Many would define wisdom as making the best use of knowledge while folly is the opposite. In the Inuit tradition, one is wise “when they could see what needed to be done and do it successfully without being told what to do.” Wouldn’t we love it if our children displayed that kind of wisdom helping around the house, cleaning their rooms, taking out the trash? This year, our Gems have been learning about wisdom sayings, or quick phrases that encapsulate a good way of living. Of the more than 90 topics covered in the psalms, everything from friendship to wealth and love to laziness, the Gems have focused on 5 of these topics.
Firstly, they have considered the proper use of their mouths and the words they speak.
Prov. 12:18 Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.
Instead of using our words to damage and tear down, they have explored the joy of encouraging and building other up. This is hard isn’t it? It is much easier to be critical of others and to jab them with our speech. I know because I struggle with it. When asked to evaluate someone, I am much quicker to see their shortcomings and it is hard for me to find their strengths. But God has called us to build others up not tear them down. 1Th. 5:11 Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. That is wise for Reckless words do pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing (Prov. 12:18).
Secondly, they have looked at the wisdom of considering whom you befriend. Prov. 17:17 A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity. Will your friends be loyal or run away in need? Are they able to share and give, or do they just take all the time? Are you a friend that sticks with others in their needs? There is wisdom in considering what it means to be a friend and whom are friends are, isn’t there? Have you ever been in a tough spot and needing help, only to find that those who show up aren’t the ones you thought were your friends? This should cause us to reflect on the words of God: Prov. 17:17 A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.
Thirdly, Our Gems have learned about integrity, or the reality of being consistent when we are alone or with others. The person of integrity is dependable and consistent. They can be trusted to keep a promise, perform an action, take responsibility and admit their mistakes and shortfalls. Proverbs tells us the person or integrity walks securely, but whoever takes crooked paths will be found out (Prov 10:9). Thus integrity affects our choices about work and our usage of time which leads us to the fourth lesson the Gems have been learning this year.
Wisdom tells us to labor in order to provide not only for our needs but also for the needs of others. Paul echoes the teaching of Proverbs 31:17 about working vigorously but he tells us why this is important by way of a comparison to sloth or thievery: (Eph. 4:28) He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need.
We are called to make wise choices about our labor so that we can help to care for those in need. And that means we must make wise choices with our money, the fifth lesson of the year. John Wesley once preached a sermon on Christian economics. The sermon has been summarized by the phrase, “Gain all you can, save all you can, give all you can.” Where the words “gain all you can” describe the wisdom of working hard and in a manner suited to your abilities, the remaining words “save all you can, give all you can” are related to making wise choices with the money God has entrusted to us.
Many would read the words save all you can as an approval for putting as much money as they can into 401k’s, retirement savings, stocks and bonds, but this is not what Wesley nor the Scriptures were talking about when Christian savings is being discussed. Christians are called to be conscious of their expenses. Limiting them as much as possible. Truly considering whether the electronic gadget is a need, if the $0.99 mp3 or app for the phone will truly benefit the kingdom or if it is a wasteful use of God’s funds. The point of saving is not to store up for our future, the point of saving and working, is to be able to give everything away.
Jesus said it this way: (Matt. 6:19-20) “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.” Paul, speaking by the Spirit of God, declared, (2Cor. 8:13-15) Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality. At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need. Then there will be equality, as it is written: “He who gathered much did not have too much, and he who gathered little did not have too little.”
This is what you have learned so far in Gems. This is what it means to honor the Lord with your wealth (Prov 3:9a). These are the great nuggets of practical wisdom that have been taught to you so far.
But there is a great difference between
morality or knowing how to live a good life
actually being wise and a possessor of wisdom.
There are many people in our world who work hard, speak well, give generously, can be depended on and who are careful about whom they surround themselves but that doesn’t mean they are wise. This morning, we are going to look at what true wisdom is, its costs and its benefits. So what is true wisdom? Since the Gems are familiar with the book of Proverbs, let’s start there before we move into the New Testament letter to the Colossians, where true wisdom is defined very directly.
