Wisdom from Above (James 3:13-18)

First Baptist Church http://fbcbartow.org

 

“Wisdom from Above”

(James 3:13-18)

Series: Living the Faith [on screen]

Rev. Matthew C. McCraw, EdD

First Baptist Church, Bartow, Florida

March 4, 2018

Introductory Comments:

Have you ever thought about what makes a person wise?

Oftentimes we have these ideas of what makes someone wise. Perhaps it’s someone that wears glasses. Or, someone with gray hair. Perhaps we think of owls when we think of someone who is wise. Maybe someone with a lot of degrees on his or her wall. Or, someone who likes to read a lot.

Now, let me ask, “How many of you want to be wise?”

James speaks in today’s passage about evidence of someone having wisdom.

Let’s check out what he says. Look at the passage with me.

Read the Passage

Read James 3:13-18

13 Who among you is wise and understanding? By his good conduct he should show that his works are done in the gentleness that comes from wisdom. 14 But if you have bitter envy and selfish ambition in your heart, don’t boast and deny the truth. 15 Such wisdom does not come down from above but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16 For where there is envy and selfish ambition, there is disorder and every evil practice. 17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peace-loving, gentle, compliant, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without pretense. 18 And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who cultivate peace.

Let’s pray together.

(Prayer)

James gives us here these two positions that are opposed to each other. Two versions of wisdom: one which is the real deal and one which is an imitation of the real thing.

We’ll learn the difference between those who pretend to be wise, and those who really are wise.

We’ll see that one version of wisdom comes from above and another version comes from below.

Let’s learn what true wisdom is.

Three characteristics of wisdom.  Here we go.

First, . . .

I. Wisdom from above leads to good conduct (13)  [on screen]

Look at verse 13.

13 Who among you is wise and understanding? By his good conduct he should show that his works are done in the gentleness that comes from wisdom.

James is setting up an opportunity for someone to show the genuineness of his or her wisdom.

This is very much in line with what he has said concerning faith.

Now, James probably still has in mind those who desire to teach. He spoke to them in verse 1, and he is probably carrying on that theme. However, make no mistake, this teaching applies beyond just aspiring teachers.

This is an “if – then” statement. If you have real wisdom and understanding, then you will show it by your good conduct.

James is at it again in terms of challenging us to really demonstrate what we claim to have.

James is telling us that wisdom is not merely intellectual knowledge. It also involves accompanying behavior.

The wisdom that comes from God will be seen in our good conduct.

Part of this conduct is gentleness.

(pause)

Now, some of us immediately think that we don’t want to be gentle. Particularly, those of us who are men.

Some men like to demonstrate that we are tough and rough.

We must know that being strong does not mean that we cannot be gentle.

We may think that if we are loud, or rough, or intimidating that somehow makes us powerful, or it somehow makes us persuasive.

You can be strong and be gentle. You can be a leader and be humble. You can be a mover and shaker, while all the while not running over other people.

Do you think you are wise?  Do you think you’re understanding?  Show it in your good conduct, which is led by gentleness.

Gentleness is exhibited in several different ways.

Gentleness means that we think of others first.

Gentleness means that we are patient with others.

Gentleness means that we go out of our way not to cause harm.

Gentleness means that we practice self-control with others.

Gentleness means that we are confident in the strength that God has given us and we don’t need to intimidate people to feel strong.

So, good conduct and gentleness is a sign of true wisdom, as well as someone changed by the gospel.  Don’t shun it, embrace it!

(pause)

The second characteristic of wisdom is that . . .

II. Earthly wisdom is selfish and envious (14-16) [on screen]

Look at verses 14-16.

14 But if you have bitter envy and selfish ambition in your heart, don’t boast and deny the truth. 15 Such wisdom does not come down from above but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16 For where there is envy and selfish ambition, there is disorder and every evil practice.

James first says that we should not boast or brag about having selfish ambition and vain conceit.

We shouldn’t take joy, or place value, in the fact that we have traits that are the opposite of true displays of godliness.

Well, what of this bitter envy and selfish ambition.

Bitter envy means that we really want something that someone else has.  We desire it to the point that we are bitter.

Selfish ambition means that we are motivated to do something, we have ambition for something, that serves us and our own interests.

James says that if you have these things, you should not boast about it. For if you do, you are denying the truth.

This is a very denial of the life that the gospel calls us to live.

We should stop pretending that we have wisdom is this is what we have. This is not the real thing!

Illustration: Have you ever been at a restaurant and you ask for a Coke, and they bring you a Pepsi?  I’m not saying anything negative towards Pepsi, but if you want a Coke and they bring you a Pepsi, that’s a problem. It’s not the real thing. You can’t beat the real thing!

So, also, with wisdom. You need the real thing!

We need true wisdom from God!

Next, James makes it clear where this supposed “wisdom” comes from.

It does not come from above; it does not come from God.

This is in contrast to the wisdom that does come from above, about which we read in James chapter 1.

Remember these passages?

5 Now if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God—who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly—and it will be given to him. [on screen]

17 Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. [on screen]

This line of thinking is earthly; it comes from natural human origins, not supernatural.

It is unspiritual.  Again, not from God, but from ungodly sources.

Finally, it is demonic. That’s pretty clear. This line of thinking is from the devil himself.

Not what we want, folks!

(pause)

James says envy and selfish ambition causes disorder and evil practices.

Not following the way of God creates disorder and brokenness in our lives.

God is not a God of confusion; He is not a God of disorder.

