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A Learner's Permit for Life

Wisdom for the Heart / Dr. Stephen Davey
The Truth Network Radio
May 30, 2023 12:00 am

A Learner's Permit for Life

Wisdom for the Heart / Dr. Stephen Davey

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May 30, 2023 12:00 am

(James 3:13-16) God doesn't measure our spiritual success by how much we know. He measures it by what we do with what we know.

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Facts are not sufficient. James is not comparing or equating wisdom with your ACT scores. He isn't tying wisdom to your GPA in high school or college, and I thank God for that.

There's hope. He's not tying wisdom with the diploma you've got hanging on the wall. See, the truth is, in the perspective of Scripture, there are plenty of really smart fools living today.

Thanks for joining us today. This is Wisdom for the Heart with Stephen Davey. Stephen's desire is to help you walk wisely through life. But here's an important question. When you pray and ask God for wisdom, what exactly are you asking for? An answer? An inner compulsion to do something or not do something? A sign from heaven, perhaps? Well, in this message, Stephen takes you to James' convicting letter to remind you what Godly wisdom is really all about. Contrary to popular opinion, it's not a matter of the mind.

Wisdom is a matter of the heart. Are you ready for a pop quiz? You're saying, wait, I came to church, not school, and I'm auditing anyway. No, you can't audit. You remember?

You got to take the quizzes and the exams and the tests. So here's the pop quiz question. Who among you is wise and understanding? Verse 13 of chapter 3 in James. Who among you is wise and understanding? And you can just imagine the buzzing in the assemblies that received this letter or copies of it. As people would no doubt begin to look around, I wonder, oh, let's see, that guy over there, that lady over there, that girl, yeah, that's them, that they are. And they could raise their hand and they could say, yes, I'm here.

I'll raise my hand, teacher. And James could expect everyone to raise their hand. And in fact, he's assuming that we would say at least, well, I know I could be wiser, but I think I've got a little bit of a grip on the Christian experience. I don't want to be presumptuous. I'm not as wise as I wish I were, but I think I could respond. On here, James knows that that would be the intention of our heart.

We might not do it publicly, but he knows that no one among us is going to raise our hand and say, no, not me. I'm an idiot. I'm going to sit in the back. You work with the wise people up front. That's not a reference to where you're sitting, by the way.

All three hours have been troubled by that. No, that's not what he expects. He's expecting every one of us to say in our heart, whether we raise our hand or not, I may not be as wise as some of the other Christians I see around me, but I know I'm wiser than some of the people I see around me. So I'm in church anyway, aren't I? Doesn't that give me some tokens of wisdom? Count me in. You know what?

You're right. I'm not where I should be, but I know I've got some wisdom, and so I'm going to raise my hand too. And we'll all answer that question, who among you is wise and understanding?

And that would be all of us. And James knows in our heart of hearts, we would be saying something like that. And once we've raised our hands, we discover he set us up. He set us all up. He's assuming that quietly, secretly, we could look around and find someone not as wise as we, by our own judgment. Maybe not as good a grip we might think on life as we have. And he walks us right into this cul-de-sac.

There's no way out. There's no way past what he's about to do, because he effectively says, okay, you think you're one of the wise? And he would assume that all would say yes. Well, let me describe a wise person to you in this paragraph, and then let's see how you measure up.

And now we're all thinking, why did I raise my hand? Can I change my answer? No, he's already seen it. Too late. Besides, if you want to grow up in God, if you want to learn how to work your way through the maze of life, we do need to want to be wise, and we do have a measure of wisdom.

But what does it really look like in real life? Well, that's verses 13 to the end of the chapter. In fact, through chapter 4, we're going to continue with what we'll call words, a word to the wise. And before we start the engines and take off, I think we need to understand what James means when he uses the words wise and understanding.

And the more I study this, the more I realize we wouldn't get into the paragraph. We're just going to introduce the whole subject, wise and understanding. By the way, it's the first time those two words ever appear side by side in the New Testament.

So a wise person in the mind of James here in chapter 3 is someone who is taking the knowledge of God's truth and applying it to life. James also uses, you'll notice, the word understanding. Perhaps you could circle that one, an interesting word. In fact, it's the only time this word appears in the New Testament. The word understanding, wise and understanding, I thought at first, as I began to study this, would be somewhat redundant.

