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Steve Mickel: Wisdom, James 3:13-18

August 15, 2022

Audio Recording

The world is confused and confusing, true religion cuts through the noise and leads us to eternal perspective (and this perspective is seen most profoundly in the way we communicate.) 

Steve Mickel: Wisdom, James 3:13-18

Sermon Transcript:

:00 You're listening to a live recording from Westside church in bend, Oregon. Thanks for joining us.

00:06 Well, let's dive in, just for a few more minutes that we have together, to, into this letter of James today, we're gonna be looking at wisdom. and James talks a lot about wisdom. He describes two kinds of wisdom, a wisdom that's above and a wisdom from below a heavenly wisdom and an earthly wisdom. And when I think about the wisdom of this world, for some reason, I think about bumper stickers and memes. I mean, I just think there's a lot of wisdom out there that are being kind of being shot back and forth. And they're actually, there's some really good ones. There's some really interesting ones disappeared. I'll just reading from the, the screen. you'll see. 'em as well. I just, I thought these were some of these were kind of funny. Mitch Hedberg says I'm sick of following my dreams, man.

00:48 I'm just going to ask where they're going and hook up with them later. not a bad idea. before you criticize someone, you should walk a mile in their shoes. That way, when you criticize them, you are a mile away from them and you have their shoes. well Ferrell. Before you bury a person, you should first make them use a computer with slow internet to see who they really are. Jimmy Kimel. I never feel more alone than when I'm trying to put sunscreen on my back. Dave Barry, my therapist told me the way to achieve true inner piece is to finish what I start so far. I finished two bags of M and Ms. And a chocolate cake. I feel better already. this is my favorite one. I have a lot of growing up to do. I realize that the other day inside my Fort, oh my gosh.

01:41 So good. These are, you know, they're just little, you know, and there's wisdom out there, but the kind of wisdom that James is talking about is not one sentence pithy sayings that usually, you know, they have, do have some truth to them. James is actually looking at something bigger, more, more deeper that can sustain us through the trials of this life that can guide us through trouble and hardship that can, that, that can last a wisdom that can last a wisdom that, that goes further and deeper. And to help us understand that, we're gonna look at two passages in James very, very quickly, James chapter one versus five through eight and James chapter three verse, 13 through 18. And James writes in, chapter one, verse five.

02:29 Let me get there for you. Usually I have a little note thing, but I was like, oh, I'm just gonna turn to it. That's why I have a little stick note there. Verse five. Any of you lacks wisdom, anybody , everybody should be raising their hand. those in the trick questions. It's not rhetorical. If any of you lacks wisdom, that's me. That's you let him ask God who gives generously to all without reproach. And it will be given him, but let him ask in faith with no doubting for the one who doubts. It's like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the win for that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord. He is a double mind man, unstable in all his ways. So James introduces this idea of wisdom and this wisdom, is, is his concept of wisdom was from a Jewish background.

03:28 James was, as we've talked about was the half brother of Jesus. He was born and raised in kind of the Jewish Hebrew scriptures. And so his understanding of wisdom came from that place. And in Proverbs chapter two, part of the Hebrew scriptures, it says, make your, I attentive to wisdom and incline your heart to understanding if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God for the Lord gives wisdom from his mouth, comes knowledge and understanding. See the wisdom that that James is talking about is something that you have to search for. You have to have a desire in you to find this treasure, this hidden treasure, Jesus talked about a treasure in a field that you have to go and search for this idea.

04:24 That wisdom is easy. Wisdom may not be wisdom. You have to, there's a wisdom that you have to search for it. You have to discover it. And, and God's wisdom isn't found in a meme or a bumper sticker might be traces of it, but it's by searching and seeking out the knowledge and understanding of God. That's the wisdom that James is talking about, the knowledge and understanding of God it's knowing and understanding him and his ways his will, his purpose it's that's God's wisdom is discovering who he is and what he's about. It's like, I think of wisdom, as a rudder for a ship and the wisdom of God is like a rudder that will guide you through, calm waters and rough waters. It will help you get through trials and struggles and temptations. It's God's wisdom will guide you, but worldly wisdom.

05:26 The other kind of wisdom that James talks about is like a boat without a rudder, which means you'll end up being tossed back and forth. See if this sounds familiar with whatever is trending, whoever is kind of in office, whatever is whatever, somebody that you respect thinks you end up being kind of going back and forth in this world. And you, and suddenly you wake up one day and you go like I, what is right and what is wrong? What is up and what is down? See God's wisdom can be that, that, that stability, that guides you when the world is going crazy, when everything is turned upside down, when things don't make sense, when you go through illness and struggle, it's just like this rudder that can guide you through this wisdom, right? And you're not swayed by every wind of doctrine, a good idea or blown about by life's hardships.

