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Wisdom from Above

The Voice of Sovereign Grace / Doug Agnew
The Truth Network Radio
April 19, 2021 2:00 am

Wisdom from Above

The Voice of Sovereign Grace / Doug Agnew

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April 19, 2021 2:00 am

Join us as Pastor Eugene Oldham continues his series through James with a message called -Wisdom from Above.- For more information about Grace Church, please visit

Matt Slick Live!
Matt Slick
Matt Slick Live!
Matt Slick
Renewing Your Mind
R.C. Sproul
Chosen Generation
Pastor Greg Young

You would turn with me to James chapter 3 were looking at verses 13 through 18. As we consider tonight the source, the nature and the fruit of godly wisdom.

James chapter 3 verses 13 through 18 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 is, is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic for 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 fools mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere and a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace. As the word of the Lord.

Let's pray or thank you that your word is available to us. We don't have to guess what your will is have to go searching for some secret knowledge some evasive wisdom. We have the mind of Christ in the spirit of God and the word of God right here before us, or may we avail ourselves of these gifts of grace tonight. May we remember and heed your instruction to us. We know that you have inspired and preserved these words for our edification, so may they effectively edify us your people tonight. I pray in Jesus name, amen.

Be seated before we jump into the text before us to not I want to point out a theme in the in the territory that we've already covered herein. James is a peninsula thing that might have gone unnoticed. The thing has to do with self deception. James has highlighted multiple spheres multiple arenas of life in which people commonly deceive themselves into thinking that something is true of themselves that is really not true of them. In chapter 1, for example versus 22 through 25. We see this tendency toward self-deception with regard to the Bible the word of God, a person thinks he loves the word of God, but he really doesn't unless he obeys it is a hearer but not a doer, and therefore deceives himself into thinking that somehow he loves God's word and it's difficult to convince such a person that he really is lacking in his love for the word but it's true he doesn't love the word of God like he should. Because his actions, his behavior is habits his life patterns don't bear that love out.

Moving on in chapter 1 verse 26 and 27 there is a self-deception with regard to religion. A person thinks he is religious but he really isn't. Unless he James says guards his tongue visits the helpless and pursues God pursues godliness. Again, the actions of a person verify or deny the claim in chapter 2 verses 1 to 13. The self-deception has to do with one's treatment of other people. A person thinks of himself as compassionate and merciful in a merciful human being. But in reality he isn't unless he demonstrates impartiality in his dealings with other people. Again, actions proving character in chapter 2, verses 14 through 26 person claims to have faith but his works failed to verify that claimant so this self deceived persons faith is actually a dead faith in chapter 3 verses one through 12. Someone has a self perception of being golden tongue and therefore qualified and called to be a teacher and instructor and authoritative teacher of others. Yet he fails to realize the difficulty with which the tongue is attained. What he actually does with his mouth proves one way or another if he really is qualified and able to speak as he ought and so we see this theme in James of self deceived people claiming or thinking one thing about themselves while their actual behavior confirms exact opposite one of my mentors years ago used to say what you do every day is what you really believe the rest is just religious talk. I think there's a lot of truth to that.

In other words, our behavior, our actions or habits are the real proof of who and what we are. Despite what we claim. And despite what we perceive ourselves to be, will come to our text tonight and James brings out yet another area in which people are easily self deceived and again he will point out that our actions confirm or deny the reality in this case the area of self-deception has to do with wisdom who is wise and understanding among you.

He asks the Lords who thinks of himself or herself as a wise person. A person who understands why things are the way they are a person who perceives how things ought to be, and knows how to get things where they ought to be.

And as we will see the answer to that question of who is wise just like in every other case of self-deception comes down to the actions and and behaviors and and habits that a person demonstrates member reading a book about preaching.

Years ago, and the author pointed out that every text in the Bible is about something. In other words, every text has a subject it's about something, but he also pointed out that every text in Scripture has a purpose. It has a reason for which it was written and included in Scripture. So Paul or or Peter, for example, may have written something about justification that might've been there there subject in a letter to some church but they would have written about justification for some reason.

To some, and with some purpose in mind.