It really isn't. There are nuances that are unique with these words, this one, too. The word understanding was used in James' generation for someone who was becoming a specialist in some field, a skilled practitioner. So it isn't just that you're wise, you're becoming skillful in practicing it. You've got to learn, and you soon discover there are a lot of complications in the Christian life.

In fact, I thought when I got saved, I thought the preacher said all my problems would be solved. I got more problems than I ever knew I could have. You see, it's just like driving. The scenery changes.

It's never the same. The road doesn't stay straight and flat. It turns. It twists. And there are other people out there, too.

They're driving, moving objects. And you've got to take what you know and apply it at any given turn, at any given situation. Life does not stay in park. You've got to learn to contend with all those people. And then if you live out there where I do in 401, you've got to answer. In 401, you've got animals.

I'm not talking about Carolina fans. I mean real animals running across the street. Driving is dangerous. And so is Christianity.

That's why many Christians just want to stay in the garage, keep it in park. James is telling us to take our faith out on the open road. And yes, there may be accidents along the way, but stay at it. You are developing skill. That is the idea of the word understanding. It is both the application of knowledge, wisdom, and the development of skill as a practitioner of that application that develops a wise person. And the next question that would come to our minds is, well, how do I know if I'm getting along?

How do I know if I'm progressing? Well, James will spend the majority of this paragraph answering that question. Let's just look at one more phrase. Look back at verse 13. James answers that question.

He says, who among you is wise and understanding? Well, here's how he's going to show it. Here's how you show it.

Two ways. We'll call these two visible mannerisms of a wise person. The first one is, he says, good behavior. Good behavior.

Doesn't need a whole lot of explanation, but we have some time left. We talked about somebody getting out of jail early because of their good, what? Behavior.

This is really more than a reference to keeping your nose clean. He's literally using a word that means to return. Fascinating to me what this implies about the Christian walk. It means to turn back time and time again. Because the truth is we cross over the line when we drive. We may go too fast or too slow. We may go the wrong direction.

We may get lost in where we need to be. And in this word, good behavior is actually a reference to someone who is returning time and time again to the truth of God's word. So goodness or good behavior is someone who comes back to walk next to the truth. And when we come back time and time again to walk next to the truth, we will demonstrate good behavior. That's why this is not an option. This is the definition of what is truth. This is the standard. So this becomes in effect the guideline.

Let me illustrate it this way. I see people walking their dogs in our neighborhood. And I've seen people with a leash that's pretty clever.

I've never used one. Back in my day, we used a rope or something. Actually, you didn't have to have a leash back in that day, but now you do. But there's a little button I guess you push, and that line, that leash goes out longer. And so the dog can run 10, 15 feet ahead. And then you release it, and it begins to recoil, rewind, and it pulls gently that dog back to walk beside the master. That's the idea of returning. You go out to the end. That's as far as I can go. And really the best thing for me is to come back and walk next to the master. You know, I've seen parents at the mall.

Have you seen them? They've got Johnny in a little harness and a leash, and he's straining to get past that leash. In the meaning of this word, the one who is straining like little Johnny, who strains against the leash designed by God, will be unwise. The one who reaches the end and instead of straining goes, ah, that's it.

I'm gonna actually go back and walk next to the master. That is a person who will demonstrate good behavior because he's walking in the truth. You'll notice in the text that James doesn't go on to give us a list. In other words, you don't see let him show by his good behavior his deeds, and here are 20.

Here are the top 20. These are the ones that really matter. No, he doesn't say that because he knows that everyone intuitively understands what is good and what isn't. Now, we might suppress the truth.

We might argue with it, but we know it. And so we will talk about, you know that guy? He's a good man.

You don't have to define it. You just know that whoever you're talking to is going to understand it's a good man. She's a good girl. He's a good employee.

That's good food. Now, that might be debatable. We might argue about what's good and what isn't. Those are good deeds. You say to your child before he leaves to get on that school bus, or you drop him off, you say, now look, Johnny, I want you to be good. And you don't write out 10 things and pin it to his pocket. I don't think.