06:21 That's what James that's why James tells us is to keep on asking if you lack wisdom asks for it. It's not a one and done the, the word in the Greek. There is like, keep on doing that. Keep on asking every single day, because we all struggle with the lack of wisdom we all struggle with because we're human with this being tossed back and forth. And then James goes a little bit deeper in chapter three of his letter, about wisdom in chapter three, verse 13, he asks, who is wise and understanding among you. That's, that's a rhetorical question. because he answers that question by his good conduct. Let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but as earthly unspiritual, demonic for where jealousy and selfish ambition exists, there will be disorder and every vial practice.

07:25 But the wisdom from above is for as pure than peaceable, gentle, open to reason full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere, and a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace. This is like, he's contrasting two types of wisdom, right? There's this wisdom that, that, that is so foreign to us as human beings, this wisdom that is gentle and humble and, and open to reason. This is so foreign to us. I wanna give a shout out to Ben north Ben north little league made it to the world series down in, San Bernardino. And they were one score away from getting all the way to, Williams support for the world series. And it was a bummer call. I don't know if you guys follow it, it's on ESPN and all this. It was a bummer call at the very end of the game. They should have. They should have gotten there. Ben north. Now my kid played for Ben south, but I'm just, I'm, I'm putting that to the side right now and supporting bend. You know what I'm saying? But let me, if you wonder what the difference between the wisdom from above and the wisdom from below, think of little league parents. ,

08:48 It's just there's man. There's some like, oh my gosh. And it's not just the dads. No, no, no. There's some little league moms that I would, I just like, I'll take two steps back that you do what you're gonna do. my mom was one of those. actually, my mom almost got thrown out of a basketball game in my, in high school. I was in high school playing basketball and she almost got thrown out of a game and the ref actually stopped the game and told her you, I, I hear another word from you. You're out. my mom. Some of you know, Rosemary Kel, she's the sweetest, not when her kids are playing sports, man. The wisdom of God goes out the window. See that that's the reality for all of us is that we, we, cuz we grow up in this skin, we grow up in this dirt, this earthly earthly unspiritual reality that it's on us and it's, and we just think, we think like the world, it's the way it is.

09:52 There is no other way around that. So when, so when you look at the list of godly wisdom and you go like, Ooh, Ooh, you know, don't, don't like beat yourself up about it. It's all of us. It's a whole nother way. It's a different way. That's why the redemption of Jesus. That's the way the restoration of Jesus means so much is because he is another way. It's a new way. It's a fresh way, but we're, but we're locked in. We're caught in this thing, right? And James uses this word selfish ambition. Matter of fact, he was as Bo I think Bo pastor Bo mentioned, this was the, the first book written of the new Testament before even the gospels or anything. And so James was the first one to coin this phrase, selfish ambition. He there's actually a lot of words that he used that the new Testament authors borrowed from later, but he was the first one to use this word selfish ambition. And only Aristotle had used it prior to that. And it means Aristotle the way he used it was to mean, described a political posturing through unjust means. And he was saying to the, the church, you're gonna be tempted to try to influence your culture through the ways of this world by politically posturing yourself. I don't, I mean, I don't think that's happened,

11:15 Right? It's this, it's this idea that we, we can get find ourselves, even within the church, getting caught up in using the wisdom of this world to try to influence our culture. And, and, and James is so clear. There's another way. There's another kind of wisdom that he wants to break us out of this reality of posturing ourselves and trying to get our way and, and being jealous and envious of what other people have and, and prideful and boastful and, and selfish. And, oh man, this sounds like it's my Monday. That sounds like my Monday where I I'm, I lean this way and James describes another type of wisdom. It's so beautiful that I think he saw demonstrated by his half brother. Jesus. So I think Bo mentioned as well. Maybe Ben said it last week, James, wasn't a believer while Jesus walked on the earth.

12:14 So, so I mean, and we don't blame him, right? I mean, any of you have siblings, they come to you and say, I'm the son of God. You're like, you're crazy. let me get you to the hospital, bro. and so he, he was like, Jesus, but he saw he was front row seat to the way Jesus lived. And then when Jesus rose from the dead, the Bible says that Jesus visited James. His brother personally just like came to him and said, here I am James man, what a beautiful moment that must have been for brothers. And for James to realize that this guy was who he always said he was. And then James is writing his letter and I'm, I'm sure he's recalling the way Jesus lived his life, the way Jesus postured himself, the way that he demonstrated the wisdom of God, because James is telling us that the wisdom of God is not knowing more things.

