We have seen and will continue to see throughout the Old and New Testament how God continually uses imperfect men and women to accomplish his perfect will. For the past six months we have been skimming across the Old Testament with our God’s Story from Beginning to End series. This week we will be picking up in the book of Daniel. This book is one of the best-known books of the Old Testament and it is possibly one of the most complex. Fortunately for you all I am not going to focus on the complex and will focus more on the surface.
Daniel was written in the sixth century BC and is an account of how God sovereignly worked in the nation of Israel through the life of a young man named Daniel and his friends. Ultimately, the theme of Daniel is the sovereignty of God in all things. God is sovereign over the big things such powerful kings and kingdoms, and he is sovereign over the small things such as the lives and the safety of teenage boys taken into captivity by the Babylonians and who remained fully committed to Him throughout. He is sovereign over history, He is sovereign over the present, and He is sovereign over the future.
On a personal side, Daniel has been an inspirational to me as I read about his life and ministry. I desire to have the discipline, conviction, and commitment to God that he had in his everyday life. He was a man who was on the right track with God from his youth to his dying days. He remained faithful to God throughout his life and did it all while in captivity in a pagan nation and under ungodly rulers. His story is amazing, and as we will see he was a man who walked with God and lived a life of influence, prayer, conviction, and humility.
Daniel 1:1 - 21
Daniel was a young Israelite boy, most likely a teenager, who was taken into captivity during the reign of the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar. In his conquest Nebuchadnezzar had sieged and destroyed Jerusalem in 586 BC. He then commanded his Eunuch’s to bring to Babylon some young people from Judah who were of royalty and nobility. These youths were to be without blemish, good looking, skilled, teachable, competent, smart, and well educated. Daniel was among these young people. When Nebuchadnezzar came to Babylon Daniel quickly became known to him because of his wisdom and for his gift of interpreting dreams (note there are some similarities to Joseph’s story). Daniel had a couple of friends named whom you may recall Hananiah (Shadrach), Mishael (Meshach), and Azariah (Abednego) who Daniel helped rise in the ranks of the King’s court.
One of Daniels God-given strengths was his ability to influence people of great influence. He not only caught the attention King Nebuchadnezzar but also with his son Belshazzar, Cyrus the King of Medes, and Darius the King of the Medes. It is believed he may have single handedly influenced Nebuchadnezzar to become a follower or worshiper of the God of Israel. More on that in a bit.
In our time together I aim to highlight four traits or qualities of Daniel that are noteworthy and applicable to us as followers of Jesus Christ.
Now, the challenge of preaching from the Old Testament is connecting Jesus to this all. As you all know Jesus is not present in the Hebrew scriptures, or so we think. It can be challenging for pastors to preach messages that point people to Jesus because Jesus and the Gospel are not glaringly obvious from the pages of the O.T. But Jesus is evident throughout the Old Testament, you just need to look. The truth is the Old Testament is a precursor to Jesus Christ and everything points to the coming of the Messiah. There are times that Jesus is assumed or present in the Old Testament. These are called Christophanies. We talked about this Wednesday night in Bible study as we looked at the High Priest Melchizedek. We also see Christ in Daniel.
Daniel 3:24 – 30: When Nebuchadnezzar gazed into the fiery furnace, he saw four men, not three. The fourth, he said, “looks like a son of the gods”. Later he said he was an angel. That is not a bad guess for a pagan. We can say with confidence the fourth person in the furnace was the one we know as the Messiah, Jesus Christ. Some are reluctant to identify this fourth person as the pre-incarnate Jesus. Personally, I feel no such reluctance. I believe the One who walked with them in and through the fire is also the One who went to the cross of Calvary, so we who believe in faith would not have our souls consumed by the fiery flames of hell. This should not surprise us. The promises of an ever-present Savior with his people during the good times and the difficult times is a booming theme throughout the Bible. We can take solace in the fact that we are not alone in times of distress, turmoil, and danger. Our sovereign Savior is with us, ministering to us and always watching over us.
We live in a time where it is difficult to speak out or live in our convictions without some sort of negative pushback or consequence. There is so much vying for our attention and it is becoming more challenging than ever to be disciplined in prayer. How often do we neglect prayer? What excuses are we making to NOT pray? Our culture is continually demanding that we become self-dependent, self-reliant, and self-promoting so we can get ahead in life. As Christians how often do we welcome or covet the praises of people that puff us up and make us look better than we really are?
