Intolerance of God, Part 2

James 4:4-6: “4 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. 5 Or do you think Scripture says without reason that he jealously longs for the spirit he has caused to dwell in us? 6 But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: ‘God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.’”

In this passage, we see how God is intolerant of two heart attitudes.

In the last post, we saw how God is intolerant of rivals. He wants to be first place in our life. Today, we see the second heart attitude that God is intolerant of. Pride.

God is intolerant of PRIDE

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

Opposes/resists: military term for getting arranged for battle. Can you picture God getting arranged for battle? What resources does He have at His disposal? Do you want to try to stand against God’s opposing forces?

Pride: feelings of unwarranted importance. These are those “look at me” moments in life.

Humble: gentle, lowly,

The greatest example of pride in the Bible is Satan, and our greatest example of humility is Jesus Christ.

Let me share with you some “proverbs” that flow throughout the book of James. They are warnings against pride and arrogance:

•           “Arrogant eyes” are at the top of the list of seven things the Lord hates the most (Proverbs 6:16-19).

•           Pride leads to disgrace and humility leads to wisdom (Proverbs 11:2).

•           Humility leads to honor (Proverbs 15:33).

•           Pride leads to a downfall (Proverbs 18:12).

•           “Haughty eyes and an arrogant heart” indicate sin (Proverbs 21:4).

•           Mocking others is a reflection of “excessive pride” (Proverbs 21:24).

•           Humility leads to godly fear (Proverbs 22:4).                    

•           Pride will ultimately humble a person (Proverbs 29:23).

Pride cheats God of the honor and glory due Him.

When we act independently of God, it reminds Him of Satan, the ultimate do-it-yourself guy. 

These two heart attitudes can also be considered idols. We don’t think in these terms here in the United States much because we don’t have little golden calves. Satan has been more discreet with the idols we are presented with today.

Webster provides two definitions of idolatry: 

1. The worship of idols, images, or anything made by hands, or which is not God. Idolatry is of two kinds; the worship of images, statues, pictures, &c. made by hands; and the worship of the heavenly bodies, the sun, moon and stars, or of demons, angels, men and animals.

2. Excessive attachment or veneration for anything, or that which borders on adoration.

Since our idols are the things we treasure and value more than Jesus, we discover them by honestly asking what gives our life meaning, worth, and value.  Look at the table below. Which of these idols give your life meaning?  What are the things you treasure that give your life value and worth? 

Power IdolApproval Idol
control
position
influence
success
strength (exerted)
relationships
achievement
ethnicity
social circles
appearance
Security IdolComfort Idol
family
finances
protection
religion
safety
future
pleasure
health
freedom
excesses
home/vehicles
recreation
From Gospel Coach by Scott Thomas and Tom Wood

As you can see, even if water and oil appear to be mixed, they separate themselves because water is intolerant of oil. As vibrant followers of Christ, we are to be intolerant of the worldly system. We are to be intolerant of anything inside of us that sets itself up in opposition or rebellion to God. 

Christ has overcome the world, and with His power and by His grace, as we rest in Him, we will overcome the world too. 

The oil in our passages are rivals in our heart and pride in our heart.

So, what can we do?

1. Learn how to live in the world without being of the world. We are sojourners, or travelers in this world. We need to travel through this world without being stained. This doesn’t mean we withdraw to a monastery and become hermits. We engage the world with the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We daily submit our lives to the One who is able to keep us pure. We use the common sense that God has given us; if we have a problem with alcohol, we avoid bars; if we struggle with lust, we stay out of adult entertainment stores; if we struggle with drugs, we stay away from the dealers. God has given us a brain, use it for His glory, don’t let Satan control it. Ask God to show you where you are living in the world, confess, and REPENT.

2. Accept God’s GRACE! Grace is the driving force behind our salvation, sanctification, and security.

We are saved by grace. God is overloaded with it! God never runs out of grace. God’s grace is able to overcome our unfaithfulness. When our heart strays, it is God’s grace that brings us back and God’s grace that forgives.

Some questions to consider:

-What are some idols in your life?

-Why is God intolerant of pride?

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Intolerance of God, Part 1

James 4:4-6: “4 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. 5 Or do you think Scripture says without reason that he jealously longs for the spirit he has caused to dwell in us? 6 But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: ‘God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.’”

