Hey, how are we? Doing okay? All right, if you have your Bibles, grab them. James 3 is where we're going to hang out tonight. If you don't have a Bible, there should be a hardback black one somewhere around you. I want to encourage you to get that as always. It's very important you see the things I'm saying are actually coming out of this book, and I'm not just pulling them out of the air. James 3. If you don't know how to maneuver that Bible, there's the page number, and we'll get after it. Glad you are here.
While you are turning there and getting set, let me just say this. If you are a covenant member of The Village Church, the elders sent you an email earlier today. It's extremely important you read that email, so check your junk mail and your spam and all of that. Just find that email. It's important for you to read it. If you're like, "I wonder what it says? It's a mystery," then you're right. It is.
With that said, let's read James 3:13-18. Is there a more awkward way to begin a service than that? I think not. So James 3. Let's start in verse 13. We've read it once in worship, but we're going to read it again. "Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom."
I like how James just isn't going to let off of this. He doesn't say, "Faith without works is dead," and then just kind of move on, but really whatever he touches here on out, he's going, "Hey, if you're wise, then wise people actually walk in the wisdom they say they have. They don't say they're wise and then not walk in their wisdom, but they actually live out their wisdom. So if you think you're wise, show me." That's what James argues. All right, you can't say you're wise and act like a moron. Verse 14:
"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."
Now this text, these six verses, are about false wisdom and true wisdom. There's a way to live that is wise and there's a way to live that is foolish. You'd be hard pressed to find someone who would disagree with that. Like, "There's no dumb way to live." You'd be hard pressed to find another human being who was like, "Nope. Whatever anybody's journey is, that's their journey. There's no dumb way to live."
You'd be hard pressed to find someone who'd actually argue that way. Right? Because we can look around and go, "That's dumb." James is saying here according to God there's a smart way, a wise way to live life and there's a foolish way to live life. But before we dive into James 3, I want to make two theological points about the nature and character of God. They shouldn't be new to you if you have any history here.
If you're a guest with us tonight or maybe you're not a Christian, some of this might sound weird to you, but if you're here, if you're a member of The Village, this is stuff I'm chiseling away at all the time because I believe the two things I want to remind you of before we look at false wisdom and true wisdom are so imperative for us to grasp that our joy and the depth of life we experience is on the line.
So what I'm saying is the more you believe and embrace the two things I'm about to talk about, the deeper life you'll have and the more joy you'll walk in, and the more you reject what I'm about to teach, the more you're lining yourself up with a false wisdom that in the end leads to death. Some of you might be thinking, "That's a bold statement, pastor." I know, so let's look at it.
Here are the two statements. I'll just give them. Just let the cat out of the bag. Here are the two statements that are going to form lenses by which we read James 3. Here's the first one. God is for God. That's the first little sentence. God is for God. That's part of it, and then the second piece is God has designed the world in such a way that we can participate in how he designed life to work or we can rebel against that and veer off of God's creative design for how things work.
Those are my two points. First, God is for God, and secondly, God has designed the world to work a specific way. Those are my two points. How you see and understand those things will affect everything in your life. So let's unpack them for a bit before we get into wisdom.
What do I mean when I say God is for God? I want to stick close to my notes here. What I mean when I say God is for God is namely that you aren't the point. You are not the sun that everything else revolves around. Let me tell you why this is hard. It's hard for two reasons. First, our hearts want to be the point. I want to be the point! Do you not want to be the point? I want to be the point.
When I walk into my house after work, I want to be the point. I want my wife to be like, "Oh, baby, I'm sure you've had a tough day, boo. Here's dinner. I got you steak right here. The kids are just put away. They're gone. You don't even have to worry about them. I didn't get rid of them, because I know every once in awhile you like to play with them, but for tonight they're gone. Don't you worry. It's me, food, you. All about you. Is there a game you want to watch? Hey, what can I do to make you happy tonight?" I want that!
When I come to work, I want that. When I'm driving my car, I'm like, "Get out of the way! It's my road!" I want it all to revolve around me. I am uppermost in my own affections. I want it to be about me, my heart wants it to be about me, and our Western culture does nothing but reinforce this. Every commercial I see says it's about me and my happiness. There is no room for suffering, no room for loss, no room for pain. It's about me.
But the Bible is going to go, "Ah, well, actually it's not," because when it's about me I like to even take God and I like to put him in the mix. So if there is a God, because I'm kind of God myself, but if there is a God, surely he simply exists to make me happy. If there is a God out there then he is certainly just out there wondering how to make me happy because if I'm happy he might just look good. So surely he's out there stuck in a lamp. I just have to find him and rub that lamp, and then here are my three wishes.