He wants direction, order, and clarity in our lives.

However, when we depart from His ways and pursue our own ways, it creates a mess. That’s what sin will do!

It will create disorder and lead to every evil practice.

Notice, again, that in verse 13 wisdom is verified by gentleness and good conduct.

Envy, selfish ambition, disorder, and evil practice are the opposite of gentleness and good conduct!

This is anything but true wisdom. This is not from God!

Arrogance, envy, selfishness, and foolishness go together. So, also, does gentleness, good conduct, humility and true wisdom.

Wisdom from above leads to good conduct.

Earthly wisdom is selfish and envious.

Finally, we learn that . . .

III. Wisdom from above produces godly fruit (17-18) [on screen]

How does true wisdom from God, wisdom from above, look?

Well, it produces godly fruit.

Let’s look again at verses 17 and 18.

17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peace-loving, gentle, compliant, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without pretense. 18 And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who cultivate peace.

First of all, James reminds us that this wisdom is from above. That is, it is from God.

We should be thankful to God that He gives us true wisdom!  What a gift!

Then, James gives us these characteristics of wisdom from above.

Listen, folks: this is a treasure that James gives us this list.

Again, we don’t have to wonder what godly wisdom looks like. He tells us.

I can almost imagine him saying, “Here’s the secret. Are you ready?”

Illustration: I just got back from a conference sponsored in part by the Florida Baptist Convention. It was very helpful. Many people love conferences.  They will give up time and money to learn something that gives them an edge in life. Conferences, books, DVDs, and more to learn success.

Well, James is giving us the secret sauce to true wisdom!

It is,

Pure – true wisdom is not tainted by evil. It’s pure.

Peace-loving – true wisdom does not look for trouble but looks for peace.

Gentle – again, it is gentle. It looks to be helpful to others, not harmful.

Compliant – true wisdom does not try to start arguments but tries to be reasonable and compliant.

Full of mercy – true wisdom leads us to be people of mercy; quick to forgive; quick to overlook an offense.

Full of good fruits – true wisdom produces godliness in us.

Unwavering – true wisdom sticks to the truth and the correct way without wavering.

Without pretense – true wisdom does not put on a false front but is genuine and real all of the time.

Most of all, it is guided, both in the beginning and throughout, by peace.

We are to be people of peace and we are to produce even more peace.

Peace should guide us in the wisdom process.

A person with true wisdom is a person who sows peace.

(pause)

Wisdom is not just learning; it’s not just knowledge; it’s behavior and life change.

Does your wisdom possess these things?  If not, it’s not from God.

Concluding Thoughts:

James wants us to know true wisdom. He wants us to experience the wisdom that is from God and to see the superiority of it over the wisdom offered by the world.

 

(pause)

Think about the beauty of not worrying about seeking the wisdom of the world. We don’t have to worry if we’ve found the real thing. We know that we have it!

Illustration: Do you remember when you were young and you wanted to have just the right pair of shoes, or just the right car, to be cool?  We still struggle with it often today!  We’re seeking the right identity!  We want to be on the right side of things.  Well, if you want to have real wisdom, the most valuable kind, we know where to find it!  We know what it is! Seek the wisdom of God!  Seek it with all that you have.

That takes us to our bottom line:

Bottom Line: Live as one who is truly wise[on screen]

(repeat)

Where do you seek wisdom?  Do you seek it at all?  If so, where?

Do you want to be wise?  Have godly character!

Don’t settle for the fake thing. Have real wisdom!

Live as one who is truly wise.

Here’s our weekly challenge for this week:

Weekly Challenge: [on screen]

  1. Reject the fruit of worldly wisdom.  [on screen]

You know what it’s like to reject bad fruit at the grocery store. In the same way, reject the bad fruit of earthly wisdom.

When you see things messed up in your life, maybe it’s because someone is being led by worldly wisdom.

Do you have broken relationships?  Broken families?  Broken churches?  It’s because someone is being led by the wisdom of the world, by demonic wisdom, rather than the wisdom of God.

Reject the fruit of worldly wisdom.

  1. Seek the fruit of true wisdom.  [on screen]

Seek the real thing!

Remember, to seek it from above; from God!

Seek it from God’s Word. Seek it from God’s people, those who demonstrate that they have the wisdom of God.

Pray that God would give you wisdom, and pray that God would give our church wisdom.

Church, we need wisdom here at FBC Bartow. We need peace here at FBC Bartow. Let’s seek it together!  Let’s seek it through humility!

Closing:

We should seek the way of God. We desperately need Him and His ways.

Proverbs 14:12 tells us this,

There is a way that seems right to a person, but its end is the way to death. [on screen]

Our way will fail us. We need God and His way.

His way has been shown to us most explicitly through Jesus.

(Gospel Presentation)

(Closing Prayer)

Invitation Song – I Surrender All

Benediction:

Thanks for being here today church.

Tonight we will gather for a listening session to discuss how we will achieve our vision as a church.  I hope you’ll join us at 5:30 PM.

Don’t forget about our VBS luncheon next week and our Annie Armstrong Easter Offering.

Let’s dismiss by singing the Doxology. 

(Sing Doxology)

God bless you, church!  See you tonight!

COPYRIGHT DISCLAIMER: The text contained in this sermon is solely owned by its author. The reproduction, or distribution of this message, or any portion of it, should include the author’s name. The author intends to provide free resources in order to inspire believers and to assist preachers and teachers in Kingdom work.