Colossians 3:12-17; James 3:13-18 ~ "Trading in Words, Gaining in Wisdom"
If you would turn with me in your Bibles to Colossians chapter 3 and also find your way over to James chapter 3.
Knowing the time and understanding the business that we still have ahead of us this afternoon I thought it might behoove us to step away from Matthew 24 and consider something that might be helpful to us this afternoon with our business meeting. The concept I want you to be thinking about is wisdom. Any time that we come to make a decision as a church, the thing that we should always be seeking from the Lord is wisdom. This begs the question how do we get wisdom? Let’s look at two different passages that show what wisdom is and what wisdom is not. We will read the text we and we will pray to ask God to lead us by his Spirit.
Let’s bow for a word of prayer. Father we just thank you for your word to us. We thank you Lord that it is your desire to see your people grow in understanding, to grow in knowledge and to begin taking on the wisdom that you desire to give to us. Father as we look at these texts this morning briefly, Lord knowing that the time is short, I pray God that you would give us ears that would listen as we talk. I pray Father that all of the truth and beauty that is in these verses could be quickly absorbed and I do ask you Lord that you would give us wisdom as we approach our annual great commission meeting this afternoon. We ask these things in Christ name, Amen.
If you would please turn to Colossians 3. We are going to look at verse 12 “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to god. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the father through him.”
Now if you would flip over to James chapter 3:13. The previous passage shows us a source of wisdom and a key to wisdom. This next passage will show us what wisdom is not and it is good to contrast what is and what is not wisdom. James 3:13 “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, and 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.”
She was probably the most relieved mom in the history of motherhood. I’m sure if you’re a mom you can appreciate that fear, that horror of suspecting that a child of yours is perhaps in grave danger or perhaps their life is even in jeopardy. This particular mom was in a significant squabble with another lady. This is a lady of questionable means that she brought into her home as a tenant or a border of sorts. This lady ended up sleeping on top of her own child one night and accidentally killed the child. She seized the landlord’s child and claimed the baby as her own while the Lord of the house was asleep. They brought the case to the judges and of course at this point you know all that social workers are getting involved, the Ministry of Children and Family, everybody is weighing in with an opinion. It is one of those cases that would have shocked the nation. National headline would be “Women claims same child as their own.” How could someone lie about someone else’s baby? One of these women is obviously lying. This is just an absolute horrific nightmare. How will we decide, in an age which there is no DNA testing and there is no blood typing, which is the true mother of the child. Of course the case is appealed all the way up to the Supreme Court, to the highest judge in all the land. The King himself is asked to weigh in. As a means of resolving the dispute, King Solomon is to ask for sword to be brought to him. He turns to the two ladies and says “I’ll tell you what, if you can’t figure out amongst yourselves who is the true mom of this child, then I will just divide the child in two and you can both have a piece.” Now the one that was holding the child is a bit aghast, but still said okay and began to walk forward; whereas, the true mother of the child said “NO! Let her have the baby.” To which King Solomon, utilizing the wisdom and understanding that God had given him, said “this woman is the true mother of the child.”
That passage from 1 Kings Chapter 3 concludes with this statement “and when all Israel heard of this event they stood in awe because they perceived that the wisdom of God was in him to do justice.” Notice this phrase “to do justice.” Now just one paragraph prior to this event, we see Solomon as he’s taking the throne from King David getting down on his knees and praying and crying out to God. His prayer is for wisdom. This is exactly what he says, “Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, that I may discern between good and evil, for who is able to govern this, your great people?” He’s praying to God give to your servants understanding. Notice that, understanding and the mind to discern. Give to your servant understanding and a mind to discern between good and evil.
Now you take Solomon’s prayer and you also take the comments that Israel is making about Solomon and you notice something here. Solomon’s request of God is I want to have understanding and I want to have ability to discern between good and evil. He tries this case of these two women claiming to be the mother this one child and Israel’s conclusion of this case is that they perceived that the wisdom of God was in him, notice this, to do justice. Discernment between good and evil understanding for the doing of justice, that’s what we are talking about when we are asking God for wisdom.
As we consider these passages from Colossians chapter 3 and James chapter 3 there is something that you need to keep in mind. Wisdom does not come to anyone who does not have a heart to do what God desires and seeks to see done. If we are apathetic in our pursuit of God’s kingdom, or if or just plain absent, if we don’t even show up then there is no reason to expect or to think that God will give us wisdom. If you consider the Scriptures, wisdom always comes in those moments when a decision must be made. Wisdom is always preceded by a decision, a choice between two options and the decision only presents itself when an individual has a will to act for what is true, righteous and just. You see that in the life of Solomon. It is in what the sages talked about in the book of Proverbs, and yes, that’s exactly what we see here in both Colossians and James.
