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WISE UP!

(1): GETTING WISDOM


(James 3:13)
July 14, 2019

Read James 3:13 – Been waiting 12 years for this! LeBron James, Bill Gates,
Billy Graham and a college student are on the same plane. A vicious storm
hits the pilot announces, “We’ve been hit by lightning; we’re going down. We
only have 4 parachutes for the 5 of us. Since I’m pilot, I get one.” Out he
jumps. LeBron says: “I’m the greatest athlete in the world. Can influence
many, so I must live.” He grabs a chute and jumps. Bill Gates says, “I’m the
smartest man in the world, so I must live!” He grabs a chute and jumps. Billy
Graham says to the student, “I’m old, and ready. You have your whole life.
The last chute is yours. I’ll go down with the plane.” The kid replies, “No
need for that. The smartest man in the world just jumped out of the plane
with my backpack on.” The moral: Knowledge without wisdom can be fatal!

In this little interlude between talking about the tongue and quarrels, James
urges his readers, “Wise up! Wise up!” To make his point, he vividly contrasts
two kinds of wisdom – human and divine. Human wisdom comes naturally;
divine wisdom from the outside. Human wisdom is thinking apart from God.
Divine wisdom is imparted by God. James is urging the latter by contrast.

Suppose you want to learn how to pitch. I volunteer; I pitched a little back in
the day. But then Sandy Koufax, one of the all-time greats, walks by and also
volunteers. Who you gonna choose?! Are you kidding? It’s a no-brainer.
Koufax’s wisdom far surpasses mine. So Jas is saying, “Wise up! Get wisdom
from above. It is far superior to anything you’ll get here.” Look up, not out!
Today, an overview of wisdom, then we’ll detail both – earthly and heavenly.

I. Wisdom -- What Is It?

One good definition? Wisdom is applied knowledge. So you need knowledge


in order to be wise -- facts. But wisdom is knowing how to use knowledge to
advantage. It’s insight into how to live. Wisdom is knowledge applied to life.
So says Jas, too. “Who is wise and understanding among you?” How would
you know this person? By his good conduct.” Wisdom is info applied to life.
It’s a living thing that keeps us from jumping from planes with backpacks!

Further, Jas’ wisdom is “from above” (17). It’s from God. So Jas is urging
lives that are God-directed, not human directed. Prov 4:11: “I have taught you
the way of wisdom; I have led you in the paths of uprightness.” Divine
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wisdom is a way, a path – not just knowledge. Does that mean we have all the
answers? No. Often we don’t. But we know how to navigate thru life.

It’s like driving a car. You must respond to a constantly changing scene, to
adjust regarding speed, distance and braking. You must wisely apply the info
received by eyes and ears. You don’t know why the road does an S curve, has
a stop sign here and traffic lights there. Nor why that lady is braking. But you
just apply wisdom to each changing situation.

Life is similar. From above, God sees the whole road. We don’t – don’t know
why, what comes next or how it all fits. We only see today’s issue. But His
guidance takes us safely thru one day at a time. That’s divine wisdom.

II. Wisdom -- Who Can Have It?

Gurus, psychologists, counselors, advisors, pastors, leaders? Hopefully they


are wise. But this is not an exclusive club. Anyone can get in who will apply
their heart to it. “Who is wise among you?” That means all of y’all, as they
say in TX. “I’m looking for some wise people, and you’re all eligible.” Prov
3:13: “Blessed is the one who finds wisdom.” It’s for all who will seek it!

Where do you find it? Prov 2:6 “For the LORD gives wisdom; from his mouth
come knowledge and understanding.” You find it in the Word. God has kindly
written it down for us. So anyone can have it. He may have given the original
letter to Peter or Paul or John. But you can read it, too. It’s for everyone. You
don’t have to be smart to be wise; you just have to be diligent.

III. Wisdom -- How Is It Shown?

How do you pix wisdom? A bearded guru spouting proverbs? A trusted


counselor doling out insights? A gifted teacher disseminating life-changing
challenges? Jas doesn’t go any of those places. How do you spot a wise
person? “By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of
wisdom.” It’s his life, not just his words, that spotlight his wisdom. Wise up is
about how we live, not just how we think. So Jas gives us two signs.