The Bible is going to paint a very different picture of God. The Bible is going to paint a picture of God that is uppermost in his own affections, that he himself is the sun we all revolve around, and that everything he does and all he is about is ultimately about his own name and his own renown. Look at me. As weird as that sounds, that's the greatest news in the universe: God is ultimately for God.
Yes, he loves you. Yes, he'll bless you. Yes, in some ways he is for you, but you are not uppermost in his affections, because if you were God would be an idolater himself. So now that strikes us funny. That's odd. It seems like this kind of God who would be all about himself, some sort of maniacal, egotistical, "Me, me. Worship, rejoice, praise me. Worship to me. Sing to me. Love me. Worship me…" I mean, he sounds out of control.
C.S. Lewis, who was professor of medieval literature at Cambridge in Oxford… So just hear me say, "he was smarter than you. Before he was a Christian he was an agnostic for most of his life. So he was like, "Yeah, there's a God out there, but my mom died of cancer, and I served in World War I and saw all sorts of horrific things, so there's no way there's a God, and if there is a God, he's sort of distant, kind of just letting us do our thing." He was very much an agnostic.
He had read the Bible because his space was literature. Again, this is all review who have been here for awhile. He said that when he read the Psalms, God sounded like a little old lady begging for compliments. "Worship me. Rejoice in me. Make much of me. Praise me. Clap your hands when I'm around. Sing about me." He'll even go, not Baptist, but full-on charismatic. "Dance to me."
This is the God of the Bible. Go ahead and email me. That's a text in Scripture. I would welcome that email. "Dancing leads to debauchery." So from there, let me prove this point of God being for God with one of the most… Now literally, and I'm not using literally figuratively… Are you tracking with me? I'm literally using the word literally that I could prove what I just said, that God is for God, not ultimately for you, from hundreds of passages in the Scriptures.
Let me pick the one that most will know regardless of church background…the Twenty-third Psalm. I'm going to put it on the screen so you could see it. "The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness…" Now this sounds like God is into me. Doesn't it?
I mean, come on. He's my Shepherd. He's finding me a nice patch of grass to rest in. He's calming down waters, making them still. Sounds like God is really into me. In fact, it sounds like God's whole purpose for being is about exalting me, about making much of me, about making me happy. Let's look at it. I'm not going to be in want. I'm going to lie down in green pastures. Look at this. The waters are all still. There's no panic. My soul will be restored. God is doing all this for me. Sounds like he's crazy about me, and I agree with him. He should be. I'm awesome.
But the text continues. Look at verse 3 again. "He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness…" For what reason? "…for his name's sake." So the driving heart of God in all of his blessing, loving, encouraging, saving, rescuing, ransoming, sanctifying is, according to Ephesians 1, for the praise of his glorious grace. The action of God in behalf of ransoming my soul, rescuing me, saving me, and sanctifying me is ultimately so his name might be praised. Not so that I might be awesome, but that in my clear lack of awesomeness he is seen as awesome.
This is what I mean when I say God is for God, and this bothered C.S. Lewis. He just thought, "He sounds like a little old lady going, 'Don't you like my hair?'" But then Lewis said after his conversion to Christ… By the way, he called himself the most reluctant convert in London, which I loved. I don't know why. I just like that. The most reluctant convert. "I don't want to be saved. He got me!"
Here's what C.S. Lewis said about praise. "The most obvious fact about praise—whether of God or anything—strangely escaped me. I thought of it in terms of compliment, approval, or the giving of honor. I had never noticed that all enjoyment spontaneously overflows into praise unless…shyness…is deliberately brought in to check it.
The world rings with praise—lovers praising their mistresses, readers their favorite poet, walkers praising the countryside, players praising their favorite game—praise of weather, wines, dishes, actors, motors, horses, colleges, countries, historical personages, children, flowers, mountains, rare stamps, rare beetles…" I love this one. "…even sometimes politicians or scholars.
My whole, more general, difficulty about the praise of God depended on my absurdly denying to us, as regards the supremely Valuable, what we delight to do, what we indeed can't help doing, about everything else we value." Then here's the kicker. "I think we delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment… It is not out of compliment that lovers keep on telling one another how beautiful they are; the delight is incomplete till it is expressed…"
What God is doing when he says, "Worship me, rejoice in me, delight in me," is not begging for compliments, but rather trying to give to us the one thing we need, which is not to be about us but to be about him. So a delight in God that leads to a rejoicing in God frees up the soul in magnificent ways. The reason I'm telling you God being for God is the greatest news in the universe is because (here it is; are you ready for it?) that means it's not about you.
