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Sermon #22 — James Series
Text: James 3:13-18
Subject: Spiritual Wisdom and Carnal Wisdom
Date: Tuesday Evening — September 15, 2015
Readings: Bobbie Estes and Merle Hart
When I preach to you, I try always to preach only that which I know by experience. I do not come to the pulpit to lecture about religion and morality. I do not come here to speculate about the meaning of obscure passages of Holy Scripture, or merely to tell you what I think some text means. I come here to tell you what God has taught me from his Word and what I have experienced by his grace.
Tonight, I am going to talk to you about something of which I know very, very little, a subject that is, I am compelled to acknowledge, is far deeper than my experience. All I know about it is what I have read in the Book of God. But it is a subject that I pray God the Holy Ghost will teach me, and teach you, as only he can. The title of my message tonight is — Wisdom. — Hear just a little of what God says in this Book about wisdom.
(Proverbs 4:5-13) (5) Get wisdom, get understanding: forget it not. (6) Forsake her not, and she shall preserve thee: love her, and she shall keep thee. (7) Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom….(8) Exalt her, and she shall promote thee: she shall bring thee to honour, when thou dost embrace her. (9) She shall give to thine head an ornament of grace: a crown of glory shall she deliver to thee…. (13) Let her not go: keep her; for she is thy life.
“Get wisdom. Forsake her not.” — (Proverbs 8:11) (11) For wisdom is better than rubies; and all the things that may be desired are not to be compared to it.
(Proverbs 9:10) (10) The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding.
Who does not want wisdom? Who does not desire to be wise? But there is a wisdom that is heavenly and a wisdom that is hellish, a wisdom that comes from heaven and will carry you to heaven, and a wisdom that comes from hell and will carry you to hell. Open you Bibles with me to James 3, and I will show you.
Proposition: Christ is Wisdom. He makes sinners wise unto salvation, and makes saved sinners wise by his grace.
(James 3:13-18) (13) Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? let him shew out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom. (14) But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth. (15) This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish. (16) For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work. (17) But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. (18) And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace.
Divisions: I want to show you three things I know about wisdom. I don’t know that I know much more than these three things; but these three things I know.
1. All who are born of God are truly wise in the highest possible sense of the word wise (v. 13).
2. All earthly wisdom is carnal, sensual, and devilish (vv. 14-16).
3. The wisdom that God gives, the wisdom that comes down from heaven, is both pure and peaceable (vv. 17-18).
1st — All who are born of God are truly wise in the highest possible sense of the word wise (v. 13). — “Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? Let him shew out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom.”
Our text opens with a question. — “Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you?” But when James asks this question, he is not talking about natural, civil, or even moral wisdom. He is wise who has been made wise unto salvation.
· He who is wise knows his ignorance and folly. As John Gill put it, “The first lesson in the school of spiritual wisdom is for a man to know that he is a fool.”
· The wise are those who live not for time, but for eternity. Wise, truly wise people, live in the prospect of eternity (2 Corinthians 4:17-5:11).
(2 Corinthians 4:17-5:11) (17) For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; (18) While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal. (1) For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. (2) For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven: (3) If so be that being clothed we shall not be found naked. (4) For we that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened: not for that we would be unclothed, but clothed upon, that mortality might be swallowed up of life. (5) Now he that hath wrought us for the selfsame thing is God, who also hath given unto us the earnest of the Spirit. (6) Therefore we are always confident, knowing that, whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord: (7) (For we walk by faith, not by sight:) (8) We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord. (9) Wherefore we labour, that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted of him. (10) For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad. (11) Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men; but we are made manifest unto God; and I trust also are made manifest in your consciences.
· The wise are they who are built upon the Rock, Christ Jesus, the only sure foundation, the Foundation Stone laid in Zion by God himself (Isaiah 28:14-20).
(Isaiah 28:14-20) (14) Wherefore hear the word of the LORD, ye scornful men, that rule this people which is in Jerusalem. (15) Because ye have said, We have made a covenant with death, and with hell are we at agreement; when the overflowing scourge shall pass through, it shall not come unto us: for we have made lies our refuge, and under falsehood have we hid ourselves: (16) Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD, Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation: he that believeth shall not make haste. (17) Judgment also will I lay to the line, and righteousness to the plummet: and the hail shall sweep away the refuge of lies, and the waters shall overflow the hiding place. (18) And your covenant with death shall be disannulled, and your agreement with hell shall not stand; when the overflowing scourge shall pass through, then ye shall be trodden down by it. (19) From the time that it goeth forth it shall take you: for morning by morning shall it pass over, by day and by night: and it shall be a vexation only to understand the report. (20) For the bed is shorter than that a man can stretch himself on it: and the covering narrower than that he can wrap himself in it.
Those who are wise, all who are made wise unto salvation by the grace of God, are “endued with knowledge.” Being taught of God, they know all things (1 John 2:20, 27). That is to say they know God, know all that God requires, and know where it is. — In Christ!
