Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Wisdom Freely Given (Ephesians 1:17)

“that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him.” (Ephesians 1:17, NASB95)

Yesterday the focus was largely on Solomon, who, being given by God greater wisdom than any man before or since reached a time in his life where he got in the way of what God had given him. Along with his wisdom and understanding, he was also given great wealth which eventually led to him being the recipient of great adulation and him seeking after his own great pleasure. He began taking wife upon wife and concubine upon concubine each of them with their own god(s). “He had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines, and his wives turned his heart away. For when Solomon was old, his wives turned his heart away after other gods; and his heart was not wholly devoted to the Lord his God, as the heart of David his father had been.” (1 Kings 11:3–4, NASB95) Nehemiah wrote of him when speaking to the children of Israel for doing the same thing, “Did not Solomon king of Israel sin regarding these things? Yet among the many nations there was no king like him, and he was loved by his God, and God made him king over all Israel; nevertheless the foreign women caused even him to sin.” (Nehemiah 13:26, NASB95) The commentary on Solomon at that point was that “his heart was not wholly devoted to the Lord.”

James also wrote about receiving wisdom from God and its relation to our devotion to God. “But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways. But the brother of humble circumstances is to glory in his high position; and the rich man is to glory in his humiliation, because like flowering grass he will pass away. For the sun rises with a scorching wind and withers the grass; and its flower falls off and the beauty of its appearance is destroyed; so too the rich man in the midst of his pursuits will fade away.” (James 1:5–11, NASB95)

Here James tells us that God is very free in granting us wisdom. He says that God will give it to us generously and without reproach, but with the giving there is also an accompanying warning or condition. That condition is that we are to ask believing the wisdom that God gives us. The warning is if we waffle between the wisdom from God and that of ourselves our or other “counselors” we will become unstable as if being tossed to and from in the surf of the sea by strong and the accompanying persistent winds. The picture is that of us truly being unable to gain our footing because we are vacillating on which way to turn, when in reality we have been given a way but we just refuse to listen or accept and act on it. James calls this person a double-minded man, which is truly an apt description of one who is for all intent and purpose spiritually schizophrenic. The problem is not God giving us direction or leaving us in the dark, but our refusing first to seek Him or second that of listening to that which He freely gives us.

James goes on to tell the brother of humble circumstances to glory in his high position. This does not mean that he grows from humility to haughtiness, but that in the midst of his low position in the world God has lifted him up such that he has become his adopted child and heir to an eternal inheritance. The man is to rejoice in knowing what God has done for him, and in so doing give praise to God and glorify His name. In contrast to this, the person of high position is to humbly recognize that while the world thinks him a great success, he is in reality just like the low and humble man before God where neither of them can step on the scale of comparison in glory to that of their Lord and God. Whether in a high or low position before men, all of us are the same at the cross where we are fully loved and embraced by our God. All of us are equally fallen before Him and then in trusting His Son for salvation we’ve have all been granted the same forgiveness. Sure, God expects us to be good stewards of what He has given us according to what He has given us, but this does not change one bit who we are before Him with all of us coming before His throne because of His grace and mercy shown to us through His Son. Everything is a gift from God and none of it worthy of boasting other than to give Him the glory for what He has done.

Another key point about wisdom from God according to James is that He will not only give it to us freely, but He will also give it to us without reproach. As I have thought about this over the years I have thought about how the evil one works where he makes every attempt to drag us through the mud over every mistake we make. It is so easy to buy into his lies. But this is not who our God is. Our God will not wag His finger in our face nor will He insist we grovel before Him in order to show our remorse. In fact, we read in Scripture that God the Son is not only our Savior but He is our constant advocate before the Father.

In 1 John we read, “My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world. By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments. The one who says, “I have come to know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him; but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. By this we know that we are in Him: the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked.” (1 John 2:1–6, NASB95)

Think of this, when Satan brings an accusation to before the Father  andwe are tempted to wallow in the mud, Jesus says in effect, “Taken care of by Me at the cross. Case closed.” Knowing this when we recognize that we have stumbled, we are to go to God, admit our failing, thank Him for what He has done, and start walking right again before Him as He has made us to walk. We are not saved by keeping His commandments, because there is not one of us who can or even would try to do so perfectly. We are saved by His grace, and then we walk before Him in obedience in response to that grace thus proving to all around that He indeed has done a great work in us. Christ in us changes our hearts from a drive to prove ourselves worthy to a desire to show Him great gratitude.

This is what happens when we grow in “a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him.” Just before the passage quoted of Jesus speaking to His disciples about the coming of the Spirit to teach them and bring to remembrance all that He had said to them, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him. He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine, but the Father’s who sent Me.” (John 14:23–24, NASB95)

According to the Word of God the wisdom we have God cannot be separated from being also given understanding from God, and this understanding comes as we grow in knowledge of Him and His infallible Word. Solomon himself wrote in Proverbs 3:5-8, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight. Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your body and refreshment to your bones.” (Proverbs 3:5–8, NASB95)

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.” (Proverbs 1:7, NASB95)

“And to man He said, ‘Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; and to depart from evil is understanding.’” (Job 28:28, NASB95)

Returning to James we read, “Who among you is wise and understanding? Let him show by his good behavior his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, do not be arrogant and so lie against the truth. This wisdom is not that which comes down from above, but is earthly, natural, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy. And the seed whose fruit is righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.” (James 3:13–18, NASB95) 

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