Have you ever tried to mix oil and water? Interestingly, if you mix them and then leave them to sit for a bit, they separate again.

You might say, water is intolerant of oil… There has been a lot of talk about tolerance the past few years, but what does it mean?

Intolerant simply means not enduring; not enduring difference of opinion or worship; refusing to tolerate others in the enjoyment of their opinions, rights, and worship (Webster, 1828).

What are some things that you don’t tolerate?

There are certain things that God cannot tolerate either. Anything that runs counter to His nature is something God doesn’t endure. Any type of sin is something that can’t even be in the presence of God. As we grow in our relationship with the Lord, we should seek to understand what He can’t tolerate and then avoid aligning our lives with those things. By doing so, we align our life with God.

In this passage from James, we see how God is intolerant of two heart attitudes.

There are many more things, but let’s focus on these, one at a time.

God is intolerant of RIVALS (vv. 4-5)

In the Old Testament, Israel is often referred to as adulteresses. 

Jeremiah 3:20: “‘But like a woman unfaithful to her husband, so you, Israel, have been unfaithful to me,’ declares the LORD.”

Ezekiel 16:32: “You adulterous wife! You prefer strangers to your own husband!”

The church that James is writing to had committed spiritual adultery. They had been unfaithful. The church is the bride of Christ. In the covenant of marriage, there is NO FLIRTING, no inappropriate relationships—nothing on the side. We are to be laser-focused in our devotion to our spouse and no other. The same goes in our covenant with God

However, we live in a fallen world, surrounded by opportunities to sin. James paints a vivid picture of what a life dedicated to the world looks like and results in.

Don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God?

This friendship is the emotional type, an attachment to something, in this case, the world.

In the Bible, the “World” is a system; the people constituting the world whose values, beliefs, and morals are in distinction and rebellion to God. Those who have rejected Christ.

We know that this is a choice…. A deliberate choice, something we set our mind on.

Amos 3:3 says, “Do two walk together unless they have agreed to?”

There is no middle ground. If you are in the world, you will be stained by the world; the world will influence you.

I heard a story about a guy sitting on the fence between God’s land and Satan’s. After a few hours of indecision, Satan walked by and told the man to follow him. The man tried to explain that he hadn’t decided. Satan simply said, “Yes, you have, I own the fence.”

The goal of the world is self-glory, self-fulfillment, self-indulgence, self-satisfaction, self self self.

Adultery results in pain, heartache, distrust, bitterness, hurt, tears…

A man who commits adultery says this to his children: “Your mother is not worth much. Your father is a cheat and a liar. Honor is not as important as pleasure. My satisfaction is more important than you.”

In this case, though, it sets us up as enemies of God… Let that sink in for a minute.

When we deliberately choose the world, we become enemies of God. An enemy is someone who hates another and wishes them injury.

We declare war on God.

We stand in defiance of GOD.

Stop running around on God.

If you take the Word of God seriously, you have to stop being friends with the world and pursue God. Stop running after the world and start running after God. He is jealous for the Spirit that is in the heart of every believer.

In John 15:16, Jesus calls us friends! How can this be? Those who have decided to follow Christ are no longer friends with the world, but friends with God. And friends seek to please one another.

The divided allegiance in our hearts brings disaster to us and dishonor to God.

God wants us all to Himself.

This isn’t a try harder moment, either. We need to recognize that God will not tolerate rivals in our hearts and lives, and, as we will learn next, we are to submit to Him, draw near to Him.

Some questions to consider:

-Why is God intolerant of anything in our lives that takes His place?

-Are you committed spiritual adultery? Are you cheating on God?

-Is your heart’s allegiance divided?

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Problems and Cures, Conclusion

James 4:1-3: “1What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? 2 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. 3 When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.”

Over the several past blogs, we have seen James examine the symptoms of spiritual problems, diagnose the disease, and provide the cure. Part of the therapy is prayer. I’d like to go a bit more in-depth into this aspect of the treatment.

There are Five Keys to Powerful Prayer:

1. In accordance with God’s Will: Matthew 26:39-“Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”

1 John 5:14: “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.” For example, I have heard married men and women pray, “Lord, let me out of this marriage.” NO! That is not a prayer that is in line with God’s will. Instead, we should pray, “Lord, change me, so I’m the right kind of mate.” Now He’ll start talking with you.

