Sunday, January 23, 2011

Luke Part 27: Marks of Wisdom

Text: Luke 7:31-35

In the last post, this passage was discussed and it was noted that Christ is the wisdom of God. Wisdom is found by those that know Christ. In this post, we will take a further look at the marks of wisdom. This is a sort of checklist answering the question, "What does wisdom look like?"

Wisdom is one of God's communicable attributes. God gives it to us. All wisdom begins at conversion -- note that we have no Biblical examples of an unbeliever being described as wise. Wisdom comes from meditating on God's Word and wisdom is proven by experience, by applying the Word in our lives and seeing how God is faithful to perform what He has promised.

Wisdom is never proud. Knowledge without wisdom puffs up, but wisdom produces humility, not pride.

James 3:13-17 contains a discussion that describes the characteristics of true wisdom. This "wisdom from above" is given by God and is contrasted with the earthly, natural, demonic wisdom that works strife and discord.

The wisdom from above in James has the following marks. It is:

  • Pure - It is unmixed, not divided. It is not partially our wisdom and partially God's wisdom. Rather, it is all from above. God has done it all; He is the wellspring of life and wisdom.
  • Peaceable - To be "peaceable" does not mean to be tied up in knots worrying about possibly offending anyone. It is not being inactive or withdrawing from society like a mountaintop guru. To be peaceable is to be actively maintaining the peace that God has placed among the brethren. The peaceable person is also promoting peace between God and man -- he is sharing the gospel with the world around him. He is known as a reconciler; he is one who helps people overcome their differences.
  • Gentle - This word also means "considerate". A person with wisdom refuses to think the worst of other people. He makes allowances for others, considering that we are all imperfect.
  • Reasonable - easy to be entreated. This person is open to persuasion. He is open to other people's ideas. He can listen to others without condemning them. Rather than being opinionated, he has convictions.
  • Full of mercy - forgiving. Forgiving others whether they ask forgiveness or not. He has a desire to relieve suffering and never rejoices in another's misfortune.
  • Full of good fruit - wisdom is productive, it accomplishes something. The man of wisdom is the best neighbor/employee/father/husband he can be. This wisdom has results in outward living.
  • Unwavering - or, without partiality. The wise man will always do the right thing, without being swayed by circumstances or people.
  • Without hypocrisy - The wise man is exactly what he seems to be. He is never hiding something. Hypocrisy is banished when we put our masks away and are real with each other.
These characteristics are perfectly embodied in Christ!

Remember that God wants His children to be wise, and that He gives wisdom to all who ask. If we are His children, we shall prove the wisdom of God!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Luke Part 26: How do you receive the Word?

Text: Luke 7:31-35

This passage begins with Jesus comparing the people of that time to squabbling children.  One group of children would want to play a happy tune; the other group would reject that.  Others would want to play a funeral tune, and that would be rejected, too.  Jesus is basically saying, “There’s no pleasing you people!”  They were inconsistent.

When John the Baptist came, very austere and with a message of repentance, they said he had a devil.  Then Christ came on the scene with a message of joy, and they said He was a drunkard and associated with drunks.

We should consider how we receive the messenger of the Word.  Are we complaining about the minister?  Have we been too critical?

At the end of the passage, in verse 35, is a cryptic proverb that doesn’t seem to quite fit with the rest: “Yet wisdom is vindicated by all her children.”  What does this mean?

Wisdom, in the Bible, is defined as knowledge of God.  Wisdom is to know God, to fear Him and reverence Him.  (1 Cor 1:23,24).  Christ is speaking of Himself – the wisdom of God revealed.  Loving Christ is the beginning of wisdom.  We can partake of the wisdom of God, becoming wise as we partake in Christ.

Wisdom is vindicated (proven to be right) by its children (us).  How do God’s children prove that Christ is the wisdom of God?  Through holy living (James 3:13).  God has revealed to us that He intends for His children to be wise.  The good news is, what He intends to do, He does!

The Greek word for “knowledge” describes someone who is an expert in a particular field, someone who have given himself to study of a particular topic.  In this passage, knowledge is referring to someone who has given himself to study and observe God.  We have a great opportunity to do this – we have more good books available to us than ever in the history of mankind!  But, on the other hand, we have more distractions around us that ever before as well.  Study is the means that God has given for us to obtain knowledge.

Wisdom is applied knowledge.  How will I put this knowledge to work?  Wisdom comes through prayer and meditation and through trial and error.  We have to slow down and take tame with the Lord, putting away distractions.

We read in the Bible of the “meekness of wisdom.”  A Christian is humble.  He knows something about God – His greatness – and he knows something about himself – that he only has what he has received.  True wisdom is never arrogant.

Finally, let us be encouraged to seek God, knowing that if we lack wisdom, if we ask Him it shall be given.  (James 1:5)

Luke Part 25: John the Baptist is perplexed

Text: Luke 7:1-30

This passage contains two short episodes of Jesus’ healing, and tells of His exchange with messengers from a perplexed John the Baptist.

