Growing in Our Pursuit of Heavenly Wisdom

Dr. Steve Viars September 29, 2019 James 3:13-18
Outline

1 Corinthians 15:3-8 - For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep; then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles; and last of all, as to one untimely born, He appeared to me also.

James 2:1 - …our glorious Lord Jesus Christ…

3 principles to help us develop wisdom that honors God

I. Remember That Wisdom Is Not Something You Know, It Is Something You Do

A. James’ opening salvo

James 3:13 - Who among you is wise and understanding?

B. It is something you show by your actions

James 3:13 - Who among you is wise and understanding? Let him show by his good behavior his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom.

C. Keep in mind key ideas from parallel passages

1. Begins with the fear of the Lord

Proverbs 1:7 - The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; Fools despise wisdom and instruction.

2. Found in God’s Word

Deuteronomy 4:5-6 - See, I have taught you statutes and judgments just as the Lord my God commanded me, that you should do thus in the land where you are entering to possess it. So keep and do them, for that is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples who will hear all these statutes and say, “Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.”

3. Hidden in Christ

Colossians 2:3 - …in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.

1 Corinthians 1:24 - …but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.

1 Corinthians 1:30 - But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption…

II. Carefully Avoid Earthly Wisdom

A. Because of its characteristics

1. bitter jealousy

v. 14 - But if you have bitter jealousy…

v. 16 - For where jealousy…

2. selfish ambition

v. 14 - But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart

v. 16 - For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist…

“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, Commentary on James, p. 171

3. arrogance

James 3:14 - But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, do not be arrogant...

4. deception

James 3:14 - But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, do not be arrogant and so lie against the truth.

James 1:18 - In the exercise of His will He brought us forth by the word of truth…

James 5:19 - My brethren, if any among you strays from the truth…

B. Because of its source

1. earthly

Philippians 3:18 - For many walk, of whom I often told you, and now tell you even weeping, that they are enemies of the cross of Christ…

Colossians 3:2 - Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth.

2. natural

1 Corinthians 2:14 - But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised.

3. demonic

2 Corinthians 11:3 - But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ.

C. Because of its effects

1. disorder

“Akatastasia (disorder) has the basic meaning of instability, and hence came to be used of a state of confusion, disturbance, disarray, or tumult, sometimes even of rebellion or anarchy.” John MacArthur, Commentary on James, p. 175

2. every evil thing

“…contemplate[s] evil … not from the aspect of its active or passive malignity but rather from its good-for-nothingness, the utter impossibility of any true gain ever coming forth from it…” R.C. Trench, Synonyms of the New Testament [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1983], 317

III. Passionately Seek Heavenly Wisdom

A. Because of its characteristics

1. first, pure

2. peaceable

3. gentle

4. reasonable

5. full of mercy and good fruits

6. unwavering

7. without hypocrisy

B. Because of its effects

1. righteousness

2. sown in peace

3. by those who make peace

- we’ve all been to weddings where the ushers ask us at the door, would you like to seated with friends and family of the bride, or friends and family of the groom…

- and while that’s not always practiced, especially in a situation where there are many out of town guests that you haven’t seen for a long time, it’s enjoyable to all sit together and participate in the wedding as one large group and show your support for the one you love…

- suppose the ushers at the back of whichever auditorium you’re in this morning greeted you at the door and said…would you like to sit with the persons who are wise…or would you like to sit with the people who are foolish…and then he gave you that little look like “what’s your answer?”…

- what would you have said…and before that hypothetical scenario sounds too outlandish…the passage of Scripture we’re going to be studying this am begins with those very words…Who among you is wise and understanding?...

- I could ask that question right now…(of course I won’t, but I could)…those who are here who are wise and understanding, could you please just raise your hands…how would you respond?...