2. Offered in faith: Matthew 21:22-“If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.” Do you believe? This isn’t looking at God as a magic genie or Santa Claus. This is genuine faith where you consider who God is, what God has done, and what God is capable of. If you are praying for God’s perfect will, you can have faith that He will answer that prayer.

3. From a pure heart: Psalm 66:18: “If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened;” -Hearts are purified through Christ. It is tough for me to hear non-Christians say, “I’ll be praying for you” or “Our thoughts are with you…” These phrases are meaningless without God behind them.

4. In the name of Jesus Christ: John 14:13-14-“And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.” There is no other name more powerful than that of our Lord Jesus Christ.

5. Ask the question: What glory is God going to get from answering this prayer? If the answer to the prayer only brings you glory, that isn’t a powerful prayer. It is a selfish prayer.

The root cause of every conflict in the church, our marriage, our country, the world, is SIN. It is worldliness. It is sensuality. Even those of us who have been redeemed by Christ still live in a fallen world with temptations all around us. In the next blog series, we are going to see how the encouragement that James gives about pursuing a friendship with God fits into this idea of prayer and living a life that brings glory to God.

Here are some action steps for this week:

1. Go to God in prayer first.

When we experience conflict, often we spend 3 hours fuming and only 30 seconds praying. No! This should not be. It should be the other way around. God is a heavenly Father that delights in hearing from His kids. We need to ask God for wisdom in dealing with conflict. How much of it is our fault? What can we do to help the situation?

2. Receive the diagnosis.

Don’t be afraid to cry out to God for help. A lot of men have trouble asking for support for the simplest things: directions. But what about when eternity is at stake. Look at Romans 7:23, “but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me.” The next two verses are key: “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ, our Lord!” A diagnosis of a problem is only useful if it is received. You don’t get a diagnosis and then ignore it and hope it goes away.

3. Pursue reconciliation at all costs.

We learn 2 Corinthians 5:16-21 how we can be reconciled to God first through Christ’s forgiveness. As Hebrews says, there can be no forgiveness without the shedding of blood. Then we are to pursue reconciliation with others. Romans 12:18 teaches, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”

There you have it. The spiritual problem is sin with a variety of symptoms. The cure is Christ. The on-going treatment is prayer.

Some questions to consider:

-What are the missing keys in your prayer life that are sapping you of power?

-What are you dwelling on that you need to give to God through fervent prayer?

-Do your prayers seek the glory of God or the fulfillment of your earthly wishes?

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Problems and Cures, Part 3

James 4:1-3: “1What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? 2 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. 3 When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.”

After the doctor examines the symptoms and comes up with a diagnosis, he usually prescribes the cure.

Before we jump into the issues with our prayer life, I want to focus on the end of verse 3. James says we often don’t receive the answers to our prayers because our motivation is wrong. If God granted every prayer request, we would spend it on pleasure. One of my favorite scenes in the movie Bruce Almighty is when the man who was given the duties of answering prayers just “replied all” with a yes. Suddenly, everybody won the lottery, was driving nice cars and had an abundance of stuff. It was Hedonism on full display. Hedonism is the playboy philosophy that says humankind’s chief end is pleasure and happiness. NO! The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. The story of the Prodigal Son from Luke 15 fits here.

Life is not about us.

James identifies two problems with our prayer life: 

1. We don’t pray. When James says you don’t have because you don’t ask, he is describing prayerlessness. Prayerlessness results in failures to receive blessings. Bringing requests to God can have a purifying effect on our desires. Take desires to God. He responds with “Yes,” “No,” or “Wait.” One of my favorite Country songs is “Unanswered Prayers” by Garth Brooks. I like the story, but it is not even close to being theologically accurate. There is no such thing as unanswered prayers. When He says yes, He satisfies our desire. When He says no, He denies them. When He says wait or change, He is refining them. We must learn to accept His answer.

You may say, “But I’ve been praying…” and God must answer my prayer the way I want Him to. Oh really, then let me ask you, do you give your kids everything they ask for? I didn’t think so.

2. We pray with the wrong motives. Are you asking for God’s glory, or yours? Are you asking God to do what you want or enable us to know/do His will? Are you asking for God’s mission to advance, or for yours?

Ask for God’s wisdom, not humanity’s. 

