Seeking Heavenly Wisdom


This section of the book is based on a sermon prepared and given in 2008. The outline is provided by Dr. Mark Copeland at Executable Outlines. We have touched on the only indisputable matter; that being Christ Jesus is the Son of God and the Savior of the world. We have talked about faith and denominational-ism. It strikes me as important to seek heavenly wisdom as we continue our search through His Truth.

We can rest on our intelligence and believe all the answers needed are already possessed. Or we can surrender our pride and seek His wisdom.

Father, we seek You and Your wisdom. We ask Your Holy Spirit to show us the Truth. We set aside our preconceptions, our misconceptions, our poor understanding and ask You to show us the better, more perfect way. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Wisdom is knowledge from God’s perspective. Think of it this way; men have struggled to gain knowledge through various intellectual pursuits, but have they found wisdom? Because a man can recite the chemical structures of all the known elements, does he possess wisdom? Because a man can recreate all the mathematic principles ever known, does he hold wisdom? The answer is, “No” to all these.

We are going to examine James 3:13-18. The author of this General Letter is the half brother of the Lord, Jesus Christ.

There was a time James was offended by Christ and His ministry. Undoubtedly the Sadducees and Pharisees heaped insult and scorn on Christ’s family. James and his brothers challenged Jesus.

Scripture does not say, but I would imagine James saw the torturous beatings Jesus suffered. At the least James saw his mother’s anguish and that she recounted what she saw to him. Scripture does not say, but I would imagine James saw Christ on the Cross.

We know that Jesus made Himself known to James after the resurrection and that James became a leader of the church in Jerusalem.

James 3:13-18

Who is wise and understanding among you? 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 is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then 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.

James is laying down a challenge to the church. Many teachers are claiming to have a special knowledge, but James suggests that knowledge is not heavenly knowledge, but is worldly. Worldly knowledge is deceiving and that is what caused James concern.

Worldly wisdom is factionalized. Self styled teachers would emerge with their own brand of understanding and cause divisions in the church, even then.

This kind of problem can be seen in the Church today. For example, orthodox Christians are committed to believe in the fundamental doctrine that salvation rests in believing in Christ.

John 3:16

For thus God loves the world, so that He – gives His only-begotten Son, that everyone who is believing in Him should not be perishing, but may be having life eonian. (CLV)

Orthodox Christians believe that at the moment a person genuinely believes that Christ lived, died and was resurrected the Holy Spirit comes into the spirit of that man.

Other brothers and sisters in Christ who are not part of the orthodox traditions truly believe the indwelling of the Spirit does not transpire until a baptism in water is completed.

Man’s wisdom causes division and that is James’ concern.

For the sake of clearest understanding think of wisdom as knowledge from God’s perspective. The OT speaks of wisdom in this way.

Proverbs 3

Blessed is the one who finds wisdom, and the one who gets understanding, for the gain from her is better than gain from silver and her profit better than gold. She is more precious than jewels, and nothing you desire can compare with her. Long life is in her right hand; in her left hand are riches and honor. Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace. She is a tree of life to those who lay hold of her; those who hold her fast are called blessed. The LORD by wisdom founded the earth; by understanding he established the heavens; by his knowledge the deeps broke open, and the clouds drop down the dew.

From Proverbs 4 we read:

Get wisdom; get insight; do not forget, and do not turn away from the words of my mouth. Do not forsake her, and she will keep you; love her, and she will guard you. The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom, and whatever you get, get insight. Prize her highly, and she will exalt you; she will honor you if you embrace her. She will place on your head a graceful garland; she will bestow on you a beautiful crown.

James asks in verse 13,

Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom.

The person possessing true, heavenly wisdom is that man who knows Christ and whose living demonstrates Christ. Our hearts are known by the ways we live.

Matthew 6:19-21

Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

God’s Holy Word is the only counsel we need to attain heavenly wisdom. God’s wisdom is dependable. Like God His Wisdom is eternal and true.

Wisdom is not prideful. As we seek to do God’s will in His perfect wisdom we need to be sure and we need to be wary of pride. Pride is practicing our own wisdom. There is no room in Heavenly Wisdom for self-importance.

The life that is apparent on the outside is the testimony we show to others in the world. The things we do in our daily lives should be done in humility. We must be wary not to become prideful in our deeds.

A Christian lifestyle comes from that wisdom that is more precious than rubies, diamonds, silver and gold.

James 3:14

But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth.

Bitter envy or jealousy is misguided zeal. Our hearts, our minds, and our souls should be focused on service to the Lord Who saves us.

Jealousy is a petty emotion. Selfish ambition is a far cry from the path the Lord Christ demands we strive to walk each day.

What motivates the believer to do good?

A true believer is going to have the interests of others before his own every time all the time.

James may be speaking to and about church leaders in these passages, but apply it to your own walk with Christ.

Sometimes we find fault with our leaders; church leaders and political. We feel strongly about the ways in which they conduct themselves. It’s necessary to ask ourselves; What is my motivation for finding fault?

Am I far better able to meet the demands placed on them than they are? Am I better qualified? Or, is it a matter of jealousy?

Selfish ambition is rooted in evil.