A. Good Deeds – “Good conduct” – loving deeds. Putting others


above self. Doing the hard things no one else will do. Serving without
recognition. Seeing a need and filling it. Helping without expectation of
reward. Good conduct that sets the wise person apart, not his keen insights. He
lives a heavenly life in a worldly environment – applying kingdom principles.
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Divine wisdom is shown by divine living. After noting we are saved without
works, Paul continues in Eph 2:10: “For we are his workmanship, created in
Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should
walk in them.” Wise people accept God’s gift of salvation, and His gift of
good works! But a lot of people know truth they don’t practice. Not wise!

In the late 80’s there was a TV evangelist who always had a word from the
Lord, considered wise by many. But it later came out he’d had a sexual
relationship with some of his staff, misappropriated donations, and lived an
excessive lifestyle. He may have been wise in his eyes and those of his
followers, but not in God’s eyes. Wisdom is measured by deeds, not words.

B. Gentle Disposition – But Jas takes us one more step. Wisdom


is good deeds done with a good attitude -- in the meekness of wisdom.
Meekness. Sounds like milquetoast to us. It’s not. It’s not weakness; it’s
power under control. The word is πραυτης – used of breaking a horse. It’s the
wild stallion, trained and brought under control by a loving master. That’s the
pix. The wise person has been delivered from rebellion and brought under
the control of a loving God – increasingly gentle and humble in manner.

It is a much-needed process. Chas Swindoll tells of working his way thru


school in machine shop where he began sharing Christ with a fellow-worker.
He says, “I wasn’t aware at the time, but I came across as a raving zealot.”
Doing the right thing in the wrong way – sure his arguments would win the
day. But one day the man grabbed in by the arm, looked him in the eye, and
said, “Listen to me. You’ve convinced me by the facts that I’m wrong, but I
will never change – because I can’t stand you!” Good deeds; ghastly
manner! Howard Hendricks used to say, “They won’t care how much you
know until they know how much you care.” So true, isn’t it? Wisdom is good
deeds delivered in a gentle disposition. It’s not pithy sayings or sage advice –
all of which can be helpful. But it’s Godly living with a gentle attitude.

IV. Wisdom -- How Do You Get It?

Okay, so how does one get this wisdom from above? Keep in mind, it’s a
process. Doesn’t all happen overnight, but it can happen; it can happen to you.

A. Revere God – Wisdom starts with a big view of a big God. Psa
111:10: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all those who
practice it have a good understanding.” How do you practice the fear of the
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Lord? Easy. You act like He matters! Right? By faith you accept that God is
who He reveals Himself to be in the Bible and live in the good of that.

J. B. Philips wrote a book in the middle 60’s, Your God is Too Small by which
he meant that people live like God isn’t involved and doesn’t matter. Listen –
until you’ve acknowledged God as the One who holds the power of eternal
life and death His hands – your life and death, you haven’t met God. That’s
the fear of the Lord – not a quaking, trembling fear, but a healthy reverence
for who He is, what He requires and what He has provided in the person of
Christ to redeem fallen humanity – of whom you are one. Wisdom starts there.

Someone has likened the Ten Commandments to an instruction booklet of a


nuclear warhead. They are right. They landed among the Israelites with
destructive ferocity bc they make impossible demands. Thankfully God also
instructed sacrifices for forgiveness – all prefiguring the ultimate sacrifice of
His own Son to pay for our sin. He is at once all-justice, but all-loving. That’s
the God we are dealing with; it’s wise to revere and respect Him. Fear Him.

B. Receive Christ – Glimpsing that God brings us to a point of


decision! Receive the gift of eternal life bought by the death and resurrection
of Jesus – or reject. To reject is the height of folly, not matter how smart one
is. When a person’s wisdom leads them to believe they are smarter than God,
divine wisdom just left the building! The cross may be foolishness to people,
but it is wisdom to God. Paul reminds us in I Cor 1:25, “For the foolishness
of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.”

BUT to receive this priceless gift by faith is to be “in Christ” – covered by His
righteousness, accepted in His name, adopted thru His sacrifice into the family
of God. Then guess what? I Cor 1:30: “And because of him [the Father] you
are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and
sanctification and redemption.” How do you get wisdom? Get “in Christ.”
The day is coming soon when the smartest person who ever lived without
Christ will be revealed as a total fool for having rejected His priceless gift.