Now you get to breathe. Do you know how free you are when it's not about you? See, if it's about me and I come home, I have some expectations. If it's about me and I come into work, I have some expectations, because it's about me. So what I want had better be lined up like I want. I'd better get it like I want it. When I walk home, it had better be ready. I am not free to serve and love my wife. I am not free to love and serve my children. I am not free to be a good friend. I am not free to show deference. I am not free to do anything other than get frustrated and rule. That's exhausting.
You're always angry. In fact, I've said it this way for nearly a decade now. The more your life is about you, the more miserable of a human being you're going to be. The more you make it about you, the more miserable you're going to be. Do you want a miserable marriage? Be uppermost in your own affections in your home. Do you want a strained, if not full-on fractured, relationship with your children? Be uppermost in your own affections. Do you want to be despised in the workplace? Just be the point of everything.
All right? The more things are about you, the more miserable you're going to be, and yet the more we understand they're not about me, the more we're freed up to serve, to love, to walk in and enter empathetically to the lives of others. I don't have to be the point, so I get to walk in and ask Lauren how I can serve her. I get to get on the floor and play with the kids. I get to go to Frozen on Ice. That was weird. I was not expecting a cheer on that one tonight.
That's not my deal. My deal is not, "Let's cram the American Airlines Center with 20,000 girls from the ages of 5 to 9 and put Pastor Chandler right in the middle of it." That's a nightmare. But I know it's not about me. I know I had an opportunity there to serve my 5-year-old daughter and her little friend and let them gasp in awe and wonderment while I just shoveled popcorn and cotton candy in my mouth and just checked some scores. I gasped at one part myself, but I won't give it away.
In the end, I'm just free. I get to serve Lauren. I get to serve my kids. I get to show deference at work. I get to go, "Well, do you know what? The collective whole is probably smarter than me. I'll just show deference here. I don't have to fight you guys. This is great. Let's run with it." It's just not about me, and that's such a great feeling.
I don't get enraged in traffic because it's not personal. I mean, sure there are morons who can't drive, but it's not personal. It's not about me. Right? Like I don't have to fly into a rage, "Hey, he didn't cut me off! Surely he just didn't see me! He didn't go, 'Ah, I'll ruin his day!'" Like I just get freed up from all that because it's not about me. It's the greatest feeling in the world.
If God is about God and not ultimately about me, not only have I been made free for things to not be about me, but also if God is for God, that means every command in the Bible leads me into joy and God does not want for me begrudging submission. So let me take that out of the theoretical theological and just put it on the ground. If you've ever asked people who are miserably married about marriage, you probably don't get a vibe like, "Ooh! I'd like some of that." Right?
If you're around just cold, angry, distant couples, and guys, you pull the husband and are like, "Hey, man, tell me about marriage," and he's like, "Every night I dream of death. I understand the Bible says divorce isn't an option for me, so here's what I'm doing. I have asked God to kill me. I have fasted and sought the Lord, 'Take my life. I know I can't divorce her, so I'm just asking for death!'" do you think the guy's going, "That sounds awesome. Do you know what I'd like to do? Lie in bed and pray for death. I'm in, brother. I'm picking up what you're laying down. I'm in"?
Or if you pulled the woman aside and were just like, "Is it all that I hoped for?" "If you hoped to live with a type of messy orangutan that has no manners and despite the fact that they're in their 30s still can't aim, then are you…" Was that too far? Elder check. Am I all right, Jeff? Okay. It's just they're miserable, and he's a fool, and he doesn't lead, and he doesn't love. Now, ladies, are you leaving there going, "I've been dreaming of that since I was a little girl"? No! You're like, "How awful! No thank you."
But if you get around a man who loves the Lord, and that comes through in how he loves and serves his life, and if he doesn't have a negative thing to say about her despite the fact we know they're there, nobody's perfect, but if he's an expert in all that is good and not all that is weak, and she reciprocates that, and when they're around each other you can just tell they delight in one another…
It's almost like you want to pull them aside and go, "Look, we don't want to see all this." Like if their kids are constantly, "This is nasty." Right? If you see that, now that is what your heart longs for. If men get around another man going, "I love this woman. She's amazing. She is for me in ways that sometimes look like she's against me, but she is for me in being against me at times. It's awesome!" and a woman goes, "I feel so safe and so loved and so built up and so supported," then you're going, "Yeah, I'll take some of that."