Prayer is a privilege; don’t squander it.

Real joy, real happiness, in the Christian life is derived from close fellowship with the Savior through sincere, unselfish prayer.

Some questions to consider:

-Peruse the prayers in Scripture. How many of them talk about material things? 

-How much of the Lord’s prayer is asking for worldly things? 

-How much better would our prayers for others be if they focused on meeting spiritual needs, THEE spiritual need of others?

-Ask God for your heart’s desire, and then tell Him how you will use it, and then trust His reply.

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Problems and Cures, Part 2

James 4:1-3: “1What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? 2 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. 3 When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.”

After the doctor examines the symptoms, they start to diagnose the problem. Diagnoses are an examination of the cause or nature of a condition, situation, or pain. It is vital to have a proper diagnosis before a cure is prescribed.

James makes it clear. We are sick from within. Most external problems and conflicts have internal causes.

Let’s look at some of the diagnoses: 

First, fights and quarrels are caused by desires that battle within us. These desires are cravings, lustful passions, that result from an unsatisfied state. Indeed, we are seldom satisfied with just enough. We want more. A dissatisfied heart is never at peace. This war within the heart creates conflict at home, in the family, at work, and in our relationship with God. It’s almost as if we have little soldiers inside of us that are fighting one another. Satan gets us to focus on ourselves and what pleases us. Paul clarifies this reality in Romans 7:23: “but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me.”

Second, these desires sometimes lead us to kill. Scholars are split on how literal this is. Either way, there were some severe problems in these churches. We all know that murder is wrong, and I don’t know many people who have killed someone else. However, as with most Old Testament laws, the New Testament takes it to the heart level. 1 John 3:15: “Anyone who hates a brother or sister is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life residing in him.” We aren’t even to hate!

Third, fights and quarrels are the results of us coveting. Covet means to set our heart on something to the extent that we desire to possess whatever “it” is exclusively. We don’t want to share. I have seen a dramatic increase in covetousness due to the sin of materialism in the US. The natural heart of man is never to be content. 

The inner life of the Christian should not be a battle zone. We have been given the peace of Christ that surpasses all understanding.

When I preached on this passage, I caught many people looking around the room and overheard some finger-pointing after the service. People were saying, “What’s wrong with you?!?” NO! “What’s wrong with you?!” Christian, don’t play the blame game.

Some questions to consider:

-What battle is raging within you that you need to let Christ cover with His peace?

-What internal struggle has spilled over to external relationships? Repent! Make peace!

-What are you coveting? Ask the Lord to reveal why and replace that desire with something pure.

Problems and Cures, Part 1

James 4:1-3: “1What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? 2 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. 3 When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.”

My family would often go on vacation together. We traveled in a little Chevy Citation. Five people from Nebraska to Oregon. FUN TIMES! I was the youngest and always had to sit between my brother and sister. As they tend to do, kids got in arguments. “You’re in my space, you touched my leg, stop breathing on me!” I thought it was fun.

This passage is more serious because James grew up with the perfect brother. He was always conscious of you, was never out of line, never lied, He was perfect. (James’ brother was Jesus!) James is writing to churches that are full of sinners. How many of you have ever attended a church where sinners were not present? Were you lonely as the only one there? When you put two sinners in the same room, there are bound to be problems. Most of the NT letters were written to churches or the pastors of churches riddled with conflict. In case you are thinking, “I don’t care about church conflict, my church is perfect!” Boy, are you in for a shock. Not only does today’s passage impact your church and my church (every church, actually), it affects our marriages and every other relationship we have.

James 1:19 says, “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry…” We have seen the “quick to listen and slow to speak” part. Today, we get to the “slow to become angry” part.

In this passage, we see James diagnose a spiritual problem and provide the cure! 

This blog will discuss the symptoms. Whenever we are sick, the symptoms are often the first indication that something is wrong.

What causes fights and quarrels among you?

Have you ever noticed that when you go to the doctor, they ask about your symptoms? They have you fill out this sheet where you check everything that is wrong with you. They want to know the external problems before they dig deeper to find out what is going on inside. The same goes for our spiritual health.

James is asking us to identify the cause of our symptoms.

The symptoms are fights and quarrels. These are wars, battles, the clash of two people or groups. These verses are in the context of the local church, but there are broad applications here. Everywhere we go, there seems to be conflict. 