Perhaps the readers were were doubting the doctrine of justification.

Perhaps they were misunderstanding justification if if we are to fully understand the passage in the Bible we need to not merely look for the subject of the text that the facts and the explanations of the passage. We also look for the purpose for which those facts and those explanations were included were written now. Second Timothy 316 and 17. Everybody knows this. This verse gives us an overarching purpose or reason for all of Scripture and in a general sense for a second Timothy 316 says all Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for that is it is it is written for given to us for these purposes, teaching, reproof, correction and training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. The ultimate purpose of the Bible is to complete or perfect sinners. Now, why do we need completing well because evidently were incomplete were imperfect and so we need perfecting, why are we incomplete, imperfect, because we are fallen. We have broken God's law. We are sinners in need of being fixed in need of being repaired and so every part of Scripture has as its purpose. The goal of fixing or perfecting the fallenness. The sinfulness of God's children. That means every time you pick up your Bible to read it in your devotion time in the mornings every time you sit down to listen to a sermon, there is a corrective that needs to happen. There's something wrong with you and me that needs to be fixed in any given biblical passage before us intends to fix something about us.

The author of this preaching book that I was reading went on to point out that this is fallen condition. This brokenness that needs fixing is what connects modern contemporary readers with the ancient original readers of any given text in the word of God is what we share in common with those original readers would both have the same sin problem that needs perfecting the needs completing that needs repair.

The Holy Spirit inspired the particulars of what was written to address the fallenness of Christians back then in the fallenness of Christians today so we come to our text tonight and we could say that this text is about wisdom at the subject that this this passage deals with the subject is false wisdom versus true wisdom. But then we need to ask why did James bring up this subject.

This point the people he brought it up.

Back then, and the Holy Spirit brings it up tonight because evidently we have a problem with rightly assessing the quality and the legitimacy of the wisdom we claim to have evidently Christians old and new alike have an inherent tendency to overestimate our own wisdom. Evidently there are those who think they are wise but are not there are those whose pride leaves them always wanting to be in the know are always wanting to be the smartest, cleverest person in the room or his pride wants the reputation of being a person of discernment and perception, but all of that is false wisdom. James wants us to know what real wisdom is true wisdom and wants us to know how we can overcome our own self deception how we can overcome our own pride driven blind spots wants to perfect our imperfect ability to recognize the difference between wisdom that is from above, from God.

Wisdom that is earthly, unspiritual and demonic, and here's what James tells us in these verses James tells us that we can know whether wisdom is true wisdom or not.

By considering these three things with regard to wisdom.

Number one where it has come from number two. The heart in which it grows and number three the fruits that it produces or could say like this, it's seed, its soil and its fruit and we do well to evaluate any claim to wisdom in light of these three tests the seed the soil and the fruit where it comes from the heart in which it grows and the effects it produces our text tonight contract is a contrast of real wisdom and fake wisdom pretend wisdom and it highlights the seed the soil and the fruit of each of these. It tells us where wisdom from below comes from. It tells us the sort of heart that wisdom from below grows in and it tells us what kind of fruit is produced from the wisdom from below. The text also tells us these the same things with regard to wisdom from above, so let's walk through the passage tonight and look at each of these in turn. First of all, will consider the seed the soil and the fruit of wisdom from below us think first about. It's seed where this fake pretentious wisdom comes from its source 1st feet of 15 tells us in no uncertain terms where this wisdom from below originates. It says this is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic theologians often refer to three enemies of the soul world, the flesh and the devil enemies of the soul. These three enemies stand in opposition to God. They stand in opposition to his moral law and its these three enemies that give fuel to temptation the world, the flesh and the devil firsters the world. This this fall in place in which we live, along with all of its misplaced affections and idolatries worldliness in Scripture is the sin of loving the passing pleasures of the here and now, while neglecting God's will and instruction. John tells us not to love the world or the things in the world because her temporary will soon pass away. James is gonna warn us in the very next chapter here in this epistle that making friends with the world will put us in enmity with God because God and this world system are at odds with each other. There incompatible like oil and water as the world is an enemy of the soul. The next enemy of the soul is called the flesh, the term flesh in the New Testament can refer generally to the physical body, morally neutral, but it often refers particularly to the physical body as it is held captive by its senses to sin our own inherent bent towards sin, a bent that springs internally from our very sin nature is that odds with God and his will and it is this fallen flesh of ours that so often causes us to stumble in and sometimes run headlong into temptation and sin is the enemy of the flesh. The last enemy of the soul is the devil. The devil himself, that accuser of old who who stands ready with his minions to bring accusation and guilt and temptation and confusion and doubt. The world, the flesh and the devil all gang up together to make sin a very easy option because these enemies of the soul stand in opposition to God and his will. Now a lot of that summary of these three enemies of the soul notice were James says false wisdom comes from. First he says it is earthly, that is of this world this world system.