So in the same way, God wants his people to follow him into life via his commands. "Come this way." He's not after begrudging submission, but he's after delight, so as we line ourselves up with how God designed to work, we reveal the manifold wisdom of God made visible in the saints' obedience to his commands. So all the "Thou shalts" and "Thou shalt nots" in the Bible are about leading us into the deepest, richest life possible.
If God is for God, that sets me free to not be the point, and if God is for God, that means all the commands of God can be trusted because he's not after begrudging submission but delightful obedience. That leads me into my second point. Not only is God for God, but God has designed the world to work in a specific way leading to God's glory and my joy. That's what he's after.
To show you this, I want to read some of Proverbs 8. I would encourage you, if you get a chance, to read the entire chapter 8. I just don't have time to do it, but it's all about wisdom and how wisdom functions. We'll pick it up in verse 22. "The Lord possessed me at the beginning of his work…" That's wisdom. "The Lord possessed me…" Me being wisdom. This is wisdom talking. "…at the beginning of his work, the first of his acts of old.
Ages ago I was set up, at the first, before the beginning of the earth. When there were no depths I was brought forth, when there were no springs abounding with water. Before the mountains had been shaped, before the hills, I was brought forth, before he had made the earth with its fields, or the first of the dust of the world.
When he established the heavens, I was there; when he drew a circle on the face of the deep, when he made firm the skies above, when he established the fountains of the deep, when he assigned to the sea its limit, so that the waters might not transgress his command, when he marked out the foundations of the earth, then I was beside him, like a master workman, and I was daily his delight, rejoicing before him always, rejoicing in his inhabited world and delighting in the children of man."
Dial in tight here. "And now, O sons, listen to me…" Listen to wisdom. "…blessed are those who keep my ways. Hear instruction and be wise, and do not neglect it. Blessed is the one who listens to me, watching daily at my gates, waiting beside my doors." Listen to this. "For whoever finds me [wisdom] finds life and obtains favor from the Lord, but he who fails to find me injures [hurts] himself; all who hate me love death."
Here's the gauntlet according to Proverbs. The world can say, "This is what wisdom is." You have the Webster's dictionary definition of wisdom. William Shakespeare talked about wisdom. Aristotle, Socrates, they all had a definition of wisdom. The Bible says, "Here's the definition of wisdom: fear the Lord."
The beginning of all wisdom, all knowledge is an understanding of this, that God has designed the world, and as the creator and designer of the world his commands about how to navigate the world transcend ours. He's the one who made it. He knows how it works. We did not make it. We're fumbling our way through.
God has not abandoned us to fumble our way through, but rather has revealed to us true wisdom as opposed to false wisdom. Because here's what he said. If you walk in true wisdom, you find life and you're blessed by the Lord. If you walk in false wisdom, you hurt yourself…look at me…and you love death.
So with those two lenses on now… God is for God and God has wired the universe to work a specific way for his glory and our good. Those are our lenses. With those lenses on, let's look at what James says again about false wisdom and true wisdom. So let's look back at James 3:13-18. You can outline it if you want as you look at it. It's false wisdom and true wisdom, in that order. James 3, starting in verse 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." So two types of wisdom: false wisdom and true wisdom. Let's talk about each.
False wisdom fundamentally rejects everything I just said. False wisdom says, "No, no, no. God isn't for God. God is about me." False wisdom says, "No, no, no. There's not a way to live life. There are preferences, and everybody has their own preference, and it's up to you in your autonomous self to find out what's best for you." False wisdom is rooted in God, if he exists, is for me, and there's no right way to live, there's only a right way for me to live. There's a right way for me as an autonomous individual to live.
So that's false wisdom, and he builds it out like this. It's marked by bitterness and jealousy and selfish ambition. Listen. How could it not be? If you think God is all about you, like you're the whole point of it all, and if you think there's no real right way to live… "Forget the Bible. I mean, that thing has to be filled with errors and contradictions."
We all say that. Nobody really can point to that outside of being dumb in how they point to it. It's like completely throwing out you're reading a poem and not a historical document in some section and goes, "See? Contradicts itself." Well, no, it really doesn't. It's not like Edgar Allen Poe didn't contradict himself when he talked about the raven, right? It's a poem. Breathe.
Ultimately in this you reject… It doesn't matter what the Word of God says. "There's a way that seems right to me, and I'm going to live that way." How could you not be selfish? How could you not be bitter and petty and frustrated constantly? See, false wisdom is marked by bitter jealousy and selfish ambition because you are all there is. You are uppermost in your own affections. You are your own god. How could you not be? It's impossible to not be if you're uppermost in your own affections.
