Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Discerning True Wisdom (part 2)

But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, do not be arrogant and so lie against the truth. James 3:14

We need to be able to discern between godly wisdom and worldly wisdom so that we follow the right people and learn the right principles.  We need to know what godly wisdom looks like so we can nurture it in our own lives.  It is God’s will that every person here become wise according to His standards.  So, how can we discern godly wisdom and distinguish it from the counterfeit?
1.    Lifestyle

2.    Motives:
James mentions two motivations characteristic of this ungodly wisdom. First, if you have bitter jealousy...  The Greek word translated jealousy is zelos.  We get our English word zeal from that Greek word.  The Greek word translated bitter is pikros.  It means embittered or harsh.  James is saying, harsh zeal is not a manifestation of the Holy Spirit.

The Pharisees in the Gospels had “harsh zeal.”  It was their way or the highway.  When we operate in harsh zeal we do not win the lost, we turn them off.  We may even alienate them.  When addressing things we believe to be wrong such as abortion or sexual sins, it is important to respect the person while we address the wrong.  To do the right thing the wrong way is to do the wrong thing.  Wisdom directs our methods as well as our message.

James is dealing with contentious people who have knowledge, but not according to godly wisdom. They know how to argue their point.  But in the process they alienate people rather than win them.  Harsh zeal has been a problem in our evangelical movement.  The position may be right.  The doctrine may be right.  But is it done in the right spirit?  It is possible to be meek and compassionate while being uncompromising at the same time.  Jesus was the perfect example of that.  Religious zeal can become harsh and counter-productive if it is not submitted to the Holy Spirit and guided by a meek, humble heart.

The second thing James condemns in verse 14 is “self-seeking in your hearts.”  The strife being produced by ungodly wisdom is rooted in the heart condition.  When the heart is filled with strife and selfish ambition, the wrong kind of wisdom is in operation.  In contrast, godly wisdom is first pure (verse 17).  Godly wisdom is based on unselfish motives.  In Philippians 2, Paul called upon Christians to have the mind of Christ.  Paul wrote in Philippians 2:3 “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself.”  Godly wisdom is shared in love.

Scripture to Claim:

Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. Ephesians 4:1-3

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