In proverbs 4, Solomon declares something about wisdom. He says it is valuable and costly. Wisdom is to be all consuming in both mental energy and material life. Though it cost all you have, get understanding (Prov 4:7b). Do not forget my words or swerve from them, Do not forsake wisdom…Embrace her, esteem her (Prov 4:5-6, 8). These are all words and phrases used to describe one completely preoccupied with a topic, a task, or as we will see in Colossians, a person, the Person of Christ. The cost of wisdom is great, there is no halfway, have you ever heard of a “half-wise person” or a “half-wise saying.” Wisdom by definition requires complete buy in, complete attention, and complete devotion. Wise teachers are wise because they believe what they say, they live what they proclaim and they show others a better way of approaching life. That is why wisdom demands and requires everything. So what is wisdom? Wisdom is costly and all encompassing!
But Solomon also lays out the benefits of wisdom as well. He says that the possessor of wisdom will be protected, exalted, honored and graced. Did you catch all of that She will protect you…she will watch over you…she will exalt you…she will honor you…she will set a garland of grace on your heart and present you with a crown of splendor (Prov 4:6-9). Wisdom is giving and heart affecting. If you knew that in exchange for your life’s service, you would be kept from harm, raised up and esteemed, even placed upon a throne to rule, wouldn’t the trade be worth it? The only caveat is that you must rule according to wisdom, it will always rule over you. That is what happens with the one controlled by Wisdom. They must give themselves up, it truly costs everything, but the exchange is a pittance compared to the reward of living justly, loving mercy and walking humbly with God (Micah 6:8).
So far we have talked about the costs and benefits of wisdom and have inferred some things about wisdom. But we haven’t gotten to the heart of the matter. What is wisdom? At the beginning of the proverbs, we are told the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline (Prov 1:7). The starting point for wisdom is a holy worship of God. It is a fear and reverence and awe of the Almighty Creator and his magnificence. He is perfect and he demands perfection. He is righteous and he demands righteousness. He is love and he demands holy love. He is the source of all truth, knowledge, wisdom and insight for he created them all and he demands that all people come to him in order to gain these things. This is why the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge for in honoring and revering his name we begin to learn the truth about life. And the only way to learn to revere God is to come to Christ. True wisdom always brings one to Christ.
And that truth is powerful for Colossians tells us that Christ is the mystery of God. He is the one in whom all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge dwell (Col 2:3). Christ is wisdom!
If Solomon urged his hearers to give everything to gain wisdom and Christ is greater than wisdom, for these things are contained in him, then, the same cost associated with gaining wisdom is associated with gaining Christ. Christ is to be all consuming. He demands the whole person, complete submission. He calls for total allegiance, even promising that the one who is greater than wisdom will stand in opposition to the world, its deceptions and philosophies. Christ calls us to give up worldly honor and fame; he calls us to struggle with all our energy and to continue living in him, just as wisdom calls us to live in it.
If you want wisdom, you must inevitably end up at the feet of Christ, from whom all wisdom flows forth. He was present at the creation of the world, indeed he created the world. The gospel of John tells us that the world was made through Jesus, though the world did not recognize him (John 1:10). How wise must Jesus be in order to knit the baby in the mother’s womb? Or to place the stars in the heavens and calculate the exact strong and weak nuclear forces in order to hold life together? Would you like to receive wisdom from the one who possesses all wisdom? He invites you to give up your life, your plans, your efforts and accepting his perfect life, then and only then can one receive the benefits of true wisdom. And what are those benefits?
First, we become heralds of wisdom, making known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory (Col 1:27). As people who have given up everything for Christ, we in turn become preachers of hope, preachers of Jesus. We teach what we live. We become who he is and he calls us forth into obedience to the Father, bringing all our life into submission.
Second, we gain perfection by gaining Christ. As we admonish and teach with all wisdom, [we are enabled] to present everyone perfect in Christ (Col 1:28). Wisdom breeds perfection because wisdom flows out of the only perfect one who has ever lived. As people who loose everything in the search for wisdom, we gain Christ, his perfect status and his perfect nature. They become ours, for wisdom always seeks to form its disciples into its very image.