Suppose someone offered you the Hope diamond, no strings attached. All you
have to do is take it. But you say, “No thanks. I am going to find my own
bigger diamond.” And off you go. I think we’d all agree that no matter how
smart you are at finding diamonds, no matter how well-versed in South
African mining techniques, you’d be a fool to turn down such an offer. But
that’s just what rejecters do. Wisdom, Beloved, is in receiving Him as the
gracious gift of a God who is otherwise a consuming fire of holiness. So wise
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up! Accept Jesus “in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and
knowledge” (Col 2:3). No truly wise person ever turned Him away.

C. Read the Word – Every word is wisdom from above! Do you


want to know more than your enemies? Want to stay away from evil? Want to
be wiser than your teachers? Listen to David in. Psa 119:97: Oh how I love
your law! It is my meditation all the day. 98) Your commandment makes me
wiser than my enemies, for it is ever with me. 99) I have more understanding
than all my teachers, for your testimonies are my meditation. 100) I understand
more than the aged, for I keep your precepts. 101) I hold back my feet from
every evil way, in order to keep your word. 102) I do not turn aside from your
rules, for you have taught me. 103) How sweet are your words to my taste,
sweeter than honey to my mouth! 104) Through your precepts I get
understanding; therefore I hate every false way.” Powerful promises!

Two-thirds of Americans claim to believe the Bible is the Word of God, but
more than half can’t name even one of the gospel writers. Not wise people.
They dig deep for the life-changing treasures therein. Luther said, “The Bible
is alive and speaks to me; it has feet and runs after me. It has hands and
lays hold of me." Spurgeon was even more graphic: "This book had wrestled
with me; this book has smitten me; this book has comforted me; this book
has smiled upon me; this book has frowned upon me; this book has clasped
me by the hand; this book has warmed my heart; this book weeps with me;
this book sings with me; this book whispers to me; this book is alive." Yes, it
is “living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword . . . discerning the
thoughts and intentions of the heart.” Beloved, I have read other books; this
book reads me. It makes us wise to salvation and wise to Godly living.

D. Request help – How do you get wisdom? Revere God.


Receive Christ. Read the Word. Finally, Request wisdom. Pray. Jas 1:5: “If
any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all
without reproach, and it will be given him.” God loves people who will devote
themselves to seeking His riches in Christ and in the Word – and He will not
reproach those who ask in faith for help in discerning that wisdom.

Conc – So, what is your authority for life and death? Is it from above or from
here? Human wisdom, or divine wisdom? We’re all answering that question
one way or the other even as we sit here this morning.

I’ve told before of Charles Templeton, a friend of Billy Graham in the very
early days of Graham’s ministry. Both were evangelists of extraordinary skill
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and influence. Many felt Templeton was even better than Graham; he drew
even greater crowds. One of 3 VPs of YFC. In 1946 listed as “best used by
God” by NAE. But Templeton craved recognition by the intellectuals. At
Princeton Seminary he got convinced the intellectual elite had it right and the
Bible had it wrong. He abandoned his faith and tried hard to convince Billy to
follow, saying, “Billy committed intellectual suicide by closing his mind.”
Interesting dichotomy. Be smart or believe the Bible – as tho you can’t do
both. Templeton chose human wisdom over divine. But there’s a price to pay.

Lee Strobel interviewed Templeton at age 83, in 2001. He denied that Jesus is
God, but said: “He was the greatest human being who ever lived. He was a
moral genius. He was the intrinsically wisest person I’ve ever encountered
in my life or in my readings. He’s the most important thing in my life. I have
to say I adore him! Everything good I know, everything decent I know,
everything pure I know, I learned from Jesus. He is the most important
human being who has ever existed. And if I may put it this way, I miss him.”
Then he began to weep, not sensing his own intellectual suicide in ascribing
to Jesus the one thing His claims would not permit – mere human greatness.
Such a person could not have claimed to be God – unless it were true.

So wise up, Beloved. Don’t miss Jesus. Absorb all the human wisdom you
can when it is not in conflict with Scripture. But let your ultimate authority be
the divine wisdom of the written and living Word. Let’s pray.