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Sandcastles Before Tide, Part 1

Wisdom for the Heart / Dr. Stephen Davey
The Truth Network Radio
May 31, 2023 12:00 am

Sandcastles Before Tide, Part 1

Wisdom for the Heart / Dr. Stephen Davey

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May 31, 2023 12:00 am

(James 3:14-16) Envy is to our souls what mold is to a house. It spreads unnoticed until it has consumed every facet of our lives.

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Wisdom for the Heart
Dr. Stephen Davey

But here's the key to understanding what James was referring to.

If you want to stunt the growth of wisdom, he said, then you're going to have to battle these invisible obstacles that you have in your heart. And that verb, to have, it means nursing along. It means allowing the fester. If you allow your heart to harbor in the sense that you say to ambition and jealousy, hey, you want a place to live?

I got room in my heart. See, this person is not battling it. He's inviting it. He's not confessing it.

He's nursing it. Harboring jealousy in your heart is evidence that you're walking in worldly wisdom instead of in God's wisdom. It's simply contrary to how God has designed you to live. Now, there really are only two ways to live. You either live as God demands or live according to the world's standards. Which would you say marks your life? As we continue through a series entitled A Word to the Wise, we come to a passage that describes what worldly wisdom looks like.

It's important because knowing what worldly wisdom looks like helps us avoid it. This message is called Sandcastles Before the Tide. Every summer, if you can believe this, the U.S. Open Sandcastle Competition is held to determine who can create the best and most elaborate sandcastle. I had no idea until recently there was such a thing as a professional sand carver.

I should have kept at it in my sandbox and you too. Who knows? They give away now $21,000 in annual cash prizes. Trained representatives for this annual competition are prepared to judge all the different categories. I looked at a number of pictures, didn't know which ones to put up here. I saw pictures of cars, pictures of animals. I liked one, a shark head coming up out of the sand eating a person.

That was kind of interesting. The most captivating category, of course, is the sandcastle, the traditional carving. Each contestant at this particular annual competition, they can begin building at exactly 9 a.m. and they have to conclude at 3 p.m. So they have about six hours to carve their creation.

People come from all around the world to see these amazing works of art. The stipulation is you have to use whatever you can find on the seashore or beach. You can use seashells, of course, water, mud or sand. The idea of sand carving has become so popular that competitions are now being held from California to New England over even in Japan. There's a contest taking place somewhere in the world now nearly every month of the year. There's something fascinating, something almost mythical at what someone is able to carve out of sand.

The grand prize is usually given to that particular sandcastle that is the most elaborate and detailed, the most beautifully crafted. But after all of the planning, after picking out just the right spot there on the beach, after all the design work, after all the photographs and all the applause and all the awards, another visitor shows up at around 4 p.m. right on schedule and he hasn't come to take pictures. He's come to look, but only briefly.

He'll then leave on cue. His name is the tide. He never fails no matter how elaborate or beautifully carved, the tide comes in and washes it all the way.

And that's part of the competition. You've got to get it done so you can be judged, you can be awarded because the tide is coming in and it'll wipe out all the sandcastles. I found it interesting that Jesus Christ in his Sermon on the Mount recorded by Matthew's Gospel beginning in chapter 5, let me just review very quickly one particular part of it for the sake of time, but the Lord used sand to illustrate wisdom. He introduces us to two custom home builders. The wise man built his house on the what? On the rock. The foolish man built his house upon the what?

The sand. The rains came, flood waters came, literally the river came. The winds blew against the house and for the foolish man, it fell and great was its fall. For the wise man, the house stood for it was built on the rock. Both of these men, by the way, built real homes. From the outside, everything would have looked the same. The difference was in their foundation. In fact, I think probably the guy who built his house on the sand, his was better looking because the guy who built his house on the rock, bedrock, had to spend more time and more money digging down until he hit rock.

The other guy was from the ground up, probably had better tiles, a little better greenery, a little better landscaping. Jesus Christ made the application as clear as possible. He effectively said the man who built his house on the rock was a wise man because he listened to the words and lived them, obeyed them. And the foolish man, the one who built his house on the sand, he might as well have been building a sand castle because the winds came and the rain and the river and great was its fall. See, the critical issue was not just hearing the words of God but applying those words to life. And with that one illustration Jesus Christ defines, illustrates in that definition wisdom.

It is truth applied to life. And a few years later, his half brother would deliver a sermon, most believe is this letter from James. It was a sermon transcribed while he was preaching it, inspired by God. It was in fact the message and the words from God. And it's basically defining and building upon this definition as James contrasts the wisdom of God with the wisdom of man. Now, he began in chapter 3, if you're not there already, and at verse 13, by basically asking a question we began to ask and answer last Lord's Day. Is there anybody in here who is wise and understanding?