Next, he says it is unspiritual, a word that refers to that part of us that is comprised of our natural body, along with its affections and desires. In other words, our flesh, and finally he says this wisdom from below is demonic. It's of the devil. Fake wisdom.

Wisdom that is not from above foolishness that masquerades as wisdom and understanding, but it is in actuality nothing of the sort comes from the world, the flesh and the devil. The very enemies of the soul that stand in opposition to God.

This is the seed.

This is the source from which false wisdom comes in a church that alone. Automakers want to run from it run in the other direction from this false wisdom but notice. Secondly, its soil, or he might say the heart in which this false wisdom grows. Verse 14 says 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, so this this false wisdom that originates from wicked demonic places takes root and grows in a certain kind of heart. It grows in a heart that is full of first bitter jealousy.

Now I suppose we all know that there is a good kind of jealousy and there is a bad kind of jealousy. God is his jealous Scripture says in a good way a husband is jealous for his wife in a good way but there is also a very wicked jealousy. Jealousy that is full of envy and bitterness over the achievements and successes of other people. This kind of bitter jealousy cannot bear to be upstaged or outdone. So whenever this sort of bitterly jealous hearts encounter someone who is better or more successful or has greater respect begins to stoop to criticism and denigration like the child who can't stand to be beaten in the game, so he takes his ball and goes home he can't win the game. The nobody gets to play the game. The bitterly jealous heart.

The second quality that defines the heart in which this false wisdom grows is called selfish ambition, selfish ambition, just like the previous character quality. It's the adjective, not the noun that makes it so devilish.

Ambition isn't necessarily wrong but selfish ambition is selfish ambition is a bipartisan spirit and attitude. It fosters rivalry and it is the telltale sign that a person's wisdom is not really wisdom at all. Now think it's interesting that James doesn't say that the sign of false wisdom and understanding is foolishness and ignorance. It is, it's the opposite of of wisdom and understanding, but James doesn't simply identify the opposites of wisdom and understanding, that would be too vague. I think instead he puts his finger on the very observable character qualities of jealousy and selfish ambition. If a person demonstrates these traits and everybody knows that their claim to wisdom is an empty claim.

The foolish wise man is so wise in his own eyes that he perceives himself to be qualified to criticize everyone else.

He feeds his self-deception by downplaying the wisdom and understanding of others.

John Calvin said it is usual with hypocrites to exalt and showoff themselves by incriminating all others there quick to censor everyone else but at the same time, spare themselves. This is the kind of heart soil that false wisdom grows best in but thirdly notice the fruit that this false wisdom produces. We see it in verse 16 for where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice that were disorder is the same word used in James 18 and James 382. Describe the double minded man and the double tongued mouth. This word describes a state of restlessness and unsettled mess the same words invite using prescriptions 1433 says for God is not a God of confusion of restlessness of disorder, but rather of peace. How do you know if a person's claim to wisdom is true, you know, by its fruit in one of its fruits is disorder, confusion, a phony sort of wisdom just keeps the pot agitated with confusion, but James then broadens the description of the fruit of pretend wisdom by including every vile practice and that means exactly what it sounds like it means false wisdom, earthly, fleshly, demonic wisdom is known by its fruit invokes the sky is the limit when it comes to what this self centered jealousy masquerading as wisdom is capable of doing church there are those who pretend to be wise and pretend to have understanding people who have perhaps even convince themselves that their viewpoint and their counsel is from God from the Lord. But in reality there. Wisdom is not from God. It grows in a heart that is consumed with jealousy and selfishness and envy and it will eventually expose itself for the wickedness that it is by the fruit that it bears if if that sort of danger is lurking out there.