In the first episode, described in verses 1-10, we see Jesus healing the slave of a Roman centurion – a Gentile.  This is a Gentile of faith, a man who is saved.  How does the centurion show his faith?  First, he humbles himself.  All must come to Jesus humbly, as sinners.  Secondly, we see that he is concerned for his fellow man; he is asking Jesus not for himself but for the sake of his servant.

In the second episode, described in verses 11-17, we see an entirely different situation.  A widow’s only son has died.  We are told nothing at all of the widow’s faith.  Instead, Jesus uses this occasion to demonstrate His total victory over death.  He shows His power in turning an occasion of sadness and mourning into one of joyous celebration by raising the son to life again.

In verses 18-30, we read of an episode that confronts us where we are in our relationship with the Lord.  John the Baptist, in prison due to his standing up to Herod, sends his friends to Christ to ask if He really is the Messiah.  Did John the Baptist have a mistaken view of Christ’s kingdom?  Was he confused because he thought Jesus’ should have been establishing a kingdom here on earth if He was truly the Messiah?  No – the entire message of John was of a spiritual kingdom.

John’s problem was that good things were happening to everyone else –  miracles were being done, etc.   But John was sitting in prison off on the sidelines.  He was having his doubts.  This is surely our tendency as well.  “Lord, what about me?” we ask.  “Why do I here have to suffer through these things?”

Notice how gently Christ deals with him.  “All who are not offended by Me will be blessed.” he says.  John was a little offended and disappointed by Jesus, and Jesus was gently rebuking Him.

Then, Jesus praises John.  There was a tendency, then as now, to equate outward circumstances with God’s favor.  But Jesus wanted to show that God was pleased with John.  John was right where Jesus wanted him to be.  John had been put in prison because he had boldly stood up to the king.  Jesus points out that John was no flimsy reed shaken by the wind; he stood up for the truth.

This message was accepted by those who could recognize their own sin.  The Pharisees rejected Jesus, because they didn’t see their sin.

In verse 28, Jesus declares that John is the greatest of the prophets.  In doing this, Jesus indicated that He was not just another great prophet.  But, Jesus continued, those in the kingdom have seen and experienced things the prophets couldn’t understand – we now know more than the greatest prophets of old.

The key verse in this passage is verse 23 – “Blessed is he who does not take offense at Me.”  Christ is our King.  The ruler of the kingdom orders the affairs of the kingdom and we don’t take offense at Him.  We struggle with doubts, we don’t see the results we want right away.  Yet we should remember in all these things: life is hard but God is good; like John, if we are following Christ, we are right in the situation where He wants us to be.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Luke Part 24: Repairing of a relationship and a relationship to live in

Text: Luke 6:46-49

This passage begins with a call to acknowledge our own hypocrisy: "Why do you call Me Lord, Lord,' and do not do what I say?" Why do we hear what Jesus says and do not do it? It is a call to acknowledge our hypocrisy and return again to Jesus.

Next, we see that Jesus says, "Everyone who comes to Me". Have we come to Him? You have either come, or you haven't come; there is no partial coming to Jesus. And for everyone who has come, you know the necessity of a continual coming.

Also, we see the necessity of hearing -- the Lord's children love to hear His voice. His voice is the Word. The Spirit uses the Word of God, speaking to us through the Word applied.

And finally, there is the example of the two builders. Note that the builder who builds on sand is relying on his own strength -- he is relying on the skill and durability of his construction to keep his house together, in the same way as a man reliying on his good works for salvation. While the other relies on the steadfastness of the rock on which he builds to keep his house secure, as a man relies on God's grace alone for salvation.

In this way, the man who is rooted and grounded in the Lord is established and secure. A busy time in his life will not disturb his routine of meeting with God in regular times of devotion. He is safe from the buffeting of false teachers. May those of us who have come to the Lord be securely grounded in this way! And may those who have not come to Him hear His voice and do so.

Luke Part 23: Showing graciousness in withholding judgment of others

In this section of the Sermon on the Mount, we can see six principles of holy living:

  1. The law of holiness requires activity -- we do not become holy by just existing passively.
  2. Holiness requires unconditional, sacrificial obedience.
  3. We are not our own -- we have been bought; we are in the family of fellow followers.
  4. As in verse 37, we are to be gracious, not censorious or condemning in our relationships. This is especially important in our relationships towards other Christians.

    We cannot see other people's hearts. We cannot make judgments -- either for good or bad. We cannot make a positive judgment, telling someone he is OK, but in effect encouraging wrong behavior or even good behavior with wrong motives.

    On the other hand, we cannot condemn others without knowing their hearts. Each of us can only do what we know to do, and each of us is being led along in his own place in the Christian walk.

    We must be careful judging even ourselves. We should not judge ourselves too harshly or too softly. Each of us is responsible for what God has spoken to our hearts.

  5. Next, we have the example of giving (v.38). We are to be giving people; giving is an area where we can show graciousness. How much are we to give? There are no rules here! We are just told to give generously. You cannot outgive the Giver -- you will always receive it back. (see 2 Cor 9:6-7)

  6. Finally, there is an objective to be obtained: that we be like Jesus, our Teacher (v. 40). If our goal is to be more righteous for its own sake, or to be more peaceful, we are going at it wrong and will miss the objective; our purpose must always be to be more Christlike.