13:13 It's about demonstrating more things. It's about, it's not about knowing certain doctrine. It's about living certain it's about showing. This is what it means to be a Christ follower. This is what it looks like. If you ever wonder, if someone has the wisdom of God, you look at their character and see what's growing in them. No, they, they haven't arrived. None of us have, but there's a sense of like they're moving in this direction and James describes this direction in such a beautiful way that Jesus embodied the wisdom of God in these ways. He says, but the wisdom from above is first. Now, as I read this, we're gonna put the list up is I read this. Would you just look at that? Every time I read this, there's a couple of them, at least that jump off the page and just kind of, and I think the holy spirit says, there's you, you lack a little wisdom in this area, pure peaceable, gentle, open to reason full of mercy, good fruits, impartial, sincere.

14:31 Just ask God, what am I growing in these things? Am I, am I becoming more like Jesus in these ways, in my relationships, in my parenting, in my workplace, am I, am I displaying these things? Right? Wisdom shows the wisdom above shows itself by how we respond and live in this world. And by the way, don't assume that only Christians display this wisdom. Isn't that interesting? You'll see this. I've seen this in different people and I, and, and every time I see these characteristics kind of emerging in people's lives, I always think to myself, those people are not far from the kingdom of heaven, cuz they're living this out. And by the way, don't suppose that every Christian displays this wisdom , that would be a mistake we're growing. But I don't know about you, but I've been a Christian A. Long time and I've got, and I got, and I realized as I was studying for this, I've gotten to a place where I'm not the guy James talking to.

15:42 If any of you lacks wisdom, I'm not that guy. I know God, I know his ways. I figured him out. You should be laughing right now. Mocking me but I did. I, I like I've been in this a long time. I've I can't tell you how many messages I've heard, how many I've preached and we can get to this place where we start to think this is for someone else. Is it for the, the new Christian or for the people that are kind of ex you know, exploring Christianity. This is for all of us, cuz we fall short. Every single one of us have. We keep falling short .

16:27 So God help us cuz wisdom from above a scene in our conduct. And James makes it really clear that the primary difference between the wisdom of the, of heaven and the wisdom of the world comes down to really one word humility. You just go through that list and you begin to realize that someone that has selfish, Ambu and pride is not going to live these things out. There's not just gonna have a really hard time with these things open to reason, a chance gentle. No way. I got cut for my junior, my, my junior year, I got cut from the basketball team cuz my mom didn't yell enough in the games.

17:18 they pulled me in it's between me and this other guy named Rick funny. I still remember Rick's name he still lives in central Oregon. So I won't give you Rick's last name. yo Rick. He knows who he is. And he got the position and I got cut. They pulled me into the, to the locker room. You know, it was that day and, and it's not good when you get called in by the coach on that day and they say, Hey Steve, we, we're gonna, we're gonna cut you. We're gonna let you go from the team. And then, and then this is what they said. and the reason why it kind of came down to, we just knew you would take it better.

17:59 It bugged me, you guys, for the next many years, I started playing college basketball at a small Bible college don't let that impress you or anything. But I started playing. I started playing college ball and this, it stuck with me. Like I thought maybe I need to be more mean aggressive, less gentle. And it would be so easy to buy into all of that because that's the way in our world. You get ahead, you make the team. Some of you just are not, you're getting really uncomfortable right now because you, because we, we think there's two different worlds that we're allowed to live by two different wisdoms in the business world in athletics. I can live this way. I can. I don't selfish am. Yeah, I'm ambitious. I'm gonna take what I can get.

18:59 But when I come to church, man, I'll put that to the side. No problem, pastor. No problem. I'll come in. Right? And we're like, well, wait a second. See, this is why it's this why it's so hard for us because it's so contrary to the way of the world, what Jesus says to us. the Jewish rabbi Halel he said these words about a hundred years before Jesus, came, was born. He said to begin with one self, but not to end with one self to start with one's self, but not to aim at one's self to comprehend ones, self, but not to be preoccupied with one self.