- now, regardless of what we might have said at the back door…or whether we would raise or hand or not…can we all agree that deep down inside, we think we’re pretty wise…

- that’s why we yelled at the ref during the game we were watching on TV…because we think we’re smarter than him…of course he was right there on the field on top of the play and it’s highly likely he knows the ins and out of the rule-book better than we do…but we yelled at him because we think we’re smarter than he is…

- or why some people spend so much time being critical of others around them…do you realize there are people in our community and in a few cases, even in our church…where the only time I have ever heard the sound of their voice…or received a message from them in writing…was when they were complaining about something…

- for some men and women, that is what they do every day…why?...because they are the smartest person they know…

- it’s amazing how many young people are wiser than their parents…how many students are wiser than their teachers…how many employees are wiser than their bosses or owners…how many citizens are wiser than their elected leaders…and on and on…

- there is no lack of men and women for whom the answer to the question – who among you is wise and understanding…would think even if they would not say it in polite company…well, that would be me…

- now, let’s push it one step further…what if we were able to receive God’s analysis on the subject?...

- so let’s say we got everyone seated correctly…those who say they are wise…those who say they aren’t….just like at a wedding – bride/groom….except in this case…wise/foolish…

- and then the Lord started rearranging people based on His analysis…

- and for fun let’s just say he used an overhead crane…that just swooped down with these mechanical jaws and picked up a person who had sat in the foolish section, and God said, No – you’re wise…and gently picked the person up by their ears or something and moved them over to the wise section…and then, vice versa…

- what do you think the seating arrangement would look like when He was done?...

- do you know what would be really great?...if we knew what the tests were?...what are the characteristics of godly wisdom?...what are the characteristics of earthly/worldly wisdom?...

- then we could make the determination on our own…

- and make whatever adjustments were necessary on our own…with God’s help and enablement of course…

- would you like some good news…that’s exactly what the passage before us offers…

- with that in mind, please open your Bible to James chapter 3…page ___ of the back section of the Bible under the chair in front of you…

- this fall we’re doing a verse-by-verse study of the book of James…we’re calling this Growth Essentials

- it’s part of our annual theme of Growing What God has Given….

- we’ve learned along the way that James is the first book of the NT to actually be written down…conservative Bible students believe it was some time between 44 – 49 AD…less than 20 years after the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ…

- that’s very important for all sorts of reasons including the fact we’re dealing with eye-witnesses…

- remember the apostle Paul said in the great resurrection chapter in the Bible, 1 Corinthians 15:3–8 - For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep; then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles; and last of all, as to one untimely born, He appeared to me also.

- biblical Christianity does not ask people like you and me to place our faith in a fairy tale…these are verifiable facts affirmed by hundreds and hundreds of eyewitnesses…

- many of whom were exactly like James…he didn’t start off believing in Christ…

- James was one of Jesus’ half-brothers – and the Scripture is very clear that when Christ began his public ministry, his half-brothers and sisters believed he had lost his senses…

- but then James changed his mind – he repented (that’s exactly what that word means – turned around, admitted he was wrong, changed his mind, went the other way)…

- and we know his view of Jesus is completely different because he refers to his half-brother now as James 2:1 – “…our glorious Lord Jesus Christ…”.

- by now James had become the pastor at the church of Jerusalem…very shortly he is going to preside over one of the most important church councils ever held – the Jerusalem council whose proceedings are recorded in Acts 15, a very pivotal chapter in the Word of God and the history of the church…

- but right now he’s writing to his brothers and sisters who are scattered because of the persecution that came upon the church almost immediately after its inception…

- well, why would Jewish men and women who had chosen to become followers of Jesus Christ be willing to be scattered around the known world for their faith?...it’s because they knew it was true…(you don’t do that for a fairy tale)…

- see, they understood the real meaning of the word “Lord”…some people want the eternal salvation that comes through Jesus’ shed blood without any of the ethical requirements that come with being one of His followers in the here and now…

- Jesus quenched that notion all the way back in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7…a book that would actually be written down some time after the book of James…

- but in the Sermon on the Mount we are given tests for what it means to be a true follower of Christ…

- and in the passage before us, we have very similar ideas…demonstrating how the Bible fits together in ways that are absolutely breathtaking…

- well, the Lord’s definition of wisdom…is dramatically different than the world’s…

- the idea that – “any old wisdom will do”…does not meet the test of this passage…

- there are two very different kinds of wisdom…from two very different sources…

- and the challenge is – many of us might believe we’re wise…when God’s analysis might be dramatically different…

- to set all of this in its context, we’re going to start reading in James 3:1…but we’re going to be focusing especially on verses 13-18…Read James 3:1-18

- so we’re talking about Growing in our Pursuit of Heavenly Wisdom…and with the time we have remaining, let’s look for 3 principles to help us develop wisdom that honors God.