A perusal of headlines on news sites shows how deep the conflict is. Here are a few:

“Louisville on edge after Breonna Taylor announcement.”

“This Senate race shows you can never be too extreme in Trump’s GOP.”

“The New York town of Swastika votes to keep its name.”

“Father shot shielding his kids from gunfire.”

“Mob justice isn’t justice.”

“Nearly two-thirds believe presidential election won’t be decided on election night.”

“Dems must search and destroy because they can’t win on merits.”

In the church, it seems that Christian in-fighting is among the worst. There is bitterness, severe hostility, and more. Why?

What are some stupid things that church members fight over or have split churches? One of the most ridiculous I heard was a church that split over fried chicken. At a potluck after church, two ladies brought fried chicken. The pastor didn’t know there were two piles of chicken and, after tasting the first one, commented that it was the best fried chicken he’d ever had. The other lady found out about it and took half the church when she left. I’m sure there were other issues.

On a more serious note, Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 12 about his concern regarding the church in Corinth. Look at verse 20: “For I am afraid that when I come, I may not find you as I want you to be, and you may not find me as you want me to be. I fear that there may be discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, slander, gossip, arrogance, and disorder.”

What? These are in church? No. Never. 🙂

There are consequences of unresolved conflict: First, we consume one another. Galatians 5:15: “If you bite and devour each other, watch out, or you will be destroyed by each other.” Second, there is confusion (James 3:16). Finally, you find every evil work (James 3:16)

Take a deep breath. We knew there would be conflict in this world. It should be expected. It is part of living in a cursed world, ruled by satan and his demons. Knowing this doesn’t make it any easier, though. We often ask, “How can we end all wars?” This isn’t the best question. James asked a better one, what causes them? 

Fortunately for us, he also answers it. But that’s for next time.

Some questions to consider:

-What are the leading causes of fights and quarrels in your life?

-What are some other symptoms of spiritual problems?

-What do you think is the cure?

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A Tale of Two Wisdoms

James 3:13-18: “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. But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such ‘wisdom’ does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 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.”

Over our study of these verses, we have seen the foundation for wisdom, earthly wisdom, and heavenly wisdom. I wanted to pause before we continue with James 4 and make sure we understand how to cultivate wisdom. 

These practices are nothing new or even earth-shattering. Simple truths rarely are. However, they are life-transforming.

1. FEAR GOD. Proverbs 9:10: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.”  We need to re-learn how to take God seriously. His Word is not to be taken lightly and His commands are not suggestions. When God says to love Him above all (with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength) and to love our neighbor as ourself, He was serious. We don’t decide who is worthy of love. All people made in the image of God are worthy of our love (Hint: that’s every single person, even if you vehemently disagree with them). Now, our actions of love differ from person to person, but we love nonetheless. To fear God also means we stop mixing man’s way with God’s way. We don’t make excuses for God’s way, we just follow. When we don’t understand something the Word says, we default to God. When our thoughts, opinions, and actions don’t line up with Scripture, we are wrong! This is hard for those who have embraced relativism to hear, but it is true. Because the world has turned its back on God and no longer fears God, the world has lost its wisdom.

2. ABIDE IN GOD. Abide means to rest or dwell. To abide in God means we rest or dwell in God’s presence. Specifically, we abide in God’s Word and God’s Son. 

His Word-Proverbs 2:1-6, 9-11: 

“My son, if you accept my words

and store up my commands within you,

turning your ear to wisdom

and applying your heart to understanding—

indeed, if you call out for insight

and cry aloud for understanding,

and if you look for it as for silver

and search for it as for hidden treasure,

then you will understand the fear of the Lord

and find the knowledge of God.

For the Lord gives wisdom;

from his mouth come knowledge and understanding…

Then you will understand what is right and just

and fair—every good path.

For wisdom will enter your heart,

and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul.

Discretion will protect you,

and understanding will guard you.”

His Son-Colossians 2:3: “In whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” 

3. ASK GOD! James 1:5: “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” But, we must ask with right motives.

Psalm 90:12 says “Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” 

You are going to die someday. This is a reality. Some of us sooner than others. As a follower of Christ, we can rest in the assurance that Jesus is preparing for us a room in His father’s house. We can be assured of that because of the Gospel. 