Like Daniel, I desire to be a man of prayer. I desire to be one who devotes much of my time and energy communing with and seeking God’s will for my life and this church. I pray that I may be a man with convictions, one who does not compromise under the pressures of the world. I pray my convictions are Gospel-centered and honoring to God. I desire most of all to be a humble servant of the Most-High God. Humility comes when I commit to be a man of prayer, a person of influence and a follower of Christ who has conviction it is all so important for us to remain humble at our core. There may be times people will try to elevate you to a place where you do not belong, so it is important to remind people that it is not you who deserves the recognition but your God in heaven who does.
May we be challenged today to purpose in our hearts to become like Daniel. Let us look to him as an example of how we conduct our lives and ultimately bring the praise, honor, and glory to God. May we do so prayerfully, with conviction and in humility.
This week I am going to pause from our series, God’s Story from Beginning to End as I feel compelled to share a message that is simple, familiar, and imperative aptly titled “A Gospel Message”. The Gospel is the central topic, message, and hope for all believers. It is important for us to not only KNOW the Gospel, but also to live it, and share it. In fact, Jesus commissions his disciples at the conclusion of his earthly ministry in Matthew 28:19 to, “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” This commission applies to us today. We have a job or responsibility to go out and share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with the unbelieving world. For many of us knowing the Gospel is simple. Living out the gospel daily is challenging but doable. But, sharing the Gospel can be scary, cause anxiety, or feel intimidating, yet this is one of our most important callings as followers of Jesus Christ.
I was struggling this week as I was praying about what to preach and thinking about the events of this past week with the horrendous shooting at the supermarket in Buffalo, NY, the controversial, and potential reality of overturning Roe v. Wade, and the spiritual state of the church at large with all her divisions and scandals among the people; I began to have a sense of hopelessness. This was a short-lived hopelessness albeit real for a moment. I was quickly reminded that as believers’ that we have hope. The Gospel is our hope and regardless the state of the world today we have hope in Jesus Christ. This hope is real, and it is something we can share with the world.
So, in response I would like to pause and park in Romans 1:8 -17 today and talk about the hope of the world… The gospel of Jesus Christ, and having the boldness to share it, proclaim it, and live in it.
Romans 1:8 - 17
Vs 8 - 9: The Apostle Paul shares with his readers that he has been praying for them. He first and foremost gives thanks to God for their faithfulness. He also lets them know he is interceding on their behalf. He thanks God for the believers in Rome and how their faith is gaining the attention of the world around them. He notes that their faith is being talked about throughout the known world. Now, their faith was not an extraordinary or even an unusual faith, it was simple a kind of faith that was drawing men and women to Christ in Rome and it was making a splash in the Gentile world. The reality that people were coming to faith in Jesus Christ in this pagan city was giving legitimacy to the reality of this new and radical faith called Christianity.
Let’s pause here for a moment and imagine what this church would look like if we, West Bradenton Southside, became world renown for our faith in God that draws people to Jesus Christ? I am not talking about us “doing something” outrageous like manifestations of the Spirit (gold dust falling from the ceiling, laughing in the Spirit, or exorcising demons) unusual behavior (protesting mandates, being arrested for standing up for truth or speaking out against the governmental) or even the programming of our church (charismatic preacher, entertaining praise band, and general positive vibe of the Church) but rather God Himself moved mightily among his people through the Spirit of God and people were coming to faith in Jesus Christ. Imagine people coming to Christ in this small city through His Spirit and men and women from all over the Gulf Coast came to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ. Can you imagine this? I hope and I pray that this is something we can and do pray for regularly
My prayer for Southside is for a mighty movement of God in our church, in our neighborhood, and in our city. Let’s pray for individuals to come to know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and commit to living obedient lives for Him and His glroy. This is what happened in Rome, and it could just as easily happen in West Bradenton. Not for our renown but for the glory of God.
Paul also intercedes (without ceasing) for the Roman believers. He prays for them to stay strong in their faith because with increased exposure could potentially bring great apostasy and heretical teaching.