We will start first with the book of James. James poses a question in chapter 3 verse 13 to the church “who is wise and understanding among you?” I’m sure it must that Benedictine monk who is hiding himself away from the world in isolation and quiet prayer right? No! Actually just the opposite. No insult intended for prayer, but the criticism is towards isolation. In verse 13 James says “who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show forth his works in the meekness of wisdom.” In other words, the wise person, the guy that you know has wisdom is an individual who is engaged in doing good works and you can see him doing good works. Furthermore, the verb itself if you look it says by his good conduct let him show his works. It’s an interesting construction is in the imperative is saying, yes he must be observed, yes he must be allowed to be observed. When it says “let him” he’s saying he must be able to demonstrate his wisdom. In other words, you can look around the church community because James’ a letter is being written to a church and you can look around and the wisest people among us first and foremost are the ones that are engaged in doing good. Not the apathetic, not the absent. They are present and they are working for God’s righteousness.
What is the distinguishing factor between somebody who just wants to be seen working, who just wants to appear to be a good guy versus a truly wise man? That’s what James will go on to outline here’s, what wisdom is not. Verse 14 “if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart don’t boast and be false to the truth.” In other words, if your heart’s desire is to be number one, your heart’s desire is for your own aggrandizement, for your own self exaltation and if it’s a self-centred pursuit for your own glory the exhortation there from James says you better be checking your heart. You had better not be boasting “hey, look at my work. Look at how much I am serving here in the church!” Even though you may be working in the church, that boast is not a boast of truth if the heart’s motivation behind your good works is to be seen in order to be exalted. James’ statement is “don’t do it.”
We also know from this that wisdom is not for the purpose of self centred concerns. It specifically says this about jealousy and selfish ambition. Look again at verse 15 “this is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual and demonic.” Verse 16 “For where jealousy and self ambition exists, there will be disorder and every vile practice.” Wisdom isn’t found in the self exalting, self-centred, selfish person. Wisdom is found in a totally different place.
Turn with me now to Colossians chapter 3. As you’re flipping there I’d like to quote to you Proverbs 18, a proverb from the sages of old. This is verse 1 “Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire; he breaks out against all sound judgment.” Again the isolated person is the person who is interested in his own interests. Not in the good of the many. In Proverbs 18 verse 1 says that that a person doing that has broken out against all sound judgment, which is a component of wisdom. We know that God has given wisdom to the church so how do we have wisdom here at First Baptist.?
Briefly I just want to walk you through this. What we find in Colossians 3: 12- 17 is a culture that is carefully cultivated that allows for the flourishing and the giving of wisdom from God. What kind of a culture is that? It is a culture or a house or a gathering such as this where there is a kind and humble spirit within the gathering. Notice the first verse, verse 12 “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.” The reason I’m saying this is to draw your attention to this portion of verse 16 “teaching and admonishing each other in wisdom.” Wisdom belongs to this community, but you have to start a verse 12 to see what kind of community we are talking about. Verse 12 says that first and foremost it is a kind and humble household and it is a kind and humble gathering. You will also notice in verse 13 that it is a forgiving people.
Look at verse 13 “bearing with one another and if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you must also forgive.” Verse 14 - we find that is a house that is loving, it is a house where the people there deep and truly love one another with the brotherly affection. Look what it says “And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.” So, surpassing compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, patience, forgiveness; above all of this put love, this binds everything together, in perfect harmony. If there’s that then you ought to have every reason to expect what follows next. A peaceful house and a peaceful gathering. Look at what it says in verse 15 “And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body.” We also notice that it will be a grateful gathering and a grateful community. He says to be thankful.
Last but not least and most significant of all, a place where wisdom is given is a place where the people who gather there are keeners. That expression is used often in grade school as a derogatory expression. Sort of like the teacher’s pet or the class suck up or brown-noser. Anytime the teacher is going to teach, this particular kid is often ostracized by his peers because he is right there paying attention. He is considered a keener which is slang for saying he is keen to learn. That’s how the world regards the pursuit of knowledge. We all ought to be keeners. Notice what it says here in verse 16 “let the word of Christ dwell in you richly.” It is sort of personifying the Scriptures. Again, this is in the imperative so when it says let this happen it is saying you must allow this to be happen. It’s an unusual construction of Greek in that it is worded a little weird. It’s a passive verb, something that you’re allowed to happen, but it is in the imperative so it’s a command. It is something that you must allow to be happening or to put it another way, you must be actively pursuing. It says “let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly.” What it is saying is that you better be richly having this thing.