But believing in Christ, in accepting the free gift of salvation, is more than just a ticket to heaven. It is hope for the present. It is help on this highway of life, that we can live wise and holy lives. Ephesians 5:15-17: “Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.”

-The Lord’s will is for you to accept the grace He offers!

-The Lord’s will is for you to love Him above all else, to love others, and to make disciples.

-The Lord’s will is for you to build your life on the Solid Rock of Jesus Christ.

Some questions to consider:

-Read John 15:1-17. How did Jesus abide in the Father? How do we abide in the Son?-How are you going to cultivate wisdom this week?

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Heavenly Wisdom

James 3:17-18: “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.”

The wisdom from God is the answer to every conflict on earth. It provides purpose, direction, order, satisfaction, and assigns praise and glory where it is due: GOD! Notice where this wisdom comes from…

Heaven.

Notice the characteristics of this wisdom:

“Pure”-This simply means “having no faults.” It is not mingled or mixed with anything. It is undisturbed, original, holy. Some pastors use the Word of God to springboard them into what culture says or what they think. That’s not how it is supposed to be. The Word of God is pure; God’s wisdom is pure. We just seek to understand it and apply it. Heavenly wisdom is free of contamination. From purity flow all of the others. If the purity of God’s wisdom is questioned, it casts a shadow on everything that follows.

“Peace-loving”-This is not a “peace at any cost” or an impure peace. Man’s “wisdom” often leads to strife, envy, trouble, unhealthy competition, rivalry, war. But God’s wisdom is peace-loving. This is more than an absence of tension, but a presence of wholeness. It is the Hebrew word “Shalom.” This was a standard greeting, a blessing. It expressed a wish for prosperity, physical health, salvation, and harmonious relationships. The Apostle Paul would go on to say in Romans 12:18, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”

“Considerate”- gentle. Is the wisdom you follow or the wisdom you expound gentle? Or is it harsh and overly critical?

“Submissive”-willing to yield, open to reason, accommodating, but never at the sake of purity. God’s wisdom is friendly and approachable. As we apply God’s wisdom to our lives, we need to be open to being taught the truth of God’s word; we need to be willing to receive instruction. Unless, of course, you have it all figured out… It is possible to hear all sides without compromising your convictions. This is why we must always be in a state of learning. Are you willing to admit when you were wrong when confronted with a biblical view that is different than your own?

“Full of mercy”-we have been shown great mercy by God.

Full of “good fruit”-this is pity in action. Taking the sorrow or sympathy you have for someone and doing something about it.

“Impartial”-we are all equal at the foot of the cross.

“Sincere”-without hypocrisy; ancient Greek actors were called hypocrites because they were pretending to be something they were not. God’s wisdom is sincere. As we apply God’s wisdom in our lives, we will be genuine as well. Have you ever met someone and thought, now there’s the real thing. There is a true Christian. They were sincere, weren’t they? They were humble, weren’t they? They were gentle and full of mercy. This world can see through your fake smile, your platitudes. Be REAL!

I encourage you to read through the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7 and look for similarities between it and James’ writing. You will see how James was familiar with Jesus, his brother, and His teachings.

Pure-Matthew 5:8

Peace-loving-5:9

Considerate (gentle/meek)-5:5

Submissive-5:3

Full of mercy-5:7

Good fruit-5:6

James is merely echoing Christ’s words.

Righteousness (v. 18) is a “life or lifestyle in conformity to justice, law, or morality, as given by God.”

If we humbly go before God asking for wisdom, we will be given this peace.

You reap what you sow: sow corn, get corn; sow wheat, get wheat; sow bitterness, get bitterness; sow peace, get peace. 

Some questions to consider:

-Are you pursuing heavenly wisdom?

-What characteristic of heavenly wisdom do you long for?

-Do you see the implications for applying heavenly wisdom in your marriage? In your church?

Psalm 133:1: “How good and pleasant it is    when God’s people live together in unity!”

Photo by Stacey Gabrielle Koenitz Rozells on Unsplash

Earthly Wisdom

James 3:14-16: “But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.”

Here we get to a big “But” in the Bible. Satan has a substitute for every good thing God offers.

“Bitter Envy” means you are discontent with the good fortune of others. When something goes right for someone else, you don’t congratulate them (even though you might be on the outside), your heart is bitter, jealous, angry even, that something like that didn’t happen for you. You develop a harsh, resentful attitude towards others.