Shouldn't that make us all at the very least, self skeptical, shouldn't give us pause in sharing our opinions and thoughts with the world of the gets accidental that sandwiching this paragraph on the potential of self-deception when it comes to wisdom are two paragraphs that address respectively. The problem of talking too much in the problem of being quarrelsome right in the middle is this paragraph are looking at tonight on false wisdom.

I hate to break it to you but James is telling us in so many words, you might just not be God's gift to the world.

You might not know what you think you know your insights and your secret knowledge and uncanny perceptions of how things really are, might not be so much wisdom from the Lord as they are merely reflections of your own need for recognition and respect.

If he causes disorder and confusion and springs from a heart that is jealously ambitious in all the wrong ways than it is not wisdom from God and it should be repented of but there is a wisdom that is from God wisdom from above and we can know that wisdom from its seed hit soil and its fruit.

First let's look at the seed of the wisdom from above.

Where does it come from well it comes from above.

James says and what exactly does above mean.

Evidently it means the exact opposite of those other sources mentioned in verse 15, earthly, unspiritual, demonic wisdom from above, then, rather than being earthly is heavenly earthly is bad heavenly is good, at least in the sense in which James is using these terms. Heavenly wisdom is God's wisdom, it's that above the sun perspective that the preacher of please. He asked these just couldn't seem to understand. It's a wisdom that's driven not by the passing pleasures of this world, but one that takes into account eternity. It's wisdom that lays up treasure in a place where moth and rust cannot destroy where thieves cannot break in and steal its heavenly.

Secondly, wisdom from above is not unspiritual it's not of the flash.

Rather, it is spiritual. Theologians have noted the clear parallels between James's discussion of wisdom here and in Paul's discussion of the fruit of the spirit in Galatians 5, a lot of parallels between James three and Galatians 5.

Both James and Paul describe the same kind of fruits.

But what Paul says the spirit produces.

James says wisdom produces. In other words, there is a correlation between this wisdom that is from above, and the work of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer.

God's wisdom is spiritual in nature and it is spiritual in its point of origin. It is the product of the very spirit of God indwelling the regenerate Christian we could say it another way we could say the wise man is the spirit filled man is spiritual and in thirdly the wisdom from above is not demonic is not from the devil and his demons. Rather, it is godly because God is its source.

There's nothing sinister or accusatory or embittered about this wisdom because it is from God, not from the devil.

So that's the source that's the seed from which this wisdom from above comes. What then is the soil in which a grows. What kind of heart nurtures and fosters this godly wisdom.

James gives us two qualities that characterize the heart of the truly wise person. First of all, the wise heart is full of meekness.

Verse 13 who is wise and understanding among you by his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. Meekness has been described as power under control. Like the strength of a horse that has been reined in and trained. There's nothing weak about it.

It's very strong, but it is a strength that is under control. The meek heart is one that is strong and courageous, but not for its own sake. It can show its good works, but not in a showy way. Meekness is in fact the opposite of the bitterly jealous and selfishly ambitious heart of the pretender. See the truly wise man wants to be wise, the pretender merely wants to be known as wise one is selfless in heart and motive. The other is self-serving in heart and motive, so the wise heart is first of all, a meek heart. The wise heart is also full of purity. Verse 17 wisdom from above is first pure war. This is the chief character quality of the heart of a wise person I we think of this word purity in terms of sincerity if if someone if someone has pure motives. He is sincere is genuine. But we also think of the word purity in terms of moral innocence. Someone who was pure in heart is undefiled without moral blemishes with the Greek word here carries the second meaning it refers to that moral innocence guiltless in this. The heart of the wise person then is a heart that is chaste and innocent.

