Living a Life of Wisdom

Where can wisdom be found?

The Word of God to us bound in our Bibles tells us that the wisdom of God once walked where we walk, lived where we live, and that true wisdom can be found exemplified and personified in Jesus.

In James 3.13-18 we learn that wisdom is how we show what we believe through our conduct; what we say and what we do. James writes,

Who is wise and understanding among you?

By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom.

Jesus showed, and Jesus told.

The question about where wisdom can be found can be answered in the person and work of Jesus, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (Colossians 2.1-3), in Jesus who is the wisdom of God (1 Corinthians 1.20-25).

Let us then work hard to show what we believe wisely by what we say and do, but above that let us pursue relationship with Jesus, the wisdom of God.

Look at James 3.13 again and let’s put His name in there…

JESUS is wise and understanding…By his good conduct HE HAS SHOWN his works in the meekness of wisdom. 

Let us then work hard to show what we believe wisely by what we say and do, as He did, but above that let us pursue relationship with Jesus, the wisdom of God.

Living a Life of Words

There are things for us to do now we are believers in Jesus, and, sure, choosing words carefully is one of them; kind, loving, caring, encouraging, edifying, counselling, and consistent (James 3.1-12).

Imagine that Jesus was taking another walk on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24.27) with the New Testament in hand, how would He explain this part of James in relation to Himself?

I’m gonna suggest that He would say this – Words of life are found in one place only.

In John 6 Jesus said 

It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. 

Basically, you will never tame your own tongue in your own power and never. 

Edwin Blum wrote that

The Holy Spirit, poured out in the world, gives life (salvation) to those who believe. Without the Holy Spirit, man (flesh) is utterly unable to understand Jesus’ person and His works [and then act accordingly].

Jesus continues and says

The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.

He was talking about eternal life, how it is only found in Him, that we must partake of His life and work and sacrificed body to truly inherit eternal life, and that we must look beyond the physical rituals of religion to the words that He is saying and the things He is teaching. His Words carry meaning and truth, and because this is hard, some left Him. We read,  

After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. 

So He asked the 12, are you leaving as well? He had said some tough truths and people left Him…imagine that. Do you know what the 12 said to Him?

“Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.”

Jesus’ words lead to life. No one else, nobody else’s words lead to eternal life.

It’s so easy to look at passages like James 3.1-12 and be very moral: You need to be in control of your tongue and your speech. Words are powerful, words can heal, words can cut down, words matter, your words matter. 

That’s not incorrect, but it’s incomplete. 

Rather than be all moral and preach-y, we ought to look at passages like this with a Christ-centred lens: Your words do matter, but Jesus has the words of eternal life.

So yes, work hard to choose your words carefully, but ultimately let us rest in the promises of eternal life found in the words of Jesus.

Living a Life of Faith

James wraps up this passage, James 2.14-26, by saying that 

For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.

A body with no breath is dead, so, says James, is faith without works, without evidence, without fruit, without proof. 

Thomas Manton said that,

Here [James] concludes the whole argument, showing how little is [given] to an empty profession of faith without works. It is like the body without the spirit of life.

What does working faith look like then, where does it take us? If you’re a notetaker, this is it;

Genuine faith results in active obedience to Jesus’ teachings. 

Working faith takes us to Jesus…every, single, time.

Here’s why. We try, and try, and try, and try to be so obedient, to do good works to show our faith, and we realise, you know what, I just cannot ever, try as hard as I might, live the kind of holy, sanctified, righteous, life that we are called out of the world to live.

Back in chapter one James writes, be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 

So we do need to be doers, we want to be doers, but when we try to be we realise that we are failing, because the standard is so high. It’s 24x7x365. This is really bad news.

Where then do we turn when we realise this, that we have failed, again?

To Jesus. To the Good News, to the Gospel. 

That’s why working faith takes us to Jesus.

Where is the Gospel in James? Admit the bad news to receive the Good News – this is a work of faith that we need to do each and every day, and that is why a life of working faith will always take us to Jesus.

Living a Life of Love

In James 2.1-13, James is showing the need for total obedience. We must speak and act and keep speaking and keep acting as those that are under God’s law, God’s standards for life. Because this is God’s law, it brings a wonderful liberty, like a train that runs better when on it’s tracks, your life will be better if you run on the tracks God has set before you which here is not showing partiality and keeping the law.

Total obedience is the key.

If we ever want to grow in faith, complete and consistent obedience is needed.

What a heavy burden.

Can you imagine if this was it? 

Would this message preach in a synagogue? I think it would.

Do this, don’t do that. Keep the law. Nothing distinctly Christian about that, is there.

The only way to keep the law is to keep the law, every last iota of it, every last t crossed and i dotted. Every single thing, every single time.

This is crushingly bad news, isn’t it. Can you feel the weight and hopelessness of this? That you must keep the entire law and not ever love anyone less than anyone else even though it is so natural and fleshly to love some more than others, to esteem some more highly than others, to discriminate both positively and negatively. 

It would be easy to read this passage in James and feel more burdened wouldn’t it; you need to be so careful to love each and every person equally because if you don’t you are sending yourself to hell. 

Wow, that’s heavy. Can you do that?

Can you honestly say that you can look at any person, from any place, in any condition, and love them? That you can guarantee that whoever walks in the church door, in whatever condition, you are going to unconditionally love them without any thought of oh no, no thanks?

If we could do this, we would do this, but we don’t, do we. 

It’s so easy to read texts like this and put ourselves in the wrong position, isn’t it. So we read this and we think well, yes, people discriminate against me, I am the victim here, come Lord Jesus and vindicate me!

Or, we go all the way to the other end of the scale and think oh yes, I am fair and equitable in my love, I freely give of myself to any and all that ask me without hesitation or discrimination.

But, in truth, in this text, we are those showing discrimination, we are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors, we are those whose actions are leading us away from God and not towards Him. We are those who are committing the sin of partiality. That’s bad news, isn’t it. 

But do you know what? There was One who loved like this. Who looks at the heart and not the outer appearance. There was One who loved without partiality. 

There was One who loved, and loves, Jew, Greek, Barbarian, Scythian, rich, poor, male, female, old, young, you, and me.

There was One who kept every last iota of the law and fulfilled it.

One who wants to transfer this earned righteousness to you simply by His grace through faith.

Of course we’re talking about Jesus. 

Jesus said that His yoke is easy and His burden is light, because He has carried it. 

The law of liberty that we are under is still a law to be obeyed, but because He has saved you and you are full of love for Him, you are under the law of liberty, you put yourself under that law, and you seek to love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength, and you seek to love your neighbour as yourself. 

You know He has fulfilled the righteous requirements of the law, you know that He has given you the righteousness He earned and when God looks at you He sees the righteousness of Christ, so you take this truth, you internalise it, you take the amazing, saving, life changing, life giving grace and you put that to work.

You don’t work to love people to be saved,

you work to love people because you are saved.

You cannot keep the law to earn your way to God, and as we work through James we must must remember this; we cannot and must not try to do all of these things through compulsion as those under law.

He already did this. 

“There was One who loved, and loves, Jew, Greek, Barbarian, Scythian, rich, poor, male, female, old, young, you, and me.”

Follow His example because you love Him.