Vs 10: Paul prays for a way for him to come visit the believers in Rome. God had hindered Paul from going to Rome on a few occasions, yet he firmly believed that God wanted him to go there to visit his fellow believers.
Vs 11 – 15: Why did Paul want to visit Rome?
To see the spiritual fruit among them. Paul desired to see the fruits of his labors. He may not have been directly involved in establishing this body but because he brought this Gospel message to the Gentile world Paul was indirectly involved in building this body and he desired to see what fruits were coming from it.
Paul is indebted to the Gentiles (Greek and barbarian) to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This most likely refers to Gentile and possibly more specific the people of Spain. This body was probably made up of Christians, so Paul most likely referred to the ongoing work of teaching God’s word and discipling fellow believers.
Vs 16: Paul writes, “I am not ashamed of this Good News about Christ.” Paul was secure in, proud of and boastful of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The cross of Christ and the Gospel were considered by many outsiders as offensive and foolish. It was considered a crutch, a superstition, a fairy tale or just plain senseless. Those who followed the way of the cross were considered fools as well.
The word Gospel is derived from the Greek word Euaggeleion (Yoo-ang-ghel-ee-on) which means good tidings or good news. These are the glad tidings of the kingdom of God that is at hand and still to come and it is also the good news of Jesus the Messiah dying for our sins and resurrecting for our justification. The Central theme of the Gospel is salvation is available to all who believe because of the work of Jesus Christ on the cross of Calvary. This work is…
Why is Paul so bold and confident in the Gospel and why is it for us as well? Because it is the power of salvation. It is the mighty work of God to deliver, preserve and keep in Christ those who believe in Jesus Christ in faith. It is our current and future salvation; this means we are saved and redeemed for life here on earth and when we pass from this life to eternity. Theologian A.W. Pink writes, “We are saved from the penalty of sin, saved from the power (influence) of sin, and the pleasure of sin” (no true believer can find pleasure in sinful acts without guilt to follow). Professor Douglas Moo writes in his extensive commentary on Romans “(Salvation) can denote generally God’s provision for a person’s spiritual needs… It must also include the restoration of the sinner to share in God’s glory.”
Many Christians have the idea of salvation wrong. They think that the Gospel is a “get out of hell free” card or is a “fire protection” policy. Salvation is more than being saved from eternal death. It is the guarantee of a fruitful and abundant life on earth and the inheritance of future glory (eternal life). Salvation is for everyone who believes. It is the saving faith or complete faith and trust in God who justifies sinners through Jesus Christ.
The Gospel and the Righteousness of God
Vs 17: The Gospel not only shows the power of God unto salvation, but it also reveals the righteousness of God. Righteousness is an attribute that means all that is right. The Gospel brings light to or uncovers the faithfulness, goodness, kindness, grace, mercy, justice, and proper(ness) of God. There is no wrong, evil or injustice in Him. God’s righteousness is unveiled from faith for faith.
So, what is our takeaway for today? It is threefold…
 Moo, Douglas: The Epistle to the Romans. Grand Rapids, MI/Cambridge UK: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1996, p. 67
There is a story that goes like this…One day a man seeking wisdom and a deeper walk with God approached a wise and holy man. He said, “I see that you have such a great love for God. I want to have the same affection, love, and passion for God that you have. What must I do to do to attain this?” The wise man looked at him, turned and walked away and eventually looked back and told him to follow him down to the river. The wise man approached the river band He entered the calm rushing water. The man followed him into the water. They both waded into the water until it was about waist deep. The wise man grabbed the man by the head and with all his might dunked him under water for a few seconds. As he let the man up for air he said, “What is it that you desire most right now!” The man responded, “To have the love, affection, and passion for God that you have!” The holy man dunked him again, this time he kept him under water a little longer. He then let the man come up for air and asked the same question. The man responds, “To have the love, affection, and passion for God that you have!”. The holy man proceeds to dunk him again and again, each time holding the man under water a little longer. The final dunk kept the man under water for nearly a minute and when the man emerges, he is frantically gasping for air. The holy asks again, “What is it that you desire most right now?” The man, panting, coughing, and struggling to breath replies, “AIR! I need air!” Upon hearing his answer, the holy man helps the seeker out of the river, and he says, “When you get to the point in your life where you need God as much as you need air, then you will have the love, affection, passion for Him that you seek.”