If you are, you consider yourself to be that. And he goes on to say, well, here's how you can tell. He says, this will be the demonstration, these two visible mannerisms will be demonstrated in your life, not perfectly, but you will pursue them and they will appear from time to time. A wise person will be marked by them. They are, verse 13, good behavior and gentleness of wisdom. Now, we spent a lot of time, in fact, all of our time last Lord's Day, in our last session, talking about what James meant by the words goodness and gentleness. These are the two visible mannerisms of people who are growing wise. Now, James goes on to add a warning. Not only are there two visible mannerisms of those growing in wisdom, there are two invisible obstacles for those who are not growing in wisdom.

Look at verse 14. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, do not be arrogant and so lie against the truth. The truth about wisdom is that it is good and gentle. If instead of goodness and gentleness, you are hiding away these invisible characteristics, they're going to effectively show up eventually, but for right now, we're being warned as they are being hidden. These are two dangerous things to be hiding. Before we look at these two obstacles, would you notice where they're hiding? James tells us in your heart. In other words, people don't see them yet, but they're there.

They're blocking growth in wisdom and eventually they're going to come out. But for right now and right here, they are hiding in the heart, the heart. Now, in biblical language, the heart is the place where unbelief lives or belief, for that matter. The heart is viewed in biblical language as the place where sin originates. It is either sin or godliness that eventually comes out and affects all of our lives. Jesus Christ rebuked those two disciples walking along the Emmaus road who would be surprised by the resurrection of Christ.

He said to them, foolish men and slow of heart, not slow of mind, slow of heart. The apostle Paul wrote, if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you'll be saved, Romans 10, 9. So the heart is this hidden reservoir, so to speak, of either belief or unbelief, faith or the lack thereof. This biblical concept, by the way, gives us terminology that we use when we deliver the gospel, especially to children.

We talk to them and grownups as well about asking Jesus Christ to come and live in your where? Heart. We're not talking about a muscle pumping away in our chest. In biblical terminology, the heart is the place that represents who you really are. So in order to be saved, we're asking Jesus Christ to come into our hearts, which is tantamount to asking him to come in and reside as Savior and Lord in that place which represents who we truly are.

So I don't see any problem with asking or telling people to ask Jesus to come into their heart. The heart is not only the place where faith resides, it's a place where sin originates. Jesus Christ said, for out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders, Matthew 15, 19. The heart is the place where one author wrote, idols are manufactured. Now here in the words of James, the heart is the place where ambitions grow and jealousies are hidden away.

They're cloaked until at some point they emerge and they're made known. James writes, look again, you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart. That's the opposite of wisdom. And everybody in here, including myself, would say, OK, this is one of those showstoppers again, because I guess I'm never going to grow in wisdom, because if you knew my heart and what my heart really was like, you'd know that it is filled with jealousies and ambitions.

Right. In fact, that is the struggle of every day, isn't it? Battling those things I want to keep and battling myself, which I want to exalt.

I want my own way, my own will, my own plans. That's my heart. Deo Moody once said, the evangelist from a generation or two ago, who said that if somebody had a business that was able to photograph the spiritual condition of our hearts, he would go bankrupt.

Nobody would ever hire him. The condition of all our hearts is reflected here. But here's the key to understanding what James is referring to.

If you want to stunt the growth of wisdom, he said, then you're going to have to you're going to have to battle these invisible obstacles that you have in your heart. And that verb to have is clarifying. It means harboring.

It means nursing along. It means allowing the fester. If you allow your heart to harbor in the sense that you say to ambition and jealousy, hey, you want a place to live? I got room in my heart. Come take up residency in my heart. I got a nice apartment for you.

I'll take care of you. See, this person is not battling it. He's inviting it. He's not confessing it. He's nursing it. He's allowing it to fester.

He's allowing it, as it were, to simmer. He keeps it on the stove. This heart like my wife on a cold wintery afternoon will pull out that big stainless steel pot and everybody in the household really loves it because she's going to make the best hot chocolate on the planet. And it's just going to simmer on that stove. It's just going to be hot and ready throughout that cold wintery afternoon.

That's the idea here. Like a pot on a stove filled with her own ambition and jealousy, we keep it simmering away. It's hot. It's ready like that hot chocolate. Walk by and if she's not looking, you dip your cup in. If she's looking, you ladle it out and you get your cup. It's hot and ready. See, in our hearts, it's hot.

It's ready. Just poke me and I'll tell you about myself. Just give me the opportunity and I'm going to turn that conversation around to me. The phrase James uses here, as you got in this pot, simmering away is bitter jealousy. It represents a person whose hands are full and they're jealous.