Leaders exhibit selfish ambition and that is what is being developed in the church at the time James writes this letter. Factions are growing more evident in the early church. Even today we see factions firmly rooted.

Philippians 2:3

Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.

Selfish ambition is the desire to live for the self. That is not what Christ teaches.

In some churches the leader is convinced of this doctrine or that orthodoxy. That leader becomes so zealous to advance his particular understanding that he loses sight of his first responsibility to shepherd the Lord’s flock. This kind of falling away contributes to a greater apostasy in the church.

Often this kind of church leader is the only one with the zeal for a doctrine or a theology of one sort or another. His belief is passionate and it becomes fanatical.

This is the kind of thing the Judaizers were doing in the early church. The Judaizers were convinced that adherence to Jewish ritual and customs was necessary even when saved by a belief that Jesus was their Messiah. The Judaizers were blind to liberty in Christ, but alive in the Law.

That kind of thinking persists in churches and congregations to this day. There are “traditions of men” that have supplanted the rituals espoused by the Judaizers of the early church. The “traditions of men” are often more important in a believer’s church than in the liberty given in Christ.

James 3:15

Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, of the devil.

Worldly wisdom does not come from God. It is the product of the Devil. People who pride themselves for their earthly wisdom are shallow and self-centered.

James is exhorting teachers primarily, but the Church generally, that worldly wisdom is not spiritual. This kind of wisdom does not come from God. Men who pride themselves on worldly wisdom deny the guidance given by God.

1 Corinthians 2:14

The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.

Someone steeped in worldly wisdom believes in the experience of life. He relies on his emotions. Human reasoning and human feelings are his measuring sticks.

How easy is it is for the Devil to bring ruin into the lives of believers such as this?

The Devil is the real source of human reasoning based in experience. The Devil’s purposes are always destructive.

Moral relativism is pervasive in our world. “If it feels good do it” is the mantra of the Me generation. Who are those in that generation?

People who lack heavenly wisdom; teachers who rely on their experience are sadly doing the work of the Devil. Human experience causes a climate of uncertainty in the church; an attitude of shame at home; damage to relationships.

James 3:16-17

For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice. But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.

God is not a God of confusion. He is not a God of disorder. Those characteristics belong to the devil. Envious people and selfishly ambitious people do not care who they hurt to advance their personal agendas.

Scripture makes it clear that disorder and “every evil practice” is present and in full view where ever there is envy and selfish ambition.

Heavenly wisdom is “pure.” It comes from God. Heavenly wisdom brings with it morality and righteousness. Heavenly wisdom by definition is spiritual integrity.

Heavenly wisdom is “peace loving.” That means more than being absent chaos. Peace loving is to directly oppose strife. This peace is between people. This is the kind of peace you experience with God. This is the kind of peace that must exist in the church community. This is the kind of peace the church should work to spread.

Heavenly wisdom is “always gentle.” Selfish ambition cannot coexist with gentleness. Gentleness does not demand its own way. Gentleness is truly diverse making allowances for others. Gentleness doesn’t seek fault in others to elevate itself.

Heavenly wisdom is “willing to yield to others.” Being submissive does not mean one has to be a doormat, but it does mean that my needs and desires are not most critical. It is a reasonable, practical willingness to let the needs and desires of others supersede your own. Being willing to yield is akin to the soldier giving his personal goals aside for the goals of the unit.

Heavenly wisdom is “full of mercy and good deeds.” God’s mercy is not earned it is given. When we practice what we know that comes from heavenly wisdom our fruit is righteous.

Heavenly wisdom does not allow us to show favor to another person or group. With heavenly wisdom the believer reaches out to all in Christian love…that Royal Law…to love one another as He loved us.

Heavenly wisdom is genuine. It is the “real deal.”

James 3:18

Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness.

Jesus tells us “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the sons of God.” The peacemakers possess heavenly wisdom and they sow seeds of righteousness. They will see that righteousness grow.

Heavenly wisdom is knowledge from God’s perspective. We should actively seek heavenly wisdom.

We should actively and consistently be aware of those times we are envious and ambitious for a cause that is not of God.

We should admit our arrogance openly and honestly to God. There is nothing worthwhile to be gained by trying to cover up what God already knows.

We should create a climate of peace in everything we do and in everything we say.

Actively seek heavenly wisdom and set aside all earthly pursuits.

I confess that I have not always, in fact I have seldom pursued heavenly wisdom. For years I followed the precepts and constructs of orthodoxy. I have been zealously pushing a misguided, poorly interpreted set of “traditions of men.” The Lord by His grace and with mercy unimaginable has changed me. He leads me to seek heavenly wisdom and to live a life worthy of Christ.

I do not delude myself and think I am anywhere near the mark that Christ establishes for Christ-like living. At the same time His Spirit teaches me that it is no longer a desire to push the orthodox points of understanding.

It is indisputable that Christ Jesus the Savior of the “whole world.” Let everything else we learn about Him be by way of His heavenly wisdom.

About Jim Barnes

A man seeking to please the Lord. A man striving to abide in Christ Jesus. A man whose hope is to see just one more come into the fold.
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