(1 John 2:20-27) (20) But ye have an unction from the Holy One, and ye know all things. (21) I have not written unto you because ye know not the truth, but because ye know it, and that no lie is of the truth. (22) Who is a liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son. (23) Whosoever denieth the Son, the same hath not the Father: (but) he that acknowledgeth the Son hath the Father also. (24) Let that therefore abide in you, which ye have heard from the beginning. If that which ye have heard from the beginning shall remain in you, ye also shall continue in the Son, and in the Father. (25) And this is the promise that he hath promised us, even eternal life. (26) These things have I written unto you concerning them that seduce you. (27) But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him.
Every wise person, every saved sinner, everyone born of God knows…
· The Depravity of His Own Corrupt Nature.
· The Plague of His Heart.
· The Demands of God’s Law, His Holiness, and His Justice.
· His Utter Inability to Perform Righteousness.
· The Suitableness, Perfection, and Fullness of Christ as His Savior (1 Corinthians 1:30; 2 Corinthians 5:17-21) — The Perfection of Christ’s Righteousness — The Preciousness of His Blood — The Perpetuity of His Intercession.
Look at the last line of verse 13. — If God has been so gracious to you, if he has been so good to me, as to make us wise in a world of fools who think they are wise, God the Holy Ghost says to the wise, “Let him show out of a good conversation his works, with meekness of wisdom.” Here we are called upon not to act good before men or do things to be seen of men, but to live in this world for the glory of God, as men and women who live for heaven not for the world, as people who live for eternity not for time!
· The believer’s life is “a good conversation,” a good life, a good way of living.
· That good life is a life from which flow good works (selfless works of faith, love, kindness, generosity, etc.).
· Though selfless good works flow from the heaven born soul, our flesh ever seeks to live in utter selfishness. Therefore, we have to work at good works. Therefore the Spirit of God says, “Let him show out of a good conversation his works.”
· And we must do so “with meekness of wisdom,” in a wise, humble manner, recognizing the iniquity of our holy things, the sin of our righteousness, and the corruption of our goodness, trusting Christ alone and not ourselves!
Without question, all who are born of God are truly wise. That is what we are taught in verse 13. — Now, look at verses 14-16, and learn this...
2nd — All earthly wisdom is carnal, sensual, and devilish (vv. 14-16). I have chosen my words with great care, after much thoughtful deliberation and prayer. This is precisely what James tells us in verses 14-16. — All earthly wisdom is carnal, sensual, and devilish.
“But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth.” — Bitterness, envy, and strife are always evil, the lusts of the flesh. And these are the things which, when exercised, men call wisdom. These are the things by which men and women advance themselves and enrich themselves in this world.
Illustration: Donald Trump
But, let us remember, James is writing to us. He says to you and me, if you have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, (How often we do!), “glory not!” — Don’t glory in the ungodliness; and don’t glory in the things that come from such ungodliness. Don’t glory in that wisdom that inspires wickedness, that wisdom which teaches us to be ruthless, cunning, calculating, and ever seeking advantage for ourselves over others!
“And lie not against the truth.”
· Don’t pretend that evil is good.
· And don’t pretend that such evil is not in you. It is! It is in you; and it is in me! It is called the lust of the flesh!
· Let us walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit (Galatians 5:13-22; 1 Timothy 6:11; Colossians 3:12-15.
(Galatians 5:13-22) (13) For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another. (14) For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. (15) But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another. (16) This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. (17) For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would. (18) But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law. (19) Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, (20) Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, (21) Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. (22) But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith.
(1 Timothy 6:11) (11) But thou, O man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness.
Colossians 3:12-15 (12) Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; (13) Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye. (14) And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness. (15) And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful.
Look back at our text — James 3:15-16. — “This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish.” — That which creates strife, confusion, and division among brethren is not heavenly wisdom, but hellish wisdom. If I speak or do anything from envy, bitterness, and/or selfishness, I do so not in wisdom, but in folly! — That is always the case! — “For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work.”
(Ephesians 4:20-5:2) (20) But ye have not so learned Christ; (21) If so be that ye have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus: (22) That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; (23) And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; (24) And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness. (25) Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour: for we are members one of another. (26) Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath: (27) Neither give place to the devil. (28) Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth. (29) Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers. (30) And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. (31) Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: (32) And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you. (1) Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children; (2) And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour.
3rd — The wisdom that God gives, the wisdom that comes down from heaven, is both pure and peaceable (vv. 17-18). Here is heavenly, God-given wisdom.
(James 3:17-18) (17) But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. (18) And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace.
1. This heavenly, God-given wisdom, the wisdom God gives to his saints is “pure” — “Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.”
2. It is “peaceable.” — “Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.”
(Proverbs 15:1-2) (1) A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger. (2) The tongue of the wise useth knowledge aright: but the mouth of fools poureth out foolishness.
