus is and was the ultimate peacemaker! So if you look at the life of Christ, you look at the example of Christ, Christ is the perfect embodiment of this wisdom. So part of our wisdom is learning to imitate him, to be like him, to walk with him. Study the character of Christ.
More than that, Jesus is the one who reaps a harvest of peace and of righteousness for the world. Do you know how he did it? He did it by sowing peace through his self-sacrificial love on the cross, where as a grain of wheat he fell into the earth and he died, thus bearing much fruit. It is through the peacemaking work of Christ on the cross that we get all of the resources in our own hearts, in our lives, in our families, in our communities, and in the world to be peacemakers ourselves. We look at a Man who is our King, who is our God, and the hallmark of his life was that he died for his enemies. Here’s a man characterized by love, here’s a man characterized by self-sacrifice, here’s a man characterized by mercy.
Christian, that’s what you’re called to do. That’s what you’re called to be. That’s what you’re called to exemplify in your relationships, in your marriages, in your parenting, in your church relationships, in the workplace, in the world. We are called to be self-sacrificing, loving, peacemaking, gentle imitators of Jesus Christ, and we get the resources to do that through the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Do you need wisdom this morning? Do you feel like you need wisdom now, if you didn’t raise your hand before? That wisdom is there for you, and it’s there for you in Christ as you seek God in prayer. Let me invite you to do that this morning. Let’s pray.
Father, I think all of us, if we’re really honest with ourselves, can see that there are all kinds of circumstances and situations and relationships in our lives where we need wisdom, and we need more than just knowledge; we need the skillful application of the truth of Scripture to our lives and our relationships so that we can navigate them in ways that honor you and that promote peace and justice in the world.
These qualities we’ve studied this morning are internal, they are fruit, and so we need the root that produces these fruits in our hearts. This isn’t something we can just manufacture on our own; we need the profound, transforming work of your Spirit to do it in us. So we ask for that this morning.
Lord, we need practicality in this. We need to learn in actual conversations how to listen well, we need to learn in actual conversations how to promote peace, we need to learn in our actual conflicts and relationships how to be gentle, we need to learn in our trials how to lean into your grace and how to trust you and how to ask for help and not lean towards self-sufficiency. All of us are in the process of learning these in various ways, so we ask for help this morning.
We thank you, Father, for the gospel that shows us Christ, the ultimate peacemaker, the one who made peace through the blood of the cross. As we come to the table this morning, we come trusting in his peacemaking work. We come trusting in the cross, we come remembering what he has done for us, we come to memorialize this single act of self-giving love. Jesus gave his body and his blood for our sakes, and as we take these elements this morning we pray that we would not only benefit from all that Christ has done for us, but we pray that you would remake us in his image, so that we also would go out into the world in the ways of self-giving love for others. Just as Christ gave himself for us, may we learn to do that for one another.
Draw near to us, Lord, in these moments, give us grace, give us wisdom, give us strength, give us fellowship with you. We pray this in Jesus’s name and for his sake, Amen.