I. Remember that Wisdom is not Something You Know, it is Something You Do.

- that’s what we learn from…

A. James’ opening salvo

- James 3:13 - Who among you is wise and understanding?

- the immediate challenge is…based on what?...

- your SAT scores…your ranking in your class…

- your IQ…how well you perform on tests?...

- or from a religious perspective…how well you know your Bible, or your ability to articulate theological nuances?...

- no, verse 13 makes it very clear…

B. It is something you show by your actions

- James 3:13 - Who among you is wise and understanding? Let him show by his good behavior his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom.

- which means that true wisdom is not intellectual, it’s behavioral…

- biblically speaking you do not know something until it is affecting the way you live each and every day…

- that is one of the delightful things about being part of our church family…there are some very wise men and women among us…

- and it has nothing to do with their academic achievements, or their economic status, their age or their IQ…

- it’s all about them being skillful in the art of practical biblical living…

- I’ve noticed that over the years in my work with our deacons…

- one of the greatest gifts our church family provides for our pastors is the high caliber of deacons you select for us to serve alongside…

- and as I think back to some of our most important discussions, it’s really amazing which person might have spoken a gem of wisdom that impacted the entire direction of our church ministry…and the others in the room carefully listened not because of man’s degrees…but because he had shown by his good behavior his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom…

C. Keep in mind key ideas from parallel passages

- what we are talking about this am is a major theme in the Word of God…

- what are some of the main points we learn from other key Bible passages?...

1. Begins with the fear of the Lord

- Proverbs 1:7 - The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; Fools despise wisdom and instruction.

- when you think about what James says about the characteristics of worldly wisdom, those are individuals who have no awe, honor, and love for God…in part because they are reserving so much awe, and reverence, and honor, and love for themselves…

2. Found in God’s Word

- Deuteronomy 4:5–6 - “See, I have taught you statutes and judgments just as the Lord my God commanded me, that you should do thus in the land where you are entering to possess it. “So keep and do them, for that is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples who will hear all these statutes and say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.’

- I hope one of your most precious treasures is the Bible you have on your lap…[or, as a capitulation to modernity, the Bible you have on your phone…]…

- but the more we understand the folly that is bound in our own hearts, the more we value the wisdom God gives us in His Word…

- it’s also crucial for us to add that ultimately, our wisdom is…

3. Hidden in Christ

  • Colossians 2:3 - in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.

- practical wisdom does not simply come through knowing a book, it comes through knowing and loving a Person…that’s so true that Paul told the Corinthians…

  • 1 Corinthians 1:24 - but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.
  • 1 Corinthians 1:30 But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption,

- so that already gives us one of our tests…if the question before the house is, are you wise and understanding?...and you show that by your good behavior, deeds in the gentleness of wisdom?...

- would your spouse have reason to say that you’re wise?...your friends?...

- your co-workers, your neighbors, your extended family members…

‑ 3 other quick observations before we move further into this text…

a. I was talking with someone recently and they were telling me about the helpful dynamics of one of our small groups…

- it reminded me of what a core component that is of our overall discipleship process and the practical cultivation of heavenly wisdom…

- and I’d like to thank all the men and women who open your homes, and prepare lessons, or meet at restaurants or at one of our campuses…small groups take on lots of different forms in a church this size…

- but some people sacrifice week in and week out so that the wisdom of Jesus Christ can be developed more fully in the members of our church…we could say the same thing about our youth and children’s ministries…

b. also, if you are here this morning and you are not yet sure you have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ…we would urge you to sit down with someone and make sure…one of our pastors was telling me that someone just reached out to him for that very reason…they wanted to know that they know that they know…if Jesus Christ is the one in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge…then being sure you know Him is the key starting place to all of this…

c. I also know that there are many men and women attending our church because you want to grow in practical wisdom…but the very act of walking into a church is hard…

- someone just said to me recently…PV, my spouse will probably never attend church with me…but I want my children and I want myself to hear God’s Word—we need it, is it OK if we attend even though my spouse won’t?...