Now, I am almost certain this story is a made-up tale, regardless of its authenticity the conclusion is true… our relationship with God is just as important as the air we breathe. Passion for God equals complete dependence on God. In modern times when we talk about passion, we generally equate it with things that excite you, a powerful desire for something or someone, or a strong uncontrollable emotion. It is not uncommon to see, hear, or read about individuals who are passionate about many things. I know people who are passionate about sports, music, art, cars, and so on. These people generally and genuinely have an extreme love for something that cannot or is nearly impossible to squelch.
When I think about passionate people in the Bible, I immediately turn the prophet, Elijah. Everything about him exudes love and passion for God. He had a unique mission in life. He was called by God to be a prophet who would win Israel back to the one true God after their affair with foreign idols. He passionately and furiously pursued God among a nation of idolators and unbelievers. His passion put him in difficult and dangerous situations, but these unusual circumstances ultimately led Israel back into a right relationship with God.
A few weeks ago, I talked about King Solomon. I talked extensively about Solomon’s wealth and wisdom and how. Unfortunately, he did not always rule with the wisdom God gave him. In the later years of his life, he allowed his heart to be swayed from the true God of Israel and tolerated and turned to foreign gods due to his weakness and desire for foreign women. God told him that if he did not change his ways the nation of Israel would one day be divided. After Solomon’s death the nation does go through a civil war and does divide. Israel was now divided into the Southern and Northern Kingdoms. The North consisted of 10 tribes and retained the name Israel. The Southern Kingdom was called Judah. Over time both Kingdom had many wicked Kings but fortunately the Southern kingdom had a few good Kings who followed God. However, the northern Kingdom had a history of wicked kings. The nation forgot their God and the kings never bothered to exhort the people to turn from their evil ways and return to God.
I Kings 16:29 - 34
Amid this ungodly period of the North there was one King named Ahab. He was and is considered Israel’s word King. I Kings 16:33 says, “He did more to provoke the anger of the LORD, the God of Israel, than any of other kings before him.”
Ahab married a woman named Jezebel. She was an evil woman. It is believed she is responsible for bringing Baal worship to the Northern Kingdom. She brought prophets of Baal with her, she had temples erected to Baal and she was very close with the leaders of this false God. I wouldn’t be wrong if I said she was passionate in commitment to Baal. Nonetheless, we know that she was an evil manipulative queen who had no regard for the God of the forefathers of Israel. She, like others before her, turned the people’s affection from the one true God to the false god Baal.
Enter the prophet, Elijah.
I Kings 18:1 – 2, 15 - 18
Elijah – A Man of Passion and Courage
Elijah was a prophet of God from Gilead. He was tasked by God to be a sort of thorn in the side of King Ahab. He was to inform Ahab about a draught coming in the land that would last for three years. he says there will be no rain until Elijah tells it to rain. God tells Elijah to leave the land and God would take care of him.
After three years of draught Elijah and King Ahab finally meet. Ahab says to Elijah, “So, is it really you, you troublemaker of Israel?” Elijah responds, “I have made no trouble for Israel,” Elijah replied. “You and your family are the troublemakers, for you have refused to obey the commands of the Lord and have worshiped the images of Baal instead. Now summon all Israel to join me at Mount Carmel, along with the 450 prophets of Baal and the 400 prophets of Asherah who are supported by Jezebel.” Game on! Elijah challenges Jezebel and Ahab’s prophets to a contest of sorts to declare who the true God really is.
Elijah says to the people of Israel, “How much longer will you waver, hobbling between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him! But if Baal is God, then follow him!” He then proceeds to challenge the prophets of Baal to a battle of the gods. The odds would seemingly be tacked against Elijah because there are 850 prophets of Baal and Asherah present as opposed to only him, but we cannot forget the God factor which turns the odds into his favor.
The contest goes like this… There are two bulls. One bull is given to the prophets of Baal to sacrifice, and the other is given to Elijah. Both will prepare the bulls and lay them on the wood but no fire. The prophets of Baal will call upon their god and Elijah will call upon his God. The one who answers with fire from heaven and consumes the sacrifice is the true God. The people agreed and thus the competition begins.