Then we see what you grow in. If you're walking in false wisdom, you categorically reject that God is for God. You think he's about you if he even exists, and you categorically reject there's a right and wrong way to live. This says you will grow in boasting and you're false to truth. So not only do you boast, but you lie. You boast and you lie. You have to boast and you have to lie because your identity is not that there is a God and that that God is ultimately about God, and that there's not a right way or a wrong way to live. So let me boast in my way of living.
You see this all the time, where people who are miserable work really hard to convince you they're not miserable. People whose lives have crashed on the rocks will swear that their life has not crashed on the rocks. A life that has been burned to the ground and they continue to argue that it hasn't been burned to the ground. They boast and they lie.
Then what he says here is those who walk in false wisdom there will be every disorder and every vile practice. Think the opposite of, the upside down, of all that is good and right in God's eyes will rule their lives. This is false wisdom. This grows, right? This continues to grow. So we grow in boasting where we walk in false wisdom, we grow in being false to the truth, and we grow with every type of disorder and vile practice. That's what happens when someone walks in false wisdom. They categorically reject God and his truth.
Here's what interesting. Here's how you spot it in your life. All right? This will sting a little bit. That's why I love James. It's like an MRI machine. It might be painful but it's showing you what's in there. All right, here's how you spot false wisdom. If you're listening to me, going, "Yeah, I don't know. I think I'm good. I think I'm good wisdom here," here are the roots of false wisdom.
First is it's earthly. It's earthly. So what does that mean it's earthly? It considers not eternity but only the here and now. In the decisions you make, in how you spend your money and how you live your life, is all there is the here and the now? Is this it? Because that's earthly thinking, earthly wisdom, and in that space there is no room for difficulty, no room for suffering, no room for loss, no room for things that actually happen in the real world.
So you make decisions not on what is to come, the 10,000 or 20,000 billion years that will come, but the here and now. Is not earthly wisdom what causes people to incur such silly debt trying to enjoy all they can right now? It is. This is earthly wisdom. It's just stupid stuff, like, "Well, God, wants me happy." Show me! You have the Bible. Where are you getting that? Do you even know what would make you happy except for what would make you happy in the moment?
Now can we have real talk? Can we just have family talk here? How many times in your life have you sworn this one thing would make you happy only to get that thing and find out it didn't make you happy at all? I'll tell you this, and I'm not comparing any of us to children, although the Bible would compare us to children constantly. My 5-year-old wants a thousand things a day that'll not be good for her.
So again, I'm on this Frozen on Ice thing. It's popcorn. It's cotton candy. It's nachos. It's a snow cone. I'm just thinking. She keeps asking for more. I'm like, "Baby, I've already sinned against you. I mean, there's a good chance your mom is going to be cleaning up vomit later tonight." Right? I'm just kidding. Mom wasn't even home. Don't judge me like that. Do you think I could do that if Lauren was there?
Ultimately, here's my 5-year-old going, "No, no, no. I want it, Dad. I want that. That's going to be good. But Dad, it's a…" Right? Now she doesn't know what's going to make her happy, but she certainly thinks she does. Aren't we the same? Come on. Isn't there some relationship back there that you were like, "If I could just get in that relationship," it'd make you happy, and you got it, and how did that turn out?
Garth Brooks knows to thank God for unanswered prayers! Right? Even Garth is like, "Thank God for missing that one!" We think we know what will make us happy. We're fools. We don't. Do you really believe if there's a transcendent, almighty God that you two aren't ever going to disagree? How highly of yourself do you think, that this eternal Alpha and Omega who has always been and will always be, that somehow he has to conform to your plan for your life?
We say this all the time. No one has betrayed you like you have. No one has deceived you like you. Like who has harmed you more than you have? If you're like, "Well, you don't know my family," I don't have to know your family. You don't know mine. But I can tell you this. Your response to your family has probably done just as much damage as whatever your family has done to you. You ought to give your old man a break. He did the best he could with where he was.
Who has betrayed you more than you have? No one. No one has lied to you like you lie to you. No one has deceived you more than you've deceived you. You are awful to yourself. It's earthly. It's rooted only in the here and now. Here's what the Bible says about this. "Eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow you die. You fool. Your life will be required of you even tonight."
The idea of, "This is all I have, so I have to do everything I can to get all I can right now," is a fool's errand because this is a blip on the screen compared to 10,000 years from now. Do you think 10,000 or 20,000 years from now you're going to be looking back at whatever you're going through today and didn't get today or feel like you missed out on and going, "Shucks"? You're just not. You're just not. It's earthly. Are you earthly in how you exercise your wisdom? Do you live simply for the here and now or do you have a view of eternity?