- that got me thinking about all the different categories of people for whom, even the act of walking into a church building is hard…yet over 2000 people made the choice to do so at our campuses last weekend…praise God for men and women who are going to overcome whatever obstacle is necessary so they can show by their good behavior, deeds in the gentleness of wisdom…

II. Carefully Avoid Earthly Wisdom

- the next step in the process is fairly straightforward, isn’t it?

- look at the two different kinds of wisdom and be sure you’re not drinking from the wrong source…

- so why should we avoid earthly wisdom?....

A. Because of its characteristics

- it’s fascinating to see what ideas bubble to the surface here…

1. bitter jealousy

- that’s mentioned twice in this short text…

  • v. 14 – Nut if you have bitter jealousy
  • v. 16 – For where jealousy…

- this takes us back to our bitterness series this summer…

- when you want what someone else has…and there is a seething anger and resentment…because they have the house you want…or the spouse you want…or the kids you want…or the job you want…or the body you want…

- And our world is forever feeding the narrative that you would be happy and satisfied if you simply had something that you do not yet possess…

- that lack of gratitude and contentment is an evidence of worldly wisdom…there’s a person who’s drinking from the wrong source…coupled with…

2. selfish ambition

- also found twice in this passage…

  • v. 14 – But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart
  • v. 16 – For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist…

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, Commentary on James, p. 171).

- please notice that James makes it clear in the middle of verse 14 that both of these attributes reside deeply in the heart…which should cause all of us to pause and ask the question…is it possible that I am not as wise as I sometimes want to think in part because I harbor bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in my heart?...

- James then says – if that’s true…[do you see the development of the argument in verse 14?]…don’t complicate matters by adding 2 more ingredients to the fire…

3. arrogance

- James 3:14 - But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, do not be arrogant...

- pride is what makes us think we deserve something that another person has…and it fuels that selfish ambition to do whatever is necessary to come out on top…

- and many people in the world would see that as behaving wisely…Scripture would say that is…

4. deception

- it is “lying against the truth”…

- James 3:14 - But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, do not be arrogant and so lie against the truth.

- the word truth in the book of James is synonymous with the gospel…

  • James 1:18 - In the exercise of His will He brought us forth by the word of truth…
  • James 5:19 - My brethren, if any among you strays from the truth…

- a person who is living this way has every reason to question whether he or she is truly a Christian…they are lying against the truth by the way they are living…

- James also says we should avoid it…

B. Because of its source

1. earthly

- Paul told the Philippians…

  • Philippians 3:18 - For many walk, of whom I often told you, and now tell you even weeping, that they are enemies of the cross of Christ,
  • Colossians 3:2 - Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth.

2. natural

  • 1 Corinthians 2:14 - But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised.

3. demonic

- there is no way around what James is saying here…these are serious issues…

- that’s why Paul told the Corinthians…

- 2 Corinthians 11:3 - But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ.

- now do you see why the original question James posed is so important?...it is possible for a person to believe he or she is wise…when the truth is they have been seeking wisdom from exactly the wrong source…theirs is an earthly wisdom, a natural wisdom, a demonic one…

- which leads to some pretty obvious questions huh?...are you careful about the source from which you seek wisdom?...are you careful about what you read, are you careful about what you watch, are you careful about what you listen to?...

- does your level of discernment indicate that you recognize that not all so-called wisdom is the wisdom of God?...

- if you still have children in your home…are you exercising any kind of oversight over where they are receiving their wisdom?...

- James also tells us to avoid earthly wisdom…

C. Because of its effects

- What’s the result at the end of verse 16?...

1. disorder

- Akatastasia (disorder) has the basic meaning of instability, and hence came to be used of a state of confusion, disturbance, disarray, or tumult, sometimes even of rebellion or anarchy (John MacArthur, Commentary on James, p. 175)

- see, when you put a group of 2 or more people in the same room operating on worldly wisdom, and what are you going to have in really short order?...instability, confusion, disturbance, disarray, tumult, rebellion, and anarchy…[other than that, how was the play, Mrs. Lincoln?]…

- and every person present will think he or she is the smartest person in the room…

2. every evil thing

- I mentioned when we were studying chapter 2 about wrongful discrimination that James uses multiple words in this book in the original language that are translated with the English word evil…

- the one here “contemplate[s] evil … not from the aspect of its active or passive malignity but rather from its good-for-nothingness, the utter impossibility of any true gain ever coming forth from it” (R.C. Trench, Synonyms of the New Testament [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1983], 317).

