“The Proof of Wisdom”
Pastor Tom Millner
Matthew 11:16-19; James 3:13-18
January 23, 2010
You’ve heard “the proof is in the pudding”? How about “I’ll believe it when I see it”? Some say the longer you live, the greater skeptic you become. One of the more common things I hear from folks who visit churches is that they are waiting to see if the folks in the church “walk the talk.” I did the same thing when I first came to visit COHSS. I felt the warmth, the welcoming spirit, and I wanted to witness love in action. What I saw was encouraging, but it didn’t allay my skepticism about “these people.” Although I had been around and sometimes involved in churches most of my adulthood, in the years just prior to COHSS I had experienced three extremes. The “damnation if you don’t change who you are” church; the “everything is beautiful, I am the Spirit of God” church; and the “I’m so gay this must be the way” church. None of those spoke to me about the God of grace and mercy that calls us to place Him first in our lives. All of the others seemed to be about justifying self, (change self to be acceptable, try to equate one’ self to the goodness of God, or push the contrived world view of orientation as the central theme of God’s love) rendering the effort itself as the god being sought. My decision to stop judging the folks around me (as harshly as I was judging myself) and to enter into a relationship with Him, one-on-one, in the fellowship of other likeminded folks, was the first step I took toward membership in this Body. I stand before you today a work in progress, not perfected, but perfectly at peace with Christ as my leader. What I was looking for was the evidence of wisdom that was patterned after what I knew to be from God. I had witnessed other forms of wisdom and found them to be lacking in substance to nurture my soul. There are three things I’ve learned about wisdom that I’d like to share with you today
1. Wisdom comes alive in action! We make the mistake of thinking that wisdom is something abstract that is captured in a body of literature or knowledge that is passed down generation to generation. If wisdom sits on the shelf of self-knowledge and is never exercised, it is of no value and turns out not to be wisdom at all. James reminds us that wisdom is action that is full of mercy and good fruit. He said: “Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom.” He means that the execution of wisdom is to be done in the absence of self-interest. That lack of self-interest is called humility. The humility that calls attention to itself is always false. James further states: “But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.” The good fruit that James talks about is not unlike the fruit that Paul asserts in Galatians 5:22-23 as being “…the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” These are all action oriented words! The action has a consequence – a deeper relationship with God, the giver of all wisdom.
2. True wisdom is divine! The smart thing we think we’re doing sometimes isn’t the wise thing. Create a system and someone is always smart enough to create a way to beat it. The human network of actions, interaction, and reactions is centered on structure, hierarchy and power. It’s a smart system to keep things in order. It isn’t a system built on God’s wisdom! You see God’s wisdom draws us to Him. He isn’t interested in our power systems or hierarchy. He doesn’t need such things. He’s interested in relationship with us. The exercise of true wisdom takes us deeper in relationship with Him. As we grow deeper in our relationship with Him, we grow broader in our relationships with each other. Action that takes us deeper into Him is wise action indeed. Action that undermines or diminishes our relationship with Him is foolish. We believe that living out His great commandment will lead to the fulfillment of His great commission. His great commandment is to love Him with all our heart, soul, and mind, and likewise love each other as we love ourselves. I’ve heard many say “I can’t love another until I’ve learned how to love myself.” That’s a way of saying “don’t bother me with your stuff because I’ve got my own plate full!” That’s an excuse for continued self-indulgence, not a scriptural prescription to heal a broken heart! We already love ourselves to death. Why else would we create any false god that we believe will be safe for us to worship? We truly don’t believe that God has our best interest at heart – otherwise, we would be knocking down walls of self-denial, and self-interest to get to the heart of God and co-union with Him. God calls us to relationship with Him so we can love ourselves to life – in, through, and because of Him. We create a foolish box of rules, stipulations, conditions, laws and damnation and try desperately to stuff God into it. God and His wisdom cannot be contained in our stupid box of rocks! True wisdom seeks the real God! So the exercise of true wisdom is indeed divine.
3. The object of wisdom is love! Proverbs is a part of what is called the wisdom literature of the Old Testament. It is chocked full of little tidbits for fruitful living. In the prologue to the book, Solomon states: (Proverbs 1:7) “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge but fools despise wisdom and instruction.” Now the fear that is talked about here is not the fear that we would experience when faced head on by an out of control cement truck with no place to turn. It’s the kind of fear that is better translated in our language as “awe” or wonder. The kind of awe and wonder that arises when we contemplate that the creator and crafter of all the universe, who is with us now on a sub-atomic, quantum level that is beyond even the greatest mind’s conception, is the God that is so much in love with us that rather than see a single one of us self-destruct, would actually take on our human form and be destroyed Himself. That’s a God of awe, a God of wonder. And, that’s a God of love whose wisdom points the way to a deeper relationship with Him. So called wisdom that leads to fear so great that we run from the presence of it is not the wisdom of God. The wisdom of God will always lead us back to Him because that’s the reason we were created. Wisdom has a purpose – to lead us to God. God desires to love the hell out of us, not beat it out of us, damn us to it or make us burn in it.
So, wisdom comes alive in action. Not just any action, but that action that is from God. True wisdom is divine! It come from and points back to Him. The object of wisdom is love - not only the object, but the purpose! Been wrestling with an unloving version of God? Got Him wrapped up neatly on a shelf in a box of your self-creation where you can safely pull him out when the going gets tough? In the words of a great unknown philosopher; “that dog don’t hunt.” The “hound of heaven,” however, hunts us down at every turn, waiting to rescue us from our own wisdom and secure us soundly in the arms of His love. He’s calling you today. Can you hear His loving howl echoing over your soul; come home…you who are weary, come home?
This is wisdom (from Matthew 11:28-30) “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”