Secondly, it's unspiritual. False wisdom is unspiritual. It means it heeds nothing of the Holy Spirit's power, sees nothing of the governance of God over our lives, and makes its own decisions for its own means. That's false wisdom.
Finally, it's demonic. Here's what that means. It's based on lies rooted in our flesh that we believe. What do the demons do? They lie to us incessantly. So here we go again with others lying to us about us or us lying to ourselves about us. False wisdom is fueled by lies we believe about the nature and character of God, about our own value, and about how life should be lived. It's, "My way is better than God's! There is no truth but my truth."
That's demonic. That's evil. It's an accusation against the creator God of the universe who you know better than. Does it get more demonic than that? "I know you govern the whole universe, but I just don't think you can handle this deal here. So you know what? Rest up, Lord, I have this one." I mean, that's crazy. That's demonic.
Then from there he moves into true wisdom. Here's true wisdom. Its root, according to this text, is from above. So false wisdom is rooted in earthliness, if that's a word. It's where the here and the now is all that matters, but true wisdom is rooted in eternity. True wisdom is driven by that day I stand in front of God and give an account for my life. I know a day is coming where I'm going to stand in front of my Creator and give an account for all I've done with all he has given me.
That day is coming. I am four hours closer right now than I was when I pulled into the parking lot here. It's coming. I don't know when my day is. I've come to that precipice a couple of times now. I mean, maybe it's this year. Maybe this is my last year, this is my last week. This might be my last night. If you struggle with anxiety, I'm not trying to cause an attack. I'm just saying we don't know, but I want to live my life in such a way, love my wife in such a way, raise my children in such a way, use my gifts in such a way as to acknowledge there's a day coming that I stand in front of God.
On that day, I'll plead the blood of Christ and say, "I did all I could by your grace," and I'll worship. But that needs to be the driver in the wisdom that I live my life by. It is rooted above. Now what do we grow in if we're walking in true humility? These things again. Progress not perfection. What are growing in when we walk in true wisdom? Well, meekness, or humility. Now again, some of this is just common sense.
If you're saying God is ultimately about God and God has designed the way the world is going to work, so I'm going to submit to God's plan and I'm going to walk in God's plan and I'm going to chase my delight and my joy in God according to how he has revealed himself to me in his Word, well, that by definition requires meekness and humility. Doesn't it?
Because false wisdom is going to boast because it sees itself as its own god and its own truth, whereas true wisdom walks in a meekness and humility that says, "God knows I'm going to obey God. It doesn't make sense, but I'm going to follow him." Maybe you're a skeptic or an unbeliever and you're like, "Are you talking about blind faith?"
No, not really. In some sense, we have thousands of years of history and so much objective evidence that God's way is better than ours. In fact, science and moral principles are constantly catching up to the Bible, if not dissolving from them. So we grow in meekness, we grow in peace, a restfulness of soul, and we produce, over time, a harvest of righteousness.
Now let me explain this. The moment you become a Christian, you put faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ, in his cross and resurrection. He died for our sins and he rose again proving that all of God's wrath has been absorbed. The moment you do that you gain the imputed righteousness of Christ so that God sees you as perfect and spotless in his sight.
But God loves you too much to leave you in positional righteousness, but driven by delight and humility that comes in understanding and knowing God's Word, he starts to transform us from the inside out. Not outside in. That's dead religion. It doesn't work. Inside out. So when this talks about a harvest of righteousness, it's not speaking to the imputed righteousness, the given righteousness of Jesus Christ, but rather as God shapes us to live like we should and to say no to the things we should say no to.
So then the harvest of righteousness is not just a life filled with things we know we shouldn't do, but a life filled with things we should do, and then it is open to reason. Again, this is a no brainer. How can it not be open to reason? Its very first fruit is, "God knows and I don't." Then finally, it's impartial and sincere.
So if this is true wisdom, here's how I want to end. How do we grow in true wisdom and how do we all the more spot false wisdom? Well, three things, so I'm glad you asked that question. Here's the first thing. If you and I will grow in true wisdom and spot false wisdom, we must have an ever‑growing understanding of the God of the Bible. Not a God of our own understanding.
I hear people oftentimes say, "Well, I just don't think God would…" Okay, well, what are you basing that on? You're basing it on what you think, and you've thought some really dumb things in your life. Can we just be friends like that? Like you've thought some really ridiculous things before in your life, so could it be you're doing it again?
So again, here's what 2 Timothy 3:16-17 says. "All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable [valuable] for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work." You want to grow in true wisdom? Grow in an understanding of the God of the Bible.