The exhortation is to let the word of Christ dwell in you richly. That is, there should be a wealth of it, there should be an abundance of it, it is something that there should be just gobs and gobs of access to. There ought to be ample opportunity to pursue the word of Christ within the house or gathering people that is committed to having the wisdom of Christ. That is, let the word of Christ dwell in you richly to which indeed you were called in one body. You’ll notice again that it’s a community project. It is not something that just happens in isolation. It is not something that you get just by being in your own home and praying, it is something that happens when we come together as a church and as a community. We are confronted with decisions and there is a need to make a choice and then we seek the counsel of the Scriptures and come together to speak to one another. In that moment, if our hearts are true, to do what God wants us to do then the promise of Scripture is that wisdom comes. Now we all learn from that. All of us need to understand that discernment, understanding, knowledge and wisdom can never come privately in our own homes. It is given to us by God as we encounter the trials and the difficulties of life. It is given by God as we first seek to be people of righteousness who then pursue the knowledge of Christ through the Scriptures. So a wise person is a keener. But he’s not a keener first. First and foremost he is humble, he’s forgiving, he is loving, he’s peaceful, he’s grateful and then he is a keener. That’s what we need here at first Baptist Church.
So as we approach our business meeting this afternoon, as we come together to make decisions, we need to make this decision. God calls us to choosing, to praying, to deciding to advance his kingdom. Before we come to decide, first and foremost we should ask the Lord to show us our hearts. Are we first and foremost loving, forgiving, patient, kind, humble and grateful? Are those qualities that we have? Are we keeners? Do we have a thirst for the work? Let us ask those questions first and then let us decide together to seek the wisdom of God together. You say “preacher, that’s all well and good but I just don’t care. I’m just going to go home after this and pop on my Netflix and have a wonderful afternoon in my house relaxing.” If you’re a football fan you know the Pro bowl is on today and might be tempted to watch that. I’m tempted to watch that too, just telling you. What difference does it make? There’s an interesting passage in 1 Corinthians 6:1-6. Paul writing to the church of Corinth “When one of you has a grievance against another, does he dare go to law before the unrighteous instead of the saints?” Now that’s an interesting question in the way that Paul words it. It contains an element of rebuke. If you guys have grievances you wouldn’t dare go to the civil judge would you? I mean you wouldn’t do that over going to your church would you? That’s how Paul poses the question. He goes a little further he says in verse 2 with a conditional rhetorical question that presupposes an affirmative answer. “Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world?” He is saying “you know this right, don’t you know that the saints will judge the world and if world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent then to try the trivial cases?
We have been working our way through the Olivet discourse and one of the things that we understand and is mentioned number of times is that there is a time in which God’s people will be redeemed for the corruptions and the decay of this world. There is, I believe, a further promise that God’s people would reign with him. Paul’s statement here in 1 Corinthians 6 is that you and I will one day judge this world alongside Jesus Christ. You and I will very well find ourselves in a position not all that different than King Solomon. Consider carefully now your pursuit of wisdom. You say “wow that’s a pretty big deal! We will judge the world?” It goes beyond that actually. The very next verse, verse 3 “Do you not know that we are to judge angels? How much more, then, matters pertaining to this life!” Every time I’m in a Bible study and we mention this verse the question is always posed “what does that mean?” Or “what does that look like?” I have absolutely no idea. There are a number of different theories and there’s a lot of speculation. At the end of the day this is what we can say: The angels, those individuals that minister to us on behalf of God, those individuals whose spirit, those mighty powerful agents of God are said to be under our judgment and our authority. What does that look like? How does that work? What happens with that? What’s the deal preacher? I don’t know. But I don’t need to know to receive it by faith. What I can take from that is starting with the question that Paul posed in verse 1. He says that when one of you has a grievance against someone else, does he dare go to law before unbelievers instead of taking it back to the church? Why would we dare do that when the promise from Scripture is that here in this house we have all wisdom. The question isn’t “will God give us wisdom?” The question is will we pursue it. If you are tempted this morning to think it’s not worth pursuing you might find yourself in remedial governance class 101 when you get to the heaven and you wouldn’t want that. So I encourage you this morning as we go from this to pray to ask God for wisdom and search your heart and then let us come together this afternoon let us discover the wisdom of God together.
That’s bow for word of prayer. Father we thank you for your word to us this morning. We pray Lord that you would give us wisdom as we decide our business this afternoon. Lord we ask that your spirit would be among us and Father above all this, we pray God that we would choose and make our decisions so that they would exalt the name of Jesus Christ. As we consider our budget for the next year, as we consider the missionaries that we will be financially supporting, as the different individuals of the nominating committee put together services for next year, as we look at the Constitution and bylaws, all these things Lord, they’re all small matters compared to the business of one day judging the world. Lord I pray God that you would find us here at First Baptist faithful in the small things that we would be interested one day with the big things. Father we ask these things in Christ name, Amen.