“Live well, live wisely”
James 3:13 - 4:10
Date: 18th April 2004
Most people want to live a safe, secure and prosperous life. And this is one thing that Jesus promises to give us when we follow him.
“….I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10).
But the danger is, even if we are followers of Jesus, we can forfeit this full life. And one way we can forfeit the full life is by making unwise choices.
But on the other hand, we can all live well if we live wisely. And the good news is that the Lord wants you and I to know how to do this. In James 3 the Lord gives us direction that will help us to recognize the unwise choices we may have made and then he shows us the wise way to correct them.
1. DODGE DANGEROUS WISDOM (3:14-16 and 18; 4:1-3)
Here James identifies three sources of dangerous wisdom (v15).
The earth, i.e. the world around us (human knowledge).
If we want to live well, we must live wise. Knowledge is very different to wisdom and we must be careful not to confuse them.
The flesh – or that which is not spiritual.
If we want to live well, we must live wise – and this means turning from this sinful human nature and following more closely the Spirit of God.
(See Romans 1:18-25).
If we want to live well, we must live wise – and this means dodging the devil’s deceptions – wising up to his imitations of God, or those things that take the place God should have in our lives.
The evidence of dangerous wisdom
“Bitter envy and selfish ambition” (v14). Whenever we detect self-promotion in ourselves or in others, we should beware because this is the fruit of dangerous wisdom.
“Boasting” (v14). If there is a lack of humility and submission we should beware because boasting is the fruit of dangerous wisdom.
“Denial of the truth” (v14). Boasting usually incorporates lies. If we, or someone else are painting a picture better or worse than it actually is – beware because denial of the truth is the fruit of dangerous wisdom.
So if we want to live well, we must live wise. If we sense “bitter envy,” “selfish ambition” or “denial of the truth” in our own hearts, then we’re in no condition spiritually to make wise or godly choices – and we won’t live well.
But there is a better way.
2. PURSUE POSITIVE WISDOM (3:13 and 17-18)
In vv 17-18 the Lord makes the point that we can all live well if we live wise by pursuing positive wisdom.
The source of positive wisdom.
There is only one source of positive wisdom – heaven (v17 See also 1 Cor 1:24 and 30; Colossians 2:3; 2 Tim 3:15; James 1:5; Ephesians 1:17).
And just like dangerous wisdom, we can recognize positive wisdom by its fruit.
a. Pure - When we are confident that we are spotless before God – we can be sure to make wise choices - - - and we can live well.
b. Peace-loving and considerate - When we are confident that we are spotless before each other – we can be sure to make wise choices - - - and we can live well.
c. Submissive - A heart that is submissive to the will of God will make wise choices - - - and that person will live well.
d. Full of mercy and good fruit - A person whose life is governed by mercy will make wise choices - - and will live well.
e. Impartial and sincere - Only when we are confident that we have received God’s wisdom, can we make wise choices - - - and then we will live well.
The Lord is the source of positive wisdom. We can all live well if we live wise by pursuing positive wisdom.
3. GRASP GRACIOUS WISDOM (4:1-10)
If your anything like me, there may well be one or two unwise choices you have made in life. How can we overcome poor choices?
We can all live well if we live wise by recognizing and grasping gracious wisdom.
God wants us to know that there is hope for us if we’ve been unwise. We can correct our unwise choices.
In James 4:7-10, He shows us the way back. Here are three instructions to follow if we want to get back to the well-lived and wise life.
a. Submit your entire life to God (4:3-4, 7 cf 4:2 and James 1:5)
If we won’t allow God into our life at all, we will never know peace and security of his wisdom.
If we want to live well we must make wise choices - - and it is wise to be ready to do the will of God. Can you say with all your heart, “Not my will but yours be done?”
b. Come near to God and he will come near to you (4:8)
If we have been unwise we may need to draw near to God to correct the problem. We do that by confessing our sin and asking for his cleansing. If we want to live well we must make wise choices - - and it is wise to confess our sin and ask for his cleansing.
c. Humble yourself before God (v10)
Repentance means more than saying we are sorry, it also means showing that we are. Are we fully aware of the distance our sin puts between us and the one who loves us most? If we want to live well, we must live wise - - - and it is wise to put our pride aside and deal with our sin.
So there is real hope here for us. We can correct our unwise choices - - - and live well.
Well, if we want to live well, we must live wise, and today the Lord has shown us how we can do that.
Elsewhere in scripture the Lord warns us that ….
A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life (Galatians 6:7-8).
If we have sown with dangerous wisdom and reaped dissatisfaction, there is a way back to positive wisdom through gracious wisdom. If we want to live well, we must live wise, and as we do we will reap eternal life – the full life in the here and now – from the Spirit of God.