Now I worded that the way it needed to be worded. We've already covered that salvation is not intellectual assent to correct doctrine. That's not salvation. What we want to grow in is an understanding of the God of the Bible. Not just Bible verses, but God as he has revealed himself to us in the Scriptures. We want to grow in that. We want to see the "Thou shalts" and the "Thou shalt nots" in light of who God is.
If he is the God who says, "Jump into the pool. Jump into the deep end. You're going to love it when you get in here. Come this way to joy. Come this way to life," then we want to see the nature and the character of God saying, "Hey, don't do that; do this," as an invitation into our joy where we take a step of faith toward a realization of that joy and delight in him.
This is why we preach from the Bible. This is why every week I say, "Grab your Bibles. It's important you see this is not me, but these are the very words of God." It's why we do training classes here. Last week, when I did announcements I was like, "Get in these training classes. Learn how to study the Bible. Parenting. Manhood. Womanhood." These are all training classes. We want to root you in the Word of God.
This is why we're bringing Sam in from the UK to help us understand and grasp how we ought rightly to think according to the Word of God not new wisdom, because that's hardly ever to be trusted, but rather let a brother root us in what the Word of God says about homosexuality. Because we know we're not to be homophobic. We know we're not to be bigots. We know we're not to be cruel. So how are we to navigate this world we live in?
Well, Sam is coming over from the UK. His story is of one who has walked with the struggle of same-sex attraction his whole life and has said, "Here's what the Bible says. I'm going to be obedient to what the Word of God says." He has found delight in that. It seems as though (and this sounds crazy to me) that there's a delight to be found that goes beyond sex. I mean, that sounds crazy, right? I mean, how's that possible? Because until I had sex I was half a human and miserable! Hated life until then. Right? It's so dumb that it's become such a definitive personhood issue.
You might be in here going, "Well, you're just saying that, bro, because you haven't struggled like I have." You're right, which is why I brought Sam in, who has struggled like that. Because I can stand on the authority of God's Word, where you might go, "Bible. Bible," but Sam can go, "I've been there, brother. In fact, I fight all the time."
So I wanted to bring someone to you who could walk and cry with you and walk alongside of you. But that's why we're bringing Sam in. That's why we do forums. We want to root you in the Word of God. If you want to walk in true wisdom, be rooted in the Word of God.
Walk in community. Listen to this. Proverbs 11:14: "Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety." If you'll get around other men and women who are serious about Jesus and growing in their understanding of the God of the Bible, they enter into our space and help us walk in true wisdom. They're able to point out to us false wisdom and encourage us in true wisdom. That's not always an awesome deal, but it's a necessary one.
I say this all the time, jokingly. They're called blind spots because you can't see them. You don't think you have them. The reason why when I talk about stuff like this you don't think it applies to you is because you have blind spots, and you don't think you have blind spots because you're blind to those spots. Right?
So you have the Word of God and you have community, and then finally… Here's what's funny as a pastor. I think the weight of this verse hits us differently. Here's Hebrews 13:17. Here's the third help in walking in true wisdom. Hebrews 13:17 says, "Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you."
Here's what I've found over the years. When people who aren't pastors and leaders read this verse, they're like, "Obey? Submit? What?" I don't even hardly see those words! I see the ones that say, "As those who will have to give an account." That's the phrase I see, and I go, "Oh dang!"
Because for all the celebration of The Village Church going from 160 to 14,000 that doesn't do anything but keep me up late at night, going, "Okay, Lord, by your grace let us shepherd well. Let us encourage well. Let us walk alongside. Let us protect. Let us serve. Let us die. Let us be wrung out for them." Because that's the part of Hebrews 13:17 that haunts me. Not submit and obey, because that is just a marker of Christian obedience. To give an account? That's a terrifying idea to me and one that will keep me up at night sometimes.
God gives us godly leaders to help us navigate what's wisdom and what's not. So how do you walk in true wisdom? Are you earthly or is your mind set on the things above? If you want to grow in true wisdom, grow in a knowledge of the God of the Bible. Walk with other Christians who are serious about the things of God.
Listen, you surround yourself with nominal people, you are going to be nominal. Hang out with Christians who make you uncomfortable. They're the best kind. Like, "This dude actually believes this stuff." That's the kind of guy you want to be around. He's always sharing the gospel. You're like, "Really? Here? So awkward. Why would he do this here?"
Get around those kinds of people, the people who are really serious about the things of God. You want to grow? Get around those who are farther along the path of progress. It'll be uncomfortable. It'll be a little weird. It'll be good for your soul.