James says this moral purity is the overarching or the first quality of a wise heart so we know genuine wisdom because it comes from God as his spirit indwells the believer and makes them wise. We know this wisdom because it grows in hearts that are meek and pure the very opposite of the self orientation of the pretender, but finally we notice wisdom from above because of its fruit and verse 17 list several descriptions of the fruit of wisdom descriptions that tell us not so much what wisdom is, rather, what wisdom does he see this wisdom is not about knowing the right things as much. It is as much as it is about doing the right things.

It is in a series of correct propositional statements, but it is rather a quality that motivates a certain kind of behavior and what is that behavior look like several things.

First of all, it is peaceable, if false, wisdom's chief affect his contention than true wisdom's chief affect is the making of peace wisdom from God bears the fruit of reconciliation. It fixes broken relationships is the one at one of the ways we can know it is the real thing. This wisdom from above is also gentle now gentleness is not a particularly American quality, but it is a Christian quality gentleness is the trait of not insisting on my rights, my customs, my preferences is a willingness to yield it as an attempt to show courtesy. Next, we see that wisdom from above is open to reason.

This literally means easily persuaded. Of course, not in the sense of being gullible or lacking in discernment but in the sense of willingly showing deference to others, hearing them out, not in order to argue their opinion away.

But in order to better understand and learn from them.

That's a fruit of behavior approve of true wisdom. Next wisdom from above is full of mercy and good fruits.

Now James is already defined mercy for us back in chapter 2 mercy is that love for neighbor that shows itself in action then. True wisdom produces impartiality, and we looked at that quality extensively back in chapter 2. Impartiality has to do with not being unnecessarily divisive or prejudiced towards others.

Finally, wisdom from above produces sincerity. There's no show. There's no pretenses, no playacting or hamming it up for affect. It's simply transparent and genuine and sincere.

I realize that these verses tonight are really just lists of multiple character qualities I've tried to organize these traits into categories that will help us think with greater clarity about the differences between true wisdom and feigned wisdom pretend wisdom and also realize that if you been walking with the Lord for any length of time what James is saying in these verses is rather obvious is it, we know that bitter jealousy is that we know that pretending to be wise, when a really just selfish is bad. We know that meekness and purity and being a peacemaker and being sincere are good qualities and some afraid that if were not careful we can read through a passage like this and think to ourselves.

I need to do those good things and not do those bad things would be one of those Christians that has the wisdom from above, rather than the wisdom from the devil. The and it's obvious to us and we just kind of think about it we go home and we never change the seed this thing planted into our lives and we never improve the soil that influences our hearts and shapes our affections and attitudes and we ignore the bad fruit that our lives are just spewing out day after day after day. James didn't write these words, the Holy Spirit didn't inspire and preserve these words for us just to go home and say yeah I knew all that these words are given to us for our reproof, for our correction for our training in righteousness. These truths are spelled out specifically for us because evidently there is a tendency for sons and daughters of Adam to forget these things must not be forgetful. Hearers must be doers of the word is conscientiously pursue the very traits.

These verses command. This repent of those traits it condemns. Are you driven by jealousy do you find yourself stewing over someone else's talent or good name or opportunity. Stop it. Repent of it and learn to rejoice with those who outdo, outshine and upstage you by the same token, the you see in your own life. The fruit of the spirit. The fruit that only God's wisdom can produce. If so, then rejoice in that glorious fruit who cares of the world fails to admire you for your meekness in your purity and your gentleness cares if they mock your openness to reason or overlook your impartiality or question your sincerity. If God is producing this godly fruit in the soil of a heart that has been miraculously resurrected using seed that will not and cannot return void then rejoice that God has spared you from this pretentious destructive stuff that the world so admires and praises and has instead given you riches of that wisdom that is from above with prey. Lord, you said that if we if we lack wisdom. We have but to ask in faith and you will give it liberally and without reproach. Lord we lack wisdom and in its place we find all sorts of attitudes and behaviors that are an offense to you is Lord make us wise, give us your wisdom. Not so that we can boast about how wise we are, so that your glory will be seen in so that our joy may be full when we can't even be sure that our motives and asking are pure Lord you have saved us with the blood of your son, you have promised to sanctify and glorify us so we asked tonight that she would make us wise through your spirit in us.

I pray in Jesus name, amen

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