They're protective. They're threatened by the fact that somebody might take something away that they believe belongs to them. So then an obstacle to growing in wisdom is this spirit, a person whose life is focused on his possessions and his things and his family and his life and his job and nobody better get in my way. Wisdom is stunted with that spirit. The next phrase James describes is selfish ambition. This is the desire to be seen.

It's the drive that makes somebody push their way up to the top of the food chain. This is what Jesus Christ dealt with the Pharisees, the religious leaders. He says everything you do, you're doing to be seen.

You're doing it to be seen by men. You're giving and while you're giving, you're sounding the trumpet, probably a reflection of those trumpet-shaped receptacles there in the temple outside the court of women. There were 13 of them, one for every tribe, one for Gentile proselytes. You would come in and you would take your money and you'd slide it down that trumpet-shaped receptacle and if you had a denarii or two like that widow, it wouldn't make any noise.

But if you had a bag of coins, man, you could stand there and you could sound the trumpet. Everybody went ooh and ah. When you're fasting, rubbing ashes into their cheeks, they would fast. In fact, by the day of Christ they were fasting on Mondays and Thursdays. Why then? That was market day.

That's why. And when they were praying, Jesus said you're praying to be seen on the street corners. Orthodox Jews prayed at 9, 12, and 3. They were arranging their schedules so that they showed up on a corner at 9, 12, or 3. Why?

Because that way they could be seen from all four directions. This is the idea here of selfish ambition. In fact, the word was used in the second century for a politician running for office and gaining the office by a corrupt campaign.

He somehow bought the election. Well, do Christians do that kind of thing? Do Christians have selfish ambition? Do Christians compete with each other? Do Christians compare business cards and job titles?

You know, quietly, secretly, silently. Do Christians take note of neighborhoods and automobiles and designer labels? Do Christians compete at parenting and grandparenting? Are there rivalries in the church? Do Christians try to get their way in the assembly, in the church?

Not at Colonial, thank God. There's also those other churches out there, those other Christians. I'm preaching to them, sorry they're not here to hear it. James' saying is that godly wisdom is developing in a person who lives without scheming, who lives without scheming. Now it goes on in verse 14 to announce that this kind of person is going to grow more and more arrogant and he lies against the truth. That is, he justifies himself. You come along and you deliver the truth to him about something he's doing that's wrong or something he's doing that's not right or whatever and you'll get five reasons why it's right. Five reasons why you're wrong.

In fact, who are you to tell me that I'm wrong? He lies against the truth. His wisdom growth is stunted. He's not going to go anywhere. These are the invisible obstacles to wisdom.

They come out eventually. They play out in life and living color and that which has been nursed along and allowed to fester, that which has been fostered, that which has been simmering away eventually escapes and it does great damage. It does great damage to everybody in your world and to you and that's the warning to James.

If you want to grow up in God, if you want to grow up in wisdom, you're the one that's hurt more than anybody else. Like the Greek legend of the athlete who was jealous of his rival's success. He had lost in the games to this particular competitor and he was so upset and jealous and it didn't help when the town commissioned a marble statue to be crafted in the likeness of his competitor, the one who had won the games. He was now a renowned athlete and it was unveiled in the town square eventually at a great pop and circumstance and the town fathers had all kinds of wonderful things and he just seethed inwardly. But then he began slipping out at night and going to the town square with a chisel and a hammer and as quietly as he could, he began to chisel away at the foundation of that statue.

Until one night, he chiseled too much, too carelessly, that tall marble structure fell over before he could get away and he was found dead the next morning there in the town square lying underneath the statue of his bitter rival. You want to hurt yourself? You want to hurt the larger family? Then harbor jealousy within. Secretly nurse a long ambition. Foster a me first attitude. Compare yourself with other Christians and make sure you always end up looking better.

Scheme up ways to be seen and heard. Simmer on the stove of your heart the offenses of people who get in your way, who mess things up and put into that pot bitter herbs that go something like this. You know, God never really does give me a fair shake or I should have been chosen for that. I deserve better than this.

I am better than them. And wisdom's growth is pushed aside. This warning, by the way, is not to those out there.

It's to us in here. Now, in chapter 3 verses 13 to 14, let me give you, in fact, you might look at your text, let me give you an expanded paraphrase before we move any further and I'll summarize in the paraphrase what he's taught us thus far about wisdom. James is saying, I want you to grow up in wisdom and understanding. That is, I want you to apply and focus God's truth to your life. That kind of wisdom will be demonstrated by good character and gentle humility toward others. But be warned, the opposite of wise development of behavior is bitter jealousy and selfish ambition where you have to be first, you have to be right, you have to be the best, you have to be applauded. And anybody who comes along and tries to tell you the truth that they've observed in your life along these lines will get a reaction from you of arrogance and self-justification.