The prophets of Baal are up first. They begin by calling on the name of Baal. They cry out to Baal for hours on end. They believed if they yelled louder then Baal would hear them. Nothing happens. Elijah begins mocking them by saying, “Maybe your god is asleep, or on vacation, or maybe he is in the bathroom.” The prophets go to more extremes by crying louder and they cut themselves with sword and lances as was their custom. The prophets screamed at the top of their lungs; tired and a bloody mess they still receive no word or response from their god. Ironically Baal is the sun god, so sending fire down from heaven should be no problem whatsoever. After a long time the onlookers lose interest and move on.
Up next is Elijah. He builds an altar representing the twelve tribes of Israel. He cuts up and places the bull on the altar. He then tells the people to drench the sacrifice with water. There was so much water we read that the trenches around the altar were full. Elijah prays a simple but expectant prayer,
1 Kings 18:36 – 37: “At the usual time for offering the evening sacrifice, Elijah the prophet walked up to the altar and prayed, ‘O Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, prove today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant. Prove that I have done all this at your command. O Lord, answer me! Answer me so these people will know that you, O Lord, are God and that you have brought them back to yourself.’ At this moment a fire comes down from heaven came and consumes the sacrifice, the wood, AND all the water. Once the people saw the power of God they fell on their faces and worshiped God.
At the close of the contest Elijah had all the prophets seized and he kills them all.
1 Kings 18:45 – 46: The draught ended, and he gathers his garment and runs away.
Elijah Runs and Hears from God
When Jezebel hears what Elijah did, she puts out a hit on him. Elijah hears about this, and he runs for his life because he was afraid. He runs to Beersheba and embarks on a day’s journey into the wilderness. After this amazing victory and sign from God Elijah goes into a deep depression. Surprisingly, after all he has observed his God do and witnesses the power of God, he makes the conscious decision to run away from ONE person who threatens to kill him. In his deep depression he begs God to take his life. I believe this is where we get the term “valley experience.” Elijah experiences extreme spiritual high in his victory over the prophets of Baal but goes into a deep valley of depression soon thereafter.
Elijah is visited by an angel twice and given food. The LORD provides for him during his funk. Then he goes up to Mount Horeb for forty days to hide. The word of the LORD comes to him, and He asks what he is doing in seclusion. Elijah honestly admits his depression and loneliness. The Lord instructs him to go and stand before the mount of the LORD. Elijah does as he is told, and a strong wind, earthquake, and fire occur, and we are told that God was not in any of them. Instead, he hears a low whisper that is the voice of God telling him to anoint a king of Israel and Syria and appoint Elisha to be his successor as prophet in his place. God informs Elijah that there are seven thousand people in Israel who have not bowed the knee to Baal and will bow to God. In this we see God’s compassion and care as He visits and encourages Elijah in his darkest hours.
Elijah obeys and does as he’s told. The remainder of I Kings talks about the destruction of the worshipers of Baal and ultimately the demise of King Ahab, who’s death was prophesied by none other than the prophet Micaiah (who happens to hold a dear place in my heart).
2 Kings 2:11 – 12: After the battle, Elijah, and Elisha travel to Gigal and Elijah commissions to succeed him as prophet. In response Elisha asks for a double portion of Elijah’s Spirit. Elijah is taken up into heaven by a whirlwind and the chariots of God.
Elijah’s story and life are amazing. God uses his prophet in a mighty way. Through Elijah God brings a nation back to Him, he cleanses the nation of idolatry, and the prophet passionately defends and promotes God as the one true God of all. In this story we understand that passion for God does not mean you are a zealot, religious freak, or a loud cheerleader for God. It does not evenly remotely insinuate that you go out and kill pagans or mock unbelievers. Instead, we see that passion for God means having a strong and unwavering devotion to pursue God in your life, remain faithful to his call, and seek to glorify him above all else.
So, what is our takeaway? What can we glean from the life of Elijah and apply to our lives today?