But you know he knows that means any number of things. Don't yell at the kids. Don't push anybody down at the playground. Share your snacks.

Don't talk back to the teacher. And on and on and on. Everybody knows what good behavior is. Now, the world will suppress the truth of God's standard, the leash, so to speak.

It's good. It's profitable for reproof. And they'll call badness goodness.

They'll call evil right. But they still know. They still know.

No matter what culture or what country. I pulled this article off one online news agency, which I found interesting. It leaks the trouble Iran is having with keeping its single population from engaging in sexual activity outside of marriage, which is a violation of Muslim law.

So they know it's against their religion. They got to deal with it. And so what they decided to do, in fact, the Iranian interior minister was on state run television talking about this.

And I pulled off of the manuscript. What they want to do is legalize a Shiite Muslim, a tradition called temporary marriage. Temporary marriage.

Let me just read it. Temporary marriage is where a man and a woman can sign a contract that allows them to be legally married for any length of time, even if it's only for an hour. The contract is signed and then it is followed up by the man giving his bride some money. We all know what that is. That's not marriage. That's not temporary marriage. That's prostitution. But we're going to come up with a way, because something in us tells us that's wrong, so we'll come up with a loophole.

And now, by the way, before we thumb our nose at Iran, at least they work with a contract. I couldn't help but think of the apostle Paul, who wrote in Romans 2, he said that the unbelieving world has the law of God written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts. And that's the law of God written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts, alternately accusing them or defending them. So if you want to be perceived as wise, you don't have to hand somebody, here are 20 good things, now measure me against those.

No, it's just life. You go out and you demonstrate good living. You can come up with all kinds of adjectives, superlatives, integrity, honesty, purity, just old-fashioned biblical goodness. You'd think that James, he's going to define wisdom. He's going to tell us what a wise person is. It's going to be erudite. It's going to be amazing.

It's going to be unique. And he says, just be good. That's it. Just be good and you know what good is.

That's what James said. That's the first mannerism. The second is added in verse 13, let him show by his good behavior, his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom. A wise person, second of all, is marked, you could literally translate this, by wisdom producing gentleness. Wisdom producing, the word is often translated meekness or humility. In fact, James has already used this same word back in chapter 1 and verse 21, where he exhorts the believer to receive the implanted word of God with humility. Prowse, the same word. Jesus Christ used that word in Matthew 5, where he said, blessed are the meek.

Prowse, same word. For they shall inherit the earth. And this has to reshape that body of knowledge that we have and reconstruct it so that we apply it correctly because it's upside down, but right side up. The Greek world thought of meekness as weakness. If you're meek, you're going to be the doormat of the human race. The meek do not inherit the earth, they get ground down into the earth. I don't want to be meek. Meekness is not weakness. In fact, the word is used for power under control. Power under control. It was used in the days of Plato for a brilliant teacher who could be disrespected by argumentative students without losing his temper and throwing them out of the class.

He was a meek professor. He had the power, but it was under control. It was used by the Greeks to refer to a gentle fire that you might have in your fireplace. It's a powerful thing, but it's under control. The Greeks also used it for a gentle breeze, a meek wind. Just the right amount.

If it isn't, it could be a hurricane or a tornado. The word was also used of meek or gentle medicine. It's a prescription with the right ingredients and it's the right dose. The right dose can bring healing or comfort.

The wrong dose is dangerous. So James is talking about strength and power of a substance that is under control. And in this context, it would be the personality and character of the one who says, I want to grow more skillful in wisdom. This is Jesus Christ. He was reviled by a man who said, I want to grow more skillful in Christ. He was reviled and he reviled not back, right?

Not again. When suffering, he offered no threats in return, 1 Peter 2 23. If you want to consider power under control, consider Jesus Christ.

One word and Gogatha is flattened. One sweep of his hand and that mocking crowd bends and worships. Instead, he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross. Philippians chapter 2 verse 8. That's power under control. But isn't it easy for us to read that or hear that and say, isn't that great? I love that about the Lord Jesus.