End of the paraphrase. Now, what James does in verse 15 is he makes sure we understand the difference between the wisdom of heaven and the wisdom of earth. Look at verse 15. This wisdom is not that which comes down from above but is earthly, natural and demonic. Now, what James has actually been doing before arriving in verse 15 is giving us characteristics of worldly wisdom and he'll give us five of them.

And so let me give them to you for the sake of an outline or to sort of hang your mental hats along these pegs. The first one that we've already seen is that this kind of wisdom is self-promoting. It's self-promoting. The wisdom of the world is arrogant.

Verse 14. It is also secondly self-deceived. That is, it lies against the truth. Don't tell me the truth about myself. I'd rather stay in my state of self-deception.

Self-deceived. Third, it's short-sighted. James now will say the wisdom of the world is tragically short-sighted. He says in verse 15, look there now, the wisdom of the world is earthly. It's earthly. It simply means that the wisdom of the world shuts out God. It limits its focus to things on earth. It's all about the planet and nothing beyond. It never looks up, so to speak.

It deals only with horizontal living, never vertical. God who? Who cares is the attitude. And by the way, it might surprise you to discover that James refers this to this as wisdom. He says the world has wisdom.

Isn't that surprising? It's almost as surprising as James saying earlier in chapter 2 verse 19 that demons have faith. They have faith. Demons have faith and the world has wisdom. But here's the key. God isn't the object of demonic faith and God isn't the origin, ultimately the origin of worldly wisdom. And because of that, they are both doomed to fail.

The tide will come in and wash them away. Now the worldly wise man knew how to build a house. If you go back into that parable and explore it a little more carefully, maybe you'll do that. At some point in your personal study, he understood like the wise man, he understood the principles of engineering and construction and masonry and woodworking. The problem wasn't that he didn't know how to build a house. He didn't know where. He didn't know upon what to build a house that would stand. But it looked great.

It was beautiful. No doubt, modern, well-built like the other house, the wise man who built. They are obviously implied in Jesus' words, built in the same neighborhood because they experienced the same storm. Everybody in the neighborhood would have told the foolish man, the man of my house looked as nice as yours.

Wow, what a beautiful house. Listen, don't ever confuse the wisdom of the majority with the wisdom of God. There is a way that seems right to a man. It seems wise. But the end thereof is the way of what?

Death. So the earth looks everywhere but up. In fact, the earth really doesn't look forward. It doesn't look into the future revealed to us by God's wisdom, revealed in God's word. The tide according to this book is coming.

It's coming. And the sandcastles of earth will not stand. The safe house is the wise life built upon the rock of God's wisdom. So James now says that wisdom, the wisdom of the world is not only self-centered and self-deceived and short-sighted, it is also spiritually blinded.

Look back at verse 15. This wisdom is natural. The word James uses for natural is the Greek word sukikas. It gives us our word psychology, psyche.

It is the study of the human condition, the natural condition of man. And depending upon your psychology professor or maybe even your psychologist, he may or she may or may not take into account the supernatural creation that you are by God himself. You are more than a psyche.

You are a spirit. In other words, God's wisdom, James is saying, is not according to the psyche of man, the nature of man. God's wisdom is not natural. It is supernatural. It does not come from within us.

It comes from outside of us. The natural man by his own intuition, God given knows there's something out there. There's something beyond him. He will talk about spiritual things. He'll talk about spiritual experiences. He enjoys using the word spirituality or spiritual. And so a popular phrase today would be, I'm not religious.

I'm what? I'm spiritual. They'll talk to you about their spiritual feelings or their spiritual experiences. You're fine talking about spirituality. Just don't tell him that the origin of true and lasting heavenly wisdom and spirituality is bound up in the person of Jesus Christ. That's when he'll walk away. He'll say, you're nuts. You're out of your mind.

How can you be so restrictive? You see the God of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ was the image of God. It's sad to think about that, isn't it? The truth is that people who think about spiritual things and even think of themselves as spiritual people can actually be spiritually blind. There's more for you to learn, but it's going to have to wait until next time because we don't have time to finish this message today. This is Wisdom for the Heart. Stephen Davey, the president of Wisdom International, is working through a series from James entitled A Word to the Wise. If you missed the first message in the series, yesterday's message, you can go online and listen right now. You'll find us at Have a great day and then join us back here next time for more Wisdom for the Heart. We'll see you next time.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-05-31 00:55:45 / 2023-05-31 01:05:46 / 10

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