Last week we were introduced to King David’ son and heir to the throne Solomon. You may recall when Saul became King God told him to ask him for anything he wanted, and he responded by asking for wisdom in ruling over the people in Israel. This was a noble thing for a King, or anybody for that matter) who is granted any wish. Solomon knew the importance of having godly wisdom in ruling over God’s people, so wisdom was needed to be an effective ruler. He began as a fair and just ruler, he took the vision of his father to build a Temple for God in Jerusalem and made it a reality, he established trade with other nations, he had a peaceful (for the most part) reign, and he possessed a wisdom that surpassed his contemporaries worldwide. Solomon wrote over 3,000 proverbs and 1,500 songs. Most of the book of Proverbs was written by him as well as the book of Ecclesiastes and The Song of Songs (Solomon).
Today we are going to look briefly at the book of Proverbs and more specifically wisdom. The book of Proverbs is one of three books from the Old Testament called the books of wisdom and literature. These books of wisdom include Ecclesiastes, Job, and Proverbs. A proverb is described as an object lesson that is based on or using comparison or analogy. Sometimes it is a short saying that offers a general truth, an object lesson learned from experience, a common or general example, or a model of future blessing or curse. The purpose of a proverb is to help one make a correct or wise decision among the options that are available. For example, Proverbs 9:9 – 12 says “Instruct the wise, and they will be even wiser. Teach the righteous, and they will learn even more. Fear of the Lord is the foundation of wisdom. Knowledge of the Holy One results in good judgment. Wisdom will multiply your days and add years to your life. If you become wise, you will be the one to benefit. If you scorn wisdom, you will be the one to suffer.” this speaks that the unwise way is to be avoided and the wise way should be followed.
Proverbs 1:1 – 7
“Wisdom” (ḥoḵmāh) basically means “skill.” It describes the “skill” of the craftsmen who worked in the tabernacle, the common sense of experienced mariners, clerical abilities, and the “wise advice” of a counselor. In the Book of Proverbs wisdom suggests skillful living and having the capacity to make wise choices and successfully live according to the principled standards of the covenant community. The person who lives skillfully generates things of long-lasting significance to God and to the community.
There is a story about automaker Henry Ford inquired of the electrical genius Charlie Steinmetz to build the generators for his factory. One day the generators ground to a halt, and the repairmen couldn't find the problem. So, Ford called Steinmetz, who tinkered with the machines for a few hours and then threw the switch. The generators whirred to life--but Ford got a bill for $10,000 from Steinmetz. Flabbergasted, the rather tightfisted car maker inquired why the bill was so high.
Steinmetz's reply: For tinkering with the generators, $10. For knowing where to tinker, $9,990. Ford paid the bill.
Today we will be looking at the topic of wisdom and more specifically what true wisdom does and does not look like. Just an FYI, we will not be spending our time in Proverbs, instead I have chosen to spend some time in the book of James where James speaks of the importance of having and asking for wisdom.
In this passage James, the author, says to his readers that if they lack wisdom, then they should ask God for wisdom, and He will give it generously. Above I noted that wisdom in the Old Testament was defined as the skill to live according to God’s ways and purposes. Contrary to popular thought and opinion wisdom is not the act of acquiring more knowledge, information, or intellect. It is not collecting data, learning more facts, or getting multiple degrees. Wisdom means much more than filling our heads with information and facts. The New Testament the Greek word for wisdom is Sophia σοφία which means having the ability to understand resulting in the act prudence. This simply means wisdom is having knowledge and putting into practicing the fundamentals for godly and upright living. It is not enough to just have knowledge; it involves the action of putting into practicing what you know. Wisdom is having the ability to take knowledge, understand it, and apply it to make the right decisions.
Wisdom and Understanding
James 3:13 – 18
James spends some in these verses talking about what it means to have wisdom and understanding. In previous verses he talks about the dangers of the tongue or words we speak and concludes with a challenge to use our words wisely by allowing the Spirit to be our guide in our speech. In this passage describe that a person who allows the Spirit to control his/her words is in fact a wise person. Now, James shows us exactly what true wisdom looks like and what false wisdom looks like.
Vs.13: James asks, “those who claim to be wise and understand spiritual matters” to come forward so they may be tested or put under a microscope to determine if their claims are authentic or not. He is not asking to check someone’s theological beliefs, backing or intellect, instead he says that a person’s wisdom is made evident by the life he or she leads, and the good works he or she does. He tells them wisdom is not necessarily based or rooted in theological understanding and intellect.