- wouldn’t it be a terrible thing if you or I thought we were wise…when the truth of the matter is that we had been drinking from a source of earthly wisdom and the impact we would have on others would be disorder and every evil, worthless thing?...

- thank the Lord for an alternative…

III. Passionately Seek Heavenly Wisdom

A. Because of its characteristics

- did you see them in the text…

1. first, pure

2. peaceable

3. gentle

4. reasonable

5. full of mercy and good fruits

6. unwavering

7. without hypocrisy

- if you’re looking for a good Bible study assignment this week…you could compare these ideas with Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7 and the similarities are striking…

- but doesn’t that sound exactly like our Savior?...

- and doesn’t it sound like the work He wants to do in us?...

- can I ask you this – does what we are studying change the way you would have answered our original question this am?...who among you is wise and understanding?...how do these characteristics from God’s Word impact the way you would answer?...

- let’s broaden this out to where we are as a church family…it’s the end of the third quarter of this year…

- this passage explains much of what we are trying to accomplish as a congregation, and what we hope to accomplish…

- Growing what God has Given

- we want to use the different ministry platforms the Lord has given us to proclaim the source of heavenly wisdom available in Christ and His Word…

- what others with that message is between them and the Lord…whether we make it available as clearly and powerfully as possible is between us and the Lord…

- so, as a result of the Seeing More Clearly Capital Campaign…now we have a new duplex for our Restoration Men’s Ministry at Bethany Farms …

- why?...because we want to offer wisdom from above to men who are struggling with addictions…so that Jesus can change them into men who are first pure, then peaceable, and gentle, and reasonable, and full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy…

- our Latin America strategy is producing unparalleled fruit…Pastor Pena and I were just in Bolivia by the invitation of some dear brothers and sisters there…how was that funded?...by the generous giving of the people of our church…and why did they invite us?...because they want to offer counseling and soul care to their congregations and communities that is the polar opposite of the earthly wisdom of man…and they asked us to convey their thanks for what they received and they have invited us to come back next year to provide more comprehensive training…

- [briefly tell the story]…

- by God’s grace, we’ve finished the addition for our school…what are we trying to do through our Christian school?...educate our students in wisdom from above…

- and then of course there’s the NCC –…and people continue to faithfully give to that endeavor...when you think about what occurs in many inner cities (and everywhere else for that matter)…there can be a lot of disorder and every evil thing…

- we want to proclaim Christ, and live for Christ…in a way that the wisdom of God is clearly on display and readily available for anyone who is seeking it…

- by the way – as we try to right-size the various operating budgets, a gift to Car Works right now would be especially helpful…either a one time gift this month or making that part of your regular giving plan…

- and what does James say are the effects of this kind of wisdom?...

B. Because of its effects

1. righteousness

2. sown in peace

3. by those who make peace

- [conclude by discussing the overall unity God has given us as a church family. In part because of men and women who have been growing in their pursuit of godly wisdom].

Dr. Steve Viars

Roles

Senior Pastor - Faith Church

Director - Faith Legacy Foundation

Bio

B.S.: Pre-Seminary & Bible, Baptist Bible College (Now Clarks Summit University)
M.Div.: Grace Theological Seminary
D.Min.: Biblical Counseling, Westminster Theological Seminary

Dr. Steve Viars has served at Faith Church in Lafayette, IN since 1987. Pastor Viars leads and equips Faith Church as Senior Pastor with a focus on preaching and teaching God’s Word and using his organizational skills in guiding the implementation of the Faith Church mission and vision. He oversees the staff, deacons, and all Faith Church ministries. Dr. Viars serves on the boards of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, Biblical Counseling Coalition, Vision of Hope, and the Faith Community Development Corporation. Steve is the author, co-author, or contributor to six books and numerous booklets. He and his wife, Kris, were married in 1982 and have two married daughters, a son, and three grandchildren.

Read Steve Viars’ Journey to Faith for the full account of how the Lord led Pastor Viars to Faith Church.

View Pastor Viars' Salvation Testimony Video