“Selfish ambition” means your actions are motivated by a desire for yourself to succeed. It is putting yourself on the throne; it is a strong drive for personal success with a hint of doing so without moral inhibition. This is asking, “what’s in it for me?” or “how does it affect me?” before anything else.

You can see how this type of attitude can impact your marriage, your relationships at work, the church? These types of people have no regard for God. They don’t fear Him, and they certainly don’t respect Him.

You can also see that these feelings are matters of the heart. Bitterness and selfishness run deep! That is why the Bible paints the picture of “deny yourself” over and over again. It isn’t about what’s best for you, but about what brings God the most pleasure and the most glory.

Wisdom also never parts company with the truth (“deny” at the end of v. 14). The truth always comes home to roost, doesn’t it? You may fool some people for a while, you may even fool yourself, but you will NEVER fool God, and the truth will always win.

This earthly wisdom based on selfish desires is not from God. Where is it from? Satan.

“Earthly, unspiritual, demonic.”

“Unspiritual” is wisdom from man’s fallen nature, not the new creation we are in Christ. It has hints of man in his unsaved state of sin, characterized by the finite and fallen world. It is sensual. 

It is also “demonic,” in open rebellion to God. 1 Timothy 4:1: “The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons.”

This earthly wisdom is seen as foolishness in the eyes of God (1 Corinthians 3:19-“ For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight”).

It leads to disorder and every evil practice (v. 16). Disorder is a state of violent disturbance, trouble, confusion, instability, ungodliness. We know that God is not a God of chaos, so where chaos reigns, the devil’s hand is at work. 

Every evil practice hints at worthlessness, turmoil.

Simply put, our wisdom shows up in our deeds, either good or evil. Listen to Jesus’ words from Matthew 7:17: “Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit.”

Christian, be a good tree! Bear good fruit! 

Some questions to consider:

-How is earthly wisdom influencing you?

-Do you fear God?-Do you agree that wisdom shows up in deeds (including the motivation for those deeds)? Why or why not?

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Foundation of Wisdom, Part 2

James 3:13: “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.”

I promised we would talk about James this time. So, here we go!

James composed his letter as one solid piece of writing, meant to be read in one sitting. He didn’t say, okay, enough of verse 12, here is verse 13. This means that this section on wisdom is connected to all of the previous verses about watching our mouths. You can trace this passage back to James 1:19. – Be slow to speak. The problem of the tongue continues.

James is a book of action. We are always encouraged to make sure our walk matches our talk. Our wisdom is no different. We are to “show” our wisdom by our good deeds. So, we not only show our faith by our deeds (2:18) but our wisdom as well.

To show means to make known or explain. We do this with words and actions. The NIV has the phrase “their good life.” Other translations use “conversations,” “behavior,” or “conduct.” All of this means a person’s conduct, their lifestyle, their everyday behavior, must be based on wisdom. 

This begs the question: how do we get wisdom?

Proverbs 4:7: “The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding.”

Proverbs 8:11: “for wisdom is more precious than rubies, and nothing you desire can compare with her.”

When Lyndsey and I first got married, I wanted to be the provider. So, I worked hard (and she did too), and we spent a lot of money, we had a lot of fun. Something inside me said we couldn’t keep up this financial pace; we were going backward. So, I did what I often do when I have a question. I read some books. I read books on money from some of the top thinkers in the world. I knew all about money! But I never did anything with it. It was stuck between my head and my hands. And then I came across two practical books about money. Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover and Howard Dayton’s Your Money Map. It seemed easy enough, so we started applying the knowledge, and what do you know, it worked! All of the head knowledge didn’t work until we applied the principles in real life. It wasn’t a matter of “I need more,” but I had to learn how to manage what I already had adequately.

Do you know where Dave Ramsey and Howard Dayton learned their money principles? From God’s WORD!

Simply put, God’s Wisdom is found in two places: The WORD of God, and Jesus Christ. Listen to 2 Timothy 3:15: “and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.”

James 1:5 tells us, “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.”  If you lack wisdom in your life, about any situation, ASK GOD!

Some questions to consider:

-What knowledge do you possess that you aren’t applying? What is holding you back?-Are you seeking wisdom from God? If not, why not? If so, how?

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