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. But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such 'wisdom' does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, of the devil. For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice. 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. James 3:13-17 NIVThis particular situation calls for some sort of expletive, but I'm not sure which in the lexicon of cuss words would fail to offend my readers. Anyway, good grief, this passage is rich in powerful principles for victorious Christian living, and we will profit from reviewing it whenever it pops up. Jesus' little brother James opens this passage with a question that many church folks might find a little too easy to answer: Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, ... I can see a classroom full of kid-size desks with adult Christians stuffed into them. Hands raised and eyes wide, they all long to be recognized as Wise and Understanding. After all, they person(a slight concession to political correctness) committees, serve as church officers, teach Sunday school, and/or sing louder than the others during worship. How easy it is to build up momentum through the easy portion of a scripture verse, then slide right over the conditions for obedience or the consequences for disobedience included at the end of the passage. Verse thirteen ends with the following condition: ,... by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. With that last clause comes crunch time; are we going to admit to such godly humility, thereby seeming proud of our spirituality, or are we going to demure, obviously faking humility? No one enjoys admitting to stinky attitudes, but I think it's safe to say we all have them, regardless how deeply we may hide them. Speaking of stinky attitudes, verse fourteen takes the prize: But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, ... Such hateful attitudes, even at their subtle birth, amount to a heart-filling, carnality feast. And with such carnality filling ones heart there is no room for godly love. The last bit of this verse holds a critical truth: ..., do not boast about it or deny the truth. While few are likely to boast about such stinkin' thinkin', we all tend to deny it, first to ourselves, then to others, and finally to God. Trouble is, denying sin ... and this is sin in its purest form ... prevents conviction, confession and repentance. Bottom line for verse fourteen? Eternal Security notwithstanding, a fairly common behavior in the church will prevent many alleged saints from enjoying eternity with their Lord. What an unnecessary tragedy! Verse fifteen almost goes without saying, it seems so obvious. And verse sixteen is a concise commentary on the sad state of today's church: For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice. How can anyone wonder why God's church seems to be losing ground in its feeble attempt to obey Christ's Great Commission? Church leaders lament losing an entire generation of young people to the Pop Culture of Antichrist, while refusing to confront the body's rampant sin. What a shame we fear offending influential-but-sinning parishioners more than offending our holy God. Here's a Scripture passage that might seem off-topic, but I think it perfectly punctuates the above verses: Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Galatians 6:7,8
Saturday, August 08, 2009
Vital Principles for Victorious Christian Living
Seems like a particular passage of Scripture comes around occasionally, and every time, I read it as though it were a fresh thought.