He's just always under control. Isn't it great that God could act that way and miss the first part of that paragraph, which says, have this same attitude in you, which was in Christ Jesus, who humbled himself. It was meek. So James is under the impression that good behavior and gentle deeds are not reserved for God alone. James is asking, are you a wise person? Did you raise your hand in your heart? You know, when I threw that out, did you think in your mind, well, you know what?

I'm not as wise as I'd like to be, but I think I am sort of, kind of, maybe a little bit. What about your good behavior? Are you demonstrating power under control? Has anybody seen that kind of control in your life? You'll have an opportunity to evidence power under control when you try to leave the parking lot in a few minutes. Have you ever seen that in someone else's life?

You'll have an opportunity to do that today as well. I saw an unforgettable display of this when I was around 18 years of age. My dad and I were downtown Norfolk and who we were handing out invitations to sailors who were off duty for the weekend. Back in those days, the Ministry of Missions to the military was very different. It was a downtown kind of ministry because all of the military came downtown when they were off duty and now it's different. But those ships in Norfolk would empty and it would empty into Norfolk and Norfolk was sort of this sinner's paradise, sailor's paradise. One bar after another down these streets, downtown Norfolk. One brothel after another. One porn shop after another. Dotted every so often by one of those theaters and the marquee would read triple X back in those days.

We were out there on one of the streets handing out invitations for the Bible study that was going to happen at the center, which is also downtown, right in the middle of it all. And a civilian man walked up, I can still see it, I can still feel it, if I was there today. And when he received from my father an invitation, he threw it on the ground and he slapped my father across the face. I remember looking at my dad and he kind of gathered himself and then he looked back at the man with his cheek flame red. And he said, do you feel better now? I was standing there thinking, we can take this guy. You go high, I'll go low.

We got him in the name of Christ. Boom. This is power under control. That's the word James uses here. Am I wise? Are you wise?

Here's a word to the wise. For those who are wanting to grow in wisdom and grow more skillful in the application of truth to life, there are going to be two visible mannerisms and this is just the beginning of the paragraph. These two, good behavior, gentle or meek character. Now let me wrap it up with two principles and then we'll stop here. Number one, wisdom from what we know already is not automatically given to those who can identify it. It's given to those who are willing to practice it. The world can identify it when they see it.

They can identify good behavior when they see it. But ask that guy that works down the hallway from you, do you want to do that? Are you kidding? The weekend's coming. That would mess up my life.

I like the fact that you're good. Not me. They may be intrigued.

They may ask you, you know, what do you do? Are you like a religious fanatic or something? You went to church? Like what, once or twice a year? I do that too.

No, you mean like every Sunday? See, wisdom, ladies and gentlemen, is not for the curious. It's for the serious. Wisdom is for those, the writer of Hebrews said, who by means of practice have learned to discern between good and evil. Hebrews 5 14. Secondly, wisdom is not automatically given to those who'd like to have it. It's given to those who cannot live without it.

Like a 15 year old who would rather die than not be able to drive. Solomon put it this way, if you cry for discernment, if you cry out for understanding, you lift your voice for understanding, if you seek her as silver and search for her as for hidden treasures, then you will discern the fear of the Lord and discover the knowledge of God. For the Lord gives wisdom from his mouth, come to him. He gives wisdom from his mouth, wisdom from his mouth, come knowledge and understanding, and he stores up sound wisdom for the upright, those who keep coming back to walk next to him. For wisdom will enter your heart and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul.

And I love this, how he ends it up. And you will walk in the way of good men. A great summary of James chapter 3 verse 13. Father, thank you for the truth of your word and perhaps for some here it is like that leash where it has extended all the way at will.

Maybe someone here who belongs to you by faith in Christ alone is still straining at the other end. In danger, may they return to walk by the side of truth that they already know. I hope you found this time in God's word to be encouraging.

The message that you just heard is called a learner's permit for life. Stephen's going to continue through this section of James over the course of the next several days. I hope you'll come back and listen again next time. This is Wisdom for the Heart. If you'd like to dive deeper into the book of James, Stephen has a resource that will help you do just that. His book is entitled James and it takes you through this entire epistle. It's available right now in our online store. You'll find us at Join us next time as we bring you more wisdom for the heart. you
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-05-30 00:52:11 / 2023-05-30 01:01:41 / 10

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