3. Heavenly wisdom is “gentle.” — It is mild, courteous, kind, patient.
4. It is “easy to be entreated.” — How about that? You don’t have to force one who is truly wise to pretend to get along with you. Gracious, heavenly wisdom, true wisdom is anxious to forgive and easily won over to you.
5. This God-given wisdom is “full of mercy and good fruits.” — Wisdom knows who makes men to differ, knows who makes rich and poor, knows whence comes our help. Having freely received, it freely gives (Matthew 10:8; Ecclesiastes
6. It is “without partiality.” — Wisdom does not judge, discriminate, or choose friends based upon position, outward appearance, skin color, or the ability to reimburse or reward.
7. And it is “without hypocrisy.” — It seeks to hide nothing about self, and seeks to expose nothing about others.
The conclusion of the whole thing is set before us in verse 18. — “And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace.”
Christ is Wisdom
Having said all that, let me remind you once more that Christ is the Wisdom we need, the Wisdom we must have, the Wisdom all men by nature lack. Would you be wise, truly wise? Seek Christ. Come to Christ. Trust Christ. If you refuse to do so, you will perish forever in hell as the greatest of all fools, trampling Wisdom under your feet.
The Lord Jesus Christ, who is the Wisdom of God, is “made of God unto us Wisdom” (1 Corinthians 1:24, 30). Though we are foolish creatures by nature, by virtue of our union with him, Christ is made of God unto us Wisdom.
· He is the one who gives us wisdom and understanding in all things spiritual.
· He is the shining light that dispels darkness in our souls.
Christ is our Wisdom objectively, too. I mean by that that our highest wisdom is knowing him. Under the personification of Wisdom, our Savior says, — “He that findeth me findeth life, and shall obtain the favour of the Lord” (Proverbs 8:35).
(Proverbs 8:12) “I wisdom dwell with prudence, and find out knowledge of witty inventions.”
(Proverbs 8:14-21) “Counsel is mine, and sound wisdom: I am understanding; I have strength. (15) By me kings reign, and princes decree justice. (16) By me princes rule, and nobles, even all the judges of the earth. (17) I love them that love me; and those that seek me early shall find me. (18) Riches and honour are with me; yea, durable riches and righteousness. (19) My fruit is better than gold, yea, than fine gold; and my revenue than choice silver. (20) I lead in the way of righteousness, in the midst of the paths of judgment: (21) That I may cause those that love me to inherit substance; and I will fill their treasures.”
(Proverbs 8:22-31) “The LORD possessed me in the beginning of his way, before his works of old. (23) I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, or ever the earth was. (24) When there were no depths, I was brought forth; when there were no fountains abounding with water. (25) Before the mountains were settled, before the hills was I brought forth: (26) While as yet he had not made the earth, nor the fields, nor the highest part of the dust of the world. (27) When he prepared the heavens, I was there: when he set a compass upon the face of the depth: (28) When he established the clouds above: when he strengthened the fountains of the deep: (29) When he gave to the sea his decree, that the waters should not pass his commandment: when he appointed the foundations of the earth: (30) Then I was by him, as one brought up with him: and I was daily his delight, rejoicing always before him; (31) Rejoicing in the habitable part of his earth; and my delights were with the sons of men.”
(Proverbs 8:35) “Whoso findeth me findeth life, and shall obtain favour of the LORD.”
Christ is the Head of his body the church; and as all the wisdom of the body is in its head, so all our wisdom is in him. The Lord Jesus acts for us as our Wisdom representatively, speaking for us in the everlasting covenant of grace and peace; and he is our Advocate with the Father, still pleading our cause and interceding for us in heaven.
It is by Christ Jesus that the triune God is made known and revealed to man. He is the embodiment of God, the embodiment of Wisdom, the Word, the Revealer of God. As all the fulness of the Godhead dwells in him, so all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are his. By him alone they are made known to men. — “No man knoweth who the Son is, but the Father; and who the Father is, but the Son, and he to whom the Son will reveal him” (Luke 10:22).
Our union with Christ makes the heaven-born soul truly wise, because when Christ is formed within, we are given the mind of Christ and know all things (1 Corinthians 2:16).
(1 Corinthians 2:14-16) “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. (15) But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man. (16) For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ.”
All true spiritual knowledge is derived from Christ, and it is only those who are taught of him who are made wise unto salvation. Christ is our Wisdom within to direct our paths, guide us in his way, and order our steps day by day.
Do you remember what God the Holy Spirit tells us in James 1:5?
· God gives Christ to any who know their need of him. — “If any of you lack Wisdom, let him ask of God that giveth!”
· God gives Christ to all who ask after him — “If any of you lack Wisdom, let him ask of God that giveth to all men!”
· God gives Christ liberally, in all his fulness. — “If any of you lack Wisdom, let him ask of God that giveth to all men liberally!”
(Colossians 2:9-10) (9) For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. (10) And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power.