Thirdly, we gain the very power of God working in us. When one surrenders all self-effort to please God or gain entrance into heaven or atone for their sins, then the good news of the gospel finally makes sense. It is a message that proclaims: Christ has fulfilled all the commandments of God and lived the perfect life and without any effort on my own I can be found in him and he will give me righteousness. He will give me holiness. He will give me strength. He will give me his Holy Spirit to dwell in my life so that I too may become a carrier of God’s wisdom and so be conformed to the nature of Christ. Paul reminds his hearers of this truth when he writes, to this end I labor, struggling with all his [God’s] energy, which so powerfully works in me (Col 1:29). Wisdom brings strength and power, authority and ability to be conformed to its will, to protect one from oneself and to gain the goal which wisdom promises – life eternal. But this only happen in Jesus. He alone can bring such assurances and so we know that He alone is the epitome of wisdom.
Furthermore, wisdom brings the full riches of complete understanding which always centers one upon the mystery of Christ and his life lived in the disciple. And this truth allows one to be ridiculed, berated, made fun of, sidelined, even ostracized because wisdom is about consistency in living a life of fear and reverence toward God, not of acceptance in the world. Thus wisdom causes one to stand firm in the faith and live completely for Jesus Christ and his exaltation.
Girls, this morning, my encouragement to you is not just to seek wisdom as an abstract principle and way of living. No seek Christ from whom all wisdom flows and all the things you have been taught so far will continue to grow and find expression and reason in your life through Jesus. Though it cost you everything, live for him, submit to him and depend on him, and he will, in turn, assure you of the hope of eternal life.
Prayer: Father, our prayer is to be found in Christ, the wisdom of God. Let all other illusions, lies and half-truths be cast away, break their hold upon our heart and our mind. Grant us strength to strive for nothing less that the fullness of your Son each and every day. Simply stated Father, Reveal Jesus Christ, your Son, to us. This we pray. Amen.
We just prayed for God to reveal Jesus to us. I have been talking about true wisdom being found in Jesus Christ and none other. And Paul writes these words to the Corinthians:
18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.” 20 Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. 22 Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24 but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength. (1Cor 1:18-25)
People of God, Communion is just one more way of presenting the picture of Christ to you. With the spoken word your mind hears the message of Jesus, Son of God, come in the flesh, fully man-fully God to suffer under God’s wrath in your place. But with the Bread and the juice, your whole body is invited to experience the message and participate in it.
Though the world may only see bread, the Christian sees the body of Christ upon which they must feed partake in order to live forever. Though the world sees only bread, the Christian tastes, smells, chews and feels the wonder of a Savior who gave his life as a ransom for many. As the Apostle Paul reminds the Church, For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” (1Cor 11:23-24)
As the Elders come forward, reflect on the wisdom of God to give his people not only a verbal proclamation but also a visual and experiential picture of the gift of God. Lets sing, Knowing You as the bread is passed.
Taste and see that the Lord is good!
In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. (1Cor 11:25-26)
Though the world may see only small cups of grape juice, the Christian sees the blood of Christ which was shed upon the heavenly altar for the complete forgiveness of sins. Though the world sees only juice, the Christian tastes of the sweetness of the gift, which has been given to all who confess their sins and believe that God has raised Christ from the dead. Truly the sweetness of the gift is declared in the proclamation that Jesus will come again to take his own to be with him.
As the Elders come forward, reflect on the wisdom of God to give his people not only a verbal proclamation but also a visual and experiential picture of the gift of God. Lets sing, In Christ Along as the juice is passed.
Taste and see that the Lord is good!
1. Review of wisdom you have learned so far
2. Difference between morality and wisdom
3. Proverbs 4
a. Cost of wisdom – all consuming
b. Benefit of wisdom – protects, exalts, honors, graces
a. Christ is wisdom and the guardian of wisdom. Better than wisdom
b. Cost – all consuming, opposition to worldly deception, worldly things
c. Benefit – know mind of God, hope of glory, perfection, living in Christ, fullness in Christ