Friday, April 1, 2016

Wisdom Above; Wisdom Below

I have been continuing my meditation on Paul’s clarification, “For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh.”[1]Today’s lesson began with the thought that spiritual battles are described in earthly symptoms and characteristics, but must be handled in spiritual warfare, not earthly strategies.

This reminded me that, for as long as I can recall conflicts taking place in the church, I have seen one thing consistently win the day: people operating in the flesh/sark.[2]

I am now old (mature?) enough that I can confidently say that everything we have learned about the sark (flesh) proves we are wasting time trying to resolve anything in the sark. As Paul makes very clear in the contrast between Romans 7 and 8, we must put off any reliance on the flesh and must make the focus setting our minds on the Spirit. Until we are willing to set our minds on the Spirit, it is IMPOSSIBLE to understand the spiritual way to handle whatever our particular church may be going through. .

This morning, my focus on waging war according to the Spirit, not according to the flesh, led me into James three where James gives another description of the contrast between the flesh and the Spirit.
13 Who is wise and understanding among you? (James 3)

We do not need to have a whole church that is wise and understanding. James knew from the way the church was behaving that the church at large was not wise and understanding. What he was looking for was a handful of people who could prove they were wise and understanding, and would lead the church in the same.

13 …By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. (James 3)

We cannot open up our souls and show that there is wisdom and understanding inside us. Such qualities are invisible. The only way to show that we are wise and understanding is by the visible “good conduct” of our lives that is characterized by distinctive works “in the meekness of wisdom”.

14 But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. (James 3)

In contrast to the wise person who shows his/her wisdom and understanding with works of meekness and humility, the unwise person shows his/her heart by expressing bitter jealousy and selfish ambition. Again, these qualities cannot be seen (in your hearts), but the evidence is plain.

15 This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. (James 3)

Where does the boastful, jealous, selfish, kind of “wisdom” come from? The world (earthly), the flesh (unspiritual), and the devil (demonic). This is why we do NOT use this kind of wisdom to arrive at spiritual and God-honoring conclusions.

16 For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. (James 3)

This has been proven too many times to warrant any further explanation!

17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. (James 3)

Again, we cannot see the wisdom from above, for it is invisible inside us. However, we can know when it is present because:

  • We see purity of heart
  • We see how peaceably people express themselves
  • We witness how gentle some people are
  • We differentiate between those who are “open to reason” and those who fight reason at every turn
  • We see that certain people in the church are full of mercy
  • They are also full of good fruits
  • They are impartial, showing neither favoritism, partiality, or prejudging
  • And they are sincere 

18 And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace. (James 3)

The fruit of the Spirit is just that, the fruit of the Spirit.[3] When a truly wise person sows their wisdom, they sow in peace, and bear a harvest of righteousness in their own lives, and in the church that joins in such wisdom.

Since the wise are those who hear the words of Jesus and do them,[4] my aim in handling any troubling, distressing, or conflicting, circumstances we are facing in our church, is to set my mind on the Spirit, ask if there is “anyone among you” willing to do the same (and I know there is), and seek to know the wisdom of God with all our hearts and souls.

As James said earlier,

5 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. 6 But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. 7 For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; 8 he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways. (James 1)

None of us can escape that the things that are really inside us will show in the fruit we bear in our lives. At the very least, if we lack wisdom, we can ask for it in faith, and God will be generous and gracious in giving us all we need. However, he will require us to stop setting our minds on the sark (flesh), and to devotedly set our minds on the Spirit instead.

© 2016 Monte Vigh ~ Box 517, Merritt, BC, V1K 1B8 ~
Unless otherwise noted, Scriptures are from the English Standard Version (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.)

[1] II Corinthians 10:3
[2] By my own experience, this looks like people turning to doctrinal statements, constitutions and by-laws, rules of order, discernment ministry gossip, quoting favorite teachers, manipulation of business meetings, in behaviors, methods, and attitudes that are clearly not of the Spirit.
[3] Galatians 5:16-26 once again contrasts the fruit of the flesh with the fruit of the Spirit. The only way to “prove” we are walking in the Spirit is letting our “good conduct” show our “works in the meekness of wisdom”.
[4] Matthew 7:24-27 (again, contrasted with the unwise who do hear Jesus’ words, but do not put them into practice). 

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