Again, if you're a guest with us tonight or what we used to call regular attenders (although I'm trying to phase that language out of how we think about ourselves), you pick a church not by their music, you pick a church not by how much the pastor makes you laugh or whether or not they have a kids' program that scans your retina and shoots the kid to you out of a fun tube, but rather you choose a church on "Do the men who lead this church love Jesus Christ and are they willing to lay down their life for me?"
You'll find wisdom from those types of men, and you'll find wisdom, younger women, from older women who have glad heartedly laid down their life for Jesus Christ. There's a way to live our lives where we find life and we're blessed by God. It's true wisdom. But there's also a way to live your life that ultimately injures you and reveals you love death. My earnest plea with you tonight regardless of background is that in the person and work of Jesus Christ God has made a way for you to walk in life. That's why Jesus said, "I have come that they might have life and have it to the full."
Everybody knows John 3:16, but it's 17 that will blow your mind. "I've come into the world not to condemn the world but rather to save the world from condemnation." So true wisdom is yours. It doesn't matter how you've limped in here tonight. It doesn't matter what you've brought into this place. Listen, you think your sin is going to make anybody here gasp? Do you realize the type of dysfunction you're sitting around right now? In fact, we need to get a slide that tells you to keep your purse close to you. Keep check on your stuff.
Listen, you're not making anybody's jaw drop around here. Do you have any idea who you're sitting with? We are a broken, busted, in-progress people. You should be right at home. True wisdom is found only in the person and work of Jesus Christ. To line yourself up with how God has commanded us to live but not submit your life to Jesus Christ does not get you life and the Lord's blessing. Jesus is the Lord's blessing. Jesus is wisdom. A life submitted to him is life and the Lord's blessing.
I have no idea why you would settle for anything else. David said it like this in Psalm 16:11, "You have made known to me the path of life. You fill me with joy, with pleasures forevermore in your right hand." Let's pray.
Father, I thank you for these men and women, an opportunity just to let the Word of God read us. I pray, Holy Spirit, that you will convict of sin, that you will establish righteousness in the heart of the unbeliever.
Father, where we are living in false wisdom, maybe even as believers and we're living only for the earthly, only for the here and now with no view of eternity, with no consideration of that day we will stand naked before you with no secrets, just fully known by you, that, God, the good, healthy kind of fear would take root in our heart and we would long to live lives of openhanded gladness before you. Line us up with true wisdom tonight. It's for your beautiful name, I pray, amen.
We'll be done in just a couple of more minutes here. We end all of our services with the Lord's Supper. It brings us back to the death and life and resurrection of Jesus Christ. If you're a guest with us tonight who is a believer in Christ in good standing with the church you're visiting us from, I want to welcome you to share in the Lord's Supper with us tonight.
But I would like to ask this. If you're not a believer, you're not quite sure what to do with Jesus, what to do with the things I've said, will you do me a favor? Will you just abstain? This will not make you lucky. This will not forgive your sins. But for those of us who are in Christ, this is a reminder that our God has not grown weary of us this week. In our stumbling and bumbling, in our scraped knees and scuffed-up elbows he has not relented in his joy in us.
Here's what I want to do. We've said a lot tonight. We've read a lot from the Word of God. So if you'll just hold onto the elements, we'll take them together as a family here in a moment. But I wanted to give you some time to just consider the things we've said tonight. Are you living a life that is marked by earthliness?
Are all the decisions you're making…financially and relationally and with how you spend your days…are they all about the here and the now or are you making those decisions in light of eternity? Is your life marked by selfishness or are you growing in selflessness? We'll give you just a few moments here to consider and then I'll come and we'll celebrate the broken body and shed blood of Christ.
The good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ for those who have put their faith in him is that on the cross of Jesus Christ all of our sins, past, present, and future were fully absorbed on that cross, leaving no amount of wrath from God left to pour out on his adopted sons and daughters.
On the night Jesus was arrested, he took the bread and he broke it, and he said, "This is my body broken for you. Do this in remembrance of me." After the supper, he took the cup. He said, "This is the blood of the new covenant." I love that. Without the shedding of blood there can be no remission for sins. So there was bloodshed…innocent, perfect, spotless blood.
This was not God unjustly forgiving the millions he would ransom and rescue. This was the wrath of God poured out on God the Son, the wrath he had for our rebellion, for our sin, wiping it clean so that as the Bible says the record of debt you owe and I owe because of our rebellion against God was cancelled so we live as debt-free sons and daughters. So he took the cup and he blessed it. He said, "This is the blood of the new covenant. Do this in remembrance of me."
Father, we love you. Help us walk in true wisdom, confess false wisdom. Let us live for eternity, be marked by eternity. Help us. It's for your beautiful name, I pray, amen.
Scripture James 3:13-18