19:44 So you all see the movie king Richard didn't who saw the movie king Richard it's oh my goodness. You guys gotta get out more people. I don't know. Yeah. It's a, it is a movie about Richard Williams, the father of, of Serena and Venus Williams. It's so, so good. And there's this moment in this movie where, where Venus is like winning, she is beating up on people like she's still in high school and she's beating people way older than her. And it's like amazing. She's like winning and they're and this, this scene, they're all her sisters and her are in the backseat. Richard and his wife are driving the van and they're in this van and they're bragging it up in the backseat. I mean they are. And they're starting to like kind of like give the girls that are losing a little bit of a hard time, you know?

20:27 I mean, they're just like, they're just living this up. They're girls, they're teenagers. They're like, man, we're good. We're good. You know, Richard pulls the van over and, but he pulls it over at a market and he has, and he tells the girls to get out and get some soda. So they do they close the van door. He takes off. He's gonna make them walk home. I think they're still living in Compton at this time. He's gonna make them walk home. And he turns around anybody. Remember why he turned around to go get the girls, his wife? Yeah, this is not gonna happen. She's like you turned this car over. We are not gonna make our girls walk anyway. So he goes, but the point was is he was trying to break something in his girl's lives, something of this world that attaches to us pride, arrogance, rudeness, unkindness.

21:23 He was just trying to break something. I don't know if that's the best way to do it, but he was just saying, this is not the way we will be. And if you know their, their careers, they were one of the most successful and humble people on the tennis courts. But I want us to put us that list back up for another moment, just to, it's almost like I'm taking the screw you guys and kind of just, I know I'm putting it back up there and I want us to pray a prayer of David. As you look at that list, as you ponder it, as you think about it, I want you to pray this prayer. It's a good prayer to prayer. You might want to think about praying every single day, search me. Oh God. And know my heart. Test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you and lead me along the path of everlasting life.

22:30 What is it today? This week that could use a little more of God's wisdom. What is it in your life today that offends the wisdom of God? God, show us your wisdom. Show us what it looks like in this life. Help us to be honest with ourselves and with you, help us to embody your wisdom here and now with meekness and gentleness, with purity and impartiality, with peace and mercy. Well, I wanna finish up with one last thing. What's the result. This will be brief. What's the result of God's wisdom. The result of the world's wisdom is turmoil disorder, disunity. This is what James is talking about. And I've seen this we've we've all seen this over these last couple of years, right? When we kind of whatever's right in our own eyes that doesn't lead to unity and peace. It leads to war and, and, and, and this and this division and families and churches that are just it's. So not the way of God's wisdom. And what James says here is that the result of God's wisdom is a harvest of righteousness. That is sown in peace by those who make peace. God's wisdom leads us to Shalom, which is a Hebrew word for peace. It means wholeness, completeness, health. It's like everything fits where it's supposed to fit. It's internal rest. Everything is working even when things are not working outside of us. It's it's, there's this sense of, of calm of like, okay, everything around me is falling apart.

24:20 Shao, tranquility, peacefulness. Yeah. I'm, I'm acknowledging this, this, that there's things not right in this world or even in my life. But, but if I allow God's wisdom to lead me, it will lead me to quiet pastures and still waters. Oh, we need this. And our world needs this. They don't need to know more. What, you know, they need to see what we believe about God, by the way that we live, by the way that we demonstrate God's wisdom in our lives and in our relationships, in our parenting, in our athletics, in our, in our workplace, they just, they need to see that, that we respond differently than the way of this world. Because we live by a different ethic. We live by a different set of guidelines of principles of wisdom. Though, we go through trials and temptations and struggles and every single day, there's this confidence, this peace, this stillness, this boldness to live out the meekness of God's wisdom

25:46 To show the world. There is another way, a better way. Would you put your hands out in front of you like this? Like you're about to receive a gift like I'm about to hand you something, cuz I, I think the holy spirit wants to hand you something today. He wants to put something into your hands. James said, if you lack wisdom, ask for it. And God who is generous will give it without reproach. Which means doesn't matter. What's going on in your life. It doesn't matter whether you think you deserve it or not. If you ask for it, he will give it. So Jesus, we're asking,

26:22 We know that we are caught in our humanity. And sometimes that means we live out of a different kind of wisdom that is full of envy and jealousy, selfish, ambition, and pride. We know this, but we acknowledge that today and we're asking Jesus for a new kind of wisdom that comes from your father through the power of the holy spirit, awaken this wisdom of gentleness and kindness and goodness and open to reason. And oh, awaken that in us today, let your wisdom rule our lives, guide our lives, our decisions, our parenting, our relationships, our voting, our coming in and our going out our conversations. Every aspect of our lives lets your wisdom, the characteristics of your son, Jesus win in our lives today. We pray in Jesus name. Amen.