The basis to which one demonstrates wisdom is by the life one leads. The wise person does not live contrary to the ways of God, but instead by his/her good deeds that bring glory to God. True wisdom ultimately produces good deeds and humility. As I have noted in the past that these traits or deeds are not ones that save us but they are evidence of the true faith in Jesus we have.
The humility a person displays in godly wisdom is found in the understanding of our place before God. Wisdom is birthed in us as we understand and acknowledge that apart from God, we are unable to achieve the level of spirituality God requires of us. If we truly understand, in humility, the part we play in our salvation, the grace we have received, and the mercy shown to us then we will display true wisdom in the way we conduct our lives and treat others. With godly wisdom there is no room for boasting and there is no room for pride because everything we have is given to us by God.
On the contrary the pagans believed that intellect and understanding of divine things (with no regard moral conduct in most cases) constituted wisdom and James puts this idea to rest.
It reminds me of this story… In January of 1970 Max Born, a German physicist and mathematician who was instrumental in the development of quantum mechanics died. He was a close friend of Albert Einstein and a colleague of Max Planck and Otto Hahn, the nuclear physicists, he was one of the great minds of the twentieth century. In an interview on German television before his death, Born commented: “I’d be happier if we had scientists with less brains and more wisdom.”
Vs. 14: The leaders or believers who claimed to be wise were displaying bitter jealousy and selfish ambition and because of this they were not fooling other, they were fooling only themselves. Jealousy and selfish ambition are the antithetical to humility that is weaved into the wisdom of God and from God.
Vs. 15: This false wisdom the believers claim and brag about is not from God. An empty intellectual wisdom that reaps bitter jealousy and selfish ambition is earthly (no regard for the will of God or His realm), unspiritual (or man derived), and most emphatically demonic (pertaining to demons. It is derived and inspired by demons). False wisdom is always characterized by the world, the flesh, and the devil.
Vs 16: The attributes that makes false wisdom distinctly demonic are envy, jealousy, and selfish ambition thus displaying disorder and evil works. God is not a God of disorder but of peace (1 Cor. 14:33). Thus, when jealousy and selfish ambition are present God is not in the situation and the result always damages individuals and the whole church.
Vs. 17: James now describes what godly wisdom is. Like true faith is evidenced by the good deeds true wisdom is evidenced by the fruit or the life a person leads.
True wisdom is…
Vs 18: A person with godly wisdom sows peace that will ultimately produce the righteousness of God. According to James 1:20 the anger of men (which is earthly, of the flesh and demonic) does not produce the righteousness of God. According to 3:18 peace does. In Matthew 5:9 Jesus says, “God blesses those who work for peace, for they will be called children of God.”
Wisdom… We all wish we had more wisdom in our daily decision making. How often have you found yourself in a situation where you could use some wise counsel or a little godly wisdom in making the right decision? How wonderful would it be if we could just look up into the sky and find the answers written in the sky to life’s most difficult decisions? As parents, employees, employers, students, disciples and ultimately believers in general we need to ask for wisdom, and we should have wisdom in our daily decisions. Our wisdom should first and foremost be grounded in humility and have the eight traits of wisdom that James describes. In Matthew 10:16 Jesus warns his disciples about the persecution they will face, he tells them (and us) to be shrewd or wise as serpents (seek and use godly wisdom) and be gentle or harmless (an attribute to godly wisdom) as doves because we are being sent out to the wolves of the world who will seek to devour God’s people.
James was writing to a church that was facing division and dissension and now we see his solution to the problem of dissension that may have arisen in these churches. These individuals who claimed to be wise and influential were using their words to cause divisions and disorder in the body. However, James shows that a wise person will be one who has submitted himself to God in humility and allows himself to be spirit-filled and driven in all aspects of his life including and especially in areas of the words he speaks and the wisdom he exudes.
Jeff has been in full-time ministry for thirty years. He currently serves as Executive Director at Anchor House Ministry at SeaPort Manatee in Palmetto, FL and he is a part-time Campus Pastor at West Bradenton Southside in Bradenton, Florida.
Jeff Has authored A Lent Devotional (A Spiritual Journey to Lent) an Advent Devotional (The Advent of Jesus) and a devotional on the book of James (James: Where Faith and Life Meet). All three are available on Amazon.
He is married to Carrie and they have four children, Micaiah, Gabe, Simon, and Berea.
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