Summary: Sermon explores question: How can we discern godly wisdom & distinguish it from the counterfeit?
Discerning True Wisdom (I)
As background for our message this morning, I want to begin by reading a crucial bit of advice. What is the most important thing in life? What are you pursuing in life? I have known some people who spend most of their time and energy in pursuit of money. They make all kinds of personal sacrifices to make more money. They move to where the job opportunities are. They choose their life work based on earning potential. In all their getting, they get money. Others pursue recognition and status. Some of these people are PhD’s. Some are politicians. They spend hours upon hours getting degrees or getting votes so that they can “be somebody” according to a certain definition of what that means in their own minds. For other people a healthy body or a beautiful body is all-consuming. For others pleasure is the pursuit of life. Some are thrill-seekers. They are adrenalin junkies. Some are world travels. Others are drug addicts. If you’ve spent much time with an alcoholic, you know that for the alcoholic life can be reduced to a pursuit of the next drink. My point is this: everybody is pursuing something. Everybody is investing his or her allotted time and energy toward something. What are you pursuing in life? That will in large part determine what you become and where you wind up.
When I was a young adult I read something in the Bible that struck me as pretty important. In Matthew 6 Jesus talked about the cares of life—all the natural things we can occupy ourselves with in this life. He said that nobody could serve two masters. Something would take priority in a person’s life. He specifically said, “No one can serve two masters...You cannot serve God and money” (NIV). At that time I had just launched my career as a C.P.A. I was 22 years old and I was making good money. I knew I was at a fork in the road. Then I read this promise from Jesus, Matthew 6:33 “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be added unto you.” That’s when I decided that my life would not be a pursuit of money.
Am I saying we should not try to make money? No. Am I saying that our health is not important? No. Am I saying that we cannot enjoy some pleasure during our journey with God? No, not at all. But I am saying that for everybody in this room something will be your central pursuit in life. For you, what is that central pursuit?
Here is advice that every Jewish child received about life : Proverbs 4:5-7
“Get wisdom! Get understanding!
Do not forget, nor turn away from the words of my mouth.
6 Do not forsake her, and she will preserve you; Love her, and she will keep you.
7 Wisdom is the principal thing;
Therefore get wisdom. And in all your getting, get understanding.”
James is writing to people who would have been familiar with that passage. Now he asks an important question in James 3:13, “Who is wise and understanding among you?” “Is there anybody there who has actually gotten the wisdom recommended in Proverbs 4?” That’s a question we must be able to answer. Only follow leaders who are operating in godly wisdom. We need to discern between godly wisdom and worldly wisdom so that we follow the right people and learn the right principles. We need to know what godly wisdom looks like so we can nurture it in our own lives. It is God’s will that every person here become wise according to His standards.
So, How can we discern godly wisdom & distinguish it from the counterfeit?
James 3:13 “Let him show by good conduct this his works are done in the meekness of wisdom.” The Greeks understood wisdom as mental exercise. But revelation came to the Hebrews which showed them that wisdom is something lived out in a practical way. Godly wisdom shows up in godly behavior. It shows up in our deeds. It shows up in our attitudes. Are the works good? Are the works done in meekness? How many know, “Meekness is not weakness.”? Moses was the meekest man alive in his day. Yet he was also the strongest leader. He was not intimidated by the treats of Pharaoh. He confronted rebellion in the camp. Yet he did none of that pridefully. He always operated in humble dependence upon the Lord. One of the best illustrations of biblical meekness that I have ever heard is of a trained stallion. The strength of that powerful animal is so under the control of the rider that just a gentle touch of the rein on the horse’s neck causes him to turn immediately. Just a shift in the rider’s weigh and the horse turns in the right direction. Meekness is strength under control.